Spain withdraws its ambassador to Argentina over comments made by President Milei

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A diplomatic crisis between historic allies Spain and Argentina expanded Tuesday as Spain announced the official withdrawal of 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 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, Milei accused the Spanish prime minister’s wife of corruption and described socialism as “cursed and carcinogenic.”

Following Milei’s refusal to apologize, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares told reporters 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,” Albares said. “There is no precedent for a head of state going to the capital of another country to insult its institutions.”

Milei continued the war of words, angrily telling the local La Nación 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, 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 Sánchez and the libertarian Argentine government following weeks of mounting tensions. The leaders have traded barbs ever since a Spanish Cabinet minister alleged that Milei took narcotics during a television appearance and Milei accused Sánchez of of pursuing policies that “only bring poverty and death.”

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

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

At the Vox party rally Sunday, Milei delivered his typical anti-socialism talking points and mocked Sánchez 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.

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 ($152 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.

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Associated Press writer Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, contributed to this report.

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