The law of only yes is yes opens a new gap in the government coalition, this time with a fight between the PSOE and Podemos. The president, Pedro Sánchez, who has brought together his most trusted team every Monday and has focused on this matter, has given a very clear instruction: the law must be modified because the Executive cannot remain without doing anything while the citizens they see how the norm has the unexpected effect of a trickle of sentence reductions and releases of sexual offenders. The socialist party has even announced that it is preparing a bill to speed up the reform in Congress. But first, he wants to seek an agreement with Unidas Podemos, which now seems very difficult, because Podemos flatly rejects the proposal for socialist reform. The PSOE has even said that it could present the bill alone in Congress, something that would imply a break. The PP has already offered its votes for this reform, but this scenario would point to a fracture in the coalition that both the socialist party and United We Can insist that they want to avoid. The negotiation will rush these days in a particularly delicate political situation.
The reviews of current sentences, which have already caused some 300 reductions and twenty releases of sexual offenders, cannot be stopped in any way, but the norm for crimes committed from now on can be changed. According to the technical analysis that has been made in Justice based on the decisions that the judges are making, if nothing were done, in the coming months and years there would be a trail of lower sentences than they would have had before the change in the law, an effect difficult to justify politically.
For this reason, Pilar Llop, the Minister of Justice, according to sources from the Executive, has been trying since the end of November to convince the Minister of Equality, Irene Montero, of Podemos, to approve a reform as soon as possible that implies raising the maximum and minimum sentences and return to those that existed before the reform to avoid those low sentences.
Montero has been rejecting this possibility in various meetings for two months, but not because of the increase in sentences, which she has already assumed as the only way to avoid low sentences, sources from both sectors of the Executive confirm, but because of the formula chosen to do so. Justice proposes adding a section that increases the penalties “if the aggression was committed using violence or intimidation on a victim who has her will annulled for any reason.” This implies for Podemos to return to the previous model in which the existence of violence had to be justified. Justice believes that everything would remain the same, without changing the essence, but with this formula the change is justified and better technically reflected. Equality proposes raising the sentences without further ado, where it puts four years to go to five, without further ado, but Justice alleges that this is technically impossible because the increase would not be justified. Therefore, the increase in penalties is not discussed, but the legal formula to apply it.
The reform proposed by Justice consists of leaving the penalties as they are, lower than before in many cases, in the general type. But in each article a higher penalty is added, similar to the one that existed before “if the aggression is committed using violence or intimidation.” Thus, the general type that is now from 1 to 4 years would return to 1 to 5 if there is violence, intimidation or the victim has her will annulled. That of aggression with vaginal, anal or oral access goes from the current 4 to 12 to 6 to 12, as it was before whenever there is violence, and so on with all types.
Justice insists that the heart of the law is not touched, which implies that “it will only be understood that there is consent when it has been freely expressed through acts that, in view of the circumstances of the case, clearly express the will of the person” . This is what was written in the first article that modifies the law, 178.1 of the Penal Code, it is the heart of the only yes is yes and it would remain as is. That is why the socialists have come out in a rush to point out that they are in no way going to change the philosophy of the law, which is based on consent to avoid, as happened before, that the victims had to prove that there was resistance, for example. But Podemos has shown a clear public rejection and even accuses the Socialists of giving in to pressure from the conservative world of justice and politics, which augurs that the agreement will be very complicated. The two months of unsuccessful negotiations are the best proof of this difficulty.
The socialist sector of the Government is thus determined to make an important change and a public acknowledgment of an error in a decisive law that promoted Equality, but was signed by the entire Government, Justice included -with another minister, Juan Carlos Campo- and that went through all controls established in advisory bodies and had a parliamentary process of more than a year. Sánchez’s political decision is fundamental because he understands that the unexpected consequences that he has had are unacceptable for society.
