The Government, unable to justify the “purge” in the Mossos
The Government dismissed Major Josep Lluís Trapero on December 20, but the political storm arose a few hours later with another dismissal, that of the mayor who directed the investigations against some pro-independence politicians. Among others, those that affected the former Interior Minister Miquel Buch, accused of prevarication and embezzlement for creating a position of trust to provide an escort to Carles Puigdemont. Also the investigation against the current president of the Parlament, Laura Borràs, one step away from prosecution for the division of public contracts while she directed the Institution of Catalan Letters, and the case against the president of the Diputación de Lleida, Joan Reñé, for the alleged award of public works in exchange for bribes.
At the head of all these cases was Toni Rodríguez, who, during his time at the head of the General Criminal Investigation Police Station (CGIC), went so far as to request judicial protection against the interference of some commanders who requested information about those under investigation.
His dismissal and his new assignment, at the Rubí police station, have been interpreted by the opposition as a “purge” of the Catalan Executive at the top of the Mossos; “a warning to navigators” –in the words of the PSC-Units deputy Ramón Espadaler– for those who investigate cases of corruption that affect their political leaders.
This was the reason that led the Minister of the Interior, Joan Ignasi Elena, to appear yesterday in Parliament to try to tackle the criticism and justify the changes, but beyond announcing the development of a protocol to shield this specialty –anti-corruption–, denying the “purge” and committing to dismiss the person responsible for any interference – after claiming to be unaware of what Rodríguez suffered – was unable to reason about the changes in the Catalan police headquarters.
As for Trapero, the head of the Interior insisted on the arguments deployed in recent weeks: the need for a choral leadership –again emphasizing the personalism of the elder–, and about Rodríguez, in addition to underlining that who now replaces him –Ramón Chacón– was his number two, he slipped that “a good surgeon does not have to be a good hospital director”, praising thus his ability as an investigator, but questioning his work as a commander. To try to allay suspicions after this dismissal, Elena also announced an increase in the anti-corruption staff, going from 12 to 30 agents, but her arguments did not convince the opposition. Both PSC-Units, Vox, Cs and PP reproached the Minister of the Interior for his lack of specificity and insisted that the changes are due to a “purge”.
The Department’s constant allusion to the “feminization” of the Corps or to the generational change in its ranks, are premises that do not agree with the choice of substitutes for the dismissed: two men, and in one of the cases -Chacón- four years older than its predecessor. As for the objectives that the Interior has set for the Mossos in the coming years, in what the ‘conseller’ described as «second deployment», –with «neighborhood police stations» or specialization in the fight against cybercrime–, he also did not know how to justify why Trapero and Rodríguez are not qualified, in his opinion, to take on these challenges.
The head of the Interior did insist that making changes in the leadership is his power, as political head of the Corps, and recalled that in the last year there have been three people responsible for the police station whose command Chacón now assumes. In addition, Elena used the support of the unions to justify the thirty relays in command posts. Among them, Sicme, which groups 90% of the Catalan Police commanders, and which days ago reproached for questioning the “independence and professionalism” of those who now assume new positions, after stressing that changes are common, as in any another organization.
To conclude her speech, Elena stressed that “all anti-corruption investigations are carried out with the utmost secrecy” and called “insulting» to be questioned. Despite this, the lack of motivation for the replacements did not convince the opposition, which once again called Rodríguez’s dismissal “degradation”.