Murder of Dominican May Signal Arrival of Xenophobia in Spain

The recent murder of a Dominican woman in a Madrid suburb has raised concern that the wave of xenophobia rocking Germany and other European countries has arrived in Spain.

On Nov. 13, four hooded men broke into an abandoned discotheque which tens of Dominicans had made into a makeshift home. The attackers shot Lucrecia Perez point-blank, killing her, and also wounded a man.

Although police have juggled with the theory that her murder might be connected with Dominican gangs who smuggle workers to Spain, most people tied the incident to a rising hatred of foreigners, something that seemed to be extrinsic to Spain.

Politicians, including Cabinet members, spoke out immediately after the incident. Activists quickly organized a series of demonstrations of solidarity, which culminated in a 12,000-strong march last Saturday that included representatives from Madrid’s Jewish community.

The march was followed by previously scheduled right-wing demonstrations that occur every year around Nov. 20 to honor the memory of Gen. Francisco Franco, the late fascist leader.

On Sunday, some 5,000 followers of the late dictator gathered in front of the Royal Palace to honor Franco, who ruled Spain for 40 years until his death on Nov. 20, 1975.

Over the years, Nazi groups have converged here from all over Europe because Spain has no laws banning Nazi or racist gatherings or symbols.

But CEDADE, the most prominent neo-Nazi organization, chose to lie low this year. Its leader, Pedro Varela, is now in jail in Austria awaiting trial for his activities there.

And another right-wing group, the Falange Espanola, expelled seven members of the neo-Nazi Free Workers Party from its rally, which paid homage to Franco and Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Spanish Falangists.

The group said it did not want to be identified with hate groups or violence.

Spain has been considered more tolerant toward foreigners. But it is also true that the number of refugees and foreign workers here is low compared to England, Germany or France.

Among a population of 45 million, there are 400,000 legal foreign residents, of which some 250,000 are citizens of European Community countries. There are also between 90,000 and 170,000 undocumented workers believed to be living here.

In the past year, the Spanish government has tightened its borders. The E.C. has described Spain as a natural entry point for North Africans and Latin Americans, who then make their way to other European countries.

Painter Juan Genoves, who spoke the final words at Saturday’s anti-racist rally, pleaded that “the wave of racism that is invading Europe should not take root in Spain.”

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