BUENOS AIRES – Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said on Wednesday that he would like to accompany ousted Bolivian leader Evo Morales when he returns to his homeland for the inauguration of Luis Arce, the unofficial winner of last weekend’s presidential election.
Arce, the economy minister for most of Morales’ 13-year tenure, is still awaiting certification of his victory, but the other candidates have already conceded and a number of governments have extended congratulations to the standard-bearer of the leftist MAS party.
Fernandez told El Destape radio that he would be “delighted” to accompany Morales back to Bolivia, the country he fled in November 2019 after being forced out of the presidency by the army and police.
Morales, who has been living in Buenos Aires since the end of last year, said on Monday that he will return to Bolivia “sooner or later.”
The Argentine president invited Morales to dinner Monday night at his official residence, Los Olivos, “to celebrate” the results of the elections in Bolivia.
Hailing the restoration of democracy in Bolivia after a year of rule by an unelected, interim government, Fernandez emphasized the importance of democracy in Latin America as an “instrument to transform injustices.”
“What I most desire is that Bolivia recovers the full functioning of its institutions,” Fernandez said.
“Bolivia has the largest lithium reserves in the world, its gas. Like us, they must continue enduring the effects of this pandemic,” the Argentine president said. “But I am certain that Lucho (Luis Arce) will do very well.”
He noted the exceptional circumstances that surrounded the vote in Bolivia.
Not only were Morales and his allies driven from power, they were “persecuted and obliged to go into exile,” Fernandez said, adding that the ousted president “had the intelligence” to select a candidate with the “great technical and human quality” of Arce.
“Evo stepped aside, proposed the name of Lucho Arce, mounted an extraordinary campaign and here are the results,” Fernandez said.
The Argentine echoed sentiments expressed Monday by Morales about the need to revive the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), a regional integration body that shrank from a dozen active members in 2008 to four: Bolivia, Venezuela, Suriname and Guyana.
Fernandez attributed the decline of Unasur to the advent of “more conservative governments” that created the “absolutely ideological” Lima Group.
“Since we arrived (in December 2019), Argentina never participated in the Lima Group. (conservative former President Mauricio) Macri positioned Argentina as the axis of the Lima Group. We agree with Mexico to distance ourselves and never participate in the group,” Fernandez said.
Unasur should be rebuilt, “respecting the identity of each society and each people,” to make Latin America better able to face the challenges of globalization, he said.
Fernandez recalled that in Unasur, leaders on the right, such as Colombia under Alvaro Uribe and Sebastian Piñera’s Chile, were able to work with those on the left, including Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and Cristina Fernandez (no relation to Alberto) of Argentina.
“Uribe and Piñera co-existed with Dilma and with Cristina, and there were no problems, and that’s the way it should be,” the Argentine president said.