It is just three months since General France died, last November 20th. In that time,?
It is just three months since General France died, last November 20th. In that time, Spain has edged a short way towards a more democratic outlook, and the Government has given rather indefinite promises of further moves to come. But it has moved nothing like as fast as its critics, at home and abroad, would like.
King Juan Carlos was sworn in as Head of State two days after the old dictator's death. During his period as nominated successor, he had been careful not to commit himself to any political programme. His first speech as King was a careful amalgam of promises to uphold the constitution and to introduce modest reforms.
The left-wing opposition was quick to formulate its demands -- an amnesty for all political prisoners and a referendum on whether the monarchy should continue. A political general strike called for December 11th failed to attract much support; but early in the new year economic grievances brought thousands of railway and postal workers out on strike, as well as factory workers, protesting about inflation and wage controls. The Government resorted to strike-breaking methods used in the Franco era, and drafted the strikers into the army, bringing them under military discipline. Demonstration marches in the streets of Madrid were broken up by the police. The Government warned the strikers that it would not tolerate subversion or the paralysis of basic public services.
One of King Juan Carlos's first acts was to confirm General Franco's last Prime Minister, Senor Carlos Arias Navarro, in office. Senor Arias had already proposed some limited reforms under the old regime, but had been prevented from carrying them out. Now he was given another chance, and included two known moderate reformers in his new Cabinet: Foreign Minister Jose Maria de Areilza, and Manuel Fraga Iribarne in the key post of Minister of the Interior. Senor Fraga faces the problem of maintaining law and order without the repression of the Franco era. Senor de Areilza, an experienced diplomat, has been charged with the task of improving Spain's image abroad, and paving the way for its eventual entry into the European Common Market.
In a policy speech to the Cortes, the Spanish Parliament, at the end of last month, Senor Arias maintained the official attitude of caution. He announced that the Cortes would be made more representative, but did not say how. There would be a new electoral law, but he gave no details of the franchise. Restrictions on freedom of speech and public meetings would be eased, but he did not say how far. The present ban on political parties would be relaxed, except on the Communist Party. Again, there were no details. He promised these reforms within eighteen months.
Since then, it has been announced that the anti-terrorist law, which caused in international uproar when four guerrillas were executed last September, is to be modified. The death penalty will no longer by mandatory for killing soldiers or policemen, and guerrillas will no longer be tried under emergency procedures by military courts.
A more liberal attitude has also been demonstrated by the relaxation of press censorship. For instance, a statement by Don Juan, the King's father, calling for true democracy and criticising General Franco was recently carried by the semi-official news agency CIFRA. This would not have been allowed in Franco's lifetime. It even included allegations by Don Juan that his previous attempts to get his views across to the Spanish people had been censored, and appeared in the press badly mutilated.
Last month, Spain signed a new defence treaty with the United States, which allows the Americans to continue ,maintaining four military bases in Spain. The terms reflected the improvement in Spain's international standing since General franco's death. Senor de Areilza was able to get a substantial increase in the amount of military and economic aid that the United States was to provide in exchange, and a formal treaty instead of the previous executive agreement. Dr. Kissinger foresaw less opposition in Congress than there would have been to such a treaty with the dictatorship. He hopes to draw Spain closer to NATO at a time when he is concerned about the increase of Communist strength in other Southern European countries, particularly Italy.
But there are plenty of signs that the forces of opposition in Spain will not wait for the cautious programme of reform proposed by the Government. Left-wing groups joined with Catalan nationalists early this month in Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain, to stage the biggest protest demonstration seen there since the Civil War. Police attempting to disperse them with tear gas and water cannon were balked by huge traffic jams.
If strikes and demonstrations continue on a large scale, the Government may come under pressure from the far right, which is still powerful both in the Cortes and the army, to hold back even the modest reforms which it has outlined so far.