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Argentina election: Will Fernández and Bolsonaro get along?

Bnamericas Published: Monday, October 28, 2019
Argentina election: Will Fernández and Bolsonaro get along?

Alberto Fernández's victory in the Argentine presidential election on Sunday has raised the question of how he will get along with Brazil's far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro (pictured).

The center-left candidate beat conservative President Mauricio Macri by winning 48.11% of the votes versus 40.36% for the incumbent.

Before the election, Bolsonaro had openly supported Macri and warned that a Fernández victory would mean a return to populism and be very bad for Argentina and the Mercosur trading bloc.

Argentina and Brazil are together with Paraguay and Uruguay the members of Mercosur.

Fernández will assume the presidency on December 10, with former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as vice president.

Fernández was chief of staff in the administration of late president Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) and also in the administration of Fernández de Kirchner, which was a period of heavy state intervention in the economy.

During the Kirchner governments, Argentina had close ties with Brazil’s leftist Workers' Party administrations, first under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-11) and then under Dilma Rousseff. 

Argentina's president-elect has a close personal relationship with Lula, who is serving a prison sentence for corruption related to the Lava Jato probe.

Fernández visited Lula in prison last year and on Sunday he congratulated Lula on his birthday via Twitter, saying the former Brazilian leader was an extraordinary man who is unjustly imprisoned.

“It's an affront to Brazilian democracy and the Brazilian judiciary,” said Bolsonaro in regards to Fernández's support of Lula.


There are factors that could see the antagonistic relationship between Bolsonaro and Fernández turn into a more pragmatic one over time.

“Although both leaders have different point of view on the political and economic sides, both must to work together to be more powerful in the global arena. The bottom line is that Bolsonaro understands that, while Fernández will realize this very quickly,” José Augusto de Castro, head of Brazil’s exporters association (AEB), told BNamericas.

Argentina is Brazil’s third largest trade partner, after China and the US, and most of the products exported by Brazil to its neighbor are auto parts. 

The auto industry is highly important for the Brazilian economy as it generates a large number of jobs. 

“The relationship between Brazil and Argentina will be a cold relationship, but both sides understand very well that the relationship is positive for all sides and it will continue with no major changes,” Welber Oliveira Barral, a former Brazilian trade secretary, told BNamericas. 


Bolsonaro assumed power in January and he has spent much of his foreign relations approach on forging closer ties with the administration of US President Donald Trump.

This sparked fears in some corners that Bolsonaro would neglect China due to ideological reasons and allow a key relationship with the Asian giant to deteriorate.

These fears now seem exaggerated as Bolsonaro made an official visit to China last week where he invited Chinese firms to invest more in Brazil, especially in the oil and gas industries.


The Brazilian leader was elected last year on an agenda with a strong focus on free-market polices, including massive privatizations.

Bolsonaro's powerful economy minister, Paulo Guedes, has several times mentioned the Chilean economic model as the one Brazil should follow.

The question now is if the massive and violent protests that took place in Chile during the past week will have any impact on policy making in Brazil. 

“I don’t expect a major change in the liberal agenda of the Brazilian government, but the protests in Chile will serve as a big alert for Brazil. A region marked by inequalities like South America can’t survive with only a liberal agenda that is just focused on privatizations. The government's participation must be present in various sectors to guarantee greater equality,” said Barral.

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