Spain and Argentina are at loggerheads in a diplomatic row

Spain and Argentina were at a diplomatic standoff on Saturday as the two countries exchanged arguments over drug use and economic decline.

Bad relations between Latin American countries reached a low point on Friday evening when Spanish Transport Minister Oscar Puente suggested that Argentine President Javier Milei was using drugs.

Milei’s office responded Saturday by accusing Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of bringing “poverty and death” to his people and threatening Spanish unity.

The row comes two weeks ahead of a visit to Spain by Argentina’s ‘anarcho-capitalist’ president. He will attend an event of the far-right Vox party and avoid the socialist government leader. The two have never had a good relationship.

Sanchez supported Milei’s rival Sergio Massa in the elections that brought Milei to power in December and has not contacted Milei since the victory. Vox leader Santiago Abascal went to Buenos Aires for the inauguration of Milei.

Milei’s anger this time appears to have been sparked by comments from Spain’s transport minister linking the president to drug use.

“I saw Milei on television” during the campaign, Puente told a Socialist Party conference on Friday. “I don’t know if it was before or after consuming substances.”

He called Milei one of the “very bad people” who have reached high office.

Within hours, Milei’s office issued an official statement criticizing the Spanish prime minister.

“Sánchez endangered the middle class with his socialist policies that only bring poverty and death,” the statement said.

The government had also “endangered the unity of the kingdom” by making a deal with a separatist party to stay in power.

Spain reacted furiously.

“The Spanish government categorically rejects the baseless words… which do not reflect the relations between the two countries and their brotherly people,” the Spanish Foreign Ministry said.

“The government and the Spanish people will continue to maintain and strengthen their fraternal ties and their relationships of friendship and cooperation with the Argentine people, a desire shared by the entire Spanish society,” the statement said.

Milei will travel to Spain in two weeks for an event on May 18 and 19 organized by the far-right opposition party Vox, which is in a race with the Socialists in next month’s European elections.

He is not scheduled to meet Sánchez or the Spanish monarch.