Paraguayan President Santiago Peña said on Wednesday that he hopes to reach an “understanding” with Argentina over the free navigation of a shared waterway, during a speech before the Organisation of American States in which he defended peace as the “only possible path” against “the affront” of war.
“Today we have a temporary dissent with a sister nation, Argentina,” he stated during a protocol session of the Organisation of American States at its headquarters in Washington.
Yet “I’m sure that the authorities of our neighbour will be able to understand the importance of free navigability for us and soon we will once again achieve that frank, sincerely and brotherly understanding that has been a feature of much of our history,” added the right-wing leader.
The Paraguay-Paraná waterway accounts for 80 percent of the Paraguayan export and import trade, but since August Argentina has been charging US$1.47 per tonne of goods to every foreign vessel transiting its territory.
To Paraguay, “a country that has been punished by geography,” being landlocked, “the respect for the freedom of transit and free navigation of international rivers is essential”, the right-wing leader insisted.
“Foreign trade is key”, he said, and he considered “protectionist measures unacceptable, including tariff and non-tariff barriers.”
However, the Partido Colorado economist arrived at the OAS headquarters in peace, with a plea in favour of tolerance and human rights.
He called on countries in the region to find inspiration in “American sages” who a century ago, in 1923, approved the Gondra Treaty, which lay the foundations for the Pact of Bogotá, also known as the American Treaty on Pacific Settlement.
Wars are “an affront to all of humanity” and “it’s our duty to put an end to them,” he stated.
Peña did not mention Israel, its great ally, at war with Hamas as a reprisal for a bloody attack by the Palestinian Islamist group, but he did talk of “pain in confrontation” of the last few weeks which leave thousands of dead people on either side.
“Peace is always the only possible road,” he said.
The Paraguayan leader defended the “key role” of the OAS “in defence of democracy” and asked for “respect for diversity of views, without it meaning negotiating with authoritarian regimes.”
“This room has someone missing. Our family, it pains me to say, is incomplete,” he said referring to Nicaragua, which will officially no longer be a part of the organisation in November at the request of President Daniel Ortega.
Ortega decided to withdraw to protest the organisation’s refusal to recognise the 2021 election, when he was re-elected with his rivals in jail or in exile.
Nicaragua must “return to the path of democracy, of a government of the people, by the people and for the people and refrain from its actions against dissidents,” the Paraguayan President asserted.
Peña is in Washington this week to meet Congresspeople and businesspeople. A meeting with US President Joe Biden, whose government invited him to cooperate to “fight corruption” after his electoral victory in May, is not scheduled.