(Bloomberg) -- Argentina’s decision to join the BRICS is facing backlash at home, with two leading presidential candidates criticizing members of the group of major emerging market economies, and one of them vowing to pull the South American country from the bloc altogether.
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Frontrunner Javier Milei, asked about his view on the bloc formed by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, said his government would only have relations with nations that defend liberty, peace, democracy and free trade.
“Some countries are not along those lines,” he told reporters on Thursday. He added, however, that the private sector would be free to trade freely.
Patricia Bullrich, the candidate from a market-friendly opposition coalition, was more forceful: “Argentina under my government will not be in the BRICS,” she said in a speech. President Alberto Fernandez, she added, put the country “in a position of enormous weakness” for committing to entering the BRICS alongside Iran during the invasion of Ukraine.
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates are set to join the bloc together with Argentina starting on Jan. 1, BRICS leaders announced at the end of a summit in Johannesburg, where they pushed to expand the group’s global influence.
Read More: BRICS Bloc Grows Heft With Saudi Arabia and Other Mideast Powers
Questions about Argentina’s long-term commitment to the BRICS underscore the challenges Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva faces to have more Latin American representation in the group. Argentina’s inclusion follows a request made last year by Fernandez, a close ally of the Brazilian leader.
Speaking from Johannesburg, Lula said Brazil would negotiate with Argentina’s new president, regardless of who wins the Oct. 22 election.
“It could be that the president will not want to negotiate with Brazil, and that is his sovereign right,” he said. “The relationship with Argentina is very important for Brazil and South America.”
--With assistance from Simone Iglesias.
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