Spain’s campaigning judge, Baltasar Garzón, has provoked fury amongst those on the right of the nation’s politics as well as the remaining supporters of the Franco regime. His decision to investigate the crimes committed during the dictator’s era has opened up not just one but several cans of worms as those opposing the judge have sought to have him brought before the courts.
On Saturday it was the turn of his supporters to take to the streets. In Madrid thousands marched from the Puerta de Alcalá to the Puerta del Sol. Another four thousand were reported to have gathered in the plaza de Sant Jaume in Barcelona.
In Sevilla the demonstration was attended by the mother and sisters of the judge – the family come from Jaén in Andalucía. Others gathered in various towns and cities including Málaga, Córdoba, Zaragoza, Murcia, Cáceres, Valladolid, León, Palma de Mallorca, Las Palmas, Santander, Valencia and Gijón.
It was also an international protest. Leading newspapers around the world such as the Financial Times and New York Times have questioned how a judge can face trial for essentially doing his job. So it is no surprise that the Spanish Embassy in Lisbon was the scene of a protest as were the French cities of Paris, Pau, Montpellier and Burdeos with people in Brussels, Buenos Aires and Dublin scheduled to show their support.
It is not only in the case on the crimes of the Franco regime that Garzón has gathered enemies but also in the Gürtel corruption scandal that embroils the opposition Partido Popular. To counter this demonstrators carried banners calling for “democracy” and “justice” in support of the judge as well as demanding more judges like him – plus a hearing of all the evidence in the Gürtel trial.
It is significant that in opposition dozens of people gathered at a Falange Española de las JONS demonstration held at the same time in Madrid – where amongst other claims against Garzón he was accused of being a “mason” who should be sent to prison.
The day after the demonstrations the main political parties in Spain entered the arena. The secretary general of the centre right Partido Popular, María Dolores de Cospedal, accused people who are very close to the socialist government of putting democracy at risk. The PP has again called for the resignation of the Secretary of State for territorial co-operation, Gaspar Zarrías, for supporting one of the previous meetings honouring the judge.
In response the minister of public works and vice secretary general of PSOE, José Blanco, accused the PP of giving “oxygen” to the Falange. Blanco added that whilst the PP defended the independence of the judiciary when it came to the Gürtel case “it persecutes the judges and accuses the police of falsifying evidence” in an effort to escape justice itself.
So now the Garzón case that already had worrying implications for justice and democracy has widened pitting left against right. You don’t have to have a very long memory to know that this is turf Spain had trod before with disastrous consequences.