Mexican president asks Spain and Pope to apologise for conquest 500 years ago

26 March 2019, 11:01 | Updated: 26 March 2019, 12:37

The Mexican president has asked Spain and the Vatican to apologise for the "invasion" of the Americas five centuries ago.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he wrote a letter to King Felipe VI of Spain and Pope Francis about the "many misdeeds that were committed".

In a video that was filmed at Mayan ruins in the southeastern state of Tabasco and posted on social media, Mr Obrador said: "There were killings, impositions".

He demanded an apology to "the original peoples for the violations of what are now known to be human rights".

In response, Spain rejected the president's request "with all firmness".

"The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to what is today Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations," the government said in a statement.

"Our sibling peoples have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective, as free peoples with a common inheritance and an extraordinary projection."

The statement also reinforced Spain's willingness to work closely with Mexico to strengthen relations.

Mr Lopez became Mexico's first leftist president in seven decades in December 2018, and his policy proposals include universal access to public colleges, amnesty for some drug war criminals and increased social spending.

He called for the 500-year anniversary of the conquest of Tenochtitlan - the capital of the Aztec empire on what is now Mexico City - to be a year of "historic reconciliation".

He said: "It is time to say we will reconcile but first let us apologise.

"I am going to as well because after the colonisation there was much repression of the original peoples."

The territory which is now Mexico was under Spanish rule for around 300 years before it gained independence in the early 19th century.

The motivations for the Spanish Empire's colonial expansion were trade and the spread of the Catholic faith through indigenous conversions.

It is estimated that a total of 1.86m Spaniards settled in the Americas during the post-colonial era.