Alberto Fernández reiterated his support for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Thursday, declaring that the jailed former Brazilian president's detention in prison is "a stain on Brazil."
The presidential hopeful, who heads the Frente por Todos ticket seconded by ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, also indicated he would seek to review the recently agreed terms of the Mercosur bloc's new free-trade deal with the European Union (EU), saying he wanted to know if the accord, announced by President Mauricio Macri would "suit" Argentina.
Fernández, who served as Cabinet chief under the presidencies of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, visited the former Brazilian president at a prison in the southern city of Curitiba, where the Workers' Party (PT) leader is serving a sentence of almost nine years in prison after being found guilty of corruption and money-laundering offences.
The popular former president says he is innocent and that the conviction is part of a political-judicial conspiracy designed to prevent him returning to power. Prior to his jailing, Lula was the favourite to win last year's presidential election in Brazil.
"I hope this detention ends as soon as possible," declared Fernández outside the prison, accompanied by Lula's ex-foreign minister Celso Amorim. "Brazil does not deserve to have such a stain on it as the arrest of Lula."
Claims of Lula's innocence have picked up in recent days, after explosive allegations from investigative news site The Intercept indicated that Brazilian prosecutors and the judge who jailed the ex-PT leader, Sergio Moro, communicated prior to the trial against the Brazilian leader.
Moro, who was the key figure in Brazil's sweeping Operation Lava Jato ("Car Wash") investigation that uncovered the region's largest-ever corruption scandal, was appointed Justice Minister last year by newly elected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Fernández, a 60-year-old lawyer who will contest the election against outgoing President Mauricio Macri, said he saw events in Brazil "with concern," saying Lula's conviction was not on steady ground.
"I will be next to Lula until the judicial system understands that rights and guarantees must be respected," he said.
The Peronist candidate, who visited ex-Uruguayan president José Mujica in Montevideo in May, another iconic figure of the Latin American left, compared the trial against Lula with trials against Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.
Fernández de Kirchner faces a string of corruption trials against her in the local courts, and the former leader has often accused the Macri administration of leading a campaign of "judicial and politcal persecution" against her.
"In all three cases the evidence against the presidents in events that have nothing to do with reality," Fernández declared.
Turning to local politics, the local Kirchnerite candidate also said that the recently announced EU-Mercosur agreement had been "hastily announced" to benefit Macri electorally, complaining that details had not been shared.
"What happens is that it is not known in any detail, but if the agreement is what we assume – which is again that we sell primary products and they sell us industrial products – that we will have to review without any doubt," he warned, placing a question mark over the deal's future.