Alberto Fernández: Argentine president apologises for Brazil comments

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (L), greets Argentine President, Alberto Fernandez at the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 09 June 2021Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Alberto Fernández (R) has been hosting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (L)

Argentina's president has apologised for saying that Brazilians were "from the jungle" in remarks about his country's European heritage.

"The Mexicans came from the Indians, the Brazilians came from the jungle, but we Argentines came from the ships and they were ships that came from Europe," Alberto Fernández said.

The statement - a quote from a song - caused a storm on social media.

Mr Fernández later said his country's diversity was a source of pride.

He made the controversial remarks as he and visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez met business leaders in Buenos Aires.

Mr Fernández said he was quoting the Mexican poet Octavio Paz, but commentators later said the offending phrase was taken from a song by Argentine musician Lito Nebbia, of whom the president is a keen admirer.

"I am a Europeanist. I am someone who believes in Europe," Mr Fernández said.

The statement was aired on Brazilian media, drawing a tweet from right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro that included a photograph of himself wearing a native head-dress among a group of indigenous people.

The only text in the tweet was the word "Selva" (jungle) in capital letters.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Mr Bolsonaro's son, the congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, called the comments "racist" and highlighted Argentina's troubled economy.

"I say the ship that is sinking is that of Argentina," he tweeted.

Mr Fernández later backtracked, saying: "In the first half of the 20th Century we received more than five million immigrants who lived with our native peoples. We are proud of our diversity."

He added: "I did not mean to offend anyone, in any case, whoever has felt offended... I give my apologies."

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