State of emergency or dictatorship?

Published in Expansión

Spain is the country with the highest coronavirus mortality in the world, adjusted by population: 547 “official” deaths per million people (including the new figures from Madrid and Catalonia regions published yesterday), as compared to 358 in Italy, 263 in France, 202 in the United Kingdom, 86 in the USA, 62 in Portugal, 46 in Germany or 4 in South Korea. This is the eloquent legacy of the disastrous mismanagement of the epidemic by Spain’s social-communist government, as incompetent as it is deceitful, which has stubbornly misreported, among other things, the number of contagions and deaths. Thus, not only has it lied to the population and disrespected the dead and their families, but it has also contravened the first rule of successfully fighting an epidemic, according to the WHO: transparency.

The government and its friends in the media have shyly hinted at the supposed existence of objective variables that would explain the extraordinary mortality in Spain, such as an aging population or deficiencies of the health system. However, the data do not support these arguments at all. In Spain, people over 65 represent a proportion of the population slightly below the European average and several points below that of Germany or Portugal, which have suffered a much lower mortality than we have. The country in the world with the oldest average population, Japan, with 28% of the population over 65 (compared to 19% in Spain), has so far had just 1 death from coronavirus per million people. Therefore, our excess mortality is not due to demographic particularities. What about the health system? There seems to be little correlation between the mortality of the pandemic and the efficiency of health systems in developed countries: two of the countries with more deaths per million, Spain and Italy, rank very well in the WHO world Health systems’ ranking, and even quantitative variables such as the number of ICU beds per 100,000 people do not show any correlation with the mortality displayed.

Therefore, in the absence of objective factors, it is logical to believe that the main cause of the excessive mortality of the pandemic in Spain has been the ineptitude of our authorities who, by maintaining an open airspace from the Italian outbreak long after the virulence of the epidemic was known in that country and negligently refusing to adopt early containment measures, imported the virus, allowed it to spread and, as an aggravating factor, deliberately encouraged attendance at mass events such as the March 8th feminist demonstrations in Madrid and elsewhere: if distancing is key to containment, imagine how effective these massive and vociferous gatherings must have been in spreading the virus. Finally, the government has shown manifest incompetence in failing to alleviate the third world-like lack of protection devices (masks, gloves, etc.) within a grotesque chaos and insane interventionism.

To try to compensate for its late response, this government, which is only concerned with pretending, has adopted draconian measures plagued by authoritarian details (very typical of both the radical socialist PM Sanchez and communist deputy PM Iglesias), fostering a repressive environment that encourages abuse. The measures are improvised, arbitrary and contradictory. A person can walk the dog, but not walk alone, with his son, his father or his spouse, with whom he already lives in confinement; he can queue up at the supermarket, at the pharmacy or on public transport, but he cannot practice outdoor sports alone or walk in the countryside, always respecting the necessary distancing. Lockdown rules are indiscriminate for all of Spain’s provinces regardless of the hugely difference prevalence of the epidemic, do not distinguish between rural and urban environments and do not take into account the impact on physical and mental health of such a harsh and long confinement. What scientific evidence, what medical logic justifies these excesses, these contradictions? Or are we dealing with an arbitrary abuse of power that leads to a police state – I order, you obey -, with an imposition by brute force of compulsory punishment, penance and suffering? And why do those who impose such heavy and oppressive burdens on us, violating fundamental rights, feel themselves unencumbered by them and flagrantly violate quarantines, distancing and confinement? And what about arbitrariness? On a TV program that praises the government (“an essential service”), you can get together talk show hosts, journalists and technicians, but the police break into temples and evict law-abiding Christian religious services with a dozen attendees respecting social distancing rules.

The government’s enormous contempt for the rule of law gives a glimpse of its tendency towards totalitarianism, coherent with its Communist nature. The abuse of the state of emergency through which the government has self-attributed dictatorial powers alien to the Constitution is very disturbing: pseudo house arrest of dubious legality (the state of emergency does not allow it) for the whole population; suspension of parliamentary control; censorship and silencing of the media, including the shameless barter of loyalties and favors in exchange for subsidies; use of the State-owned Center for Sociological Research to promote without blush the agenda of the regime with cooked surveys (99,9% of the people love the president!) as if we were a banana republic; elimination of the Government Transparency website (evil, like rats, prefers darkness); and a long etcetera. As the prestigious Constitutional Law Professor Emeritus and former Supreme Court Judge  Manuel Aragon worriedly wrote in a recent clarifying article, the state of emergency “does not provide the State with all-round powers, even in exceptional situations, because it is part of a democratic constitution that prevents any despotism” (El Pais, April 10th, 2020). If the Constitution forbids these abuses, why are they taking place? Firstly, because of the progressive weakening of the rule of law inflicted for decades by Spain’s political parties and the practical inexistence of strong and independent institutions that might serve as a counterweight to the executive branch. The second reason is that the government’s bullying tends to disdain the law with a mentality analogous to that of a criminal (“I’ll do what I want until someone stops me”), while opposition parties submissively accept a silent role – with just one exception – not understanding that against this subversive and amoral government only a head-on political and institutional resistance and the firm application of the law by the courts apply. Winston Churchill taught us that dialogue and appeasement are wrong options when facing totalitarianism. Direct confrontation is the only way: “In the struggle for right and freedom, we will never surrender ourselves to servitude and shame,” he said in his most famous speech.

The panic and hysteria of the masses, conveniently fed by the media, are powerful weapons for power junkies who know that many unwary people are willing to sacrifice their freedom in exchange for a mirage of safety. This dramatic pandemic is a perfect occasion: with the state of emergency, the government is transforming our constitutional democracy into an authoritarian regime that reminds us of its beloved model of Bolivarian tyranny in Venezuela, with oppressive and arbitrary measures of dubious legality and its outrageous proposal, typical of totalitarian regimes, of locking up in internment camps citizens (asymptomatic carriers) who have not committed any crime.

When it encouraged the March 8th demonstrations the government put politics before health issues. Similarly, its interest in extending the state of emergency indefinitely has more to do with achieving political advantage than with public health as it exercises much more power with much less control than under normal circumstances, a clear incentive to keep it over time. We cannot allow the epidemic to continue to be used as an alibi for a regime change that wants to take away our freedom. We should pursue public health, but we must resist tyranny at all costs.

 

Fernando del Pino Calvo-Sotelo

www.fpcs.es

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