Alberto Fernández received a number of congratulatory messages Sunday night from Latin American leaders eager to work with the soon-to-be Peronist government. The welcome wasn't quite as warm from neighbouring Brazil, however.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, on a trip to Asia and the Middle East, lamented Fernández’s victory, saying he won’t congratulate the president-elect but won’t turn against him either, according to the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. Instead, the Brazilian leader said he’d rather wait some time to see what his Argentine counterpart will actually do once in office, Folha reported.
Bolsonaro, who previously suggested he’d try to impose Mercosur sanctions on Argentina if Fernández won the election and sought to adjust the trade bloc, lamented the result.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I believe the people have chosen wrong,” he said to Brazilian press during his tour of Asia and the Middle East.
Fernández waited barely an hour after winning the election to set up a first dispute with Bolsonaro, when he called for Brazil’s left-wing legend Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva to be freed from prison.
Addressing supporters in Buenos Aires, the president-electe said that Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003 through the end of 2010, was unfairly jailed. While he made similar comments during the campaign, his decision to raise it in the election aftermath risks friction with Bolsonaro. Fernández visited Lula at his prison in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba in July.
Lula is serving nearly nine years for corruption and money-laundering. Last month he rejected prosecutors’ request that he leave prison for house arrest, in accordance with a Brazilian law that lets prisoners with good conduct and who have already served one-sixth of their jail time complete their sentence under a less-restrictive system.
Across the Andes, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera used social networks to send a message to the president-elect.
"I congratulate the Argentine people for an exemplary and democratic election with a high turnout. I congratulate Alberto Fernández for his great triumph and I am sure that we will work with will, strength and vision of the future in favour of the well-being of our peoples and South American integration," he wrote.
The warmest welcome, perhaps, came from Nicolás Maduro, the contested President of Venezuela, who congratulated the Frente de Todos ticket on the victory, describing it a statement against the “neoliberal politics” of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In a formal statement from his Ministry of Foreign Relations, Maduro “extended his greatest congratulations to the Argentine people for a successful celebration of democracy.”
Maduro brought up the IMF again when he celebrated the Peronist victory in a tweet: “In a historic democratic exercise, they have defeated the neoliberalism of the IMF [...] They have started a new wave of hope towards a better future for Argentina,” he wrote, also saying he’d like to re-establish relations between the two countries.
During his presidency, Mauricio Macri refused to recognise last election win, instead supporting Maduro’s opponent, Juan Guaídó, as interim government leader.
Elsewhere, Mexico’s leadership was one of the first to congratulate Fernández for the win. A statement from the nation’s Foreign Relations Secretary called the election an example of peaceful democratic transition and a reflection of the “strength of Argentina’s democratic institutions.”
Fernández announced Monday his first foreign trip would be to Mexico to meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a like-minded leftist neighbour.
The President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele also took to Twitter to send his well wishes.
“In the name of the people of El Salvador, we wish for the best for the new government and we hope that we can work together for the future of our nations,” he said.