Argentina’s future top diplomat Diana Mondino met Sunday in Brasilia with Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira and Ambassador Daniel Scioli to hand over a personal letter from Javier Milei inviting President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to his December 10 inauguration in Buenos Aires.
Even before taking office, La Libertad Avanza is straining to soothe things up between Milei and Lula, whom the rightwing leader dubbed a “corrupt Communist” during an appearance in Chile and warned he would not have relations with South America’s largest country for that reason.
“Mondino’s first international trip was secretly prepared in the last days, with the main objective of ironing out differences between Lula’s government and the elected government of Argentina and thus avoid a setback in the bilateral relationship,” according to O Globo.
The gathering was brokered by Scioli and Brazil’s Ambassador to Buenos Aires, Julio Bitelli, it was also explained.
“We talked, for example, about the possibility of bioceanic corridors, we talked about Mercosur’s external negotiations, we also talked about broadening and deepening Mercosur’s decisions, a topic on which we coincide, because we want a bigger and better Mercosur to benefit regional integration,” said Vieira during a press conference at the Itamaraty Palace. He also pointed out that, despite possible criticism of Mercosur, what counts are the formal statements and the desire of both countries to move the bloc forward.
The Brazilian government’s presidency of Mercosur runs until December 7, three days before Javier Milei takes office. The new president had already advocated Argentina’s withdrawal from the economic bloc during the campaign, but he backed away from the idea and started advocating only changes. Mercosur also includes Uruguay and Paraguay.
“I indicated to her [Mondino] in which areas, during this Brazilian presidency of Mercosur, which is ending now, and with which other countries and other regions we are negotiating. She said she was pleased to hear that. That’s what counts for me. We’re going to work together with this government until the end of its term and then with the new government, knowing that there is this desire to move Mercosur forward,” Vieira went on.
In his invitation letter to Lula, it was reported that Milei spoke about building ties and “a stage of fruitful work.”
“Both nations have many challenges ahead and I am convinced that a change in the economic, social, and cultural spheres, based on the principles of freedom, will position us as competitive countries in which their citizens can develop their capabilities to the maximum and thus, choose the future they want,” Milei wrote.
“We know that our two countries are closely linked by geography and history and from this, we wish to continue sharing areas of complementarity, at the level of physical integration, trade, and international presence, which allow all this action to translate, on both sides, into growth and prosperity for Argentines and Brazilians,” the letter goes on.
“I hope that our time together as Presidents and Heads of Government will be a period of fruitful work and building of ties that consolidate the role that Argentina and Brazil can and should play in the concert of Nations.”
The rapprochement between Milei’s future government and Lula came after Brazil’s Minister of Social Communication, Paulo Pimenta, said that the Brazilian President would agree to call him for the election once he apologized for his campaign remarks.
Hence, Lula’s presence is seen as unlikely after Milei’s previous remarks. “What was said during the campaign is one thing, what happens during the government is another. I don’t know, as I said, whether the president will be able to attend or not. He’ll be coming back from a long visit abroad and will have the Mercosur summit in Brazil,” Vieira explained. In recent weeks, Lula has made no secret of his preference for Milei’s defeated rival, the Peronist Sergio Massa, and days before the elections, he asked Argentineans to vote for someone who ‘respects democratic institutions and likes Mercosur’.“
After a ”very friendly“ conversation with Vieira, Mondino insisted that ”the main message is that we are brotherly countries and will continue to be so; we have to work together to make our countries grow,“ Mondino said.
”It’s one thing to criticize the ideology and another thing to criticize the person. It’s totally different. We have to separate the state from the government from the people. The partnership will continue in the best possible way and as quickly as possible,” she added while highlighting the importance of the agreement between Mercosur and the European Union (EU) Brazil is focused on as pro tempore president of the bloc.
“I have no doubt that our relationship, which is so important, will continue to be important. The minister has shown that Argentina wants to continue to maintain a high-level dialog with Brazil,” Vieira said.
“There is no problem of any kind, no embarrassment whatsoever,” Vieira added regarding Milei’s invitation to former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who warned that if Lula attends Milei’s inauguration he will be “booed” and “will have to put up with it.”
Commenting on Argentina’s entry into the BRICS, Vieira said that, despite doubts raised by members of the future government, Brazil’s support for entry was due to Brazilian interests and the balance of geographical representation in the bloc, but that the decision now rests with the new government. “There is still a whole accession process,” he said. “Of course, Argentina is an important partner for Brazil,” Vieira added.
However, Mondino said there was “no relative advantage in participating in the BRICS” and therefore Argentina’s accession to the alliance would be “reevaluated.”
“Argentina has not formalized anything. It is an open invitation and Argentina, as far as I know, has not yet accepted,” Mondino said in a newspaper interview in which she also highlighted the future government’s openness to multilateralism.
“And as far as I know, up to now, I reiterate, the BRICS are more linked to a political alignment than to advantages that there could be for trade between countries. In fact, with most of the BRICS we already have diplomatic and trade relations,” she argued.
My country “was invited to join, which I understand is effective as of January 1. We are not yet members. When we are, we can reevaluate,” Mondino went on while warning Argentina needs to focus on urgent matters.
Argentina is Brazil’s third largest trading partner after China and the United States. Mondino’s visit took place on the eve of a business meeting between leaders of the Brazilian National Confederation of Industry (CNI) and the Argentine Industrial Union (UIA) in Brasilia.