Spain recalls ambassador after Argentina's Milei calls PM's wife 'corrupt'

  • World
  • Monday, 20 May 2024

Argentina's President Javier Milei speaks during a rally organised by the Spanish far-right Vox party ahead of the European elections, with various far-right leaders, in Madrid, Spain, May 19, 2024. REUTERS/Ana Beltran

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain recalled its ambassador to Buenos Aires for consultations on Sunday after Argentina's President Javier Milei made derogatory comments about Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's wife during a far-right rally in Madrid.

Milei had called Sanchez's wife Begona Gomez "corrupt" during a rally in Madrid organised by the far-right Vox party and attended by many of its international allies.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said he expected an apology from Milei.

Other ministers also condemned Milei's speech, in which he described socialism as "cursed and carcinogenic". Sanchez leads Spain's Socialist Party.

"With his behaviour, Milei has brought the relationship between Spain and Argentina to its most serious state in recent history," Albares said in a video statement.

Milei's visit broke with diplomatic protocol as he refused to meet Spain's King Felipe and Sanchez, instead preferring to promote his book alongside Vox leader Santiago Abascal at the party rally.

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

Spain's main opposition party, the conservative People's Party (PP), refused to support Madrid's stance, with party sources saying that Sanchez should have provided explanations about the alleged corruption case weeks ago.

"His silence generates internal doubts, but also distrust abroad," a PP source said, adding that the party's job was to oppose the Spanish government and not Milei.

A city court said in April it was looking into accusations of influence peddling and business corruption against Sanchez's wife, brought in a private complaint by Manos Limpias, or Clean Hands, an anti-corruption activist group.

However, Madrid's prosecuting authority later said it was appealing to have the case thrown out for lack of evidence.

Sanchez decided to stay in office after five days of weighing his future once the probe against his wife was announced.

(Reporting by Ana Cantero; Editing by Catarina Demony and Giles Elgood)

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