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by Euro Reporter
2013-11-23 09:41:06
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Spain drafts new laws to curb public protests

Spain’s ruling People's Party has drafted new laws against public protests, a move which the opposition has criticized as undemocratic. The draft law to be presented in a cabinet meeting on Friday would introduce heavy fines for people who participate in unauthorized protests, publish images of police or interrupt public events. If the law would come into force, people demonstrating near the country’s parliament without permission could be fined up to 600,000 Euros. While insulting a police officer during a protest could cost up to 30,000 Euros. Joan Coscubiel, spokesman for one of the two main opposition parties, Izquierda Plural, called the law a “kick in the teeth for democracy.”

In addition, the draft law has outraged activists, with one saying, "It's an attack on one of the pillars of our democracy.”  Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said the proposed law is to protect citizens and not to silence protesters.  "One of the obligations of the government is to guarantee the liberty and security of all of its citizens," said Rajoy.  However, Manuel Ballbe, a law professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, argued that the bill is more about winning votes for the conservative government.  "They need to radicalize these movements, to create a climate of violence. Then the government can come out and show that they are the best party to institute law and order," said Ballbe.  "Despite the crisis, there hasn't been any increase in crimes or violence. With six million unemployed and half of our youth unemployed, there's been no rise in delinquency," he added.  

Spain has seen numerous protests in recent years, with the latest on November 20 when students gathered in front of the Education Ministry in Madrid to show their anger at the government’s austerity cuts, rising fees and other changes to the education system.  Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking millions of jobs with it.  The Spanish government has been sharply criticized over its austerity measures, which are hitting the middle and working classes the hardest.

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Islamic Radicals Infiltrate the Military

The Spanish military is quietly monitoring its Muslim soldiers in an effort to prevent the spread of Islamic radicalism within its ranks, according to a classified Defence Ministry document that has been leaked to the Spanish media. The Spanish Army has also been systematically replacing its Muslim soldiers with new recruits from Latin America in an effort to reduce the potential for trouble in areas of Spain that have a large Muslim population. Spain abolished the draft and transitioned to a professional military in 2002, but has been unable to find enough native Spanish volunteer soldiers to fill the ranks—due to a mix of apathy, pacifism and declining birth rates (Spain has a fertility rate of just 1.36 (2011), one of the lowest in the European Union). Like other European countries facing a similar dilemma, the Spanish Defence Ministry, in a desperate search for soldiers, is increasingly relying on Muslim recruits. But the push to boost Muslim enlistment has been a double-edged sword: while Spain needs the extra manpower, it also worries that some Muslim soldiers harbour extremist ideologies. The leaked document, entitled, "Measures to be applied to Military Personnel Identified as Showing Signs of Radicalism," was issued by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Spanish Army, Lieutenant General Jesús Carlos Fernández Asensio, on October 24, 2013.

The document—classified as "confidential" and published by the Madrid-based newspaper El País on November 19—states that the Spanish Army has detected within its ranks "the existence of personnel with clear indications of radicalism (ideological, religious or criminal)…in their private and social lives." The document continues: "The conduct of these individuals constitutes vulnerability for the institution of the Army and poses a potential threat to national security. In an effort to neutralize or at least reduce this risk, the Army has instituted a series of measures that will be applied by unit commanders on suspected military personnel to be determined at any given moment." The measures include revoking the security clearances of any soldiers suspected of radicalism, and preventing such individuals from holding any job position where they might pose a security risk in any form or may have access to sensitive information. The document lists more than a dozen jobs or locations that should be off limits to suspected radicals: "Military police and other security-related units; the general staff headquarters; any premises where classified documents are handled; armoires, arsenals and weapons depots; communications centres and locations housing information systems; job positions involving drivers, escorts and bodyguards, as well as those involving sharpshooters or the deactivation of explosives; or any other location determined by the unit commander."

Military units are also charged with monitoring "everything related to a suspect's proselytizing activities or actions, their level of radicalism and their public activities (social media, Internet surfing, types of newspapers being read, etc.)." Units are, additionally, responsible for keeping track of any civilian lawsuits or criminal proceedings that may involve a suspected soldier "outside the scope of the Armed Forces," as well as "any notices of plans by a suspect to travel abroad." The Defence Ministry recommends the "application, as far as possible, of staff regulations relating to psycho-physical fitness requirements, anti-drug enforcement policies, as well as the disciplinary regulations of the Military Penal Code." Such procedures would apparently provide the legal basis for suspected radicals to be discharged from the Spanish military. The document also proposes the "development of an extraordinary rating system" for any soldier who displays a "significant change in professional conduct." A negative performance evaluation would be grounds for such a soldier to be discharged. Although the document does not specifically define what is meant by the term "radicalism," it almost certainly refers to Salafist Islam and the Spanish Defence Ministry's concern about the increasing number of Muslim recruits within the ranks of the military. The military is an attractive employment option for many young Muslims born in Spain, where the unemployment rate is stuck at 27%, and the jobless rate for individuals under 25 exceeds 60%. Often, a stint in the military opens the door to civilian jobs with national or local police or other security-related occupations.

There are no official statistics as to how many Muslims are serving in the Spanish armed forces, which currently has 140,000 active duty service members and 5,000 reservists. But the issue of Muslim troops serving in the Spanish military is especially acute in the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern coast of Morocco, which has long demanded that Madrid cede sovereignty of the territories over to Rabat. Muslims constitute approximately 30% of the Spanish troops stationed in Ceuta and Melilla, where the real unemployment rate tops 40%. In July 2012 it emerged that the Spain's National Intelligence Centre (CNI) was investigating a tip it received from the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that al-Qaeda operatives had infiltrated Spanish military units based in both Ceuta and Melilla, territories the Algeria-based Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has long threatened to "reconquer" for Islam. The alert resulted from an investigation initiated by the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in November 2009, after the U.S. Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an al-Qaeda sympathizer, fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others at Fort Hood in Texas. The investigation found that at least 100 Islamic extremists had infiltrated the US military, and that some of these individuals had been in contact with Islamic radicals who had infiltrated military units in Spain, as well as in Britain, France and Germany.

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Spain's Robin Hood mayor sentenced to 7 months for squatting on unused land

A Spanish court has sentenced a town mayor and four others to seven months in prison for occupying unused military land they wanted to be loaned to farmers hard hit by the economic crisis. The regional court of southern Andalusia on Thursday convicted Marinaleda Mayor Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo and the others of serious disobedience for ignoring warnings to leave the Las Turquillas ranchland they occupied during the summer of 2012. Defendants given sentences of less than two years in Spain are generally not imprisoned unless they have previous convictions.

Sanchez Gordillo has staged several activities to highlight the plight of Spain's near six million unemployed, including Robin Hood-style supermarket lootings in 2012 to aid the poor. His town of 2,700 people boasts full employment thanks to its farm co-operatives and has gained a reputation around the world as a "communist utopia."

Sanchez Gordillo has been mayor of Marinaleda since 1979 and in three decades has built a system of co-operative labour that keeps everyone in the village employed and gives labourers a say in deciding how their farms — and the town — are run. According to a profile of the town published in the Guardian newspaper, members of the farming co-operative all earn the same salary, and profits are reinvested to create more employment. The system has helped the town, which also has private enterprise outside of the co-operative, avoid the kind of job losses and economic hardship that have devastated other parts of Spain, which still has an unemployment rate of more than 26 per cent even though it technically emerged out of a two-year recession last month.

 


         
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