Amnesty “of all for all”: the cornerstone of reconciliation | Spain

The President of the Government, Adolfo Suárez (on the right), and Vice Presidents Enrique Fuentes Quintana (on the left) and Lieutenant General Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado, applaud standing from their seats, along with the rest of the deputies, after the approval of the Amnesty Law on October 14, 1977.
The President of the Government, Adolfo Suárez (on the right), and Vice Presidents Enrique Fuentes Quintana (on the left) and Lieutenant General Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado, applaud standing from their seats, along with the rest of the deputies, after the approval of the Amnesty Law on October 14, 1977.Cesar Lucas

The need to overcome the deep division that the Civil War and the Franco regime opened in Spanish society led the Government of Adolfo Suárez to approve, on July 30, 1976, a partial amnesty that pardoned crimes of political intent and opinion that did not would have endangered or injured life. Thanks to her, the vast majority of political prisoners took to the streets. Almost 300, according to some studies. “As Spain is heading towards full democratic normality, the time has come to finalize this process with the forgetting of any discriminatory legacy,” read the motivation of the text.

Reconciliation, however, required a much greater and definitive dose of oblivion: total amnesty for all political crimes regardless of their result, that is, including crimes of blood. A long vindication of the forces of the left endowed with great popular roots that finally summoned the consensus of the constituents on October 14 of the following year. It was the first law of the first democratically elected Parliament after the dictatorship.

The broad agreement that it garnered (296 votes in favor, 2 against, 18 abstentions and 1 null) left out Alianza Popular, which abstained, and whose spokesman, Antonio Carro, was the only one who intervened against the granting of the measure of grace.

The rest of the parties made concessions with the final result to obtain a joint result, elaborated and presented by six groups of the Chamber, which allowed the departure of another 89 prisoners. It was an amnesty “for everyone for everyone”, in the words of PNV deputy Xabier Arzalluz. Proof of this was the inclusion of the acts carried out “in vindication of the autonomy of the peoples of Spain”, in implicit reference to the crimes committed by ETA; and of “the crimes of the authorities, officials and agents of public order” guided by the Franco mandate. A pact of mutual forgetfulness that marked the definitive beginning of a new stage.

What follows is a small excerpt, in order of speech, of what was heard in the hemicycle that day.

Antonio Carro (AP): “A responsible democracy cannot be continually amnesty for its own destroyers.” “Our group accepts and recognizes the institution of amnesty. […] When a political regime changes, and in Spain it is evident that this change has taken place, amnesty is a just consequence. […] But at this point [tras el 15 de junio], in Spain there is no longer the possibility of political crimes. […] With the approval of this umpteenth amnesty we are sliding down the inclined plane of disregard of the laws […]. If you offer the country a guarantee that this is the last and then you will apply the law without tolerances […]I would be willing to sacrifice my doubts and fears for the sake of unanimous parliamentary consensus. […] A responsible democracy cannot be continually amnesty for its own destroyers. “

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Marcelino Camacho (PCE-PSUC): “The capital of this policy of national reconciliation had to be amnesty.” “How could we who had been killing each other reconcile if we didn’t erase that past once and for all? […] Amnesty is the only [política] consequently that can close that past of civil wars and crusades. We want to open the way to peace and freedom. […] We, precisely the Communists, who have so many wounds, who have suffered so much, have buried our dead and our grudges. We are determined to march forward. […] We ask for amnesty for everyone, without excluding where anyone has been. I believe that this proposal of ours will be, without a doubt, for me, the best memory that I will keep all my life of this Parliament. […] With the amnesty, democracy will get closer to the towns and workplaces. “

Donato Fuejo Lago (PSP-Grupo Mixto): “Amnesties have been an instrument of peace, clemency and justice.” “In the current Spanish situation, the amnesty for which we have fought for so long reaches its maximum meaning: national reconciliation, peace among Spaniards, full understanding between the peoples of Spain and the State. […] “It will suppose […] the overcoming of the dictatorship, which had confronted the political ideologies put in parallel by violent enemies, to access the category of political adversaries. […] The transaction has arisen from two positions, and not simply to avoid parliamentary conflicts; there is something deeper. We cannot endanger freedom and the definitive consolidation of democracy. […] It would have been necessary for this bill to contemplate a moral reparation that would bridge once and for all the abyss that broke our society in two. “

