Extreme right and the Spanish police and armed forces

Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

This is a new article of the Pro Igual series of blogs investigating the connection between the neo-Nazi movement and hate crimes in Spain.

As discussed throughout the series, Spain became home to considerable numbers of high-ranking Nazis fleeing criminal prosecution in Europe after the WWII. In addition, Spain at that time itself was a fascist dictatorship. Hence it is logical that there were rather cozy relations established between the fugitive Nazis and members of the Spanish armed forces and the police. However, even after Franco´s death, following the transition and the establishment of democracy in Spain, there has never been any critical review of this historic legacy. The result is that not only does Spain lack a sufficient legal framework to address racially-motivated violence and hate crimes, but the very institutions charged with protecting society from such crimes – the police and Civil Guard – may be not entirely immune from the presence of, or infiltration by neo-Nazi/pro-fascist elements.

In 1995 none other than the then President Adolfo Suarez admitted in an interview on the Spanish television noted that there had been no purges in the Spanish power structures from the pro-fascist elements and the very idea of such purges seemed ludicrous. And so, old and neo-Nazis, former fascists and their sympathizers were allowed to remain or to join the Spanish police, Civil guard and the army, as well as serving in various private security firms with close links to the government structures.

It is remarkable that one of the very first cases classified as hate crime against immigrants in Spain was committed by a member of the Civil Guard, in 1992. The victim was a harmless Dominican woman, Lucrecia Perez. Among the group of other immigrant women, utterly defenseless, she was attacked under the cover of the night and shot at by four masked men, whose leader was later identified as a member of the Civil Guard with close links to the local neo-Nazi gangs and a prior record of violent racism.

In one of the Pro Igual´s earlier blog articles we briefly highlighted the role of the Spanish police in the international hunt for Dr. Death (Aribert Heim). Because of the tip-off from someone inside the Spanish police, Heim escaped and was never captured or found again, along with some other Nazi criminals who were able to change their location and avoid imminent arrests.

More recently, in the course of the “Operation Armor” against a major neo-Nazi structure engaged in organized crime in Valencia – including trafficking of arms from the Spanish soldiers to neo-Nazis – criminal investigators complained about constant info leaks that impeded or sabotaged the operation, so that planned searches of the suspects´ premises had to be moved forward. One of the intercepted and recorded telephone conversations presented as evidence to the court sounded like this: “Listen, so-an-so from the Government delegation called me, they´re gonna search the headquarters in two days.” Members of the Civil Guard conducting investigation also reportedly stated that some of their own colleagues turned out to be neo-Nazi moles. See, http://borreruak.blogspot.com/2010/07/entrevista-con-joan-cantarero-autor-de.html. Despite this clear evidence of insider informants, there has been no separate investigation into infiltration by the neo-Nazis of the police, Civil Guard or even in this case of the Valencian regional government.

Extreme right/neo-Nazi elements are reported to be a regular occurrence also in the Spanish armed forces. During the 2003 US invasion of Iraq where soldiers from other NATO countries also participated, some Spanish soldiers were spotted wearing “mata moros” (“kill the moors”) pins which are traditionally associated with extreme right nationalistic organizations. Most recently, in Malaga, during the religious celebrations around Easter 2011, a swastika tattoo on the arm of an active-duty Spanish soldier caught attention of the media and caused considerable public resonance.

Media on a regular basis report sightings of the members of the police, Civil Guard and the army – in their capacity as participants – at the pro-Nazi social events, such RAC music concerts, specific football fan gatherings, and the like.

In recent years, a number of high-profile racially- or ideologically-motivated murders had been committed by extreme right-leaning members of the Spanish Civil Guard, the police, and the army:

  • In 2007, a Spanish soldier with links to neo-Nazis killed anti-fascist activist Carlos Palomino; the family of the victim reported sneers and mockery from the police throughout the investigation and court process.
  • In 2008, in the military quarters El Bruc, Barcelona, 10 masked Spanish soldiers beat up 3 soldiers of the immigrant background.
  • Meanwhile, the same year in Madrid, the police protected neo-Nazis holding a demonstration in a working district with large immigrant population, while battering anti-Nazi protesters; the police used batons and fire arms, at least three persons (anti-fascists) were wounded, one lost an eye, one woman was brutally stomped over by the police. Civil society activists claim it is typical that the police beat up anti-fascists but turn a blind eye to neo-Nazis, even if the latter are heavily armed, see: http://www.publico.es/espana/221064/la-policia-no-cachea-a-los-nazis-armados-en-las-manifestaciones.
  • In 2009, guards accused of particular brutality towards inmates in the infamous CIEs (Centros de Internamiento para Estranjeros) coincidentally also sported shaven heads and neo-Nazi tattoos or symbols, besides allegedly using ethnic and racial slurs characteristic of the extreme right´s jargon. (Pro Igual covered the situation in the Spanish CIEs in its past articles, see here and here.)
  • In the early 2012, the Valencian police brutally suppressed the demonstration of underage students, who were “armed” with books and protested budget cuts for education. What is interesting, in addition to Valencia being the preferred location for ex-Nazi fugitives, is that the chief of the police there does not even try to hide his sympathy towards the extreme right. See: chief of the police there does not even try to hide his sympathy towards the extreme right.

These cases, especially taken in the context of Spanish history, are more than unrelated incidents. They suggest systematic infiltration of the power structures of the Spanish state by neo-Nazis, neo-fascists, and other extreme right elements. If not for tireless efforts of the Spanish civil society, even a greater number of racially-motivated attacks and hate crimes committed by right-wing sympathizers serving in those organs would have remained covered up and forgotten.

The next article of the series will address specifically Spanish civil society movement and initiatives developed to address and counter hate crimes and propaganda by the Spanish extreme right.