If you ask most people about the secret police their minds will go back to the days of the Nazi regime or totalitarian Eastern Bloc states. However many will be aware that the secret policeman (and policewoman) is alive and well. Indeed as I write this in Spain they are having a ball!
Spain and a repressive regime go hand in hand for those who think back to the years of the Franco dictatorship. For Spaniards who are of my generation or older the threat of the knock on the door was very real indeed. For those under 40 it is all history. They are very proud of the advances Spain has made in the democratic stakes since the death of Franco. Hence the discovery that secret police are still on the nation’s streets has come as a profound shock.
Of course Spain’s secret police have been there all alone. In March I wrote in the Morning Star about the anniversary of February 23 1981 attempted coup when the fledgling democracy of Spain was almost brought to its knees when the Guardia Civil Lieutenant Coronel Antonio Tejero marched in to the Spanish parliament, confronted the MPs and fired shots in the chamber.
One of those forced to flee was Antonio Herrera now in charge of the health section of the CC.OO union. The Communist MP, Paco Vázquez, met him in Málaga offering to take him to Gibraltar. He declined and says later friends in the police told him at the time they knew exactly where to find him plus each and every one of those on the left.
Now the secret police have surfaced again amongst the protestors, ‘Los Indignados’, of the 15-M movement. This movement makes up a number of people’s organisations which have become indignant with the nation’s economic plight, the endemic political corruption and greed. The street protests have been largely peaceful and have embraced young and pensioners, the employed and jobless, professional classes and artisans. The Spanish summer is as real as the Arab spring.
So the surfacing of videos that show secret police infiltrating the demonstrations of the 15-M movement to provoke disturbances and confrontations supposedly on the part of the protestors in order to justify the brutal police retaliation has come as a major shock to the public.
Whilst the shock is real enough what has left people stunned is that only websites such as Voto en Blanco have had the courage to show what is going on via the internet. No media, which is subjected to or dependent on the State or its agencies, has been brave enough to report the actions of the secret police. Whilst it is the police in the spotlight they, of course, take their orders from the politicians in power who are demonstrating the low moral standing of those who currently govern Spain.
The majority of the violence has taken place in Barcelona, a territory governed by the Generalitat. It is here that Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, Spain’s minister of the interior, who is also responsible for the security of the country, has approved the tactics and methods of the police which are more in keeping with a dictatorship or a democracy that has no ethics or decency.
As can clearly been seen on the videos that have been placed on YouTube, although I understand access to some has been blocked, police provocateurs have infiltrated the demonstrations and used violence in stark contrast to the peaceful protests around them. In a video of the demonstration in Barcelona’s Parc de la Ciutadella once the secret police have done their work the riot squads move in firing directly in to the crowds. The video then identifies the police perpetrators.
These are the actions we associate with Nazi, Fascists or repressive regimes. However Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba is not only a socialist government minister but the likely heir to the current premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
If socialist Rubalcaba can sanction such action on behalf of PSOE then if Mariano Rajoy’s centre-right Partido Popular wins the general election next March expect the repressive instruments of State to be given full reign. For the sad fact is all the corrupt political parties are under attack. Collectively they are guilty as charged so will fight back with their total might – secret police and all.
(Versions of this article appeared in the Morning Star and Panorama on June 28 2011).
Monday, June 27, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
“Los Indignados” is the collective term for the protestors in Spain. They form under the banner 15-M, May 15 being the day they took to the streets ahead of the local and some regional elections on the 22 nd. The indignant ones are not just young activists: they come from all age groups, mothers with babes in arms, pensioners, workers, the jobless – every Spaniard who wants to cry “¡Basta!” “Enough!” – and their number is steadily growing.
The movement started in Madrid where the “Indignados” moved in to the Puerta del Sol on May 15 and set up camp. Madrid as a city and region is controlled by the PP so the centre-right party was happy to see them on the streets as the elections drew near, a very public rejection of the socialist Zapatero government.
The PSOE government wisely chose not to intervene as the election board ruled the gathering illegal if it continued on the eve of the polls – a day of reflection in the Spanish electoral process. The PP swept to power in regions, provinces and town halls making historic gains. Then the party’s mood changed. They wanted the plazas cleared, the “Indignados” were a nuisance, an eye-sore, a blight on business – the PP demanded the government take action.
The protestors held their position; in Barcelona the results were bloody confrontations with the Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, who were also accused of infiltrating the 15-M movement and acting as provocateurs. Eventually they dispersed, usually cleaning up as they went. The action groups have not evaporated they have merely reformed basing themselves in the very city, town and village neighbourhoods from which they draw their strength and support.
On Sunday 19-J protests were held throughout Spain with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in Madrid, Barcelona, Pamplona, Gijón, Salamanca, Valladolid, Valencia, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Bilbao, Vitoria, San Sebastián, Sevilla, Málaga. These were set piece events but far more significantly virtually every small town and village also held their own angry protests. Posters accused the prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of being “a lackey of the banks”. Others proclaimed ““There is no democracy, government by the markets”, “the crisis that pays the capitalists” and “Democracy, rest in peace.”
In March I wrote an article in The Morning Star on political corruption in Spain. I quoted fellow journalist, Francisco Rubiales, who pens the “Voto en Blanco” blog which has long campaigned for Spaniards to withhold their votes from corrupt politicians. He spoke of a Spain infected by the worst political, social, cultural and human cancer – deep and rampant corruption which closes off the country’s road to the future and snatches away the dignity of the Spanish people.
On Monday after the 19-M protests he wrote thus: “What happened yesterday in Spain is important because it signifies the awakening of a nation which has until now been subjected and castrated by one of the worst political classes in the world. Spain, fortunately, wakes up and displays its teeth to the politicians that already hide, frightened, behind the police forces who have been armed and trained to suppress popular outrage. When a political class has to defend itself from its own people with the police because it lacks the arguments, it has lost democratic legitimacy. It is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of modern Spain: of popular outrage against this worthless political class. Welcome the protests, symbol of the courage of a people and their attachment to the values of decency.”
Of course all the political parties have rushed to engage the support of the 15-M movement. This week the vice-secretary of communications of the Partido Popular, Esteban González Pons, stated: “The solution to the indignation is dignity and this they can do at the polls, the votes, the voice of the people, the change and we think that is the PP. When after the 15-M the Spaniards were permitted to vote, they voted more than ever for the Partido Popular and we are going to prepare to be the alternative to restore the dignity of Spain.”
The centre right could not be more wrong. True Spaniards voted out the ruling PSOE and hence the Partido Popular benefited as too did the far left Izquierda Unida. Yet the move by the PP to link itself with “Los Indignados” is either cynicism or stupidity, possibly both. The political heirs to Franco are a key element of Rubiales “worst political classes in the world.” It is a party riddled with corruption and if Zapatero is a lackey of the banks then the leader of the PP and probably Spain’s next premier, Mariano Rajoy, is their partner, friend and ally.
The 15-M movement and through it an ever increasing number of Spaniards are demanding a thorough overhaul of the political and economic system with an end to endemic corruption. The PP cannot deliver that hence the party’s attempts to try and fool the people in to believing it can will rebound in the most violent of forms. Spain is a country in political crisis; when the Partido Popular comes to power the powder keg will explode because in its election euphoria it has overlooked the simple fact – it is the party that stands for everything that the 15-M movement rejects.
(The photograph was taken at the Jerez 15-M meeting on Sunday - David Eade (c))
(A version of the above article appeared in The Morning Star on Friday June 24 2011)