Colonel Diego Perez de los Lobos, the head of the Madrid Guardia Civil, has been fired on personal orders from the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, with immediate effect.
A terse note from the Ministry of the Interior confirmed the firing, and said that the motive was down to a “loss of confidence in his ability to do his job”. The Colonel was later seen driving out of head office, in mufti and in his personal car.
The press, however, aren’t having any of it and suspect that the Colonel had actually refused to drop a penal investigation into why a controversial Podemos feminist march through the streets of Madrid had been allowed to go ahead back on March 8th, as well as a massive football match the same day which attracted more than 60,000 people.
It seems that the chief pandemic coordinator, Fernando Simon, and the regional government delegate of Madrid, José Manuel Franco, were about to be charged with offences of endangering life and abuse of office after they allowed the march to go ahead, despite knowing full well Spain was about to enter a draconian lockdown.
According to El Confidencial newspaper, Fernando Simon allowed both events to go ahead due to pressure from José Manuel, despite the fact he had three days before presented the evidence to the government that allowed for the State of Alarm to later be declared – AND he stopped other events from taking place over the same weekend.
The investigation was ordered by Judge Carmen Rodríguez Medel, who wanted to know if any abuse of office had taken place. It seems that detectives under the direct control of Colonel Diego had uncovered sufficient evidence to allow prosecutions to be lodged.
The allegation in the Spanish press is that senior PSOE politicians ordered the Colonel to return a “favourable” report to the Judge and he refused. In effect, he fell on his sword. According to Spanish press reports, anyway.
The Ministry appears to have suggested to reporters that the real reason for the dismissal of the Colonel was due to his “error of judgement” in sending large number of Guardia Civil officers to patrol outside the luxury house of Podemos leader and government vice president Pablo Iglesias, after neighbours of his started taking part in anti-government demonstrations. This claim was later denied, no doubt after politicians realised that if they confirmed it they would have to withdraw police units. Pablo’s house is currently being guarded by elite firearm officers and anti-riot police units of the Guardia Civil, a measure decried as “draconian” and a “utter waste of public money” by opposition politicians.
This morning, Judge Carmen cited the government delegate, José Manuel, to appear as a witness in the investigation and ordered him to appear next week to give evidence. She is reported to be “extremely worried” by the firing of the Colonel and is contemplating the order. She has also ordered a court forensic official to draw up a report on what effect the 8M march and football match could have had in spreading the pandemic at that point.