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Eduardo Martínez Abascal, Professor, IESE, University of Navarra

Defending freedom

Wed, 10 Mar 2010 08:58:26 +0000 Published in Expansion (Madrid)

Last week a reduced group of very violent radical nationalists tried to prevent a lecture of the deputy Rosa Díez at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). They attacked with insults, throwing objects, paint, etc., in short, pitiful. The reader can see it on YouTube, if he has not already seen it on TV. The same incidents occurred a few weeks earlier, and in the same place, on the occasion of a lecture of the former Lehendakari Ibarretxe. He only received insults and protests. Rosa Díez was worse off and was literally riddled with insults, perhaps because her speech is less acceptable to the radicals.

From these two events, so close together in time and place, it can be deduced that the violence of the radicals is increasing. And why? Well, it's simple, because you make a big deal out of it and nothing happens. The police don't act, nobody is arrested, you don't have to pay for the damage caused and... nothing happens. And besides, you get publicity coverage in the media. The conclusion of the violent ones is clear: "next time we'll make it even bigger, don't worry, nothing will happen". It is the revolutionary dynamic that uses violence to discredit and corner those who do not think like them.

The President of the UAB has stated that these groups come from outside the University. It doesn't matter where they come from. The topic here is not whether UAB students are violent or not. What is at issue is the protection of the fundamental rights of the individual, specifically freedom of expression and the guarantee not to be assaulted. The primary obligation of any ruler is to guarantee those fundamental rights of those over whom he governs. The President should have called the police, in issue enough to avoid the aggression, since it was foreseeable that it would happen, once seen the Ibarretxe case. Once it happened, the police should have made arrests. But OK, I can accept that they were caught unawares. In that case, they should proceed now and without delay to the identification and subsequent denouncement of the violent ones.

Maybe this is unpopular? I don't think it is. But if it is, it does not matter, the ruler has to face up to his responsibilities. I insist, the obligation of the ruler is to protect the fundamental rights of all his governed. He has the means to do so: laws, police, judges. Let them make them serve. Otherwise, freedom will be kidnapped by a tiny issue of radicals and violent people, as has already happened on other occasions and in other places.