Wednesday, July 6

Sánchez has put on the face of Zapatero

Pedro Sánchez is getting the face of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and that, at least in Catalonia, is quite good. The former Prime Minister is one of the few who has always advocated for dialogue, even when doing so could only generate misunderstanding among his own and criticism among opponents. “You always have to dialogue, until the last minute, until the last second, with the most incredibly difficult adversary,” he repeated to whoever was willing to listen. Zapatero warned that the independentists’ trip was to nowhere but he never broke contact with them, even through interposed persons, and spoke with Oriol Junqueras by phone before the Supreme Court’s trial that sentenced the leader to 13 years in prison by ERC.

The former president had asked the Supreme Court for a sentence that would allow “to recover the necessary and healthy coexistence.” The harsh penalties imposed by the court chaired by Manuel Marchena did not help to look forward despite ruling out that the independence leaders and activists had committed a crime of rebellion. Sánchez at that time defended “full compliance” with the penalties and discarded the pardons. It was when the PSOE argued that the pardon first had to be requested by those affected and that to grant it the opinion of the sentencing court should be taken into account.

Zapatero was, along with some leaders of the PSC such as Miquel Iceta, the first to be in favor of the measure of grace for the prisoners of the procés, when just saying the word meant for many to be a bad patriot. The current Minister of Territorial Policy had to take out the umbrella before the amount of criticism that rained down on him when in 2017, in the middle of the Catalan regional campaign, he suggested it. He used his usual irony to replicate the disqualifications he received from the PP and Citizens and the disavowals of some of his colleagues from the PSOE. “I have always been ahead of my time,” he said, and advanced what was then only a prediction: “Some of us are going to have to risk more for reconciliation.” A posteriori, the PSC calculated that Iceta’s affirmation had cost him 100,000 votes. The still first secretary of the Catalan Socialists, who now shares the leadership with Salvador Illa, then commented to his team that he was convinced that time would prove him right. And so it has been.

Zapatero, at the hands of the Catalan socialists, already faced some important voices from the PSOE during the processing of the Statute. Also at that time Felipe González was against the PSC’s proposal and together with leaders such as the one who was president of Extremadura, Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra, defended that it was a reform that implied “break cohesion” from Spain. Zapatero endured the pressures from the right and from some of his own, as Sánchez has now done.

Rodríguez Ibarra is not in politics, but one of the first to criticize the pardons was his successor at the head of Extremadura socialism, Guillermo Fernández-Vara. José Bono does not hold any political office either, but some time after leaving the Zapatero government he assured that he had done so because he did not agree with the Statute. “I told the president, in November 2005, that I could not be a minister if the Statute became the impulse of a secessionist movement,” he revealed to Bertín Osborne in an interview in 2017. Also his successor in the PSOE of La Mancha, Emiliano García Page, has now been one of those who has most opposed pardons.

The letter from Oriol Junqueras parking the unilateral way (something that de facto the independence movement had already done last legislature) and positively evaluating the pardons (something that had not been done until that moment) calmed the critical voices and loaded new reasons to those who like Zapatero insisted that there is no alternative to dialogue. In an interview with and Infolibre, the former president predicted that Sánchez’s strategy will not be penalized at the polls, just as, in his opinion, the processing of the Statute did not take its toll on him because after all the political dust that provoked, the PSOE rose in votes and seats. This being true, the party’s post-electoral studies indicated that it could have obtained an absolute majority and that if it did not, it was precisely because of the wear and tear caused by the negotiation of the statutory reform.

Zapatero and the PSC counted during the processing of the Statute with the same allies that Sánchez has now had: the Valencian socialists and those from the Balearic Islands. The president has been able to verify this these days in the days that the Cercle d’Economia has held in Barcelona. Both Ximo Puig and Francina Armengol bet to avoid confrontation and centralism. “Polarization produces an institutional bottleneck that is very negative for solving key problems such as regional financing or the very structure of a decentralized State,” defended the Valencian baron. For his part, Armengol wanted to record the harmony between them in an image he posted on Twitter this Thursday in which he appears walking through Barcelona with Puig, Iceta and Illa.

Sánchez returns to Catalonia on Monday after the triumphant walk this Friday in a forum, that of the Cercle d’Economia, which has turned its back on Pablo Casado. The PP leader heard from the mouth of Jordi Gual, former president of CaixaBank, one of the banking entities that left Catalonia because of the procés and has not yet returned, that the position of the parties that oppose the pardons is “intransigent “. La Moncloa will start the week with an act that recalls the one that Mariano Rajoy organized in March 2017 and in which he promised an investment program to “seal cracks, rebuild bridges and look ahead.” Neither the millions arrived nor the bridges were rebuilt. Let’s see if Sánchez does better.