Spain’s far-right Vox rallies thousands in central Madrid

Thousands of people joined a rally called by Spain's Vox in Madrid on Saturday, with leader Santiago Abascal telling the crowds only his far-right faction could handle the Catalan crisis.

Spain's far-right Vox rallies thousands in central Madrid
Vox supporters at Plaza de Colon in Madrid on October 26th. Photo: AFP

Shouting “Viva España”, they turned the city's Columbus Square into a sea of red-and-yellow, as the crowds waved thousands of Spanish flags, cheering and chanting, among them many youngsters and families with children.

Addressing the crowds, Abascal took aim at the ruling Socialists, largely focusing on the crisis in Catalonia, which has been gripped by violent protests after the Supreme Court jailed nine separatist leaders over a failed independence bid.

“Faced with the betrayals of the Socialists, there is only Vox, and faced with criminal separatism, there is only Vox!” he roared, after also denouncing the conservative opposition People's Party (PP) as “useless” and the centre-right Ciudadanos as “opportunists”.

Vox has taken a very tough line on Catalan separatism and wants all regional pro-independence parties banned, with its message appealing to those who want to see Spain's territorial integrity protected.

Scores of activists also helped unfurl a vast Spanish flag, reportedly measuring 50 metres by 20 metres, which they marched into the packed square at a rally whose slogan was: “in defence of the unity of Spain”.

Practically unknown last year, Vox in April became the first far-right political force to enter the parliament since Spain returned to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Known for its anti-immigrant stance, the party won 24 of the parliament's 350 seats in the election.

But the country has been mired in a drawn-out political crisis and will once again return to the ballot box on November 10th for its fourth election in as many years.

The ruling Socialists are expected to win the vote but once again fall short of a majority, with recent polls suggesting Vox would increase its seat share to become the third party in parliament.

READ ALSO: 350,000 protesters flood Barcelona for separatist 'freedom' rally

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Madrid police end escaped camels’ night on the town

Eight camels and a llama took to the streets of Madrid overnight after escaping from a nearby circus, Spanish police said on Friday.

A camel in a zoo
A file photo of a camel in a zoo. Photo: ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP

It was not immediately clear how the long-legged runaways managed to get out but Quiros Circus, which owns them, blamed sabotage by animal rights activists.

They were spotted at around 5:00 am wandering around the southern district of Carabranchel close to where the circus is currently based.

“Various camels and a llama escaped from a circus in Madrid overnight,” Spain’s national police wrote on Twitter, sharing images of eight two-humped camels and a llama hanging around a street corner.

“Police found them and took care of them so they could be taken back safe and sound,” they tweeted.

There was no word on whether the rogue revellers, who are known for spitting, put up any resistance when the police moved in to detain them.

Mati Munoz, one of the circus’ managers, expressed relief the furry fugitives — Bactrian camels who have two humps and thick shaggy coats – had been safely caught.

“Nothing happened, thank God,” he told AFP, saying the circus had filed a complaint after discovering the electric fence around the animals’ enclosure had been cut.

“We think (their escape) was due to an act of sabotage by animal rights groups who protest every year.”

Bactrian camels (camelus bactrianus) come from the rocky deserts of central and eastern Asia and have an extraordinary ability to survive in extreme conditions.

These days, the vast majority of them are domesticated.