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Spain’s Tourism Minister receives ‘bloodstained’ knife in the post

Spain's Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said Monday she had received a knife covered in red stains by post, just days after deaths threats and bullets were sent to other top leftist politicians in Spain.

Spain's Tourism Minister receives 'bloodstained' knife in the post
Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

The threats, which the left blames on the far-right, come amid deep political polarisation and during campaigning for a regional election in Madrid on May 4th which could have important ramifications for national politics.

“We can’t be intimidated. We are conscious that democracy will defeat hate,” Reyes Maroto told reporters outside parliament after filing a complaint with police over the letter.

She held up a photo of the knife covered in red stains. Police are investigating if the stains were blood or paint.

Maroto, a socialist, has served as minister of tourism and industry in Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s left-wing government since 2018.

She has campaigned intensely in support of the Socialist party’s candidate to head the regional government of Madrid ahead of next week’s polls.

Sanchez “strongly condemned” the threats in a tweet. “Enough! We are not going to let this pass. We are not going to accept that hatred disrupts coexistence in Spain,” he added.

Last week Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, the head of the Guardia Civil police force, Maria Gamez, and the leader of far-left party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, received threatening letters with bullet cartridges inside.

“Today it is me, but if the impunity and media whitewashing of the far-right continues, tomorrow it will be other colleagues,” Iglesias tweeted Thursday along with a photo of the handwritten letter which he received as well as four bullets.

Iglesias stepped down last month as a deputy prime minister in Sanchez’s coalition to run in the election as Podemos’ candidate to head the regional government of Madrid. The threats have shaken up the election campaign.

Iglesias on Friday walked out of a regional election debate on radio after the candidate for the far-right Vox part cast doubts on the death threats.

Sanchez on Sunday sought to rally leftists voters by warning that Vox was a “threat” to democracy.

Polls suggest the outgoing head of Madrid’s regional government, Isabel Diaz Ayuso of the conservative Popular Party, is poised to win the most seats but could need Vox support to govern.

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SPANISH LAW

EXPLAINED: What is Spain’s anti-trafficking law?

The Spanish government has passed a draft bill that seeks to beef up the fight against human trafficking and exploitation, addressing everything from prostitution to arranged marriages and organ trafficking.

EXPLAINED: What is Spain’s anti-trafficking law?

On November 29th, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved a draft law aimed at tackling human trafficking.

The law, known as la ley de trata (or anti-trafficking law) will bolster measures against sexual exploitation, forced and arranged marriages, slavery, forced labour, organ and tissue removal, and situations where vulnerable people are forced to engage in criminal activity.

Spain’s Justice Minister, Pilar Llop, said that the law will protect “people who suffer a lot in our country and also in other countries around the world,” strengthening the fight against trafficking mafias and organised crime groups to “break the business chain that is generated using human beings as commodities.”

The law will, among other things, create a national plan for the prevention of trafficking, protection and privacy protocols, a compensation fund for victims, social, health and financial support, and increase awareness of the problem at the educational level.

A particular focus of the legislation will be on minors, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees – groups thought to be most vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.

Prostitution in Spain

Many cases of human trafficking in Spain result in sexual exploitation, but there exists no single law that deals directly with prostitution in Spain. Prostitution was decriminalised in 1995, though its related activities, such as pimping, trafficking, and sexual exploitation are still illegal.

READ ALSO: What’s the law on prostitution in Spain?

Although the clandestine nature of the sex work makes accurate data hard to find, according to a 2011 UN report, Spain is the third biggest centre for prostitution in the world, behind only Thailand and Puerto Rico.

In 2016, UNAIDS estimated that over 70,000 prostitutes were working in Spain, but some estimates put that number as high 350,000.

It is believed that 80 percent of them are foreigners, with many reportedly coming from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Morocco and eastern Europe.

If the draft law is finally approved, its sexual exploitation clauses would include prison sentences of up to eight years for procurers such as pimps or madams.

Customers of prostitutes that have been forced to be sexual workers could also face fines and prison sentences of between six months and four years.

The Spanish government wants prostitution banned in its current form in Spain.

Forced labour

Clearly, the ley de trata will hope to combat some of the sexual exploitation of women in Spain, but the anti-trafficking legislation is more far-reaching than that and is also intended to tackle forced labour and slavery – two big but underreported problems in Spain.

According to the U.S State Department’s 2022 report on human trafficking in Spain, “labour trafficking is under-identified in Spain. Authorities report the pandemic increased worker vulnerabilities and contributed to the rise in labour trafficking in 2020 and 2021, especially in agriculture, domestic work, and cannabis cultivation in Catalonia.”

“In 2022, Ukrainian refugees, predominantly women and children fleeing Russia’s war against Ukraine, are vulnerable to trafficking. Labour traffickers continue to exploit men and women from Eastern Europe and South and East Asia, particularly Pakistan, in the textile, construction, industrial, beauty, elder care facilities, and retail sectors.”

It should be said, however, that the report also notes that “the government of Spain fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” and kept it in its Tier 1 of nations.

What does Spain’s anti-trafficking law include?

  • National Trafficking Plan

The law will create a protocol to coordinate the immediate referral of trafficked persons to specialised services, which will be overseen by a National Rapporteur on Trafficking and Exploitation of Human Beings run through Spain’s Interior Ministry, according to the Spanish government website.

The rapporteur will oversee anti-trafficking policy and represent Spain in the international arena, a role considered crucial as human trafficking is often a cross border, international problem.

  • Education

According to Article 7 of the law, efforts will also be made to improve educational awareness of the problems of trafficking and exploitation with a focus on human rights, sexual education, and democratic values.

  • Social, labour, and health support

A ‘Social and Labour Insertion Plan’ will be created for victims of trafficking and exploitation that provides social, health and employment support for victims.

This could include housing access, physical, psychological and sexual health support, employment opportunities, and financial assistance for victims and their family members.

  • Tightening labour market regulation

As trafficked and exploited people are so often brought in from abroad (and often dependent on the traffickers themselves for housing, food, money and so on) the regulation of migrant worker recruitment will be tightened through beefed up surveillance and labour standards.

  • Compensation fund

A compensation fund – the Fund for the Compensation of Victims of Trafficking and Exploitation (FIVTE) – will also be created, and will be taken from state budgets, as well as money or goods confiscated from convicted traffickers.

  • Protection and privacy

The anti-trafficking law will also provide protection services and maintain the victim’s right to privacy, protect their identity, access to free legal advice and even offer a living income.

According to Article 36 of the bill, victims trafficked from abroad will have the right to voluntary and assisted return to their country of origin. If they were brought illegally into Spain and don’t have official documentation, the Spanish government will issue them with the appropriate papers needed for travel as well as provide them with the option of residency.

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