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Pablo Iglesias, Secretary General of the Podemos party in Spain, is in the United States this week to speak publicly about the rise of his leftwing party and meet with American activists sympathetic to their anti-austerity economic platform and overall progressive vision. (Image: Democracy Now!)

The Spanish Invasion: Leftist Leader Says Populism Rises from Failures of the Elite

Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos party in Spain, says it is 'impossible to separate economy from democracy'

Jon Queally, staff writer

Marking his first visit to the United States as leader of the ascendent Podemos party in Spain, Pablo Iglesias is in New York City this week to discuss the rise of leftwing populism in his country and how what began in the Spanish streets as the Indignados movement just four years ago has now become a powerful political force across his country and beyond.

Ahead of other public speaking engagements scheduled for this week, Iglesias sat down for an interview with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and Aaron Maté which aired Tuesday morning. Like their European neighbors in Greece who recently elected the Syriza party to power, supporters of Podemos have signaled their commitment to the party based on its critique of austerity economics imposed from without and a leftwing platform that puts the interests of ordinary and working Spaniards ahead of the nation's financial and political elite.

Last year, Iglesias was elected to the European Parliament by Spanish voters and currently serves as the Secretary General of Podemos, which translates as 'We Can' in Spanish. Recent domestic polling showed that if elections were held currently, Podemos could quite possibly win a majority in the national assembly. Last month, tens of thousands of people rallied in central Madrid to show their support for the party.

"Probably," Iglesias said of his party, "we are the result of the disaster of these policies of austerity in Spain. And probably we are the expression of the hope now."

Iglesias described how the Spanish people are beginning to understand that in democracy, when something is going wrong, you can activate and organize to change course. "We are a new opportunity of change in Spain," Iglesias continued, and we are happy to be an instrument of the people for political change."

Under austerity, Iglesias continued, Spain has become a "colony of financial powers" located in Germany and other power centers of Europe.

"Austerity," he explained, "means the end of democracy. I think if we don't have democratic control of our economies, we don't have democracy. It's impossible to separate economy and democracy, in my opinion."

Later on Tuesday,  Iglesias will give a talk, co-hosted by the Left Forum, at the Proshansky Auditorium at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Watch the full Democracy Now! interview:

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