Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro
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Business is business...the rest is hot air

LABS columnist explain how Bolsonaro's reactions to Fernández's election in Argentina ilustrates why much of the politicians's everyday bullshit become news

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Politicians love to make false promises. And make no mistake: they use them consciously, knowing what they are doing, even when they try to pretend otherwise. Much of their everyday bullshit turns out to be news.

It is in this context that we need to interpret Jair Bolsonaro‘s statements about Alberto Fernández‘s victory in our neighboor Argentina. Elected last 27th, the candidate of Kirchnerism has won the dispute in the first round and will be sworn in on December 10.

The day after the election, the Brazilian president, who was traveling through Asia and the Middle East, said he regretted the victory of Fernández’s slate, which had former president Cristina Kirchner as vice president.

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Last year when Cristina was still senator she was arrested accused of having connections with a corruption scheme of payment of millionaire bribes by entrepreneurs responsible for projects and public procurement contracts–a similar modus operandi to the one of the Labor Party (PT, acronym in Portuguese) in other parties investigated by the Car Wash Operation in Brazil. The Argentina Congress ended up freeing Kirchner from jail.

“I’m sorry. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think Argentina chose badly,” said Bolsonaro.

Part of the press reported that Bolsonaro “supported” the defeated reelection candidate Mauricio Macri. In fact Bolsonaro cannot have supported or failed to support anyone in the election of the neighboring country. At most he hoped for Macri’s victory, for obvious reasons, as he did not want the left to return to power in Latin America.

This differentiation–between supporting and cheering–is important to be punctuated in order to assess more palpably what may represent Fernández’s victory for the relations between the two countries.

Let’s look at what Bolsonaro also said the day after the election: “I do not wish to congratulate you. Now, let’s have a disagreement. Let’s wait to see what his real position in politics is, because he’ll be sworn in (as president), he’ll get to know what it’s really going on, and then let’s see what posture he’s going to adopt. ”

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A few days later, the Brazilian president had already softened his tone a little and anticipated that there would be no retaliation on his part after the celebration of the left at the Argentine polls.

And that is exactly what must happen: although ideologically in opposite fields, the Bolsonarian and Kirchnerist governments will opt for pragmatism

Bolsonaro does not go to Fernández’s ceremony, it is true. One may even question his absence from the diplomatic point of view, but I would not expect anything other than that of the Brazilian president.

In his place, who is going to represent the Brazilian government is the Citizenship Minister Osmar Terra, who will surely be at Casa Rosada smiling and ready to pat many people on the back.

What is certain is that there is much uncertainty about what the new government will be in Argentina. And in the face of uncertainty, pragmatism is often the most comfortable posture.

The reforms proposed by Macri did not work. He promised what he could not deliver and the country was torn apart economically (again)

There will be no room, therefore, for irresponsible populisms, with the pardon of pleonasm. Brazil and Argentina are longstanding business partners of extreme relevance to each other. In the region, the neighboring country is our main partner. Neither is able to give up this partnership because of the color of the tie of the other president.

Bolsonaro will continue to poke at the neighboring government. The same goes for Fernández, who embraced the “Lula livre” banner and, during the campaign, visited the former Brazilian president, who was convicted of corruption and money laundering, more than once in jail.

The rhetorical speeches will serve to mark position and to compose the ideological dispute in Latin America. But life will go on. In a telephone conversation earlier this month, Professor Marcos Novaro, a Sociologist and doctor of Philosophy at the University of Buenos Aires, stressed that we will have to wait to see if ideological diplomacy will open space to a more pragmatic policy between the two countries. We will wait. But I crave that business is business, and the rest is hot air.