MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico’s populist, nationalist leader has engaged in periodic quarrels with Spain, but relations reached a new low on Wednesday when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the two countries’ relations should be put on “pause”.
López Obrador made it sound sort of like a time-out for Spain, a country he had previously asked to apologise for the brutality of the 1521 Conquest of Mexico and centuries of colonial rule. Spain never did, and some have accused López Obrador of using the five-century-old issue to distract attention.
López Obrador didn’t explain exactly what a ‘pause’ would mean, but the proposal came at the end of a diatribe against Spanish energy companies he said had taken unfair advantage of private-sector openings in Mexico.
The president claimed they engaged in “robbery” and treated Mexico like “a conquered land”.
“Right now the relationship is not good,” López Obrador said at his daily news briefing. “I would like to put it on pause, until we can normalise it, that I think would be in the best interest of Mexicans and Spaniards.”
“Let’s give ourselves a little time, a pause,” he said. “Maybe relations will be re-established when the administration changes.”
Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares downplayed the Mexican president’s remarks, noting they were made “in an informal context, in answer to a journalist’s question, and so do not constitute and official position or statement”.
“You would have to ask President López Obrador what he meant by this,” Albares said.
Spanish energy companies like Repsol and Iberdrola took advantage of openings in the last decade that allowed private and foreign companies to build electrical power plants in Mexico, a sector once dominated by Mexico’s state-owned utility.
López Obrador is seeking to reverse those openings, because he said the state-owned company was put at a disadvantage with private firms. That proposed change has drawn concern about protecting the Spanish firms’ investments.