THE SPANISH federal government has announced a proposal to eliminate ombudsmen from the autonomous communities of Spain.
This cutback is included in a radical reform plan for federal and regional government organisation, the details of which will be released tomorrow.
Known in Spanish as the Defensor del Pueblo, the ombudsman is responsible for defending the rights of citizens against any possible infringement on the part of the government.
The country has one ombudsman, as does each of the autonomous communities.
It’s this duplicity that causes Spanish government officials to declare it an unnecessary use of the country’s resources, particularly during the financial crisis.
The news of this proposal arrives at the same time as the appointment of a new ombudsman to Andalucía. The outgoing ombudsman left after 17 years in the position, reportedly unhappy with some government decisions.
Also included in the proposal are plans to eliminate numerous local courts and agencies. Instead, the federal government will assume more responsibility.
This step towards an all-powerful federal government is concerning to those who already believe the country has too much power over the regions.
The political parties in Andalucía have banded together to oppose these reforms, saying they will not get rid of the ombudsman, and that the Spanish Government has no right to tell them to do so.
The office of the Ombudsman is provided for in the Andalucían Statute of Autonomy, and employs 65 people. Complying with the government reforms would require extensive amendment of the document.
However, the government has advised the autonomous communities that it is in their best interest to comply with the new proposals. Prime Minister Rajoy reminds the public that it is only with the cooperation of regional governments that the state can begin to alleviate the crisis.
Andalucían officials maintain that these reforms are impossible in their region, given its large geographical size and population.
The financial crisis is undeniably a huge concern for Spain. However, these new proposals do raise the question of whether getting rid of the protectors of Spanish civil rights is the best way to decrease the deficit.