In 1975, Spain’s fascist dictator Francisco finally died. All of the decent people in the country had been waiting with bated breath for the dictator to draw his last breath and to leave Spain free to explore life without fascism.
Just like many other countries who suffered from bloody dictatorships, Spain decided that the only way to go forward with its transition to democracy was to pretend that the Civil War of 1936-1939 and the dictatorship that the war put in place never really happened. There were no investigations of the crimes committed by the dictatorship, there was no restitution, no public apologies extended to the victims by people who tortured and killed them and their family members. Everybody was expected to get over it, forget everything that happened and just move on.
Of course, this strategy never works. I hasn’t worked in Argentina, in Chile, in the countries of the Former Soviet Union. And it hasn’t worked in Spain either. You can’t heal such deep wounds by pretending to forget.
Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón understood that. He was the only judge who accepted the case against the Chilean dictator Pinochet on his docket. Of course, Judge Garzón wasn’t a judge in Chile, but what else could he do if nobody else in the world was willing to listen to Pinochet’s victims?
And then Judge Garzón also started investigating the atrocities committed by the Spanish fascists during Franco’s dictatorship. Since there was no real transfer of either political or economic power in Spain during the so-called Transition to democracy, many powerful people got terrified. They are not prepared to open the discussion about the Civil War and the post-war era. They want to keep pretending that nothing happened in Spain between 1936 and 1975.
So Judge Garzón was accused of being a promoter of totalitarianism because he investigated the corruption of the ruling party in Spain and was reopening the cases of crimes committed during the dictatorship. Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously condemned the Judge and ruled that he will be barred from practicing law for 11 years.
This is a sad moment for Spain because the last hope that the legacy of Spanish fascism would finally be addressed has now been extinguished.