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HomeLatest NewsDavid Ballester: "The police shadow of the Franco regime is still holding...

David Ballester: “The police shadow of the Franco regime is still holding on”

Spanish transition This left a number of deaths unparalleled in other similar processes recorded in Europe. In total, 630 people died at the hands of rebel groups, ultras or the state apparatus. Specifically, 134 will be caused by what David Ballester calls “institutional violence“. This is documented in the book “Other Victims. Police Violence During the Transitional Period (1975-1982)” (Zaragoza University Press), which the magazine “Sapiens” repeats in an extensive article, and in which an essayist and doctor in the Contemporary History of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) collects records of all the victims, denouncing the dramatic consequences of the lack of cleanup repressive structures from dictatorship.

To what extent, far from what has been said, was the Spanish transitional period neither peaceful nor exemplary?

This can be seen in the number of deaths, because in addition to 498 caused by terrorism of various kinds – from ETA to ultra groups – we must add 134 police violence, to which, in the broader framework of institutional violence, we must add the death of the young anarchist Agustín Rueda by prison officers. This magma is evidence that, contrary to the virtues attributed to that period, the Transition was not peaceful and therefore not exemplary.

It uses the term “institutional violence” rather than other concepts. Why?

“The transition was not peaceful and therefore not exemplary”

I believe that with any other meaning, whether it is “State terrorism” or “State violence aimed at suppressing opposition to the regime”, precision suggests itself, since there was no premeditated strategy of the authorities to combat political dissent. The proof is that violence is used regularly and daily, no matter who the victim is. There are many workers, it is true, but in the group of victims the weight of this group is less.

Of the deaths he identified, 38 were from police action on the street, five from torture, and 91 from what he calls a “light trigger.” What is it about?

This is the misuse of weapons by law enforcement officers in a variety of situations. And of these 91 deaths, only eight political background; the rest are anonymous citizens: from a woman who was shot dead during a police pursuit of some ETA members, others who were shot dead by the Civil Guard for not stopping at a roadblock, as well as those who happened in a conversation between neighbors or in a nightclub bar club. They are provoked by poorly controlled agents, of which 25% commit deaths off-duty, drinks or at night. Events end so mundane that in just a month and a half of 1981, six young people die in nightclubs, which forces the population to normalize it, and the relatives of the victims are completely forgotten.

What is the reason for this arbitrary “mode of action”?

“The methods of operation of the dictatorship are transferred to democracy, and its main governing bodies are not cleared”

This explains why the methods of operation of the dictatorship are transferred to democracy, and its basic organs of government are not improved. Even the most sinister aspects of the past period are not recorded in the archive, as evidenced by the fact that some of the tormentors were relocated to known places in leadership of the police force. So, beyond the change in uniform color from gray to brown in 1978, there is a continuity that will have dramatic consequences in terms of police violence. But apart from the far left and the Basque independence movementthe demand for the dissolution of these units is not on the agenda of the big parties, not even the PSOE or PCE.

They don’t see any problem for the first storage government?

Suarez’s goal is to control the police to ensure the Transition is carried out. Therefore, he has no remorse that there are a lot of people who have violated human rights. In fact, the former Minister of the Interior between 1976 and 1979, Rodolfo Martín Villa, explains in his memoirs that the agents of the Politico-Social Brigade created by Franco in 1941 were the best he ever had under his command. . And to all this, an excellent alibi is added, allowing this performer and subsequent ones not to touch anything: presence of ETA.

Does it fit into this logic that most of the magistrates of the Francoist Court of Public Order (TOP) continue to serve in the National High Court?

Not only that: in transfer competitions through the ranks, getting into the TOP becomes a merit. As well as the merit of participation in the Political and Social Brigade, whose members are placed in a new structure. Don’t forget the occasion Agustin Ruedafor example, in which the officials who killed him returned to their jobs under the protection of Landelino Lavilla, then UCD Attorney General.

Was the goal then to keep the various levers of the state under control?

This is non-negotiable. Let us therefore not forget the famous photograph taken at a party rally held in 1965 in the city of Raven Butte, a small municipality in the southwest of Cuenca: Fernando Herrero Tejedor, the famous Falangist and leader of the Movement, appears, followed by three young men in blue shirts. Who are these young people? Adolfo Suarez, Martin Villa and Juan José Roson. That is, two people who, during five of the seven years of the transition period, will have in their hands the Ministry of the Interior and the Interior and Suárez, the first president of democracy. Something unheard of, since we will not find a single case in Europe when the first president of a democratic state was the last general secretary of the party that dominated the previous regime. Thus, the continuity with Francoism is obvious.

From this point of view, shouldn’t we be surprised that the amount of abuse is so high?

“Continuity with Francoism is obvious”

The numbers are brutal. Because in the year of the Transition alone, almost as many people died in the suppression of demonstrations, 13, as between 1969 and the death of Franco, in 1975, 14. In 1969, to suppress street dissent, the Main Reserve Companies, which committed real barbarism, were not disbanded until 1989, and they were replaced by the IPR.

Did the agents feel secure?

Completely, because there were practically no criminal consequences for those who committed crimes. And, in case they were tried, they were pardoned. There are cases as egregious as the civil guards who kill Gladys del Estal in Tudela in 1979, who, despite a year and a half imprisonment, was not imprisoned and, to top it off, was awarded an order in the same city in Navarre, where he caused the death of an environmental activist. Added to all this is the connivance of a mob of police and secret services who plotted black plots dedicated to the persecution of dissent, which the government only opposed when it saw that it could disrupt the Transition. In the meantime, he allowed them to act and inflict what were considered collateral victims.

How long will this repressive spiral last?

“The police shadow of Francoism continues to this day”

With the advent of the PSOE, significant changes took place in the government, despite the lethargy of the socialist leadership in the police and the nefarious actions of Minister Barrionuevo. Starting in 1983, after the death of a two-year-old boy at a Civil Guard checkpoint, the rules issued by the Council of Europe regarding the use of weapons by the police began to apply, and the number of victims of the “light trigger” gradually decreased. Likewise, the right to demonstrate was prioritized over other considerations, and “soft” policies were applied to mobilizations, avoiding the use of offensive weapons, and water dump trucks were parked.

In any case, it was necessary to wait until the deadline for the adoption of the Law on the Forces and Bodies of State Security in 1986, which represented a profound change in the structure of the police and opened the door for its adaptation to the rule of law. Where he ultimately failed was in the hopes of the new government to eradicate the heinous practice of torture that was perpetuated in police stations and barracks.

Similarly, under PSOE governments, agents who distinguished themselves by violating human rights during the dictatorship continued to be promoted and rewarded. A decision that drew criticism from those anti-Francos who were tortured by those who saw them promoted within the framework of the democratic state for which they fought and paid. Thus, we can argue that the police shadow of Francoism in some aspects persists to this day, although it would also be unfair to say that the current police are the same, because the practice of “light trigger” is exceptional, and the death of citizens during demonstrations from the beginning the eighties also decreased exponentially.

How many deaths are left to find out after the Transition?

There is a gray area over which some questions hover, but in terms of institutional violence, we are talking about a few dozen cases at most. sad thing neglect of victims, orders to close an open case in Argentina on the crimes of the Franco regime, or that the Law on Official Secrets, passed in 1968, does not allow access to certain police files. Opacity and impunity still drag him down.


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