Sunday, 25 February 2007

The fallacy of Spain’s democracy

"Spain is an example of a young democracy."

Countless times we read or listen to some pundit in the media, in Spain or somewhere else in the world, referring to Spain to “an example of a young democracy”. As if the exercise of moving from a fascist dictatorship to something resembling a democracy had been a success. What a load of nonsense: nothing could be further from the truth.

For a start, we have inherited some of the fascist dogmas of the old Franco’s regime. Namely, that the Army has the right to attach anyone or anything (including elected regional governments) that threatens the “Unity” (Unidad) and “Integrity” of the Spanish nation. (Indisolubilidad). That Spanish is the only language that is truly mandatory, (it says so in the Constitution), and Catalan and Basque an add-on. The list is endless.

The democratic right of self-determination of the Basques and Catalans is forbidden. And the Army will be the guarantor of that. Not very democratic, is it? More Turkey or Chinese-style democracy than a normal European democracy.

In a previous post, I wrote about the situation of the political prisoner Iñaki de Juana Chaos. This man, a former ETA terrorist, has served his sentence and was due for release. He made the mistake of publishing two newspapers articles and the Tribunal Supremo (another institution inherited from the Franco era) served him with a dozen years extra. Yes, that’s right, in Spain you get sent to prison for publishing a newspaper article. After an appeal, the sentence was cut to four years.

The man started a hunger’s strike and has become an international news story, more so since the British newspaper The Times published an exclusive interview. At least the rest of the world can see what kind of democracy exists in Spain.

Oleguer Pressas is a footballer for F.C Barcelona. For a footballer he is rare: he is studying economics at University, is articulate, has written his own book without any ‘ghost writer’ help and has a record of supporting the Catalan movement for independence and national emancipation from Spain. A few weeks ago, he published an article (in Catalan) on the topic of how the Spanish state treats convicted criminals in a different way, depending on their ideological background. He did nothing more than state the bloody obvious: that the Spanish policemen that kill and torture walked free from prison, whereas anyone convicted of supporting pro-independence movements, either in the Basque Country or in Catalonia, is punished harshly and ideologically criminalised by the nationalistic Spanish media. I read the article and thought: state of fact, no big deal.

Well, not so in Spain of course. The article caused a furore and Kelme ( a firm under the defacto control of the Spanish nationalistic right-wing Popular Party) withdrew their sponsorship of the player. The Spanish media has criminalised and vilified the player, as they do with anyone who dares to questions their proto-fascist dogmas.

Again, a British newspaper has exposed the fallacy of Spanish democracy. The Guardian published a few days ago, this well-researched piece on Oleguer, together with an English translation of the article. I encourage you to read it.

I copy and paste below the article from The Guardian for your reading pleasure. Now, can anyone tell me if there is anything other than the plain truth in what Oleguer writes?

PS: I am trying to find the two newspapers published by De Juana Chaos that cost him 4 years in prison; I plan to translate them into English at some point. I will keep you posted.

Translation of Oleguer Pressas article, by Sid Lowe of The Guardian.
In Good Faith (07/02/2007)
Ignacio De Juana Chaos has spent the last twenty years in jail. Reduced according to the penitentiary rules put in place by the previous government, he had been condemned to an 18-year sentence for the crimes he committed. However he remains in jail on remand, pending the final resolution of the case which has been opened against him because of two articles published in the newspaper Gara. The High Court [Audiencia Nacional] judged that in those articles, De Juana Chaos committed the crime of making terrorist threats and condemned him to 12 and a half years in jail. De Juana Chaos has decided to go on hunger strike in protest against that ruling and is prepared to take his protest to the ultimate conclusion [his death].

The State of Law [estado de derecho] - that phrase that has been repeated so many times you would think it was an advertising campaign - does not permit the death sentence nor life imprisonment. Likewise, there is no room for euthanasia. I will allow myself to be guided by good faith and will therefore presuppose that the State of Law has not stopped trusting in its own laws and still does not want to impose the death sentence or life imprisonment. Guided by that same good faith, I will assume that there is no political intention to make euthanasia legal. I will suppose, again guided by good faith, that the content of De Juana Chaos's articles is sufficiently explicit and unambiguous as to keep a man in jail, despite the risk that he may die there. I would like to believe that in the State of Law freedom of expression exists and that in this case, just as in the Egunkaria case or in the case of the actor Pepe Rubianes (to cite just two examples), there is sufficient evidence to try those involved. If that were not so, everyone would be protesting long and loud like they do when freedom of expression is denied in other countries, such as Morocco, Cuba or Turkey. Good faith obliges me to believe that in the State of Law, justice is equal for everyone, that political pressure has no part to play and that judicial independence really does exist; that when the Minister of Justice Lopez Aguilar announces, in reference to the De Juana case, that "the government will construct new punishments and sanctions to avoid such releases", those words have no influence on the judicial sentence.

