20 November 1975. Spaniards remember the date. For this was the day democracy returned to their shores, with the death of dictator Generalísimo Franco. Indeed, actor Antonio Banderas, despite being only 15 at the time, recalls toasting El Caudillo's demise with cava.
20 November 2011. Exactly 36 years after the passing of Franco, Spain's PP return to power. With the election of Mariano Rajoy as Spanish president. The PP, or Partido Popular as in People's Party, were famously formed by Franco henchman, Manual Fraga - one of his most repressive ministers.
Unsurprisingly, #RajoyAño1 started trending on Twitter. So it seems a perfect time to take stock. Just what's happened to civil liberties under Rajoy?
Traditionally, the misnamed People's Party have represented the pijos, the sector of Spanish society which put money right at the top of their list of interests. So, that's Rajoy's focus group: right-wing Spanish snobs. If he's got them on their side, that's all that seems to matter.
On a recent press trip to cover the forest fires in La Gomera, I met a PSOE politician. This socialist could see why voters increasingly found little difference between the two major parties. However, they were adamant their party wouldn't have got rid of public healthcare for immigrants if they'd stayed in power. "That's so typical PP", they told me.
During the Franco years, even when tourism started to take off, a visit to Spain felt not dissimilar to taking one to Eastern Europe. Spain was very much a police state back then. And it looks like it's becoming so again.
The increasingly hard-line policies by Rajoy have resulted in dozens of demonstrations; the right to protest the keystone of any democracy. Perhaps people are protesting while they still can. For, in Madrid at least, the PP's main representative there, Cristina Cifuentes is determined to put a stop to them. The Delegada del Gobierno de España den la Comunidad de Madrid is hell-bent on changing a law regulating the right to congregate and protest she deems "broad and permissive".
Although there has been some anti-social behaviour by protestors, for example lobbing bricks through banks' windows, the vast majority of people attending such demonstrations have been peaceful. Which only goes to highlight the bully-boy tactics of the police. Tactics which have included autographing plastic bullets with the message 'Souvenirs of Spain' in Pamplona, mistaking people's heads for baseballs in Madrid, and concealing their identity badges in order to "give it them hard". Them being the demonstrators of course, although sometimes it's hard to tell who's who. Especially as the police have taken to infiltrating protestors and acting as agent provocateurs to encourage them to break the law. As reported by The Guardian's man in Madrid, Giles Tremlett.
The police were at their most brutal, last week in Tarragona. Where they attacked a 13-year-old boy. His crime? Merely being at the protest. Clearly, this government now has blood on its hands.
Famously, Franco was a shy individual. Rajoy seems to be that way inclined too. As can be seen on a clip which has become a YouTube classic. Watch his reaction to being asked questions by the press. Yes, he really does just turn around and walk in the opposite direction. I mentioned this to a friend and he gave me the shoulder-shrug before replying, "Matthew, he's Galician." Worryingly, so was Franco. One would hope history doesn't continue repeating itself.Suggest a correction