Argentina’s Milei, Escalating Diplomatic Feud With Spain, Refuses To Meet With Premier During Visit

Self-described anarcho-capitalist set to receive award for ‘exemplary defense of the ideas of freedom’ from Spaniards.

AP/Tomas F. Cuesta, pool via AP
Presidential candidate Javier Milei at Santiago del Estero, Argentina, October 1, 2023. AP/Tomas F. Cuesta, pool via AP

President Milei of Argentina will arrive in Spain on Friday morning to receive an award for “exemplary defense of the ideas of freedom” from the Juan de Mariana Institute, reigniting the flames of a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

Mr. Milei will not be meeting with Prime Minister Sánchez of Spain — leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party — out of principle, according to an Argentine government spokesman, Manuel Adorni. The Spanish government, though, is requesting a certain level of respect. 

“I hope that during his statements, if any, he will always maintain a respect for the institutions of this country and for the Spanish people,” a minister and spokeswoman for the Spanish government, Pilar Alegría, said during a press conference.

“The coward sent all of his ministers to insult me,” Mr. Milei said on Tuesday in a television interview. “Who is the coward?” the interviewer asked. “Sánchez,” Mr. Milei replied.

In May, Spain’s transport minister, Oscar Puente, accused Mr. Milei of ingesting “substances” during his presidential election campaign, setting off a series of insults. Spain’s government brings “poverty and death” to its own people, Mr. Milei said in one reply.

Mr. Milei proceeded to label the wife of Spain’s prime minister as “corrupt,” and Spain demanded an apology. Mr. Sánchez denied the allegations and cast them aside as slander.

“My wife is an honest professional, serious and responsible, and my government is clean,” Mr. Sánchez told his parliament last month.

Spain recalled its ambassador to Buenos Aires on May 19 after the Argentine president refused to apologize. Diplomatic relations have been frayed ever since.

In an attempt to drive a wedge between Spain’s premier and monarch, Mr. Milei requested an appearance with the King, Felipe VI, but no such meeting appears on his itinerary.

The president of Argentina has been busy traveling since taking office with visits to America, Israel, Italy, Switzerland, and El Salvador. 

“Milei’s schedule has been so intense mostly because he is trying to be seen as a major leader in the global right,” the director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Ryan Berg, tells the Sun.

The strategic visits may be detracting from his domestic policy, though, analysts tell the Sun. “His legislative agenda has suffered and slowed because he hasn’t been around to negotiate,” Mr. Berg contends.

“Passing legislation is an uphill battle for Milei, but he controls foreign policy. That’s why overseas adventures are so tempting,” the director of the Wilson Center’s Latin America Program, Benjamin Gedan, tells the Sun.

The upcoming visit to Spain likely will not “have any impact on Spanish-Argentinian economic relations,” a senior policy fellow and head of the Madrid office at the European Council on Foreign Relations, José Ignacio Torreblanca, tells the Sun. “The noise will just be political and, overall, mostly domestic in both countries.”

Mr. Milei’s visit is indeed sparking internal strife among Spanish politicians.

The government of Spain is “starting a war,” the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said. Ms. Ayuso will be welcoming Mr. Milei with a medal on Friday. 

“We wanted to give him this international distinction that we have reserved for some leaders who visit the community of Madrid and this is the case of Milei. It is an honor for us,” Ms. Ayuso said.

Spain’s federal government expressed dismay that Ms. Ayuso did not inform them of her visit with Mr. Milei, blaming her for “provoking deep disloyalty to the institutions.” 

Federal law obligates presidents of autonomous communities to inform the minister of foreign affairs when meeting with foreign leaders.

A right-wing party in Spain, Vox, called out “unjustified attacks” against Mr. Milei. Corruption “surrounds the Socialist Party and the most intimate circle” of Mr. Sánchez, according to Vox.

On Saturday, Mr. Milei will go to Germany to receive a prize from the Hayek Society and meet with Chancellor Scholz the next day. 

The Czech Republic will be his final destination on the continent. There, he will meet with President Pavel and accept yet another prize before returning to Argentina on June 25.

The New York Sun

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