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Lula meets Argentina’s Fernández in first day as president-elect

Brazil and Argentina are set to strengthen diplomatic ties after Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s win in Sunday’s presidential runoff. The president-elect chose Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández for his first international meeting today in São Paulo, following three years of tense bilateral relationships due to ideological differences between the governments of the two main Mercosur economies.

Argentina will also be the destination of Lula’s first trip abroad after taking office on January 1, 2023, Mr. Fernández said after the meeting — re-establishing a long-held tradition that was broken by the outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro, who opted to kickstart his administration in 2019 with visits to Chile and the US, at the time governed by closer ideological allies Sebastián Piñera and Donald Trump, respectively.

“With Lula, the link between Argentina and Brazil will be deep and sincere,” President Fernández said. “I remained silent during all these years the attacks from the Brazilian government. I did it with the conviction that the relationship between Argentina and Brazil should be indestructible no matter who is in charge of the government.”

Mr. Fernández has been close with Lula since his days as chief of staff under then-president Néstor Kirchner in 2003. He bet heavily on the former Brazilian president when he was down, visiting him in jail in 2019, arguing at the time that he wanted to “call attention to the unjust situation Lula is going through, and the violence against the rule of law in Brazil.”

Mr. Bolsonaro, meanwhile, openly backed Mr. Fernández’s right-wing rival Mauricio Macri during that year’s presidential election, all of which contributed to a tumultuous bilateral relationship after the Argentinian presidential transition.

Lula’s win is also good news for Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner, who is facing a potential jail sentence at home. Ms Kirchner has compared her case to that of Lula, whose claims of political were vindicated after the persecution judge who sentenced him for corruption was found to be biased.

The president-elect was pictured yesterday wearing a cap with the slogan “CFK 2023,” a tacit endorsement of a potential presidential bid by Ms. Kirchner next year.

Asides from political agreements, the two countries will be working on furthering economic integration and looking for ways to revitalize the Mercosur regional trade bloc (of which Uruguay and Paraguay are also members).

Earlier today, Argentina’s Economy Minister Sergio Massa said in an interview that he has been holding talks with his Brazilian counterpart Paulo Guedes to build a “supranational regional central bank,” with “regional commercial rules,” and that those conversations are likely to continue under the Lula government.

“I understand that all of Lula’s economic team shares the same idea, and that his presidency could accelerate the process,” Mr. Mass said. “For the economies of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and all the region, this will give us new instruments to compete as a bloc in the world we are living in.”

The minister, however, said there was no consensus on creating a single currency, as former president Macri and Jair Bolsonaro discussed at one point. “Most countries believe individual currencies should be respected,” Mr. mass argued.

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