In Argentina, as in many parts of Latin America, history is never far away, from fighting against colonial powers to remembering past dictatorships, and so Chancellor Olaf Scholz encounters it right away.

Shortly after landing in Buenos Aires, he stands at the laying of a wreath at the San Martín monument in the Argentine capital.

General José San Martín started his campaign against the Spanish colonial power from this square in 1810, today he is considered the liberator of the country.

Matthias Wysuwa

Political correspondent in Berlin.

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The band plays hymns, Scholz walks to the wreath, straightens the loop, the heat depresses.

Then it's on to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a meeting with President Alberto Fernández.

It's no longer about the past, but about the situation in the world - and what the future could look like.

Scholz arrived in Argentina on Saturday evening, the first stop on his first trip to Latin America as chancellor.

On Sunday he continued to Santiago de Chile, on this Monday afternoon he finally flies to the most important station: Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.

Scholz is not expected back in Berlin until Wednesday.

The Chancellor is thus dedicating a lot of time and attention to the region, and like so many other things right now, this too cannot be completely understood without considering the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and its consequences - and the need for new partners, not only in trade and as suppliers of raw materials .

"Especially in these times, friendships are important," says Scholz, when he and Fernández step into the ministry's courtyard and face the press.

Pressing problems: inflation, debt, social inequality

But not only history is omnipresent here, so are the pressing problems.

Scholz does not forget to mention that he has arrived in the country of the soccer world champion.

But even the title cannot make us forget that inflation in the country with its 47 million inhabitants reached almost 95 percent in December, the debt is high, poverty is a drama and elections are due this year.

In Chile, with its almost 20 million inhabitants, violent protests were sparked just a few years ago by the huge social inequality, and left-wing President Gabriel Boric has been trying to improve the situation since 2021.

Finally, in Brazil, the giant of the region with a good 215 million inhabitants,

Nevertheless, the region is exciting for Germany, keywords of the trip are not only environmental protection, but also renewable energies, hydrogen and raw materials.

Scholz is accompanied by a good dozen CEOs and members of the business delegation – Bayer AG is there, as are Volkswagen and Aurubis.

While the protection of the rainforest is one of the most important topics on the last station in Brazil, on the first two it is primarily raw materials, energy and trade.

Not only China wants to trade lithium

Chile is the world's top supplier of copper, Argentina produces natural gas, and both countries have lithium, which is so important for electric cars and cell phone batteries.

China recognized this long ago and has risen to become an important player in the region.

However, the mining of copper and lithium is considered to be particularly dirty.

Germany is trying to offer itself as a partner for the modernization of mining and thus get into business.

The Chancellery is aware that the dirty work of dismantling has probably been left to others for too long not to get their hands dirty.

So the Chinese.

And that this is no longer the case.

Germany now also wants to become an attractive partner by not just exporting the raw materials and refining and processing them itself, as China is doing.

Rather, further stages of value creation should remain in the countries.

In the inner courtyard, Scholz speaks of "good beneficial effects for the country" from the dismantling.

And without mentioning China directly: It should not be a policy “that is only geared towards the interests of countries that want to process raw materials themselves”.

Alberto Fernández praised the "very good talks" and made it clear that the concerns about the Ukraine war are shared - even if the country will not send any weapons.

He makes it clear that more German investment is desired.

Both agree that the agreement between the MERCOSUR states and the EU should finally come about.

It was negotiated for almost 20 years, but little has happened since 2019 - in some EU countries there were reservations about the passages on environmental protection and social standards, but in countries like France farmers also protested against the threatening competition from Argentina.

Scholz wants an agreement to be found quickly, and Alberto Fernández also says they want to conclude the agreement.

Scholz can applaud the signing of a declaration of intent on Saturday evening shortly after the wreath-laying ceremony, and further declarations are also signed in Santiago de Chile.

It's about the promotion of start-ups, research, innovation and mining - the papers are not binding.

But before declarations are signed in Chile on Sunday evening, history should also be a topic here: Scholz will visit a museum together with the President after landing.

It commemorates the victims of the crimes committed by dictatorships in the country.