Referring to the country’s European migrants, Mr Fernandez said: “The Mexicans came from the Indians, the Brazilians came from the jungle, but we Argentines came from the ships. And they were ships that came from Europe.”
Mr Fernandez’s comments went viral on Twitter with people accusing him of racial insensitivity.
The president later took to Twitter and apologised. He said: “I did not mean to offend anyone, in any case, whoever has felt offended or invisible, I give my apologies.” And said that he was proud of the country’s diversity.
Reuters reported that the Argentinian president might have taken the phrase from a song by a local musician, Lito Nebbia — and Mr Fernandez, on more than one occasion, it said, has mentioned that he is a fan of Mr Nebbia.
But Mr Fernandez said he was quoting the Mexican poet Octavio Paz.
But despite the apology, Mr Fernandez’s comments caused uproar in neighbouring Argentina.
The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, mocked the comments made by Mr Fernandez by tweeting a photograph of himself wearing a native headdress and wrote “Selva” [jungle] in bold letters and added the Brazilian flag emoji.
Eduardo Bolsonaro, a congressman and the Brazilian president’s son, called the comments “racist” and mocked Argentina for being a “sinking ship” in reference to its economy.
He posted on Twitter: “I say the ship that is sinking is that of Argentina.”
One Argentinian Twitter user, Barbara Bongiovanni, wrote: “Excuse me, 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.”