Cobos, Ceña: men of honour

Why has the Spanish government waited until now to take action against De los Cobos?

If it wasn’t so trite, fascist is the term that would best describe colonel Diégo Pérez de los Cobos, the Guardia Civil commander of the Madrid region who has recently been sacked by Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Spain’s Interior Minister. Pérez de los Cobos is joined by Laurentino Ceña, the Guardia Civil’s Deputy Director, who has just tendered his resignation. Ceña was promoted by Marlaska himself after the Guardia Civil officer proved his worth during the Catalonia riots in the autumn of 2019, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of the independence leaders who staged a self-determination referendum in Catalonia on 1 October 2017.

It is said the Ceña’s role at the time was to cool down the flaring tempers of the Guardia Civil top brass and work to ensure that the job of beating up Catalan protestors would fall on the Spanish and Catalan police forces. If that is true, you can hardly chalk it up as a win when you consider that it was the Guardia Civil who arrested the Catalan CDR activists on terror charges on 23 September 2019, only to see them be subsequently released.

Going back to Pérez de los Cobos, it is obvious that his service record provides sufficient grounds not merely for dismissal, but also criminal prosecution: alleged confederate in the 1981 military coup, alleged torturer, and alleged fabricator of evidence and forger of police reports. Having said that, those who have concluded that he has been dismissed because Catalan pro-independence parties wanted to see his head on a pike —a narrative espoused by Spain’s nationalistic media— are grossly overestimating the power of the Catalan independence movement. Likewise, only someone with no knowledge of Spain’s top judiciary could possible believe that prosecuting Pérez de los Cobos would result in the colonel being held to account in any way: the likes of Justice Manuel Marchena and Carlos Lesmes, who fill the highest echelons of the Spanish justice system, fully endorse the officer’s far-right political views. In fact, the last few times that Pérez de los Cobos made a public appearance was in a court of law: in Spain’s Supreme Court, where he was a prosecution witness in the case against the Catalan independence leaders, and in Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional court, where the former head of the Catalan police is currently being tried. Major Josep Lluís Trapero of the Mossos d’Esquadra has been the target of a relentless personal vendetta by Pérez de los Cobos.

It is hard to say which is most embarrassing, the colonel’s blatantly fabricated court testimony, with the complicit consent of judges and prosecutors, or the police operation he led on 1 October 2017 which sought to stop the Catalan independence referendum and constitutes —I’ll say it again— one of the most regrettable episodes in the history of the European Union.

Why has the Spanish government waited until now to take action against Pérez de los Cobos? Well, because this time Pérez de los Cobos has messed with the wrong people in Madrid. To be exact, first he was an instrument of the State against “the Catalans” —as subversive group against which no holds are barred— but this time he has taken aim against the Spanish government (1). Indeed, in Spain there is an all-out war being waged against the PSOE-Podemos coalition government, a conflict that is reminiscent of the Spanish Republic before General Franco’s coup in 1936. The opposition’s Partido Popular is singing the praises of Pérez de los Cobos as a man of honour and one thing is for sure: the heat is on and tensions will flare up. Nobody should expect any respite, not to mention any show of responsibility or basic decency.

Translator’s note:

(1) On March 8 large crowds marched in the streets of Madrid to celebrate International Women’s Day. The demonstration possibly contributed to the city’s massive Covid-19 outbreak a few days later and some have argued that the regional authorities shouldn’t have allowed the event to go ahead. Madrid’s Guardia Civil (under Pérez de los Cobos) wrote a damning report that could potentially incriminate Spanish government officials for neglect of duty. Said report dutifully found its way into the hands of the judge tasked with probing the case.

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