Worldviews is a series of exclusive interviews brought to you by Nótt. We ask people from all countries and backgrounds to give us their opinions and insights on world news.
This is the first installment in the series.
The sexual assaults and robberies which took place near the Cologne train station on New Year’s Eve caused an uproar all over Europe and beyond. Needless to say it has been a disgrace to human values and liberties. This is one of those cases where I feel that, as a journalist, I must silence the judgmental voice inside me. Particularly here, where we are dealing with a case that remains blurry, and an ongoing investigation aiming to determine who exactly the culprits were and whether their actions were premeditated.
In order to try to get a different perspective from my own regarding this scandal, I decided to ask a man’s opinion.
Why choose to interview Mr. Daporta?
Aged 59, Luis Manuel Daporta Rodriguez hails from Galicia, Spain, where he has lived and worked his whole life; a doctor as well as a father of three, he has been a member of the political party Podemos since 2014.
My decision to interview Daporta for Nótt was partly motivated by the wish to hear a male perspective on the assaults in Germany, and partly by the fact that I was curious to find out how a European doctor and left-wing party member would react to accusations against registered refugees who allegedly harmed Western women in the heart of Europe. This is especially relevant considering the position upheld by his party, which, like other political parties throughout Europe, unconditionally supports the arrival of refugees and migrants to the continent and sympathizes with their plight.
Why join Podemos?
Daporta chose to become politically involved in order to fight for the redistribution and reallocation of wealth, fiscal justice, the eradication of corruption, and universal human rights. Just like his fellow party members, he sensed that Europe was changing and rapidly declining, and that some EU members were trying to cheat others. Thus, it was about time the left dealt with them.
Daporta therefore joined Podemos and represented the party through a local sister political organisation based in Galicia, named En Marea. The party not only welcomed him into its circles, but also suggested that he run for a position in the Galician Senate during the 2015 Spanish general elections. He agreed, but failed to get elected. As of today, Daporta remains a regional party representative.
Reaction to the events that took place in Cologne earlier this month?
Last year, Pablo Iglesias, Podemos’ Secretary-General, said in an article entitled “Beware of Germany” that, “If there are no limits on Germany’s [power within the EU]—and the policies of austerity prevail—we will eventually face… a surge in the forces of anti-europeanism and xenophobia.” Iglesias was not referring to the immigration wave but to “austerity that was leading Europe to disaster.”
Germany was hit by criminal acts perpetrated by the very immigrants which it had so eagerly welcomed and agreed to shelter a few months earlier (perhaps bearing in mind, at the time, its own aging population). When asked about the Cologne events, Daporta spoke not only about a shocking event, but also about weak state institutions (i.e., governments and parliaments), which, instead of tackling severe social malfunctioning, let impunity grow unbothered.
“I was deeply shocked [by what happened in Germany]. I would have thought that something like that could never happen in the heart of a European country. Unfortunately, a subculture of machismo and sexual domination still survives. Due to the weakness of state institutions, certain behaviours bordering on violence remain unpunished (as in the case of Cologne).”
Daporta underlined that things are much easier for the perpetrators, no matter how illicit their actions, when we are dealing with a group of them instead of one bad guy.
What about the reaction of the Cologne police?
Discussing the German police’s reaction, Daporta appeared more guarded.
“I am not fully aware of the details of the case in question. There are good enough reasons that may explain why the [local] police initially kept the events quiet and even tried to hide what had happened. These factors include the current asylum policy, the recent [political] attempts to manipulate the police’s xenophobic and sexist tolerance of violent behaviours, and the lack of any serious evaluation of risks to women’s safety; at the same time, the existence of a huge group of people acting in a sexist way probably influenced the way the events were covered by the police”.
Moreover, he added that the perpetrators became “increasingly violent”, making this yet another difficulty for Cologne’s police forces to tackle the events.
However, Daporta made clear that although he wasn’t aware of the standard level of transparency in Germany, he believed that as far as Spain was concerned, in case of a similar incident, appropriate measures would have been applied.
What about the possibility of the refugees in question being deported?
While this is a question Germany still needs to settle, it nonetheless pits humanitarian organisations against women rights’ groups and the far right. So I asked Mr. Daporta: should the perpetrators be deported without standing trial, or is it necessary to try them first, as they are currently registered in Europe?
“I believe they should go on trial and stand before the law for what they did, as the perpetrators of a crime. Characteristics such as asylum-seeking or immigrant status, or belonging to another culture, can matter when it comes to rehabilitation measures, but should not be relevant when it comes to adjudicating a crime”.
Could Spain be next?