Actions speak louder than words, they say. Well, David Fernàndez in his book 'Crónicas del 6 y otros detalles de la cloaca policial', informs us of the following events: the ex-Civil Guard General and the man responsible for the horrors of Intaxaurrondo, Enrique Rodríguez Galindo, was condemned to 75 years in jail for the assassination of Lasa and Zabala but served just over four years, claiming health problems. Julen Elorriaga was also released for health reasons: condemned to almost 80 years in jail, he served just 3% of his sentence. After conning the whole of Spain, De la Rosa is able to enjoy a generous house arrest because of depression. Rafael Vera, condemned to 10 years in jail for the GAL-led kidnap of Segundo Marey, spent just eight years in jail for the same reason ...

David, in his book, talks mainly about torture and torturers; about how the justice system seems to see different degrees of severity based not on the crime but the perpetrator of the crime; about how the media machine works so as to criminalize certain forms of dissidence and not others; of how the police create the evidence necessary to implicate people according to their political interests; of how the government does not want to know about the reports put together by the United Nations' special investigators on torture or even hear about organisations like Amnesty International, who have claimed that in this [Spain's] State of Law, torturing does take place.

But now, on top of all that, it turns out that the attorney's office from the Audiencia Nacional has asked for the Egunkaria case to be dropped because, they allege, there is no proof. It turns out that, in November 2004, a court in Strasbourg condemned the Spanish state for "not investigating" the tortures denounced some twelve years earlier by 17 supporters of Catalan independence - it was necessary to silence discordant voices during the Olympic Games. It turns out that, in November 2005, Zapatero pardoned four policemen from Vigo who had been suspended and sentenced to 2-4 years for beating, insulting and humiliating the Senegalese citizen, Mamadou Kane. It turns out that Aznar had done the same in December 2000: 14 policemen convicted for torture were pardoned. One of them was a reoffender. It turns out ...
... that I do not know what to think.

Too often the State of Law has dark spots which make me doubt. It smells of hypocrisy. And too much hypocrisy can make you lose that good faith.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Everything goes

The Spanish conservatives have lost the plot. Completely. Ever since, I hear you say, but even more so since the Madrid train bombings on 11-March-2004.

This week is the start of the trial of the accused of carrying out the 11-M train bombers.

In case you were not aware, the government of the day, (PP-conservatives) told the Spanish public that the terrorist atrocities were conducted by ETA. They even phoned up newspaper editors to make sure nobody made any mistake in their newspaper’s front page: the attacks were carried out by ETA was the official line and it was enforced across the Spanish mass media.

(I know, newspapers publishing whatever the government tells them, but this is Spain remember, not the UK or any other normal country with centuries of democratic tradition).

The Governement of day lied. The attacks were not carried out by ETA. There was no ETA link. It was a local Al-Qaida cell, in reprisal for the Spanish government decision to send troops to fight Bush&Blair’s illegal and ill-conceived war in Iraq.

I remember vividly the day of the attacks. All the main Spanish web sites (except a few honourable exceptions like Vilaweb, Avui and a couple of Basque newspapers that refused to yield to the government and compromise their integrity) pointed at ETA as the group behind the attacks. Even the pro-Labour Spanish press (El País, El Periodico) followed government instructions and printed in their editions that ETA was behind the attacks. However, 99.9% of the non-Spanish press pointed at Al-Qaida.
We were being duped, lied to, the press was being manipulated. Just like when Franco was in power. This is what the Spanish Right got wrong: they thought people were as stupid in 2004 as when it was 1972, when Franco, and Fraga (founder of the PP) were in power in fascist Spain. Alas, the internet made people realise that the government was blatantly lying.

The attacks happened on a Thursday. There were Spanish general elections on the following Sunday. Against all previous polls, and an Goebbelian-like manipulation of the public broadcaster, the ruling party was voted out of office. Because they deliberately lied to the public. Had they admitted the attacks were conducted by Islamic terrorists, they would probably have won the elections. But they chose to lie and to manipulate the media, because that’s what the Spanish Right, devoid of all morality and democratic ethos, is used to doing.

There are three mass media in Spain that still insist, against all credible evidence, that ETA was linked to the attacks. They are the only ones in the world.

- El Mundo newspaper.
- Cadena COPE radio network, owned by the Catholic Conference of Bishops.
- Telemadrid, regional TV network in the Madrid province, controlled by the PP, who is in charge of the regional administration in the province of Madrid.

All these three media outlets are outspoken supporters of the PP. The PP still claims that there is an ETA link to the attacks. Yet, there is not a shred of evidence of it.

But this is the level of depravity that the “People’s Party” has sunk to. Everything goes. Against the Catalans, the Basques or even against the Labour party. Anyone who is not fully behind the radical wing of the party is an enemy, and is treated as such. No surrender. No debate, no dialogue. Just the obliteration of the political opponent. Fraticide politics. Spanish politics.

That these people are still sitting in the European Parliament with other democratic conservative/liberal parties from around Europe is a disgrace. These bunch of neo-Francoist should sit in Brussels with the likes of the Polish nationalist parties, or the other far-right parties in the EU.

If Spain was a normal country, history would be ruthless with such despicable people. Spain is anything but, and so we are damned.