Vox's Public Policy
Spain's Extreme Right first months in regional and municipal governments
- MAGO / ZUMA Wire
After the extreme right-wing party Vox entered the regional government of Castilla y León alongside the conservative Partido Popular (PP) in April 2022, the party gained more representation in the local and regional elections of 28 May 2023, allowing the PP-VOX coalition to be replicated in other autonomous communities previously run by progressive coalition governments. This has been the case in Extremadura, Aragon, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. Vox also entered the government of Murcia, until that time governed solely by the PP. Are the Spanish regional governments becoming laboratories for far-right public policies?
Vox has based a large part of its political campaign on the cultural battle against advances in women's and LGBTQ+ rights, criticising gender equality policies, denying both male violence against women and climate change. This has meant that the conditions put forward by Vox in order to formalize these new coalition governments with the PP, include the demand of concessions on these issues. The PP allowed Vox access to positions enabling them to make decisions in these areas, such as in culture or justice ministries. Likewise in agriculture: another of Vox's main targets during the campaign has been its support for rural communities, although they were confronted by farmers’s complaints for having ignored their written request to add the legally permitted amount of "complementary" regional aid to the state aid given for the drought and the war in Ukraine.
Against the backdrop of this rise of political influence of the far right, the association Jueces Para la Democracia (Judges for Democracy) described the fact that ultra-right-wingers have gained access to the Justice and Security departments as worrying, as they fear for the future of the special Courts addressing Violence against Women – institutions that Vox is aiming to eliminate.
A clear turn to the Extreme Right
The measures taken by Vox and the PP since forming coalition governments are clearly aimed at dismantling progressive policies and laws. Vox is keen to make the PP comply with its demands to repeal the laws on gender violence, eliminate the Courts for Violence against Women, the Ministry and the Departments for Equality, as well as the Ley de Memoria Democrática (the Democratic Memory Law).
As part of its push against pluralistic language policies in the Valencian Country and the Balearic Islands, Vox has started a cultural battle against Catalan despite its status as a co-official language in both territories.
Denial of sexist male violence against women
Along with the elimination of the Ministry for Gender Equality, Vox advocates the ban of the term 'machista' and suggests to frame feminicides as 'family violence' - one of Vox’s many political warhorses in its bid to deny the structural character of sexualized violence, reducing it to the sphere of ‘domestic disputes’.
PP and Vox have eliminated the Department for Equality in the main city councils where they have entered in coalition, such as Valladolid, Burgos (where it has been replaced by the Vox-run Family Department) and Toledo, as well as in cities such as Elx, Orihuela and Talavera de la Reina.
The pact between PP and Vox to allow the PP to take the presidency of Extremadura also entailed the elimination of the Department of Equality, creating the General Secretariat of Equality and Conciliation, attached to the Presidency. Numerous organisations working on equality policies have reacted by expressing their concern about the setback this signifies. La Plataforma 8M de Toledo (Toledo’s Platform for International Women’s Day), for example, expressed its concern, pointing out that the future of the Casa de Acogida Shelter and the School for Equality is still up in the air. They warn that the accomplishment of getting Toledo City Council to allocate 1 per cent of its budget to equality policies "will be lost". In Murcia, feminist groups complain that after the PP-Vox agreement, one of the first steps taken has been to remove all the municipal information about the Specialised Care Centre for Women Victims of Violence (CAVI), including emergency telephone numbers, workshops, associations, steps to follow in case of physical or psychological aggression.
Other measures adopted by PP and Vox in Mallorca include the elimination of the island’s offices of Equality and Linguistic Policy.
In September, PP and Vox also agreed to remove the term "sexist violence" from rallies against gender violence murders in the Valencian Courts, replacing "no to sexist violence" with "no to violence against women". Party members have boycotted the minutes of silence in homage to murdered women on several occasions, either by moving away from the banner as in the case of Alzira and in Les Corts, or as they did in Alcoi, by raising their own banners with slogans such as "Violence has no gender".
A cultural crusade against LGBTQ+ Flags
Vox announced that it wants to ban LGBTQ+ symbols from all local and regional administrations, not only in the city councils where it governs but also in other municipalities, such as in La Zubia (Granada), where it has criticised the mayor for flying the LGBTQ+ flag from the balcony of the town hall for Pride Day. Vox has also asked the PP mayor in Badajoz to remove the coloured lights in support of LGBTQ+ persons from the front of the Town Hall.
