Writing about Spain’s minister of Interior, Juan Ignacio Zoido, last August, I said that he had the appearance of being irritated when required to do a press conference, as if he’d just been interrupted from the start of a long lunch. Everything looked like it was an inconvenience. It happened again last week, after 3,000 vehicles were stranded for up to 18 hours in heavy snowfall on the AP-6 between Madrid and Segovia. This time, I think Zoido was interrupted whilst at a soccer match in Seville – not a lunch, but still a bloody inconvenience. He managed to maintain a public silence over the fiasco, and instead there was a bizarre picture issued of him with his ‘crisis committee’. They did look like they’d been dragged away from a lunch. Not from a Zoido-style banquet, however, but from a Burger King.
Anyway, the reason I mention this, is because I’ve been observing María Dolores ‘de Cospedal’, Spain’s defence minister. In my humble opinion, in the same way Zoido’s eyes must surely light up when you tell him it’s lunchtime, ‘de Cospedal’ gives the impression that the role of defence minister gets in the way of a more glamorous life that she was (and still is) hoping to lead. It is that on-going Partido Popular superiority complex – an attitude of superiority that conceals actual feelings of inferiority or failure. I know we shouldn’t judge people by their looks or the way they dress – but ‘de Cospedal’ reminds me of a beauty editor I once employed on an ‘alta gama’ glossy fashion magazine in Madrid. She absolutely loved all the freebies and fashion paparazzi, attending all the shop openings, product launches and champagne receptions, but she never actually wrote anything for the magazine. It was beneath her. Every time I see ‘de Cospedal’ inspecting the rows of troops, I picture her inspecting rows of fur coats in the boutiques of Madrid’s barrio Salamanca. I can’t help it.
The reason I keep writing Cospedal as ‘de Cospedal’ (but I’ll stop now) is because on the English Wikipedia entry for Spain’s defence minister, it states that she “started calling herself ‘de Cospedal’ in public, which sounded more aristocratic, but more recently she has reverted to plain ‘Cospedal’. It’s like me saying, “I’m Tim, of Parfitt” – but then stopping, as it would be very, very weird.
It’s that pompous ‘air of superiority’ that gets to me, though. I hate it. Why do right wing politicians always try to portray superiority? Clearly to conceal their failures. It’s the same in the UK with the Tories. ‘de Cospedal’ really is just plain Cospedal – and she keeps putting her foot in it. The best moment came last November when she fell victim to a telephone prank by two Russian comedians. On air, during 12 full minutes, they managed to get her to agree to a meeting with a false government of Latvia, which, they claimed, wanted to send tanks to Catalonia, also assuring the defence minister that Catalan president Puigdemont was a spy. Cospedal seemed completely convinced; she even informed Rajoy of their proposals. I’m sure he must have been delighted.
Putting pranks about tanks from Latvia aside, last week Cospedal stated in an interview with ABC newspaper that the Spanish army was indeed ready to act in Catalonia at any time during the peak of the tension between Madrid and Barcelona. ‘We were ready because we had the obligation of being ready, otherwise we would be useless,’ she said. ‘I would not have had any responsibility, nor the military commands, if they had not been ready for any eventuality.’ It’s not the first time she has said as such. On 12th October last year, she also caused controversy during Spain’s national day celebrations, when she said that she was “almost certain” that the Spanish government would not have to use the army to resolve the Catalan crisis. Well, here’s a question for Cospedal: would a European country (or any country) be allowed to deploy an army against its own citizens? Think about it.
Many have seen Cospedal’s comments as an admission of the threats of military violence previously denounced by Marta Rovira, the secretary general of ERC (Catalan Republican Left). She’d been criticised for revealing that Rajoy’s party had threatened the Catalan government that, if they continued on the path towards independence, it would lead to a climate of ‘extreme violence’ in which they wouldn’t talk about ‘rubber bullets’, but ‘bullets’. Early in December, however, a former army officer had also suggested that Rovira had been right in her comments: that the Spanish government did threaten the Catalan authorities with ‘deaths’ if the independence movement went ahead. Serious stuff. Very serious.
Also last week, and just a few days after Cospedal said the Spanish army was ready and prepared to act in Catalonia, she was back in the news again – for having awarded a 5,000 euro subsidy to an organisation with apparent Francoist values. The award had been given to the Asociación de Militares Españoles (AME), who produce Militares magazine, as well as granting it free use of premises at the Spanish army’s headquarters. According to reports, Militares magazine often praises the Franco regime, and has even promoted a book about the ‘crusade’ by the Francisco Franco Foundation – itself also still receiving subsidies, directly or indirectly.
This very real existence of ‘Francoism after Franco’, 42 years after the dictator’s death, just won’t go away – thanks to the likes of Cospedal and the rest of Rajoy’s cronies. In fact Rajoy himself also put his foot in it (again) last November. For years he lived in Marín, in Galicia, on a street named after Salvador Moreno, a naval officer who was also a minister under Franco. The name of the street had been changed ten years ago to honour a Galician writer in compliance with the ‘Law of Historical Memory’, which provided for the removal of Francoist symbols from public buildings and spaces. Rajoy, however, said he didn’t know why the street’s name had been changed and that he continues using the street’s Francoist name. This is Spain’s Prime Minister, remember …
I understand many of the ‘Historical Memory’ policies have also been put on hold since Spain applied Article 155 to Catalonia. Some 130 mass graves have been found in recent years in Catalonia, and several of them have already been excavated. Thanks to this, the remains of more than a hundred people have been recovered, and relatives have been able to trace the whereabouts of long lost family members. According to the United Nations, the whereabouts of 114,226 people remain unknown in Spain – and the UN stated that Spain’s failure to investigate the disappearance of civilians was ‘alarming’ and ‘especially worrying’. A final thought: for the past four years, Spain’s ruling PP have not allocated any funds to Historical Memory policies.