The sacking of Civil Guard colonel Diego Pérez de los Cobos by the Spanish interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, on the grounds of "loss of confidence" stands out as a stark, and partly tragic, example of what is really going on in Spanish public life.
The man who was treated as a hero for his leadership of the Spanish police violence at the Catalonia independence referendum on October 1st, 2017 and who commanded the law enforcement forces which imposed their repression, resulting in injuries of varying degrees of seriousness to a total of 1,066 people, has been removed from the position of head of the Civil Guard in Madrid. This happened after a report sent to a Madrid judge opened the door to investigate the responsibility in the pandemic of epidemiologist Dr Fernando Simón and the Spanish government's delegate in Madrid.
The minister Marlaska, with the approval of PM Pedro Sánchez, has taken a decision that clearly reveals the level of conflict between the Socialist government and Spain's deep state. De los Cobos is the distilled essence of what might be understood as "the State". Sánchez and Marlaska have opened up a Pandora's box which, if it demonstrates anything, shows that the Spanish government has conflicts open on fronts that go far beyond the classic dogfights between political parties.
The man who had under his command the entire police operation of the 1st October and who, throughout the trial of the Catalan political prisoners in the Supreme Court, maintained an attitude that was sometimes proud and at other times arrogant, not only survived that episode of unnecessary police violence but was rewarded for his services to the state. All means necessary are permitted if the enemy is the pro-independence movement but, apparently, the same does not apply to other issues. Because if colonel De los Cobos has one quality, it is that he does not try to deceive: he is the authority. So why is Marlaska surprised? He can’t be that naive.
For several weeks now I have been alerting my readers to the titanic struggle underway, in many important sectors in Madrid, to find a way for the justice system to enter the issue of how the Spanish government is managing the coronavirus crisis. De los Cobos has opened such a route and the Civil Guard report sent to the judge behind the backs of his bosses is a bomb with a very long fuse. The goal, in the end, is none other than to establish the negligence of the Sánchez government in authorizing the mass Women's Day rally on March 8th in Madrid, when there were already enough indications to suspend it due to Covid-19. Judges and soldiers, guest stars in a Spain which has lost its bearings.