Gabriel Rufián: "If many more people are banned from public office, I’m in favour of holding the referendum earlier"

The ERC’s Deputy Spokesperson in Congress as interviewed by Antoni Bassas

In the last year, since taking his seat for the ERC in Congress, Gabriel Rufián (Santa Coloma de Gramenet, 1982) has become one of the personalities within the independence movement with the highest media profile.

2016 hasn’t been a bad year for you.

On a personal level, there have been a lot of changes. At the political level, it’s been a great year for Catalonia and the [independence] process.

At this time of year, people talk about the King's speech, in which he said: "We won’t reopen old wounds which have now healed", and spoke of a Spain "where no one holds grudges from the past".

It's a disgrace, completely and utterly ridiculous.

Do you feel it’s a warning as to the dangers of the disobedience he spoke about?

It’s not a ballot box that threatens the sovereignty and the respect, even of the Spanish people, it’s an eviction. It shows a complete lack of respect for everyone’s intelligence.

Did you find anything thought-provoking in what the King had to say?

Not much. The good thing about those on the right is that they’re very predictable. Rajoy could’ve made the exact same speech in parliament.

What do you think about the arrest of Joan Coma, the councillor for Vic?

We’re well aware that we receive threats, sentences and the arrests of Catalan politicians from the state, simply because they’re pro-independence. All in a day’s work, unfortunately.

What stage is the process at exactly?

At the best stage in its history. We have an unequivocally pro-independence government, set on finishing the job. We’re appealing to the space of the comuns, of Podemos which is absolutely essential to winning.

Does this mean a return to a negotiated referendum?

It’s like holding a mirror up to the comuns. I don’t care so much about what Ada Colau or Xavier Domènech think, so much as what their voters think. They trusted them thanks to their promise of a negotiated referendum. We hold a mirror up to them and say: Rajoy has won again, what shall we do, who do we do it with, how we do it?

But hasn’t a negotiated referendum been left behind?

We endorse the words of President Puigdemont when he said "a referendum or a referendum". Some people are really surprised that such well-educated people as the distinguished leaders of En Comú and Podemos only understand the first part of the sentence. We say that it will happen, whether it’s agreed with anyone or not. Arguing about who first came to the conclusion that a referendum had to be held is a waste of time. The important thing is how far we are prepared to go to defend it.

So what was the purpose of the summit?

As I said, to hold a mirror up to certain people and say: your option is a negotiated referendum. We’ll ask for one again and we’ll see what happens.

You’re in favour of a unilateral referendum, but the comuns spoke explicitly of not fixing a deadline in order to avoid disappointment.

It’s amazing that in the end, to try appeal to and attract the revolutionaries involved in Sí se puede, you have to tone down your speech. But it’s all part of a desire to appeal to and unite everyone involved. Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that the majority of parliament is totally in favour of going ahead with the process.

How can you go ahead with it unilaterally?

With the Catalan laws which will be passed. It’s the most publicised independence process in history. Three laws will be passed, of disconnection, constituents, of independence, whatever you want to call them. And after they’ve been passed, the referendum will be held which will support the new framework.

This overcomes the legal obstacle. And the social? And what about the people who don’t want to vote on this issue?

They have a chance to vote and the democrats which back the Yes and the No can decide what Catalonia ought to be. Those who don’t want to vote don’t have to.

Don’t we run the risk of having a repeat of 9-N [9 November]?

No, because the next day things will happen.

Things which the Spanish state will try to stop from happening or which it will declare illegal. So, is the idea to focus international attention on what’s happening in Catalonia?

We have faith in the democratic nature of the process and the EU’s sole ideology, pragmatism. What Minister Romeva finds on his travels is that people say to him: "If you proceed seriously, we will take action".

Are you totally confident that the referendum will take place in September?

In the autumn, according to the president. Nevertheless, if many more people are banned from public office, I’m in favour of holding it earlier. But it’s up to parliament to decide.

What path do you think it will take in the Spanish parliament?

A long one, longer than some might think. Rajoy is stronger than a year ago, and he has two of his own brands: Ciudadanos and the PSOE’s parliamentary group.

So, you don’t think there’ll be an election in Catalonia?

I don’t think so, if there is one it’ll be a failure for everyone involved in the process. It will mean failing to follow the roadmap.

According to all the opinion polls, it would mean a great victory for ERC

We don’t comment opinion polls, whether good or bad. We don’t want to win regional elections, we want to win a referendum.

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