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LATIN AMERICA | 09-12-2019 13:30

Bolsonaro says trade with Argentina will go on, despite Fernández

Reports in the Brazilian press suggest Brazilian leader won't send a government minister to president-elect's inauguration.

President Jair Bolsonaro said trade with Argentina “will remain the same” despite his animosity with Alberto Fernández, despite reports in the Brazilian press suggesting that he won't send a government minister to the president-elect's inauguration tomorrow.

Bolsonaro has yet to publicly confirm whether Brazil will send a high-ranking representative to the inauguration in Buenos Aires.

Asked whether he had changed plans to send Citizenzhip Minister Osmar Terra to Fernandez’s swearing-in, Bolsonaro on Monday said he’s analyzing Argentina’s guest list before deciding whether to send an official to the December 10 ceremony.

Over the weekend, the Brazilian president ordered Terra’s trip to Buenos Aires to be cancelled and opted to send no Cabinet member to the inauguration of his political adversary, according to a Brazilian official with direct knowledge of the matter.

For now, Brazil’s ambassador to Argentina, Sergio Danese, will represent the government at the event, according to the presidency’s press office.

Relations between Brazil and Argentina, which are traditionally political and trade allies, have worsened in recent weeks amid an ideological clash between Fernández’s Peronist movement and Bolsonaro’s hard-right administration. The spat has also raised prospects that Latin America’s largest economy may pull out of the Mercosur trade bloc – which counts Brazil and Argentina as its two largest members – if differences persist.

Hours after his election victory, Fernández set the stage for the first diplomatic tiff between the two countries by calling for the release of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a leftist icon and Bolsonaro adversary.

The far-right leader said he wouldn’t call Fernández to congratulate him and wouldn’t attend the Argentine presidential inauguration, marking the first time in recent history for a Brazilian head of state.

Local daily Clarín reported that Bolsonaro changed plans to send Terra to Buenos Aires because he was annoyed by a Brazilian delegation led by lower house Speaker Rodrigo Maia, which met Fernandez in Argentina last week.

Bolsonaro was aware of the delegation’s travel plans, Clarín reported Maia as saying. Terra had been preparing to meet with both Fernández and outgoing President Mauricio Macri, as well as local business leaders.

– TIMES/BLOOMBERG

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