Guillem Agulló: 25 years of anti-fascist struggle
Wednesday 11 April was the 25th anniversary of the murder of young Guillem Agulló. The crime was key in uniting much of the Valencian left against fascism. The trial, however, reflected the impunity afforded to the far-right in the Community of Valencia. Nothing has changed, as we saw in the violent attacks of last October 9.
By Moisés Pérez
The bell struck one in the morning. A young man born in Burjassot (Horta), an anti-fascist activist and member of the independentist organization Maulets, called Guillem Agulló, was out for a good time in Montanejos (Alt Millars). Agulló had come to enjoy the Easter festivities with friends and, early in the night, went to the town square with two friends. In the festival area, however, they ran into another group of young people who were also camping in the area. This second group came from the working class Valencian neighbourhood of Marxalenes, a well-known fascist stronghold. They called themselves the Marxalenes IV Reich, in honour of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime, and were closely allied with far-right cell Acción Radical (Radical Action) and linked to historic right-wing extremist leader and brothel-keeper, José Luis Roberto.
They hurled abuse at Agulló and threatened him. They couldn’t stand the boy from Burjassot’s “no Nazis” arm patch. “We are Nazis,” they shouted as a friend of Agulló’s tried unsuccessfully to intervene. The blows rained down. First, they hit him with a torch, then continued with their fists. Finally, he was stabbed to death, murdered by Pedro Cuevas, El Ventosa (the Sucker). The Nazis left with a cry of “Arriba España, viva Franco” – “Up with Spain, long live Franco.” It was the 11 April 1993, 25 years ago now.
The murder shocked Valencian society and left the family stunned. “At home, we were openly pro-independence and had an antifascist ideology, but we knew that locally we weren’t understood, so we were careful about it. Guillem always said his life was meaningless if he wasn’t fighting for something. My mother told him he should be careful with those people, that they were very dangerous. When he was killed, it was a brutal blow for the whole family,” explains Betlem Agulló, the sister of the young man killed by the far-right.
The crime happened during an escalation in right-wing extremism, not just in the Community of Valencia, but also in Spain. “During the 90s, the far-right went through a kind of transition, from the times of Franco’s regime to the post-Franco era. Inspired by changes in Europe, they imported the skinhead paraphernalia, the anti-Communist music… Valencia had become the nerve centre of Nazism, welcoming concerts of relevance on a European level to the Falles celebrations,” explains Miguel Ramos, a journalist, expert in right-wing extremism and co-author of the project crimenesdeodio.info. “Valencia was part of the triangle formed by Madrid with Bases Autónomas (Autonomic Base), Barcelona with Vanguardia Nacional Revolucionaria (National Revolutionary Vanguard), and Valencia itself with Acción Radical (Radical Action). Nazis were a reality in the Community of Valencia. You only had to go to the football grounds or neighbourhoods such as Russafa,” adds Anna López, a political scientist specializing in the far-right.
Pedro Cuevas El Ventosa (The Sucker) was the only person sentenced for the murder of Guillem Agulló | EL TEMPS
“They were very hard years. Nazis had killed Lucrecia Pérez in Madrid and Sònia Palmer in Barcelona. Guillem’s death came at a time when criminal Nazi agitation was on the rise and we were just becoming aware of it. That crime affected me a lot personally. I identified strongly with this figure,” remembers Esteban Ibarra, of the Movimiento contra la Intolerancia (Movement against Intolerance). “His open-minded and clearly anti-fascist outlook, his youth, the battle of our family, his tenderness and the love that so many people felt for him made him emblematic of the anti-fascist struggle,” says his sister. “When they killed Guillem Agulló, it was as if they killed us all a little,” added Ybarra.
Agulló, however, was to become a symbol of the fight against the extreme right beyond the Valencian Community, especially in Catalonia. “To talk of Guillem Agulló is to talk of a member of the Maulets, a political organization of young independentists with a presence in all the Catalan Communities. When they killed him, it was a blow to the whole independentist movement. He became a symbol of anti-fascism, and also of the impunity that the far-right enjoys in Spain,” says Jordi Borràs, a photojournalist specializing in far-right movements. “It’s 25 years since the murder of Guillem Agulló, but he’s the living memory of the struggle against fascism,” he says.
