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LATIN AMERICA | 01-07-2024 15:00

Milei shuns Mercosur summit and awkward meet with Lula

Argentina’s President Javier Milei pulls out of upcoming Mercosur summit in Asunción and potentially awkward meeting with Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

President Javier Milei has decided not to attend the upcoming Mercosur summit on July 8 in Asuncion, backing out of a potentially awkward meeting with his Brazilian counterpart and ideological nemesis Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Milei, 53, is also considering meeting with former Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro at the weekend, according to the government. 

"The President, due to scheduling issues, will not attend the Mercosur summit as planned," said Presidential Spokesperson Manuel Adorni at a press conference on Monday.

The decision is Milei’s latest diplomatic U-turn. Last week, Adorni had confirmed that the President would attend the summit of leaders from the regional trade bloc, which groups together Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. 

Milei’s place at the summit will now be occupied by Foreign Minister Diana Mondino.

Adorni's announcement comes days after the President aired once again his criticism of his Brazilian counterpart. 

Milei – who last year branded Lula a “Communist” and “corrupt” during campaigning for the presidential election – stated in a television interview that the Brazilian politician was a “lefty” with an “inflamed ego.”

Those remarks came after Lula said he was waiting for an apology from Milei for the “nonsense” he previously said.

"I have not spoken with the president of Argentina because I think he should apologise to Brazil and to me. He said a lot of nonsense, I just want him to apologise," Lula said in an interview with the UOL website.

The two presidents greeted each other cordially when they met recently in Italy during the G7 summit, but did not share a bilateral meeting.

Responding to press speculation that Milei is deliberately avoiding a face-to-face meeting with Lula in Paraguay, Adorni replied that Argentina’s President "would never cease to be active because of his own statements.”

However, the spokesperson also said that Milei would travel to Brazil on Saturday for a one-day visit. He did not confirm why the head of state would travel, only stating that it would be an event and that “it is not confirmed whether or not he will meet Bolsonaro," the far-right former president. 

Milei has forged close ties with Bolsonaro, whom he invited to his inauguration. Although there were attempts at rapprochement with Lula’s government, the Brazilian leader did not attend the ceremony in Buenos Aires.

Lula said that Argentina “is a very important country for Brazil, and Brazil is very important for Argentina” and that “it is not a president of the Republic who is going to create quarrels between Brazil and Argentina.”


– TIMES/AFP
 

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