Judge Baltasar Garzón is being investigated by Spain’s supreme court, charged with ‘perverting the course of justice’.

Thirty-five years after the death of General Francisco Franco, Spain is finally prosecuting someone in connection with the crimes of his dictatorship, and of the Spanish civil war which came before it. Unfortunately, the defendant in the case is Baltasar Garzón, the judge who sought to investigate those crimes.



Socialist Prime Minister Jose Felipe Zapaterro called a Federal election for November 20th , 2011 –  his term of office was not due to expire until March 2012, he made the decision a full 12 months before then.

Why did he select the anniversary of the death of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco for the election he already knew he would lose?

Even before the full economic picture of Spain’s dire financial situation is revealed by Popular Party (PP) leader Manuel Rajoy, we are witnessing the “Inquisition” style persecution of Baltasar Garzon by the fascist element that lay dormant as the economic good times rolled. Everyone has been feeding at the trough, even the Royal Family is being investigated  as the King’s son-in-law faces charges of mis-appropriation of funds from corrupt regional governments.

Another 10,000 strong demonstration in Barcelona against the Goldman Sachs inspired austerity measures provides a sombre background to the news that “Spanair” has filed for bankruptcy leaving 22,000 passengers stranded and possibly 2,700 more out of work. This to add to the 5.3 million already registered unemployed around Spain.  Another  ‘great white hope’ for the Spanish economy lies belly up and will turn into another “white elephant” littering the Spanish countryside. Spanair has existed thanks to the largesse of the Catalunyan government based in the tourist centric haven of Barcelona. Despite posting soaring losses for the last 3 years in the hundreds of millions of euros.

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 48 airports have been constructed in Spain over the last 20 years. 11 make a profit but some like Castellon’s 150 million euro “never used” airport, have been heavily subsidised by right wing regional governments. The extreme self- aggrandisement of right wing political figures such as  Carlos Fabra, (the provincial premier of Castellón for the last 16 years who stepped down last June), is nowhere more adequately displayed than the 300,000 euro sculpture of Fabra at the entry to Castellon airport.

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Fabra, of the Popular Party (PP), is being investigated for tax fraud, influence peddling and bribery of public officials

If the justice system works as well for him as it did for Francisco Camps he will have nothing to worry about. Camps was last week acquitted of corruption charges. The case dubbed “Gurtel” implicates some 70 people including several highly ranked members of the PP.  Mr Camps, who was head of the regional government from 2003 until he resigned from office in July, has also been caught up in investigations into the Spanish architect paid £13 million for a building that will never be built.

But the key to understanding why Garzón’s career is on the line lies in the third accusation he faces: that he has illegally recorded conversations held in prison between those at the centre of the Gürtel corruption case and his lawyer. Garzón, who led the probe into the case, charges that the lawyers were effectively acting as messengers for the criminals, who were involved in a widespread and deep-rooted kickbacks-for-contracts ring closely linked to the Popular Party.

Ever since Gürtel hit the headlines, the PP has been desperately trying to block the investigation, most notably through the party’s justice spokesman, Federico Trillo.

The news of the Spanair collapse comes shortly after the Valencian government had to be helped out by Madrid authorities to ensure it would not default on a maturing loan of 123 million euros owed to Deutsche Bank. The move underscored the liquidity problems of the most indebted of Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions. To many people, the “airport without airplanes” has come to symbolize the wastefulness of Valencian officials in recent years, when the real-estate bubble fuelled a series of oversize projects of questionable economic value.

700,000 new built homes lie empty as testament to the wayward lending practices to property speculators, corrupt regional governments and the Spanish banking system which lies in tatters. Whole regions have been devastated by property speculation and illegal re-zonings which have seen land prices plummet  in “yet to be discovered regions” such as Burgos, Coruna, Murcia & Lugo.


 The foundations for residential apartments are seen at an urban property development, known as ‘Ensanche de Vallecas’, in Madrid, Spain. Spanish lenders hold 308 billion euros of real estate loans, about half of which are “troubled,” according to the Bank of Spain.

