By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Just days after having called the president of Austria “selfish” and equating Panama’s foreign minister with the Spanish Inquisition, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on Wednesday, Feb. 9, launched yet another diplomatic offense when he proposed hitting the pause button on relations with Spain, since, according to him, Spanish companies have been “looting” Mexico.
“This has been the case with Spanish companies,” AMLO said during his daily press conference at the National Palace.
“Since the bilateral relationship is not very good at the moment, I would like put it on hold until it is normalized. I want to take a break, which I think will suit both us Mexicans and Spaniards.”
The president, who has continually accused Spanish oil companies Repsol, Iberdrola and OHL of exploiting Mexico through legitimate multimillion-dollar contracts signed during the previous administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, went on to say that Spain has “colluded” with former Mexican officials in acts of “economic and political promiscuity” over the course of 18 years.
“And Mexico got the brunt of the deal. Spain looted us,” he said. “So, it is better to give the relationship some time, to have a breather.”
AMLO also said that Spain still sees Mexico “as a land of conquest,” as it did during colonial times.
Since taking office three years ago, AMLO has repeatedly demanded that Spain “apologize” for having conquered Mexico five centuries ago.
Spain has called the demand “an intolerable offence to the Spanish people.”
“The arrival of the Spanish on Mexican soil 500 years ago cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations,” Spain responded in an official statement.
“Our closely related peoples have always known how to view our shared history without anger and from a shared perspective, as free peoples with a common heritage and an extraordinary future.”
The leader of Spain’s conservative People’s Party called AMLO’s demand the product of “scandalous ignorance and a real affront to Spain and its history.”
Tensions have continued to simmer as AMLO has become ever-more aggressive in his verbal assaults against Spain, which is Mexico’s largest trade partner in the European Union and the second-largest investor in Mexico worldwide (after the United States), representing 12.1 percent of the total investment volume since 1999, with more than $70.9 billion capital holdings.
Spain is Mexico’s largest trade partner in the European Union and the second-largest investor in Mexico worldwide, representing12.1 percent of the total investment volume since 1999, with more than $70.9 billion capital holdings.
By setting the pause button in two-way ties, AMLO said that there will be time for Spain to start to “respect” Mexico.
López Obrador then clarified his statement, saying that Mexico “wants to have good relations with all governments … but we do not want them to rob us.”
López Obrador said that when he is no longer in government, full bilateral diplomatic relations could be restored.
“Perhaps, when the government changes, relations will be reestablished and I would like, when I am not here, that they would not be the same as they were before,” he said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Spanish Foreign Relations Minister José Manuel Albares responded to AMLO’s comments by saying that his government will not “pause” relations with Mexico.
He also said that Spain “has done nothing to merit a pause” by Mexico.