Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called Wednesday for “pausing” diplomatic relations with Spain, not breaking them, as he escalated his criticism of Mexico’s former colonial power, which he says has exploited Mexico.
Lopez Obrador made the comments at a regular news briefing during which he requested a “breather” in official ties, stating “the relationship is not good” currently.
The Mexican president has been consistent in his assertion that Spanish authorities and corporations have been exploiting the North American country, particularly in the energy sector.
“They were like the owners of Mexico,” Lopez Obrador said to the media as he took to task the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
“They plundered us,” Lopez Obrador said, targeting the role of Spanish investment in the country. “Perhaps when the government changes, relations will be restored, and I wish that when I’m no longer here they wouldn’t be what they were before.”
Lopez Obrador has proposed changes to Mexico’s energy market that have drawn criticism. In his defense, he said his proposal would end abuses that have benefited a few. He cited as examples power company Iberdrola and oil firm Repsol as Spanish companies that benefited from past Mexican governments.
The Mexican president’s comments regarding Spain surprised Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares.
"I'd like to make clear that Spain's government has done nothing that could justify any declaration of this kind," he said Wednesday, according to Reuters. "What's clear from business ties between our countries is that far from pausing, investment flows have only been rising for years."
Lopez Obrador’s ire toward the Spanish rose early in his administration. He had been in office a little more than a month when, in early 2019, he sent a letter to the king of Spain and Pope Francis asking them to apologize for the exploitation committed in the 500 years since Spain's conquest of Mexico. The Spanish government rejected the request.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.