Right-wing daily paper La RazÃ³n today continues its anti-Catalan campaign with another series of letters published in support of Lt Gen Aguado who was arrested for threatening military action against Catalonia. Yesterday, La RazÃ³n claimed that it had received a letter signed by 50 retired military personnel who strongly support the general, while today it is the turn of civilians to call on the Spanish armed forces to save us all from the agonising choice of democracy.
El Mundo and La RazÃ³n today also both lead on stories claiming that the upper echelons of the Spanish army are in turmoil over the proposed Catalan statute of autonomy. The suggestion – taken very smoothly from PP rhetoric – is that the Socialist government have brought Spain to the brink of… well no one wants to say quite what we're on the brink of… that Spain is in trouble and that the Socialists have maliciously pushed us all into this situation. This claim is pretty difficult to understand, given the positions of the two main parties on a range of issues.
It all started with the PP losing the election after their handling of the Madrid bombings.Â For those who don't remember, the right-wing party tried to blame Basque separatist group ETA for the bombings, even when they knew it was impossible that ETA were involved. The truth was that Al Qaeda had carried out the attacks in retribution for Spain assisting in the invasion of Iraq – a PP policy opposed by nearly 90% of the Spanish population.
After losing the popular mandate, the PP felt that they had been cheated. Indeed, just before the vote – when it looked like they were going to lose – JosÃ© Maria Aznar tried to cancel the election… a sort of quiet coup which would almost certainly have triggered mass civil disturbances. The King told him where to go. So the PP did what spoilt brats do best – had a tantrum and refused to ever play with the Socialists. In short, the PP swore to oppose any legislation whatsoever that was proposed by the Socialist party. If the Socialists proposed tax breaks for PP members, the PP would probably vote against it and go on television to declare it "the most dangerous policy idea in a million years".
Herein lies the problem. As the PP are fundamentally opposed to the Socialist party, they take every opportunity they can to appear on television railing against proposed reforms (minor and major) and more and more often suggesting that the Socialists are driving Spain into the abyss. This is what's referred to as brinkmanship politics, and it's a very risky game. The result of constantly claiming that the political climate is overheating and in fact about to boil over, is that you raise the political temperature. This is of benefit for the PP because firstly they can claim that it's the Socialists' fault, and secondly if things do go wrong, the PP will be the people who benefit. The other risk of this posturing is if nothing happens. if the PP spend four years gnashing their teeth and wailing about the impending disaster – and then nothing happens – well, they're going to look pretty stupid. The problem with this is that it is therefore in the PP's interests to plunge Spain into a constitutional crisis: they will benefit from a military coup, and will look stupid if one doesn't happen.
Yesterday's Financial times covers the whole Aguado debacle very well but it is the closing argument that I agree with most vehemently:
Spain's constitution should also be amended to spell out the supremacy of civil over military power. Unfortunately, the opposition Popular Party, still unreconciled to its ejection from power after the Madrid bombings of March 2004, seems to think Gen Mena has a point. That could represent a greater threat to Spanish unity than Catalonia's autonomy ambitions. (source: FT, 10-jan 2005)
This is exactly the point. The Catalan statute of autonomy is not something worth tearing ourselves apart over. Yes, I support it. But I support similar moves for tyhe Basque country, Galicia, Andalusia and any other country who have democratically chosen to expand their autonomy. The future of Spain does not lie with dogmatic Madrid-centric fascism. it lies in a vibrant, liberal society – devolved in its regions with political freedom, democracy and equality as its foundation.