Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spain is hurting


I would have to start this post by asking forgiveness from all the people I have lied to in the last few years.
I have repeatedly told people that I was only Spanish by passport. Well I guess I was trying to convince myself of that.
I have also told on occasion that I had no country, because of the political and historical make up of the region I was born in.  The rest of my cultural identity having been conformed by the places that I have lived since I was born.
The recent developments in Spanish politics have made Spain hurt, so if home is where the heart is, home is hurting a lot right now.

The first cut is the deepest. It was nearly a year ago when ACPV, (Acció Cultural del Paìs Valencia) cultural association of the region, was forced to shut down a signal repeater that was broadcasting TV3, the Catalan regional television, in  Valencia. I grew up watching TV3 since they started the broadcast, in an illegal pirate way ,in the late 80s. The cultural and political aim of such an initiative was to start bringing culturally and linguistically both regions together. It comes from a long removed part of the history in which both regions where part of the same kingdom, which allowed for the common language to be spread between the two regions. The history of that repeater is symptomatic of the situation. When in the mid 90s Valencia got its own regional television Canal 9 it started broadcasting on exactly the same frequency as TV3. We are talking analogue TV broadcast at the time there where only 4 channels, so hardly an overcrowded spectrum. It was a political decision to broadcast on the same frequency. More than 20 years later Francisco Camps got finally for the repeater to be shut down, after having modified the legislation of Valencia, in order to have grounds for fining ACPV for the illegal broadcasting to the extent that they had to shut down the broadcast or file for bankruptcy.  

Then recently the same Francisco Camps, was acquitted by a popular jury from a whole collection of corruption and public fund mismanagement charges. In the middle of this charges was the case of 3 suits which he received as presents paid for from a company involved in a national corruption network nicknamed Gürtel. Hold onto that name it will come back. Two weeks before he was acquitted when the evidence was more than compelling to convict. This is not my opinion much of the press coverage surrounding the court case. Camps regional government, among other cases, set up a water purification plant for the city of Valencia in which the 5th out of 3 water treatment basins gets regularly serviced. No, I did not forget my maths, that is how the invoicing is done. Meanwhile F1 races where being done in Valencia, the Americas cup held, and the pope visited Valencia, public money was being splurged all over and into the pockets of a select few. As a brief example it shall suffice to say that there was several bills amounting to more than half a million euros for cleaning up Valencia after the papal visit.
It is funny then that most of the cleaning was done by voluntaries and organised by local charities, which did not see a single cent.

In the few weeks that Camps was in court several secondary schools had to shut down the heating due to lack of funds to play for the fuel or gas. This was all happening last January. So we have money for F1 races and servicing non-existing water treatment basins, but not for the heating of public schools.
If these where only a local thing people may laugh, at the end of the day the Sicilians still blame the Borbon's for the creation of the Cosa Nostra. I will skip another local case, the one of Marina D'or and the airport of Castellón. Suffice it to say that Carlos Fabra regional politician, never got indicted because the judges in the instructed tribunal kept on changing every few years.  This case I leave as an exercise to the reader. It is easily googleable and google translate can give you an idea. If interested further I am happy to supply links in replies to any comment.


The trouble gets worse when going inland. At the end of the day my great-grandmother use to say. "Thief the one that was, thief the one that is, and thief the one that will be" [in power].
I mentioned earlier a corruption case being built at a national level, the Gürtel case. Camps was the first person to be trialed from that body of evidence. All of the other indicted people admitted guilt and paid a fine. But not Camps, he got acquitted. Well the judge that built the case Baltasar Garzón has now been trialed and found guilty of perjury. At the core of this there are several elements. Garzón is a progressive judge, he was the one that built the case for the detention and extradition of Pinochet out of the UK and back to Chile.  He has also been one of the most active judges in the fight against terrorism. Terrorism from both sides, both the Basque separatist group ETA and the publicly funded GAL. The GAL case was instrumental in getting the socialists out of power. Felipe Gonzalez had by then been president of the Spanish government for 14 years. The GAL case was effectively a case of dirty war against terrorism. The Spanish intelligence services where passing on evidence to a group of military and Guardia Civil that would then kidnap, kill and threaten alleged terrorists or their families all without trial nor due process. This all occurred during the 80s. Well Garzón, no rookie at this stage, was building up a corruption case against members of the Partido Popular. Instrumental to building that case where the wire-tapping of conversation between detainees and their lawyers in prison. Such conversations according to the Spanish legislation can be recorded and used as evidence in a court of law, if a judge deems it appropriate. But as with all laws they are open to interpretation, and on the basis of the interpretation of an "and" to be conjunctive or disjunctive there are two possible course of action. A group of extreme right decided to bring denounce such wiretapping as illegal, based on one of the interpretations. Well A judge accepted the case, and since its a case against a judge it has to be trialled at the highest instance. The sentence was reached, following the same line of reasoning as the instructing case, and sending a signal that if you do not think like us you are committing perjury.

One would think that in a democracy judges ought to do their work, and the judiciary be an independent power. Well in this case the control from a certain spectrum of the Spanish politics has been so internalised in the institution that there is no need for the party in power to say anything. Judges just fall, and convictions are not made. The newly elected Partido Popular has a lot of the people now in public positions being indicted out of the corruption that occurred in the last time they where in power, the Gürtel case. So if you want to see some drama, and see what happens when the conflict of a civil war is never resolved, tune into Spain and its recent politics. You will not be disappointed. I would even dare say that Berlusconi's Italy had a certain aura of magical realism, since there was one strong figure. In Spain now its an old ghost that never rested in peace and that rises its ugly head incarnated in different people. This ghost just rubs the salt in the wounds that where never closed. I guess that's why Spain in hurting so much.