Argentine President Alberto Fernandez sparked a Twitter storm and regional racing debate on Wednesday with misjudged comments against visiting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who tried to play the South American country’s links with Europe.
“The Mexicans came from the Indians, the Brazilians came from the jungle, but we Argentinians came from the ships. And they were ships that came from Europe,” said Fernandez, referring to the country’s many European migrants. He later apologized for the comments, saying the diversity of his country was something to be proud of.
Fernandez seems to have taken the sentence from a song by the local musician Lito Nebbia, for which the president has admired himself more than once.
The comments sparked a viral response on social media, in which many criticized Fernandez for being racially insensitive.
“I definitely didn’t want to offend someone who felt insulted or invisible. I apologize for that,” Fernandez said on Twitter.
Brazilian media spread Fernandez’s testimony on Wednesday, and many on social media joked that right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro would enjoy coming back against the Argentine left leader.
Bolsonaro made a commitment by tweeting a photo of himself wearing a native headdress and smiling amid a group of indigenous peoples. The only text in the tweet was the word “JUNGLE” in capital letters, flanked by an emoji with the Brazilian flag.
Eduardo Bolsonaro, a congressman and son of the Brazilian president, criticized the comments as “racist” and fought off Argentina because of its troubled economy, which has been in recession since 2018.
“I say the ship that sinks is that of Argentina,” he wrote on Twitter.
Internet users have posted responses under a video of the speech on YouTube expressing anger or discomfort.
“Sorry, 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 user under the name Barbara Bongiovanni.