Civil Guard

Civil Guard
   Spain's Guardia Civil, the Civil Guard, is a police force whose roles and image are deeply embedded in the evolution of modern Spain. The poet García Lorca's pre-Civil War vision of their "patentleather souls" reflects the origins of the Civil Guard in 1844 as a military force designed to protect the interests of landowners and of a centralizing state. By 1936 population change had led to the emergence of urban police forces with the Civil Guard specializing in rural policing. It was on this basic structure that Franco built his police system after the Civil War, and the Civil Guard underwent further militarization as part of the new regime's authoritarian social control. Its rural role continued, with heavy emphasis on political repression through its detailed files and its Intelligence Service. From the Carabineros with whom it was merged it inherited control over frontiers and strategic installations. In 1959 it acquired traffic control on main roads and by 1960 its numbers were three times those of the uniformed urban police.
   With the democratic transition after 1975, policing became a central issue. The Civil Guard had to become a defender of the constitution of 1978 and civil rights, but at the same time it was the government's most effective instrument in the struggle with ETA, a struggle whose violence in turn had its roots in Franco's repressive policing. These contradictions were made more difficult by the anti-democratic views of many senior Civil Guard officers and the 1981 Tejerazo. The outcome by the time of the Police Law of 1986 was an accommodation that has seen the Civil Guard accept its democratic role, including the symbolic disappearance of the shiny black tricorn hat, but retain much of its special character. The Civil Guard now polices all municipalities of under 20,000, and deals with customs, main roads, coasts, frontiers, ports and airports, hunting and forests, among other duties. It now has women members and takes in military service conscripts. It is responsible jointly to the Ministries of the Interior and Defence. It remains socially somewhat isolated from the rural communities it serves and retains much of its military ethos. In 1986 the government appointed a civilian, Luis Roldán, to head it for the first time, but his later flight from Spain and subsequent arrest on corruption charges played a part in weakening the position of Prime Minister Felipe González, as did allegations about the Prime Minister's connivance at illegal anti-terrorist activity (such as the GAL), by police, including the Civil Guard.
   Further reading
   - Hooper, J. (1987) The Spaniards: A Portrait of the New Spain, Harmondsworth: Penguin (Chapter 10 includes a very readable and thorough account of the police system).
   - Macdonald, I.R. (1985) "The Police System of Spain", in J.Roach and J.Thomaneck (eds) Police and Public Order in Europe, Beckenham: Croom Helm (the most comprehensive account available in English).
   —— (1987) "Spain's 1986 Police Law: Transition from Dictatorship to Democracy", Police Studies, 10, 1:16–21 (updates the previous item).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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