Thursday, November 26

Arancha González Laya: “It is unfair in Mexico to accuse Spanish companies of corruption in generic terms”


The Foreign Minister of Spain, Arancha González Laya (San Sebastián, 1969), has made a lightning trip to Mexico this week, the first high-level visit that has occurred since the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, sent a letter to the Rey demanding that he apologize for the abuses committed during the conquest. The minister met in less than 24 hours with the Mexican Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard; the Secretary [ministra] of Economy, Graciela Márquez, and the head of Government of the capital, Claudia Sheinbaum. The commemoration of the 500 years since the fall of Tenochtitlán and the 200 years of independence, and the defense of the interests of Spanish companies, the target of López Obrador’s attacks constantly, were some of the issues that he discussed with the Mexican authorities . The one in Mexico is González Laya’s first trip to Latin America that does not have as its objective the inauguration of a president.

Question. Latin America is going through a turbulent moment. What is the biggest concern for the Government of Spain?

Reply. The concern is precisely the accumulation of crises. There is more crisis of institutionality, of inequality, suddenly this great crisis of climate change arrives that has been impacting the countries of this region; This mega-crisis is coming, which is the covid, which has also put all countries to the test very much and has exposed even more economies that had pre-existing fragilities, with very strong informal economy systems, with inequalities between the participation of men and women in the very large economy. The difficulty now is to give an answer, and not to do it the way we have been doing it.

P. This has been the first high-level visit after López Obrador’s controversial letter in which he demanded that the King apologize for the abuses of the conquest. How would you define the current relationship between Mexico and Spain?

R. The relationship between Spain and Mexico is solid because it has been built over the centuries, because it has deep roots that are not only the option of a government at a given time. The relationship is deep because it is driven by citizens and companies. It is a relationship of interdependence. What is very important for us, for governments, is to manage that interdependence in the smartest way possible. Our relationship with this Government is good, with a very fluid dialogue. I have had numerous contacts with my counterpart, Marcelo Ebrard, throughout the pandemic. We have to be able to imagine how we want our relationship to be in the future. We spend perhaps too much time looking to the past and we are not investing enough in looking to the future.

P. The following year will be marked by the past, that is, it will be 500 years since the fall of Tenochtitlan, 200 years since independence. What role will Spain play in those celebrations that the Government of Mexico is preparing?

R. We are two free nations, independent, very proud, but we have been working together and have had moments of true brotherhood. This was a host country for thousands of Spaniards fleeing the Civil War. And here has been Spain in very difficult moments. When everyone left, when all companies left in times of financial crisis, earthquakes, Spain has been here. I would like that in these ephemeris we also put in value what this shared past has been: the lights and the shadows, that nothing happens to also put the shadows on the table. That has to lead us to imagine not how the past was, we already know how the past was, but how we want to build a future from that past. What would I like? That this celebration of 200 years would represent a very firm commitment on the part of Spain and Mexico to be global promoters of the protection of human rights, individual freedoms, the rights of minorities, and of women against femicide and violence.

P. There are sectors still in Spain that speak of the conquest as the discovery of America. Sectors, politicians, who are not aware that the conquest still raises suspicions, suspicions and many feelings in Mexico. What do you think Spanish society, some politicians, need to understand in this sense?

R. I am not going to talk about what some politicians lack, but I do believe that what we do not value enough is the effort that Spain made throughout its history, the effort of reflection and criticism of its presence in America . That was also a constant in the history of Spain. The biggest and most staunch critics of Spain were the Spaniards themselves, they were also the ones who rose up to criticize the treatment given to the indigenous people in America. Throughout its history, Spain has been able to reflect and be critical of its own presence and its own action. As close in our history as in 1990, when the kings of Spain visit Mexico, Oaxaca, they meet with indigenous communities from all over the country and express, regret, that many times some instructions that the Crown gave of a certain behavior had not been followed by Hernán Cortés and many others who succeeded him. That expression has been done. For us it is not new to do this exercise.

P. Is there a possibility that there will be a new gesture next year from the King, from the Crown, regarding Mexico? Are there guarantees right now for the head of state to come to Mexico next year?

R. We have not built any agenda or any program for the Spanish presence. We have not yet thought about who is going to what celebrations. By the way, this is not the only country that is going to celebrate its bicentennial, it is also celebrated in Central America and Peru. At a later time we will decide who goes where. It is a bit early to answer this question.

