While the recent visit to Buenos Aires by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has demonstrated that the relationship with President Mauricio Macri is strong, Santiago faces the prospects of not having an ambassador in the country for the next six months.
The uncertainty about who will be the next Chilean Ambassador in Buenos Aires did not damper the goodwill on show between the two governments this week as they pledged continued cooperation in the realm of trade, economic integration, and taking a common position on Venezuela.
“The bio-oceanic dimension that we have in the region is an opportunity if we are able to unite efforts between the Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance. We have spoken about this before. I’m an observer already, and I see an interest in the countries to move forward,” said Macri at the Casa Rosada, referencing the ongoing conversations to increase and harmonize trade between the two trade blocs. Chile and Argentina have bilateral agreements with similar objectives, which have yet to be approved by the Congresses on both sides of the Andes.
Macri also expressed his approval that Piñera chose to make his first official visit of his second term as president to Argentina, as well as his willingness to work with Chile as an invited observer to the G20 summit to express a “regional perspective.”
Speaking at the Casa Rosada after he and Macri met, Piñera said that “today we are going to sign with President Macri a series of concrete and real agreements to benefit both of our peoples, on which we have worked a great deal. In the next fifteen days, we are going to send to Congress in both countries the Agreement on Trade Liberalization that will open up the doors to promote the exchange of goods and services and investments.”
According to the Chilean presidency, Argentina is Chile’s sixth largest trade partners and the trade volume between the two countries in 2017 was US$ 3.894 billion.
In keeping with Macri’s and Piñera’s stance in opposition to the Venezuelan government headed by President Nicolás Maduro, Argentina and Chile issued a joint statement “reaffirming their commitment to continue to work in favour of the restoration of democracy in Venezuela” and to that end called for the free and fair presidential elections that include participation by opposition politicians and international observers as well as the liberation “of the all political prisoners and the cessation of the systematic violation of human rights.”
Macri has already promised to not recognize the election results if those conditions are not met.
To that end, Macri and Piñera agreed to continue to advocate for the “restoration of democratic institutions and the implementation of a humanitarian channel” at the Organization of American States (OAS), which is currently divided on the issue.
Piñera has stirred controversy in Chile after naming his brother Pablo Piñera ambassador to Buenos Aires. While Buenos Aires eagerly welcomed the appointment, the opposition in Chile has filed a complaint before the Comptroller General’s Office – an independent body that audits government actions – on the grounds that the appointment was an act of nepotism.
Pablo Piñera is an economist by training, and was a member for 47 years of Chile’s Christian Democrats (PDC), and held government positions during the Concertación – the center-left coalition that arose after the end of the dictatorship. Pablo Piñera left the PDC at the end of 2017 and Sebastián Piñera was sworn-in as president in March of this year.
The Piñera administration has strenuously denied claims of nepotism but has promised to hold off implementing the appointment until the Comptroller issues an opinion. Yesterday, Comptroller General Jorge Bermúdez told CNN Chile that while his office would work diligently, typically the cases that it handles can take up to six months. Bermúdez noted that information on the appointment has been requested from the Chilean presidency.