An Isolated Argentina seeks an Alliance with Mexico- What are the Implications?

An Isolated Argentina seeks an Alliance with Mexico- What are the Implications?

As Argentina becomes more isolated in the region, its President, Alberto Fernandez, is seeking closer relations with Mexico. Is a strategic alliance between the two countries possible? What are the implications for the region?

Argentina and its Neighbors

Argentina’s leftist government led by Alberto Fernandez often disagrees on many issues with its neighbors. The differences extend to many areas of national and international governance and have led Argentina to be isolated in the regional arena.

Argentina is surrounded by governments of a different political color, with the exception of Bolivia. There is Piñera in Chile, Bolsonaro in Brazil, and LaCalle Pou in Uruguay. With the exception of Bolivia, ideological differences with its neighbors predominate; however, Jair Bolsonaro is one of the leaders that constantly distances himself from Alberto Fernandez. For example, Jair Bolsonaro has criticized Fernandez repeatedly for hardening restrictions against the Covid-19 pandemic and supporting abortion rights, among others.

Mercosur is another point of contention between Argentina and the remaining member states. Brazil and Uruguay wish to modernize and flexibilize the bloc, to enable the member states to negotiate free trade agreements individually. Argentina’s president, on the other hand, is following a more protectionist approach, asserting that making the bloc flexible is a mistake in the context of the economic crisis that his country is currently suffering.

Argentina distanced itself once again from its neighbors by leaving the Lima Group, a bloc of Latin-American nations designed to encourage peaceful negotiations with Venezuela, with the ultimate goal of restoring democracy in the country. Argentina argued that the bloc had ‘led to nothing’ and had isolated Venezuela. This point of view goes against many of its neighbors’ wishes to continue pushing towards the country’s democratization.

Recently, Alberto Fernandez provoked a regional outrage after claiming that ‘Mexican comes from the Indians, the Brazilians came from the jungle, but we Argentinians came from the ships’ in an attempt to explain the country’s ties to Europe. While Fernandez has apologized, many leaders in the region have taken offense to the President’s comments. Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, Brazil’s President’s son, called Fernandez racist and claimed that ‘the ship that is sinking is that of Argentina’. These instances demonstrate how isolated Argentina is within the region.

Mexico and Argentina: a New Leftist Front?

Since Alberto Fernandez’s victory, Mexican and Argentinian relations have been friendlier than usual. In less than two years, Fernandez has visited Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) twice. Argentina’s second visit in February 2021 set the tone for unprecedented cooperation between the two nations.

AMLO’s strategy is to be a leader in the fight for egalitarian distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Mexico has raised concerns over the unfair distribution of vaccines, calling the UN to be more proactive in this matter. This strategy was backed by Fernandez, who has called on rich countries to ensure a fairer distribution of the vaccines, considered a ‘global good’.

Furthermore, the two nations agreed to work on the co-production of the AstraZeneca vaccine to distribute in Latin America. As part of this project, 800,000 doses will be sent to Argentina. Argentina’s president claimed that this project will assist Mexico in the process of ‘universalizing the vaccine’.

However, vaccine distribution and cooperation was not the main topic of Fernandez’s visit. The two presidents laid the foundation of a new leftist front in Latin America. The two leaders have the common objective of promoting the return of the left in the region, reminiscing on the days when Latin America was governed by leftists leaders (Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Argentina, Lula Da Silva in Brazil, Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela). The restoration of the left in Bolivia, with the victory of Evo Morales’ ally, Luis Arce, has fuelled the belief for these leaders that a return is possible.

What are the Implications of this Alliance?

The strengthening of this political alliance could lead to the restoration and fortification of left-wing political movements in Latin America. This is the case of Grupo de Puebla, a group formed by academics and politicians designed to boost progressive politics in Latin America. Recently, this group has extended its membership to more than 80 leaders from 17 countries.

A Mexican-Argentine united front could jeopardize the region’s union against human rights violations in different Latin-American countries. A recent example is provided in Nicaragua. Since May, police forces in Nicaragua have been jailing opponents and possible political rivals of President Daniel Ortega, seemingly in an attempt to ensure his fourth re-election in November. The Organization of American States (OAS) permanent council issued a resolution in condemnation of the atrocious acts carried out by Ortega’s government. However, this resolution was not supported by Mexico and Argentina, who abstained from the vote. Both governments decided to act separately from the Organization. This decision reflects the skepticism that the Latin-American left has towards the OAS, which, it is argued, embodies Washington’s interest in the region. 

Argentina and Mexico present a new geopolitical distribution that sets the tone for the empowerment of leftist and populist movements in Latin American politics. This new distribution seeks to distance itself from the rightist governments that now administrate the region. If successful, the shift could shape a very different political landscape in the region. 

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