The Spanish “Gag Law”
Thousands of protestors, both young and old, took to the streets and central plazas of some thirty Spanish cities today to protest for the right to protest. It is a right that should be respected in any self-respecting democracy.
But not in Spain, thanks to new legislation which is on the verge of becoming law. Under the Orwellian-titled Law for Citizen Security, or more aptly named “Gag Law,” virtually all forms of political protest, including all non-violent forms, will soon be criminalized. But not with penal charges – most criminal cases brought against non-violent political demonstrators are promptly thrown out of court – but administrative ones. That way, the government can circumvent the traditional checks and balances of the criminal justice system while pocketing millions in administrative fines.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the financial sanctions the government seeks to impose (and, of course, collect upon) for acts of political protest or disobedience:
• Surrounding a government building: €30,000
• Criticizing or insulting the country, government or head of state during a protest or on social media: €30,000
• Participating in a demonstration that does not have the government’s prior approval: €100 – €1,000
• Organizing a demonstration that turns violent: €30,000
• Participating non-violently in a demonstration that gets out of control: €1,000
• Refusal to show personal documentation (I.D. card, passport) to the police: €1,000
• Uploading images of riot police in action that the government considers against their honor, intimacy or the public image of the police force: €100-€1,000.
• Taking part in a demonstration outside a political party’s headquarters on election day: €30,000-€600,000.
• Trying to prevent the forced eviction of a local resident, something that has become common practice among communities in recent years: €1,000-€30,000.
The list goes on and on while the fines rise and fall between €100 and €600,000. For the government, the sweeping new measures are all about “securing public order,” as a prerequisite for “ensuring individual liberty” – a roundabout way of saying that it is instituting a police state to protect itself.
For many Spanish people, the new law is the ultimate affront, bearing disturbing echoes of the Public Order Tribunal that Franco’s dictatorship used to try political crimes such as public criticism of the Chief of State, justice courts and government; rebellion and sedition; public disorder, illegal propaganda, and the discovery and dissemination of official state secrets.
The Ultimate Betrayal
Resurrecting the ghosts of Spain’s dark Francoist past is the ultimate refuge of a scoundrel government that has reneged on just about all of its election pledges, is mired neck-deep in just about every political corruption scandal imaginable (I wrote about it in April last year: Spain’s Descent into Banana Republicanism), and is to a great extent directly responsible for the collapse of some of Spain’s biggest savings banks.
Having lost all political legitimacy and most of the public’s trust, the Rajoy regime is doing what most desperate governments do when their back is firmly up against the wall: protect its own neck, and those of its corporate and financial masters (many of whom bear a striking resemblance to the same corporate and financial masters that not so long ago enjoyed Franco’s zealous protection).
The fact that the Rajoy regime has an overwhelming majority in parliament means that its every wish is quite literally Spain’s command. Despite the fact that the Citizens’ Security Law is opposed unanimously by every other political party in the land, not to mention over 80 percent of the Spanish public, it nonetheless passed through congress with breezy ease.
Dependent Judiciary, Government Controlled Media
But it’s not just in the political sphere that Rajoy et al are making their unwieldy presence felt. Just in the past week Spain’s Attorney General, Eduardo Torres Dulce, resigned, citing outside (i.e. government) interference in his duties. Two of the main causes of Torres Dulce’s fallout with the government were his refusal to stop the court case against the governing Popular Party’s chief treasurer, Luís Barcenas, and his initial unwillingness to launch a criminal case against Catalonia’s premier Artur Mas for daring to call a purely symbolic mock-referendum on November 11.
Torres Dulce’s replacement – a judge by the name of Consuelo Madrigal Martínez-Pereda – will be Spain’s third Attorney General in as many years. Just how long she lasts in the job will, one assumes, depends on her ability and willingness to see things the government’s way.
Another institution that is under intense pressure to see things through the government’s lens (or else!) is the state media. In the last three years virtually all voices critical of the government’s deeply unpopular austerity measures have been purged from both national radio and television. The Rajoy regime has also had a leading hand in the removal of a number of chief editors from national newspapers, including allegedly El Mundo and La Vanguardia.
None of these actions are remotely befitting of a supposedly democratic government. But then, just as I wrote a year ago in Fear Loathing and Collective Amnesia in Crisis Ridden Spain, Spain’s transition into a fully fledged constitutional democracy never came even close to completion. Now it’s being reversed at breakneck pace.
Indeed, the only remotely positive news is that the Rajoy government has just eleven months of absolute majority left. After the next elections the Popular Party will either have to form part of a coalition government or be demoted to the opposition benches. That said, Rajoy & Co can do a hideous amount of damage in eleven months. By Don Quijones
It was all a big fat lie, and everybody – except retail investors – was in on it. Read… Spanish Judge Exposes Too-Big-to-Fail Bank Robbery