The president of Mexico insists that relations with Spain remain “on pause”


MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s president insisted Friday that his country’s relations with Spain are still “on pause,” a day after Mexico’s top diplomat met with his Spanish counterpart and said relations were ” they relaunch”.

The confusing turnaround involves years-long complaints by President Andrés Manuel López about Spanish companies operating in Mexico and Spain’s refusal to apologize for abuses committed during the colonial-era conquest of Mexico.

Mexico’s foreign policy appears to be led largely by López Obrador, who also recently put relations with Peru “on pause”. In the case of Peru, López Obrador said Mexico still recognizes Pedro Castillo as Peruvian president despite the fact that lawmakers ousted him last week for trying to dissolve Congress ahead of a scheduled impeachment vote.

On Thursday, the Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, met with his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel Albares, and said that “we are entering a relaunch, in terms of bilateral relations.” Both hugged and talked about new cooperation during the meeting of the Spain-Mexico Bilateral Commission.

But early Friday morning, López Obrador contradicted Ebrard saying: “No, the pause continues, because there is no respectful attitude on his part.”

In February, López Obrador accused Spanish companies of unfairly taking advantage of private sector openings to sign corrupt contracts to build power plants in Mexico.

In 2020, López Obrador sent a letter asking Spain to apologize for the brutality of the 1521 conquest of Mexico and centuries of colonial rule.

“I sent a respectful letter to the head of state, the King of Spain, and he didn’t even have the courtesy to answer me,” the president complained on Friday. “They said we had to thank them for coming here and colonizing us, and then with the companies, the same high-handed attitude.”

Spain responded quickly in a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The government of Spain emphatically rejects the comments of the President of Mexico about His Majesty the King, Spanish companies and Spanish political sectors,” the statement said. “These statements are incomprehensible after a successful Bilateral Commission that offered so many concrete results.”

All this put Ebrard, who hopes to be nominated by the president’s Morena party to succeed López Obrador, in a difficult situation. Ebrard cannot publicly disagree with the president, although he suggested that Thursday’s meeting had been approved by López Obrador.

Mexico’s 2020 letter stated: “The Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchy and the Mexican government should publicly apologize for the offensive atrocities suffered by indigenous peoples.”

The letter came as Mexico marked the 500th anniversary of the 1519-1521 conquest, which resulted in the deaths of much of the country’s pre-Hispanic population.

López Obrador had already asked Spain for an apology for the conquest in 2019. The then Spanish Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, said that his country “will not issue these apologies that have been requested.”

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