The leader of new political party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, is suing a Popular Party (PP) official for linking him to Basque terrorist group ETA and accusing him of accepting money from late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez.
Last week Esperanza Aguirre, head of the PP’s Madrid branch and former premier of the region, said that Iglesias was “on the side of Castrism, Chavism and ETA.”
Her comments were based on news reports in EL PAÍS and other media revealing that a foundation linked to Podemos accepted €3.7 million from Hugo Chávez. On June 25, a dozen terrorism support groups demanded that Iglesias issue a public apology after he stated that ETA’s actions had “political explanations.”
Iglesias is also suing El Mundo newspaper, which reported that Iglesias was a trusted contact for Herrira, a support group for ETA convicts that was raided by the Civil Guard in September 2013.
Podemos became the fourth-most-voted political force in Spain at the May European elections, despite the fact that it had only been registered as a party three months earlier. Many of its voters are young and have leftist affinities, although Podemos leaders have denied accusations of left-wing populism directed at them by mainstream parties.
The party said it would first file a conciliation request to demand that Aguirre rectify in public, before starting criminal proceedings.
In five hours, Podemos raised nearly €13,000 to finance the legal action it is taking against Esperanza Aguirre. The party’s crowdfunding initiative had requested around €10,000, but the target was reached and surpassed in a matter of hours by 938 people who donated a total €12,812.
Podemos said this “clear and strong” support for their lawsuit underscores “the erosion of the right to justice” caused by the government’s decision to raise legal fees.
“We feel that these expressions aimed at Pablo Iglesias and Podemos are not only intolerably libelous statements that no citizen or organization should be forced to accept, but that they also charge him with extremely serious crimes that undermine the honor of this party and its spokespeople […] This is clearly criminal behavior that gravely disturbs the social order, hindering the constitutional right to political participation of individuals who are part of Podemos or might one day be,” reads the statement.
The party also claims that Aguirre’s statements could “instigate and legitimize violent and undemocratic behavior against Podemos, its supporters and its spokespeople.”
Esperanza Aguirre accepted the challenge last Friday, when Iglesias first suggested that she might get sued. “I think it’s great that he should start legal proceedings, that way we will find out whether he is with ETA or against it,” she told EL PAÍS.
“What I want him to say is that he opposes ETA and that he did not receive money from the Bolivarian government of Venezuela. If they have a political representation and they accept that they oppose ETA, why shouldn’t we be able to talk to them and discuss things?”