Spanish banks, under pressure to cut property-backed debt, hold about 30 billion euros ($41 billion) of real estate that’s “unsellable,” Spanish lenders hold 308 billion euros of real estate loans, about half of which are “troubled,” according to the Bank of Spain. Land “in the middle of nowhere” and unfinished residential units will take as long as 40 years to sell, Land in some parts of Spain  is literally worthless, Financial institutions have foreclosed on 200,000 homes and that will balloon to as many as 600,000 in coming years as unemployment continues to rise. It is forecast that the 45 Spanish banks, reduced to 15 in the crash of 2008, will decline to 4.

Pablo Cantos, managing partner of MaC Group, talks about the exposure of Spanish banks to risky real-estate assets.

Crony capitalism has been rife in Spain since PP leader Jose Maria Aznar, now a director in the Murdoch news Mafia, led the country from ’96 – 2004. The Aznar years heralded the chameleon like fascist return as the free market good times rolled, and saw THE INITIATION OF MOST OF THE “WHITE ELEPHANTS” at the start of the millennium.

At the same time as it was subsidising some very good sustainability initiatives the heavyweights in Spanish property were carving out the future destined to crumble. It was known that aviation expansion has no future since the E.U. began a fast rail network and aircraft emissions (at 5% of global emissions total)  were rightly and finally brought into an emissions reduction policy absent from the Kyoto Protocol.

This lack of vision for the future is bad enough, but when extreme BRUTALITY is the response to “Los Indignados”, and emerges AS A FIRST THOUGHT, it is time to question just how “progressive” Spanish society is. The Catholic Church takes an opportunity to push the PP to ban abortion on demand and gay marriage as soon as the new Rajoy government is elected. New “Justice Minister” Alberto Ruiz Gallardon (ex Mayor of Madrid see below) has already drafted anti abortion legislation.


The close relationship of the Church with the fascist dictatorship, combined with the historical power and influence over the people the church has had, is symbolised at Franco’s memorial near Madrid. The previous Socialist Government commissioned an enquiry into the future of Franco’s memorial, and they recently concluded that the Caudillo should be exhumed and buried elsewhere as part of an effort to make El Valle de los Caídos (The Valley of the Fallen), a place of reconciliation. Besides being a relatively popular tourist attraction, it’s also a magnet for far-right nostalgics, who like to gather there on the November 20 anniversary of Franco’s death to honour him, a disturbing notion, especially so when you remember that this is also a religious site, hosting a Benedictine monastery. It’s also important to remember that defeated Republican prisoners built El Valle de los Caídos, compounding its status as a monument to the victors.



Mr Zapatero said Franco’s presence ”distorts the original meaning” of the monument, since he was the only person there who did not die during the Civil War, the mass graves contain the remains of at least 33,847 people, both Franco’s supporters and Republicans who opposed them in the Civil War. Many Republican bodies were secretly removed from their known mass grave to give some authenticity that the memorial was for all casualties.

The Partido Popular (PP) had its foundations laid by ex-Franco cabinet minister Manuel Fraga who was one of the directors in the “transition” to a democracy. Although he never became Prime Minister his protégé Jose Maria Aznar did. Fraga had to be satisfied with the premiership of Gallacia from 1996-2005 a state with a large amounts of now worthless land.

Even in death he is controversial.  A group of historians in A Coruña have given the Argentinean Consulate information concerning the role that former Galician regional premier Manuel Fraga played during the Franco dictatorship, to help a Buenos Aires judge carry out her investigation into crimes committed by past Spanish regime officials against survivors and victims of the Civil War and post-war period. This is allowed under International Law as it prevents “regimes” refusing to acknowledge their past.

‘I have no doubt that the judgment of history on Franco will be positive,’ Manuel Fraga, founder of Spain’s opposition People’s party and a former Franco minister, said in 2005

The A Coruña chapter of the Commission of Historic Memory Recovery believed that the 89-year-old Fraga should be included in investigations because, “as a Cabinet member, he participated in and was an accomplice of all types of political repression against the people.” Among them, the complaint mentions firing squads, imprisonments, concentration camps, and keeping secret files on journalists.