Josep María Triginer (PSC): “The amnesty is the beginning of a new era of trust in the future”. “Confidence in being able to resolve political differences in Parliament, and confidence in the adoption of formulas that strengthen understanding and solidarity among the peoples of Spain, without this implying diminishing autonomy and identity of the regions and nationalities that intend to assume them. […] The amnesty not only closes a stage of a regime that exhausted all its possibilities, but also gives way to the stage of democratic transformation that we are already experiencing […] and, as such, it is presented to Congress and the people with the more or less enthusiastic support of almost all political groups. […] This is what gives more strength to the content of this amnesty, beyond its limitations, above the fears. “

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Txiki Benegas (PSOE): “No democracy can be built by keeping prisoners, exiles and reprisals as a result of a dictatorship that it is trying to overcome.” “The gestation of this amnesty has been long, slow, enormously laborious. […] I do not want to recall the number of popular mobilizations, of violence, of deaths that the very achievement of the amnesty has produced until today, when, at last, the civil war is going to be buried. […] If it has any shortcomings, it has the undoubted value that almost all the political forces in this House – I wish they were all! – have the will to bury a sad past and to build a different one. […] For the amnesty to be a reality, it is necessary to control the uncontrolled groups that seek to destabilize the democratic process.

Xabier Arzalluz (PNV-Basque and Catalan Minorities): “An amnesty for all for all, a forgetting of all for all”. “No Basque will be left in jail or exile. Our people have fought in the vanguard for amnesty, even at the cost of death. […] It is simply an oblivion, an amnesty of all for all, a forgetfulness of all for all. Because you have to remember, even for the last time, that […] what happens in this hemicycle, where people who have suffered long years in prison and exile sit together with others who have shared responsibilities of government and governments that caused those exiles or those prisons, is the image of the reality of our society . […] So let’s forget everything. […] A law can establish forgetfulness, but that forgetfulness has to lower people […]. It’s not just getting prisoners out of jail […], but rather that we continue to deepen this democratization. “

Francisco Letamendia (EIA), who abstained and explained his private opinion: “Amnesty is not a shameful pardon for people who are still considered common criminals.” “I have the mandate of a sector of the Basque people that has a conception and philosophy of amnesty different from the one that Congress is going to vote on. […] This sector of the town is for a pacification of Euskadi […]. But for this sector, amnesty is not a shameful pardon for people who are still considered common criminals. On the contrary, it is the recognition of the right of a people to have used all the means at its disposal to defend itself from the aggression of the dictatorship. […] June 15 [día de las elecciones] It is a purely formal date, not covered with democratic content; a total amnesty does mean the beginning of democracy. “

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Hipólito Gómez de las Roces (Aragonese Party): “We are transferring to the Courts of Justice a competence that belongs to the Chambers or the Government”. It abstained because the time for introducing amendments was shortened and considered that the law contained many legal inaccuracies.

Rafael Arias Salgado (UCD): “The amnesty allows all of us, absolutely all of us, to look to the future with dignity.” “Amnesty is necessary whenever you want to build something new, lay the foundations for a new coexistence. […] It is the ethical-political assumption of the democracy to which we aspire, which does not look back, but fervently wants to overcome and transcend the divisions that confronted us in the past. We want democracy to belong not to anyone in particular, but to all Spaniards, so that everyone can feel part of its birth. […] It is possible that precisely because it is common to the vast majority of the Groups in this House, it leaves some a final embers of dissatisfaction, but we believe that its breadth is such that it allows us to overcome the past and begin to build what we really need. “

The “crimes of women” were left out

Despite the broad scope of the Amnesty Law, crimes considered specifically “for women”, such as adultery or prostitution, were left out of it because they did not fall into the category of political crimes. Some deputies mentioned them in their speech:

Marcelino Camacho: “To the women of our country we want to indicate that if this problem is not discussed today, that if this law lacks amnesty for the so-called“ women’s crimes ”: adultery, etc., we want to remind you that the Communist Parliamentary Group presented a proposal of law on July 14 that we believe is urgent to discuss and that we are naturally going to discuss. “

Little Benegas: “The amnesty must be guaranteed in its application through the necessary measures that establish and defend […] the disappearance of all discrimination suffered by women, the decriminalization of crimes that affect women. “

Francisco Letamendia: “An amnesty must cover those specifically feminine crimes that are humiliating for women. Let’s not forget that if a fascist society is characterized by something, it is because it is a masculinist society. “

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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