Uruguay plans to offer South America’s only two-landlocked countries access to the sea in exchange for rail infrastructure, according to Uruguay’s Ambassador to Bolivia Carlos Flanagan.
Flanagan announced yesterday the Uruguayan government will offer a port to Bolivia in Rocha, located on the Atlantic Coast near the border with Brazil, in exchange for hardwood sleepers used to reform railway infrastructure in the country.
The proposal is part of a plan to consolidate the Hidrovía Paraná-Paraguay, a waterway transport system via the Paraná and Paraguay rivers that facilitates exports from the Atlantic Ocean.
The port in Rocha will have a 32m deep wharf, which can be used by the largest cargo ships according to Flanagan. The Ambassador also argued that the waterway is the “most cost-effective” transport method in the region.
Uruguay’s Minister of Public Works Enrique Pintado, who also plans to visit Paraguay, the other nation that was proposed this integration pact, will present the project in La Paz, Flanagan said. ”We do not have a specific date… but it will obviously be one of the priorities in 2014,” he added.
This year Uruguay commenced a program to restore its domestic railway system.
“Between the ’80s and ’90s, when the neoliberal model was applied in countries [in the region] it produced the dismantling of our railways; therefore, if we talk about connectivity, one of the tasks is the reconstruction of railways, and Paraguay and Bolivia are major producers of hardwood to manufacture sleepers,” Flanagan said.
The government in Bolivia has not commented on the proposal but Presidents José Mujica and Evo Morales met in July this year to discuss joint plans related to bilateral cooperation.
In the past Bolivia has been given use of river ports at Villeta in Paraguay, Rosario in Argentina, and Nueva Palmira in Uruguay but did not build port infrastructure to consolidate an outlet to the Atlantic ocean.
Bolivia lost its coastal territory and access to the sea in a war with Chile 134 years ago. In April this year Bolivia filed a lawsuit before the International Court of Justice in The Hague seeking a ruling that forces Chile to negotiate the firm historical claim.
Bolivians have also been pinning their hopes on Peru to regain access to the Pacific under the Ilo Agreement, which will allow Bolivia to conduct industrial, commercial, and tourist activities from the Peruvian port of Ilo. In September it was approved by a Congressional Committee in Lima but is yet to be ratified by Congress. A Bolivian delegation travelled to Peru to request Congress address the issue last month.