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Argentina election to deepen South America's fragmentation

SeattlePI.com Monday, 28 October 2019 ()
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A center-leftist's victory in Argentine presidential elections is set to cement a rift between South America's largest nations, and suggests regional turbulence could extend for years.

Alberto Fernández and his far-right Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro have antagonized each another since August, and their statements since Sunday's vote signal that neither plans to relent.

In his victory speech, Fernández declared that Brazil's leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva -- Bolsonaro's nemesis -- is unjustly imprisoned and demanded his freedom.

Bolsonaro, meanwhile, told reporters during a visit to Abu Dhabi that Argentina had "chosen poorly" and that he didn't intend to offer his congratulations.

Brazil and Argentina are the biggest members of the Mercosur trade customs union that this year celebrated reaching a free-trade accord with the European Union after two decades of negotiations. The deal appeared to be a bonanza for South American farm products, while French farmers feared it would swamp them with cheap imports, particularly beef and poultry.

Brazil's economic policymakers hailed it as a milestone in opening their closed economy, claiming it will have a total economic impact of $87.5 billion in Brazil through 2035. Fernández, for his part, has expressed skepticism of deal.

Partly as a result of Mercosur, the nations are also heavily reliant on one another for trade and political friction could complicate the growth of job-creating trade and investment.

Fernández will begin his four-year term in December and Bolsonaro's first term finishes in December 2022, meaning they will simultaneously hold office for at least three years.

Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a...
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