Milei takes center stage at far-right summit in Spain, sparks diplomatic row

The president’s speech reignited bilateral tensions, with Madrid recalling its ambassador and demanding an apology

This article was updated on May 19, 3:15 p.m. to reflect Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares’ comments

President Javier Milei was one of the main speakers at the summit of ultra-right European leaders organized by the Spanish far-right party Vox on Sunday. In his speech, the president slighted the country’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, reigniting tensions from earlier this month by describing Sánchez’s wife Begoña Gómez as “corrupt”.

“Global elites don’t realize how destructive the implementation of socialist ideas is because it’s too far away, they don’t know the type of society and country it can produce nor the ilk that’s bolted into power nor the abuse it can create,” Milei said. “I mean, even when you have a corrupt wife, you get your hands dirty and take five days to think about it.”

In April, Gómez was accused of being involved in an influence peddling and corruption scandal, but the national prosecutors’ office dismissed the investigation due to lack of evidence. Sánchez considered stepping down for five days after the scandal broke but opted against it.

Later on Sunday, Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares announced at the Moncloa Palace — Sánchez’s official residence — that he was recalling the Spanish ambassador to Argentina for consultation sine die, meaning she will return to her home country indefinitely.

“With his behavior, Milei has pushed the relationship between Spain and Argentina to its most critical point in recent history,” Albares said, adding that Spain is demanding a public apology from Milei. “If he does not apologize, we will take all measures we deem appropriate to defend our sovereignty and dignity.”

“[Milei] has been treated with all due respect and deference, and the necessary public resources of the Spanish state have been made available to him during his stay in our country. However, that hospitality and good faith has been answered with a frontal attack on our democracy, our institutions, and our Spain,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Madrid and Buenos Aires had already traded barbs after Spanish Transport Minister Oscar Puente suggested Milei was a drug user. Milei’s office released a statement condemning the remarks and accusing Sánchez of carrying out policies that have brought “death and poverty” to Spain. In response, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said the terms used in the Argentine statement “do not correspond to the relations between the two brotherly countries and peoples.”

This is not the first time something like this has happened since Milei became president five months ago. In January, Colombia recalled its ambassador in Buenos Aires for consultation after Milei called President Gustavo Petro “a murderous communist.” In March, Petro also ordered the expulsion of Argentine diplomats from their embassy after Milei described him as a “terrorist assassin.”

Relations with other countries that were previously strong commercial partners to Argentina, such as China and Brazil, have also become tense due to Milei attacking leaders Xi Jinping and Lula Da Silva with similar comments, even before rising to power.

You may also be interested in: Argentina and China hold bilateral meeting amid tensions

The Europa Viva 24 Festival occurred in Madrid over the weekend, ahead of the June 9 European Parliament elections, while hundreds protested against the far-right rally. Thousands of Vox supporters attended to listen to conservative leaders from all over the world, including Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and French Deputy and ultra-right leader Marine Le Pen.

“Argentina has been infected by socialism for decades,” Milei said. “Socialism leads to poverty and death, and whoever says different is ignorant or a liar.”

This is the latest in a series of trips made by Milei to meet right-wing leaders or speak at international conservative conferences. Last week the president spoke at the Milken Institute and the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February. He held brief and informal meetings on those occasions with former U.S. President Donald Trump and Tesla CEO Elon Musk

On this trip, Milei met with Vox leader Santiago Abascal and businesspeople, not Spanish government representatives, and presented his book “The Path Of The Libertarian” (2022) on Friday.  

While his flagship proposal known as the omnibus bill — which includes controversial labor reforms — moves through Congress, Milei said in his Europa Viva 24 speech that the best thing for workers is to “freely make agreements with their employers” and for women to “stop being treated as victims who need special care.” The bill includes a section that would reduce the mandatory paid maternity leave period people have before giving birth. “Do socialists consider women to be inferior, with all the privileges they give them?” Milei added.

“We are conducting the largest and most abrupt austerity plan in human history and, despite the leftists’ astonishment, society is still supporting us just like they did on December 10,” Milei said, referring to his inauguration. The president used the word zurdos, an informal term meant as a derogatory descriptor for left-wing people.

You may also be interested in: Milei says Spain’s Sanchez brings ‘death and poverty’ after drug use jibe


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