By Max Griera
(EurActiv) — Spain wants to lead the future EU relations with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), but while majority parties, centre-left PSOE (S&D) and centre-right PP (EPP), avoid talking about Spain’s colonial past and leftist SUMAR (Left/Greens) is vaguely calling for “common reflection”, far-right VOX (ECR) pushes its patriotic agenda to protect Spain’s “legacy” in Latin America.
While the need for the EU to engage long-term with CELAC countries and for Spain to be the leader the relations remains a priority of all major parties, the acknowledgement of the country’s conquest of America is something parties are either tip-toeing around or directly denying.
VOX, which could enter government after general elections on 23 July, assures in their electoral programme that “we Spaniards do not have to apologise for our past”, and they will battle any attempts to “erase” the Spanish legacy.
“We will promote cultural and educational initiatives, both within and beyond our borders, aimed at combating the ‘black legend’ and raising awareness of Spain’s civilising work in America”, their programme reads.
Spain “cannot renounce to being the epicentre of this fraternal community of free and sovereign nations that make up the ‘Iberosphere’”.
At the same time, the far-right party also seeks to battle the Latin-American leftist forums Foro de Sao Paulo and Grupo de Puebla because they “promote an indigenism that falsifies history and pours out all its rancour against our homeland”.
Spain has traditionally shown little interest in apologising for its colonial past, while countries such as Australia, the UK, and Canada have already apologised for crimes committed against indigenous peoples.
In 2019, the Mexican government sent a letter to Spain’s King Felipe VI demanding a state apology for all the atrocities committed by Spaniards during America’s conquest, which was rejected by the socialist-led (PSOE/S&D) Spanish government and opposition parties, The Guardian reported.
While VOX denies revisiting or apologising for Spain’s role in America’s past, leftist SUMAR calls for a “shared reflection with our sister countries on our common past, present and future, far away from any form of revisionism or self-interested instrumentalisation”.
The majority parties, PSOE and PP, avoid referencing the issue and focus instead on strengthening relations between the two regions and for Spain to lead the EU’s efforts to approach CELAC.
Sánchez pushed for the EU-CELAC summit on Monday and Tuesday as the flagship event of the Spanish EU Council Presidency that brings together heads of state and governments of 33 countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
“At this summit, we will most likely approve a mechanism for permanent dialogue between the two blocs to agree, share and implement strategic policies on many of the global challenges that our societies are facing”, Sánchez told journalists at the EU-CELAC summit on Monday.
What the parties offer
VOX places Spain at the centre and as the leader of Latin American relations, while SUMAR stresses the need to have a “horizontal” relationship where non-state actors are also included.
At the same time, all parties highlight the importance of battling human rights abuses and the need to strengthen democracy.
While VOX emphasises its goal of tackling human rights violations in the Venezuelan ‘narcodictatorship’ and the Cuban and Nicaraguan ‘tyrannies’, the PP says they need ‘special attention’ in terms of democracy and human rights.
Regarding economic cooperation, VOX would cut all aid dedicated to implementing the sustainable development goals, as well as “gender ideology” and “indigenous movements”. VOX also seeks to protect Spanish investments in the region.
PP and PSOE stress the need to finalise the EU-Mercosur agreement and bilateral trade agreements with Mexico and Chile, while SUMAR wants to renegotiate the terms of Mercosur.
VOX is the only party with a proposal on migration, proposing to offer priority to migrants from Latin American countries.