Santiago Cafiero greeted the various world leaders entering the hall where the first session of the G20 Leaders Summit in Bali, Indonesia, would take place. The minutes passed and President Alberto Fernández was taking a long time to arrive.
By mobile phone, Cafiero was told that the head of state had become dizzy on arrival. Argentina’s foreign minister took the speech and told Sergio Massa to read it. However, protocol indicated that it was he who should replace the head of state. And so, Cafiero took the floor and presented the speech that he had prepared with Fernández previously.
From then on, the official was the voice of Argentina in each of the Summit activities from which the president was absent – the president only attended a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Xi Jingping and talks with staff from the International Monetary Fund.
Relieving the head of state even led to Cafirero having a chat for several minutes with US President Joe Biden. That took place in a mangrove forest on a walk that lasted more than an hour. There, Cafiero conveyed a message from Fernández regarding the outcome of the US election.
"I sent him a greeting from the president and told him something Alberto had told me about the midterm elections. I told him how relieved I was that the result was the way it was and that it was good news for many [people],” Cafiero told journalists covering the presidential tour during a stop in Madrid.
“That this is not only a relief for Argentina but for the whole of Latin America. In this way we can continue to build a positive agenda for the region and for Argentina,” he continued. “A victory for the Republicans was projected and that did not happen.”
What was Biden's response?
That he was very satisfied, very happy with the election, that he was grateful for the view we had and that it was indeed necessary to take a constructive approach to Latin America, which was very important, especially at this time when we have to seek to integrate and not disintegrate.
One of the discussions that remains open is about the presidency of the IDB/BID. Were you able to talk to the Mexican foreign minister to find out if they are going to drop their candidate and support [the candidacy of] Cecilia Todesca Bocco?
We are working to achieve consensus. Cecilia did very well in her presentation in Washington on Sunday, everyone was very surprised.
Did they give you any certainty that they are analysing it?
They understand that we have to work towards a consensus candidate because otherwise nobody is going to make it. The idea of consensus is that today we continue to support our candidate who is the only female candidate. This is something I discussed with the US Secretary of State [Antony J. Blinken ] here in Bali. I spoke to several people about Cecilia.
[Mexico President] Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had pledged to stand down his candidate, what did the foreign minister say about that?
He pledged to support a consensus candidacy, what we are still building is that consensus candidacy. For us, the most suitable candidate is Cecilia. Until the 19th [of November] there is time to generate consensus.
Some in the delegation said that they had to give her 48 hours to say whether they would drop out and support the Argentine candidate.
Foreign relations with sovereign countries are not exercised in that way.
You spoke to Antony Blinken about the IDB?
We talked about Latin America, and he said he liked that it was a woman [candidate]. He doesn't vote, [US Treasury Secretary] Janet Yellen votes.
What's going to happen with Brazil's candidate?
Brazil's candidate is Jair Bolsonaro's candidate. The one voting is Paulo Guedes, Bolsonaro's economy minister. The discussion is whether it is legal or legitimate. It is legal as a candidacy, but is it legitimate? We don't think so. [But] Brazil is an important partner.
Will Alberto Fernández travel to Mexico on the 24th [of November]?
Let's see how he is and if the doctors allow him to do so.
Does it depend on the result of the IDB [vote]?
It's going to be fine. Foreign policy is not driven by an exchange of votes.
What is your assessment of the tour?
The tour had three parts: the first is in France, where both presidents had a close rapprochement with similar views on how to approach foreign policy, but with differences on specific issues, but always showing a great deal of understanding of the other's point of view. Not only because of the bilateral meeting, which was very good, but also because Emanuel Macron is someone who is incorporating into his vision of foreign policy the agenda of the global south, where one of the pillars in Macron's view is Alberto Fernández, because he is one who brings the vision of Latin America and the Caribbean. Macron incorporated it when he met Alberto Fernández, not before.
The second part is the G20, with the participation in the meetings and the health of the president. And the third part is that the agenda continued, that the president instructed [sergio] Massa and I to continue with the agendas that were planned. Some were able to continue, others could not, because it is the president's agenda and no-one can replace him. There were bilateral meetings with Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia [scheduled], but they could not take place.
What is your assessment of the meeting with the International Monetary Fund?
The meeting was very good. There was a good contribution from Sergio Massa with regard to delivering a report on the cost of war and the need to have some understanding that the situation has changed.
In addition, we were able to insist on the claim for the overcharges. That means a billion dollars a year for Argentina.