The ashes of the State
Spain is a state whose institutions are decaying. But with that “nobility” that has so often guided them through history, the state’s representatives react to these problems with more authoritarianism than transformative self-criticism. The mayor, the apothecary and the priest now trade on the stock market but jump to grandiloquently defend a Spain which they injure with the disdain of corruption, abuse of power and manipulation of justice.
The division of powers –rest in peace, poor Montesquieu- has had a week horribilis. In Catalonia, it’s hard to forget Spain’s Minister of the Interior talking of having “a word or two” with the public prosecutor’s office and not think of the contortions of the board of prosecutors of the Supreme Court of Justice of Catalonia to change their decisions over whether it was necessary to bring charges over the unofficial 2014 independence referendum or not. Perhaps because of that, the surprise is lessened this time. But many citizens of good faith will have recently been making mental lists of incomprehensible judicial acts, reports of crude political interventions with prosecutors and of corrupt verdicts worthy of the worst banana republic.
The precautionary measures taken against the king’s brother-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, who will wait comfortably in Geneva until the legal proceedings run their course, have been justified by a weak formulation of the accusations. At the same time, as this paper had predicted, the reshuffle in the public prosecutors’ office has turned into a purge. The attorney general, José Manuel Maza, with the support of the conservative members of the public prosecutors’ council, has made some thirty new appointments. Two men with Maza’s full confidence stand out, the new Anticorruption prosecutor, Manuel Moix, and the lead prosecutor of the National Court, Jesús Alonso. They will be key figures in the numerous outstanding cases of suspected political corruption. The purge has coincided with very serious allegations of interference and foul play by prosecutors in Murcia, who were investigating a suspected case of corruption by the president of the regional government, a member of the ruling PP party.
Perplexed citizens will also have seen the reports about the second lawsuit against the board of the Catalan parliament, the justification for which shows the ideological motives at work. The only member of the board who has not been charged by the public prosecutor, Joan Josep Nuet (CSQP party), has been spared “because he didn’t intend to disobey the Constitutional Court’s orders, [...] rather that he acted in the erroneous belief that he was fulfilling his duties as a member of the Parliament’s board”, emphasising his “lack of intent”. Nuet has argued that he was fully aware of his actions. The legal basis leaving CSQP with a way out is important, even more so now that Nuet has spoken in support of his own actions. Whilst the state’s objective is to weaken the majority that supports the Catalan independence movement, preserving the largest possible majority should remain the goal of independence supporters.
The series of anomalies related with the workings of Spanish justice shows the need for a process of regeneration in the politics and institutions of the state. It is surprising that, besides Podemos, there has been no popular, ideologically cross-spectrum demand for the restoration of Spain’s institutions, nothing that would be able to update political customs and make them fit for the 21st century.
Unity of the elites
Another anomaly might explain it. On 20 February, El Mundo ran an interesting interview with Juan Luis Cebrián, president of the Grupo Prisa media conglomerate, talking about the Guardia Civil (Spain’s police), article 155 of the Spanish constitution, of suspending the powers of the Catalan government, and a possible prison term for Artur Mas. He sets the “collapse” of the state in the ceding of the 15% income tax rate to Catalonia and in president Zapatero’s 2005 reforms to the Statutes of Autonomy. This interview is a pure demonstration of the thinking of an entity called the State, consisting of institutions but, above all, made up of elites incapable of negotiating, of understanding that the world has changed, that the State holds the power, but that it stems from the people.
In his memoir, Cebrián talks about his Francoist family roots and his time as director of news at TVE (the Spanish public broadcaster) while Arias Navarro was president. He also explains why he stopped publishing stories about Banca Catalana for what he describes as pressure from “Pujolism” and Fernández Ordóñez. Yet he claims that Spain’s institutional collapse was due to the income tax rate and the Statute reforms ... In the coming months we’ll see C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate, or for our younger readers: winter is coming.
 Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution gives the central government broad powers against any dissenting autonomous community.
 Previous president of Catalonia currently awaiting a verdict in his trial for his involvement in the unofficial 2014 independence referendum.
 Carlos Arias Navarro was the last president of Spain during the dictatorship, and the first president of the transition to democracy.
 Jordi Pujol was president of Catalonia from 1980 to 2003. He was, along with his father, one of the founders of Banca Catalana. Francisco Fernández Ordóñez was a leading Spanish politician during the transition to democracy.