Saturday, June 22, 2024

WORLD | 21-05-2024 10:55

Diplomatic crisis deepens as Spain 'definitively' pulls out Argentina envoy

President Javier Milei slams Spain's "absurd" decision to pull its ambassador from Buenos Aires in the midst of a diplomatic spat.

The diplomatic crisis between Argentina and Spain worsened on Tuesday as the European nation withdrew its ambassador from Buenos Aires – a move President Javier Milei described as "absurd."

Milei, 53, said Thursday that the decision to pull the envoy was a move "typical of an arrogant socialist," again criticising Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

Spain withdrew its ambassador to Argentina at the weekend after President Milei branded the Socialist premier's wife as "corrupt" during a speech at a summit hosted by the Spanish far-right party Vox.

Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said Tuesday that Spain's Ambassador in Argentina, María Jesús Alonso Jiménez, "will remain definitively in Madrid."

"Argentina will no longer have a Spanish ambassador," said the official.

"We did not provoke this situation. We have no desire or interest in any escalation but it is the government's obligation to defend the dignity and sovereignty of Spanish institutions," Albares told a press conference following a regular weekly cabinet meeting.

"There is no precedent for a head of state coming to the capital of another country to insult its institutions and blatantly interfere in its internal affairs,’ he added.

Asked by the LN+ channel about whether Argentina would in turn withdraw its ambassador from Spain, Milei said: "No, not at all."

"This stains the international image of Spain and [shows] how arrogant they are, like believing that they are the State and that no-one can tell them anything," said Milei.


'Satanic socialism'

Milei arrived in Spain last Friday and there was immediate diplomatic friction as no meetings with Sánchez or King Felipe VI were organised during his stay.

Argentina's outspoken president then caused outrage with an attack on "satanic" socialism at the weekend at Vox's Europa Viva 24 summit.

"The global elites don't realise how destructive it can be to implement the ideas of socialism," Milei said last Sunday.

"They don't know the type of society and country that can produce, the type of people clinging to power and the level of abuse that generates."  

He added: "When you have a corrupt wife, let's say, it gets dirty, and you take five days to think about it."

Sánchez, a Socialist, recently considered resigning after Spanish prosecutors opened a preliminary corruption investigation against his wife, Bergoña Gómez, which was quickly closed.

Within hours of Milei's attack, Spain recalled its ambassador and Albares slammed the visiting president's "insult."

He demanded a "public apology" from Milei, saying that Madrid would not exclude the possibility of rupturing diplomatic ties. Sánchez also called on Milei to retract his comments.

Argentina's government then slammed what it called "flashy and impulsive threats" and insisted that Sánchez's government should apologise.

Milei kept up his attacks against Sánchez when he returned to Buenos Aires on Monday, describing the Spanish premier as a "coward."

"I am in no way going to apologise to him,’ he said during an interview with the TN channel. 

"I'm the one who was attacked," he added, recalling that representatives of the Spanish government had described him as "xenophobic, racist, ultra-right...a science denialist, a misogynist."

"I think there should be several apologies from the Spanish government for the things they have said about President Milei," Interior Minister Guillermo Francos told the press on Monday.


Business concerns

In his comments Tuesday, Milei continued to attack the Spanish premier. He first declared that "Pedro Sánchez has an inferiority complex" and then recommended "a psychologist for him to mature and a good lawyer for Begoña because she already has a lot of cases where she is suspected of influence-peddling."

Referring to his previous comments, Milei said the fact that Sánchez felt targeted was "his problem, it was a sentence that did not contain names, and from there he made a senseless diplomatic escalation." 

"If he feels targeted it is because he is dirty, it is not my fault," he added.

A self-declared "anarcho-capitalist", Milei won elections last November with a vow to cut Argentina's vast public debt to zero. He has instituted an austerity programme that has seen the government slash public subsidies.

But he has also become known for his controversial remarks.

There has been weeks of rising diplomatic tensions between Spain and Argentina leading up to the latest spat. 

Spanish Transport Minister Óscar Puente angered Buenos Aires by suggesting earlier this month that Milei was on drugs.

Puente later said he had made a "mistake", saying he was not aware of the repercussions his comments would have, and Buenos Aires said the dispute was "over."

Yolanda Díaz, the number three in Sánchez's government, also accused Milei of sowing "hatred."

Milei's office responded to those remarks by accusing the Spanish government of introducing "social policies that only deliver poverty and death."

The weeks of mounting tensions are starting to worry Spanish companies that invest US$15 billion a year in Argentina.

Spanish companies are the second-largest investors in Argentina behind US enterprises. The CEOE business federation chief, Antonio Garamendi, said Milei's attack could "damage" exchanges.

Milei has ruled out the chance of a total break in diplomatic relations, saying they would "never be broken," but Spain's decision to withdraw its ambassador indicates the extent to which ties are now strained.

"We want these ties – which are indissoluble, because they are fraternal ties, they are ties between brotherly peoples –to be maintained. The government of Spain is not going to change that," said Albares on Tuesday.




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