It looks like Jair Bolsonaro will not be steeping foot in Buenos Aires anytime soon.
Argentina has suspended a historic ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the Mercosur regional trade bloc, due to be held later this month, the Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
President Alberto Fernández and his counterparts from Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia were all due to attend the event, which would have been the first face-to-face meeting between the Argentine president and Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro.
The two leaders, who are ideologically opposed, finally had a private conversation on November 30, by video call, after months of trash-talking each other in the press.
The in-person Mercosur ceremony was due to take place on March 26, and the change was made because of the “sanitary situation affecting countries of the region,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ceremony, which will take place on the 30th anniversary of the Treaty of Asunción that gave birth to the bloc, will now be conducted entirely online.
The pandemic has deepened in various countries of the region. Brazil has seen record numbers of new cases and deaths recently, overtaking India as the country with the second-highest number of infections in the world.
Argentina, which currently holds the pro-tempore presidency of Mercosur, said the decision would “protect the health of the participants” and provide “the correct conditions.”
The bloc is currently in a state of flux, with the rightist leaders of Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay seeking a “relaxation” of the policy that prohibits each member from negotiating separate trade deals with other countries.
Mercosur’s historic free-trade accord with the European Union, signed in June 2019 when Mauricio Macri was Argentina’s president, has also stalled. Still awaiting ratification in European parliaments, concerns have escalated over the Brazilian government’s apparent lack of commitment to protecting the Amazon rainforest.