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Member of far-right Vox party arrested for alleged sexual abuse of disabled man

The group has tried to distance itself from José Antonio Ortiz Cambray, denying that he was the president of its branch in the Catalan city of Lleida

José Antonio Ortiz Cambray (r).
José Antonio Ortiz Cambray (r). Diario de la Mañana

Spanish political party Vox is trying to distance itself from José Antonio Ortiz Cambray, who until now had been the emerging far-right group’s visible face in the Catalan city of Lleida, but on Tuesday was arrested on accusations of sexually abusing at least one person with a severe disability, according to police sources consulted by EL PAÍS.

In an official statement released by Vox, which garnered a surprise result in the Andalusian regional elections late last year, the party claimed that the detained man “does not occupy any role of responsibility in Vox and is just a grassroots member.” The messages posted by the party on Twitter and Instagram in which he was presented as its president in Lleida have been deleted.

Ortiz was arrested on Tuesday after the heads of a private foundation in Lleida for the disabled noticed that one of their charges was acting strangely, and began to ask him questions. After checking his cellphone, they discovered images and conversations that implicated Ortiz in an alleged offense of sexual abuse.

Early indications suggest that Ortiz was paying his alleged victim €5 in exchange for sexual practices such as fellatio

Early indications suggest that Ortiz was paying his alleged victim €5 in exchange for sexual practices such as fellatio, something that could constitute aggravated sexual abuse. The Catalan police believe that there could be at least three more victims, and are investigating the relationship that Ortiz has with them and how he could have gained access to the four potential victims.

Vox stated that it had suspended the arrested man as a member of the party “until the facts are cleared up or an informed decision could be taken.” And it underlined that the party is in favor of a “toughening up of the punishment” for the offenses “mentioned in the published new stories,” without explicitly mentioning which offenses these are.

Evidence on Twitter

“A day of work, meetings and getting to know a lot of people in Vielha. Thanks to all for trusting in @voxlledia The work of our President Josep Ortiz and the vice-president @miquelbonastre traveling throughout the province is breathtaking,” read a message posted by Vox Lleida on Instagram on January 27. “[Madrid arena] Vistalegre, our President José Antonio Ortiz and our Vice President Miquel Bonastre representing Lérida,” read another post from September 2018, accompanied by a photo of a party rally in Madrid.

Vox claims that Ortiz will be brought before the party’s Guarantees Committee for having presented himself as the president of the group in Lleida “on a personal basis and via social networks.” According to their official version, the National Executive Committee of Vox “did not accept his proposal to preside the provincial administrator in Lleida and as such he was never the president.”

However, Ortiz not only positioned himself as the party leader in Lleida on social networks, but also, on Monday, he went to the provincial public prosecutor to file a complaint as party president over an alleged hate crime, according to Spanish news agency Europa Press. In December of last year, he informed a number of Catalan media outlets as party president that Vox would be standing at the municipal elections in May in Lleida as well as the majority of regional capitals.

Success at the polls

Vox ran a campaign in Andalusia based on Spanish nationalism, the fight against the independence movement in Catalonia, messages against immigration, the Historical Memory Law (which formally condemns the Franco regime and is being used to legally exhume the body of the dictator from the Valley of the Fallen monument), the Law against Gender Violence, as well as constant praise for Spain’s security forces and the army. The party received nearly 400,000 votes, which gave it 12 deputies in the Andalusian assembly. Its support for the conservative Popular Party (PP), along with that of center-right Ciudadanos, allowed the former to create a government and throw the Socialist Party out of power for the first time in 36 years. A similar scenario could play out at the upcoming general elections, which are due to be held on April 28.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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