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Why tour operators in Argentine Puerto Iguazú worry about a new bridge linking Brazil with Paraguay

On Wednesday, the two ends of the imposing integration bridge were joined, which will be inaugurated next December and will connect Brazil’s Foz do Iguaçu with Paraguay’s Puerto Franco, near Ciudad del Este in the tri-border region that includes Argentina.

It will be the second bridge linking the two large cities of this unique point in the region, since the new 760-meter-long viaduct, for US$84 million financed by the Itaipu binational dam, will be added to the Bridge of Friendship built 53 years ago, through which thousands and thousands of people pass daily.

On Wednesday, 37 metal and concrete voussoirs were finished, and now the slabs and asphalting of the section will be placed, as well as fences and the lighting system.

Read also: Check out our coverage on Argentina

The work will also leave a bitter taste for Argentina, which will be further relegated to this border since as of December, when this second viaduct is put into operation, Brazil will have three border bridges; Paraguay, two and Argentina, only one.

These numbers are also a good measure of the contrast in the degree of development reached by the thriving Brazilian and Paraguayan cities compared to the neighboring town of Puerto Iguazú, known colloquially as the “poor cousin” of the Triple Frontier.

This is a town riddled with deficiencies, with high levels of poverty, and that has not been able to resolve basic issues such as the supply of drinking water, even though rivers surround it.

On Wednesday, the two ends of the imposing Integration Bridge were connected (Photo internet reproduction)

NO SECOND BRIDGE

Argentina does not have a bridge that links it with Paraguay, a few meters away crossing the Paraná River, and, with Brazil, it is connected by the Tancredo Neves, which is considered the second gateway to or from the country after the International Airport of Ezeiza, by the amount of transit of people, according to data from the National Directorate of Migration.

The work was inaugurated on November 29, 1985 by presidents Raúl Alfonsín and José Sarney

As La Nacion newspaper learned, a few months ago, some scholars tried to reactivate old existing plans to build the missing viaduct, which came to have a master plan. The original foresaw that the layout of that bridge would have its Argentine head in Puerto Península, but the growth of Puerto Iguazú would force new plans to be made.

In any case, no project is in the minds or on the agenda of mayors or governors, much less of national authorities, beyond some residents of Iguazú who are not resigned to backwardness.

“After 50 years, we are building two bridges with Brazil; we have one pending (with Argentina). I will tell my friend, President Fernández, that the Paraguay-Argentina integration cannot remain traced to the Paraguay-Brazil integration”, urged in December 2020, the president of Paraguay, Manuel Abdo Benítez, in an act in the Yacyreta center.

The president was referring to the construction of the Integration Bridge, whose work he visited together with Jair Bolsonaro last June.

Both presidents verified that the construction began in 2019 and proceeded according to the planned deadlines even though it was lifted amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

BUSINESSPEOPLE

The new bridge between Brazil and Paraguay also symbolizes the disparate development of the three cities that are the epicenter of the Triple Frontier.

While Ciudad del Este grew to become Paraguay’s second urban center after Asunción and Brazilian Foz do Iguaçú is a city with skyscrapers, shopping centers, and an airport that has international flights to all over the world, Puerto Iguazú did not achieve the same levels of development.

One of the most obvious manifestations of this difference is the border policy, according to businesspeople linked to the tourism and gastronomy sector of Puerto Iguazú.

Argentina is the only one that carries out rigorous controls of Immigration and Customs (AFIP) at the Argentine head of the Tancredo Neves Bridge, while Brazil and Paraguay, in the best style of First World borders, allow free transit of traders, tourists, and all kinds of people who come and go during the day, leaving more rigorous controls for the edges of these cities.

The result of this is that to Ciudad del Este, or Foz do Iguaçú, you can enter or leave without inconvenience in a few minutes, while to Puerto Iguazú, you have to stand in endless queues that increasingly provoke the rejection of foreign tourists.

Argentine controls contrast with the large activity of human smuggling and illegal crossing just a few hundred meters from this border crossing.

Faced with this situation, businesspeople and residents of Puerto Iguazú are promoting the implementation of a Tourist Corridor that will make the border crossing more expeditious for those who just want to walk around this city for a few hours, visit the Falls on the Argentine side or eat in a restaurant taking advantage of the strength of the dollar, the real or the guaraní against the peso.

“We are promoting a Tourist Corridor project, so that neighborhood border traffic is agile so that cumbersome controls are not carried out, and delays on the bridge that scare tourists are avoided,” Jorge Antonio, a gastronomic entrepreneur, told La Nacion.

“This is going to favor all of Iguazú since due to the long lines that form to enter, many people give up coming and do not spend in our country,” said Joaquín Barreto, president of the Iguazú Chamber of Commerce and one of the visible faces of a proposal that has been going on for years and has now been revived seeking to take advantage of the exchange moment, which favors the influx of foreign tourists, especially Paraguayans and Brazilians, to Puerto Iguazú.

Barreto has already met with national and local legislators, mayors, governors, and Migration personnel.

However, the director of Migrations, Florencia Carignano, denied being aware of any project of this type and also said that it was unfeasible because “the law does not allow it.”

Carignano explained that the Tancredo Neves bridge is the “most important border point in the country” with a flow that can reach 35,000 people per day and that “all the time we are detecting people with false documentation, or older people who want to get people out of the country, kids without papers or people wanted by Interpol, the controls are a matter of security”.

The official admitted that Brazil and Paraguay deal with other policies, but “the Argentine law is very clear.”

Regarding the clandestine steps that make Misiones a porous border, she explained that “this is already a security issue, which corresponds to the Prefecture and the Gendarmerie.”

Carignano announced that Immigration is doing everything possible to speed up control procedures and plans to add five more cabins to the 57 that Tancredo Neves already has.

“It is the border crossing with the largest number of personnel, but there is almost no physical space to put more cabins,” she completed.

With information from La Nacion

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