Buenos Aires, Jan 23 (EFE).- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva laid a wreath Monday at the monument to South American independence hero Jose de San Martin in the Argentine capital, where he kicked off his first foreign visit since being inaugurated for a third term on Jan. 1.
The Brazilian head of state and first lady Rosangela da Silva, known by her nickname “Janja,” were joined at the ceremony by Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero, who on Sunday received Lula upon his arrival at Buenos Aires’ Jorge Newbery international airport.
After that initial tribute to Gen. San Martin (1778-1850), known as the liberator of Argentina, Chile and Peru, Lula headed to Casa Rosada, the Argentine president’s office, for a bilateral meeting with counterpart Alberto Fernandez.
Both center-left leaders are looking to bolster bilateral relations that had soured during the 2019-2022 administration of rightist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whom Lula defeated in a tightly contested runoff last October.
Among other agreements, the two presidents and the heads of different ministries signed cooperation accords in the areas of energy infrastructure, financial integration, defense, health, science, technology and innovation and Antarctic cooperation, according to Argentine official sources.
The two heads of state also discussed the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), which comprises Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, as well as international trade, road infrastructure, the environment, disarmament, efforts to combat illegal activities and nuclear and space cooperation.
As part of his trip, Lula will participate Tuesday in Buenos Aires in the 7th Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and then travel to Uruguay at the invitation of that country’s head of state, Luis Lacalle Pou.
In remarks to reporters after their meeting, Fernandez referred to the events of Jan. 8, when a mob of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the seats of power in Brazil’s capital with the goal of ousting the newly inaugurated president.
Lula’s narrow Oct. 30 runoff victory was certified by Brazil’s electoral court on Dec. 12.
But some of the most hard-core supporters of the former army captain, who had spent months stoking distrust in the country’s electronic voting machines, refused to accept the result and have been calling on the military to take control of the country ever since Lula became president-elect.
“I want you to know, dear friend, that we in Argentina are always going to be by your side and we aren’t going to let any raving maniac attack Brazil’s democracy and institutions,” Fernandez told Lula during a joint press conference at Casa Rosada.
“We’re not going to let any fascist carry out an attack from above on the sovereignty of the people,” Fernandez added.
Lula, for his part, accused his predecessor of defying the constitution and seeking to exercise political influence over Brazil’s armed forces.
The armed forces don’t exist to serve a politician. They exist to guarantee the sovereignty of our country. It’s very clearly written in the constitution. What happened is that Bolsonaro didn’t respect the constitution and inserted himself into the armed forces,” the Brazilian president said at the press conference.
Amid a climate of distrust, Lula on Saturday fired army commander Gen. Julio Cesar de Arruda and replaced him with Gen. Tomas Paiva.
“I had a good chat with him (Paiva) and he thinks exactly the same as I do … about the armed forces,” Lula said.
During the Brazilian leader’s official visit, he also plans to participate in the opening of a bi-national business gathering and a meeting with leaders of human rights groups in Argentina.
Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez, who served as her country’s head of state from 2007 to 2015, a period that partly overlapped with Lula’s second term from 2007 to 2010, will receive the Brazilian leader on Monday at her office in the Senate. EFE