The political problem is that Podemos has been planted. The Socialists are convinced that there will be an agreement and nobody, neither in the PSOE nor in United We Can, wants to talk about a break. But the matter is highly sensitive and it is about Montero’s star law, so this gap in the coalition is one of the most difficult to manage in the entire legislature and in the middle of an election year.
Podemos, Irene Montero’s party, has been very critical this Monday of the Justice proposal, advanced by Cadena SER, to the point that it compares the PSOE with the PP. Ione Belarra, general secretary of the party and minister of Social Rights, has rejected it because, in her opinion, it means that consent is no longer at the center of the law. “We cannot go back to the evidentiary ordeal of demonstrating that we resisted enough or that we had not drunk,” said the minister. The former vice president Pablo Iglesias, who does not have any organic position, but continues to be a clear political reference for Podemos, has gone so far as to say that the proposal It is “similar to that of the PP”. “Always the same story: the judicial right and the PP press and the PSOE recoils,” concludes Iglesias.
For the minority partner of the Government, the problem is not in the law, but in the “incorrect application” of the transitory law and the norm itself by some judges. This is how Equality maintains it and it has been reiterated at a press conference by one of the spokespersons for Podemos, Isa Serra, who has stressed that both they and the PSOE “agree” that “a criminal modification is not going to end the problem of revisions ”. Serra has acknowledged that Equality and Justice have held conversations in recent days to assess different options for modifying the criminal part, but Podemos considers it “fundamental” to keep consent at the center, because otherwise it would be “a return to the previous model” that “breaks the meaning of the law.”
Belarra’s party advocates, as Equality has done this Monday, to implement the norm through a decalogue of actions that require resources (such as doubling the exclusive courts for violence against women, expanding their powers to crimes against sexual freedom or training to all the personnel of the Administration of Justice and Interior) and thus try to protect the victims. Podemos has insisted that the PSOE is suffering “pressure” from the conservative sectors and they compare their proposal with that of the popular ones. The Socialists agree with this decalogue and are willing to negotiate all the necessary measures, but they believe that if the problem of penalties is not resolved there will be low sentences and the social alarm will continue. So far, the second vice president, Yolanda Díaz, has remained silent on the dispute. Sources from her environment limit themselves to pointing out that they are working “in coordination” with Equality to “find a way out”, but without going into details about her position. From Izquierda Unida, the federal spokesperson, Sira Rego, has opened up this Monday to a retouching. “It can be positive to correct some unwanted effect derived from the application of the law”, although she has made it clear that it is “key” that the “central axis”, consent, is not modified.
The socialist sector of the Government flatly rejects the interpretation of the purple wing of the Government and is determined to change the law. Félix Bolaños, Minister of the Presidency, has made it very clear. “The law of only yes is yes It has been an improvement. But there have been unwanted effects, a social concern that we share is being generated. We are going to correct the law so that these effects are not repeated in the future”, Bolaños explained. The minister has recognized that this Justice initiative exists, but he does not share the interpretation of Podemos. “There is a proposal from Justice and you have to work on that document and others. We want to correct the law of only yes is yes with all rigor from the hand of experts. It is imperative that we do so. But consent will still be at the center, we can’t allow you to wonder if they resisted enough or how they were dressed. This has to be clear. We do not want a single setback ”, she has insisted.
For the socialist wing, this issue does not have to cause a serious crisis in the coalition that could even lead to a break, but the president’s decision to change the law is firm. Various socialist ministers insist that this is a matter that greatly worries society and is seriously damaging the Government, and they do not understand that Podemos does not see that it is essential to do something to send a clear message to the citizens that the Executive is not staying stopped when there are such serious consequences of his initiative. Neither in Podemos do they talk about breaking up the Government, but the messages from their spokespersons have been very clear in harshly criticizing the reform proposal put forward by Justice. In the PSOE they insist that nobody is looking for a break and they trust that they can find an agreement with Equality, but the tension continues to grow in full negotiation.
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