Argentina's Fernandez joins leftist leaders for 'Puebla Group' summit

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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentine President-elect Alberto Fernandez joined the inaugural meeting of the so-called Puebla Group in Buenos Aires on Saturday, a conference of left-leaning regional political leaders.

Fernandez, who is considered a moderate Peronist, has maintained close ties with some of the region’s left and center-left leaders, including Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whom he met with last week on his first foreign trip as president-elect.

“We are going to stand up Latin America with all of you,” Fernandez said at the opening of the meeting, adding that the region has endured difficult times as a result of “conservatism.”

Fernandez and the other attendees of the meeting celebrated the release from prison on Friday of Brazil’s leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a strong rival of right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, with whom Fernandez has openly sparred. Lula sent a recorded greeting to the summit.

Fernandez glided to victory over conservative incumbent Mauricio Macri in the Oct. 27 presidential elections with the help of voters, particularly those in poverty, who preferred the leftist policies and social spending of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Fernandez’s vice presidential running mate. The two are not related.

The meeting of the Puebla Group, which proposes alternative policies to neoliberalism, was attended by more than 30 leaders and former leaders, including Brazil’s former leftist President Dilma Rousseff, former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica and the former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

(This story corrects fourth paragraph to say former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sent a video greeting, not current President Bolsonaro)

Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Andrea Ricci