The Rotten Tooth in Spain’s Democratic Grimace

After so many years wondering why democracy in this country seemed afraid to smile, it was almost fitting that the answer came buried on page 17 of today’s El País, in a mere nine lines at the end of a piece on yesterday’s UN Human Rights meeting in Geneva. The purpose of the meeting was to examine Spain’s human rights record, a test which all member states are subject to.

The text signed by Natalia Junquera explains that five countries –Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba and Peru — requested Spain apply more diligence in investigating the crimes of the Franco regime and in guaranteeing the recovery of victim remains. The Cuban representative called on Spain to “do its homework and end the impunity for the regime’s crimes against humanity”. The Garzón case also came up in the report put together but NGOs worldwide for the occasion, calling it “a threat to judicial independence”.

Until here, the statements are pretty standard, in some cases the kettle calling the pot black, but nothing outside the usual script for this kind of event. Then came the official reponse from the government spokesperson, in my own translation:

The Government argues that while forced disappearance is a crime in the penal code, in this case it does prescribe, and that “the amnesty law cannot be considered a full stop law because it was approved not by the heirs of Franco, but by the opposition to the regime”, said the spokesperson.

The more you read this, the more the mind boggles. Here we have an official spokesperson of the executive branch USING THE SAME (INCORRECT) ARGUMENT AS THE FASCIST LAWSUIT AGAINST GARZÓN as the Spanish government’s official posture on an issue of universal jurisdiction.

Now I’m no lawyer, but my layman common sense tells me that the issue of who approved the law is irrelevant to the case at hand. Never mind that the executive branch has no business talking of judicial issues, nor that said amnesty law was approved in 1977 under the threat of another military coup (definition of a full stop law). The point is that human beings were taken from their homes, murdered and buried in undisclosed mass graves when the war had already finished. Who did or said what afterwards does not change the fact that crimes against humanity were committed and must be answered for. Period. Everything else is manipulation wrapped in obfuscation and served on a steaming pile of horseshit.

That the Spanish government is sending representatives to the UN to protect the crimes of the Franco regime is morally bankrupt and does not represent the will of the people of Spain in their majority. But Spain’s democracy is built on the graves of the disappeared, and the impunity of the criminal regime is the rotten tooth in the mouth politic of this country; the reason democracy has never really smiled in Spain, just grimaces or sneers depending on which party is in power.

At the end of the day, no matter how hard the government tries to sell their blood-stained lies, the fact that five countries have joined to prompt Spain to comply with international law in this case is a sign that the times of aquí la paz, y luego la gloria are over. All five of these countries have large exile communities from the civil war, now in their 3rd generation, and at least one of them, Argentina, has gained the moral high ground with its relentless pursuit of their own regime criminals (see Argentina tag to left). For now, the Argentine justice has decided to declare itself not competent to investigate Spanish regime crimes, but if Spain were to beat them this summer in the World Cup, pretty much anything could happen…

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