P. Spanish businessmen are concerned about the environment in Mexico to invest, specifically about the statements that the Mexican president has made that Spanish companies “loot” and commit acts of corruption. What is the impression that the Mexican government has left on this?

R. We have conveyed to the Mexican Government that it seems unfair to us to accuse Spanish companies in generic terms. Spanish companies are, like all companies in the world for the most part, 99.99% like Mexican companies, upright and honest. What they seek is to generate profits for their shareholders, but also to generate employment and create wealth in their country, and if there is 0.01% who do not follow the rules of the game, then these companies must be brought to justice. Beyond that, we have spoken with the Mexican authorities about how we can value this great Spanish business presence in Mexico and the Mexican one in Spain.

P. There is the case of Iberdrola, which has announced that for the moment it is freezing its investments in Mexico because they perceive pressure from the Mexican government. Have you acted in any way as a mediator between these parties?

R. We are not mediators because there is no conflict. What there is is a reform to the energy sector that we respect, and we believe that the Mexican government has to be free to decide what type of energy policy it wants for this country. Spain will never question that, but Spain does say, as other countries say, that it is important that the regulatory framework is clear, secure and transparent because that way Spanish companies will be able to continue investing in this country. In the case of Iberdrola, this is a company that has decided that an investment it planned to make in Mexico has an opportunity in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. It is a business decision that we respect, but I believe that we must pay attention to that type of company signals because perhaps it is also giving us a clue as to where there are issues that also need political attention.

P. Spain has insisted that it will facilitate solutions to the crisis in Venezuela. What does this facilitation consist of?

R. Facilitating means helping Venezuelans find a solution to the serious crisis in which the country is immersed, an inherently political crisis, but one that has also become a humanitarian crisis. We always speak in terms of facilitating because we cannot replace the Venezuelan actors. We know that a commitment on the part of Spain, as well as on the part of the European Union, as well as on the part of the international community, may weigh more or less in the way in which Venezuelans seek a way out of their situation. It is coming to a time when perhaps we have to seek, taking advantage of the fact that there are a series of circumstances, a change in the administration in the United States, a parliamentary elections that have to do with the presidential elections, to support a solution to peacefully negotiate the issue Venezuelan.

P. Will Spain continue to recognize Guaidó as interim president as of January 5?

R. This is a discussion that has two parts: one, between the Venezuelan opposition and another, with the international community, especially those countries that have recognized it.

P. What is your opinion?

R. I have no opinions on this. I think we have to think. Spain is not going to do it independently, it is going to do it with the European Union. This is a discussion that the European Union has to have and it has to do it in a calm way.

P. During the visit to the inauguration of Luis Arce as president of Bolivia, Vice President Pablo Iglesias met with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza. Did that encounter bother you?

R. No, it does not cause me any inconvenience because Spain’s foreign policy is set by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That does not prevent members of the Government from speaking with interlocutors from their branch or from another branch, but foreign policy is set at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It’s that simple.

P. How do you rate Donald Trump’s decision not to recognize Joe Biden’s victory in the United States elections?

R. In the end in the United States there is a great winner, which is the American institutions. Those famous checks and balances, checks and balances, those procedures that have guaranteed a result that no one can answer. It seems pretty clear that the winner is Joe Biden. Obviously, the smoother the transition, the more it will help, especially at a time when managing a very complicated pandemic, but I have great faith in the institutions.

P. What do you think is the future of the commercial relationship between the European Union and the United States?

R. We will maintain the same as with the previous Administration, which is that it seems to us that there is an unfair accusation against Europe of unfair competition in trade matters, and that it has to be the subject of dialogue and negotiation. There are different parts to this dialogue and this negotiation. It could start with a dialogue on tariffs that we have mutually imposed on Airbus and Boeing in the conflict that opposes them, a conflict that lasts for several decades, and a conflict that has not yet been negotiated in both Europe and the United States. They run the risk that a competitor of theirs, which is becoming stronger than China, will take away their market share. There must also be a discussion of a whole series of tariffs that have been imposed due to an alleged unfair competition in steel and aluminum, which does not seem fair to us because it is not justified, but we will wait for the new Administration to take possession in order to start this dialogue.

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