The Spanish government clashes with the “deep state”

The State powers that targeted Catalonia’s independence movement are now zeroing in on PM Sánchez’s administration

2 min
El ministre de l'Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, aquest dimarts a la Moncloa

The English phrase “deep state” kept cropping up during Catalonia’s independence bid to refer to the deep state structures that act independently of the incumbent administration, with a single goal in mind: to protect their own privileged position. Spain’s deep state includes high-ranking civil servants and official bodies, such as the Court of Auditors, and has a strong bearing on Spain’s law enforcement agencies, especially the Guardia Civil, whose military nature and capillary presence across the country have traditionally allowed it to act as a power onto itself. For one, it was Guardia Civil officers who masterminded the most recent coup d’état staged in Spain (1981). If there is someone who embodies the archetype of the civil servant who steps over the line to further their own deeply reactionary agenda it is colonel Diego Pérez de los Cobos, the Guardia Civil officer who led the most embarrassing police operation in recent European history: the attempt to stop Catalonia’s independence referendum on 1 October 2017.

The decision by Spain’s Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, to sack Pérez de los Cobos has triggered a political storm in Madrid. The reason for Marlaska’s decision can be traced back to several Guardia Civil reports which suggest that Dr Fernando Simón and Health Minister Salvador Illa might be criminally liable for having allowed a street march in Madrid on March 8, when there was a risk of a Covid-19 outbreak.

To an outsider, this might look like an unacceptable attempt by the Spanish Interior Minister to meddle in the affairs of a law enforcement agency that is acting as judicial police. But knowing Pérez de los Cobos and how the deep state works, there is no doubt that it is currently engaged in bringing down the PSOE-Podemos “social-communist” coalition government on a number of fronts —in particular, in the courts of law—, including the pandemic. However, it is for the people, with their ballot or —if necessary— through a vote of no confidence, to judge the Spanish government’s handling of the pandemic. Under no circumstances should Spain’s courts of law, whose heavy political slant became apparent in the case of Catalonia, have a say in the matter because that would jeopardise the very foundations of democracy.

As it turns out, now the victims of the deep state are the PSOE and Podemos; even Grande-Marlaska, whose name was often mentioned in connection with it. And all that because Spain’s deep state does not approve of the current administration. For Catalans this merely confirms what we had warned of many times: if the powers-that-be ever felt threatened in any way, they wouldn’t just target Catalonia’s independence movement, which is likely the biggest threat to their survival, but also anybody who dared to question their supremacy.

Let’s hope PM Pedro Sánchez realises that he must use this historic opportunity to take decisive action against the deep state, as this is the only way that Spain will be able to become a quality democracy that nobody can call out over the existence of political prisoners, unsanctioned police operations or point out that there court cases where the enemy criminal law applies. In short, to become a country where there is no place for the likes of colonel Pérez de los Cobos.