The Spanish Foreign Ministry has sent a communiqué to all its embassies abroad laying out a series of ripostes to defend the controversial draft Citizens Security Law in international institutions.
The document, to which EL PAÍS has had access, is written in English and among other justifications of the initiative states that “the purpose is not to punish more, but to punish better, that is to say, with greater guarantees.” The law, the document goes on to stress, “is not designed to protect politicians [from demonstrations such as the “escrache” doorstep protest movement], but to safeguard democracy.”
The ministry has repeatedly used this method to champion government initiatives. It did so with an extensive script on Catalonia’s drive for sovereignty and another on unemployment, among others.
The ministry’s circular has caused consternation in the diplomatic corps, which does not view its mission as being to explain and support government policy. The General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Spain’s top legal watchdog, has criticized the draft law, pointing to unconstitutional aspects contained therein.
The document issued to embassies presents the law as though it were a response to a social outcry and speaks of answering “the requests many citizens, trade associations, neighborhood organizations, parents’ groups, town halls etcetera have made for years over matters that affect rights and liberties, the daily life of many families and, in general, peaceful coexistence and with the utmost respect for diversity, and in opposition to antisocial and violent attitudes.”
“Therefore, it a courageous initiative,” the paper concludes. Many people, it claims, have complained about prostitution outside schools. “It leads us to believe that previous governments preferred to place children in danger rather than addressing a problem like this.”
Although the document states that only “violent or aggressive actions that threaten citizen safety” will be punished during protests, it neglects to mention these are minimal: in the Senate last Thursday, the director general of the national police said that of 25,461 demonstrations in Spain in 2013, his force was only called in on 23 occasions.
It also states that covering your face during a protest will not be sanctioned, “what will be punished is the covering of faces during public order disturbances in order to avoid identification.” That fines for offenses laid out under the new law are excessive, which the judiciary states is the case, is also denied by the ministry.