Spain sacks one if its top diplomats in the US for insulting people from Andalucía

The post referred to Queen Letizia and Susana Díaz in Malaga.
The post referred to Queen Letizia and Susana Díaz in Malaga. / Fernando González
  • Enrique Sardà Valls wrote a post referring to the Queen and the region's president, but he says it was meant as a joke and claims that free speech isn't allowed any more

Spain’s consul general in the United States, one of the most senior diplomatic figures that the government has based in Washington DC, was removed from his post this week after apparently insulting the people of Andalucía.

The minister for Foreign Affairs, Alfonso Dastis, moved quickly to remove 64-year-old Enrique Sardà Valls from his role after he had published a private post on Facebook mocking the distinct regional accent of people in Andalucía. Dastis himself is from Andalucía.

In his post, the veteran diplomat mentioned the seeming misfortune the regional president of Andalucía, Susana Díaz, found herself in on choosing the same colour dress as Queen Letizia when she welcomed her on a visit to Malaga last week. Some observers on social media had seen this as a major fashion faux pas and had created funny memes.

Commenting on the photograph of them together in Malaga, he typed a post full of spelling mistakes and a tone mocking the way he perceived that Andalusian people speak.

Although Sardà Valls is known for a colourful presence on Facebook by colleagues, the prestige of his diplomatic position in the US and his apparent disparaging attitude to the most heavily-populated region of his native country caused outrage, especially from people in Andalucía.

Vice president of the Andalucía region, Manuel Jimenéz Barrios complained that “a public representative, whoever they are, should behave with due courtesy”. Susana Díaz added via social media that she was “proud”to be Andalusian.

Despite Sardà Valls issuing an apology on Facebook it was too late and he was removed on Tuesday from his Washington role representing Spain.

Speaking on national daytime TV the next day he again apologised but said his sacking had been an overreaction and his message had been taken out of context. “There’s no freedom of expression in Spain any more,” he lamented.