By JOSEPH WILSON and ALICIA LEÓN
MADRID (AP) — Former U.S. President Donald Trump threw his weight behind Spain’s far-right Sunday in a video shown at a rally in Madrid that also featured messages by the leading stars of Europe’s populist right like Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and Hungary’s Viktor Orban.
In a recording that lasted under 40 seconds made while Trump was on a plane, Trump thanked Spain’s far-right Vox party and its leader Santiago Abascal for what he called the “great job” they do.
“We have to make sure that we protect our borders and do lots of very good conservative things,” Trump said. “Spain is a great country and we want to keep it a great country. So congratulations to Vox for so many great messages you get out to the people of Spain and the people of the world.”
Vox captured national attention on Spain’s political landscape in 2019 when it became the third-largest force in Spain’s Parliament after an election that led to a national left-wing coalition that still holds power. Vox’s messages include zero tolerance for Catalan separatism, disdain for gender equality, diatribes against unauthorized immigration from Africa and embracing both the “Reconquista” of medieval Spain from Islam as well as the legacy of Gen. Francisco Franco’s 20th-century dictatorship.
Abascal returned the flattery when he took to the stage at the outdoor venue after more video messages by European and South American right-wing politicians and an in-person speech by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
“My thanks for President Donald Trump, a visionary in the fight for sovereign nations, a visionary in the fight for secure borders, who has had to suffer (attacks) from the most powerful establishment in the world and the largest media attack that any world leader has had to face in recent memory,” Abascal told the crowd of several thousand, many waving red-and-yellow Spanish flags.
Despite its spectacular rise, the party led by Abascal failed to meet the expectations it set for itself in regional contests this year and had suffered its first serious bout of in-fighting among its leaders. Vox is now eyeing regional and municipal elections next year as it battles to surpass Spain’s traditional conservatives.
The annual rally came just weeks after Abascal and the rest of Europe’s far-right celebrated the victory of Meloni’s neo-fascist Brothers of Italy Party.
Meloni’s recorded message lasted several minutes and was focused on her priorities as she prepares to become Italian premier: pushing for a price cap on energy in the European Union and recovering economic self-reliance.
The win by Meloni has worried European Union leaders that Italy, the bloc’s third-largest economy, could put national interests first, like Hungary and Poland are doing.
“We are not monsters, the people understand that. Long live Vox, long live Spain, long live Italy, long live Europe patriots,” Meloni said. “Only by winning in our countries can Europe become a political giant that we want, and not a bureaucratic giant.”
Vox and its supporters are hoping that Meloni’s surge in Italy can spill over to Spain.
“Meloni’s victory has given us reasons to believe that this is possible and that our side is not as demonized in Europe as some want to make us believe,” said Francisco Hermida, a 25-year-old entrepreneur attending the rally.
Trump and others leading figures of the world’s popular right have been trying for years to weave together networks of support in what they describe as a winner-take-all struggle against the political left. Orban was in the U.S. recently to speak to leading conservatives there and met with Trump.
The Vox rally also featured video appearances by former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, Chilean right-wing politician José Antonio Kast, the daughter of former Bolivian interim President Jeanine Añez, and U.S. Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
“On the one side, there is the global elites and the global left, that is growing evermore thuggish and violent, on the other side are conservative populist, who share the values of God, and country and family and freedom,” Cruz said. “Sometimes the left scores dangerous victories, as we saw in Colombia. Sometimes the good guys win, like we saw in Italy.”
Cruz said he is looking forward to a landslide Republican win in the U.S. congressional midterm election next month. Trump has been campaigning for right-wing candidates in the Nov. 8 election and is pondering another presidential run for the 2024 vote.