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WORLD | 20-05-2024 09:24

Milei visit to far-right rally prompts harsh Spanish rebuke

Spain’s Socialist government demands an apology from President Javier Milei, saying the libertarian leader’s comments at a far-right rally in Madrid have badly damaged relations.

Spain’s Socialist government demanded an apology from Argentine President Javier Milei, saying the libertarian leader’s comments at a far-right rally in Madrid had badly damaged relations.

Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares has summoned Argentina’s ambassador in Madrid to a meeting, a day after Milei accused the prime minister’s wife of corruption and decried socialism as “cursed and carcinogenic.” On Sunday, Albares had announced that Spain was recalling its ambassador from Buenos Aires. 

The Argentine leader was given the respect and deference due a foreign head of state in the Spanish capital, including public resources necessary to assure his security, Albares said Sunday. “To this hospitality and good faith, he responded with a frontal attack on our democracy, on our institutions and on Spain.”

Antonio Garamendi, head of Spain’s largest business group, the CEOE, said Monday that “we emphatically reject” Milei’s comments, which were “out of tone against the prime minister and his wife.” Garamendi was part of a group of business executives who met with Milei Saturday. 

Telefonica SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, both of which took part of the business meeting on Saturday, released statements on Monday saying they are totally aligned with Garamendi’s comments. 

Calling non-interference in a country’s internal affairs an “unbreakable” tenet of international relations, Albares said “it’s unacceptable that a sitting president, on a visit to Spain, insults Spain and the head of the Spanish government.” 

Milei arrived in Spain on Friday after weeks of trading barbs with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. The Spanish leader last month took a brief break from public view after a judge opened a case alleging influence-peddling against his wife Begoña Gómez.  

Spain is the second-largest foreign investor in Argentina. 

Instead of visiting Sánchez or King Felipe, the Argentine president met Saturday with Sánchez’s fiercest critic in parliament, Santiago Abascal, and attended a gathering Sunday hosted by Abascal’s anti-immigrant Vox Party.   

“With his behaviour, Milei has brought the relationship between Spain and Argentina to its most serious state in recent history,” Albares said.

The Spanish foreign minister said nearly all parties in Spain’s parliament supported his stand against Milei — except for the conservative People’s Party and Vox.

Albares added that he had spoken to European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who assured him that an insult to the government of a member country would be seen as an insult to Europe as a whole. 

“Attacks against family members of political leaders have no place in our culture,” Borrell said later on social media platform X. “We condemn and reject them, especially when coming from partners.”

 

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by Stephen Wicary, Bloomberg

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