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ARGENTINA | 21-06-2024 19:02

Milei's first Germany visit scaled back at government's request

Javier Milei's inaugural visit as Argentine president to Germany at the weekend has been scaled back, with military honours and a press conference cancelled, Berlin said Friday. 

Javier Milei's inaugural visit as Argentine president to Germany at the weekend has been scaled back, with military honours and a press conference cancelled, Berlin said Friday. 

German officials announced details of the event last week, describing Argentina as "one of Germany's most important economic partners in Latin America."

But it has now been changed to a "very short working visit" lasting around an hour, German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told a regular press briefing in Berlin. 

While talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz would take place, the military honours and a joint press appearance with the German leader had been removed from the programme at the request of the Argentinians, Hebestreit said. 

"I have learnt that, since taking office... [Milei] has given very few press conferences," said Hebestreit. 

But there was speculation that the request by the Argentine side to shorten the visit was due to Hebestreit having described as "tasteless" Milei's remarks about the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's wife. 

Milei sparked a diplomatic row with Spain after telling a Madrid conference in May that Sánchez had a "corrupt wife."

Sánchez in April considered resigning after prosecutors opened a preliminary corruption investigation against his wife, Begoña Gómez, into allegations she used her position to peddle influence.

The Spanish PM has dismissed the allegations as part of a smear campaign.

Milei, a self-declared "anarcho-capitalist," won elections last November with a vow to cut Argentina's vast public debt to zero. He has instituted an austerity programme that has seen the government slash public subsidies.

Despite the controversy surrounding the leader, Hebestreit insisted Friday that Scholz was right to engage with him.

The chancellor "meets with many heads of state and government. Some people are closer to him in terms of content and some are further away, but it's still right to talk to each other," he said.

During his visit to Germany, Milei will receive an award from the Friedrich August von Hayek Society, a group that promotes liberalism but which is controversial as its members include supporters of the country's far-right AfD party.

The Argentine leader is also scheduled to travel to Madrid Friday to receive an award, with Spain urging him to show "respect" if he visits.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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