THE Vox candidate for Castilla y Leon, Juan Garcia Gallardo stands mask-free on the podium in the regional capital’s Plaza de la Universidad.
He is 30 years old and has been in the news for deleting tweets about ‘queers’ in football and how women have the easy life, or words to that effect.
Alongside him stands party leader Santiago Abascal, who’s here at the mid-January rally to kick off its regional election campaign.
He’s on his usual sparkling form, bellowing out statements and generally rebel rousing.
In particular, he insists the only time Covid was out of the headlines was when they were focussing on his candidate Garcia’s tweets.
And he’s anything but done. He adds that the pandemic has been used, plain and simple, as a device to mask Spain’s real problems, which include immigration and the rights of young people over those from the LGBTQ lobby.
And then there’s the soaring energy prices, the elitist sustainable development Agenda 30, driven, he says, by China, as well as, let’s not forget, the recent government attack on the livestock industry.
There is a long list of beefs, not only with the PSOE government and its radical left wing partners, but also with the conservative PP party, who Abascal claims are socialists in disguise.
The crowd is stoked. There are around 1,000 people cheering and chanting (5,000, according to Vox) in this, Europe’s largest region and one of its least populated.
Vox has gained ground in Castilla y Leon since 2019. From one seat, they are now predicted to get as many as ten MPs in the regional parliament in elections next month.
The mid-January polls put the party on an alarming 20.5%, up from 10.3% in the November 2019 general elections.
If they do well in Castilla y Leon and, later this year, in Andalucian elections, they will not only occupy key regional positions of power, but will also have a chance of entering government after the general elections next year.
As a party – which counts 76% of its voters as men – it primarily wants lower taxes, a pared down welfare state and donation-only funding for political parties.
What do their voters think? The Olive Press spoke to a couple.
The first, Alejandro, who prefers not to use his full name, is keen to see a change in the political system.
“For starters, the politicians in Vox all had jobs before getting into politics, or assets or inheritances at least,” he says.
“They don’t need the money and want to eliminate the public funding of parties. We’re talking about millions in taxes.”
He is also a keen pro-lifer, like Vox, which believes that women have no rights over the life inside them.
“It’s not about the woman’s body,” he continues. “The fetus doesn’t belong to them. It’s another life and abortion is never okay.”
And even in rape cases he believes it is wrong. “When you talk to women who have been raped and have the kid, they are usually happy with that child. That speaks to the power of life,” he insists.
Sonia Organista meanwhile, is one of the rare female supporters of the party, having previously been a PP voter.
The PP today is ‘too soft’ for her and she supports Vox’ plans to abolish the gender violence laws.
Above all, she likes the party’s stance on illegal immigration, which reached 41,945 people in Spain in 2021.
She believes Spain is facing a Muslim cultural takeover. “I can’t say Happy Christmas anymore. I have to say Happy Holidays. But the Muslims can still say hala-hala-hala,” she tells The Olive Press, referring to the recent European Commission’s internal guidelines for staff.
She claims she’s even seen newly-arrived illegal immigrants with mobile phones costing €700, then refusing to eat the macaroni they were offered by rescue workers and singing ‘Spain is crap’ while Red Cross volunteers danced around them.
“I saw it on the TV,” she insists. “Not your TV. This isn’t shown on Spanish TV. We have to put up with these kinds of things and many people are fed up.”
When we drill it down she confirms she watched it on EDATV, an uncensored TV platform used by Vox.
This sort of propaganda and a series of ‘bulo’s’ or fake news stories are only further accentuating the truth and spreading lies.
Despite this, Abascal is unrepentant and in full denial at this month’s rally.
“We are the party of truth and dignity,” he cries at the Valladolid meeting.
But where does the truth lie?
The right accuse the left of ‘an ideological dictatorship’ and of being fascists while the left accuse the right of the exact same thing.
It’s not the first time Spain’s politics have been this polarised, but it may be the first time that the right is, ironically using the term ‘Nazi’ to vilify their political opponent.
The worry is the divides are growing and the far right is on the march, and, let’s not forget that Trump made it into the White House and Brexit happened amid all this migrant furore.
So will Vox really have a shot at parliament?
As extreme right specialist and historian Xavier Casals told the Olive Press this week: “My only forecast in politics is that you can’t make a forecast.”