Argentina’s Opposition Campaigns for Cooperation with China and the BRICS

Sabino Vaca Narvaja, who served as Argentina’s ambassador in Beijing from April 2021 to Dec. 10, 2023, has just completed a working trip to five Chinese cities, during which he discussed exciting plans for continued bilateral cooperation among academic, cultural and communication institutions, despite President Javier Milei’s insulting and offensive behavior toward China’s leaders. Notable was his meeting in Shanghai with officials from the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), whose president, former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, is a close friend, to discuss the Bank’s possible involvement in development projects and investments in the province of Buenos Aires. Axel Kicillof, the Peronist Governor of Argentina’s largest and most economically important province, had previously discussed this in a March 22, 2024 Zoom meeting with Dilma Rousseff.

According to the April 26 Noticias Urbanas, the NDB meeting also discussed a proposal to establish an office in Brazil to promote development programs for Ibero-American governors and mayors. Vaca Narvaja’s initiative is the leading edge of growing sentiment in Argentina — and in other Ibero-American countries whose governments have chosen not to join the BRICS (such as Mexico) — to organize support in the population for the economic policies the group promotes, in some cases establishing “Friends of the BRICS” organizing drives.

As ambassador, Vaca Narvaja organized aggressively for Argentina to join what was then still the group of five. But President Milei, in office since last December, pledged allegiance to the U.S., Israel and other nations of the “free world” committed to preserving the crumbling unipolar world. He has since cozied up to NATO and the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Laura Richardson. Relations with the nations of the Global South don’t interest him, although he did send his Foreign Minister Diana Mondino on a tour of China, beginning April 28, in hopes of convincing Beijing to renew a $6 billion yuan swap that expires in June and which his government desperately needs to bolster its reserves.

Vaca Narvaja’s bilateral cultural exchanges and optimistic approach to China stand in sharp contrast to Milei’s world view and foreign policy, which the former ambassador said “fuels conflicts and concepts from the era of the Crusades between West and East, evoking one of the darkest periods of humanity … guided by a strong component of religious whim”. While China follows a “model of cooperation, without conditionalities or impositions,” Vaca Narvaja told Noticias Urbanas, “Milei proposes to apply a colonial program for Argentina … seeking to subject our foreign policy to what the United States decides…. We are facing an extremely complex international situation which means having leaders who can perform their duties rising to the level that current circumstances require.” That, Milei is definitely not.

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