Lula in Argentina to “rebuild bridges” during his first trip abroad

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Brazilian President Lula meets around fifteen heads of state and government from Latin America on Tuesday in Buenos Aires for a regional summit. This is his first trip abroad since his return to power.

Regional integration and family photo. Fifteen heads of state and government from Latin America meet on Tuesday, January 24 in Buenos Aires for a regional summit around President Lula, for whom this is the first trip abroad since the start of his third term.

The 77-year-old president will participate in the VIIe summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), bringing together thirty-three states in the region (excluding the United States and Canada).

Lula had been, at the end of his first mandates (2003-2010), one of the founders of Celac, during the first “pink wave” on the continent, for the first decade of the century. And he is now bringing Brazil back to the body, from which his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, released him in 2020.

“Need to integrate Latin America”

A new wave of left or center-left governments since 2018 (Mexico, then Argentina, Honduras, Chile, Colombia, Brazil) will make the odes to the “new climate in Latin America” ​​inevitable in Buenos Aires, which the host country hailed this week. .

A forum for consultation and cooperation, CELAC is not a regional integration mechanism with binding opinions. And if Alberto Fernandez and Lula have stressed “the need to integrate Latin America”, the voice of Celac struggles to unite, or to carry, in the successive regional crises, like that of the Peru.

“Latin America is bankrupt from the institutional point of view (…), it has not succeeded in integrating collectively into the world”, diagnosis for AFP Ignacio Bartesaghi, expert in international relations and regional integration from the Catholic University of Uruguay.

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At the very least, Celac “remains a vast and heterogeneous space of Latin American countries from which minimal agendas or common interest for the region can be established”, agrees Bernabé Malacalza, researcher in international relations at the Center Argentinian National Research Center Conicet.

Heterogeneous, certainly. Polarization helping, “there is not even certain basic consensus in Latin America, as on the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship”, underlines Ignacio Bartesaghi.

“There are (at Celac) presidents who do not even recognize themselves,” he notes. Like the Paraguayan Mario Abdo Benitez (conservative), whose country broke diplomatic relations with Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela in 2019. Lula meanwhile pledged to reopen the embassies.

Nicolas Maduro gave up at the last moment to go to Buenos Aires, citing a “risk of aggression” from “the neofascist right”. Reference, perhaps, to Argentine (right) opposition politicians who had denounced the arrival of “dictators”, and asked the courts to detain Nicolas Maduro upon his arrival.

“We are going to rebuild Mercosur!”

Heterogeneous and incomplete. With significant absentees in Buenos Aires, such as Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-wing president at the head of Mexico, the second largest economy in Latin America, host in 2021 of the last Celac summit.

However, CELAC remains the interlocutor chosen by China or the EU to negotiate cooperation agendas with the region. Even if here again… “The impossibility of holding an EU-Celac summit since the last one in 2015 (in Brussels) illustrates (…) the absence of a solid biregional political dialogue”, considers Bernabé Malacalza.

In this sense, the return of Lula could give a boost to certain sub-regional issues, such as the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay), finalized in 2019, but never ratified since. , due in particular to concerns about Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policy. The Lula camp has indicated its willingness to resume contacts.

“We are going to rebuild Mercosur!”, Launched Lula on Monday evening, in reference to this customs union which has been torn in recent months over a free trade treaty with China. “We are going to recreate Unasur!”, He continued in reference to the moribund Union of South American Nations created in 2008 on his initiative and that of the Venezuelan Hugo Chavez.

The fact remains that beyond the neighborhood to which Lula had to give precedence, the head of Brazilian diplomacy recalled this weekend that with the aim of “rebuilding bridges”, Latin America has for Brasilia “the same degree of importance and priority” than the United States, China and Europe. The next trips on Lula’s agenda: Washington on February 10 and China “after March”.

With AFP

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