Latin American Socialism Comes Home To Roost in Spain
In the 1960s, Spain sent a curious new export to its former colonies in Latin America: communist priests who took up arms against national governments. Take the case of Manuel Pérez Martínez (1943–1998), a Spanish cleric who arrived in Colombia in the late ’60s, where he joined and eventually led the National Liberation Army, an extant Marxist-Leninist guerrilla outfit founded in 1964 under Fidel Castro’s auspices.
In recent decades, Latin America returned the favor by exporting to the mother country its own collectivist concoction, 21st century socialism, albeit with considerably more success. While the peninsular clerics of yesteryear floundered in their attempt to impose communism on skeptical New World nations, Hugo Chávez’s brand of “neo-Bolivarian” politics has made deep inroads in Spain, to the extent that its adherents are now co-governing the country.
In the November 2019 general election, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) won the largest share of the vote (28.25 percent) but lacked the number of parliamentary seats necessary to form a government. Its leader, Pedro Sánchez, who had led a minority government since June 2018, had to rely on the tacit support of Catalan separatists in order to form a coalition with Podemos (“We Can”), a party well to the left of the socialists created in 2012 whose leadership has been deeply involved with Venezuelan Chavismo.
According to the Spanish daily newspaper El País, the Center for Political and Social Studies Foundation (CEPS, its acronym in Spanish), a now-defunct think tank tied to Podemos politicians that promoted “wealth redistribution,” received €3.7 million ($4,543,000) in political consulting fees from the Venezuelan regime between 2002 and 2014. Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, who was on the CEPS governing board, worked for the organization from Caracas in 2006 and 2007, when Chávez was at the height of his power.
“Living in a country like this is very interesting,” Iglesias once pontificated. Venezuela “is producing so many changes and undergoing such a great transformation that it can become a democratic example for the citizens of southern Europe.” He even went as far as suggesting that it was “fundamental” for a Chávez-led Latin America “to invade Europe.” Iglesias tried to distance himself from Chavismo as Venezuela reached 10,000 percent annual inflation levels and 4.6 million of its citizens sought refuge in neighboring countries. Then, in January 2020, he became Spain’s second deputy prime minister—a type of vice president—and the minister of social rights.
The PSOE-Podemos coalition is not only Spain’s most left-wing government since the country restored democracy after dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975; currently, it’s also the most leftist government in the entire European Union (E.U.). As you would expect, this has brought about a barrage of progressive pet projects; in a taste of things to come, Iglesias’ party added the feminine adjective unidas or united to its name after merging with the Izquierda Unida (“United Left”) coalition in 2019. Once in office, one of the government’s priorities has been to rewrite the Spanish constitution with “inclusive language.”
The rule of hard-line Spanish progressives has also meant a torrent of debt, public spending, and tax increases. In the midst of the pandemic, which hit Spain particularly hard given its reliance on tourism and small businesses, debt levels climbed to a record €1.29 trillion ($1.53 trillion) in August, a figure that exceeded 100 percent of GDP. In October, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that Spain’s public deficit would be an enormous 14.1 percent of GDP in 2020, its highest in recent history (although not quite as high as the 15.2 percent deficit in the United States.) The government’s budget for 2021 also includes record levels of spending after the executive raised the ceiling on non-financial e
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