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Spain: neither a power nor an emerging country

zapaterorey.jpgNow more than ever, Spain must take advantage of the current situation, domestic and abroad, and leave behind its chronic indecision once and for all.

(From Madrid) THE MEDIA’S PROJECTION OF the current situation in Spain these days could serve as a snapshot of either the country’s idiosyncrasy, or the perception of said idiosyncrasy.

Among recessions, rising unemployment, strikes by justice officials, ex-presidents denying the global climate change, et cetera, there are two matters that today stand out among the rest in defining the conversations of the people, the discussions in the street, and even the disagreements between neighbors. On one hand, we have the initiative of the renowned judge Baltasar Garzón, who, accustomed to tackling those polemical problems that don’t usually pass by undetected, has proposed to investigate crimes that occurred during the Spanish Civil War and the later stages of Francoism.

On the other hand, there is Spain’s doubtful presence at the next international financial summit (Editor’s note: Spain will finally join the summit [1]) , in which the G-20 countries will indeed participate, in order to address what has already been called the refoundation of international capitalism. Although a few days ago the British Prime Minister publicly praised the strength of the Spanish economy and its weight in the international arena, shortly afterwards the French President made some statements that, almost ipso-facto, forced his Spanish counterpart, Rodríguez Zapatero, to speak out against them in order to allay the indignation of his citizens. Their pride had been offended, and they began to relive memories of the past, of when the average Spaniard felt inferior to his neighbors to the north. And so, when Sarkozy stated that he did not see a reason for which Spain should attend the summit, it really touched a sore spot: How are we not going to attend when we are the eighth largest economy in the world! The red rage once again was brought out onto the field, and there was no referee in sight. The internal commotion just wasn’t enough…let’s add some fuel to the fire; it’s chilly in here.

GARZÓN, THE JUDGE

The figure of Judge Baltasar Garzón is anything but indifferent. He is probably more admired outside our borders than within them, but we already know that nobody is a prophet within his own land. For a few, he is a man who, above all, stays true to his principles; for others he is a man with too much of an ego. This means that any case that he decides to investigate and then pass judgment on will be, in all probability, subject to many commentaries, and not only to those coming from the most reputable voices.

However, it is perhaps the case that he has in his hands at this very moment that arouses the most feelings, and therefore, opinions. Not in vain, he has dared to dig out and bring to light what had been gathering dust for a long time: at the very least, more than three decades, which is the time that has elapsed since the Spanish transition. Some will state that he wants to revive the two Spains, that he wishes to return to republicans versus nationals, and that nothing will be gained by recalling the red hardships, and their blue equivalents. But the truth is that Judge Garzón has not revived anything…because nothing was dead. “More than thirty years after the end of the tragic and despicable Francoist dictatorship, in Spain there are still, above all, two ideologies, two ways of thinking and two crystal balls through which to view the world”

In fact, more than thirty years after the end of the tragic and despicable Francoist dictatorship, in Spain there are still, above all, two ideologies, two ways of thinking and two crystal balls through which to view the world. The minority groups and the brave initiatives that, during each election, attempt to convince the others that the rainbow is multicolored, simply do not matter: in the end, these two visions always carry more weight, even when it comes to tactical voting. And this probably explains why even raising a debate on the monarchical institution is such a touchy subject: deep down, the Spanish monarchy is the umbrella that encompasses everything. Its existence not only represents a continuation of a form of historical power – today weakened in terms of its power – but it also represents the unanimous desire to turn the page on forty years of Francoism, with its victims and its tyrants.

Behold, this is how Garzón manages to revive ghosts of the past – ghosts of victims and tyrants – and open old wounds. They are the wounds of people who are not even around anymore, and as a consequence, their descendants have not managed to heal them. If Garzón has dared to rummage around in Chile and Argentina’s wounds, how is he not going to rummage around here? But for some, Garzón is simply a hero, a brave man, the one who will finally get the ball rolling on the exhumation of his past, which had been so humiliatingly gotten rid of; for others, the Spanish judge is a visionary, a defender of lost causes, and even his competence in investigating crimes is being questioned, something expressed by the chief prosecutor of the National High Court, Javier Zaragoza, in an appeal that has already been rejected by Garzón.

WHERE DO WE STOP?

