Diego Pérez de los Cobos has been promoted to the post of commander of the Guardia Civil stationed in Madrid. The man behind the police crackdown in Catalonia on October 1, whose job was to coordinate the efforts of the Spanish police, Guardia Civil and Mossos d’Esquadra ahead of the independence vote, has been given the top spot in the chain of command in the Spanish capital because, according to Guardia Civil boss José Manuel Holgado, he “has the right profile” for the position.
Spain’s official gazette (BOE) published the appointment on March 6 and on Wednesday Guardia Civil sources confirmed to Europa Press that Colonel De los Cobos had taken charge of his new job. When his predecessor, Colonel Santiago Caballero, was promoted to general of the Guardia Civil De los Cobos became everyone’s favourite to replace him.
Diego Pérez de los Cobos is the brother of a former president of the Spanish Constitutional Court and, until now, he had led the bureau of coordination and studies within Spain’s State Security department. At the end of September last year, Madrid picked him to coordinate the various police forces in Catalonia, with a view to stopping the referendum on independence. On October 1, the day of the ballot, over one thousand people were injured as a result of the the Spanish police’s baton charges.
The new head of Madrid’s Guardia Civil has been toiling in the engine room of Spain’s Interior Ministry for nearly twelve years. In July 2006 he was appointed advisor to the staff of then-minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba (PSOE) and at the end of 2011 Mariano Rajoy’s first Interior Minister (Jorge Fernández Díaz) and his successor, Juan Ignacio Zoido, both kept him in the post.
Pérez de los Cobos is also the State’s key witness in the cases against Catalan secessionist leaders to be heard in Madrid’s Supreme Court and the Audiencia Nacional, where Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra stand accused of allegedly looking the other way in order to allow the referendum to be held. In public statements Diego Pérez de los Cobos has slammed Mossos Major Josep Lluís Trapero, the Catalan police boss who was sacked when direct rule was imposed by Madrid, and has referred to the Catalan police preparations to impede the ballot as “a joke”.
A family well-versed in fighting Catalonia’s independence bid
In recent years the Pérez de los Cobos surname has stayed in the limelight in Catalonia. Diego’s brother, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, was the president of the Spanish Constitutional Court from June 2013 to March 2017. Besides the controversy stirred by the fact that he used to be a card-carrying Partido Popular member, his tenure in the Constitutional Court was marked by several rulings striking down a number of resolutions passed by the Catalan parliament in the context of the independence bid, such as the 2013 declaration of sovereignty, the non-binding referendum of November 2014 and the 2015 breakaway declaration. All of today’s investigative and judicial efforts following Catalonia’s independence referendum stem from the court’s ruling on the 2015 declaration. The Catalan parliament attempted to challenge Francisco Pérez de los Cobos a number of times for having “scorned” the Catalan people in books and lectures.
Francisco fought the independence bid from a court of law and now his brother Diego has followed suit as police chief. Their father had a stint in politics when he ran in the 1977 elections for the Murcia constituency on Fuerza Nueva’s slate, a far-right political party.