April 13. 2024. 6:56

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Centre-right ‘dirty mission’ against Podemos shocks Spain

An ongoing investigation has found that Spain’s former centre-right Partido Popular government (EPP) – in collaboration with police officers and certain media – carried out an illegal “dirty mission” to discredit the leftist opposition Podemos party and the Catalan independentist movement.

Podemos officials told EURACTIV that the EU should step in and slam the “attack against Europe’s democracy”.

The investigation is part of the so-called “Kitchen case” carried out by Spanish anti-corruption authorities. The case investigates the involvement of high-ranking police officers in operation commanded by the former PP’s (EPP) Ministry of Interior to subtract delicate information from PP’s ex-treasurer Luís Bárcenas, incriminating high-ranking party officials in corrupt activity.

This particular case concerns the involvement of police officers coordinated by the former ministry of interior aiming to undermine Podemos and wear down the Catalan independence movement.

The “dirty mission” aimed at linking Podemos to illegal funding from Iran and Venezuela in a collaboration between the then government, police and media.

Shortly after Podemos won 69 elected officials in the 2015 general elections, the ministry of the interior started disseminating the PISA report, which claimed that ex-Podemos chief Pablo Iglesias had obtained funding from the Iranian government.

The document, published in multiple Spanish media, was not accepted by judicial authorities.

The revealed messages show that, shortly after, Martínez and Pino exchanged messages regarding new sources from Venezuela with information against Podemos.

Some of this information was leaked to the Spanish media triggering the strong reaction of Pablo Iglesias, who denounced the “persecution”.

Following Iglesias’ public outcry, Pino messaged Martínez arguing that they were investigating undeclared funds, “that is what is criminal, and that is what is being investigated”.

Martíez answered: “I agree with everything, but we have to let them talk and talk…. Because they will end up putting their foot in their mouth. And the argument of taxation is good for Inda [director of OKDiario]”.

OKDiario is one of the Spanish media that repeatedly published information referred to in these message exchanges and later refuted.

“The aim of this plot was not to legally prosecute because Podemos never committed any wrongdoing, and therefore there was no evidence. The objective was the media intoxication of society with slander and attacks without evidence against a political party”, a Podemos source told EURACTIV.

From the PP side, the party’s Secretary General Alberto Núñez Feijoo commented on the issue on Wednesday.

‘Make a lot of noise

The messages also portray an effort by the government to discredit the Catalan independentism movement.

Amid a search in 2015 commanded by Spain’s judicial authorities to Pujol family’s [prominent figure in Catalan independentist movement] houses and companies, Martínez urged Pino, who was participating in the searches, to “be on top of what is happening today [searches] to make a lot of noise”.

“This case shows how the political leadership in the government of Spain and the head of the police were conspiring to invent criminal cases against political enemies, most especially Catalan politicians”, MEP Clara Ponsatí told EURACTIV.

Ponsatí also brought attention to the Pegasus case – in which Catalan journalists’ and civil society leaders’ phones were wired, allegedly by the Spanish authorities.

“This shows how Spanish authorities treat Catalans as non-citizens, to whom any violation of their rights is warranted to prevent the success of their political aims”, she said.

EU urged to react

The Podemos source said the case is “extremely serious” as “it alters the democratic game, illegally and with the complicity of corrupt journalists”.

“The EU has yet to deal in the same way [as with external interference on European democracies] with attempts to undermine European democracy from within.”

Catalan independentist leader and MEP Clara Ponsatí told EURACTIV that this “is a scandal that in any democracy would cause immediate political and judicial consequences”.

“In Spain, it will not, as there is a system that includes all branches of political and coercive power, the government, the parliament, and the judiciary, together with the police and the press, that collaborate to destroy the lives and political ideas of those they see as their structural enemies”, she said.

Podemos say the EU needs to deal with the issue in the same way it did with Poland and Hungary, where attempts were made to undermine from within using the judiciary.

“It is deplorable that the EU has not said anything yet on the case”, Podemos said.

According to Podemos, an EU-wide action should include a European Anti-Corruption Plan for the EU and member states.

The leftists party also proposes establishing a police force specialised in corruption and financial crime as well as strengthening the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) by turning it into an agency.

(Max Griera | EURACTIV.com)