Top Guardia Civil chiefs fired amid Women's Day march report crisis

Grande-Marlaska / EFE
  • The government meanwhile is aiming to get MPs' approval for one more two-week extension to its state of alarm decree

Spanish politics this week, amid the winding down of Covid-19 restrictions, was dominated by the Interior ministry's decision to remove two officials at the top of the Guardia Civil from their posts. A senior lieutenant-general also resigned.

On Sunday, Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, replaced the colonel in charge of the force in Madrid, Diego Pérez de los Cobos. The number two of the Guardia Civil nationally, lieutenant-general Laurentino Ceña then resigned his post in protest. On Wednesday, the ministry also sacked the head of operational control at the force, lieutenant Fernando Santafé.

The minister suggested that the two dismissals were down to a loss of confidence and that replacing them was "a normal, reasonable policy".

However reports from those close to the removed officers said that the changes were due to the government's unhappiness that the Guardia Civil had prepared a report without its knowledge for a judge investigating its decision to allow the Women's' Day marches in Madrid to go ahead on 8 March. An inquiry is under way into whether ministers acted recklessly in authorising the mass gathering knowing about the risk of coronavirus contagion. The government's official representative for the Madrid region is to be formally interviewed by the judge.

The Guardia Civil are regularly asked to submit police reports with evidence on cases. However judicial independence means they cannot discuss details with their political bosses. Reports this week said the government had tried to see the contents of the report, although the Interior minister strongly denied this.

Fresh state of alarm

While ministers sought to defuse the row over the Women's Day report, they were announcing plans to extend the state of alarm for one more two-week period. This would run from 7 to 21 June.

Deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo said that any extension would have "important changes" and that regions virtually recovered from Covid-19 may come out of it earlier.

The government is fearful it won't have enough MPs' votes to win another state of alarm extension to control movement between provinces. It believes it may have to publish a softer, alternative decree instead.