Barcelona 2 OCT 2019 – 14:42 CEST
The upper echelons of the Mossos d’Esquadra have been conjured to not admit any interference of the Government in the management of security in Catalonia. The instability in the Department of Interior – enhanced with the resignation of Andreu Martínez, fourth police director in just two years – has only reinforced the conviction of the commanders that they should conform only to operational criteria, not allowing political guidelines. The Mossos protect their autonomy in anticipation of before an autumn they foresee as complicated with the mobilizations – encouraged by the Government – planned against the sentence of the trial of the procés.
Police officers want to avoid past mistakes at all costs. Two years ago, before the 1-O, the upper echelons maintained some ambiguity between loyalty to the political leadership of the Generalidad and the duty to comply with the orders of judges and prosecutors. The management of the referendum caused an earthquake in the Catalan police: agents investigated for passivity in front of the polling stations; institutional discredit, and the head of the body, Major Josep Lluís Trapero, brought to trial for rebellion.
“We have all learned the lesson”, explains a high command of the Mossos, aware that they are, once again, in the spotlight before the “hot autumn” after the ruling. In June, Eduard Sallent, newly appointed head of the Mossos, already warned about this: “The future will put us to the test. There will be many eyes that will be watching us”, he said in a public ceremony with the Interior counsellor, Miquel Buch.
Sallent recalled this Monday, in an operational meeting with the commanders, that they act as “judicial police” and must, therefore, comply with the orders of prosecutors and judges. Coming from a pro- independence past but with a technical profile, Sallent claimed the full autonomy of the Catalan police over public order. He detailed, in addition, the scenarios planned for this fall and the security device that is already underway, and that includes all the troops of the Mobile Brigade (riot control).
The relationship between the political and operational leaders of the Mossos has never been easy. Less still during the last year. President Quim Torra has been the first to publicly criticize police actions against members of the Comités de Defensa de la República (CDR). On October 1, 2018, the CDRs tried to assault the Parliament after Torra urged them to “push” to make the Republic effective. The Mossos, after enduring various attacks, charged.
But the turning point came on December 6. The Mossos charged in Girona and Terrassa (Barcelona) to prevent groups of pro-independence crews from busting acts in favor of the Constitution. Torra warned that a possible “malpractice” would be investigated and that “the necessary changes” would be implemented. Buch also criticized his Mossos: “There are images that do not conform to the principles of democratic police”.
In the memory of the commanders remains the warning they received after the CDRs kept the AP-7 motorway cut for 15 hours in another protest. The Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation – which then closed – for the alleged inaction of the Mossos. Days later the Council of Ministers was held in Barcelona, which culminated in hard confrontations between Mossos and CDRs (13 detainees, 77 wounded).
“Whatever happens in Interior, we will keep to our business”, summarizes the same police command about Martinez’s resignation. “The police is fed up with the unsteadiness of politicians. This is a comic sketch”, affirms the union USPAC (Unió Sindical de la Policia Autonòmica de Catalunya). “The police is not affected by it [the resignation] because all agents know that they are working correctly”, adds Toni Castejón, spokesman for the SAP-Fepol union (Sindicat Autònom de Policia). Police sources admit that Martinez almost did not interfere in operational aspects, but that he received strong pressures from the regional presidency to do so. These pressures have ended up causing the departure of a career official who follows the brief and tortuous path of other political leaders of the Mossos of recent times, such as Albert Batlle or Pere Soler.
USPAC asks the new director to act with “criteria”
The USPAC union, majority in the police, does not give truce to the new director of the Mossos, Pere Ferrer. He regrets that the counsellor Miquel Buch has stressed that Ferrer is part of “his team”. “There is no bigger disaster for the police than the counselor and the entire team that forms it”, says the union in a letter sent to Ferrer in which it asks from the political leadership to act with “head” and “judgment”.
USPAC recalls that, as Buch’s chief of staff, the new director has been present at the Police Council meetings and has advised Buch on various matters. He already has, therefore, “knowledge of all claims” raised. The union asks Ferrer, as a first step in his term, to repeal two instructions, on schedules and on permits for personal matters.
Another letter, but addressed to all the Mossos, has been sent by the outgoing director. Andreu Martínez sent the agents a farewell letter in which he shows his appreciation to one of the most “beloved” institutions in Catalonia. Martinez criticizes, however, “the dissonant voices that want to contribute to the tension”. Martínez also clarifies that he presented the resignation on September 25 – two days after the counsellor Miquel Buch dispensed with her director of communication – and that it is a “very thoughtful” and “personally very difficult” decision. The exit of Martínez coincides with the beginning of the protests for the second anniversary of the 1-O and the sentence of the procés, which will be announced in the coming days. He is replaced by the Buch chief of staff, Pere Ferrer.