The Spanish left-wing government gave the green light on Tuesday, June 22, thanks to nine imprisoned Catalan separatists. This controversial measure is presented as a prerequisite for a “New stage” to finish with “The confrontation” in Catalonia, four years after the 2017 secession attempt.
This grace will pave the way for “A new stage of dialogue” for “To end once and for all with division and confrontation”, declared the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, at the end of the Council of Ministers having formally approved this pardon. This decision is “The best for Catalonia, the best for Spain” in order to “Restore harmony”, he added.
Among these nine independence leaders are former members of the regional government of Carles Puigdemont, the former president of the regional parliament and leaders of separatist associations. They were sentenced in October 2019 to terms ranging from nine to thirteen years in prison for their role in the 2017 secession attempt. Three others were fined.
Their grace is “Partial”, explained Mr. Sanchez, because it does not lift the sentence of ineligibility to which they had been sentenced. She is too “Conditioned” to the fact that they do not commit a “New serious offense”, he added. The release date of the nine pardoned could come on Wednesday, according to several media.
One of the worst political crises
In a carefully orchestrated staging, Mr. Sanchez unveiled Monday, at the Grand Théâtre du Liceu, in Barcelona, the adoption of this measure, criticized both by the right-wing opposition and by the separatists.
Adopting a determined tone, the new Catalan regional president, the separatist Pere Aragones, assured that the nine pardoned would be released from prison “With the ideas intact” and “The strengthened desire to build a Catalan republic”. He also demanded again, like all the separatists, an amnesty completely erasing the convictions and the prosecutions still in progress against the separatist leaders who fled abroad, like Carles Puigdemont. A moderate separatist, Pere Aragones, however, promised to do everything so that “In this new stage, negotiation is the basis for resolving the conflict”.
The attempted secession in October 2017 of this rich region of northeastern Spain was one of the worst political crises experienced by Spain since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975. Despite its ban by the courts, the regional government of Carles Puigdemont had organized a referendum on self-determination, punctuated by police violence.
A few weeks later, the Catalan Parliament unilaterally proclaimed the region’s independence. The Spanish government, then in the hands of the conservatives, had reacted by removing the regional government and putting the region under control.
According to a recent survey by the Ipsos institute, 53% of Spaniards are opposed to this grinding pardon, including within the Socialist Party of Mr. Sanchez. On the other hand, it receives a large majority of favorable opinions (68%) in Catalonia.
The right, which will file an appeal against this pardon, had mobilized tens of thousands of demonstrators on June 13 in the center of Madrid. She accuses Mr. Sanchez of ” to betray “ the unity of Spain by making a new concession to the separatists on which partly depends its government, which is a minority in the Spanish Parliament.
A solution that remains “far away”
The central and regional governments must very soon resume the negotiations started in February 2020, but quickly frozen due to the pandemic, in order to try to find a solution to the crisis.
The positions of the two parties are however still antagonistic, the regional government calling for the organization of a self-determination referendum with the Madrid agreement, on the model of that held in Scotland in 2014.
A demand that the Spanish government does not want to hear about, on the other hand open to a vote by the Catalans on an agreement giving more autonomy to the region, which already has broad powers and in particular has its own police.
This grace goes “Allow a smoother negotiation, but that’s not how we are going to reach an agreement” on a solution to the crisis “Who stays very far”, judge Lluis Orriols, professor of political science at the Charles-III University of Madrid.