At the beginning of the year I promised you and myself to write an essay on Spain every week. We could chalk up my missing the latest deadline (last Spain note was on May 14) to laziness, but that would be too lazy an answer. Laziness means avoiding effort, so to understand it I should spell out just what kind of effort I've been avoiding, because that may help explain something about Spain and my complex feelings about this country. I think there have been at least three things involved.
Number one: The persistent stupidity of the judicial system in driving out their one world-famous judge on totally spurious charges (I've written about this stupefyingly absurd assault by judges on their own value system—the concerted mutifront attack on Judge Garzón—in several earlier essays) so bummed me out that it has been painful for me to think about it. Garzón personally will do fine, in the International Court of Justice in the Hague for now and later as (at least) a very distinguished lecturer on human rights and international law, though he would rather be back in Spain doing what he does better than any other judge here: pursuing evil-doers regardless of their political party, their money, or their capacity for violence. So the damage is to Spain and its international reputation and its capacity to protect its institutions and its citizens.
However Garzón's impact was so enormous that even the cabal of Supreme Court Judge Luciano Varela, the Falange, the Partido Popular and their allies, even driving him off the bench, has not stopped the cases he opened up.
To sum up: The accusation of "knowingly exceeding his legal authority" (prevaricación) by investigating the crimes of the Franco dictatorship was based on a skewed interpretation of Spain's 1977 Amnesty law and of Garzón's own actions (he had actually removed himself from the case after initial investigation) and an utter disregard of international law and treaties signed by Spain; the simultaneous and unrelated charge of taking money from Banco Santander to drop a case against the bank's president was completely phony and had already been dismissed as baseless, but was revived on the flimsiest pretext; the charge of breaking the law by ordering phone taps of lawyers in contact with jailed suspects of political corruption was likewise a very distorted interpretation of both the law (the wiretaps had been approved by court authorities above Garzón) and of Garzón's actions. The whole three-front attack was kept going mainly because of pressure from the Partido Popular, to torpedo Garzón`s investigations of corruption of some of its most powerful chieftains, including the long-time party treasurer and practically the whole top leadership of the Valencia region.
But it hasn't worked. They managed to get rid of Garzón, but the evidence he had gathered is just too massive to ignore, so now the PP is up against other judges.
A second effort I've been avoiding is explaining Spain's perilous economic state and the diverse proposals for getting out of it. How Spain got to where it is—20%+ unemployment, soaring deficit, rocky credit rating—is no mystery. Even I, a relative newcomer and not an economist, could see back in 2007 that the real estate boom and the rapid economic growth of recent years was unsustainable. (See my blog entry Bubbles, bombs and bombast from Columbus Day, 12 October 2007). Now what? I haven't figured it out, but the danger is that the hasty improvisations by the Socialist government and its cutting of salaries and benefits make it more likely that the corrupt Partido Popular, which inflated the bubble, may come back to power to make things even worse.
And finally, I want to write something really clear and powerful and useful, to offer you something you haven't found anywhere else. And that requires a real effort. The one I've been avoiding. And since coming up with something original is so difficult, I hope next to offer you an essay on a book I've just finished reading, the thorough and insightful study of foreign correspondents in the Spanish Civil War, We Saw Spain Die by Paul Preston. Coming up next.