Unlike Elsewhere In Europe, The Far Right In Spain Stays On The Fringe : Parallels Amid the rise of far-right political parties in Europe, Spain has no similar movement. That may be due to its history under a dictatorship and Spaniards' own experience as impoverished migrants.
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Unlike Elsewhere In Europe, The Far Right In Spain Stays On The Fringe

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Unlike Elsewhere In Europe, The Far Right In Spain Stays On The Fringe

Unlike Elsewhere In Europe, The Far Right In Spain Stays On The Fringe

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep with the story of what makes Spain different. If you look at the past few years in Spain, you might expect politics there to resemble the rest of the continent because Spain has been through the same shocks as other parts of Europe. There was a devastating economic crash and an influx of migrants and corruption scandals. But unlike other countries in Europe, Spain has no far-right movement. Reporter Lauren Frayer has been trying to figure out why.

(SOUNDBITE OF INTERCOM ANNOUNCEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Spanish).

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: About a half hour by train, south of Madrid's grand boulevards, San Cristobal is another world - a warren of drab concrete apartment blocks, Muslim headscarves, Africans playing cards in the street. This area is about half immigrant. Most residents are either retired, unemployed or in the country illegally.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: In a local bar, white, native-born Spaniards bemoan their barrio's decline. The only local industry was construction, and that collapsed when the crisis hit. Immigrants have filled cheap, half-built homes.

CARMEN ACERO RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: Carmen Acero Rodriguez, age 82, says her neighbors are now strangers. She was recently robbed by a Moroccan immigrant she hired to clean her house.

ACERO RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: (Speaking Spanish).

ACERO RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: I've interviewed people like Carmen across Europe - Britons who voted to leave the European Union, Dutch voters fed up with immigration. In Spain, some of those feelings are the same. But the political reaction is very different.

ACERO RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "I'm a lifelong socialist," Carmen declares. "Why on earth would any working-class person vote for the right wing?" she asks.

MARIA ASCENSION: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: Picking up her kids from school nearby, Maria Ascension calls herself unemployed and angry. But she won't take that out on immigrants. Many of her own relatives spent the 20th century immigrating to northern Europe fleeing the Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco.

ASCENSION: (Through interpreter) We had nearly 40 years of a repressive right-wing dictator. That's why we don't have far-right parties like that of Marine Le Pen in France. We have nothing so radical.

FRAYER: Only on the left have radical new political parties flourished in Spain. Madrid city hall is now draped in a refugees welcome banner. And Spain's second city, Barcelona, sounded like this last month...

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Spanish).

FRAYER: ...As thousands marched in favor of accepting more refugees. Spain is where many Arab and African migrants land when they paddle boats across the Mediterranean to Europe. And yet, unlike elsewhere...

CARMEN GONZALEZ-ENRIQUEZ: This hasn't provoked rise a rise on xenophobic, specifically Islamophobic, feelings.

FRAYER: Carmen Gonzalez-Enriquez at Madrid's Elcano think tank says Spaniards sympathize with immigrants because most, until now, have been from Latin America or Romania. They've integrated easily in terms of language, religion and race. Nobody complains about immigrants on welfare here because Spanish government benefits are pretty scant anyway. Benefits, instead, have come from the EU. And Spaniards are more pro-EU than any other members, Gonzalez-Enriquez says.

GONZALEZ-ENRIQUEZ: (Through interpreter) The Franco dictatorship left Spain isolated and underdeveloped. Spaniards felt inferior to the rest of Europe and wanted to join the club for economic reasons but also to recover national pride.

FRAYER: One tiny far-right party was founded in Spain three years ago. It's called Vox. Back in the San Cristobal bar, I asked 82-year-old Carmen about it. After all, the elderly are its target demographic.

ACERO RODRIGUEZ: Como?

FRAYER: Vox.

ACERO RODRIGUEZ: Vote (ph)?

FRAYER: Vox.

ACERO RODRIGUEZ: Vox?

FRAYER: She's never heard of it, she says. Spain's only far-right party got 0.2 percent of the vote in last year's election.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in San Cristobal de los Angeles, Madrid.

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