History lesson for the Secretary of the Interior

The Secretary of State for Security, Rafael Pérez Ruiz, affirmed this Monday in Barcelona that the headquarters of the National Police in Via Laietana “has been and is a symbol of public service from which several generations of policemen have contributed and continue to contribute to strengthen democracy”. The comment can only respond to ignorance or bad faith because, said like that and without mentioning at any time that this building is for several generations, also of policemen, a symbol of Franco’s repression and torture, is at least infinite clumsiness.

The number two of the Ministry of the Interior used the speech of celebration of the Guardian Angels, patron saint of the National Police, to exalt a building that the City Council of Barcelona, with the favorable vote of the PSC, has claimed to transform into a memory center on Franco’s repression. Also the Congress of Deputies approved four years ago (four!) that the headquarters should become “a museum-memorial, documentary and archival centre of Franco’s repression in Catalonia”.

It is our colleague Antoni Batista who has best explained what this symbol Pérez Ruiz refers to was and what it means. If you were to take a look at one of his books (you could start with La Brigada Político Social, ‘Memòria de la resistència antifranquista’, Pagès Editors) you would discover what this “house of horrors” was like, as the Barcelona journalist defines it. He would know how the Political Social Brigade acted in the dungeons or during interrogations. The vocabulary and forms of torture were varied. There was the ‘corro’ where the detainee was placed in the centre and between a few of them they beat him with truncheons, fists or kicks. Batista also explains what the ‘bathtub’ consisted of. It was about putting the head in and taking it out of a bucket, where often there was not only water but they also urinated in it.

It was enough to be anti-Franco to end up in one of the dungeons in the cellars. Gregorio López Raimundo, Miguel Núñez, Jordi Carbonell, Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira, Anna Sallés and Josep Maria Benet i Jornet are just some of the well-known names who passed through there. Batista spent years studying archives and files while the Republican Joan Tardà was the one who fought the hardest in Congress to get the Lower House to support the request of the memorialist organizations to convert the police station into a center to remember so as not to forget such a dark period. The same ashat has been done in countries around us in areas with an equally disastrous past.

The new Minister of the Interior, Joan Ignasi Elena, reminded Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska just a few weeks ago, at their first meeting, that Congress had called for the building to be converted into a space of democratic memory. That Marlaska is in no hurry (making a benevolent reading) was clear when in April, in an answer in the Senate, said that the Government did not see “operational reasons” to move the police station. Not only are there, but there are plenty of them, and if not, ask those who can tell you in first person what Via Laietana, 43, was like, and how the Creix brothers, two policemen whom Manuel Vázquez Montalbán defined in 1974 as “professionals of humiliation”, used to deal with it. Even Manolo was not enough to summarize the methods of the Creix brothers.

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