Chile's new leftist leader Gabriel Boric makes his first foreign trip as president on Sunday with a visit to Argentina, where he is expected to sign a number of bilateral agreements with his counterpart, Alberto Fernández.
Boric is travelling to Buenos Aires with a large delegation: five of his ministers while be travelling, including Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola and Defence Minister Maya Fernández. The presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the president of the Supreme Court and six businessmen from important Chilean business associations will also travel.
"The visit is not only protocol, President Boric is making a gesture and is going with an important entourage. It is the beginning of a working trip, so it is logical that he is going with more ministers. It is a sign of the importance he gives to the relationship with Argentina," José Antonio Viera Gallo, who was Chile's ambassador to Argentina between 2015 and 2018 under Michelle Bachelet's second presidency told AFP.
Boric will meet privately with Fernández on Monday at the Casa Rosada, who will then be joined by ministers from both countries to sign agreements on "culture, trade, human rights, energy, gender," a statement from the Chilean government said.
He will later meet with the leaders of the Argentina's Congress and Supreme Court. The day will conclude with a concert.
On Tuesday, Boric will attend a meeting with some 50 businessmen from both countries, followed by a meeting with Buscarita Roa, the only Chilean member of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights group, and finally with Chilean residents.
The gestures of unity are reciprocal: during Boric's inauguration as president on March 11 at the Chilean Congress in Valparaíso, Alberto Fernández arrived accompanied by a large entourage of ministers, legislators, governors of provinces bordering Chile, and even renowned artists such as Víctor Heredia and Pedro Aznar.
"We have a common view on many problems and we think alike," said Fernández on that occasion, who also highlighted the "great expectations" generated by the youthful Boric's arrival in office.
Feminist foreign policy
Chile's new ambassador to Buenos Aires, psychologist and philosophy professor Bárbara Figueroa, a former Communist Party trade union leader who was the first woman to preside over the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Chile (CUT), the country's main trade union confederation, is making her debut on this trip.
Figueroa's appointment sparked controversy, especially among businessmen and Chile's right-wing opposition, who criticised her lack of diplomatic and political experience to occupy such a strategic post.
Meanwhile, Boric was accused of improvising and appointing ambassadors as "consolation prizes" for left-wing politicians who were not appointed to public office.
For former ambassador Viera Gallo, "a gender vision is taking precedence in Chile's foreign policy, and there has been a lot of talk about feminist foreign policy, and one of the elements of this foreign policy is the appointment of female ambassadors."
"President Boric and Minister Urrejola must have decided that an emblematic place for Chile is Argentina and they have appointed a female trade union, political and significant leader," he added.
Despite the criticism, Boric still confirmed the appointment of the feisty 42-year-old trade unionist, who on Thursday presented her credentials to Argentina's Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero.
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"There is no doubt that the Peronist trade union movement is very strong, and Ambassador Figueroa knows them well for their work in the international field of the CUT, and if they have a relevant role in the internal politics of Argentina, her appointment is also effective," added Viera Gallo.
Borders, investment and gas
President Boric said that this trip to Argentina should not only be "symbolic" but also translate into "concrete collaborations," such as addressing common borders and bilateral investments, he said in a meeting with the foreign press in Chile in mid-March.
Another relevant issue for the bilateral relationship is the export of Argentine natural gas to Chile, especially since the government in Buenos Aires approved the sale of 4.23 million cubic metres per day of gas to Chile between January and April, in addition to the six million cubic metres per day of exports already authorised previously.
"It is very important for us the capacity that Argentina has or retains to sell natural gas to Chile," Viera Gallo said.
by Miguel Sánchez, AFP