Argentina’s Milei tries to meet with king of Spain while keeping up insults against PM Sánchez

The right-wing leader will make his second trip to the Spanish capital in order to accept a prize from a neoliberal think tank and a medal from the regional government of Madrid

Javier Milei on May 25 at the Buenos Aires Cathedral.
Javier Milei on May 25 at the Buenos Aires Cathedral.Matías Baglietto (Europa Press/ Getty)
Miguel González

The president of Argentina, Javier Milei, has requested a meeting with the king of Spain in the middle of a diplomatic crisis between both countries over Milei’s disparaging remarks about Begoña Gómez, the wife of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, from the Socialist Party (PSOE). The comments were made last month during a visit that the Argentine leader made to Madrid to attend a far-right political forum organized by Spain’s ultranationalist Vox party. Spain later withdrew its ambassador to Buenos Aires in protest.

Milei requested to hold an audience with Spain’s King Felipe VI on the occasion of a new visit to Madrid planned for this coming Friday, when he will collect a prize awarded to him by the Juan de Mariana Institute, a neoliberal think tank, for his “defense of the ideas of freedom,” according to sources familiar with the request. However, it appears that Milei has not been successful, since the audience with the Argentine head of state is not on the royal agenda.

Sources from La Zarzuela Palace said that Felipe VI “coordinates with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding trips abroad, as well as visits to Spain by international leaders.” They also stressed that, as per the Constitution, “foreign policy is the exclusive power of the government.” Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the matter, saying that “we do not comment on the agenda of foreign leaders.”

Felipe VI attended Milei’s inauguration in Buenos Aires last December, and met him again at the inauguration of the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, on June 1. On that occasion, with the bilateral crisis in full gear, both men simply greeted each other from afar.

Although Milei has not obtained an audience with the Spanish monarch, he will be received by the head of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, of the conservative Popular Party (PP). As announced by Milei’s spokesperson, Manuel Adorni, the Madrid regional leader has decided to award Milei an International Medal. Ayuso, an outspoken critic of the central government, aligned herself with the Argentine president in May, when Milei called Begoña Gómez “corrupt” due to a legal complaint filed against her by an organization, Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) with a history of mounting legal challenges against leftist leaders. Ayuso justified Milei’s attitude, saying that the Spanish Minister of Transportation, Óscar Puente, had “defamed him first” by suggesting that Milei used drugs.

Diplomatic sources acknowledge that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not been informed of Ayuso’s decision to meet with Milei despite existing legislation making it mandatory for regional governments to inform central authorities about “proposals involving trips, visits, exchanges and actions with a foreign projection.” It so happens that this law was approved in 2014 by a PP administration, largely to prevent the Catalan regional government, run by Catalan nationalists, from undermining the foreign policy of the central government. In addition to failure to comply with a legal obligation, Ayuso’s actions “represent institutional disloyalty,” said the same sources.

Despite Milei’s repeated insults aimed at Pedro Sánchez — whom he has described as an “arrogant Socialist” and part of “an ilk that is screwed tight to power” — the Spanish government said it would maintain protocol and allow the Argentine head of state to land his plane at the Torrejón de Ardoz military air base, as he did last month, and allow his security detail to carry weapons.

In the meantime, Milei has continued his barrage of verbal attacks against the Spanish leader. In an interview with the Argentine channel Tele Noticias on Tuesday, he stated that “the coward sent all his ministers to insult me.” “Who is the coward?” asked the interviewer. “Sánchez,” he responded.

Although he has only been in office for six months, the new European tour of the Argentine president, who last weekend attended the G-7 summit in Bari (Italy), has been designed as a succession of acts to increase his influence. From Madrid, he will travel to Hamburg, where he will be honored by the Hayek Association; and then to Prague to receive an award from the Czech Liberal Institute. Milei was also scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, but that event has been cancelled.

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