Triggered: Spain Recalls Argentina Ambassador After Milei Jokes About Socialist PM’s ‘Corrupt’ Wife

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 19: Javier Milei, President of Argentina speaks the 'Europa Viva 24' c
Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images

A full-blown diplomatic clash has erupted between Spain and Argentina, with Madrid recalling its ambassador to Buenos Aires after libertarian firebrand Javier Milei joked about the corruption accusations against the wife of Spanish socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez over the weekend.

The relations between Spain and Argentina are at a “peak of maximum tension” according to the Spanish paper of record El Mundo, with the Palace of Moncloa recalling its ambassador to the South American nation after its outspoken president, Javier Milei, appeared to refer to Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez’s wife, Begoña Gómez, as “the corrupt woman” during a speech at a populist party conference in Madrid on Sunday in which he railed against “cancerous” socialism for leading to “slavery and death”.

Sánchez was seemingly so triggered by President Milei’s jibes that he refused to even refer to the president by name, saying: “I am aware that whoever spoke yesterday did not do so on behalf of the great Argentine people. Spain and Argentina are two brother countries, whose people love and respect each other. Between governments, affection is free, but respect is inalienable.”

MADRID, SPAIN – JULY 23: Pedro Sanchez of PSOE arrives to electoral college to vote with his wife Begoña Gomez on July 23, 2023 in Madrid, Spain. Voters in Spain head to the polls on July 23 to cast their votes and elect Spain’s next government. (Photo by Borja B. Hojas/Getty Images)

“Defending Spanish institutions from insults and defamations that foreign leaders may make does not mean ifs or buts, because beyond the ideological is education and patriotism,” Sánchez added.

In an attempt to capitalise on the scandal ahead of the European Parliament elections, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares went on to lay the blame for the diplomatic row at the feet of populist VOX party leader Santiago Abascal, who hosted the VIVA24 conference in Madrid on Sunday which featured Milei as a speaker.

“In this demand for an apology, the one who must apologize first is Abascal and VOX, for having cheered and laughed at those insults,” said Albares.

The outrage expressed by the Spanish government was sparked by Milei — without naming her directly — jokingly referring to informal First Lady Begoña Gómez as the “corrupt woman” over allegations she used her station as the wife of the prime minister to secure favourable government contracts for her business partners. Last month, Sánchez controversially announced that he would take “four or five days” to contemplate whether he would continue as leader of the country in light of the accusations against his family.

The socialist PM, famed for his Machiavellian manoeuvring in the pursuit of clinging to power, came back from his brief sojourn with the announcement that he would not resign and vowed to launch a crackdown against the “mud machine” online media for allegedly spreading disinformation.

Perhaps predicting the backlash against his remarks, Milei defended his blunt approach towards diplomacy during his speech on Sunday, saying: “I don’t give a damn about the leftist opinion… They tell me, how are you going to talk about other international leaders like that? I say: the cultural battle is an inalienable commitment”.

Milei, a Libertarian economist turned politician, also took the opportunity of his visit to Madrid to openly challenge the socialist Spanish PM to a “face to face” debate on the merits of capitalism versus socialism.

“Never forget that the damn socialists murdered 150 million human beings,” he said. “Socialism necessarily leads to slavery and death. Opening the door to socialism is inviting death.”

On Monday, VOX leader Santiago Abascal defended President Milei, saying that his comments against Sánchez and his wife were not attacks on the “dignity of Spain”, adding that the diplomatic spat was started first by Spanish socialist Transport Minister Óscar Puente when he previously accused Milei of taking “substances”.

A spokesman for the Argentinian government said on Monday that the president would not apologise for his comments and, in turn, said that it is the Spanish government which should apologize for the allegations of drug use and for Sánchez accusing Milei of being “authoritarian”.

Meanwhile, during the flight home to Buenos Aires, Milei unleashed a flurry of reposts and likes on X, republishing some 1,291 messages from supporters on social media, which the Argentine paper La Nación noted was “an unusually high number, even for him.”

“The good thing is that now Sánchez has made ALL THE PLANET know that his wife is corrupt,” said one of the messages reposted by Milei, with others branding Sánchez as a “communist”, “corrupt”, and a “dictator”.

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