A series of three marches are taking in place across the border in Spain. The first, last Sunday, saw the protestors descend on the military base at Morón de la Frontera in Sevilla province – the 26 th year the demonstration has taken place. This Sunday the Plataforma Andaluza Contra Las Bases Militares will be protesting at the US naval base in Rota and the following Sunday it will be Gibraltar’s turn, or I guess La Línea’s as I doubt they will cross the frontier.
The marches are largely symbolic rather than of the style of the Aldermaston ‘Ban The Bomb’ protests in the UK of old. On Sunday the thousand or so participants (the actual number depends on whose figures you believe) tramped just three kilometres from the Paso de la Nena to Morón which took them an hour and a half. Never let a demonstration get in the way of making time for a good lunch.
At the gates of the US Air Base they read out the manifesto of this series of marches which in essence was the same as the first 26 years ago. It called for the dismantling of the bases and denounced the treaty between Spain and the USA allowing that country’s military to be housed on Spanish soil. The protestors have two aims: disarmament and peace; laudable enough objectives.
Of course the protest this year has an extra edge as the PSOE government in Madrid is allowing Rota to become a major cog in the USA’s and NATO’s anti-missile defence system wheel. This will see many extra military personnel and three warships based at the Cádiz naval station.
The banners held by the demonstrators make familiar reading: “OTAN no, bases fueras” and “Jamás Cesarán”. They also take a human rights stand arguing these bases are used in bombing campaigns to protect the West’s petroleum interests. For La Plataforma they represent a strategic military, political and economic control over the Med and Persian Gulf and are directly implicated in the crimes committed against Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya.
Whilst in the light of recent developments the march against Rota can be explained by the anti-missile shield not such case can be made against Gibraltar. It is not on Spanish territory unless you subscribe to the doctrine of “Gibraltar Español”. As the protestors are drawn from the left in Spanish politics the rights of the people of Gibraltar to self-determine their own future should surely be a paramount dogma.
The days of Gibraltar being first and foremost a military base are long gone. Indeed Spain itself has played a major role in this downgrading pressuring Washington to send its warships to Rota rather than the Rock and having NATO re-organise its commands so now that Gibraltar is primarily a British rather than a Western Alliance base.
Therefore we have the situation whereby protests at Morón and Rota, on Spanish territory, can be explained away easily enough. In addition given the enhanced role of Rota at the heart of the USA’s controversial policy to establish an anti-missile shield it could well increase the threat of attack, military or terrorist, on Andalucía and Spain. However not only is Gibraltar not part of Spain but the military establishment is no-longer in the front line. There are no RAF aircraft stationed here. Royal Navy warships and submarines are all too rare visitors. So why march on Gibraltar?