The ghosts of Europe’s troubled past hover over the institutions of the European Union but seldom come to life. That changed briefly recently when a minute’s silence was shared between Vaclav Havel and Manuel Fraga Iribarne, the last surviving minister in the government of General Francisco Franco, Spain’s Falangist dictator.

But Baroness (Sarah) Ludford, the Liberal Democrat European human rights spokeswoman, believes it was wrong to hold a joint minute’s silence:

“Fraga never renounced or apologised for the repressive standards of the Franco regime he served. The EU was founded as a reaction to the horrors of dictatorship. It is an insult not just to Havel’s memory, but to that the millions of people who suffered and died at the hands of authoritarian regimes like Franco’s.

The ghost and shadow of “El Caudillo” has never been exorcised from Spain.  It was decided on Franco’s death in 1975 by the powers that be in the “transition”, that there would be no political accusations or recriminations regarding the 100’s of thousands who had been executed by death squads. Spain is suffering from collective amnesia about the rule of fascist dictator General Francisco Franco, ignorance about Franco runs deep. A poll run by the Cadena Ser radio station found that one out of three Spaniards did not know that Franco had overthrown a democratic government.

Just over half of those questioned, however, said that they thought Franco’s influence could still be felt. Like most of their generation, who had never really been taught about Franco, who inherited a falsified history imposed by silences. Conservative institutions such as The Royal Academy of History have played a big part in “whitewashing” the brutality from memory.


Jose Maria Aznar had to defend himself against allegations he attempted to “buy” through lobbyists, the Congressional Medal of Honour for signing up to the war in Iraq.     Blair was awarded the “honour” after he left office.

In 2011 a “new” history of Franco was published under the auspices of Jose Maria Aznar, giving a reason Rupert Murdoch and his news twisting companies would deem worthy of a place on the News Limited board of directors. In 2003 Aznar commissioned the Royal Academy to rewrite history in the new “Spanish Dictionary of Biography”. This 50 Volume work completed by the academy founded in the 18th century to bring the Enlightenment to Spain, is apparently still failing to do so 300 years later. This 6.5 million euro opus approved by King Juan Carlos, paints the democratically elected government of 1931 as “bandits” or “terrorists”, and the brutal fascist dictatorship as “authoritarian”, it praises the “pacification” of several regions, by which it means the execution of thousands of democrats, socialists, teachers and passers-by in general.


Manuel Camps and Esperanza Aguirre in a “tender moment”.

The dictionary also includes admiring profiles of former conservative prime minister José María Aznar and his former culture minister, Esperanza Aguirre, who provided the initial funds for the project.

José María Aznar’s eight years as prime minister between 1996 and 2004 were a great opportunity for his Popular party (PP) to distance itself from its slightly Francoist origins. But the opposite happened: it chose to legitimise Francoism instead. A whole school of revisionist historians was promoted to great success, endlessly recycling the old Francoist myths. It would have been just ridiculous were it not that at the same time the government was denying thousands of citizens the right to unearth their loved ones from the archipelago of mass graves which still covers the whole country. It has taken the intervening 8 years for the opportunity for the new PP government to gloss over this revisionism and play its part in the re-writing of history and re-establishment of fascism.

It should also be noted that Aznar’s wife Ana Botello has recently been appointed Mayor of Madrid – only entering politics after Aznar’s political career ended 8 years ago. Ana Botella is the first woman to be elected as Mayor of Madrid and has hit the ground running announcing that new businesses can be opened in the capital without administrative formalities. Appointed after previous Mayor Gallardon was given the Ministry of Justice portfolio, she said, speaking in her acceptance speech in the Palacio de Cibeles, that ‘a mere communication’ would be enough as these entrepreneurs could start activities which generate employment.