The figure of the young independentist became even more symbolic when the sentence was made known. Assisted by lawyer and fascist party Fuerza Nueva (New Force) member, José Morató, Cuevas was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but only served four. The rest of the defendants were acquitted. Despite the requests of the private prosecutions, their links to Acción Radical were not investigated. Nor were the connections to the world of football. José Manuel Chulià Ferrer, fellow member of the Nazi cell and friend of Cuevas’, had worked as a security guard for Roberto’s Levantina de Seguretat (Levantine Security) and was a member of the Valencia CF hooligan group, Ultras Yomus. The Ultras Yomus were responsible for hanging a banner during a Mestalla-Albacete match carrying the message “Fuck you, Guillem”. The Blaverist (Valencianist/anti-Catalanist) Grup Vinatea, violent nocturnal branch of Grup d’Acció Valencianista (Valencianist Action Group), also daubed offensive graffiti about Agulló.
“The ruling reduced a politically motivated hate crime to a mere street fight, a narrative also pushed by certain media outlets. They also tried, and still do, to criminalise the figure of Guillem,” recalls Ramos. “There was a lot of rage, on top of the sadness and the grief. But we never wanted revenge. We only wanted justice. The verdict gave them total impunity, though. It showed that the fascists could do what they wanted,” protests Betlem Agulló. “The way it played out, the verdict, the irregularities and strange things that happened during the trial made Guillem an even greater anti-fascist figure,” says George Sebastià, a journalist who covered the trial for El Temps, an ex-MEP and former mayor of Burjassot (2011-2014) for political party Compromís.
The crime galvanised the Valencian left against fascism. Agulló became a symbol of this fight | EL TEMPS
The Valencian left emerged from the trial with a greater sense of unity and purpose. “Guillem’s murder was a big shock, but also a spur. We thought that, if this crime is normalised, anything could happen,” remembers Toni Gisbert, Secretary of Acció Cultural del País Valencià (ACPV – Valencian Community Cultural Action) and spokesman for the private prosecution at the trial. “As a result of Guillem’s murder, a broad network of people of differing ideologies was born to face up to the problem, denounce the events and call a halt to it,” he recalls. Civil lawsuits were brought by political parties, unions and civil organisations: Esquerra Unida (United Left), Comissions Obreres (Workers’ Commissions), Unitat del Poble Valencià (Valencian People’s Unity), Acció Ecologista Agró (Agró Ecologist Action), Maulets and Burjassot Council, then in the hands of socialist PSPV-PSOE.
Today, like yesterday
In view of the escalation of fascist violence, the pressure of public opinion slowed the rise of Nazism in the Spanish State at the end of the 90s. There was also a migration of activists towards new far-right formations – España 2000 or Democracia Nacional – carbon copies of parties such as the French National Front. “Most of them hung up their boots and put on suits,” explains Ramos.
Despite this move towards mainstream politics by a large part of the Valencian extreme right, the Civil Guard conducted several operations to break up dangerous neo-Nazi gangs such as Hammerskin, Blood and Honour or Frente Antisistema (Antisystem Front). The latter, located in Valencia, was formed by employers, the military and alleged offenders with criminal records, as pointed out in El Temps. Agulló’s murderer, found in possession of a knife with a broken tip by the armed police brigade, was also a member. This extreme right network had links with Alianza Nacional (National Alliance) and España 2000.
During the years following the attacks by these far-right networks, having to live with their brand of violent Blaverist vandalism led to the birth of Acció Popular contra la Impunitat (Popular Action Against Impunity). It was formed by Movimiento contra la Intolerancia (Anti-Intolerance Movement), Comissió d’Ajuda als Refugiats (The Refugee Aid Commission), SOS Racismo, Ca Revolta, Acció Cultural del País Valencià, Esquerra Unida del País Valencià, Bloc and almost 40 other organizations and contributed to Operation Panzer, in which the police had uncovered a network of allegedly illegal businesses related to Frente Antisistema.
