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Spanish Punk Band Ardor de Estómago Charged and Fined for Insults to the King

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition - but here it is...

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Spanish Punk Band Ardor de Estómago Charged and Fined for Insults to the King

Una Historia Real

Ardor de Estómago
Perhaps, like always, I'm dating myself, but there's a memorable phrase from a recurring sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus - "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition." It was hilarious, poking fun at the vernacular reference to a dark era that was long over.

Or at least it seemed to be.

But once again, a punk rock band is being brought forth on criminal charges for voicing its political beliefs. And while nobody does expect the Spanish Inquisition, it seems like it could be seeing a revival in its homeland, as a group critical of the current monarchy found itself in legal trouble for its lyrics.

The group in question is Ardor de Estómago (Heartburn), a three-piece from Segovia that plays gritty punk rock. The song that's landed them in hot water is "Una Historia Real" (A True Story) and their official charge that brought them before the Spanish state's political tribunal Audiencia Nacional? Insults to the king.

It's the sort of charge that sounds like it's from a history lesson, or perhaps from a country considered unenlightened or oppressive - but this happened in Spain, a country considered to be "one of the good ones."

The song, aside being highly subjective and biased, referring to Spanish King Juan Carlos as a "bastard" and a "son of a bitch", is laden with lyrics that are pretty true, filled with references to historical events and insinuations that have been made repeatedly. The band isn't saying anything that hasn't been said a lot.

The full song, translated to English (It can be heard on YouTube here) was performed in 2009 at a festival in the the band's hpmebase of Segovia. It's a bit of Spanish history, and could, in a toned down fashion, be used to educate students:

Who killed his own brother with a shotgun?
Who shot in strange circumstances?
Who was appointed to succeed by a nasty dictator?
Who was the White Elephant*?
Who was Franco's friend?

The son of a bitch of King Juan Carlos
The son of a bitch King - Bastard!

Who is given boats by the bankers and capitalists?
Who is above the Law and pretends to be popular?
Who censors lurid affairs?
Who hangs out with gangsters?
Who spoke badly of Adolfo Suárez in front of the military?

Who made the Tejero and Armada uprise then left them in the lurch?
Who went television as leader of the Transition?
Whose covers his back through state secrets?
Who has toadies stuck to him as limpets following him everywhere?

The son of a bitch of King Juan Carlos
The son of a bitch King - Bastard!

In a brief summary, along with questioning the King's character, it cites two specific events. One was the shooting death of Infante Alfonso of Spain, the youngest brother of King Juan Carlos. He was killed in an accidental shooting that was originally covered up as having been a result of Alfonso accidentally shooting himself, although as events were revealed, most agree that Juan Carlos was responsible for the accidental shooting.

The remainder of the events refer to the 23-F, an attempted coup d'état in Spain in 1981, where many believe that, although he publicly denounced the conspirators, the King was in fact actively involved, referred to with the code name of "The White Elephant."

History aside, it's what's happening in present day that's the currently disturbing debacle - the idea that citizens of the Spanish government can be brought on charges that come down to being critical of the government. Unlike in Moscow, where members of Pussy Riot sit in jail awaiting trial for being critical of their government, or Burma, where bands like The Rebel Riot face arrest every time they play, the Spanish government is a bit more civil, settling the case by issuing a fine of 900 euros to each of the band's three members, but the case still results in sending a message to punk musicians, political activists and citizens in general that Spain is a repressive state where public opinion that is critical of the government is unacceptable.

While I am dismayed about recent events targeting punks in Aceh, Baghdad, Burma and Moscow, I'm not entirely surprised, as these are countries often noted for oppressive politics, specifically when dealing with those who present any sort of threat or obstacle to whomever is in power. Spain is both dismaying and surprising, being viewed as a democratic state - an event finalized with the Spanish Constitution of 1978. That anyone can be brought up on charges and sentenced - even if it's to the more civil penalty of a fine, and not prison or even death - for making political statements sounds more like a regression to the country's Fascist roots.

It also bodes ill for other democratic countries. Hopefully this case will serve as an example of what the western world should not do when dealing with political critics - be they punk or otherwise - and not serve as an idea for dealing with political dissidents in a way that seems harsh to those who'd be vocal, but not too harsh to the public in general.

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