2011 also marked the 80th anniversary of the Second Spanish Republic.  An affair, running from 1931 to 1939, the Republic was ring-fenced by dictators.  And for many left-wing Spaniards it represents an oasis of progressive secular government – women’s rights, civil marriage and divorce, clear Church and state separation – before being torn apart by civil war and buried under Franco’s 36- year repressive rule. Divorce in 1931, in Spain – what did the Catholic Church think of that !!!


 Celebrated by a small band of Republicans, their stories tie into the broader narrative of the many Spaniards who continue to grieve, without closure or catharsis, the fate of their Republican relatives killed during and after the Civil War.  Thousands of Franco’s opponents still lie in unmarked communal graves throughout the country – their bones buried in fields, in ditches, or thrown down wells.  And over the last 10 years a growing number of families have begun tracking down their relatives’ remains in the hope of finally giving them a dignified burial.

Close by the memorial service, in the same cemetery, lie marked graves and a large memorial to the Condor Legion, the German pilots who, sent by Hitler to help Franco win the Civil War, rained bombs on Madrid and, famously, obliterated Guernica.  And opposite is another sizeable memorial to hundreds of Franco’s Nationalist troops who died, as “martyrs” reads the inscription, fighting the Republicans in an early Civil War battle.  Both memorials pay tribute to the dead as having fallen por Dios y por España – for God and for Spain.

In 2007 the Socialist government passed the Ley de Memoria Histórica – the Historical Memory Law – as a way to break the silence and tell the other side of the story.  Officially the law recognised the victims of both sides of the Civil War, but its principal raison d’être was to balance the scales.  The government began the process of removing the thousands of public monuments to Franco.                It set aside money and greased the bureaucratic rails for those families trying to trace the fate and the remains of their Republican dead.  And in May the government finally released, as it promised it would under the 2007 law, a map of the more than 2,000 known communal graves throughout the country.

Then in 2008, Garzón set his sights inwards. In the last several years, a growing movement has challenged the “pact of forgetting” which was part of Spain’s “model” transition to democracy, and the children and grandchildren of victims filed complaints regarding the enforced disappearances of more than 100,000 people between 1936 and 1952. Garzón took up the complaints, saying that under international law Spain’s 1977 amnesty law for “political acts” could not apply to crimes against humanity,

In his long career, Garzón has made many enemies. Conservatives are gunning for him now because he helped unearth alleged massive corruption in the financing of the opposition Popular Party, but many in the Socialist party haven’t forgiven him for probing government support for an anti-ETA death squad in the 1980s.

It is clear Garzon has no friends inside Spain. The disgraceful  speed with which these conservative institutions such as the Falange and lawyers defending accused PP politicians involved in the Gurtel case is unprecedented. Garzon faces being the accused defending his actions against clearly trumped up charges.

“Speaking during the opening day of Judge Baltasar Garzón’s trial, on charges that he overstepped his authority by illegally opening an investigation into crimes committed during the 1936-39 Civil War and ensuing Franco dictatorship, the Supreme Court’s chief prosecutor publicly called for the case to be dropped.”

The seven-member bench has put Garzón on trial for disregarding the 1977 amnesty law when four years ago he opened a court investigation into human rights abuses committed during the Civil War and the subsequent Franco dictatorship.

It is the second time in two weeks that the 56-year-old magistrate has been put on trial before the Supreme Court. A four-day trial – over charges that he illegally violated the constitutional rights of jailed defendants in a public corruption (the Gurtel case), by authorizing the taping of their conversations with their lawyers – has concluded and the  Supreme Court is yet to hand down a verdict.

“This [trial] shows the total impunity of the crimes of Francoism,” Marco González of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory told Reuters outside the court. “It’s not just Garzón who is being judged today, but the right of people to search for vanished loved ones, for there to be a little justice, truth and reparation.”

“Given Judge Baltasar Garzón’s success at investigating and prosecuting crimes under international law around the world, it beggars belief that Spanish judicial authorities would seek to prevent him from investigating such crimes in Spain,” said Hugo Relva, legal advisor at Amnesty International, who is in Madrid to observe the trial.