Without starting to judge the appropriateness or the inappropriateness of Garzón’s initiative (but understanding without a doubt the need of many citizens to dignify the memory of their ancestors), an underlying reason for this very judicial give and take is that, internally, Spain still has a lot of those two Spains inside it. It has been a long time since we joined the European Union, and at the same time certain domestic nationalist movements have been gaining footholds. Yet this has not managed to erase the emotional division between the two Spains: the blue and red, the national and the republican. Even those of us who were lucky to have been born in democracy still carry that duality with us, since it has been passed down from grandparents to parents, from grandparents to grandchildren, and from parents to their children. In the collective unconscious, there are still two Spains. Perhaps within two generations this emotional duality will be nothing more than a footnote in history books, but it is still alive today. “Let me be clear: the judge has not opened an old wound; that wound never healed. And wounds that don’t heal well always run the risk of an infection”

Let me be clear: the judge has not opened an old wound; that wound never healed. And wounds that don’t heal well always run the risk of an infection.

As if all of this internal babble were not enough, geopolitical indecision must be added to it. It would not be odd to state that there is a link between one and the other, since perhaps, without those forty years of dictatorship, Spain would find itself at another level today, superior or at least closer to our Western European neighbors. And we would not have to deal with all of this back and forth over whether or not we have the full right to attend the next international financial summit with a full right to participate.

Rodríguez Zapatero swiftly approached the podium to affirm that he will fight for us to be included. Spain must be where it deserves to be, he declared, arguing that the eighth most powerful nation in the world cannot remain silent. By the way, this information that is being used to claim that we are number eight in the ranking of the richest and most powerful is quite disputed, but what is more important is that by repeating it so many times it has in some ways come to be an indisputable truth, or at least it appears that way.

Again, they have hit upon a sore spot; they have awakened memories. It already annoys us that we are unable to be at the helm of the ship – and that countries like Argentina, today rearing their heads and legitimizing their interests in spite of a sorrowful Spain, are going to be there, or at the very least are going to try to be – but above all it irritates us to again feel inferior, inferior to the French, inferior to the Germans, inferior to the English, inferior to the Italians. With the European club much larger, it had appeared that Spain was finally one of the big fish, leaving behind the old saying that Europe ends at the Pyrenees…but no. They once again remind us that, fine, we are not an emerging country (that’s for sure!), but we also do not stand tall enough to be able to look down upon the others from up above.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE IN THE G-20 SUMMIT

Pride aside, all sorts of reasons for which George W. Bush did not formally extend an invitation to Rodríguez Zapatero can be heard: from the obvious lack of empathy, to the atrocity that the Spanish president committed by not attending the American army’s parade in 2003 – the Americans returned the gesture the following year when the ambassador did not attend the National Festival parade – all the way to claiming that Spain is in some way represented since four members of the EU are included in the summit. “Spain must take advantage of its current position in order to make a quantitative and qualitative leap; it must take advantage of this runaway international crisis to reorganize its economy”

If we pay close attention to what the true purpose of the G-20 is – it brings together the most developed countries and those defined as emerging economies – the truth is that from this point of view, Spain should objectively not be in the meeting. While it is true that the Spanish economy is not the eighth largest in the world, it is indeed one of the most important on the global scale, and this causes there to be talk of maybe tampering with the G-20 criteria and, more directly, creating a G-21. On the other hand, Spain’s role as a mediator between Latin America and the European Union is indisputable, and we must not forget about the participation in the summit of countries like Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, with whom – due to obvious historical reasons – Madrid maintains much closer ties than Rome. And by the way, is not very clear that Italy’s economy is much more developed than ours.

In line with everything previously mentioned, it is necessary for us to stand in front of a mirror and look at ourselves, instead of simply dodging the question. Obviously, Spain lacks leadership on the international scene. Economically, we are strong without a doubt, but as diverse media have already criticized, our economic strength is not due to investment in R&D or great industrialization and development projects, but in blind faith in the strength of the brick and our coasts….a hen too vulnerable to lay golden eggs for all of her life, and we are already witnessing a strike in the pen. Simply belonging to a huge conglomeration like the European Union does not necessarily make a developed country.

Spain must take advantage of its current position in order to make a quantitative and qualitative leap; it must take advantage of this runaway international crisis to reorganize its economy, and after the worst part of the storm has passed, to restructure its budgets and investments. Namely, the service sector must continue to be an attractive source of income, but above all, the most money must be pumped into education, by investing in research and taking care of what is any country’s most valuable asset: its citizens.

Of course, coming full circle, before we try to reposition ourselves in the international arena, we are going to have to find ourselves within our own land. Or maybe, modifying the European Union’s slogan, ours is actually united in ambiguity. Now more than ever, Spain must take advantage of the current situation, domestic and abroad, and leave behind its chronic indecision once and for all.