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ARGENTINA | 21-05-2024 11:05

Milei's diplomacy pulls no punches with left-wing leaders

Critics say Milei is focused on prioritising diplomatic connections with fellow right-wingers – while lashing out with an undiplomatic tenor at the rest of the world's leaders, to the detriment of Argentine foreign policy.

The diplomatic furore unleashed by President Javier Milei calling Spain's first lady "corrupt" over the weekend is just the latest in a series of fights he has picked with leftist leaders.

Argentina’s President, who campaigned wielding a chainsaw and has never been shy to say what he thinks, has sparred publicly with the presidents of Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil.

Critics say Milei is focused on prioritising diplomatic connections with fellow right-wingers – while lashing out with an undiplomatic tenor at the rest of the world's leaders, to the detriment of Argentine foreign policy.

He has called Colombia's Gustavo Petro a "murderer" and "terrorist," Mexico's Andres Manuel López Obrador "ignorant," and Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro, with whom he has traded many insults, a "dictator."

As for Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Milei has branded him a "wild lefty," though he has eased up on the leader of Argentina's biggest trading partner since taking office in December.

It is not only politicians who have come in for a tongue-lashing by the self-proclaimed "anarcho-capitalist" president.

He called Pope Francis an "imbecile" who "promotes Communism," though the two men have since made up.

It was on Sunday that Milei set his sights on Spain's socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, calling his wife "corrupt" without naming her directly.

Spain recalled its ambassador to Buenos Aires, as Colombia had done before.

 

Undiplomatic diplomacy

"The state of the government's foreign relations is chaotic," Alejandro Rascovan, a professor of international security at the University of San Martín, told AFP.

"It prioritises the political and personal ties of the president," he said, and there "does not seem to be state policy behind it."

As president, Milei has left Argentina six times: three of them to the United States. There he twice met tycoon Elon Musk, received a decoration from a Jewish orthodox community, and sat down with former president Donald Trump. 

Milei, who grew up Catholic but has recently moved much closer to orthodox Judaism, has also visited Israel and the Vatican.

His latest trip, to Spain, was to attend a conference of far-right leaders in Madrid.

According to Roy Hora, a historian at the University of San Andrés, Milei's diplomacy "seems to combine convictions and conveniences."

"This marks the subordination of foreign policy to short-term domestic policy imperatives, and highlights the amateurism of our rulers and their lack of clarity about our long-term interests and our modest, perhaps irrelevant, place on the international stage," he added.

Some are concerned about the risks Argentina runs with a diplomatic policy that former foreign minister Santiago Cafiero has described as "childish."

Milei "has embarked on the dream of becoming the leader of the international ultra-right," the Pagina/12 newspaper wrote on Monday.

"The strategic interests of Argentina matter less than the construction of that brand," it added.

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by Sonia Avalos & Leila Macro, AFP

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