Argentine foreign minister Felipe Solá was involved in an incident which would have normally demanded his resignation or sacking, because he misinterpreted or simply invented the issues of a conversation between president elect Joe Biden and his Argentine peer, Alberto Fernandez triggering a serious diplomatic misunderstanding in a most delicate moment.
In effect last Monday Biden and Fernandez had arranged for a video phone call, and somehow Sola missed the time and place of the call, and arrived at Government House, Casa Rosada when it was all over and was only able to pick up some comments of what the presidential conversation had been.
Nevertheless addressed by the media Solá gave his version of what the exchange and issues had been, underlining that Fernandez had asked president elect Biden to help with the US representative at the IMF Executive board, Mark Rosen, who allegedly was not being helpful, or acting in good faith, with the current Argentine negotiations to reschedule the country's pending debt and hopes for fresh funds. President Fernandez requested a change of attitude from the US delegate at the IMF board.
When the interview was aired it was immediately denied by the Executive and several cabinet ministers, particularly Martin Guzman head of Finance, who is leading the complex but delicate negotiations with IMF. Furthermore president Fernandez pointed out that the only reference to the IMF was underlining that Pope Francis has been very supportive since he had been elected president, including with the IMF, and considers himself a close friend of the Argentine born pope.
Biden also expressed admiration for the pope and mentioned that when Francis visited the United States, as the only Catholic member of the cabinet (at the time Biden was vice president) he escorted the pontific and recalled how he was of great comfort when the Biden family went through a very difficult and tragic moment.
Solá said that Biden anticipated he would try to solve the financial problems faced by Latin America.
The Argentine presidency also revealed that Solá did not participate or was present at the conversation, since he arrived late. Those present together with the president were cabinet chief Santiago Cafiero, finance minister Martin Guzman, Executive secretary general Julio Vitobello, head of Strategic Affairs, Gustavo Beliz and presidential spokesperson Juan Pablo Biondi.
The Fernandez administration is very much interested in having close links and improving bilateral relations with a future Biden presidency, a task that has fallen on ambassador Jorge Argüello. Relations with Donald Trump have been polite but distant, and Solá's comments on Rosen not only angered the US representative, but surprised the president elect team since the terms of the conversation, had been agreed previously, was to avoid specific punctual issues, until Biden takes office in January.
The Solá comments forced the Fernandez administration to contact the IMF and explain what had really happened, plus a round of visits to the foreign news agencies in Buenos Aires to ask for prudence.
Apparently president Fernandez was not annoyed with Solá, despite his most imprudent comments and after all were not that serious, but reflect the apparent lack of coordination in the San Martin Palace, and what seems to be limited access of the foreign minister with the president and cabinet members.
However minister Guzman and the IMF executive director for Argentina, Sergio Chodos were furious with the Solá's comments fearing they could interfere with the ongoing negotiations.
Speculation has it that if Solá finally steps down there are two strong candidates for the job, Gustavo Beliz head of Strategic Affairs and Ambassador in Washington Jorge Argüello The fact is that Solá has been complaining that he is missing some of the areas of most diplomatic significance.
The minister was not invited to participate at the mini summit in Uruguay between Alberto Fernandez and president Luis Lacalle Pou, the first of the two as elected heads of state in office. Likewise, as said above, relations with Washington are in the hands of ambassador Argüello and Beliz, while in Beijing relations are led by Luis Maria Kreckler and Sabino Vaca Narvaja who respond directly to president Fernandez.