Far Right Meeting in Madrid Maps Out Its World Vision

By Wagner Iglecias

Europa Viva 2024, the global meeting of western far-right leaders organized by the Spanish political party Vox, took place in Madrid on May 19. Santiago Abascal–the most recognized figure of the Spanish extreme right–presided, with guests including José Antonio Ortega Lara, founder of Vox, and foreign guests Marine Le Pen the French leader of Rassemblement National, André Ventura head of the Portuguese party Chega!, Amichai Chakli minister for Diaspora Affairs in Benjamin Netanyahu´s government, Juan Manuel Kast head of the Chilean Republican Party, and Argentine president Javier Milei. Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy, Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, and Mateuzs Morawiecki, former Prime Minister of Poland, also participated, through pre-recorded videos. Donald Trump did not participate in the meeting, but was represented by former advisor Mercedes Schlapp and representatives from the ultraconservative Heritage Foundation. 

First and foremost, the event served as a showcase for Vox in the lead up to election for the European Parliament, which will take place on June 9. It also spotlighted other far-right groups in Europe to signal to voters in their countries that they are united on a platform that condemns immigration and proposes “the relaunch of Europe”, to use Le Pen’s words, and the “fight against socialism and corruption”, according to the Portuguese Ventura. The platform also highlights criticism of the United Nations 2030 agenda and its sustainable development seventeen goals.

Latin American leaders weigh in

El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele, who took office for another term after being re-elected in February with 83% of the votes, was conspicuously absent.  His consolidation of a practically single-party political regime has been put forth in Latin America as an example by the far right. Jair Bolsonaro, the popular former Brazilian president, also did not attend as he is banned by the Brazilian Supreme Court from traveling abroad at this time due to legal proceedings against him related to his role in Brazil’s January 2023 insurrection. 

Kast, who did attend in person, harshly criticized the current Chilean president, leftist Gabriel Boric. The defeated rightwing presidential candidate said that Boric’s government “has failed and is only comparable to the nefarious government of Salvador Allende”. Some days before at the Conservative Action Political Conference in Hungary, organized by the American Conservative Union (chaired by Schlapp), the far-right Chilean politician slammed Boric as “a woke president”. 

Contrary to its original meaning, which in the political struggles of the last decades refers to awakening and becoming aware of oppression, the term “woke” was given a new, pejorative meaning by conservatives in the American cultural wars, referring to individuals and groups who, in the name of social and racial justice, supposedly threaten the fundamental values ​​of Western societies. This interpretation has been adopted by the European far right, along with the lines against immigration, given opposition to immigration in the Old Continent, especially from Islamic countries.

According to Kast, left-wing governments in Latin America would “destroy our societies, condemning them to poverty, marginality and insecurity.” In his Madrid speech, the Chilean political leader described Boric as hypocritical, calling him “a political transvestite”. He told the audience that two years ago Boric “was on the streets confronting police officers” and today “he kneels in front of police officers’ widows murdered during his government.” He also accused Chile’s president of talking tough on immigration, but in practical terms not doing anything to stop it. Kast stated that the extreme right is the only force that offers a real alternative “to failed leftist governments”. He expressed his hope to return to Madrid in two years for Europa Viva 2026 as president of Chile and to meet with Santiago Abascal as president of the government of Spain.  

Javier Milei, in his turn, presented himself as a humble promoter of the idea of ​​freedom and harshly criticized the Welfare State, which he described as parasitic. In his view, any government with these characteristics is socialist, and, therefore, inefficient, corrupt and inhibiting of free enterprise. Milei stated that socialism, apparently altruistic, is a sinister and harmful regime that leads to the ruin of societies. 

“The role of the State, if it exists,” he said, “is to defend life, liberty and private property.” He also criticized global elites that, according to him, are unable to “realize how destructive it can be to implement the ideas of socialism (…) and what levels of abuse of power they can generate”, referring indirectly to the government of Pedro Sanchez.

Javier Milei, acclaimed as one of the stars of the meeting, seemed entrusted with the task of making the most ideologically radical defense of free-market ideas. His economic reforms, basically of a fiscal issue, have lowered Argentina’s inflation–a chronic problem in that country that has not been resolved in recent decades by neoliberal or progressive governments. 

The price, however, has been a sharp increase in poverty and indigence. According to the Social Debt Observatory of the Argentine Catholic University (UCA), poverty grew to 55% of the population in the first quarter of 2024 under Milei’s reforms, with 18% indigence. The 2002 record of 60% has not yet been surpassed, but Milei’s measures to cut public support for social policies such as health, education, and housing and subsidies for energy and public transportation tend to deepen the impact of increased poverty.

Milei has enthusiastically taken on the role of enfant terrible on the global far right, attacking left leaders everywhere. In little more than a year, he has already referred to Brazilian president Lula as “a wild leftist who supports dictators”, to Chilean president Boric as “a person with mistaken ideas”, to Mexican president Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador as “an ignoramus”, and to Colombian president Gustavo Petro as “a murderous communist”. In Madrid he caused an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between Argentina and Spain by indirectly calling the wife of President Pedro Sanchez “corrupt”, a slur that then escalated into a series of attacks.

Perspectives for the near future

Whatever the results for extreme right parties in the June 9th European Parliament election, the meeting showed what everyone already knew: the Western extreme right remains highly articulated internationally and has leaders capable of seducing a significant part of the voters. They exploit the weaknesses of left-wing governments and take advantage of the recurrent economic crises, which among other consequences have caused an increase in migratory flows from poor countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to the European continent. 

From an irrelevant political force at the beginning of the century, far-right parties have become a decisive political actor in many European countries and are expected to gain seats in the European Parliament. In Spain and Italy, the extreme right fights hard against the social democratic sectors, but they also criticize the center-right, as they see it as moderate. And that can earn votes. 

In Latin America, historically characterized by political instability and chronic economic crises, and more recently affected by a conservative wave of reaction to the left-wing governments of the so-called “pink wave”, a similar movement is occurring. Even though Milei depended on the support of former president Macri to get elected and needs him to govern, and Kast appears in polls of voting intentions for next year’s Chilean election in second place behind an opponent from the traditional right, in Brazil and El Salvador the far right seems to have swallowed the center right parties.  

Now Europe readies for the June 9 elections amid intense consolidation and mobilization among its various extreme right-wing parties, mainly between groups in favor of and against NATO. Meanwhile in Latin America several far-right parties are no longer seen as exotic and are starting to take part on elections with real chances to obtain positive results. In particular, Cabildo Abierto in Uruguay, and Renovación Popular in Peru, could join Milei, Kast, Bukele and Bolsonaro as politically viable options for power in the coming years. The tendency is worth keeping a close eye on.

Wagner Iglecias has a PhD in Sociology and is professor of post-graduate program on Latin American Integration at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. He is the Co-Coordinator of the Working Group on “China and the Map of World Power” of the Latin American Council of the Social Sciences (CLACSO).



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