BUENOS AIRES – Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his Brazilian counterpart and guest Jair Bolsonaro declared themselves in Buenos Aires on Thursday to be “partners” in an “alliance” with “enormous potential” in the economic sphere and on human rights, an issue that led them to harshly criticize the current situation in Venezuela.
Along with his wife Michelle and a good portion of his Cabinet, the Brazilian president began the first day of his official visit to Argentina early, a visit reciprocating the trip Macri made to Brasilia just a few days after Bolsonaro’s inauguration at the beginning of this year.
Such was the harmony between the two men that Bolsonaro explicitly backed Macri’s re-election bid in the Argentine presidential vote in October, when his main adversary will be former President Cristina Fernandez, who governed from 2007-2015 but who is running for vice president this time around.
It was a camaraderie that contrasted with the protests that began near the Casa Rosada presidential residence and the Brazilian Embassy early in the afternoon, demonstrations convened by social organizations, unions and political groups under the slogan “#ArgentinaRechazaBolsonaro (Argentine rejects Bolsonaro). Your hate is not welcome here.”
“We want to continue to become ever stronger as partners in this alliance, not only on the economy, (but) with the larger aim for what every man and woman can have, which is freedom,” said Bolsonaro to reporters along with Macri, whom he called “my brother” and with whom he said he shared “practically the same ideals” after their bilateral meeting at the Casa Rosada.
Macri, meanwhile, said that both the trip he made to Brazil and Bolsonaro’s trip to Argentina show the “level of importance” that the affectionate relationship between the two countries has had for “years,” as well as its “enormous potential.”
As expected, besides bilateral matters, the pair discussed two main themes: the situation in Venezuela, given that they are two of the presidents who have been most critical of Venezuelan embattled incumbent Nicolas Maduro, and the evolution of the talks between Mercosur – which also includes Paraguay and Uruguay – and the European Union to strike a trade deal.
“I think that all South America is concerned about not having new Venezuelans in the region,” said Bolsonaro, referring to the exodus of millions of Venezuelans in recent months due to the economic, social and political turmoil in their country, and he urged making “concrete decisions” to achieve progress and peace.
Macri said that both Argentina and Brazil were “absolutely committed” to defending human rights and democracy, lamenting the “tough times” Venezuelans are experiencing and saying “We’ll continue doing everything possible from here to help reestablish democracy in Venezuela.”
Both Macri – who holds the six-month rotating presidency of Mercosur – and Bolsonaro, who will do so starting in July, insisted that the bloc is very close to achieving a trade deal with the EU.
Argentina is Brazil’s third-biggest trading partner and Brasilia is the biggest trade partner for Buenos Aires, with bilateral trade amounting to $26 billion in 2018.
During the rest of Thursday, Bolsonaro will participate in a seminar on the defense industry and in a meeting with local businessmen, which will be his last official event before returning to Brazil on Friday morning.