19/02/2021

The Mossos cannot become a political bargaining chip

2 min
Aldarulls in the centre of Barcelona

Every time there are riots, the performance of the Catalan police - the Mossos d'esquadra- and specifically of the riot police becomes the subject of political debate. Then the political leaders announce big changes, big internal audits to punish the officers who have breached the protocols which usually come to nothing. And so it goes until the next controversy, where it starts all over again. This time, however, the debate is mixed up with the negotiations for the investiture of the future president, and this has made the partisan use of the force grow to ever greater heights. The last straw is that the head of the Catalan Department of Home Affairs Miquel Sàmper's party, Junts, criticises the management of this very department. And that he himself has been particularly lukewarm in the defence of the Catalan police. It is not strange, then, that there is discomfort within the corps towards its political leaders.

So, what must be demanded of the Catalan political class is, above all, responsibility. First of all, we should see what became of "the biggest audit in history" promised by Minister Miquel Buch following the incidents in the protests against the sentence against the referendum. Why is it so difficult to exercise transparency? This opacity is what feeds the image that within the body reigns a kind of corporatist law of silence that ends up deriving in impunity. In this sense, a rapid investigation and immediate accountability in the case of the girl who lost an eye on Wednesday would be desirable.

Secondly, if a change in the police model is to be considered, this must be done in Parliament by listening to all positions, and not as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the investiture in which each party is more concerned with the headlines and the short-term attitude of their potential partner than anything else. Important debates cannot be approached in the heat of the moment. We must start from the basis of two realities: the first is that any comprehensive police force in the world needs public order units to fight vandalism and guarantee the safety of people at demonstrations; the second is that Catalonia, as an advanced society, does not tolerate police excesses and is very demanding with the use of force. This is not the case in other parts of Spain, as we have seen in recent days.

It is therefore positive that the debate on the use of foam bullets or techniques such as the carousel is being opened up. But at the same time, the government must stand by its police and not place them under constant suspicion. Especially if, as is the case, this is done more for electioneering reasons than out of conviction. There are no magic solutions and all democracies have similar problems, but the recipe is clear: support the majority of professionals who do their job well, remove officers who commit excesses and, at the same time, open the debate on control techniques at demonstrations.

And finally: all our solidarity with our colleagues at El Periódico who saw how, in a protest in supposedly favour of freedom of expression, their newsroom was attacked.

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