"Spain in perspective"

Over at This Modern World, Tom has posted a letter from Spain that does a good job explaining why the elections went the way they did. Apparently the government tried to blame the ETA (and discredit anyone saying different) even though it was becoming pretty clear it was an al-Queda attack, because the conservative government wanted voters to associate ETA violence with the Socialist party. (I guess they thought it would reinforce a campaign accusing them of being “weak on terrorism.”)

“After more than 30 years of ETA terrorism, many people thought at once that this murderers well known to the Spanish people had caused the massacre. But well-informed people immediately noticed it was a classical “Chechen attack”, completely different of what ETA has done up to today and essentially identical to the Moscow subway attack several weeks ago. This caused some turmoil, specially when a pro-ETA spokesman made the point. Some minutes later, Interior (Security) Minister Angel Acebes declared openly that the authors were ETA and anyone denying it was a “miserable”.

Doesn’t this sound a lot like our Republicans? Deny the obvious and call the opposition names for daring to point out what is in front of everyone’s faces, because it contradicts their party line?

“Now let me explain to you this turmoil. ETA is an independentist Basque terrorist group who declares itself “marxist-leninist”. The Conservative government of José María Aznar has fought hard to combat it while avoiding any concession to moderate Basque nationalists, saying that the only possible way to manage the issue is “the hard one”. Some weeks ago, a member of the Socialist / Nationalist coalition Government in Catalonia met ETA representatives and the Aznagovernmentnt used this to proclaim that Socialist weren’t hard enough against ETA since they shared government in Catalonia with a guy that spoke to terrorists. If the authors of the carnage were ETA, Aznar government would have been reinforced in their opinion that against those beasts, only force can solve the problem and the Socialists and their Nationalist friends were too weak to do it.

But if the authors were Islamic, a very different panorama arose. The opposition in Spain against Bush’s war in Iraq was very important. I don’t know if it reached 90% as it has been stated in this groups, but there surely was a wide majority against a conflict that common Spaniards didn’t buy. There were massive demonstrations, with several million people in them, against the involvement of Spain in the war. In despite of this, José María Aznar government went to war with Bush and Blair. Many people went home thinking “this guy is involving us in a madmen’s war that we don’t want and will provoke bloody consequences”. If Islamics blew the trains, it was a strong confirmation of this position, something that could only focus anger against Aznar’s Government.

. . . The Government stuck to the ETA hypothesis trying to avoid this probable electoral damage. They must have thought that using their massive media control they could cover it up for four days, until election’s aftermath. Government-controlled public and private televisions, radios and newspapers broadcasted once and again “it was ETA”, but each minute less people was buying it. It has been said that workers of some of this media were near to revolt because of the pressures to avoid the Islamic hypothesis (today, EFE -Spanish state press agency- workers’ unions have asked for the immediate resignation of their boss because of this).”

The public was already sick of the government for its lies about Iraq and support of Bush, and this crystallized opinion. Note that “media not controlled by the Government” played a very important role.

“But then, media not controlled by the Government started broadcasting the Islamic hypothesis and how the controlled media were manipulating the whole issue. In a matter of hours, Spain was bipolarized, with thousands seeking information in Internet and sending it via SMS to their friends. IMHO, the Government went mad and commited suicide in this moment. They agreed there were “Islamic clues” but said once and again it was ETA although the mass crime was claimed three times by Al-Qaeda and there were several tapes (two or three, still unknown) with Islamic messages claiming “Operation Trains of Death” in Madrid and threatening “Smoke of Death” in Italy and “Winds of Death” in the USA. Millions began to think they were being lied, with the blood of 200 Spaniards still warm. SMS messages with the truth spreaded very quickly (I received about 50 from about 40 different sources). In workers’ districts through the country, people began to protest beating pans in the windows and shouting “they make wars, we suffer them”, “we are not puppets” and “Spain is not to be lied”. Others demonstrated before Aznar’s party offices in different cities singing “Liars, liars!” and “Culprits, culprits!” [all emphasis mine – DJ]

The public resented the conservative government’s attempt at manipulating the election through the media and voted them out.

In other words, the government acted exactly like the Bush administration is acting, and an event crystallized this in the voters’ minds just in time for the election. But according to this source, the real difference it made was that people who typically do not vote decided they had enough and showed up. That is what made the difference.

“Aznar-Rajoy’s party lost about one million votes. Not much, it’s true, given the situation. But three million voters arose essentially from disenchanted abstentionists to nail them. And almost all of these voters supported the Socialist Party, the main opposition group that had spoken openly against the Iraq war and was also denouncing the media manipulation. This inverted completely the results, where Rajoy had started as favorite. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, not Mariano Rajoy, will be the next president of Spain.”

And, finally, he ends the letter with,

“Sorry for my English if it sounds a bit strange, I can’t practice it often.”

Hey, pal, don’t worry. This is Seeing the Forest. Grammar, spelling, even coherence are strictly optional.