Last June, coinciding with the LGBTQ+ pride day celebrations, Vox threatened to send the Castilla y Leon parliament security service to the offices of the PSOE to remove the LGBTQ+ flag. Also coinciding with these celebrations, PP and Vox vetoed the LGBTQ+ flag in the Balearic Parliament, where they govern. Even before the election campaign, the party sparked controversy by posting a large campaign ad on a building in the centre of Madrid, with the slogan "decide what matters", and the image of the LGBTQ+ flag, the Catalan independence and communist flags, and the feminist movement and Agenda 2030 logos being thrown in the trash.
Pay raises: campaign promises versus action once in office
While Juan García-Gallardo, the Vox vice-president of the Junta de Castilla y León, criticised what he considers "excessive social benefits" causing some people to "settle in a situation of precariousness and dependence on the public sector" and making it difficult to find labour in some sectors, the new Vox officials couldn’t wait long enough to raise their salaries.
After waving the flag of public spending reduction throughout their election campaign, one of the first steps taken by the right wing in the city councils where they have come to power has been to raise their own salaries. In at least 28 town councils governed by the Popular Party, seven of them with Vox, they raised the salaries of their mayors and government teams for the next legislature. In the case of the municipality of Torrelodones for example, they announced salary increases of more than half a million euros in total remuneration in the first plenary session. This came in addition to a significant increase in the number of hand-picked advisors and positions of trust. In the municipality of Náquera, the Vox mayor has increased his salary by 13,000 euros compared to his predecessor, and the municipality of Yebes, Guadalajara saw an increase of 51%.
Enforcing Cultural Censorship
One of the biggest controversies unleashed after Vox came into government in several municipalities centred on the repeated cases of censorship of plays, performances and books. In Valdemorillo (Madrid) a play by Virginia Woolf was cancelled; in Benaiges (Burgos) the same happened to a play about a teacher shot by fascists, and in Santa Cruz de Bezana (Cantabria) a screening of the film Lightyear was annulled, for containing a kiss between two women, are just some of the cases.
Moreover, the Vox spokesperson in the València City Council, Juan Manuel Badenas, declared that the Mostra de Cine de València film festival "should disappear" as his party considers "that it is, putting it plainly, a racket that serves for nothing more than the positioning of certain people".
In the town of Borriana (Castelló), Vox has removed several sex education books from the children’s library because they were considered pornographic. Previously, the same councillor stopped subscriptions to several children's magazines because they were written in Catalan.
Vox and bullfighting
At the same time, Vox insists on promoting bullfighting as culture, increasing funding and reinstating previously cancelled celebrations in which animals are mistreated, as in the case of the Valencian Region, where Vox has placed a bullfighter at the head of the Department of Culture.
Along the same lines, Vox granted 270,000 euros of public funds to the Toro de Lidia Foundation for a workshop for children in Castilla y León, where they were taught how to make banderillas and how to stick them into bulls. The Vox-run Castilla y León Regional Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport also announced the first edition of two new awards for the study of and research on bullfighting, each worth 10,000 euros.
Offensive against Catalan
The measures against co-official languages consist of eliminating the requirement that applicants know certain languages to hold certain public positions, as well as banning its teaching in some Valencian territories considered to be Castilian-speaking. The false argument that the same language is spoken all across these territories is also being promoted, encouraging unscientific theories that the ultra-right has defended since the Transition to prevent the co-official language’s use and normalisation, and promoting regulations not recognised by any academic body.
In the Balearic Islands, through the proposed creation of the new Office for the Guarantee of Linguistic Freedom, Vox has proposed fines of up to 100,000 euros for those who do not comply with its orders to "protect Castilian". The intent here is to force the regional government, local councils and other public entities such as the University of the Balearic Islands to use Castilian in their writings and documents under threat of sanction. The PP itself has had to ask its partner in government to withdraw this proposal, as it contravenes the Balearic Islands’ Statute of Autonomy.
These are the most controversial measures adopted by the new PP-Vox governments as of October 2023, only four months after the regional and local elections. But some statements by the new PP-Vox governments already anticipated their intentions to repeal laws and cut funding for everything dealing with the democratic historical memory of the Civil War and the dictatorship. Historical revisionism and the lack of condemnation of Franco's dictatorship has been one of the traditional hallmarks of the Spanish right since the transition to democracy, so the fact that Vox is in government is not a predicate for these measures.
