‘Colony of parasites’: Gibraltar files complaint against Spain’s far-right Vox party

Gibraltar's government on Wednesday launched a criminal complaint against four leaders of the Spanish far-right party Vox, accusing them of "inciting hatred" against the tiny British territory and its people.

'Colony of parasites': Gibraltar files complaint against Spain's far-right Vox party
Photo: AFP

The complaint filed with prosecutors in Madrid targets top Vox officials including leader Santiago Abascal and general secretary Javier Ortega Smith.   

In 2016, Smith was part of a group of Vox activists who spread a large Spanish flag on Gibraltar's famous cliff-faced mountain before swimming back to Spanish territory to escape arrest.

Vox became the third-largest party in Spain's parliament in a repeat general election last month, with its election manifesto calling for Madrid to intensify diplomatic efforts to return Gibraltar to Spain.

Statements made by Vox leaders including on social media had revealed “a clear strategy of disparaging the Gibraltarians and our institutions in a manner which seems clearly designed to create an atmosphere of hatred among Spaniards towards Gibraltarians,” the government of Gibraltar said.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said the remarks ranged from descriptions of Gibraltar as “a leech” or “a parasite”, to unfounded accusations that Spanish workers were being “held hostage” or that the territory was a den of “money launderers” and “criminals”.

“It is the language used in the 1930s against the Jews,” he told Gibraltar's parliament on Wednesday.

“We are not going to allow this to happen without being challenged.”   

The government of Gibraltar said it had also asked Spanish prosecutors to investigate an online group called “Gibraltar: Espanol”, which it described as an “echo chamber for the anti-Gibraltarian propaganda of Vox.”

It said it would also raise its concerns with the social media platforms that host the “puerile content of this group”.

'Colony of parasites'

Spain has a long-standing claim on Gibraltar, a tiny 2.6 square mile (6.8 square kilometre) rocky outcrop on the country's southern tip that was ceded to Britain in 1713. It is home to about 30,000 people.

The nationalistic, anti-Muslim and staunchly pro-Spanish unity Vox party won 52 seats in Spain's 350-seat parliament in the November 10th polls, up from 24 at its debut in April.

In a tweet sent from Vox's official Twitter account on December 14th, the party branded Gibraltar a “nest of drug trafficking, smuggling, and home to all kinds of beach bars and fronts to launder money”.

“We must end that colony of parasites. We will never give up what belongs to us,” it added.

Agustin Rosety Fernandez de Castro, a Vox MP from the southern province of Cadiz which borders Gibraltar and one of the four party leaders targeted by the criminal complaint, said Picardo “does not like the truths we tell about Gibraltar”.

“He accuses us of hate. It is not hate, it is the denunciation of the damage that the colony of Gibraltar does to our province and to our country. You're not going to shut us up, we're not afraid,” the retired general added in a tweet.

Fernandez de Castro was one of roughly 200 high-ranking, retired army officials who signed a manifesto published in July 2018 demanding respect for Spain's late dictator Francisco Franco, who in 1969 closed Gibraltar's border with Spain.

The border was only fully reopened in 1985, a decade after Franco's death.

READ MORE: Vox: the meteroric rise of Spain's far right party

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Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws

Gibraltar heads to the polls on Thursday to vote on plans to ease abortion laws which currently carry possible life sentences for offenders, in a referendum delayed for over a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws
A woman wears a t-shirt reading " Gibraltar for Yes!" outside a polling station in Gibraltar, on June 24, 2021. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

The issue has exposed sharply opposing views within this tiny, normally closely-knit British enclave at the southernmost tip of Spain, which is home to some 32,000 people.

The referendum was initially slated for March 19 2020 but a week ahead of the vote it was postponed as virus cases began spiralling at the start of the pandemic.Except in cases where it would save the mother’s life, abortion is currently banned in Gibraltar on pain of life imprisonment, although such a penalty has not been applied in modern times.

The government is proposing changes to the law to allow abortion where a woman’s mental or physical health is at risk — such as in cases of rape or incest — or when foetuses have fatal physical defects.

Although the changes have already been approved by Gibraltar’s parliament, the referendum will decide whether or not that amended law be brought into force.

Under the changes, a woman would be able to undergo an abortion up to 12 weeks into her pregnancy if her mental or physical health is deemed at risk, or beyond if such damage would be grave and permanent.

There would be no time limit on cases involving fatal foetal anomaly.

Until now, women wanting to have an abortion have had to travel to Spain or to Britain to undergo the procedure.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo and his wife Justine Olivero leave a polling station after casting their ballots. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP

– ‘In Gibraltar’s best interests’ –

Ahead of the vote, both sides have been campaigning hard, with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and two other party leaders releasing a video urging people to vote “Yes” to the proposed amendment to the crimes act that will regulate abortions in Gibraltar.

“My personal, professional & political opinion on the abortion referendum: it is in #Gibraltar’s best interests to #VoteYes on Thursday 24th June,” Picardo tweeted.

“No” campaigners have also been rallying support with hundreds of people dressed in pink and purple joining a pro-life “Save Babies, vote no” march through the city centre last week, chanting “We vote no!”

On the ballot, voters will be asked: “Should the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019, that defines the circumstances which would allow abortion in Gibraltar, come into force?”

If the changes are approved, the law is expected to take effect fairly quickly although officials have not yet laid out a timeline.

The proposed changes came after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, which at the time were almost identical to Gibraltar’s, were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is therefore clear that if the equivalent law on abortion in Northern Ireland was in breach of the Convention, our identical, archaic law is too,” wrote Picardo in an op-ed in Wednesday’s Gibraltar Chronicle.

“It is our duty to vote to stop this ongoing breach.”

Picardo has said he believed the changes were long overdue and that the plans would be approved “by a very large majority”.