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Spain's Salvini, Pablo Casado. Wikipedia

Spain’s new Matteo Salvini?

The new Italian government, under the leadership of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, has managed to stop the flood of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Italy. But now Spain is struggling. Who will lead Spain out of the quagmire?

Published: September 8, 2018, 4:54 pm

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    Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s conservative opponent, Pablo Casado, favors a tougher immigration policy.

    In July, weeks before the Ceuta fence attack by Africans, the Sunday Times reported that Spain’s new conservative leader “has been compared to Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, because of his comments on immigration”.

    The migrant entry point Ceuta, is a peninsula on Morocco’s coast. Morocco does not seem keen to control its borders, similarly to Mexico refusing to stop thousands of Central Americans entering the US.

    In Ceuta, aggressive Africans are storming the barrier to gain entry into the EU. Those scenes in the media have however directly affected Spanish politics. When El País, Spain’s most-read newspaper, published a 15-photo essay showing the “Subsaharianos” jumping the fence, many Spaniards suddenly woke up to the problem.

    In July 2018 Consuelo Rumi, the Spanish Secretary of State for Migrations, compared Casado to Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini because he is so critical of Spain’s immigration policy.

    “The PP is not going to allow attacks against our police officers,” Casado declared, in reference to the most recent violent border crossing of hundreds of migrants into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. “We are going to support the police and Civil Guard unashamedly and undividedly.”

    An English-language article in El País on Casado in July,  suggested that the recently-elected leader of Spain’s Popular Party (PP), Casado, had promised to “defend the borders” against the “millions” of undocumented migrants who want to enter Spain.

    “It isn’t possible to give legal papers to everyone, nor is it for Spain to absorb the millions of Africans who come looking for a better future in Europe,” Casado explained. “And because it’s not possible, we have to say so, even if it is politically incorrect.”

    Casado accused Sanchez of the Socialist (PSOE) party of aiding the flood of illegals, arguing that his policy incites more migrants to make the dangerous journey and supports criminal organisations.

    “While Sanchez was in Valencia welcoming a boat, 1 500 migrants were arriving in Almería and Algeciras,” Casado recently noted. “A million migrants are waiting on the coast of Libya planning a new route through Spain.”

    Spain recently welcomed two migrant ships that had been turned away by Italy, while also announcing new legislation to allow undocumented migrants to have full access to the public healthcare system from day one.

    If Casado had his way, Spain could become a bulwark for the defense of Europe and join Italy in protecting the Mediterranean coast.

    On July 18, Spain’s ABC reported on the growing crisis.  “Of all Europe, Spain has become the principal entrance point for immigration by sea”. Reuters reported in July how the illegals landed on the beach, abandoned their boat, and hurried inland only to disappear.

    More than 30 illegal migrants, mostly young males, had landed on a beach near Tarifa after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, arriving from Morocco, now a key route for migrants.

    Casado has riled against “gender ideology”, which he described as a form of “social collectivism the centre-right must fight against”.

    His enemies have accused Casado of being a “flag-waving nationalist” waging “a war on feminism” to reinvigorate conservatives.

    Just thirty-seven years old, Casado has become the youngest leader of any of the big parties in Spain. He was already well-known as a TV spokesperson for his party and has had a long political career. He was chief of the Partido Popular’s youth section in Madrid, director of former Prime Minister Aznar’s office, and cofounder of the Zionist “Friends of Israel Initiative” think tank.

    Casado explained in a recent interview that if traditional conservative parties are unable to renew, new leaders or outsider movements would emerge to represent the citizens who feel forgotten. To illustrate this point, he invoked the example of Donald Trump in the United States.

    The young politician also appeals to “the Real Spain” – those voters who filled their balconies with Spanish flags at the height of the Catalan crisis in 2017. He has proposed the criminalisation of the debate on Catalan independence.

    At the same time, Casado has tried to steer clear of the movement calling for historical memory of the Francoist movement.

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