OPINION
i

A judge and a rising

The chorus of brutal insults that has been raining down on Baltasar Garzón has now culminated with a war dance to celebrate his conviction.

In the story of Baltasar Garzón, one aspect must be underlined: the chorus of brutal insults that has been raining down on the now former judge in the right-wing media ever since he uncovered the Gürtel corruption network. That chorus has now culminated with a war dance to celebrate his conviction.

True, Garzón was the object of attacks once before, in the early 1990s. That time it was in Socialist circles, for another politically incorrect investigation, that of the GAL (illegal anti-ETA death squads, covertly sponsored by the then-Socialist government). Those attacks had certain coincidences with the present ones: any fairly glib Socialist who had been to law school could go about attributing perverse intentions to Garzón, and picking supposed holes in his procedures.

However, those were isolated cases, and were often expressed in the private ambit. But now we have been looking at a prolonged assault in the entire right-wing media, in a manner that can be equated to an attack by a pack of dogs. The journalists who have affinities to the PP could care less that years ago Garzón hurt the Socialists by probing into the GAL, or that he has since done decisive work in dismantling the political organizations dependent on ETA. As for Pinochet (who, though a friend of the right, was not a very presentable one), suffice it to say that there, too, Garzón failed. And for our right-wing journalists, Garzón's subsequent struggle to achieve worldwide justice in cases of human rights violations looks more like a permanent violation of human rights in itself — because for them, the corrupt or violent ruler's right to impunity comes before all else. Judge Castro had better be ready to face the same dog pack, if he insists on treating the Duke of Palma in line with the principle of equality before the law.

Before all else, likewise, comes the need to punish the judge who dared to question the legitimacy of Franco's rising in 1936, a rising that still underlies the hegemony of the Spanish right in the economic and social spheres (and now, we see, in the judicial one). Zapatero woke a sleeping tiger with his Historical Memory Law, which, after all, was only intended as a cosmetic gesture. A report unfavorable to Garzón's strong interpretation of that law, prepared by the prosecutor Zaragoza (a Zapatero man) laid the first stone in the "case" against Garzón, who had naively supposed that what had been possible in other countries would be possible in Spain: formal public acknowledgement of the Franco regime's crimes against humanity.

In Spain, even in right-wing circles, there is not a democratic conscience, such as Gaullism in France or Christian Democracy in Italy. What we had here was a reform of the Franco regime from within. Instead of making a clean break with the dictatorial aspect of the past, and with the crimes that went on until Franco's death, Fraga preached to the Spanish right that they must act on democratic principles, but in the awareness that Franco's rising suppressed a rotten Republic, and that his regime was a golden age. Heading a minority government during his first mandate, Aznar spoke with some caution, but since the Socialists made a comeback in 2004, Fraga's line has made headway in the mentality of the Popular Party.

A scapegoat is needed — and who better than the man who started judicial proceedings aimed at putting a criminal regime in its proper place in history? Those who say that the courts must now give way to the work of the historian forget that Nuremberg was crucial to the final rejection of Nazism. But here in Spain, the heirs of the guilty have convicted and eliminated the judge. True, they did so under the convenient disguise of beginning with his perhaps too aggressive prosecution of the Gürtel corruption case, and sewing that up before getting down to what I think it was that was really bothering them.

And now we await an "aggressive" reform of the labor market. That figures.