Impunity will last a couple of years

The PP government’s pathetic U-turn to spare itself any comments from European judges is a taste of what will happen eventually

FERRAN SÁEZ MATEU Escriptor i professor a la Universitat Ramon Llull

Or perhaps two and a half years. No more than three, at any rate. But impunity will reach its limit, one set precisely by the decision that a European court of law will take once today’s anomalous situation has run its course in Spain. Sure, I realise that nowadays in Catalonia anyone can be arrested over a made-up crime committed in the context of an imaginary situation. You could be led to believe, therefore, that impunity has won and knows no boundaries. But it hasn’t. It is only a matter of time.

The PP government’s pathetic U-turn —to spare itself the likely comments from astonished European judges (1)— is but a small taste of what will happen eventually. Indeed, a number of people will end up spending many months —and perhaps more than just months— in jail. Unfortunately, nobody will be able to make that up to them. But it is equally true that, sooner or later, everything will pop to the surface just when the file that led to their indictment lands on the desk of a judge far removed from the stand-off between Catalonia and Spain. Undoubtedly, that is when stuff will happen. We have seen infinitely taller towers crumble. Impunity is often accompanied by euphoria, and this in turn feeds impunity. A day comes, though, when the wheel stops spinning. That is when the very same judicial strings, the same wheel that has brought us a certain situation, will bring us a different one. The tide will turn: it is as old as the hills. Will it be a couple of years before all that happens? Two and a half? Three? I don’t know. Patience.

In a matter of days —and without straying off the ordinary procedures set in law— the news policy of El País on the Catalan issue has received a crystal clear response: the Madrid daily has been forced to print a correction. Likewise, Spain’s Electoral Board has made a note of the interview with Ciudadanos candidate Inés Arrimadas in Madrid’s ABC the day before the Catalan elections [when no electioneering is allowed]. Mind you: this is only a tiny, totally meaningless sample of the things which have happened in recent months. In fact, they are minutiae compared to other matters. We are talking about newspapers printing corrections and paying laughable fines, but other cases might bring criminal charges. While Spain’s Ministry of the Interior cast doubt on the professionalism and the honourable conduct of the Catalan police force on occasion of the jihadist attacks last August, as well as on the day of the referendum on independence, we learnt that the man who masterminded the deadly attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils was a Spanish police informer. I wouldn’t call that anecdotal. Any consequences? None at all … so far, of course. In the late 1990s the top brass of Spain’s Ministry of the Interior realised that stuff which had happened a decade earlier was still having an impact on their lives.

None of that is happening for no reason. In July 2010, the Catalans who marched to protest the Spanish Constitutional Court’s ruling against the Statue decided that they were moving on beyond regional devolution. They did not demand a new Statute, but full independence. They did so massively. I can understand that the Spanish government at the time saw that as an angry outburst that would go away. But the outburst was something else altogether: seven years later, on December 21 last year, it all became crystal clear. The Catalan problem —as seen from Madrid— wasn’t going away. On the contrary. If back then the Spanish government had chosen to adopt a long-term strategy, we would not find ourselves in the current situation. With a new, merely adequate funding system, a bilateral political approach and some symbolic concessions, it is quite likely that many middle-class sectors who changed their mind in 2010 might have had a change of heart. However, that avenue was closed off and, instead, they opted for things such as Operation Catalonia [a smear campaign against Catalan leaders] and a full-blown judicialisation of the conflict. And so here we are.

At this point —and once we have seen and established that political dialogue isn’t coming any time soon—, I feel that the wisest choice is to fully embrace the judicialisation of the conflict and take it to the limit. In the short term, this might seem pointless, simply because impunity reigns supreme now. But, as the Casablanca theme song goes, time goes by. It does, indeed. It is unstoppable. Anyone who has knowingly disregarded the law in their actions should already be aware of what will be waiting for them. So, it’s only a matter of time.

Translator’s note:

(1) The author refers to Spain’s recent decision to drop the European arrest warrant issued against the Catalan leaders currently in Brussels for fear that a Belgian court of law might have ruled that it had no legal basis.