Alberto Fernández decided to build his own regional leadership and will take advantage of the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to initiate a political move that can act as a balance of power to the ideological tandem starring Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.
The United States relies on Brazil, Colombia and Chile to hegemonize the Latin American agenda, while the rest of the medium-sized countries in the region – Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador – try to break that force of geopolitical gravity and seek alternative paths to suggestions that come down from the White House.
The Argentine president wishes to lead the march on these alternative roads and will make a strategic commitment at the CELAC Summit. Alberto Fernández sends his Foreign Minister Felipe Solá, the Secretary of Economic Relations, Jorge Neme, and the designated Argentine Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Tomada, to propose a program of collective action that includes the situation of Venezuela and Bolivia, the elections in the OAS and the deepening of regional trade.RELATED
Trump wishes to end the regime of Nicolás Maduro and has evaluated different alternatives to solve this political equation. From a coup d'etat to the variable Juan Guaidó, who yesterday suffered the arrogance of the populist leader.
Alberto Fernández knows Trump's aspirations and talks on the phone with Maduro. The president avoids folding himself to the maximum claims of these mutual enemies and seeks a solution that meets the political interests of Washington and Caracas, allows an orderly transition in line with a certain proposal by Pope Francis and signifies his first diplomatic triumph since his arrival at the Pink House.
The task is complex and implies a sum of regional wills that Alberto Fernández does not yet have. The president can count on his Mexican colleague, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), Cuba, and a handful of Caribbean countries that owe a portion of their oil supplies to the good will of Maduro.
In fact, in the last Venezuelan crisis, caused by the decision of Nicolás Maduro to prevent the re-election of Juan Guaidó as president of the National Assembly through the violent and anti-democratic measure to prevent the entry of his deputies to the premises, Argentina was quite lonely in its positioning; Together with Mexico, it was the only country that did not sign the joint statement of the Lima Group, signed by the other 13 countries that comprise it: Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Chile and Costa Rica, among others.
Alberto Fernández has not yet convinced the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Uruguay, that they are ready to listen despite the support of the Argentine government to Evo Morales, who uses his political refugee status to prepare for his triumphant return to La Paz. The exit that Alberto Fernández sketches for Venezuela has no points of contact with Morales's exile in Buenos Aires, but his proximity to Balcarce 50 stains – inevitably – the road map that Foreign Minister Solá wants to present at CELAC.
“The Fernández alternative” to the Venezuelan crisis is handled cautiously between the Foreign Ministry and the first floor of Balcarce 50, and its institutional and political strength is linked to another movement that Solá will start on behalf of the Argentine head of state. The chancellor plans to present at the CELAC a proposal for a consensual candidacy for the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS).
María Fernanda Espinoza was Ecuadorian Foreign Minister and head of the United Nations General Assembly. And now he wants to succeed Luis Almagro as Secretary General of the OAS. Espinosa is proposed as a candidate by Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, two of the 34 countries that make up the Organization of American States.
Alberto Fernández has deep ideological differences with Almagro, dismissed as an alternative to the Peruvian diplomat Hugo de Zela – at the time he made a lobby in favor of the dictator Alberto Fujimori, and then decided to support the former chancellor of Correa, who is a fugitive from justice for a case of bribery and illegal financing of his political coalition.
Sola spoke with Espinoza, and was convinced. Argentina would also support its candidacy to unseat Almagro from the OAS Secretary General. The president believes that Almagro is a lousy articulator of regional diplomacy and believes that it is time for a profound renewal in the Latin American foreign relations system.
Alberto Fernández's double intention – to modify the political perspective of the OAS and build his own regional leadership – can complicate Argentina's bilateral relations with the United States. Donald Trump assesses that Almagro is a key piece in his geopolitical board and would only sacrifice his nomination if the Peronist president could guarantee the fall of Maduro, the political anomie of Evo Morales and the continuity of tacit isolation to Cuba.
The Argentine president would never accept this regional agenda for the OAS.
Trump has Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Paraguay, Canada, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Belize and Suriname, at least, to support the current secretary of Almagro. Alberto Fernández, on the other hand, can exhibit the support of Mexico, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and some other State that is part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
For now, the numbers are not in favor of the president. The United States is the main contributor of funds in the OAS and has a regional influence that Alberto Fernández cannot match. If a diplomatic catastrophe does not arise, Almagro will be reelected in the OAS.
Solá will arrive on January 7 in Mexico City and CELAC will begin a day later. The chancellor has a tight agenda that includes participation in the Summit and a succession of bilateral meetings. In the Palacio San Martín they did not rule out a conclave of Solá with López Obrador, Mexican president.
It will be the international debut of Solá, in a diplomatic meeting that he will use to enhance the image of Alberto Fernández, promote Espinosa's candidacy in the OAS and maintain that Maduro is part of the solution in the Venezuelan crisis.
An ambitious regional agenda with uncertain results.