WE’RE not saying that left-wing politicians in Spain never lie, just their lies tended to be less satisfying to unpick.
Lefty lies in 2021 were far more depressing – like Alberto Garzon’s (Izquierda Unida) lie that Spanish pork was ‘bad quality’ – than the likes of Vox’s leader who accidentally called his own nasty supporter a ‘radical lefty’.
When the left slip up they are over-sensitive and nitpicking; when the right slip up it’s sensational, hilarious and usually dangerous.
Here are 12 gems from 2021 where fact-checkers caught Spain’s right-wing politicians plucking facts from the tree of lies.
1. The attack on Podemos’ office in Cartagena
One of 2021’s biggest stories was the molotov attack on left-wing progressive Podemos party’s office in Cartagena, in Murcia.
The April attack saw graffiti like ‘No to state terrorism’ scrawled in black paint across the office windows, while internal cameras filmed a fire that damaged furniture.
According to many top-flight politicians from Vox, centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) and Spain’s Partido Popular (People’s Party) the attack was little more than an April Fools’ prank.
“The attack on the Podemos office in Cartagena is a pathetic set-up,” wrote former Ciudadanos councillor JuanFran Escudero on Twitter.
“Is it just me or do three objects just suddenly appear on the table in the video?” wrote Ismael Sirio Lopez, in charge of the Popular Party’s online communications.
“Leave the curtains open all night, there might just be a fascist attack to record,” retweeted Vox MP Manuel Mariscal Zabala.
(You can see the objects appear after the molotov attack in the video below. If you see the objects, it doesn’t mean you’re a fascist; it means you’ve just seen a molotov attack.)
In the end, Cartagena police arrested a young neo-nazi who lived round the corner.
After the young man assaulted an agent during the arrest, police found Nazi-era knives, weapons and fascist literature at his residence.
Efforts to discredit attacks on Podemos were common in 2021 especially after Pablo Iglesias received a letter with bullets in March.
2. Summer vaccination claims
Vox MP Macarena Olona took aim at Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez over claims the government would vaccinate 70% of the population by the end of August.
“Before the summer, 70% of the population will be vaccinated. [Pedro Sanchez] lied. What did you expect?” she wrote.
Yet anyone with a pair of eyes will notice the Tweet from Sanchez’s PSOE party (which Olona even attached to her claims) says ‘in August’.
Anyone with at least a partial covering of skin will know that August comes, in fact, at the end of summer – not before it.
Another PSOE tweet just two days before Macarena’s says: “We will have 70% of the population vaccinated before the end of summer.”
If there ever was a pot-calling-the-kettle-black moment in Spanish politics in 2021, this was it.
(Oh, and by the way, Spain did hit the 70% vaccination bang on September 1.)
3. Boy kicks Guardia Civil in the backside
One of 2021’s top videos – if only for involving a kick to the backside – was unnecessarily sent viral by Vox leader Santiago Abascal’s sensational claims back in April.
Alongside three screenshots (showing the run up, cocking of a right foot, and outstretched foot in the backside of a Guardia Civil) Abascal linked the attack to both Podemos and murdering Basque terrorists in one sentence.
“The brave bulldogs of Pablo Iglesias, attacking from behind just like their friends from herriko tabernas [a Basque bar frequented by terrorist sympathisers] shot people in the back of the head,” he tweeted.
“They’re a danger.”
If your first thought is: I want to see the full video – don’t worry, it’s in the video under the tweet below.
But hopefully your second thought is: I’d like to laugh at Abascal cocking this up now please.
All in good time.
First a little background: the events took place after Abascal suspended his speech at Navalcarnero in Madrid claiming the police had failed to break up protesters throwing objects at him.
Reportedly Abascal’s words were for his supports to ‘defend themselves’ if the police wouldn’t oblige.
Which is exactly what one of his supporters – the 17-year-old boy in question – did.
An hour-long video of the entire Vox meeting in fact captures the blue-jumpered boy watching the whole thing and trying to take a selfie with Abascal three times.
The boy’s own father later told media that Abascal was ‘manipulating information’.
“It helps Vox to publish images of my son saying he’s from the radical left and it was these people who ruined his meeting,” he said.
“My son admired Abascal, and though he tried to take a selfie at Navalcarnero with Abascal, now he has doubts about Vox.”
On this occasion, the only true kick in the backside was Abascal to his own party.
4. Is youth unemployment really that bad?
Ivan Espinosa, Vox’s spokesperson in Congress, claimed back in October how both youth unemployment and total unemployment in Spain were at the ‘highest levels’ in history.
He lumped furloughed workers on the Spanish ERTE scheme in with the ‘high levels of unemployment’ which at best is a lie and at worst an insult to thousands of people not working because their place of work was closed.
“It’s odd the unions aren’t taking to the streets, no?” he said.
No, Ivan, no it’s not odd at all.
