EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader
Find Us
ADVERTISEMENT

What’s behind Milei’s latest spat with Spanish government?

Argentina's president Javier Milei gestures as he delivers a speech on stage during the Spanish far-right wing party Vox's rally "Europa Viva 24" in Madrid, 19 May 2024
Argentina's president Javier Milei gestures as he delivers a speech on stage during the Spanish far-right wing party Vox's rally "Europa Viva 24" in Madrid, 19 May 2024 Copyright AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Copyright AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
By Aleksandar Brezar
Published on
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Relations between Spain and Argentina are said to be at their historical lowest after Argentina's populist president Javier Milei hurled accusations at Spain's PM Pedro Sánchez and his wife Begoña Gómez at a far-right rally in Madrid on Sunday.

ADVERTISEMENT

Argentina's populist firebrand President Javier Milei doesn't shy away from loud, attention-grabbing statements — but this time, the Spanish government believes he went too far.

Appearing at a far-right rally on the outskirts of Spain's capital Madrid on Sunday, Milei hurled accusations at Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his wife, Begoña Gómez.

"When you have a corrupt wife, let's say, it gets dirty, (yet Sánchez) takes five days to think about it," Milei exclaimed in front of the likes of Vox's Santiago Abascal and French National Rally party's Marine Le Pen. 

Earlier in April, the Spanish PM announced he would "stop and reflect" on his political future after a local court in Madrid opened a preliminary inquiry into Gómez over influence-peddling allegations. 

Sánchez has rejected the claims against Gómez as part of a smear campaign sparked by a far-right outlet known for attacking left-leaning politicians.

The comment infuriated the socialist-led government in Madrid, which demanded a public apology and triggered the withdrawal of Spain's ambassador in Buenos Aires "for an indefinite period".

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares described Milei's words as a “frontal attack on our democracy, on our institutions, and on Spain itself”. 

"A foreign head of state does not visit a country to insult its institutions," Albarestold state broadcaster RTVE. He also summoned the Argentinian ambassador in Madrid on Monday. 

'You insulted me first'

The Argentinian leader is yet to issue an apology to Sánchez.

Instead, his Interior Minister Guillermo Francos said Madrid started the row earlier in May when Spain's Transport Minister Óscar Puente publicly accused Milei of using "substances" on the presidential campaign trail back last year.

Milei himself blasted the accusation as "slander and insults", accusing the Sánchez government of bringing about alleged "death and poverty" with their socialist policies, among other things.

This prompted the Spanish foreign ministry to respond, rejecting "the unfounded words" that "do not correspond to the relations between the two brotherly countries and peoples."

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks outside La Casa Rosada during his one day visit to Buenos Aires, 9 June 2021
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks outside La Casa Rosada during his one day visit to Buenos Aires, 9 June 2021AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Although Argentina is a former Spanish colony, the two countries have enjoyed friendly relations since the 1863 Treaty of Peace and Amity, signed mere decades after Buenos Aires won its independence.

The historically strong relations between the two came to the fore amid the 1982 Falklands War, causing fears in the UK that Spain could side with Argentina and invade Gibraltar, a British territory on the Iberian peninsula. 

The status of Gibraltar was only resolved on 31 December 2020 through a joint agreement between London and Madrid.

ADVERTISEMENT

Arguments abroad, trouble at home

The attacks on Sánchez are the last in a long line of Milei's incendiary statements against leaders he sees as leftist. 

In the past, Milei denounced Pope Francis as "a filthy leftist" and said Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was an "angry communist".

His worst spat before Sunday came as a consequence of Milei labelling Colombian President Gustavo Petro "a terrorist murderer", prompting the South American country to expel several Argentinian diplomats back to Buenos Aires.

Presidential hopeful of the Liberty Advances coalition Javier Milei brandishes a chainsaw during a campaign event in La Plata, 12 September 2023
Presidential hopeful of the Liberty Advances coalition Javier Milei brandishes a chainsaw during a campaign event in La Plata, 12 September 2023AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Milei, a self-styled "anarcho-capitalist" known for his publicity stunts such as dressing up as a superhero, brandishing chainsaws, and smacking piñatas all to illustrate his plans to "smash the system," came to power in December 2023.

ADVERTISEMENT

Since taking office, Milei has instituted hundreds of changes to laws and regulations in a bid to curb Argentina's ever-growing inflation rate — among the highest in the world.

Although the measures have shown some short-term results, fears persist that the economic slowdown, rising prices, and a spike in poverty all spell trouble for the South American nation of about 46 million.

Share this articleComments

You might also like

'Gibraltar is Spanish': Row over Spain chants after Euros win as Gibraltar files complaint with UEFA

San Fermin Festival: Seven runners taken to hospital in penultimate day of running of the bulls

Mass tourism in Spain: drowning the Balearic Islands?