Brazil’s new president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will visit Argentina before taking office, President Alberto Fernández confirmed on Monday after travelling to São Paulo to congratulate his “friend” on his victory in Sunday’s run-off vote.
"He was delighted to tell me that his first visit will be to Argentina ... before taking office" on January 1, 2023 said Fernández, Lula's long-time ally, after the two shared a meeting at the Intercontinental Hotel.
The leaders greeted each other smiling, with warm embraces, according to a video posted by the Argentine leader on his social network accounts.
Fernández, who praised Lula’s “authenticity” in an interview with Radio Perfil earlier in the day, said that he had wanted to visit in-person to “give the president-elect the hug he deserves.”
The president was accompanied on his trip by Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero, Presidential Spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti and Argentina’s ambassador to Brazil, Daniel Scioli.
"I didn't want to be absent on a day of vindication by the people of Brazil for this wonderful leader they have, who is Lula," said Fernández later in brief comments to the press, adding that the duo had discussed "the need for integration in Latin America.”
"The Brazilians democratically elected my dear friend Lula as president, an extraordinary leader, a Latin American leader, a man who is going to do a lot of good for Brazil, as he did before, and a lot of good for Latin America," he told the press.
The Peronist leader’s visit to Brazil was the first meeting Lula had held with any foreign leader since he emerged triumphant in Sunday’s run-off. The Workers’ Party (PT) leader defeated far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro – who has yet to officially concede defeat – by 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent in the second-round ballot.
Ties between Fernández and Bolsonaro have been strained ever since the Peronist leader took office. Though the neighbouring countries are strategic partners, the presidents have never held a bilateral meeting in person.
Bolsonaro also broke with diplomatic tradition, opting not to visit Buenos Aires in his first trip as president-elect, instead preferring to travel to Santiago. He also refused to attend Fernández’s inauguration in December 2019, sending his deputy in his place.
During the campaign, the Brazilian leader repeatedly criticised Argentina’s government, pointing in particular to the country's high inflation rate, while generally disparaging "leftist" governments in the region.
Former Uruguayan president, leftist leader José ‘Pepe’ Mujica also celebrated Lula’s victory in comments to reporters.
"The most joyful people are recovering their hearts," Mujica told reporters in São Paulo on Monday, where he joined PT members in Lula’s campaign bunker.