From Tue Feb 15 12:12:30 2000
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000 13:55:57 -0600 (CST)
From: IGC News Desk <>
Subject: HUMAN RIGHTS-EUROPE: Alarmed Response to Outbreaks of Racism
Article: 89011
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Alarmed Response to Outbreaks of Racism

By Tito Drago, IPS, 8 February 2000

MADRID, Feb 8 (IPS)—Expressions of racism in Europe, such as violent incidents that continued Tuesday in Spain and the recent arrival of a neo-Nazi party to power in Austria, have triggered alarm and a swift response from trade unions, politicians and other sectors.

Tuesday saw a continuation of the violent incidents that broke out Saturday in the southern Spanish town of El Ejido on the Mediterranean coast, where one-fifth of local residents are immigrants, mainly employed as agricultural workers.

Physical aggression, threats, damages to homes and shops and the passive stance taken by police sparked a sharp response from trade unions and political groups.

On the initiative of the ‘Confederacion Sindical de Comisiones Obreras’ (CCOO), a delegation of trade unionists and politicians will travel to El Ejido Wednesday to reaffirm the social and political consensus of the democratic forces against intolerance, CCOO secretary-general Antonio Gutierrez told IPS Tuesday.

C ndido Mendez, secretary-general of Spain's other central union, the ‘Union General de Trabajadores’ (UGT), representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and delegates of leftist parties and the governing People's Party (PP) will make up the committee.

The two PP delegates, the secretary-general of the centre-right party's Javier Arenas and Labour Minister Manuel Pimentel, worked in favour of the Law on Aliens that despite the resistance of the ruling party was approved in December.

The trade unionists and political leaders plan to visit the family of a young Spanish woman, Encarnacion Lopez, allegedly murdered by a Moroccan immigrant undergoing psychiatric treatment. Lopez's death sparked the incidents.

They also plan to visit the homes and properties of immigrants destroyed in the racist and xenophobic acts of the past few days, according to a CCOO spokesman.

But the stance taken by the PP's Arenas and Pimentel stands in contrast to the position of the government. Executive branch spokesman Josep Pique, a former communist who joined the PP two years ago, blamed the violence on the new Law on Aliens.

The Mayor of El Ejido, Juan Enciso, also of the PP, agreed, stating that as long as the law was in force, all they will achieve is to make it easier and easier for more scoundrels to make it into Spain.

Enciso contended that support for the new law had contributed to a flood of immigrants.

One of the aspects of the recent events that has drawn the heaviest criticism from the opposition, trade unions and NGOs was the police force's failure to prevent or crack down on the racist violence in El Ejido.

Francisco Santaella, secretary-general of the ‘Sindicato Profesional de Polic¡a Uniformada’, one of the strongest police unions, said Tuesday that the police had received clear orders not to intervene.

People's Defender or ombudsman Antonio Rovira condemned the racist aggression and demanded that the government inform him in detail of what had occurred, urging that justice be done and the law enforced against the offences committed under the shelter of group anonymity.

The racist actions against mainly Moroccan immigrants by violent groups of masked youngsters in El Ejido were praised by a Spanish neo-Nazi group on the Internet as an awakening of civil society. By posting its web page on a Miami Internet server, the group, New Order, evades legal action in Spain.

In Austria, meanwhile, a coalition comprised of the conservative People's Party and the neo-Nazi Liberal Party headed by Jorg Haider has governed the country since last week.

When the coalition was announced, the European Union (EU) responded by warning that bilateral relations between the 14 other members of the bloc and Austria would be frozen.

Haider replied by threatening to resort to the veto power held by the 15 EU members to paralyse activity in the bloc.

Several countries have already frozen relations, including Portugal, where President Jorge Sampaio cancelled an official visit to Austria scheduled for March.

In Vienna itself, the Green Party launched the campaign Open Your Mouths calling on Austrians to demonstrate their repudiation of the neo-Nazis.