Argentine elected president Alberto Fernandez on Sunday called for ex-president Lula da Silva to be freed from prison, which most certainly puts him on a collision course with Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro.
No fan of the Argentine populist governments during the Kirchner years, Bolsonaro likes to compare Cristina Kirchner to Dilma Rousseff who was removed from office by the Brazilian congress for administrative corruption.
Fernandez told supporters in Buenos Aires that Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003 through the end of 2010, was unfairly jailed. While he made similar comments during the campaign, his decision to raise it in the election aftermath risks further friction with Brazil’s Bolsonaro, a political rival of Lula.
Bolsonaro, on a trip to Asia and the Middle East, lamented Fernandez’s victory, saying he won’t congratulate the president-elect but won’t turn against him either. “Let’s wait some time to see what is his real political stance,” he told reporters in Abu Dhabi.
Fernandez as part of his presidential campaign visited Lula at his prison in Curitiba in July, and on Sunday recalled that October 27 was not only the ninth anniversary of the death of his dear friend and political colleague, ex president Nestor Kirchner, but also the 74th birthday of ex president Lula. Let us remember Lula on this particular day since he is unfairly jailed, Fernandez said.
The former Brazilian president is serving nearly nine years for corruption and money-laundering. Last month he rejected prosecutors’ request that he leave prison for house arrest, in accordance with a Brazilian law that lets prisoners with good conduct and who have already served one-sixth of their jail time complete their sentence under a less-restrictive system.
While Bolsonaro had warned Brazil could leave the Mercosur if Argentina pivots to the left after the elections and ignores agreed trade agreements,, on Monday he said Brazil could join forces with other members of the trade bloc (Uruguay and Paraguay) to suspend Argentina if Fernandez disrupts trade deals.
“But I hope that won’t be necessary; I hope Argentina won’t be willing to change route on trade,” he said.