Our conversation steered towards jihadism and terrorist threats, and I asked Mr. Daporta whether he considers that Spain is at risk. His answer was clear.
“[Spain] could be attacked as long as the terrorists have a chance to act–and they do- especially knowing that there is going to be extended media coverage.”
The role of the media is indeed crucial in this regard. Let’s not forget the numerous reactions caused by the covers of FOCUS and Süddeutsche Zeitung a few days ago. It is true that such unfortunate circumstances are fodder for the cameras, but would it make sense not to cover pictures that shock us all to the core? While they shock us, they also tell the tragic story of today’s humanity and simultaneously show us the bumpy road we, as a universal society, have chosen to walk.
“I think that [a certain level of] information and police control of potential terrorists, in addition to international collaboration in order to eliminate factors that help terrorist groups work together, as well as the implementation of human rights’ laws, together with the relative calmness with which we face the uncertainty of our existence, must be sufficient motives for us not to change the life we want to live; (this way, we could) discourage the terrorists as far as the efficiency of terror as a political tool towards change is concerned.”
Did Spanish people’s attitude towards migrants change after the recent events?
Throughout the centuries, Spain has given birth to countless migrants but has also been the Promised Land of many more, chiefly from Latin America and Northern Africa. Even today, it forces many of its children to go abroad in search of a better future, while immigrants in Spain are going through some tough times, according to Daporta.
“Many Spanish professionals and workers emigrate to other European or American countries nowadays, mainly because they can’t find a job that would provide them with a better life than their own country. The number of immigrants coming from other, less developed, countries to Spain has decreased lately, due to the high level of unemployment and the poor welfare system. The immigrants who remain here live under extreme conditions which can even endanger their lives. Social inequalities due to the accumulation of the resources by a minority of people (the rich) limits the social development that a majority of Spaniards could benefit from, causing poverty in the country.”
I ask Daporta if the Spanish people’s opinion on immigration is different now, keeping in mind the recent events.
“Spaniards, like the majority of Westerners, are more intolerant when it comes to poverty (including their own), than when it comes to race, nationality, religion. […] We are willing to tolerate the latter with pleasure, as long as (all of the above) factors are linked to a higher financial level. However, it is these same factors that become a problem when they are linked to poverty.”
Can a solution be found despite political dissensions?
Immigration is neither a new issue, nor one that comes with a ready-made solution. International politics are the crux of the problem. Politics rarely jeopardize the privilege held by the rich and powerful who, together, draw new world maps and leave others to cope with the results, either by seeing dead babies wash up on idyllic beaches, being turned against fellow human beings and fearing each other’s differences, or becoming the victims of those who we wish to save and have given shelter to.
“I hope that the very powerful countries which were and are destabilising the countries migrants are coming from will work together on solutions to eliminate forced immigration with the same speed and collaborative spirit with which they created the unstable environments that immigrants left behind.
I believe that implementing human rights will mean that we, as a society, will have to abandon current violent and restrictive practices and, instead, improve social collaboration and the evaluation of needs in order to considerably increase the help we offer refugees. The cooperation of countries that receive immigrants is crucial and should be supported by other countries in order to help minimise the severity of the situation.”
Podemos and sexual violence against women
The political current which has been most vocal about the latest waves of immigration is the European Left. Most of its supporters and party members in Europe have said that the EU must open its arms to immigrant, no questions asked.
This being said, how would Podemos react if something similar to the Cologne events happened in Spain?
“By enforcing the law against gender violence on everybody who took part in these acts of violence, regardless of their nationality. We need to investigate the circumstances that spurred the aggressors’ sense of impunity, and find a solution”.
I further asked Mr. Daporta whether he thinks the patriarchal tropes that support men’s view of women as sexual objects will remain strong in the near future.
“Unfortunately, yes. The macho culture is predominant in our society, favouring patronising gender inequality, stereotyped behaviour, inequality and domination, which are accepted as normal by society and even shared by different genders. The use of women as sexual objects in our society is massive in sectors such as marketing, public relations, work environments, fashion, etc. On the other hand, improved education and democratic standards of living could significantly minimise machismo and sexism. I hope that, together, we will manage to eradicate or limit sexism and gender inequality and the suffering it causes.”
Many thanks to Mr. Roberto Cervino, who proved a very patient friend and dedicated a lot of his precious time to helping me with the translation from Galego. Your help has been greatly appreciated and your contribution is of great importance.
 This commentary was translated by Tunku Varadarajan, http://www.politico.eu/article/podemos-beware-of-germany-iglesias-english-translation/. The original Spanish text can be found here: http://www.politico.eu/article/texto-original/