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Ministry sacks diplomat in Boston for closing consulate hours after bombings

Pablo Sánchez-Terán advised families to call hospitals in US city to locate their loved ones

Spain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Tuesday sacked its consul in Boston, Pablo Sánchez-Terán, for “failure to meet his consular obligations.” The decision was made after the diplomat closed the Spanish consulate office at the usual time on Monday, despite the bomb attacks at the city’s marathon having taken place just a few hours earlier.

Diplomatic sources told Europa Press that the decision was verbally communicated to the diplomat on Tuesday, who told Spanish channel Marca TV on Monday night that the consulate had been closed after the attacks because “it was the usual time to do so.”

During that interview, Sánchez-Terán did not give out a telephone number for families of Spaniards at the marathon to call, and instead advised concerned viewers to phone the hospitals in Boston should they be unable to locate their loved ones. The diplomat did, however, answer calls from the media, including Europa Press, confirming that there were no reports at the time of Spaniards among the victims of the bombing.

In statements made to news agency EFE, the Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, said that the consul's behavior was "unacceptable."

His comments drew harsh criticism on social networking sites such as Twitter

"The consular service is there to help Spaniards, and at a time of tragedy, such as the one we have seen, that assistance is infinitely more necessary," the minister said.

"When all of the TV channels in the world are saying that there has been an attack, closing a consulate because it's the time to do so, is simply unacceptable," he continued.

Sánchez-Teran's comments drew harsh criticism on social networking sites such as Twitter. “Today the Spanish consul in Boston has shown huge insensitivity,” wrote one user, while another added: “The consul in Boston has made it clear that if there is an important issue to deal with, you can find him at the bar.”

This is not the first time that Sánchez-Terán has caused controversy. In 2004, when he was the consul in the Argentinean city of Córdoba, statements he made during Columbus Day drew criticism. “We would be a lot worse under Inca, Aztec, Mapuche, Sioux or Apache civilizations,” he said at the time. “They have been romanticized by historians and anthropologists when it is well known that they were divided into castes and had an imperialist and bloodthirsty character.”