Pardons are the first step, necessary but insufficient. In this, both ERC and Junts agree. The former are prudent but hopeful and aware that the path that begins now is full of mines. The latter are more than skeptical that the negotiations with the Government will end up bearing fruit and, although they recognize that the pardons favor detente, they also consider them a way of disguising what they call “a return to the regime of 78”. In Puigdemont’s party they have no faith that a solution can be put on track and they express this in public. But by contract, the government agreement signed with the Republicans, they are obliged to sit at the dialogue table and explore this path.
The rhetoric, without which the strategy of secessionism cannot be understood, is not going to be abandoned. Junts won’t do it, but neither will ERC, albeit with nuances. Oriol Junqueras, author of the article that Moncloa demanded to pave the way, is the same one who defends that the pardon should be seen as a triumph because it shows, in his opinion, the weaknesses of the State. The difference with respect to the previous legislature, as could be seen in Pere Aragonès’s speech to the Cercle d’Economia businessmen, is that, in addition to rhetoric, Republicans also want to engage in politics and not be left alone in the gestures that people like so much. part of the pro-independence electorate.
ERC sources explain that the message that they have been transmitting to Moncloa for a long time is that without the pardons it would be very difficult to open a new stage in Catalonia and that by granting them, they are loaded with reasons to those who defend that the commitment to dialogue pays off. The Government has been informing the Republicans of the steps it had planned, with the same discretion with which it was agreed what the Junqueras letter would be like. In ERC they assure that the Government is aware that the blows that European justice has given to the Spanish have taken a toll and cite as an example the vote this Monday in the Council of Europe, symbolic and in a little-known assembly of parliamentarians, but that has been celebrated as a success by the pro-independence parties. “This report is the first great political victory of the independence movement abroad”, has summarized the strong man of Junts in the Government, the minister Jordi Puigneró.
In the calendar that Moncloa has designed, the pardons were first, then the meeting between Pedro Sánchez and Aragonés and later the dialogue table. In the Government they consider that now who would have to make a move and correspond with another gesture would be the independentistas. For now, this Sunday Aragonès will attend the dinner presided over by the king on the occasion of the inauguration of the Mobile World Congress. In the Generalitat they insist that there is no change in criteria regarding the presence in the acts in which the monarch participates, but the truth is that last week the president did not attend a similar dinner, in that case convened by the Cercle d’Economia, despite the fact that in the previous reception he could not avoid the photo with Felipe VI.
Dust off the Pedralbes declaration
The meeting between the two presidents will take place before going on vacation, as planned, while the table to start the negotiation between the two executives could be left until after the summer. By then, Sánchez will have already remodeled his Executive to give him a much more political profile, and social measures will take a greater role. There, Republican sources acknowledge, the Government may have a good ally in the 13 ERC deputies.
Both Sánchez and Aragonès, in separate appearances without questions before journalists to assess the approval of the pardons, appealed to the need to return to politics. For the socialists, the point of arrival may be a reform of the Statute that allows to retrace the path that the Constitutional Court ruled. This is a proposal that satisfies the business sectors that are supporting Sánchez’s strategy with Catalonia and that have turned their backs on Pablo Casado. But for the independentistas, today, that is not even a starting point and they insist that their purpose is to achieve an agreed referendum and that it can have international endorsement.
The Catalan side intends to resume the conversations where they were frustrated: in the Pedralbes declaration. Sánchez and the then Catalan president Quim Torra agreed, during their meeting in the Barcelona palace, on December 20, 2018, a text with which the Government recognized the “existence of a conflict” of a political nature.
In that document, the Government promised to seek solutions “within the framework of legal security”, without express mention of the Constitution. But, among those possible solutions to explore, and as much as ERC and Junts continue to fight, Sánchez has always ruled out a self-determination referendum.
Although there has been negotiation to reach pardons, for the independentists the game begins now. They have two years ahead, the remainder of the legislature in Madrid and the same two that the Government has given itself to review if the dialogue has borne any fruit. ERC pledged with the CUP to evaluate how the negotiation is progressing and to submit to a question of confidence before the end of the first half of 2023. Aragonès must pass the ‘cupaires’ exam but also that of its Junts partners. Puigneró has warned this Tuesday that, after the two years, it will be necessary to take stock and draw ambiguity to keep any possibility open: “Our limits are democracy and the ballot box.”
Junqueras, “sack politics”
The group of prisoners who will see their freedom regained this Wednesday is as varied as their political affiliations and personal circumstances. This was revealed in their reactions after confirming that the Government had granted the pardons, a piece of news that some have acknowledged their joy while others have simply stressed that their political commitment has not changed. “By pardoning nine people, they will not hide the repression that they continue to apply against hundreds of independentistas. We will not give in: amnesty and self-determination,” said Raül Romeva, former Foreign Minister of ERC.
The future of all of them from now on is uncertain, although most have transmitted their wishes to stay in public life. The pardons do not affect the disqualification penalties set by the Supreme Court and that means that in the case of Oriol Junqueras he cannot hold public office until July 5, 2031. In ERC they warn that their leader has no intention of staying in background. “He is going to do politics straight away,” explains one of his collaborators. One of the questions will be to see how his strategy of dialogue with the Government and his greater public presence are reconciled with that of Puigdemont, who is more in favor of maintaining the confrontation. The return of the former president is still pending the European judicial proceedings and a reform of the Penal Code that modifies the classification of the crime of sedition.
Jordi Sànchez will also return home with an important political position, that of Secretary General of the Junts. The former president of the ANC has become at this time one of the politicians with the most command in his space and a prominent reference in the construction of the new party of Puigdemont after the break with the PDeCAT. Jordi Turull also currently occupies a prominent role in Junts, in his case as vice president.
Without affiliation to any party, although with an unquestionable ascendant, Jordi Cuixart continues to be president of Òmnium Cultural, and his figure is surely the only one that is not questioned by any of the multiple independence families. Inside the prison, he has tried, with little success, to get the inmates of ERC and Junts to settle their differences.
Rest of defendants
The Prime Minister clearly outlined the perimeter of forgiveness in the speech he delivered this Monday at the Liceu. “Nine people,” he described the independence leaders in prison, “who assumed responsibility for their actions.” With this formula, Sánchez left out of any measure both Puigdemont and Marta Rovira and the rest of the politicians who remain outside the reach of Spanish justice. But he also avoided answering one of the questions that have been repeatedly raised in recent days: what about the rest of the defendants awaiting sentence or even already sentenced?
This is such a diverse group that even counting is difficult. The independentistas speak of “3,300 reprisals”, including all kinds of protesters, mayors called to declare and people with causes that originate after the autumn of 2017. However, the Council of Europe in the report approved this week, which is not binding but is symbolic, limits this figure and focuses on pointing out the pardoned prisoners, the politicians who are abroad with active Euroorders, in addition to the high officials of the Government processed, which are around sixty .
For the latter, the approved report calls for the pending processes against them to be abandoned, a measure in which one of the key men of ERC would enter at this time: Josep Maria Jové. In 2017, he was number two in Junqueras, he is considered to be in charge of the design of the 1-O referendum, and he is currently the president of the ERC parliamentary group, in addition to being a regular part of the dialogue tables with the Government. In the absence of charges against him, he faces crimes that can entail several years in prison, such as embezzlement or falsification of documents. For ERC there will be no good way out if there is no solution for leaders like Jové. Hence the insistence on demanding an amnesty that the Government discards and that the Constitution does not contemplate. The independence movement has collected and delivered 200,000 signatures in Congress to demand a law that protects it.