Casado and Abascal take their battle to Latin America | Spain

The leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, meets with the president of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Martínez, at his official residence in Asunción, on December 9.
The leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, meets with the president of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Martínez, at his official residence in Asunción, on December 9.DAVID MUDARRA (PP) (Europa Press)

The battle for the hegemony of the right in Spain is also being fought outside the borders. The PP and Vox have opened a dispute over being the European benchmark of the right-wing in Latin America, a continent subjected to an accelerated process of political polarization in which moderate parties are being swept away by the rise of populist candidates. The president of Vox, Santiago Abascal, has counter-scheduled Casado’s Latin American tour with an unannounced trip to Brazil to meet this Friday with President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist. In Europe, the Vox leader is exploring alliances with ultra-conservative parties while the PP party tries to promote those of the center-right after the loss of influence from his political family due to the departure of Angela Merkel from the German Chancellery. The foreign policy of Casado and Abascal reveals an ideological fracture between two formations called to understand each other if the conservatives gain a majority after the next general elections, with the anti-European tendency of Vox as the main point of shock.

So that there is no doubt that Abascal’s trip to Brazil was aimed at mowing the grass under Casado’s feet, the statement in which Vox announced it included statements by Abascal in which he accused the president of the PP of wanting to “arrive to agreements, to form a Government with the partners of the São Paulo Forum and the Puebla Group in Spain, with whom they sit at the table of terrorists and drug addicts ”. He was referring, with this elaborate phrase, to Casado’s affirmation that he would be willing to form a coalition government with the PSOE without Pedro Sánchez if he wins the next elections. The São Paulo Forum and the Puebla Group are meeting spaces for the Latin American and Spanish left, the first of parties and the second of personalities, in which social democratic and communist political forces participate and from former Spanish president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to the Brazilian Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

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Vox has turned these two entities into its black beast and has launched an anti-communist alliance to stop the supposed advance of totalitarianism on the continent. The hitch pennant is the Madrid Charter, a manifesto in defense of liberal democracy that could be signed by the PP if it were not for Vox sponsoring it. It has already been endorsed by 150 international leaders and more than 10,000 people.

In parallel, Casado has launched his own initiative in similar terms, the Alliance for Freedom in Latin America, to defend “democracy, the rule of law, the market economy, the welfare state and security” on the continent. Abascal has invited the PP to sign his letter, but the popular ones disdain the invitation. “The PP has decades of history in Ibero-America, we are not newcomers, and it has its own initiatives that it presents in a serious and formal way to the presidents,” opposes Pablo Hispán, deputy foreign spokesman of the PP in Congress, who accompanies Married on his Latin American tour.

[21:20, 7/12/2021]  +34 616 37 53 05:
[21:20, 7/12/2021] +34 616 37 53 05: “press photo of the City Government. Married to Horacio Rodríguez Larreta at the Government headquarters. Buenos Aires, Argentina” H Rodríguez Larreta is head of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires

The leader of the PP is looking for an international projection in Latin America in relation to Vox. In Argentina, the first stage of his trip, Casado met with moderate sectors of the opposition, such as former President Mauricio Macri and the head of government of Buenos Aires, Horacio Larreta, and then had meetings with the presidents of Chile, Sebastián Piñera ; Uruguay, Luis Lacalle; and Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez. Casado has left out of his trip to Bolsonaro’s Brazil, with whom he has marked distances in an interview in the Argentine newspaper The nation. “I believe that our political alliance for Brazil is a more moderate alliance,” he said. On December 1, the PP leader spoke out against populism in a talk with Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum: “The vaccine against populism is not to disguise yourself as populists.”

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Casado is trying to give a boost to the center-right parties in the region, but beyond general reflections, he is tiptoeing through the confrontation with Latin American far-right populisms. In Chile, Casado has avoided ruling on the election between the Chilean extreme right-wing José Antonio Kast and the left-wing Gabriel Boric, who will compete for the Palacio de la Moneda. His advisor Pablo Hispán defends that the popular leader does not want to “interfere in internal matters”. Kast is an ally of Abascal who extends his network of influences in the region to the Argentine anarcoliberal economist Javier Milei, who won 17% of the votes in Buenos Aires last November, or the Peruvian Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the Peruvian dictator, who lost the presidential before Pedro Castillo. Even former Colombian president Andrés Pastrana, president of the Central Democratic International (IDC), of which Casado is vice president, has participated in events organized by Vox, to the surprise and disgust of the PP.

The popular leader has also marked distances with Vox in Santiago de Chile, with the examples of his different views on the State of Autonomies and the European project, but has admitted that the formation led by SantiagoAbascal has not “crossed the line” as, in his opinion, it has happened with “other right-wing populist parties.”

The problem for the PP is that the Republican Party of the United States with Donald Trump and Brazil with Bolsonaro have turned towards extreme right positions. The great ideological clash of 2022 will be the Brazilian presidential elections in October, in which the democratic right is not expected. However, the popular ones defend that the strength of the populist right in Latin America is “absolutely marginal,” says Hispán, since “they only have the Government of Brazil,” and something similar, he maintains, occurs in Europe, the other field of battle of alliances between popular and Vox. “The European PP is the first force in the European Parliament, it has the presidency of the European Commission and is one of the founding parties, while what we see is that there are anti-European forces that are marginal. Poland and Hungary are the only countries that rule. Their policies are not going to determine the future of the Union ”.

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But Merkel’s departure from the German Chancellery already held by the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz diminishes the influence of traditional European conservatives, who are in opposition in the main EU countries. The main conservative government is the Greek of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who Casado has made his European reference precisely due to the lack of prominent prime ministers from his political family. “The Spanish PP is one of the most important after Merkel’s departure, because in Italy and France they are in the doldrums, and in Spain at least they are the main opposition party. Merkel’s Europe has a lot of prestige in Spain, it is a card that Casado wants to play, while Abascal has leaned towards the eurosceptic right ”, analyzes Ignacio Molina, professor of Political Science at the UAM and researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute.

The president of Vox, Santiago Abascal, attends the summit in Warsaw together with the prime ministers of Poland and Hungary and other VOX leaders 12/04/2021
The president of Vox, Santiago Abascal, attends the summit in Warsaw together with the prime ministers of Poland and Hungary and other VOX leaders 12/04/2021VOX (Europa Press)

Vox has been moving towards more identity positions against deepening European integration. In January, Abascal will meet in Spain for a “summit of European patriots” with the ultra-conservative prime ministers of Poland and Hungary, who have an open crisis with the EU due to their authoritarian and homophobic policies and their challenge to the primacy of community law over the National. At the beginning of December, the group already saw each other’s faces in Warsaw, in a meeting in which the leader of Vox participated and in which the ultra-French Marine Le Pen was also present. “In the international issue, there is a clear fracture between PP and Vox that may cause problems for Casado in the future,” says Molina. “Vox is positioning itself against advancing in something as important for Spain as European integration.”

CIDOB researcher Carme Colomina perceives “a dispute over spaces, but they are increasingly confusing spaces. The lines between traditional and radical rights are increasingly blurred. In Europe, political agendas and arguments are copied ”, he defends. Casado himself has shown these contradictions on a trip in early December to Cyprus, where he proposed that States ensure their territorial integrity in the face of migratory pressure also with their Armed Forces. The proposal was fully part of the ultras’ offensive against immigration and had already been formulated by Vox.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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