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In Madrid, Knives and Bullets: Tension Rises in a Campaign Devoid of Meaningful Proposals

Illustration: Marta Caro
Illustration: Marta Caro

Madrid is dominating headlines again ahead of the upcoming election on 4 May. Last week, the campaign trail spiralled into chaos after three high-profile politicians, including interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Civil Guard chief María Gámez, and former deputy prime minister and leader of the leftwing Podemos party Pablo Iglesias, received letters containing death threats and ammunition. 

At a radio debate on Friday, the candidate of the far-right Vox party, Rocío Monasterio, who had suggested the letters were a ploy orchestrated by the government, run by a minority coalition of the PSOE and the leftist Unidas Podemos, refused to explicitly condemn the events, prompting Pablo Iglesias to abandon the debate. The leaders of the two other leftist parties in the debate, PSOE and Más Madrid, followed suit after an hour trying helplessly to stop Monasterio from interrupting and sometimes insulting the other candidates. 

Over the weekend, rallies on the left bloc focused on these threats, sending out the message that this election was about protecting democracy from fascism and calling on voters to massively go to the polls to prevent the far-right from gaining power in Madrid. Meanwhile, Vox took its ploy theory a step further by announcing they will act as popular prosecutors to find out who sent the letters.

 

A total of seven death threats have been sent to politicians and to candidates in the Madrid upcoming election, pushing proposals to the background

 

As if three death threats were not enough, on Monday, industry, commerce, and tourism minister Reyes Maroto, the next deputy premier of Madrid should the PSOE win the Madrid upcoming elections, received a letter containing a bloody folding knife. Unlike the letters sent the previous week, the address on the envelope was handwritten and sent from El Escorial, a nearby town located north of the Spanish capital. It took only a few hours for the National Police to identify and locate the perpetrator, a resident of El Escorial who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and who had written his name and address on the envelope as the sender. The package passed security checks because the folding knife was sandwiched between two CDs. 

folding knife sent to Reyes Maroto
The package sent to Reyes Maroto | EFE

Writing on Twitter on Monday, Maroto said: «threats and violence will never silence the voice of democracy. Freedom will prevail. Many thanks for all of your displays of support on a day that strengthens my will to work toward a better future.”

“Reyes is not alone,” added PSOE candidate Gabilondo. “We are with her. We also feel threatened in our hearts, in our convictions, in our values, in our lives. They want to intimidate us,” he continued.

According to the police, there is no link between the letters sent last week and this one. 

On Wednesday, yet another death threat was addressed to Madrid’s premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso. The letter, which contained two bullets, was intercepted by post staff at a Correos sorting office in Sant Cugat del Vallès (Barcelona). In an interview on 13 TV, Díaz Ayuso played down the threat: “These things must be dealt with by awarding them the relevance they have; none.” Another letter, also containing bullets, was sent to María Gámez, the chief of the Guardia Civil police, the ministry’s statement said.

All Ayuso’s opponents tweeted messages condemning the incident. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), issued a statement condemning the incident. “The threats against Isabel Díaz Ayuso and, again, María Gámez are a threat against all of us. [We will be] neither tolerant nor accomplices of violence and the spread of hate. We as democrats will not accept that. We unreservedly condemn and reject these acts.”

But there was a seventh threat coming. La Sexta TV broke the news that a new handwritten letter with insults had been intercepted in the Madrid district of Vallecas. This one was addressed to former socialist prime minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and contained two 38 millimetre cartridges and a missive that read: “Zapa[tero], you harmful, dull, ignorant vermin that did and continues to do so much damage to Spain. I hope your meninges explode through your eyebrows.” 

The threats resulted in increased security around candidates and the other politicians targeted. They also pushed political programs into the background for most of the week, so voters seem to be trapped in two misleading dichotomies — communism or freedom, democracy or fascism. However, if the actions and attitudes of the far-right party Vox are anything to go by, the latter is not that far-fetched. 

Yesterday, the party committed to block access to the right to abortion and euthanasia and to repeal regional laws protecting people against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, among other demands made by the ultraconservative Catholic organization Hazte Oír.  

