Argentina’s Javier Milei meets with Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, not his counterpart President Lula

By July 8, 2024

São Paulo, Brazil – Argentina’s President Javier Milei visited Brazil over the weekend to give a speech at a conservative event. 

He met with former President Jair Bolsonaro and other far-right Brazilian politicians, but did not meet with Brazil’s current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva or any members of his government.

The visit was Milei’s first to neighboring Brazil since taking office last December. 

He attended the fifth edition of Brazil’s version of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), one of the largest gatherings of conservatives which started in the United States in the 1970s. 

The event was held in Balneário Camboriú in the southern state of Santa Catarina, considered a conservative stronghold in Brazil with many Bolsonaro supporters. 

Milei helped to close out the conference by attending the meeting along with Bolsonaro. In his speech the Argentine president said that “socialism has harmed Latin America” socially  and economically over the past 20 years.

Milei mentioned examples from the opposing left, including Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Nicolas Maduro, Argentina’s Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, as well as Bolivia’s Evo Morales, but did not mention Brazil’s leftist President Lula and avoided attacks on Brazil’s current government generally. 

“Socialism is the ideology of resentment, envy, and hatred. But, above all, socialism is the idea of failure,” Milei said. “No one knows this better than us, the Latin American brothers. But this wind of change that started in Argentina and today sweeps across the world will reach every corner, because the history of humankind is the history of freedom.”

Caption: Image credit: AFP via X. 

Milei added that “freedom of speech, a fundamental value of democracy, is being questioned in the world’s major powers under the excuse of not hurting anyone’s feelings or respecting the supposed rights of some loud minorities.”

Amid reports that some Brazilians who’ve been convicted of crimes related to the January 8, 2023 attacks on government headquarters have fled to Argentina, Milei at the conference said that Bolsonaro himself is a victim of judicial persecution, but did not go into more detail.

Read more: 65 people charged with crimes related to Jan. 8 attacks on Brazil’s government fled to Argentina: Brazil Police

In a bizarre side ceremony, Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo gave Milei an unofficial medal inscribed with the Portuguese words “”Imbrochável, imorrível e incomível.” In a video posted to X, the younger Bolsonaro explains the meaning of the medal using homophobic and sexist language. 

Image Credit: Via La Política Online via X

According to local press, Milei refused any support from the Brazilian government during his stay in Brazil, and the cars and police escort were provided by the state government of Santa Catarina. 

The state’s Governor Jorginho Mello is an ally and personal friend of Bolsonaro and also gave a speech at CPAC.

Highs and lows in Brazil-Argentina relations

Argentina is Brazil’s third-largest trading partner, behind China and the United States, and both countries are members of South American trade bloc Mercosur. However, the countries’ relationship has experienced some friction in recent years due to a set of presidents with differing political ideologies. 

When Bolsonaro governed Brazil from 2019 to 2022, he did not maintain a close relationship with the then-Argentine President Alberto Fernández, a member of the Peronist Justicialist Party. The two met only twice and did not visit each other’s country during their terms.

In 2023, after Lula took office, Fernández was the first head of state to visit Brazil in a symbolic reset of the two countries’ relationship. Lula also backed Milei’s opponent, Sergio Massa, in last year’s elections. 

Milei has called Lula a “communist”, a “thief” and “corrupt”, and has threatened to cut relations with Brazil. Lula, on the other hand, did not attend Milei’s inauguration, and last week, he said that Milei should apologize to him and to Brazil for having spoken “a lot of nonsense.”

“I have not spoken with the president of Argentina because I think he has to apologize to Brazil and to me, he talked a lot of nonsense,” said Lula. “I just want him to apologize. I like Argentina, it is a very important country for Brazil, Brazil is very important for Argentina, and it is not a president who will create discord between Brazil and Argentina.”

Potentially furthering the rift between the two leaders, Argentina’s government recently announced that Milei wouldn’t attend this week’s Mercosur meeting in Paraguay, due to an “overloaded schedule.” The Brazilian government reacted, stating that Milei’s absence is “regrettable” but will not “diminish the event.”