The Ghost of Franco Haunts Spain's Legal Circus

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By A. Odriozola | December 9, 2013 11:53 PM EST

People take to the streets in Spain

The fairness of the Spanish Judiciary has fallen under the spotlight once again this week.

Since the European High Court of Human rights damming verdict on Spanish Justice systematic violations of Human Rights last October, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy is finding his policies under unwelcome scrutiny from worried European Institutions and international analysts.

Just this last week, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, expressed severe concern for Mr Rajoy´s new public security measures. These penalise political dissent with heavy fines and prison sentences. For instance, anyone found "criticising" or "humiliating" Spain will be punished with €30,000 fines.

According to all the opposition parties in the Spanish parliament, Spain's ruling party's measures are designed to target expressions of public unrest and demonstrations against Mr Rajoy´s policies and his ministers.

Most recently a couple of years ago, a small group of environmental activists threw meringue tarts at Yolanda Barcina, a right wing Spanish politician recently charged with corruption and embezzlement. She walked free from court due to a technicality. However, she didn't walk free from her alleged attackers, who covered her face and hair with the sweet mix.

This last week though Ms Barcina had the last laugh when the accused where condemned to two years in prison, for an 'attack on authority'.

As we know in most European countries with a democratic tradition, for a politician to be pelted with eggs or meringue comes with the job.

Nevertheless, according to http://wiki.15m.cc more than 730 Spanish politicians and figures of authority are either under investigation or in court facing corruption charges. Even Mr Rajoy himself has been directly accused of taking bribes. However he doesn't clarify any of the allegations and seemed oblivious about the full impact and concern these actions are generating outside Spain.

Just last week alarm bells rung in the US when the Wall Street Journal reported that even almost 40 years after his death, Adolf Hitler's ally Francisco 'Franco's legacy rattles Spain'.

Apparently, during the last few months there been countless incidents all over Spain where supporters and some elected officials of Mr Rajoy's PP party have appeared giving nazi salutes in social media networks. They've also been seen displaying fascist and nazi flags at local events including schools and even awarding medals to former Spanish Nazi volunteers who fought with the SS in Russia during World War II.

Another incident which hit the headlines recently was when Neo-Nazis and Spanish nationalist extremists assaulted a library in Spain's capital Madrid, where a group of leading Catalan politicians were peacefully celebrating Catalonia's National Day.

On their own one could argue that these are isolated incidents and don't represent any great danger to stability in Spain. However, the full picture suggests a much more worrying trend. As a consequence it's no surprise that the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed his concerns. 

His report on Spain's worrying trend didn't just cover Mr Rajoy's policies on political freedom and the right of free speech. It also covered the blow they represent to millions of ordinary Spanish citizens, who are affected by the economic crisis and these measures are also condemned by the UN.

Oblivious to this criticism, Mr Rajoy and his ministers might rejoice over recent statistics and some headlines stating that Spain is coming out of the recession.

However the true impact of his policies are being felt across the country where, according to leading Spanish news network Cadena SER, now even children will be banned from playing football in the streets. They will require special permits by the authorities or face fines up to €1500.

Additionally another recent report appearing in Spanish media, dates Spain's recovery to 2032. Of course 20 years might not be a great concern in the life of a country, but for a person 20 years is a lifetime. In fact, in a country where 50% of youngsters are unemployed this brings a very serious question about the viability of the current political system that can afford to waste a whole generation.

Moreover, with the current cuts in education it brings a serious doubt who will build Spain's future economy where Spain's youth appear as a "necessary" casualty of economic warfare, brought to them by Mr Rajoy's and his predecessors. This brings certain parallels with the war in Syria, where a whole generation has been scarred by armed warfare.

Spanish social, economical and political conflict might have not have seen the worst yet. Mr Rajoy's policies are creating worrying frustrations and anger in the streets but still, he just smiles when faced with corruption allegations in the media. Also a few favourable headlines regarding the economic recovery might give Mr Rajoy reasons to be complacent.

However, in a country with so many politicians accused of corruption, without new ideas to create jobs, and a government's over reliance on weather, tourism and 'pelotazos', or get-rich-quick investment schemes... the opportunity to create long lasting economic stability by investing in Spain's biggest asset, it's human capital, will be missed for many more years to come.

Therefore, it's not surprising that Spain's most industrialised Catalonia and Basque Country regions might want to make it on their own. They're looking at their future with with a mix of apprehension and optimism. A clear contrast with other regions in Spain where hungry children from low income families, the hardest hit by Mr Rajoy's economic measures, have been reported to faint at their school desks since their subsidised schools meals have been stopped.

In the words of former British PM Tony Blair, one day when all the pain is over perhaps in 2032, people might ask themselves ... "was all the pain worth it?" At the moment many Spanish politicians think so, while laughing all the way to the bank.

And in the middle of this - where is Spain's king Juan Carlos? Often portrayed as a caring patriarch, his own household transparency is under question and members of his own family are under investigation with new daily corruption allegations.

In the meantime, in the streets of cities across Spain, few people have reasons to rejoice. At the moment with a lot worse still yet to come, for many average Spaniards this tragic circus is not a laughing matter. For them life might seem a long river of tears. They need support.

Asier Odriozola is a Basque national living in the UK. He works as a global communications and branding expert

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