09 Jul 2024, 08:12

Mercosur leaders slam Milei's absence from summit

ASUNCION, July 9, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Argentina's President Javier Milei raised the ire Monday of his counterparts on South America's Mercosur bloc for snubbing their summit just one day after attending a far-right gathering in Brazil.

Brazil's leftist President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, with whom ultra-liberal Milei has traded many barbs, told reporters at the Paraguay summit that Milei's absence was "a huge foolishness."

Milei, a self-declared "anarcho-capitalist" who has picked fights with numerous leftist leaders since taking office in December, recently described Lula as a "little lefty" with an "inflated ego."

But at Monday's meeting, even fellow right-leaning leaders Luis Lacalle Pou of Uruguay and Santiago Pena of host nation Paraguay, lamented Milei's absence.

It was the first time new member Bolivia attended a Mercosur summit, at which Argentina was represented by Foreign Minister Diana Mondino.

And it came one week after Bolivia recalled its ambassador to Buenos Aires over Milei qualifying claims of a coup attempt against his counterpart Luis Arce, a Lula ally, as "fraudulent."

On that same day, the Argentine presidency announced that due to "agenda issues," Milei would no longer attend the Mercosur summit.

Instead he travelled to Brazil, where he attended a CPAC conference of Latin American conservatives with Lula's far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro over the weekend.

Mondino used her address to the summit Monday to criticize an "excess" of trade regulations within the bloc, which she said were hampering Mercosur's export capabilities.

Uruguay has long been pushing for more flexibility to allow individual bloc members to enter into free trade agreements with third countries such as China.

Brazil has reaffirmed strong ties with China under Lula, but Milei had threatened to cut ties with China during his campaign, and Paraguay maintains diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The Paraguay summit took place amid tensions about a long-delayed European Union-Mercosur free trade agreement, which France's Emmanuel Macron described in March as "really bad."

Founded in 1991, Mercosur has a combined population of more than 295 million and GDP of some $2.86 trillion.


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