Note-Central Note Argentina | Brazil | Brazil | CELAC | politics | Mercosur
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva arrived in Buenos Aires on Sunday night for the international launch of his new presidency, which will seek to "rebuild bridges" with Latin America.
The 77-year-old Brazilian president is making his first state visit to, his country's neighbour and partner in the Mercosur trade bloc (completed by Paraguay and Uruguay) and is due to meet with his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernández on Monday. The following day, Lula will take part in the presidential summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), to which Brazil is returning to after a few years' absence.
Lula's Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira explained on Saturday in an interview with Argentina's official state news agency Télam that Lula's visit is part of a foreign policy that will seek to "rebuild bridges" with the international community.
"What we are going to do in Buenos Aires and Montevideo [where Lula will meet with his Uruguayan counterpart Luis Lacalle Pou on Wednesday] is to talk with our partners about the situation we inherited and the possible directions to take. The first step is to relaunch the bilateral relationship and this will be done on the basis of the joint declaration by Presidents Fernández and Lula, which will be the script for this relaunch, with clear objectives and tasks," the diplomat revealed.
The Mercosur bloc is in the midst of a crisis following Uruguay's decision to negotiate a bilateral free-trade deal with China and apply to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement without the support of the other members, a decision that has been questioned by Brasilia, Buenos Aires and Asunción.
Vieira said that Brazil intends to talk "about the present and future of Mercosur" and described the move as damaging to the bloc. Member states must "make the necessary adjustments in permanent dialogue with the businessmen of our countries," Vieira told Télam.
On Sunday, in an interview with Folha de São Paulo, the official reiterated his opposition to a Uruguay-China FTA, but acknowledged that "Mercosur is not the same as when it was created" and that "the needs of each country and the asymmetries that exist should be considered, and see if some kind of concession can be made."
Lula is scheduled to meet with Fernández at the Casa Rosada at mid-morning on Monday, after which the two leaders will make a joint statement.
"Argentina is the most important country in our diplomatic relations," said Feliciano de Sa Guimaraes, academic director of the Brazilian Centre for International Relations (CEBRI).
At the same time, Fernández's government "depends a lot on Brazil" and in particular "on Brazil's help in the IMF," with which Buenos Aires has a credit programme worth US$44 billion.
Brazil is Argentina's main trading partner, according to official figures released last week by Argentina's INDEC national statistics bureau.
Accounting for 14.3 percent of all sales abroad, Brazil is the number one destination for Argentina's exports, which in 2022 totalled almost US$12.7 billion, up 7.6 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, imports from Brazil narrowly exceeded US$16 billion and, with an annual growth of 28.8 percent last year, representing almost 20 percent of all Argentine purchases abroad.
Return to CELAC
Lula's trip also heralds Brazil's return to CELAC, a forum for concerted action made up of 33 countries. Brasilia left in 2020 on the orders of then-president Jair Bolsonaro, who considered that it "gave prominence to non-democratic regimes such as those of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua."
The Lula government intends to rejoin as a sign of "commitment to the spaces for dialogue and regional coordination," said Vieira, adding that it is "incomprehensible" that Brazil had chosen to resign its membership.
Lula plans to meet in Buenos Aires with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, according to sources from the Brazilian Presidency.
Rumours of a potential meeting between Lula and Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro are circulating strongly but have not been officially confirmed. The latter did not attend the Brazilian's inauguration in Brasilia on January 1.
In Argentina, reports are also circulating of a potential effort in the courts to arrest Maduro for alleged human rights violations. Venezuelans who live in Argentina are planning a number of protest actions to coincide with the Chavista leader's visit.
Lula's trip to Buenos Aires comes just days after he fired the Brazilian Army's commander-in-chief – citing a "breakdown in the level of confidence" – following this month's assault by radical Bolsonaro supporters on the headquarters of the three branches of government in Brasilia on January 8.
Currently serving his third term in office, Lula received the unanimous support of Brazilian institutions and the acts of vandalism in Brasilia were condemned by the international community.
by Mauricio Rabufetti, AFP