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published on Fridays to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go.
Sign up to Dearexpat,

Madrid is dominating headlines again ahead of the upcoming election on 4 May. Last week, the campaign trail spiralled into chaos after three high-profile politicians, including interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Civil Guard chief María Gámez, and former deputy prime minister and leader of the leftwing Podemos party Pablo Iglesias, received letters containing death threats and ammunition. 

At a radio debate on Friday, the candidate of the far-right Vox party, Rocío Monasterio, who had suggested the letters were a ploy orchestrated by the government, run by a minority coalition of the PSOE and the leftist Unidas Podemos, refused to explicitly condemn the events, prompting Pablo Iglesias to abandon the debate. The leaders of the two other leftist parties in the debate, PSOE and Más Madrid, followed suit after an hour trying helplessly to stop Monasterio from interrupting and sometimes insulting the other candidates. 

Over the weekend, rallies on the left bloc focused on these threats, sending out the message that this election was about protecting democracy from fascism and calling on voters to massively go to the polls to prevent the far-right from gaining power in Madrid. Meanwhile, Vox took its ploy theory a step further by announcing they will act as popular prosecutors to find out who sent the letters.

 

A total of seventh death threats have been sent to politicians and to candidates in the Madrid upcoming election, pushing proposals to the background

 

As if three death threats were not enough, on Monday, industry, commerce, and tourism minister Reyes Maroto, the next deputy premier of Madrid should the PSOE win the Madrid upcoming elections, received a letter containing a bloody folding knife. Unlike the letters sent the previous week, the address on the envelope was handwritten and sent from El Escorial, a nearby town located north of the Spanish capital. It took only a few hours for the National Police to identify and locate the perpetrator, a resident of El Escorial who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and who had written his name and address on the envelope as the sender. The package passed security checks because the folding knife was sandwiched between two CDs. 

folding knife sent to Reyes Maroto
The package sent to Reyes Maroto | EFE

Writing on Twitter on Monday, Maroto said: «threats and violence will never silence the voice of democracy. Freedom will prevail. Many thanks for all of your displays of support on a day that strengthens my will to work toward a better future.”

“Reyes is not alone,” added PSOE candidate Gabilondo. “We are with her. We also feel threatened in our hearts, in our convictions, in our values, in our lives. They want to intimidate us,” he continued.

According to the police, there is no link between the letters sent last week and this one. 

On Wednesday, yet another death threat was addressed to Madrid’s premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso. The letter, which contained two bullets, was intercepted by post staff at a Correos sorting office in Sant Cugat del Vallès (Barcelona). In an interview on 13 TV, Díaz Ayuso played down the threat: “These things must be dealt with by awarding them the relevance they have; none.” Another letter, also containing bullets, was sent to María Gámez, the chief of the Guardia Civil police, the ministry’s statement said.

All Ayuso’s opponents tweeted messages condemning the incident. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), issued a statement condemning the incident. “The threats against Isabel Díaz Ayuso and, again, María Gámez are a threat against all of us. [We will be] neither tolerant nor accomplices of violence and the spread of hate. We as democrats will not accept that. We unreservedly condemn and reject these acts.”

But there was a seventh threat coming. La Sexta TV broke the news that a new handwritten letter with insults had been intercepted in the Madrid district of Vallecas. This one was addressed to former socialist prime minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and contained two 38 millimetre cartridges and a missive that read: “Zapa[tero], you harmful, dull, ignorant vermin that did and continues to do so much damage to Spain. I hope your meninges explode through your eyebrows.” 

The threats resulted in increased security around candidates and the other politicians targeted. They also pushed political programs into the background for most of the week, so voters seem to be trapped in two misleading dichotomies — communism or freedom, democracy or fascism. However, if the actions and attitudes of the far-right party Vox are anything to go by, the latter is not that far-fetched. 

Yesterday, the party committed to block access to the right to abortion and euthanasia and to repeal regional laws protecting people against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, among other demands made by the ultraconservative Catholic organization Hazte Oír.

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,