Spain fires ambassador to Belgium who went to mass but not to work & ‘abused’ position

Spain's ambassador Ignacio Jesus Matellanes Martínez © Miguel Alvarez
Madrid has sacked its envoy to Brussels after it emerged that he had failed to do any work during his tenure – even contacting the Belgian government. Yet, he is alleged to have never missed a mass while discouraging staff from doing anything meaningful.

The ministry said that Ambassador Ignacio Jesús Matellanes Martínez had “burnt all his bridges” with Belgium, adding the he had been dismissed for “absenteeism and abuse of power.”

The Spanish government had received numerous complaints from embassy staff claiming that he was failing to properly represent his country.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry said that similar allegations were made against the ambassador during his previous posting in Nicaragua.

What seems shocking is that Matellanes had been ambassador to Belgium since March of 2012 and nothing was done about previous complaints.

Reports say that Matellanes was not fired earlier because of his personal connection to MEP Francisco Millán, the Spanish prime minister’s brother-in-law.

The Foreign Ministry eventually conducted its own internal investigation, discovering serious anomalies in Matellanes’ diplomatic work.

The daily management of the Spanish embassy in Belgium was “paralyzed by absenteeism and the head of mission’s negative attitude, the denial of any role for diplomatic personnel and a total absence of internal coordination,” according to the investigator’s report to the foreign ministry.

“The worst of it is that he didn’t represent the country at all,” one source at the embassy told the Guardian. “No one comes here. Matellanes doesn’t have meetings with anyone, he does nothing and prevents staff from taking even the smallest initiative.”

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Surprisingly, what the ambassador did do in Belgium on a regular basis was attend mass.

“He hardly ever came to work and when he did he’d go to mass from 11 am till 12 on a working day. He wanted to be ambassador to the Vatican. When [Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI] was pope he said he was in Opus Dei, but since Francis took over he goes to mass with the Jesuits,” said another source.

Matellanes created an impossibly harsh office environment while ambassador, leading four of the embassy’s 20 employees to take time off work to deal with depression, including a chauffeur, a secretary, and two diplomats.

According to the official report, the ambassador exercised “his authority through fear, threats and confrontations” and there was an “unusually high number of staff signed off sick with depression.”

The investigator on the case concluded that staff had been harassed and forced to deal with “intense, repeated, methodical and prolonged psychological violence,” noting that the ambassador had used his authority “to create a hostile and humiliating environment that upset the victim’s personal and working life.”

“The atmosphere is stifling,” one embassy employee said. “Matellanes treats people badly, he makes hurtful remarks, changes people’s holiday dates, lacks respect and forces them do work that makes no sense. And he treats women as inferior to men. In his eyes they are weaker and less effective.”

Matellanes’ dismissal was finally proposed by Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo and approved by the Council of Ministers, before being signed by King Felipe VI.