Youth unemployment is high in Spain and was at 38.36% when Espinosa made his claims, but a lot lower than the whopping 56.92% unemployment rate among 15 to 25-year-olds during Mariano Rajoy’s governance in 2013.
You don’t need a maths degree to recognise 3.6 million is lower than the 6.28 million unemployed people following the crisis in 2013.
You barely needed a calculator, Ivan.
5. The Moroccans are all ‘criminals’ – not us
Vox saw its Twitter account suspended for a few days in 2021 after claiming that North African immigrants made up 0.2% of the population but ‘93%’ of crimes.
During a screening of Spanish current affairs programme La Noche en 24 Horas the secretary general of Vox – Javier Ortega Smith – defended the figures and denounced the social media outage.
Soon after the TVE presenter Diego Losada presented things called facts from Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE).
According to most recent statistics 75% of prisoners in Spain are Spanish, which rises to 77.3% for young offenders.
Statistics from Catalunya’s regional police force showed that Spanish citizens committed 41% of crimes while Moroccans were responsible for just 16%.
6. Immigrants force school closures in the Canary Islands
Javier Ortega Smith struck again in 2021 tweeting the Canarian government in El Lasso, on Gran Canaria, was ‘closing schools to make room for illegal immigrants’.
According to the Tweet, Canarian residents were ‘standing up’ and saying ‘enough is enough’.
Canarian residents might well have been doing so, but not for the same reasons as Ortega Smith.
In truth the Colegio de Leon de las Palmas de Gran Canarias had been closed since 2018 following damage from a storm, and all the students had been found places elsewhere.
It wasn’t until October of 2020 that Spain’s Minister for Migration Jose Luis Escriba visited the abandoned installations and decided to rehouse undocumented migrants there.
In the below video, Ortega Smith also gets in a few words about migrants ‘going out to take drugs’ and ‘commit crimes’.
However, figures show that during October and November of 2020 – when migrant numbers were at their highest – crime fell up to 3%.
In December 2020, just 3 months before Ortega Smith’s visit, it fell a further 18.8%.
7. The foreigners will steal your grandma’s house!
At the end of August 2021, Spanish media blew up with the story of 89-year-old Carmen Franquelo who’d been kicked out of her own home by a Moroccan immigrant and squatter.
Not only that, Loubna was reported to have been Carmen’s own carer.
“A 90-year-old woman has her house squatted during a hospital visit,” read a Tweet from Vox.
“It’s intolerable that Spaniards are imprisoned for defending their homes and protection given to those who violate property.
“We won’t stop until Spain is the last place a criminal would think of coming to.”
Spain’s best known anti-squatter group of vigilantes called Desokupa later joined the likes of Vox in a high-profile campaign that pulled the heart strings and demanded Loubna leave immediately.
A great tale – except for the minor detail it was completely untrue.
For starters, the supposed carer was actually a Moroccan student of Hispanic Philology who was also working from home for a multinational and had rented a room for €400 a month.
Carmen did not own the central Madrid apartment they shared, but enjoyed an older rental price of €121.5 under strict conditions she did not sublet a room in the property.
Carmen, however, was making a little income while residing elsewhere with her brother, Theodoro.
Carmen’s landlord discovered the ruse during a surprise visit and sent a legal letter to Carmen declaring the unilateral annulment of the contract.
After the family tried to kick Loubna out and retain control of the apartment (Loubna plead she was looking but could not leave immediately) they called the police and fabricated a story of nasty foreign-squatter-stealing-poor-elderly-woman’s-house.
The not-so-subtle themes of xenophobia fell happily into the rightwing’s hands.
8. The foreigners will steal your grandma’s money too!
One of the most controversial campaign posters of 2021 went up in a Madrid metro station, loosely claiming that unaccompanied foreign minors were making €4,700 a month while your poor grandma was getting just €426 on her pension.
The mural was used by Vox in Madrid an election campaign that included policies such as xenophobia towards this tiny group of the population known as MENA in Spanish.
When we say tiny, we mean really tiny: there are only 269 in the entire population of Madrid (6,642,000).
Furthermore, according to fact-checkers Maldita.es, the MENA in Madrid do not receive financial benefits except for temporary allowances of max. €16 per week at certain centres.
Madrid’s department that manages the care of unaccompanied and undocumented minors did spend €96 million in 2020, but this was for the maintenance and operation of centres dedicated to the care of 1,903 children.
The figures work out to roughly €4,208 per child (still not €4,700) however foreign children only make up 7.25% of these children with the majority being Spanish.
The case became notorious in Spain in 2021 after the PSOE party took the existence of the mural to court.
The judge threw it out, however, claiming freedom of speech.
The wording of the poster sneakily doesn’t actually say anything except ‘undocumented minor: €4,700 euros a month’ and ‘your grandma: €426 a month’.