BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – Argentina’s president apologised on Wednesday after going viral for stating that modern-day Mexicans originate from indigenous peoples, Brazilians “from the jungle” and his own country’s inhabitants come from Europe.
“I am a Europeanist. I am someone who believes in Europe,” Alberto Fernandez said as he and visiting Spanish leader Pedro Sanchez met with business leaders in Buenos Aires.
Mexican poet Octavio Paz, he claimed, once wrote that “Mexicans came from the Indians, Brazilians from the jungle, but we Argentines came from boats, and they were boats that came from there, from Europe. And that is how we built our society.”
Hours later, he apologised on Twitter.
“In the first half of the 20th Century we received more than five million immigrants who lived with our native peoples,” he said, adding, “We are proud of our diversity.”
Fernandez said he “did not mean to offend anyone” but to anyone who was, “my apologies”.
A video of his original statement went viral, drawing numerous reactions in Brazil.
Reading Fernandez’s statement, “I began to understand better why after World War II the Nazi war criminals hid in Argentina,” Brazilian Senator Ciro Nogueira said on Twitter.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted a picture of himself wearing a feather headband and surrounded by a group of indigenous people under the headline “JUNGLE!” but with no comment – a picture that led to a series of memes.