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A sorry state of affairs

When the police are allowed to operate outside the law, democracy is under threat

The recent airing in some sections of the media of anonymous reports by a group of unidentified police officers supposedly detailing corruption among pro-independence Catalan politicians cast a shadow over the recent elections in the northeast region. These supposedly official police reports were unsigned, despite bearing the seal of the Economic and Fiscal Crimes Unit (UDEF). What’s more, the judges overseeing the corruption investigations referred to in the documents immediately made it clear that they were not involved. At first sight it would seem that the Interior Ministry is either unable to control the actions of some members of the National Police force, or, even worse, that the government is to some degree involved in this scandal-mongering.

Over the last week, EL PAÍS has published summaries of the five reports purportedly outlining corrupt practices involving Jordi Pujol, the former head of the Catalan regional government under the nationalist CiU bloc, and his successor, Artur Mas. None of the alleged police reports, which are made up of paragraphs taken from existing judicial reports, unsubstantiated claims, and timelines of ongoing investigations, have been substantiated by either the National Police force or the Interior Ministry. However, the national police union, SUP, has issued a statement calling for police investigations to be permitted without being overseen by a judge, on the basis that this will help prevent crime from spiraling out of control.

Lack of legitimacy

While the head of the National Police has yet to comment on the affair, SUP has been increasingly vocal of late: providing information about police investigations, or expressing opinions about cases that are still sub judice. Such a situation would be almost comic were it not for the concern that it raises regarding the possibility that Spain’s police force is effectively out of control.

EL PAÍS has now found itself embroiled in false accusations. On Wednesday, in a remarkable journalistic coincidence, both El Mundo and La Gaceta attempted to make a link between PRISA, the group to which the newspaper belongs, and Longshore, a company owned by Oleguer Pujol, the son of Jordi Pujol.

PRISA informed the stock market regulator at the time of selling certain properties to Longshore, so this event hardly merits investigation. In July 2008, PRISA released a statement regarding the sale, which resulted in a profit of 227 million euros, which would be used to reduce the group’s debt. The attempt to link this newspaper’s editorial policy with the political leanings of its landlord will go down in the annals of ham-fisted exposés on the part of Spain’s reactionary rightwing media.


Corruption within Spain’s political parties has reached alarming levels in recent years. We must thank the efficiency and resolve of our judiciary in pursuing the culprits of white-collar crime, who presumably believe that holding political office gives them impunity from the rules by which the rest of us must abide. The rogues’ gallery of the disgraced, from Jaume Matas, a former minister in the government of Prime Minister José María Aznar, and subsequently head of the regional government of the Balearic Islands, to the son-in-law of King Juan Carlos, covers the political and social gamut.

The governing Popular Party, which has called for Mas and Pujol to explain the unsubstantiated allegations being made against them, is hardly in a position to set the moral benchmark, and would do well to leave the courts to do their work — aided by a police force whose professionalism and impartiality must be beyond question at all times. If the relevant authorities decide that the head of the regional government of Catalonia, or any other politician there is suspected of any crime, then it is their obligation to inform the State Prosecutor's Office.

What is needed now, above all, is for the Interior Ministry to put its house in order, and to bring an end to these anonymous allegations that have managed to do so much harm through defamation and by fanning the flames of political division at a particularly sensitive moment, when Catalonia is proposing to secede from the Kingdom of Spain.

For those of us who defend the unity of Spain in rational, modern terms, in opposition to the efforts of the self-seeking pro-independence lobby, the prospect of politics on the basis of flag-waving “love my country or leave it” is deeply worrying. The outcome would not just be further division, but an excuse for the use of violence to stifle nationalism in the regions. And that is precisely where the police, in this, as in any country, can be used, unless their activities are strictly subjected to the rule of law.

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