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Spain demands apology from Argentina's Milei

May 20, 2024

The Argentine President Javier Milei called Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez' wife "corrupt." Spain has recalled its ambassador to Buenos Aires and summoned Argentina's envoy.

The president of Argentina, Javier Milei, speaks during VOX s Viva 24 event, at the Palacio de Vistalegre, on May 19, 2024, in Madrid Spain.
Milei made derogatory comments against Sanchez' wife during a far-right rally in MadridImage: A. Perez Meca/Europa Press/IMAGO

Spain's Foreign Ministry summoned on Monday Argentina's ambassador to demand an apology from President Javier Milei over derogatory comments about Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's wife.

Without naming her, Milei called Sanchez's wife "corrupt" during a far-right rally in Madrid last week. Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said he expected an apology from the Argentine president.

Madrid's prosecuting authority had appealed to throw out a case accusing Sanchez's wife of influence peddling and business corruption, citing a lack of evidence. Sanchez decided to stay in office after taking five days to weigh his political future because of the accusations.

What did Spain say about Milei's comments?

Speaking ahead of summoning the Argentine ambassador, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said he would highlight "the gravity of the situation" and "demand again a public apology by Javier Milei."

Albares did not exclude a rupture of diplomatic ties with Argentina in the case of no apology.

"We clearly do not want to take these measures but if there is no public apology, we will do it," the minister said. He added that Milei's behavior has "brought the relationship between Spain and Argentina to its most serious state in recent history.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also condemned Milei's statements. He said in a post on the social messaging app X, formerly Twitter, that "attacks against family members of political leaders have no place in our culture".

What did Milei say?

Milei's controversial comments came during a conference organized by Spain's far-right Vox party in Madrid, where the Argentinian leader lashed out at socialism and attacked Sanchez' wife, Begona Gomez.

"The global elites don't realize how destructive it can be to implement the ideas of socialism," Milei said. "They don't know the type of society and country that can produce, the type of people clinging to power and the level of abuse that generates."  

He went on to insinuate his speech was meant at Sanchez and Gomez, saying: "When you have a corrupt wife, let's say, it gets dirty, and you take five days to think about it."

Milei's spokesperson told an Argentine TV channel the president would not apologize, adding that Spanish officials should retract insults they have made against him.

"There is no apology to make. No apology," said Argentina's Interior Minister Guillermo Francos. "I think, on the contrary, it is for the Spanish government to make an apology for what has been said about Milei."

The libertarian president broke with diplomatic protocol during his Madrid visit, failing to set up meetings with Spain's King Felipe as well as with Sanchez.

The latest spat has been brewing for weeks, with Milei earlier verbally attacking Sanchez and his left government, also soliciting an angry response from Madrid.

rmt/rc (AFP, Reuters)