Spain withdraws ambassador to Argentina over comments made by President Milei

21 May 2024, 17:24

Spain’s embassy in the Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina Spain. Picture: PA

The decision further escalates a diplomatic spat between the Spanish and Argentine governments.

A diplomatic crisis between historic allies Spain and Argentina has expanded as Spain pulled its ambassador from Buenos Aires and Argentine President Javier Milei lambasted the move as “nonsense typical of an arrogant socialist”.

Spain said its ambassador to Argentina would remain indefinitely in Madrid, where she had been recalled for consultations on Sunday in response to comments made by President Milei during a contentious weekend visit he made to the Spanish capital.

In a fiery speech defending free market capitalism at a far-right rally in Madrid, Mr Milei accused the Spanish prime minister’s wife of corruption and described socialism as “cursed and carcinogenic”.

Argentina’s President Javier Milei
Argentina’s President Javier Milei (Manu Fernandez/AP)

Following Mr Milei’s refusal to apologise, Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares told reporters on Tuesday that “Argentina will continue without an ambassador”.

“We are facing a unique case, not only unique for this government, but unique in the history of international relations,” Mr Albares said.

“There is no precedent for a head of state going to the capital of another country to insult its institutions.”

Mr Milei continued the war of words, angrily telling the local La Nacion news channel that the Spanish decision was “nonsense typical of an arrogant socialist”.

“Socialists are capable of doing anything,” he added.

When asked whether Argentina would do the same, Mr Milei said: “I am not going to be such an idiot.”

The move signals a further escalation of a diplomatic spat between the socialist government of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the libertarian Argentine government following weeks of mounting tensions.

The leaders have traded barbs ever since a Spanish Cabinet minister alleged that Mr Milei took narcotics during a television appearance and Mr Milei accused Mr Sanchez of of pursuing policies that “only bring poverty and death”.

A man walks dogs past Spain’s embassy in the Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina
A man walks dogs past Spain’s embassy in the Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina (Gustavo Garello/AP)

Defying the norms of presidential behaviour, Mr Milei snubbed all Spanish government officials on his first visit to Spain as head of state last week and instead met only Mr Sanchez’s fiercest critics, members of the hard-right, anti-immigrant Vox party that hopes to make gains in June’s European parliamentary elections.

Mr Albares complained that Mr Milei had broken a long-standing diplomatic protocol observed by Latin American leaders and Spain, their former coloniser, by failing to “request any meeting with any Spanish institution”.

At the Vox party rally on Sunday, Mr Milei delivered his typical anti-socialism talking points and mocked Mr Sanchez for taking a break from the public eye last month over corruption allegations brought by a private group against his wife, Begona Gomez.

The group, which files lawsuits to promote far-right causes, accused her of using her position to influence business deals.

Ms Gomez has not been indicted or called in for questioning.

Spanish prosecutors have recommended the case be thrown out.

Spain is Argentina’s second-biggest foreign investor after the United States, with Spanish companies investing 140 million euros (£119.5 million) in the country in 2022.

Some 495,000 Spaniards live in Argentina, according to Spanish government statistics, while 97,000 Argentines reside in Spain.

By Press Association

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