Brazilian elected president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrived Sunday night in Buenos Aires and is expected this Monday to hold several top level interviews with government officials beginning with President Eduardo Duhalde and Congressional leaders.
Lula is travelling with Senator Aloizio Mercadante, one of the five most powerful men of the elected president entourage, Marcos Aurelio García foreign affairs counselor; the chairman of the Workers Party Luiz Dulci,; Senator Ideli Salvati; spokesman André Singer; the party's Foreign Affairs coordinator Ana María Stuart and the future first lady, Marisa.
"Our purpose is to rebuild Mercosur so we can sit to discuss with the European Union and the Free Trade of the Americas Association, FTAA as a block", said Marco Aurelio García emphasizing "we will do everything possible to help Argentina within the constraints of Brazil".
However the Lula delegation said no declaration or release can be expected besides Brazil's commitment to increase bilateral trade with Argentina.
The elected president has been quiet cautious in his contacts with the foreign press, having so far only given interviews to CNN and The Washington Post.
Before leaving Sao Paulo in a Legacy Embraer private jet, entirely designed and built in Brazil, Mr. Lula interviewed the Brazilian Ambassador in London Celso Amorím who is considered a strong candidate for Foreign Secretary, as well as the current Ambassador in Washington Rubens Barbosa.
So far only Antonio Palocci has been mentioned as Brazil's next Finance Minister. Mr. Palocci not only was the presidential campaign manager but has a long experience as mayor of a small Brazilian city where he outstood for his fiscal responsibility and pro business policies.
Apparently Mr. Lula's advisors besides the fact of reinvigorating Mercosur and the bilateral relation with Argentina are still uncertain about how to approach overall trade talks, in block or bilaterally.
The following day, Tuesday, Mr. Lula and his team will be travelling to Chile to meet President Lagos and the regional United Nations Economic Commission, Cepal, a think tank for many Latinamerican economists and academics.
President Lagos has praised the elected president saying Mr. Lula incarnates "the real Brazil and will have a very important role in the region, he's a beacon of hope for Latinamerica".
The Chilean president went on to say that in the nineties "we recovered and consolidated democracy, we managed to grow vigorously, but social policies were missing and now we're paying the consequences".
Lula's representatives have anticipated they would like a greater Chilean commitment with Mercosur. However president Lagos recalled that foreign trade represents 63% of Chile's GDP and "we are in no position to augment tariffs, on the contrary rather lower them further".
"Mercosur must be more than a customs union; it must turn into an effective political understanding and macroeconomic policies coordination. I can't raise tariffs. Our proposal is to increase integration in other fields and for that we are more than ready", announced Mr. Lagos.
Mr. Lula is scheduled to be back in Brasilia for the Mercosur presidential summit 5/6 December and will then fly to the United States to meet President George Bush and then Vicente Fox in Mexico.