Saturday, June 22, 2024

WORLD | 20-05-2024 11:42

Milei refuses to back down as Spain demands public apology for 'corrupt wife' comment

Spain demands "public apology" from Javier Milei for calling Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's wife "corrupt," but Argentina's President refuses to back down.

Spain on Monday demanded a "public apology" from Argentina's President Javier Milei for calling Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's wife "corrupt" amid a deepening diplomatic crisis between the Hispanic allies.

Milei, however, showed no sign of backing down. With Argentine government officials rushing to his defence and turning the focus back on Sánchez and previous insults from Spanish ministers, the La Libertad Avanza leader posted on social media that "the lion" was returning to Argentina "surfing on a wave of socialist tears."

Spain's socialist government has already recalled its ambassador to Buenos Aires and the two leaders sparred over the comments made to a conference of far-right leaders in Madrid.  

Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said he would summon the Argentine ambassador on Monday "to explain to him the gravity of the situation and I am going to demand again a public apology by Javier Milei."

Albares said he would not exclude the possibility of rupturing diplomatic ties with Argentina. "We clearly do not want to take these measures but if there is no public apology, we will do it," the minister said.

The Spanish prime minister accused Milei of not being "worthy" of the countries' "fraternal bonds," in his first comments on the row.

"I am fully aware that the person who spoke yesterday did not do so in the name of the great Argentine people," he added, saying he had asked Milei for a "rectification" of his comments.

The tub-thumping conservative Argentinian leader showed no regrets in his response on X, the former Twitter. "The lion is back and surfing on a waves of socialist tears," he said. "Long live liberty."


Not sorry

"There is no apology to make," deckared Argentina's Interior Minister Guillermo Francos.

"I think, on the contrary, it is for the Spanish government to make an apology for what has been said about Milei," he told the TN television channel.

"There will be no apologies because there is nothing to apologise for. We appeal to the Spanish government to apologise," agreed Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni in an interview with local radio stateion Metro 95.1 FM.

Milei caused outrage at a Madrid conference organised by Spain's far-right Vox party. He lashed out at socialism and attacked Sánchez's wife, Begoña Gómez, without naming her.

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

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

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

The European Union's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell also condemned Milei's latest remarks.

Milei arrived in Spain on Friday and there was immediate diplomatic friction as no meetings with Sánchez or King Felipe VI were organised during his stay. During a speech on his first day, Milei denounced what he called "satanic" socialism.


Business backlash

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

Last month, a Spanish minister hinted that Milei took "substances." In response, Milei's office said Sanchez had brought his country only "poverty" and "death."

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

"We profoundly reject" these "out-of-tone" statements, which constitute an "attack" that "makes no sense," Garamendi told Cadena Ser.

However, Esteban González Pons, leader of the conservative Popular Party (PP), warned that Spanish firms "do not deserve to have their situation compromised by Pedro Sánchez's sense of honour towards his wife."

At the same time, González Pons described Milei's speech as "meddling" in national politics, and a "shocking" spectacle.

Milei, a self-declared "anarcho-capitalist," won elections last November and took office vowing to reduce Argentina's vast public debt to zero.

He has instituted an austerity programme that has seen the government slash subsidies for transport, fuel and energy.

Milei was one of a host of European far-right and conservative leaders to speak at the Madrid conference.

Marine Le Pen, France's far-right standard bearer, spoke at the event while Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni sent video messages.




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