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Spanish Soldier Who Penned a Best-Selling Novel About Military Corruption Gets Jail Time

El teniente Luis Gonzalo Segura en el vídeo de presentación del libro. Foto de la página de «Un paso al frente» en Facebook

Lieutenant Luis Gonzalo Segura in the video launch of his book. Photo from Facebook page “Un paso al frente”

Luis Gonzalo Segura, a lieutenant in the Spanish Army with almost 12 years of service, was fed up with seeing all sorts of corruption within the higher command. The issue is one few Spaniards know about, so he wrote a novel titled “Un paso al frente” (A step forward), a work of fiction based on the alleged abuses that takes place in the armed forces.   

In the media tour that followed the novel's publication, Segura was outspoken against the armed forces, leading to his arrest for publicly criticizing military authorities. He was sentenced to two months in a military prison and faces possible expulsion from the army.

Segura explained the military's culture of communication in an interview published on online magazine La Marea:

Desde que se suprime el servicio militar hay un corte de flujo de información desde el mundo militar al exterior. […] Al no tener libertad de expresión los militares, ese flujo todavía se corta de forma más radical, de tal forma que al final, a día de hoy, las fuerzas armadas son un estado paralelo y completamente estanco a resto de la sociedad.

As long as the military is suppressed, the lack of communication between the military and the outside world will exist. [...] Without freedom of speech, the military's non-existent communication is even more drastic, leading to the army's present parallel status, one that is completely disconnected from the rest of society.

Portada de la 6ª edición del libro. Foto de la página de «Un paso al frente» en Facebook

The cover of the book's 6th edition. Photo from Facebook page “Un paso al frente”

In 2010, Segura was assigned a task involving the inventory of information technology, during which he found, in his own words, “a discrepancy of about 25-35%,” that totaled “millions of euros.” The young serviceman attempted to report the situation to military authorities, but the judge and the attorney closed the case without reviewing the information on the hard disc that Segura had presented to the court.

According to news website vozpópuli, Segura “in his book alludes to alleged embezzlement, prevarication, negligence, false secondments, meal and petrol fraud, sale of data, summer homes, golf memberships, spas and VIP rooms.” So many indulgences have left the army in a serious economic crisis, Segura said during the launch of his book in the city of Huesca:

Los datos económicos de la institución militar que, según afirma, tiene una deuda de 29.000 millones de euros y destina el 77% de sus 6.000 millones de presupuesto anual a personal, evidencian, por otra parte, que el Ejército es “un modelo anticuado y obsoleto, e insostenible a nivel económico”.

The military's economic data that according to Segura is 29,000 million euros in debt and allocates 77 percent of its annual 6-billion-euro budget to personnel, is evidence furthermore that the army is “an antiquated and obsolete model, and not sustainable at an economic level.”

Segura explained the alleged misuse of funds and bloated hierarchy to Barrio Canino, an interview program on Ágora Sol Radio, a broadcast platform associated with the 15M protest movement in Spain:

Hay un excedente de mandos enorme. De hecho, ahora mismo uno de los problemas que tenemos es que hay 42 000 soldados, a los que se les trata como a perros, y con contratos basura […] y tenemos 52 000 mandos […] cualquiera que tenga dos dedos de frente se da cuenta de que esto es insostenible.

There is an enormous surplus of commanders. As a matter of fact, one of our current problems is that there are 42,000 soldiers, all who are treated like dirt, and have contracts that are rubbish [...] and we have 52,000 commanders [...] anyone in their right mind would know that this is not sustainable.

He elaborated for news website Periodista Digital:

Lamentablemente en España muchos cargos son heredados en el ejército. Tenemos 270 generales y con veinte sería suficiente; tenemos 1050 coroneles y con 50 sería suficiente. Esto evidencia el excedente de oficiales como ejemplo de cómo la cúpula militar se mueve buscando su propio interés.

Unfortunately, in the Spanish army many positions are inherited. We have 270 generals, 20 would be sufficient; we have 1,050 colonels and 50 would be sufficient. This evidence of surplus officials is a perfect example of how the military leaders looks out for their own interest.

The lieutenant blames the army's corruption on the impunity that exists within the institution, which lacks organizational separation between its judges, law enforcement and financial authorities. The army's lack of will to change doesn't help either, he says:

[…] ha habido una especie de pacto entre los dirigentes de la sociedad civil y los del mundo militar por el que nadie se quería meter en el terreno de nadie. Aunque pudo tener un sentido hasta el año 90 por el riesgo del golpe de Estado, a día de hoy no se entiende que se siga sosteniendo

[...] there's been some kind of pact between civil society leaders and the military because no one wanted to step on anyone's toes. And although, because of a coup d'état, it might have made sense until 1990, it doesn't mean it should continue on today.

Furthermore, Segura told La Marea that the military themselves cover up corruption: “There is a false sense of loyalty to a comrade that goes beyond the loyalty to Spain, the institution and the citizens.” News and analysis website Nuevatribuna.es reported that he isn't only criticizing the malpractices of the army, but is also putting forward solutions:

En su novela, eleva una carta al Ministro de Defensa, sugiriéndole hasta 19 medidas, «que harían del ejército una institución más justa y honorable». El problema de las fuerzas armadas, no es solo estructural, «están enfermas y necesitan ser regeneradas», dice el teniente.

In his novel, he writes a letter to the Minister of Defense, suggesting up to 19 ways “that would make the army a much more just and honorable institution.” The army's issue is not structural, “it has become ill and it must be reformed,” the lieutenant said.

Segura en la presentación del libro en la tienda FNAC, Madrid. Foto de la página de «Un paso al frente» en Facebook.

Segura during the launch of the book in FNAC, Madrid. Photo from Facebook page “Un paso al frente”

Some of what Segura has said in interviews regarding his book spurred the disciplinary proceedings against him. He was arrested on July 18 and sentenced to two months in the military prison, Colmenar Viejo. The lieutenant, who has been suspended from duty for several months, has another case filed against him that could lead to his expulsion from the army.

These sanctions, imposed for criticizing the military authorities publicly, show the lack of freedom of expression in the army and the possible punishment for exercising that right, thanks to an exception to articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention for the Protection on Human Rights and the Fundamental Freedoms that the Spanish government supports.

In addition, according to online newspaper eldiario.es, “a “major hunt” has begun in military quarters located in Zaragoza, Valencia, Córdoba and Canarias: “Comrades have been harshly threatened, including with expulsion and arrest, so they do not attend [events for the book], buy or discuss the book.”

Segura, who remains a lieutenant, began a hunger strike to protest the “lynching” which he believes military authorities are subjecting him to. He was recently admitted to the military hospital Gómez Ulla.

In the meantime, his book has become a bestseller, with more than 20,000 copies sold since it was published on April 21. It's already in its sixth edition. You can read the first chapter on his publisher's website, Tropo Editores.

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