Neonazi and fascist Vox officials in the institutions
Since Vox began to obtain institutional representation in 2018, the links of several of its candidates to neonazi and fascist organisations have been uncovered. Five years later, former members of these organisations have climbed up the career ladder within the party, even winning office. One of several examples is Alejandro Fernández, a former member of the neonazi party MSR (Social Republican Movement), now a councillor in Barberà del Vallés (Barcelona). Fernández took part in the 2004 march in homage to Rudolf Hess in Wunsiedel, Germany, together with members of his party and the Spanish branch of Blood & Honour.
Another right-wing extremist who holds posts with Vox is Pablo Quintana García, in charge of the Treasury department of Sant Vicent del Raspeig (Alicante), a former member of the neonazi-fascist parties Democracia Nacional (DN) and España2000.
Controversies involving members of Vox for their statements or images on social networks in support of Franco's dictatorship are not new, either. The most recent case of a public official was that of Esmeralda Pastor, the new Director General of Justice in Aragon, who made national headlines after a photo of her on her Facebook profile with the Francoist flag in the background was made public. Despite multiple political complaints and calls for her dismissal, she remained in post.
Vox members convicted of sexist violence against women
In mid-September, the Valencian president, Carlos Mazón, had to dismiss a high-ranking Vox official of the Justice Department, after it was made public that he had been convicted of gender violence for threatening his wife with a knife in front of their son as well as punching her. Conversely, in the case of Carlos Flores Juberías, Vox candidate for the Valencian Congress, who was convicted of psychological violence against his ex-wife, not only did he continue in the ranks of Vox, but the party presented him as a congressional candidate on 23 July.
Overview of the positions held by VOX in the regional governments
Castilla y León
Vice-Presidency and the Departments of Culture, Employment and Agriculture.
Vice-Presidency and the Departments of Depopulation and Justice, Agriculture and Territorial Development
First vice-presidency in the government and the Department of Culture and Sports, headed by the bullfighter Vicente Barrera, as the Departments of Justice and of Agriculture. Vox also appointed Leticia Sanchiz, a factory farm entrepreneur, as director of the livestock production of the Generalitat Valenciana.
The Departments of Forestry Management and Rural Affairs, as well as two new directorates general: the Directorate General of Rural Infrastructure, Heritage and Bullfighting and the Directorate General of Forestry Management, Hunting and Fishing. These will be under the responsibility of the Office of Forestry Management and Rural Affairs, headed by the livestock farmer and 'rural influencer' Camino Limia, also responsible for the General Directorate of Fire Prevention and Control. At the beginning of October, Limia resigned from her post, according to several media, in opposition to the hard-line wing of Vox. According to the newspaper El Mundo, she had little room to put her policies into practice, had no freedom of action and no freedom to manage her own team.
Two regional ministries: the Ministry of Development and the Ministry of Security, Interior and Emergencies. In the latter Vox holds the vice-presidency.
After the investiture of Marga Prohens (PP) as the President of the Balearic Government, Vox will not enter the regional government, but it will sit on the island councils of Mallorca and Menorca. Vox holds the deputy vice-presidency of the Mallorca Environment, Rural Affairs and Sports Ministry and will appoint a councillor for Local Development. In Menorca, Maite de Medrano, a Vox councillor, has joined the government team and will manage the Department of Housing, Employment, Innovation and Urban Agenda. The agreement also includes the creation of the Office for Linguistic Freedom, replacing the former Office for the Defence of Linguistic Rights, and stating as its goal the fight against "the imposition of Catalan".
Nora Rodríguez is a criminal lawyer specialised in hate crimes. She has participated in several campaigns, as well as in research and monitoring of Spanish far-right groups. She is a co-author of the publication: "De los neocon a los neonazis. La extrema derecha en el Estado español" (Neo-con, neo-Francoists and neo-Nazis. Tracking the Spanish Far Right), published by the RLS.
Miquel Ramos is a journalist specialised in the extreme right and hate speech. He is the editor of the RLS publication: "De los neocon a los neonazis. La extrema derecha en el Estado español" (Neo-con, neo-Francoists and neo-Nazis. Tracking the Spanish Far Right) and author of the book "Antifascistas. Así se combatió a la extrema derecha española desde los años 90" (Antifascists: Fighting the Spanish Far Right since the 1990s).