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LATIN AMERICA | 05-03-2021 02:39

Bolsonaro in Buenos Aires: Brazil leader says yes to Mercosur summit

Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro confirms he will travel to Buenos Aires on March 26 for the Mercosur summit, setting up his first face-to-face encounter with President Alberto Fernández.

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro confirmed Thursday that he will travel to Buenos Aires on March 26 to attend the Mercosur summit.

It will be the first face-to-face meeting between Bolsonaro and Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández, with ties between the two leaders severely strained. 

The Brazilian leader is a fierce critic of Peronism in general and has regularly criticised both the Kirchnerite governments and the current administration.

"On the 26th I will be in Buenos Aires, in our beloved Argentina, and we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Mercosur," Bolsonaro said Thursday, in his weekly message broadcast live on social networks.

"It will be the first time that we will talk with the president of Argentina,” he said. “It will be a reserved conversation. Publicly, we are going to discuss economic matters between our two countries.”

The Brazilian leader went on to wish Argentina “success” in the country’s debt restructuring talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"We all know that Covid-19 caused economic difficulties around the world and we hope that Argentina will be successful in its negotiations with the IMF, because Argentina's financial situation is quite complicated," he said.

The two leaders, who are ideologically opposed, finally had a private conversation on November 30, by video call, after months of trash-talking each other in the press.

The relationship between the two got off to a bad start before Fernández even took office in December 2019, with Bolsonaro insulting the president-elect on social media channels, decrying the return of “the left” to power in Argentina. He said he feared an influx of citizens coming over the border, predicting the country would turn into another “Venezuela.”

In a television interview, Fernández responded by calling his counterpart "racist, misogynistic and violent."

For now, it seems trade and regional cooperation will outweigh their personal distaste of one another, just in time for this month’s Mercosur summit.

It will be a special occasion for the bloc, which also includes Paraguay and Uruguay, with March 26 marking the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Asunción, which bore it into existence.

The bloc is currently in a state of flux, with the rightist leaders of Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay seeking a "relaxation" of the policy that prohibits each member from negotiating separate trade deals with other countries.

Mercosur’s historic free-trade accord with the European Union, signed in June 2019 when Mauricio Macri was Argentina’s president, has also stalled. Still awaiting ratification in European parliaments, concerns have escalated over the Brazilian government’s apparent lack of commitment to protecting the Amazon rainforest.



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