A New Day in Madrid

A New Day in Madrid

Spaniards were bewildered by the American view of their vote to kick out the ruling conservative party as a sign of weakness.

Facebook
Twitter
Email
Flipboard
Pocket

Madrid

It is a pity that President Bush could not make it to the peace march in the heart of the Spanish capital on Saturday night. The rally was just a few minutes away from the railway station where nine days earlier bombs killed more than 200 early morning commuters and wounded another 1,700.

If Bush had been there, he would have seen thousands of brave and sincere people–a contrast to Washington, DC, where just a few days earlier Republican leaders had accused Spaniards of appeasing terrorists because of their vote to oust the conservative Popular Party in the wake of the attacks.

There was none of that crude cynicism at the Saturday night demonstration. “It is more important then ever to call for peace. The bombs reminded us of that urgency,” said Valeria Suárez Marsá, a 40-year-old teacher.

Prime Minister-elect José Luis Zapatero has called the war in Iraq “a fiasco” and has pledged to pull out Spain’s 1,300 troops by the end of June unless the occupation comes under United Nation control. Haizam Amirah, an analyst at the Real Elcano Institute in Madrid, notes that a troop withdrawal was on the party platform for months before the election.

People were bewildered by the American interpretation of their decision to kick out the ruling conservative party as a sign of weakness. In the elections three days after the attacks, voters turned out in record numbers to repudiate an arrogant government that had ignored the overwhelming public opposition to the invasion of Iraq and then tried to manipulate the investigation of the railway bombings. “The vote was a punishment for the years of lies,” said Iris Bernal, a 26-year-old sociologist attending the march.

So far, Spaniards have vented their anger via the polling booth, and there has not been a backlash against the country’s sizable Muslim population. Since police arrested eight Moroccan men in connection with the attacks, several Arab men have been attacked, but Muslim leaders hope these are isolated incidents. “The Spanish population has proven itself very mature and knows the difference between terrorism and Islam, the same way it differentiates between ETA and all Basques,” said Helal-Jamal Abboshi Khaledi, the general secretary of the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain.

Whether this tolerance will continue is still an open question. Yousef Mustafa, a 28-year-old Palestinian-Spaniard who was at the march, said he has not seen an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment but admits he is uneasy. “On Friday I was nervous about going to the mosque to pray. I was afraid there would be a bomb.”

Thank you for reading The Nation

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read, just one of the many incisive, deeply-reported articles we publish daily. Now more than ever, we need fearless journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media.

Throughout this critical election year and a time of media austerity and renewed campus activism and rising labor organizing, independent journalism that gets to the heart of the matter is more critical than ever before. Donate right now and help us hold the powerful accountable, shine a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug, and build a more just and equitable future.

For nearly 160 years, The Nation has stood for truth, justice, and moral clarity. As a reader-supported publication, we are not beholden to the whims of advertisers or a corporate owner. But it does take financial resources to report on stories that may take weeks or months to properly investigate, thoroughly edit and fact-check articles, and get our stories into the hands of readers.

Donate today and stand with us for a better future. Thank you for being a supporter of independent journalism.

Ad Policy
x