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The "Unity of Spain" and a General's shadow

by ManfromMiddletown Sun Oct 9th, 2005 at 10:23:01 AM EST

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

As the sun dissappeared from the Spanish sky on Monday, phantasms of the past. real and imagined lurked in the innocous comments of a Spanish general.

General Felix Sanz Roldan, chief of staff of the armed forces, showed the dismcomfort of the military command with the use of the term "nation" recognized for Catalunya by the Estatut (the proposed Catalan autonomy statute.)  The statements were made during a conference about the transformation of the armed forces sponsored by the Foro de la Nueva Sociedad.

In the Q&A session after his presentation, Sanz Roldan answered in one response several questions about the Catalan statute, the inclusion of the term "nation" or whether there existed risk to the unity of Spain. explaining that "the unity of Spain is a worry, as is logical for the military, and it's a worry because we've entered into the academy to live for and by Spain, and without doubt there exist among the military a great interest that this secular Spain of such glory and accumulated history continues to be a common patrimony and indivisible for all Spaniards.

There exists a "worry", but alas given the history of Spain in the 20th century with the tragedy of the Civil War, and the unfortunate failure to confront the ghost of the past, this "worry" creates worries.  In the absence of the midday sun demons of the past do run, fear real and imagined that Spain is still subject to the whim of generals who profess to act in the interest of the "Unity of Spain".  Lest it be forgotten, on of the catalysts for the both the Nationalist uprising and the failed pronunciamiento of Feb 23 1981.

The image of a Spanish colonel holding legislators at gunpoint, telling them to "sit the fuck down" all the while being broadcast to a live television audience is shocking, and at heart much of the Spanish embrace of Europe is reaction to feelings of Spanish inadequecy and shame of the past.  In contrast the the reconociliation in South Africa, there has never been an accounting for the crimes of Franco and the atrocities of the Civil War.  Every couple of years another mass gave is uncovered and old wounds are reopened.  One of the strengths and perhaps the greatest weakness of the
transicion the amazing transformation of Spain from a tin pot dictatoship to a fully functioning democracy was the willingness to leave the issue of reconociliation (or revenge) to the wayside for a later date when democratic gains where consolidated.

The wounds of the past have never been addressed, but the in large part the  preoccupation by the Catalan Nationalist Youth about  the possiblity of miltary action to preserve the "Unity of Spain" against the forces of Catalan nationalism is paranoid delusion.

Culminal (Catalan Nationalist Youth leader) believes that Sanz roldan should be aware that his words are a threat and if this "interest" in the unity of the country. "by someone who entered the Army in the Franco era" might lead to the return of tanks down the Diagonal, in reference to the arrival of  Nationalist forces into Barcelona by the city's main avenue in 1939.

Yes, Spain has a troubling history of military intervention in civil affairs, but there are three simple reasons why a coup de etat is about as likely as the sun not returning to the sky once it exits the shadow of the moon.

  1.  Military interventionism was sympatematic of a bloated, officer heavy military that has been cut to a fraction of its former self in the years following the 1981 incident.

  2.  The relocation of the Civil Guards from the competency of the Mininistry of Defense to the Ministery of the Interior has removed the threat represented by what were essentially paramilitaries to the democratic order.  The infrastructure for military action is simply nonexistent.

  3.  The Spanish embrace of Europe has been mutual.  Military action in Spain woul undoubtedly be frowned upon by the rest of the European Union, and the cat fight over Haider in Austria would pale in comparision to the response to a "General's night out in Madrid" from Brussells.  One only hopes that the American government would respond likewise.

Nonetheless,  as eloquently stated by Jospeh Heller in Catch 22, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you." And the same would seem to apply to the preoccupation about the role of the Spanish military in the preservtion of the unity of the nation.  The real danger isn't a coup, but a subtle pronunciamiento, the distinuguishing charachteristic between the two being that the coup seeks to change the regime, while the pronunciamiento seeks to change the regime's agenda.

With the increasing role he Spanish military will be playing in light of the recent bum rushes on the fence at Ceuta and Mellila by Subsaharan migrants (where are all the Morrocans at in this picture? God knows there are Morrocans migrants in Spain.), and the subsequent deployment of armed forces to guard the frontier between Morrocco and the Spanish cities on the African coast, there is reason to question the proper role of the military in civil affairs.  There is a very real threat to Spain presented by instability in the Maghreb, and the ability of the king of Morrocco to keep the situation under control is in doubt (the Morrocan issue bullets recovered from the bodies of migrants who were shot in Spanish territory presents but one of the more interesting scenarios for a clusterfuck of global proportions.) But the modernification and professionalization of the Spanish armed forces along the American model of the "professional military" present the threat of a military class that feels its first obligation is to "Spain" and only secondarily to the people and government thereof. And in that circumstance saber rattling about the "unity of Spain" by the military should be cause for alarm.

how Fran and the rest of the frontpagers write so much, this took me the better part of an hour, and English is my native language!

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Oct 5th, 2005 at 02:06:21 AM EST
My excuse (when I actually do any writing) is that I work from home so can spend the time everyone else spends commuting writing.

An hour seems about right for that. Actually, it seems like reasonably good going.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 5th, 2005 at 02:22:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks ManfromMiddletown, a very interesting and informative read. I would agree with you that pronunciamiento may be a real risk in Spain.

The real danger isn't a coup, but a subtle pronunciamiento, the distinuguishing characteristic between the two being that the coup seeks to change the regime, while the pronunciamiento seeks to change the regime's agenda.

Europe's tolerance towards of the "democracy bending" behaviour of Silvio Berlusconi is a cautionary tail.

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying

by RogueTrooper on Wed Oct 5th, 2005 at 05:27:20 AM EST
I've been thinking about this for the past day.  

