Should Madrid apologise for conquest of Mexico?
On the 500th anniversary of Spain's conquest of Mexico, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has called on Spain, the Spanish king Felipe VI, and the Vatican to apologise for the subjugation of indigenous populations in the region. Not all commentators agree with the demand.
President putting his finger in the wound
Obrador has brought up a crucial issue, Le Courrier comments:
“His demand to Spain has the advantage of being part of a sweeping plan [to put the focus on indigenous peoples]. ... The indigenous movements want to escape a 'fruitless' debate and are calling for a focus on policies related to their living conditions even if that means calling into question railway and hydroelectric projects that can lead to pollution and expropriations. Will it be possible one day to compensate for centuries of inequalities? Probably not. But restoring historical truths, recognising the responsibility of the Church and the Spanish crown, would at least be an admission that these inequalities were no mere accident.”
Obrador should apologise too
Mexico's president shouldn't stick his neck out too far, columnist Sergio Sarmento counters in Mexican daily La Reforma's Jaque Mate blog:
“The relevant question here is not whether apologies for the Conquest of Mexico will be made, but who will ask for them and who will offer them. The Spaniards who stayed in Europe bear no responsibility for what happened 500 years ago. It was the Spaniards who came to Mexico and stayed among us who carried out the Conquest and committed the atrocities. 'He himself, who has Spanish surnames, should apologise,' the Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte told President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. And he's quite right about that.”
Not the way to reach an agreement
More reflection on the past and its consequences would be a good thing on both sides of the Atlantic, El País observes:
“Spain as a society has not reflected deeply on the suffering caused by the Conquest, and perhaps because of this it hasn't recognised or plays down the intensity of the sentiments felt by many inhabitants of the American continent. ... The second anomaly is embodied by Obrador himself. The president is opportunistically exploiting an undeniable sentiment among his people for his own political interests. If his objective had been to achieve a consensus on the anniversaries he would have maintained the calm dialogue, without strident demands, that he had already begun with the Spanish government.”