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Shoot the Messenger?

Spanish Democracy and the Crimes of Francoism
From the Pact of Silence to the Trial of Baltasar Garzón

Francisco Espinosa Maestre has specialised in the destruction of the Second Republic and the establishment of fascism in Spain. Among his major publications are La columna de la muerte (Crítica, 2003), La justicia de Queipo (Crítica, 2006) and La primavera del Frente Popular (Crítica, 2007). In 2010, he edited Violencia roja y azul: España, 1936–1950 (Crítica). He has analysed and recorded the process of the recovery of historical memory in his book Contra el olvido (Crítica, 2006).

Judge Baltasar Garzón achieved international prestige in 1998 when he pursued the perpetrators of crimes committed in Argentina against Spanish citizens and began proceedings for the arrest of the Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. But when he transferred his attention to his Spanish homeland he was put on trial for opening an investigation into crimes committed by Francoists. As result he now (February 2012) finds himself on the point of being expelled from the judiciary.

The Garzón case is neither so absurd nor so difficult to understand if the record of the Spanish judiciary is examined through the prism of a series of representative cases since the transition to democracy. Key is the way the judiciary has dealt with those who have investigated cases of people murdered by the military rebels from July 1936 onwards. Shoot the Messenger? relates thirteen judicial cases that took place between 1981 and 2012. They range from the banning of the documentary film Rocío by Fernando Ruiz Vergara, because it named the person responsible for one of the massacres in southwest Spain, to the recent trial of Judge Garzón. The judicial outcome in each case reflected the prejudices and ideology of the judge in charge.

The Francoist repression still constitutes a dead weight in Spanish politics as heavy as the gravestone that covers the remains of the dictator in the Valle de los Caídos. The nature of the transition from autocracy to democracy has made it difficult to overcome a black past that not even the post-Franco democratic governments — Rodríguez Zapatero’s “memory” policy included — have dared confront. The potential defrocking of Judge Garzón puts the Spanish polity/judiciary back in the realm of Franco’s end-of-year message on December 30, 1969, with what became the nautical catch-phrase of his twilight years, “all is lashed down and well lashed down” (todo ha quedado atado, y bien atado).

Published in association with the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-542-7
Paperback Price: £19.95 / $34.95
Release Date: March 2013
Page Extent / Format: 240 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



The Right to Know: A Foreword by Rafael Escudero Alday


Fernando Ruiz Vergara and his Documentary Rocío
Violeta Friedman versus León Degrelle
Isidoro Sánchez Baena and the Repression in Luque
José Casado Montado: A Memoir of the Terror in San Fernando
Dolors Genovés and Sumaríssim 477: The Value of Archives
Amparo Barayón: The History of a Slander
Antonio Martínez Borrego and the Impostor Gila Boza
Ramón Garrido and the Democratic Memory of O Grove
Marta Capín and the Mass Grave in Valdediós
Santiago Macías and the Words of Rosa Muñoz
Dionisio Pereira and the Orally Transmitted Memory of Cerdedo
Alfredo Grimaldos and the Honor of the Rosón Family
The Spanish Justice System, Baltasar Garzón and the Crimes of Francoism

General Reflections

In conclusion, there are various reasons this book should be considered required reading. I will stress only two of them. In the first place because, by highlighting some aspects the Transition left open and unresolved, it emphatically contradicts those who sing the praises of that Transition. The author reminds us that the Transition armor plated the “right to honor” of Spanish fascism, leaving its memory intact, while it forgot the “right to honor” and restitution of the victims of the long and terrible military dictatorship. In the second place, this book offers solid legal arguments to put a stop to the lawsuits and trials against historians – some of them still in progress – who, with absolute respect for the methodological principles that should guide historiographical endeavors, continue dedicating their time and energy to rescue the victims of the Francoist repression from oblivion and silence. Historians who, by their labors, contribute in a decisive manner to building a democratic memory that is respectful of human rights.
... We owe that to the persons whose personal and family tragedies are described in these pages.
Rafael Escudero Alday, Professor of Judicial Philosophy, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

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