Spain minister under fire over volcano tourism remarks
Spain’s Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto sparked a backlash on Monday after suggesting the volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands could be milked as “a tourist attraction”.
Her remarks came a day after La Cumbre Vieja erupted on La Palma island, forcing some 5,500 people to flee as the red-hot surges of lava engulfed at least 100 homes.
Spain should “make the most of this, as an attraction so tourists can enjoy what nature has bought to La Palma,” she told Canal Sur radio.
“The island could become an attraction for those tourists who want to see this marvellous spectacle of nature,” she added, in remarks which sparked outrage, particularly from right-wing opposition figures.
“Maroto is trying to turn a disaster into a tourist attraction as thousands of people are being evacuated. They are sociopaths!” tweeted the far-right Vox party.
“Did the minister actually say this as hundreds of people have lost everything they own?” wondered Teodoro Garcia-Egea, secretary general of the right-wing Popular Party.
“When.. people are evacuated, 100 homes are destroyed along with fields, farms, animals and everything you own, this is not a ‘marvellous spectacle’ which is ‘exciting to experience’,” tweeted Ana Oramas, an MP with the right-wing Canaries Coalition.
“It is a tragedy. What we need is a bit of sensitivity, not jokes.”
Following the backlash, Maroto quickly moved to qualify her remarks, later telling reporters, “Today, our thoughts are with the victims”.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who had been due to visit New York for the UN General Assembly, delayed his flight and instead went on Sunday evening to La Palma to see the evacuation operation involving hundreds of police and army operatives.