Monday, July 15, 2024

LATIN AMERICA | 08-07-2024 16:15

‘We should all be here’ – Lacalle Pou criticises Milei’s Mercosur summit absence

"The message is not the only important thing, the messenger is very important," declares Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou in response to Javier Milei's Mercosur summit.

Uruguay's President Luis Lacalle Pou has criticised his Argentine counterpart Javier Milei’s decision not to attend a Mercosur presidential summit.

As the meeting in Asunción opened on Monday, Lacalle Pou said that "all the presidents" of the bloc should be at the meeting – a challenge to the outspoken Milei, who set the tone for the meeting with his absence.

"The message is not the only important thing, the messenger is very important," Lacalle Pou said, referring to libertarian leader’s absence.

Milei, who instead chose to attend a gathering of right-wing leaders in Brazil this weekend, sent his foreign minister, Diana Mondino, in his place.

"If Mercosur is so important, all the presidents should be here. I attach importance to Mercosur. And if we really believe in this bloc, we should all be here," said Lacalle Pou.

The 64th summit of Mercosur member state president’s was attended by all the leaders, except Milei. In addition to Lacalle Pou and the host, Paraguay's Santiago Peña, Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Bolivia's Luis Arce were present, despite the latter having suffered an attempted coup d'état in La Paz just days earlier.

Mondino, representing the bloc's second-largest economy after Brazil, said after Lacalle Pou's comments that "this type of meeting has value because points of view are exchanged.”

"We don't have to agree, but we do have to be able to listen to different opinions. I hope that as a group we reach this maturity," she added, before confirming a lack of consensus on the summit's final document.

In addition to Milei's snub, the regional bloc finds itself in a difficult moment. Its long-negotiated free-trade agreement with the European Union and trade talks with China face many obstacles.

Milei announced he would miss the meeting after exchanging insults with Lula, whom he last week accused of being a "lefty" with an "inflamed ego."

"We have become a balkanised and divided meeting," Lula reckoned in his speech to Mercosur. "Never before have we faced so many challenges, whether at the regional or global level.”

Peña also insisted on the importance of keeping the bloc united and avoiding ideological considerations. 

"We are a little bit tired of integration and we have to renew the culture of integration," he told reporters.



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