Almost a year after he first took office, President Alberto Fernández has finally spoken to Brazil leader Jair Bolsonaro.
The two leaders of the regional heavyweights shared a videoconference call on Monday, in what equates to the first private meeting since the Peronist leader’s inauguration in December 2019.
The Foreign Ministry in Buenos Aires confirmed the call, without sharing much detail of their discussion. The conversation was timed to coincide with Argentine-Brazilian Friendship Day (Día de la Amistad Argentino-Brasileña), which falls on the anniversary of the famous meeting between former presidents Raúl Alfonsín and José Sarney in Foz de Iguazú, 35 years ago.
Sarney participated in Monday’s call, said the Ministry, with the ex-Brazilian leader recalling that moment as he praised Alfonsín.
"It is a very important day for Argentina and Brazil and for the entire continent, because for the first time people began to think about the integration of the continent," Fernández said, recalling the anniversary.
Bolsonaro, according to a press release from Buenos Aires, stressed that "Mercosur is our main pillar of integration" and called for the generation of "more agile and less bureaucratic mechanisms." He also called for expansion of tourism between the two nations.
Ideologically opposed to each other, relations between Fernández and Bolsonaro have essentially failed to even start since the Argentine leader took office, with dialogue mostly handed by lower-level officials. Fernández leads a broad Peronist coalition, with vast differences in economic, health and social policies compared to those adopted by the far-right Brazilian government led by Bolsonaro.
In comments regarding the call, Fernández said it was time to "the differences of the past and face the future with the tools that work well between us, to enhance all the points of agreement."
He said he was participating to “give the Mercosur the boost it needs,” echoing the Brazilian leader’s stance.
"We continue to advance in matters of security and the Armed Forces, and we have to work together on the environmental issue, which is an issue that worries us a lot. We must make a preservation agreement. We have opportunities in development to supply gas to Argentina and to Brazil," he added.
For his part, Bolsonaro said that there was “excellent integration” between the two countries’ Armed Forces.
“We will strengthen our integration in the defence industries and we will advance in the fight against drug-trafficking and transnational crime,” he added.