Weapons seized by the Civil Guard during Operation Panzer. The police raids prompted Acció Popular contra la Impunitat to enter the judicial process in a private prosecution | EFE
“We find that there are a number of parties and organizations that are, systematically, subject to violent attacks on property by Spanish nationalists and that the security forces would not investigate and neither the court nor public prosecutor would inform us about. As a matter of self-defence and basic rights, we organised ourselves into a group,” explains Gisbert, who acted as a spokesperson for the platform. Acció Popular contra la Impunitat was coordinated by a professional team of experts in different fields, such as law and private investigation.
Unlike those of Hammerskin and Blood and Honour, the gang members of the Frente Antisistema were acquitted. “One of my first speeches in the European Parliament warned that another fascist cell, which Guillem’s murderer was involved in, would walk free,” says Sebastian. This apparent impunity was again apparent at the last Comissió 9 d’Octubre (9 October Committee) demonstration in Valencia. Members of the Ultras Yomus and other far-right factions took part in pitch battles ending in assaults and physical violence. “It is shameful that the same groups abusing my brother in football stadiums are involved in the October 9 attacks,” complains Agulló. So far there have been 18 arrests and entities such as Acció Cultural del País Valencià (Cultural Action of the Valencian Community) will be presenting civil suits once the victims themselves have done so.
“As with the investigation into the high-level connections of those investigated in Operation Panzer, there were also serious deficiencies related to the October 9 attacks, the most serious of which was the total negligence of the security forces. I’ll go on repeating it: both the police the Spanish Government delegation did nothing to guarantee the right to demonstration,” says Gisbert. “In the Community of Valencia, we feel there’s an ongoing relationship between these groups and the National Police remains, and the connections with certain companies and gyms where they’re formed haven’t been investigated,” warns López. “To perform this task, a Public Prosecutor of hate crimes with a bigger budget is necessary,” says Gisbert.
After the October 9 riots and the fascist intimidation carried out by members of España 2000, such as Roberto, outside the home of the Vice President of the Valencian Generalitat, Mónica Oltra, thousands of people took to the streets of Valencia to demonstrate against fascism at the end of November. The pressure exerted by the protests, and by Bloc and Esquerra Republicana del País Valencià (Republican Left of the Community of Valencia), made it difficult for the same far-right group to break up the last Aplec del Puig, a Valencianist festival.
The impunity of the extreme right was again apparent during the rally on October 9. Valencia CF hooligans and other groups were involved in violent clashes | Miguel Lorenzo.
“According to all the Raxen report published each year, there continue to be a large number of assaults by the far-right in the Community of Valencia. The Madrid-Catalonia-Valencia triangle still exists,” warns Ibarra. In fact, new organizations such as Lo Nuestro (Ours), connected to ex-members of Hammerskin, have been linked to several attacks in recent years in the regions of Valencia and Murcia. “As these assaults still occur, recognising symbols such as Guillem is important. The institutional declaration signed by all parties in the Corts Valencianes (Valencian Courts) in 2016 condemning the crime and the creation of an annual awards ceremony in his honour are examples,” says Ramos.
Indeed, several organisations started a campaign to name a street in Valencia after Agulló. The idea was that his figure would unite people there and act as tribute to all victims of hate crimes. Valencia City Council, however, has opted to dedicate a central promenade to him in the Jardí de Vivers (the Nursery Garden). “It’s neither a square, nor an avenue, nor a main street. It’s second-class recognition done on the sly. In Catalonia, Guillem is commemorated openly,” complains his sister, who is grateful to the promoters of the campaign for their efforts.
These same organizations, however, have turned 25 April this year – the day which commemorates the 1707 defeat of Almansa at the hands of the Bourbon troops – into “a special homage to Guillem Agulló and, through him, an acknowledgement of all victims of intolerance, of the ideologies of hatred and exclusion.” In memory of Guillem Agulló, a symbol of anti-fascism, still with us 25 years after his murder.