During a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Argentine President Mauricio Macri showed his support for a Mercosur-European Union trade agreement, claiming "it's a natural association because in South America, we are all descendants from Europe."
This is not the first time Macri denies the existence of Indigenous nationalities in public statements. In 2016, during celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Argentina's independence, Macri justified a Mercosur-EU deal by arguing that "we are all children of Europeans in Latin America."
Over thirty Indigenous nationalities live in Argentina alone and they account for roughly one million people. In Latin America, there are over 45 million Indigenous people. The comments are also seen as offensive towards African and Asian immigrants living in Argentina.
Argentina is currently facing an important movement of Indigenous resistance around territorial claims as transnational corporations and local landlords claim property over their ancestral lands. The most notable resistance is led by the Mapuche, who are brutally repressed by Argentine security forces that are linked to the murders of at least two activists.
Systematic repression in Macri's Argentina has been paired with impunity. Earlier this month, the only person indicted in the disappearance of activist Santiago Maldonado during a Mapuche protest, police officer Emmanuel Echazu, was promoted.
During his second day in Davos, Macri also defended his government's free trade policies and austerity measures, which he calls "permanent reformism." We've accomplished "a political consensus on an agenda of permanent reform," Macri claimed.
However, last December and this month have been marked by massive demonstrations against his economic and social reforms and an increase in state repression.
The Mercosur-EU trade deal also faces criticism within Argentina. Economics professor and international relations adviser for Argentina's General Confederation of Labor, Marita Gonzalez, claimed the deal will "weaken Mercosur as an integration economy."
Meanwhile, Felisa Miceli, former head of Argentina's National Bank, foresees higher rates of unemployment due to "indiscriminate commercial liberalization (which) means the massive closure of companies and businesses."