MADRID (Reuters) - The government of Gibraltar has filed a criminal complaint against four leaders of Spain's far-right Vox party over its "narrative of unabashed hatred" towards the people of Gibraltar, the chief minister of the British overseas territory said on Wednesday.
Vox, which surged to become Spain's third-largest party after winning 52 parliamentary seats in November's general election, campaigned on a fiercely nationalist platform that includes Gibraltar's return to Spanish control.
Gibraltar's government accused the party of publishing a series of statements that disparaged residents and which were "designed to create an atmosphere of hatred among Spaniards towards Gibraltarians," Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told Gibraltar's parliament.
Filed in Spain, the complaints stemmed from statements and social media posts in which the Vox leaders referred to the territory as a "leech," a "parasite" and a "den of money launderers," local newspaper Gibraltar Chronicle reported.
"These are the sorts of practices that were employed in the 1930s in Germany by the National Socialists of Hitler in whipping up aggression against the Jewish people," Picardo told parliament on Wednesday. "These are the sorts of practices we have seen in the Balkans at the time of ethnic cleansing."
Vox did not immediately return a request for comment.
The government said it had also petitioned Spanish prosecutors to investigate an online group known as Gibraltar: Espanol, which it described as an "echo chamber for anti-Gibraltar propaganda of Vox."
The government added that it would raise its concerns with the social media platforms that host the group.
"The Government will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the promulgators of anti-Gibraltarian hate are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," it added.
With a population of around 30,000 people and a land area of nearly 7 square kilometres, the rocky peninsula at the mouth of the Mediterranean has been a point of contention between Spain and Britain for centuries.
Spain ceded the port to Britain in 1713 after a war, but continues to claim sovereignty over it.
(Reporting by Nathan Allen; Editing by Ashifa Kassam)