21 Apr 19
The Scottish Sun
VISIBLE from space, Andalusia’s sea of shimmering plastic greenhouses produces the fresh tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers that end up on British dinner tables.
But these arid hills — where Clint Eastwood filmed his epic spaghetti westerns in the Sixties — have also been an incubator for something more sinister.
Andalusia’s greenhouses produce fresh tomates, peppers, cucumbers, and something much more sinister – a burgeoning far right party
For the first time since the death of brutal dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975, Spain has a burgeoning far right party.
Called Vox, it promises to launch a “reconquest” of the nation, a term harking back to the Middle Ages when Christian kings drove the Muslim Moors out of Spain.
It has pledged to kick out 52,000 “illegal immigrants” and build “insurmountable” border walls around Spain’s Moroccan enclaves.
Vox also wants to close “fundamentalist” mosques, loosen gun laws and make British ruled Gibraltar Spanish.
Santiago Abascal, the pro-bullfighting party’s fiery leader, proudly carries a Smith & Wesson handgun, while one of its prospective parliamentarians has questioned the truth of the Holocaust.
Despite migrant labour doing the hard graft in Andalusia’s 50,000 acres of greenhouses, it is here that the party has established its deepest roots.
Vox rocked Spanish politics in December when it took 11 per cent of votes in the Andalusian elections — and a place in the local parliament’s new ruling coalition.
Now — after breaking Spain’s taboo about the far right since Franco — it aims to be a power broker at the country’s general election on April 28 and European elections the following month.
Despite migrant labour doing the hard graft in Andalusia’ greenhouses, it is here that Vox has established its deepest roots
In the Andalusian city of El Ejido — population 90,000 — Vox won almost 30 per cent of the vote in December. It has been called Spain’s most far-right city, an urban isle in an ocean of plastic hothouses stretching to the horizon.
One in five residents here are migrants from 94 nations. At night, this workforce — many without official papers — stream out of the greenhouses by bike, returning to shared digs in poor areas such as Las Norias.
Fresh from tending a courgette crop, Moroccan labourer Mohamed Chokri, 41, told The Sun: “Every single person that works with me in the greenhouse is African. No Spaniards work there.
“The wages I get are very low and the conditions are hard. It can get up to 45C inside the greenhouses.
[quote credit=”Mohamed Chokri”]I’ve often experienced racism here. They jump to the view that just because one Moroccan man beats his wife that we’re all wife beaters[/quote]
In the summer I get laid off and I don’t earn anything. Towns like El Ejido would be nothing without us, which is why I don’t understand parties like Vox saying they want to kick immigrants out of Spain.”
Mohamed earns as little as £600 a month for working six and a half days a week under the sweltering plastic.
He lives rent free in a squat with no electricity or running water.
He said: “I’ve often experienced racism here. They jump to the view that just because one Moroccan man beats his wife that we’re all wife beaters.”
Across the street is Beneguel, one of the most popular restaurants among Las Norias’s native Spanish.
On the wall are two pictures of dictator Franco. A pendant of the Franco-era Spanish flag, bearing a black eagle, is above the chalked menu.
The staff don’t want to talk about the regalia or the upcoming elections but one local tells me: “Look at Franco on the wall. Look at the flags. It’s obvious what many people in here think.”
Nearby a roundabout is daubed with Vote Vox graffiti. A swastika is scrawled on the back of a billboard.
In the Andalusian city of El Ejido far-right party Vox won almost 30 per cent of the vote in December
Senegalese Hadim Sara, 25, is one of those without papers. He made the treacherous Mediterranean boat crossing from Morocco three years ago and now leads a hand-to-mouth existence in Spain, tending vegetables for around £30 for an eight-hour day.
He said: “There are good Spanish people and bad Spanish people, like everywhere. Racist people don’t want to speak to me and I don’t speak to them.
A supporter of Spain’s late dictator Francisco Franco makes a fascist salute at a gathering commemorating his death at Madrid’s Plaza de Oriente, Spain
“I don’t know much about Vox but my mind is focused on earning money so I don’t go hungry.”
The migrant greenhouse workers’ story forms the backdrop of a Spanish-made Netflix crime drama, Mar De Plástico — or Sea Of Plastic. In the whodunit, set in the fictional Andalusian town
Campoamargo, the mayor’s daughter is found murdered in one of the greenhouses after going there to meet a date.
Vox’s Secretary General Rambo
Immigrant Khaled is doused in petrol when the finger of suspicion points at him, and there are subplots about Eastern European sex trafficking, disaffected youth and the rise of neo-Nazis among its echoes of 21st-century reality.
Meanwhile Vox, founded in 2013, has struck a chord with nationalists worried at attempts by the rich region of Catalonia to break away from Spain.
Its gun-carrying leader Abascal tweeted a bizarre video during the local election showing him and his supporters on horseback. It bore the slogan: “The Reconquest will begin on Andalusian territory.”
His deputy, green beret-wearing Javier Ortega Smith, is a lawyer and karate expert known as Rambo because of his special forces background.
Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal carries a Smith & Wesson gun and his deputy, Javier Ortega Smith, is commonly known as ‘Rambo’
[quote credit=”Vox candidate Fernando Paz”]If my son said he was gay, I would try to help him. There are therapies to treat this psychology[/quote]
In 2016 he draped a giant Spanish flag over Gibraltar’s peak, then dived into the Med to avoid capture.
Among Vox’s candidates on April 28 is homophobic “historian” Fernando Paz, who has said facts about the Holocaust are “far from having been established with accuracy”.
He also called the post-war Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals a “farce”.
The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain said it was “unthinkable that a person with such views would present himself for public office”.
For the first time since the death of brutal dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975, Spain has a far right party
In 2013 Paz said: “If my son said he was gay, I would try to help him. There are therapies to treat this psychology.”
Spain has become the primary entry point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa. Last year a record 58,600 made the treacherous journey successfully, while 777 died.
‘The rise of Vox worries me’
Vox has harnessed fears over the influx to try to gain supporters. One, hotel worker Oti Pena, 50, from the nearby resort of Roquetas de Mar, told The Sun: “Spain can’t cope with the avalanche of immigration.
“The 52,000 people Vox have said should be sent home from Andalusia are the people who are living here illegally. It doesn’t matter what colour their skin or where they come from if they haven’t got work or resources to live off in our country.”
Vox’s leader Abascal tweeted a bizarre video during the local election showing him and his supporters on horseback. It bore the slogan ‘The Reconquest will begin on Andalusian territory’
She said of her party: “I don’t like the label ‘far right’, it’s totally unfair. Vox has enabled people who kept quiet before to express their feelings.”
But Juan Montabes, a political science professor at Granada University, told The Sun: “The rise of Vox worries me. It is an extreme right party, although I wouldn’t describe it as a fascist party, as some media does.”
He added: “If there wasn’t immigrant labour, the greenhouses couldn’t exist. Areas like El Ejido have a high standard of living because of the immigration there has been.”
Franco’s spectre still looms large over Spain. He ruled with an iron fist from the nationalists’ victory in the Spanish Civil War in 1939 until he died in 1975.
As many as 200,000 political dissidents were executed by Franco’s militias and 400,000 others were held in jails and concentration camps. Many died of malnutrition.
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Now Spain’s ruling socialist party aims to exhume Franco’s corpse from its resting place near Madrid on June 10. Last July demonstrators making the straight-armed fascist salute gathered at his tomb to oppose the exhumation.
It hasn’t harmed Vox’s ratings. A recent opinion poll had the party as high as 14 per cent, meaning it could be a power broker at national level too.
Just as in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, France, Holland and Sweden, the far right in Spain is on the march.
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