The arrest on Feb. 16 of rapper Pablo Hasél by Catalan police in Spain triggered a wave of violent riots by extreme left-wing groups, causing widespread damage, particularly in Barcelona and Madrid, and leaving dozens of police officers injured.
The rapper’s arrest was in connection with the lyrics of his songs in which he openly praises extreme left-wing terrorist groups such as the First of October Anti-Fascist Resistance Groups (GRAPO), the Red Army Faction (RAF), and the former Catalan terrorist organization Terra Lliure. In the past, Hasél has also been arrested for his participation in violent actions against right-wing groups.
Among the troublemakers arrested on Wednesday, Feb. 17, a majority belong to ultra-left groups known to the Spanish police.
From the government coalition led by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, some among the far-left group Unidas Podemos — an alliance of the left-wing “populist” party Podemos and the communists of Izquierda Unida — have come out in support of the violent rioters. Pablo Echenique, spokesman for the Unidas Podemos group in the Congress of Deputies, expressed on Twitter his full support “to the young antifascists who are demanding justice and freedom of expression in the streets”.
At first, such support failed to draw any clear condemnation on the part of the Socialists and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez remained silent. Only the leaders of the centrist Ciudadanos party, the center-right Popular Party (PP) and the right-wing Vox party condemned Unidas Podemos’ attitude. Only on Friday did Spain’s prime minister, Sánchez, clearly condemn the violence and dissociate himself from Unidas Podemos.
This whole situation makes MEP Hermann Tertsch, from the liberal-conservative Vox party — sitting in the European Conservatives and Reformists group together with the Polish Law and Justice party (PiS) and the Italian Fratelli d’Italia party, say, “We see in Spain some absolutely unusual scenes in a democracy for Western Europe. We see brutal violence and assaults on the streets, violence that has been encouraged by the government. This had not been seen in Spain since the Republic, since the war, since a government that also included communists and socialists pursuing all those who did not think like them.”
The Spanish MEP was referring to the Popular Front government in 1936 and the left-wing violence that led to the Spanish Civil War which opened the way to Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, who ruled over Spain from 1939 to 1975.
Last week’s violence followed on the heels of the violence in the run-up to Sunday’s elections on Feb. 14 in the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia. These elections allowed Vox to enter the Barcelona parliament for the first time ever and to become the first right-wing opposition force in Catalonia, ahead of the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos.
“There is no political freedom in Catalonia,” Ignacio Garriga, candidate of the liberal-conservative Vox party for the presidency of Catalonia, had bitterly remarked after new violence committed by far-left and pro-independence activists during a campaign rally.
“Such violence is the result of constant finger-pointing from political platforms and the media. Some point fingers and others execute,” he added.
This was after an event held on Feb. 6 in Vic. Vox supporters were greeted with eggs, firecrackers and stones by several hundred pro-independence and left-wing activists. Several Vox supporters were injured and Vox’s van was seriously damaged.
According to Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal, members of both Pedro Sánchez’s government and the Catalan pro-independence government are encouraging the violence and many opposition politicians remain silent, although Pablo Casado, the leader of the Popular Party, did issue a strong condemnation of the attacks.
Casado took that opportunity to recall that the PP had also suffered in the past from this type of aggression in Catalonia, but today the preferred target of Catalan pro-independence and far-left militants is Vox. Since the governments of Mariano Rajoy that preceded those of Pedro Sánchez, the PP is not really a conservative party anymore and is therefore better tolerated by the Spanish left and extreme left.
Unfortunately, the violence in Vic, in the province of Barcelona, was not an isolated incident. Vox criticized those in charge of the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police, for doing nothing to protect its campaign, allowing violent opponents to gather nearby. The region is ruled by pro-independence political leaders who strongly despise Vox.
Only on Feb. 11, the Electoral Commission responsible for supervising the campaign, called on the Catalan authorities to take the necessary steps to prevent such violence and to identify the perpetrators. On the same day, Abascal and his supporters saw their campaign meeting once again disrupted by shouts and threats from activists who were allowed to stand within stone-throwing distance in Tortosa, Tarragona province.
Vox also had its account blocked by Twitter during the election campaign, unlike the Unidas Podemos spokesman, whose account continued to function smoothly several days after his enthusiastic support for the “anti-fascist” rioters on Feb. 17.
In 2018, after regional elections that allowed Vox to enter the Andalusian parliament, the leader of Podemos Pablo Iglesias called on Spaniards to mobilize in the streets to “curb the far right” and he said he was “proud of those who don’t want the fascists to come back.” Iglesias is now Deputy Prime Minister in the Sánchez government.
During the last national parliamentary elections in 2019, Sánchez made the demonization of Vox the central axis of his strategy to denounce agreements passed by PP and Ciudadanos coalition governments at the local level to get the necessary support of Abascal’s party in regional parliaments. The Deputy Secretary-General, and therefore number two, of Sánchez’ PSOE, Adriana Lastra, even shouted at a campaign meeting in Gijón, Asturias, referring to Vox: “We can call them far right. We can call them extreme right. Do you know what they are? Fascists! They’re fascists! … May fascism return to its cave, from which it should never have come out!”