Argentine President Alberto Fernandez sparked a Twitter storm and debate on the regional race on Wednesday with poorly judged comments about Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s visit who sought to strengthen the South American country’s ties with Europe.
“The Mexicans were from the Indians, the Brazilians were from the jungle, but we Argentines came from the ships. And these were ships that came from Europe,” Fernandez said, referring to the country’s many European migrants. He then apologized for the comments and said his country’s diversity is something to be proud of.
Fernandez seems to have taken the phrase from a song by local musician Lito Nebbia, of which the president has declared himself to be more than once an admirer.
The comments sparked a viral response on social media, with many criticizing Fernandez for his racial insensitivity.
“I didn’t mean to offend anyone, anyway, anyone who felt offended or invisible, I apologize,” Fernandez said on Twitter.
Brazilian media published Fernandez’s statements on Wednesday and numerous social media joked that right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro would like to get revenge on Argentina’s left-wing leader.
Bolsonaro compelled him by tweeting a photo of himself wearing a native headdress, smiling among a group of natives. The only text in the tweet was the word “JUNGLE” in all capital letters, flanked by a Brazilian flag emoji.
Eduardo Bolsonaro, congressman and son of the Brazilian president, called the comments “racist” and hit back at Argentina over its struggling economy, in recession since 2018.
“I’m saying the sinking ship is Argentina’s,” he posted on Twitter.
Internet users on YouTube posted responses under a video of the speech, expressing their anger or unease.
“Excuse me, Mexican and Brazilian friends, on behalf of all Argentines, we feel a lot of embarrassment. You know how much we love you and your countries and customs,” said a netizen by the name of Barbara Bongiovanni.
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