The attacks on freedom of speech from the Spanish Government have today had their most astonishing extreme during a press conference held in La Moncloa.
An attempt by the general to uncover the scandalous orders of the Government?
In this press conference, the Chief of the General Staff of the Civil Guard, General José Manuel Santiago, has recognized that this Police corp works to “minimize this climate contrary to crisis management by the Government.” You can see the video here (I have added English subtitles):
The Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, has qualified this statement about the criticism of the Government, stating that “it was a lapse.” Rather, General Santiago’s words – possibly spoken to uncover the scandalous orders received from the Government – were so clear and revealing that they have already caused a political and media earthquake in Spain.
The culmination of several weeks of attacks on freedom of speech
General Santiago’s statement is not something isolated. At the end of March a journalist denounced pressure from the Socialist Party “so that we do not report the health catastrophe.” On April 6 the Interior Minister announced that he is “monitoring” social networks, describing as “criminal” the dissemination of “absolutely false and biased news”, despite the fact that the Government has been providing false figures of deaths of coronavirus, by excluding part of the deceased reported by some regional governments. Another government party, Podemos, has reported to the Prosecutor’s Office an incredible story about a “criminal organization” whose crime would be to criticize the Government.
Four days ago, the Government-dependent Sociological Research Center (CIS) published a survey clearly aimed at generating an opinion favorable to censorship of the media and social networks with the excuse of combating “absolutely false and biased news”, a fact that has caused a scandal between Spanish journalism and criticism from the parliamentary opposition. In addition, this Friday the State Prosecutor General’s Office, led by the socialist Dolores Delgado (who was Minister of Justice of the Sánchez Government until January), threatened those who spread “hoaxes” with up to 5 years in prison.
The Popular Party requests the “urgent appearance” of the Interior Minister
Criticism of the opposition to General Santiago’s statement has been strong. From the Popular Party (PP), their parliamentary spokesman, Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, has described this statement as follows: “A dramatic test of the Government’s ability to rot the institutions.” On Marlaska’s explanation, she commented: “The lapse of truth.” She has also demanded the “urgent appearance” of General Santiago, Minister Marlaska, the Secretary of State for Security and the Director General of the Civil Guard. Likewise, the PP has pointed out: “If you give your opinion through the RRSS on the disastrous management of the government, you are interested in knowing that the Sánchez government has forced the CNI [National Intelligence Center] (Pablo Iglesias) to work, not to look for evidence, but to shut up and not be criticized.”
Vox announces “judicial actions” against those who gave that order
From the Vox party, Santiago Abascal has launched a “democratic alert”, warning: “This is, in fact, the beginning of a coup d’etat by the government itself, which orders the Armed Institute to violate the Constitution.” The Vox leader added: “The State Security Forces are there to prosecute crimes and not to make the exercise of the opposition a crime or to minimize criticism of the government. A government, in this case, that with this illegal order has crossed all limits.” Vox has also announced “urgent judicial actions against those who have given those orders and against any official who abides by them, because they are clearly illegal in trying to outlaw and de facto outlaw opposition and criticism of the government.”
Ciudadanos ask for the appearance of the Interior Minister and General Santiago
The Ciudadanos party (Cs) has also demanded “the appearance of the Minister of the Interior and the Chief of Staff of the Civil Guard.” The deputy spokesman for Cs, Edmundo Bal, has described the words of General Santiago as follows: “A very serious and very worrying statement.” Likewise, Joan Mesquida, former director general of the Civil Guard and currently a member of the Ciudadanos executive, who has stated: “I do not give credit to the General’s words. Investigating criticism of government management is totally unacceptable. I would like to know who has given this clearly unconstitutional order and a misappropriation of public resources.” Mesquida also added: “If it has been a lapse, it must be stopped immediately, and if he has received the order from some political authority, he must resign immediately.”
The Civil Guard publishes an explanatory statement
+ UPDATED 19:30h: The Civil Guard published a note a few minutes ago son the statements of General Santiago:
“The monitoring work carried out by the State Security Forces and Corps, and in which the Civil Guard participates, is exclusively aimed at detecting hoaxes and disinformation that generate a high level of stress and social alarm, especially on health issues. It is always done with scrupulous respect for the right to freedom of speech and criticism. The hoaxes that seek general social alarm are monitored, never freedom of speech. The Civil Guard is one of the main guarantors of freedom of speech.”
It is true that the Civil Guard is answering hoaxes that affect health. And that is very good. The problem is that the government and its related media are indiscriminately dismissing as “hoaxes” the opposition’s criticism to the executive’s action, and with that they are creating a perverse confusion and hindering the work of the Civil Guard. On the other hand, the statement made today by General Santiago was very clear, not a simple confusion of words. The scandal caused by that statement cannot be settled with a brief note on the Civil Guard’s Twitter. This is very serious and must be investigated by the Justice.
The Government says now that it wants to exclude the military and police from its press conferences.
+ UPDATED 19:38h: After the political earthquake caused by the statement of General Santiago, the newspaper El País, related to the Government, published a few minutes ago that the executive “plans to restructure the press conferences after the Coronavirus Technical Committee and dispense with those responsible for the Forces Armed, the Police and the Civil Guard in their telematic appearance before the media in La Moncloa.” Are we in an attempt to prevent any other police or military commander from revealing illegal orders from the Government?