Spain's conservative-led parliament, the Cortes, passed an anti-protest bill on Dec. 11 despite harsh criticism from opposition politicians and activist groups, who say it violates the right to demonstrate, limits freedom of expression, and gives undue power to police. The measure, dubbed the "Ley Mordaza" (Gag Law), limits demonstrations to officially permiited gatherings and imposes heavy fines on unauthorized protesters. It also bans taking photos of police during protest demonstrations. Spain has seen a rising tide of mostly peaceful street protests and strikes against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's austerity program, which includes harsh cuts to public health and education.
The new law also includes tough anti-immigration measures that will allow border police to summarily expel migrants from Africa who jump the border fences at Spain's increasingly militarized North African enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. The practice, known as "devoluciones en caliente" (hot deportations), allows police to return the migrants to Moroccan territory without screening them to see if they have legtiimate asylum claims.
The new measure is of course evoking memories of the 40-year fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco and the Spanish Civil War that brought him to power. (Reuters, The Guardian, El Universal, Mexico, Dec. 12)