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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Whatever happened to Sunny Spain?

At a time of year when most of us head to the bars to show off our monstrous side to celebrate Halloween (costumed with varying degrees of effort), some of the real monsters plaguing the world all the other days of the year were put behind bars very much against their will. In Barcelona, a court convicted five men to sentences between ten and twelve years for the gang-rape of a 14-year-old girl. Welcome news, were it not that the punishment meted out by the judges is but a fraction of what it should have been.

Spanish law requires the use of intimidation or aggression for a charge of sexual assault rather than abuse. In the court’s view, since the girl was unconscious at the time of the rape, no intimidation was needed for the men to have their way. A conclusion so obviously detached from reality, it could give Kanye West a run for his money. Outrage quickly followed, with calls for a change to the law growing louder by the day. This process had in fact been underway for a while already, this hardly being the first time this situation has occurred, with the Supreme Court having overruled a similarly ludicrous verdict a mere three years earlier. This is a horror story that was not waiting for a sequel. Sadly, and unsurprisingly, we got one anyways.

And as if Spain didn’t already have a monster problem on its hand, this past week it proceeded to exhume one it had put to rest decades earlier. After a lot of handwringing and legal challenges, the socialist government has moved the body of dictator Franco from his megalomaniacal tomb in Valle de los Caillos to a low-key grave. Not normally what you’d expect to see rise from the grave in the run-up to Halloween. A longstanding election pledge by the party, the Caudillo is still a very divisive figure in his native country, with his mausoleum having become a site of pilgrimage for extremists on the right in recent years. The country’s current prime minister, Pedro Sanchez proclaimed it as a necessary step in the reconciliation of the Spanish people, but his ministers were met with fury on all sides.

All this news comes on the back of the widely-criticized sentencing of several Catalan pro-independence politicians over the attempted unilateral declaration of independence. At a time when Spain’s economy had seen some much-needed moderate growth in recent times, it is discouraging to see its society beset by endless ghosts of failures past. Hopefully the coming November General elections can help to exorcise some of Sunny Spain’s inner demons.

With Halloween now over and the skeletal face paint stored away, zombies and witches are again gone from the world for at least a year. But the real monsters sadly remain.

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