As Migeru has pointed out the possiblity of actual military action is almost nonexistent, but I wouldn't dismiss the possilbity of things spinning out of control.  This last spring a  poll found that 54% of  Spanish favored the military occupation of the Basque country if there was an autonomy referendum  a la Ibbaratxe Proposal.  As well you now have an increasing military role in keeping Ceuta and Melilla secure.

There's an old saying, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?".  Because the Spanish are incredibly sensistive about the idea that there remains any lingering reamainder of the fascist past, I suspect that before there was military action, public opinon would cave to restore peace. And the situation in Catalunya woul become more and more like the situation in the Basque country.

It's not cowardice, it's a deeply understandable aversion to conflict.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 12:28:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...by the right wing to increase political tensions in Spain. Will blog more later.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 5th, 2005 at 05:31:44 AM EST
What's schocked me has been the increasingly uncivil behavior throughout the country.  I expect these things in the basque country, but the stuff coming out of Catalunya suprises me.  The right wing threat to send Carod Rovira to the "gas chamber", the taped threat presumably by the Catalan nationalist sent to Pique saying that "without the Estatut, you go the firing wall".   This is insane, and all the while Zapatero is forced to deal with changing demographics and social attitudes that mirror rest of the world's experience of the 1960's.  And there seems to be an abnormally large contigent of cutlure warriors amongst the Spansh Right.  

And with the global rights contention that the results of the March 14 election were sumbission to terror (and here I thought it was the lying about ETA that did Aznar in), I really have to wonder how the US in particular would act if there was something truely obnoxious, like a grab for power by the right.  I've seen that the the American right tends to defend Franco as an anti-communist and ignore that he was a fascist.  What would they d if some general took it upon themselve to kidnap Zapatero andtry to force change or occupied the Cortes??

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Oct 5th, 2005 at 10:34:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, well, I don't think any general would go that far. The King did not stand for 23-F in 1981, and he would not stand for anything of the sort now. And these radicals do everything "For God, Homeland and King", just like the Carlists.

The global right had its head up its arse, but check out the video that Aznar's FAES foundation has put out regarding 11-M.

Did you people follow the three anti-government demonstrations this past June?

  1. The Catholic Bishops' Conference encouraged people to actually go out and demonstrate against the Government's plan to legalize Gay Marriage, and the Pope himself got repeatedly involved in criticising Spain.
  2. The PP demonstrated in Salamanca (Franco's capital during the Civil War) against returning documents stolen from Catalunya by Franco on the grounds that the integrity of the Historical Archive was being compromised, despite the fact that copies were left behind.
  3. The PP organized a demonstration in Madrid against Zapatero suggesting that he would negotiate with ETA if and when it completely renounced armed struggle.
It is actually pretty appalling what the Spanish right will demonstrate against.

Additionally, the PP is clearly manipulating terrorism victims for political gain. The Association of Terrorism Victims toes the PP's line to such an extent, that the victims of March 11 (called traitors by the PP's supporters) have had to form their own separate association. Pilar Manjon, president of this association, had to endure personal insults when she testified before the parliamentary commission investigating the terrorist attacks.

The PP believes they belong in the Spanish government by birthright or, worse still, by virtue of having won the civil war (though they won't say this for obvious reasons).


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 5th, 2005 at 11:02:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree the any sort of military action is extremely unilikely. The king would not stand for such a thing, and I find his story inspiring  being fitted to be the next absolute monarch of Spain, and embracing democracy instead.  (Viva Juan Carlos!)

I've been watching with interest the series of events in Spain the demonstrations are disturbing, but the attack on santiago Carillo, the incendiary rhethoric against Caod Rovira both during the Madid march prior to the Basque regional elections and the demonstration at Salamanca.

And I agree wholeheartedly about the PP's manipulation of terrorism, look what the bastards did to Pilar Majon.

The woman lost her son (pero los que mataron al hijo de Snra. Manjon no eran los corectos para Sr. Aznar y sus ideas de que paso en el 11-M.), yet the Spanish right sends her packing in fear for her life from Madrid.  Have they no sense of decency, but the answer should be clear there is no room for decency in the PP only the ego of Sr. Aznar and his lackeys.

HER plaintive cry for justice made her a standard-bearer for relatives of the victims of the Madrid train bombings and won the hearts of millions of Spaniards. But Pilar Manjon, whose 20-year-old son died in the blasts on March 11 last year, has had to flee her home after receiving death threats.

Ms Manjon, 46, has gone into hiding after being threatened by groups apparently associated with the opposition Popular Party, defeated by the Socialists in an election three days after the terrorist attacks.

I guess what really distrubs me is that I have always thought of the true madness of Spanish poltics to be the siutation in the Basque Country, but now this no holds barred attitude seems to be infecting the dialgoue in Catalunya. And the rest of the world remains oblvious. Having lived in Pamplona and seen what can only be described as the irrational response on the part of the Spanish gov't to the Basque situation, shuttering Egunkarria, banning HB , AUB, and going after PCTV-EHAK, resinforcing the siege mentality among Basque nationalist sympathizers instead of premoting dialouge and an end to arms.  Now this poison infrects the discussion in Cataluyna.  Spain can handle the Ibarratxe show with the antics that go on there, but I'm not sure that similiar madness in Catalunya isn't just bad news, very bad news.

And the world remains oblivious and CNN and the rest slander the zapatero gov't  on a continuing basis. They neer talk and Angel Berrueta,he was no angel, but no one dserved to die to preserve Aznar's lies about what happened on 11-M.

Such sadness, when there is hope for good things.  I've got to get to work.  I'm very happy to see both you an KCurie here.  Spain is important and misunderstood, hopefully we can act to change that here.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Oct 5th, 2005 at 11:35:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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