Presidents Mauricio Macri and Jair Bolsonaro of Argentina and Brazil met Wednesday morning for the first time since Bolsonaro assumed his presidency this year. Despite their tangled political perspectives, the leaders touted a productive conversation at a press conference following their meeting.
Bolsonaro welcomed Macri, the first world leader to visit the Palacio del Planalto during his presidency, with a warm hug and a formal handshake. Several members of each president’s cabinet were also present at the morning meeting.
In their talks, the presidents emphasised the need to “modernise” the Mercosur, the South American trade bloc for which Argentina is currently serving as pro tempore president. Brazil’s future within Mercosur has been uncertain since far-right Bolsonaro took control of the country on January 1.
"We both recognise the need for an agenda that includes transparency and fights against corruption... and adapts to the challenges of the 21st century by taking advantage of the opportunities the world offers,” Macri said.
Bolsonaro affirmed that international trade must be promoted in order to facilitate long-term growth in the region.
“We talked about the importance of our partners, Paraguay and Uruguay, in perfecting the bloc, and will see how we can set a work agenda with a sense of urgency. Our goal is for Mercosur to be relevant in the region,” Bolsonaro said.
While Argentina is experiencing its highest inflation rates in 27 years, Bolsonaro praised Macri’s handling of the economy. The new president said Brazil will support Macri’s efforts “with interest and admiration in order to lift the Argentine economy and integrate it in the global market.”
Bolsonaro continued by saying Macri “has achieved advances in other areas, despite the challenges that he took on when he assumed his presidency.”
The meeting spanned issues like organised crime, defence, technology, and nuclear energy. In a joint statement, the leaders discussed their willingness to cooperate in order to meet a number of short-term goals.
Priorities include “internal and regional security issues” and the “improvement of the bilateral instruments of legal cooperation and fight against transnational crime and corruption.”
The leaders also said they will work together against political corruption in South America. Macri denounced the political situation in Venezuela, and condemned the continued abuses of the Maduro dictatorship.
“We do not accept this mockery of democracy… The international community has realised that Maduro is a dictator who seeks to perpetuate his position of power through fictitious elections, imprisoning opponents and leading Venezuelans into desperate and agonizing situations,” Macri declared.
After the meeting, the president was hopeful about the “many things ahead.” He said his talks with Bolsonaro “made clear our willingness to work together in a future of peace and prosperity for our countries and our region.”
Bolsonaro also stressed the importance of ongoing cooperation between the two countries. “There are no taboos in the bilateral relationship, what moves us are concrete developments for the well-being of Brazilians and Argentines,” Bolsonaro said.
Macri returned to Buenos Aires after the meeting Wednesday.