It is one of the world's leading arms manufacturers and exporters. Spain occupies the seventh place in the world ranking: for a decade now it has been in the top ten of this list, alongside powers such as the United States, Russia, Germany, China and the United Kingdom, and therefore well above its economic potential. It is ahead of Israel, South Korea and Italy. Its main buyers are NATO countries, especially Germany and the United Kingdom, followed at a distance by France and Australia. In fifth place it has two controversial clients: Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Because of the war in Yemen, plagued by atrocities, Germany and Italy have stopped selling to the Saudis. Spain, on the other hand, has not. Since 2015, at least 233,000 people have died in the Yemen war (there are allegations of war crimes against all sides). The Turkish genocide against the Kurds has not put a brake on Spanish arms sales. After Venezuela, the Arab Emirates are the eighth client of the State: the violations of human rights have led Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands to deny them the sale of arms. Again, Spain has kept it.
In fact, despite having the legal tools to do so, the state does not control the use of the arms it sells: the decree approved last April of on-site verification (certificate of final use ex post) has not been used. The suspicion is that it is a way to pass the responsibility to the buying countries in the face of possible criminal proceedings, and thus protect both the manufacturing companies and the producing country. Despite pressure from Podemos within the coalition government with the PSOE, its influence in this area has not been felt for the moment, to the disappointment of pacifist NGOs.
The arms industry directly employs 21,000 people in Spain (plus 30,000 indirect jobs) and has a turnover of 6.188 billion a year, 0.5% of GDP. It is mainly located in Madrid (65% of the sector) and Andalusia; not too much in Catalonia (1,746 direct workers). It is a sector highly dependent on the government, which according to calculations by the Delàs Centre for Peace Studies, in 2021 will devote 21,623 million of the budget to the military sector. The Spanish military industry has an iron health, it has been consolidated in the last decade (it has not suffered the crisis) and benefits from official opacity. Thanks to Franco's 1968 law of official secrets, since 1987, with the second government of Felipe Gonzalez, all the minutes of the inter-ministerial board responsible for granting licenses for arms exports are secret. The political and judicial battle to reverse this lack of transparency has so far hit a wall. La Moncloa has become a bunker, immune to the human rights discourse.