“An investigation into human rights abuses by a judge can never, ever be considered criminal conduct,” he says, adding that the 1977 amnesty law doesn’t prevent investigations into crimes committed during either the civil war or the Franco dictatorship. “This goes against Spain’s international law obligations, including its duty to open inquiries into human rights abuses.”

“If the Supreme Court finds Garzón guilty it will become the laughing stock of the entire judiciary.”

Meanwhile the Catholic Church seems more concerned out abortion and homosexuality than the rampant poverty spreading through Spain. Cardinal Archbishop Antonio Rouco Varela used an open-air gathering in Madrid’s Plaza Colón on Friday to attack the policies of the previous Socialist Party government, calling for a repeal of legislation that provides for abortion on demand, as well as same-sex marriage.

The Spanish Catholic Church is also concerned about homosexuality. During his Boxing Day sermon, the Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernández, said there was a conspiracy by the United Nations. “The Minister for Family of the Papal Government, Cardinal Antonelli, told me a few days ago in Zaragoza that UNESCO has a program for the next 20 years to make half the world population homosexual. To do this they have distinct programs, and will continue to implant the ideology that is already present in our schools.”

The Church was no doubt a major lobbyist for Garzon to be stopped once he ordered the exhumations of 8 bodies from the basilica in Franco’s Memorial in 2008, the bodies had secretly been moved from the place of their execution to the “Valley of the Fallen” in 1956. Garzon had also ordered the exhumation of bodies from 19 mass graves around Spain so that relatives could have closure on their grieving.

One of the two supreme court judges behind Garzón’s prosecution, Adolfo Prego, often euphemistically described as “ultra-conservative”, contributes opinion pieces to a pro-Franco magazine, while the other, Luciano Varela, is known for his professional enmity towards Garzón.

And yet, should all this be of any importance? The 1977 law is pre-constitutional and a general pardon for crimes against humanity would be in contradiction with international treaties signed by Spain. That is why in 2008 the UN human rights committee demanded that it be scrapped on the grounds that it could lead to serious misunderstandings.

Spain has lacked the catharsis that can come with a full reckoning with the past. There has been no equivalent of Germany’s Willy Brandt moment, when the then-chancellor sank to his knees in atonement for the Holocaust. There has been no equivalent of South Africa’s “Truth” commission after apartheid.

Could one yet come? Not from the right-wing People’s party, which is now Spain’s government.  Too many luminaries of the PP have family ties with the Franco regime: they are the sons and daughters of those who served the caudillo. So far they have been wary of attacking Francoism for fear of seeming to condemn their own forebears.

The church won’t do it. Franco was, above all, a nationalist, authoritarian Catholic – and Francoist nostalgia is said to endure in Spain’s ultra-traditionalist church.

The obvious candidate is King Juan Carlos I, widely credited with holding the country together in the precarious years of transition and standing firm during the abortive coup attempt of 1981. But he too is hardly able to make the move. For he was Franco’s chosen heir, whose coronation helped reassure Franco supporters, allowing them to accept the move to democracy.

If the PP can definitively end Garzón’s career, have him disbarred, and bring to an end a 23-year career in pursuit of justice that has seen him tackle ETA, drug trafficking, and white-collar crime, so much the better, it believes. Otherwise, it will be hoping that it will be enough to discredit him by having him hauled up three times before the Supreme Court. (Franco is not dead) has been created by a diverse group of citizens in order to vindicate the historical and universal justice with the help of technology. is a mirror, a reflection of society, a civil platform where political parties do not fit. is a collective tool that aims to transform reality with playfulness (in its form) and seriousness (in its method and content). wants to clean the wounds and signs of a dictatorship (Francisco Franco, Spain) naturally, without violence. tries , as a first step,to help the judge Baltasar Garzon to continue working in the National Court of Spain. The enews outlet “Iberosphere” has extensive articles on the issue.



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