By Alberto Bullrich
The Comment Factory | September 29, 2010
Falange Española de las J.O.N.S. (or its full title: Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista) is approximately translated as ‘Traditionalist Phalanx Formation and National Unionist Offensive’. It is the euphemism used before, during and after the Spanish Civil war for the blueshirt Fascist party of Spain. It still exists as a group, organization or political ‘party’, whichever you choose to call it. Its members are the ones you see giving the Fascist salute at the kind of commemoration very few wish to remember. Aside from the strutting and strong-armed salute, their symbols include the five arrows and yoke that once identified Spain’s Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, and that spread terror among the populace for over fifty more recent years.
Falange Española is behind at least one of three cases being brought against Judge Baltasar Garzón, who sits on Spain’s Central Criminal Court, the Audiencia Nacional. Together with the ultra right wing union Manos Limpias (‘Clean Hands’!) they appear as the accusation against Garzón for his attempting to investigate crimes against humanity during the Franco dictatorship. His stated objective in pursuing those crimes is, or was, to try to clear up who exactly lies in the innumerable common graves and ditches, into which were tossed the bodies of just about anybody who opposed the illegal Franco regime.
The Ley de Memoria Histórica (Historical Memory Law) of 2007 has the following provisions:
* Recognition of the victims of political, religious and ideological violence on both sides of the Spanish Civil War and of Franco’s regime.
* Condemnation of the Francoist regime
* Prohibition of political events at the Valley of the Fallen – Franco’s burial place.
* The removal of francoist symbols from public buildings and spaces. Exceptions may be given for artistic or architectural reasons, or in the case of religious spaces.
* State help in the tracing, identification and eventual exhumation of victims of Francoist repression whose corpses are still missing, often buried in mass graves. (My italics.)
* The granting of Spanish nationality to surviving members of the International Brigades, without requiring them to renounce their own nationalities.
* Rejection of the legitimacy of laws passed and trials conducted by the Francoist regime.
* Temporary change to Spanish nationality law, granting the right of return and de origen citizenship to those who left Spain under Franco for political or economic reasons, and their descendants.
* Provision of aid to the victims and descendants of victims of the Civil War and the Francoist regime.
In other words, Garzón was doing what the law says he, or other more timid judges, should be doing.
The other two cases against him are brought by rightist interests as well. One of them is supposedly investigating fees he received for a series of lectures at New York University, promoted by Banco Santander and its President, Emilio Botín. Although this case was archivado (‘filed’, presumably in the waste paper basket) last year, the matter was raised again because it is alleged that there might be some connection with a case against Botín that was dismissed by the judge after the lecture tour. He is accused of malfeasance and bribery. The third case is clearly political inasmuch as Garzón, who was for a short time a minister in the PSOE government, is being investigated about covert phone taps in a case of corruption that currently involves some thirty people, many higher-ups, in the government of the Valencia region, governed by opposition PP.
A meeting held recently in support of the judge, called by the country’s two main unions, UGT and CC.OO. and held at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, has elicited calls for the resignation of its Rector, who was present and on the dais. Most of the calls come from the PP, who happen to run Madrid as well.
The historical memory case has raised international condemnation. A frequent comment goes something like this: “It is shameful that a judge is accused of doing his job.” In Argentina, where many exiled victims, or descendants, of the Franco regime still live, Garzón is viewed as a hero for his persecution of those who committed crimes during the Videla ‘years of the disappeared’ (one of whom is right now on his way back from Spain to face the music). A case is being brought there, via the Spanish courts, against those who are here pressing for his dismissal. Condemnation is unanimous throughout Latin America, and also in Europe; the matter has been the subject of headlines and opinion pieces in most of the world’s more serious press. Internet sites in support of Garzón are multiplying (one of several on Facebook here).
The Spanish judicial system is a mess. At the top, i.e. the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, it leans heavily to the right, despite protestations such as ‘leave the judiciary alone’. In a democratic state, one should be able to assume that its judiciary has no leanings at all. Of course, that would be impossible if only because its members are human and have their preferences, however subdued. From following his career it is easy to see that Garzón himself leans to the left, together with many of his colleagues. This might evoke the Chinese saying I just invented: ‘Too many leaning trees make the forest bare.’
I support Garzón. Do you?