BRASILIA – Argentine President Mauricio Macri become on Wednesday the first foreign leader to make an official visit to Brazil since that nation’s new head of state, Jair Bolsonaro, took office on Jan. 1.
As he did nearly two years ago when visiting Brazil’s then-president, Michel Temer, Macri walked past 330 members of the presidential honor guard toward Bolsonaro, who welcomed the Argentine leader at the top of a ramp that leads to the inside of the Planalto presidential palace.
In statements to the media after a private meeting, the two conservative presidents both criticized the leftist leader of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in for a second six-year term last week.
Venezuela is suffering from widespread poverty and hyperinflation and the United States, the European Union and several countries of the Americas refuse to recognize Maduro’s election victory last May.
“We both share a concern for the Venezuelan people,” Macri said alongside Bolsonaro, adding that “Maduro is a dictator who is trying to remain in power through fictitious elections.”
Bolsonaro chose more mild language in his remarks on Venezuela.
He stressed the commitment of Argentina and Brazil to the “defense of freedom and democracy in the region” and said their “cooperation on the Venezuelan question is a clear example” of that.
The Brazilian president also emphasized the need to perfect the Mercosur South American trade bloc and quickly finalize a trade deal with the European Union that has been in the works for nearly two decades.
The rightist head of state also said that Mercosur needs to value its “original tradition” based on commercial openness, reduction of trade barriers and the elimination of bureaucracy.
In that regard, the president of Mercosur’s largest member called for a “reduced” bloc that “continues to have meaning and relevance.”
He also stressed his desire to further strengthen ties with Argentina, one of Brazil’s leading trade partners, and said he was convinced bilateral relations would continue on the right road.
According to diplomatic sources, Macri will return to Buenos Aires after lunch.