In a speech which should send shivers down the spine of anyone who believes in democracy, Commander of Spanish land forces Lt Gen JosÃ© Mena Aguado yesterday warned of severe consequences should Catalonia achieve further autonomy. Claiming the constitutional duty to 'guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain and defend its integrity and constitutional arrangements', the general warned that if Catalonia's proposed new statute of autonomy were approved, it would be necessary for the military to step in.
Catalonia has sent its new Estatut to Madrid effectively demanding national status within Spain. The proposed law would hand much power to Barcelona including taxation and replacement of the supreme court. Similar reforms in the mid 1930s were used as an excuse for Franco's military rebellion.
Spain's highest-ranking general has asked defence minister JosÃ© Bono to sack Aguado immediately. According to some reports, Aguado has been placed under house arrest. It is illegal in Spain for military personnel to make political statements – a law which reflects the very delicate state of Spanish democracy.
Aguado's comments, broadcast on state radio yesterday, confirm a long held suspicion that there remains a powerful counter-democratic element in Spain's armed forces poised to seize power if it becomes displeased with the actions of the elected government. The speech, which was clearly a planned warning, also highlights the need for reform in Spain's armed forces which have never been successfully purged of their fascistic elements. Further reform to the Civil Guard is also in the pipeline – paving the way to the demilitarisation of Spain's police forces.
Reform of state security and the constitution (which was imposed under the threat of an extended dictatorship) must now be priorities for the elected governments of Spain and Catalonia, if they are to prevent a treacherous army taking up arms against citizens as they have in the past. It is worth noting, however, that JosÃ© Bono has now stated that he believes that Aguado was acting alone, and that there is no conspiracy behind him preparing for a coup.
Dick O'Brien has written an article on this story which better explains the whole story.
[Edited with new information; Monday 09 January at 1330]