Jose Lluis Trapero is the leader of the Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan police, the oldest in Europe. Hero
after the attack on the Ramblas in Barcelona, but accused of sedition
for not having used violence against those who celebrated the
Referendum of 1 October 2017 for independence. He faces 15 years in prison. Perez de los Cobos is a colonel in the Guardia Civil, accused of torture and beatings. For these crimes he received the pardon. The first of October was he who gave the order to his men to use violence against demonstrators. In these two figures there are the two faces of today's Spain.
the one hand Trapero, who is inspired by the Chief of Police of Paris
Maurice Grimaud who, in the hot days of the French May, decided to stop
the police violence against the students because "... With the excess in
the use of force ... maybe we will win the battle in the streets, but
we will lose something much more precious: our reputation ... "thus
saving France from a bloodbath, after 72 hours of wild manhunt in the
streets of Paris.
On the other, Perez de los Cobos, a man suspected of involvement in Tejero's attempted coup ,
which at a crucial moment in Spanish history, orders to attack unarmed
citizens in line to vote in the improvised but functioning Catalan
seats. A gesture that dramatized the already difficult situation of the Iberian country.
Today in Catalonia there are 11 people
in prison accused of sedition and embezzlement (embezzlement for having
carried out the Referendum ...), with penalties ranging between 9 and
13 years. Among them two
leaders of civil society, imprisoned for organizing non-violent
demonstrations (attended by one million people), the president of the
Catalan Parliament Carme Forcadell, for having convened the plenary of the parliament on the referendum and Oriol Junqueras,
vice president of the Catalan government , elected to the European
Parliament but where, due to a legal artifice of the Spanish Courts that
made him fall and above all because he is detained, he has never been
able to exercise his function. Together with them other men and women who peacefully participated in the demonstrations and the Referendum.
It is worth dwelling for a moment on the crime of sedition . For example in Italy there is the crime of "seditious gathering" foreseen by article 655 of the Penal Code. It
has recently been applied to neo-fascist militants who in the
Casalbruciato neighborhood in Rome staged a protest against the nomads
with violent acts and attacks. Penalties envisaged: from the fine to one year in prison. That
is, the penalties (infinitely less than those provided for by Spanish
legislation), apply when sedition is associated with the use of
violence. And so it is in almost all of Europe. So much so that, so far, no EU country has applied the international arrest warrant issued by Spain for Catalan exiles. There was no violence in Catalonia by the referendum organizers and by the citizens. The only violence was that of the Guardia Civil.
That's why for years Amnesty International has denounced the presence of political prisoners in Spain, referring to the Catalans. They
denounce the disproportion of the penalties and the non-existence of
legally correct reasons for keeping the "Catalanist" leaders and
citizens in prison. And that's why even the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has asked Spain for the release of Catalan political prisoners
and their compensation for the time spent in pre-trial detention
having: "exercised their fundamental right to protest peacefully with
the means of civil disobedience ".
Emeritus Judge of the Spanish Supreme Tribunal, José Antonio Martin
Pallin wrote in La Vanguardia: “I have read and seen on TV a lot of news
about civil wars and rebel groups armed like real armies. I
have never seen news of criminal charges against a President of
Parliament or against members of a government accused of performing
their political function. "
Continuity with Francoism
Spain that comes out exhausted from Covid has not yet solved its problem with the management of a rule of law. The Catalan affair is the latest example. A story that could be closed by Rajoy
(the then popular Prime Minister, the number one head of the
precipitate of events) with a simple annulment of the referendum and
with the political will to bring all the actors to a negotiating table , has been transformed in a prison and persecution drama.
In Italy we have told this story with a good dose of laziness, with very few exceptions. The 'Catalan independence movement made us reminded Bossi's secessionist and pre-Salvini League. The
Italian Left has shown a certain laziness of thought and has not
understood that the Catalan Movement was exactly at the antipodes of the
Bossi League, for its roots on the left, for its transversal ability to
parties and social classes, for the history that bring back. So
within the Catalan drive there is no aspiration for a rich region that
wants to detach itself from the rest of the nation to "finally do it
yourself". But the aspiration to a more complete democracy that is intertwined with the legitimate request for defense of one's republican identity and language.
addition, Catalonia has never questioned interregional solidarity and
has always fulfilled its tax obligations towards Spain without ever
batting an eyelid, enjoying less privileges even compared to other
autonomous regions such as the Basque Country. Not to mention Madrid, which enjoys a special tax regime which makes it a sort of "Holland" in the Spanish state.
the basis of this civil and non-violent rebellion there is a people,
disappointed by the long democratic transition, who wants to
definitively overcome the continuity with the old Franco regime and who can not stand a country that experiences its diversity as a problem and not as a wealth for all.
are certainly historical reasons for this perverse continuity between
Francoism and democracy: in Italy Benito Mussolini was executed by the
partisans. Francisco Franco died in his bed. It is no small difference. But there were also conveniences: it was convenient for the parties that had just emerged from illegality to accept the compromise with the oligarchies,
nestled in the state and in the company, to overcome the fear of a
return to the dictatorship of the fragile emerging democracy. In this way, however, there was no justice. Nobody paid
for the crimes of the Civil War, nobody paid for the tens of thousands
of innocent people imprisoned, tortured, shot or "garroted" by Franco. And today the bitter fruits are paid for.
A European issue
And that's why Catalonia becomes a European issue . Because Europe was born precisely from the break with fascism, Nazism and war. And
Europe which today tries to review the light by imagining a
reconstruction on a basis other than the neoliberal dictate, cannot
afford or allow the existence of an à la carte rule of law. The Spain like Hungary or Poland? You have to have the courage to say: yes.
Spain risks becoming like the two eastern countries. But there are at least two conditions that can prevent this drift. The first already exists and is called European law . On
December 19, 2019, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ended
the obtuse claim of the Supreme Tribunal to prevent the regularly
elected Catalan deputies from being proclaimed to European
parliamentarians. And the
European Court does so by affirming a simple but powerful principle:
sovereignty belongs to the people, no other institutional or legal body
can prevent the expression of the popular will.
same day, the European Parliament, with exemplary rapidity and beating
the resistance of some Parliamentary Groups over time, accepted the
judgment of the Court of Luxembourg and opened the doors to Puidgemont,
Comin and Ponsai, legitimate representatives of the Catalan people in
Strasbourg. The second condition is, above all, a hope. He resides in the current government led by Pedro Sanchez, in coalition with Pablo Iglesias and with the autonomist parties, including the Catalans. If Sanchez and Iglesias have the courage to seek a democratic way out of the Catalan affair, they must demonstrate it concretely, starting with an amnesty for political prisoners, going through a reform of the judicial system and reopening dialogue with Barcelona.
in this way will we find ourselves facing a democratic turn of
substance in Spanish society, capable of finally showing itself capable
of being able to resolve internal conflicts with politics and no longer
with repression. Will they be capable of it? We all ask and hope for it. But
a more attentive, less distracted, European public opinion that will
become a real "European democratic escort" to this process will also be
needed. If this is not the case, there will be trouble for Spain and Europe.