In his first act since being reconfirmed as Spain’s Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska has initiated an anticipated shakeup of Spain’s national police services by replacing in one fell swoop the Secretary of State for Security and number-two official in the ministry, longtime Socialist party politician Ana Botella and Guardia Civil Director General Félix Azón.
Grande-Marlaska has appointed his Chief of Staff and career judge Rafael Pérez Ruiz as the new Secretary of State for Security to replace Botella, with whom he reportedly had repeated clashes about policy and decision-making during his first term of 18 months as Interior Minister.
Marlaska, an independent who was appointed to Interior in 2018 by President Pedro Sánchez, has for the moment left in place National Police director general Francisco Pardo Piqueras. But news reports suggest the days are numbered for Pardo, a former defense department contractor with ties to the more conservative wing of the Socialist party.
A replacement for Azón, also a career judge and son of a Guardia Civil non-commissioned officer and born in a barracks hospital in Huesca, has not yet been named. Sources say Marlaska is considering appointing a woman to fill Azón’s post.
Freed from his responsibility for immigration affairs with the integration of that portfolio into the new Ministry of Social Security, Inclusion and Immigration, Marlaska has wasted no time in turning his attention to reshaping the leadership of Spain’s pre-eminent national police organizations.
According to news reports, ongoing festering problems in the National Police that Marlaska intends to tackle include the continued murky intelligence gathering activities of a hardline “political brigade” that police director Pardo has not moved to dismantle.
Other issues surfacing in the past 18 months have been allegations of corruption within the force, a commander in Navarra discovered to be operating a fake Twitter account used to attack leftists and Basque nationalist sympathizers, as well as apparent resistance from Pardo that frustrated a move by Marlaska to sack a police commander who openly hosted Franco-era police torturer Antonio González Pacheco, aka Billy el Niño (Billy the Kid”), at an annual barracks celebration last year.
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