What equality, don Mariano? An article by Toni Strubell i Trueta

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A letter of welcome for president Rajoy’s forthcoming visit to Catalonia

In the last few years, when as President you have been cornered into stating your opinion on the Catalan issue, you have repeatedly said that ensuring “equality” for all Spaniards was at the core of your refusal to permit Catalans to hold a Referendum. Incidentally, as if anyone else in Spain were calling for one…

To counter that idea, a recent article by Seda Hakobyan and Alexandre Solano in Vilaweb, picks up ten cases that indicate that it is precisely a lack of equality, with regards to the citizens of Catalonia, that strongly colours your presidency. You may care to read it. They start off by reviewing recent incidents in the judicial world such as the tailored election, by the State powers, of four key new magistrates at the Constitutional Court, whose profiles have been handpicked to counter the Catalan Process and impose a model in line with the current upsurge of State nationalism and recentralization in Spain.

Indeed, would this inequality not be the reason for the exclusion of judge Àngels Vivas –at the hands of Madrid’s General Council for the Judicial Power (CGPJ)– as a candidate to preside over the main Barcelona Court? It cannot in any way be overlooked that Vivas had by far the most solid professional merits for the post. But she was clearly discarded for reasons of ideological discrimination. Significantly, she had shortly before been lynched by the Madrid press for signing –along with 31 other judges– a Manifesto in favour of the right of the Catalan people to decide their own future. Another of the signatory judges, Santiago Vidal, was even suspended at the bar for having worked on a theoritical document along those lines. What kind of “equality” are we talking about, Mr. Rajoy, when there are judges of other national convictions who have publicly participated in party politics –even with membership and seats in representation of your own party– without any form of sanction or discrimination?

The same may be said about events in the field of diplomacy.  The case of the suspension of the Latvian honorary consul in Barcelona, Sr. Xavier Vinyals, stands out. When the pressure put on the Latvian government to have him suspended proved insufficient, your government had no qualms about resorting to arbitrary accusations of an ideological nature to deprive Latvia of her consul. Equally abusive were the methods used by your former Foreign minister to boycott informative public meetings on the democratic Process organized by Catalans abroad.

Indeed, your government went so far as to boycott book launches of the bestseller “Victus” or bribing Andorran bankers with reptile funds –even resorting to threats– in order to eke out information on their clients in an illicit fashion. To say nothing of “Operation Catalonia” and the boycotts carried out by Spanish embassies worlwide to stop Catalans voting overseas; or the crass manipulation in the translation of EU leaders’ statements to benefit Madrid’s interests. Many of these are serious incidents and ones radically opposed to any notion of “equality” or “respect for the constitutional legality” that you obsessively demand of the Catalan government. This -paradoxically enough- while your own government has itself incurred in 26 major breaches of Constitutional Court rulings that have gravely and/or permanently affected Catalan home-rule.

Incidents at the State Prosecutor’s Office also speak of the lack of equality for Catalans. Your former minister of the Interior, Jorge Fernández Diez, is already on record (literally) for boasting of his ability to “tune up” prosecutors to harm the careers and reputations of Catalan politicians. The recently resigned leader of your party in Catalonia, Mrs. Alicia Sánchez Camacho, is also on record for speaking of “faithful” prosecutors that your party could “count on”. Not very much equality here, Mr. Rajoy. What’s more, recent events have shown that if a prosecutor or judge was troublesome for your party, you would simply have him/her substituted or dismissed, as occurred recently in Murcia with attorney Bernal or in Barcelona with Martín Rodriguez Sol, the latter of whom committed the heinous crime of publicly admitting that Catalans should be given the right to decide. Incidents such as these, or the suspension of State prosecutor  Eduardo Torres-Dulce –for showing excessive leniency towards 9-N Referendum-organizing president Mas– are indicative of why the Spanish justice system ranks so low in legal praxis indicators worldwide, earmarking it as a very poor administrator of justice and equality on any standards.

In another context, yet of an equally discriminatory nature, was the decision made by the State judiciary to exclude communist Joan Josep Nuet from the group of Catalan Parliament board members facing official charges of favouring initiatives that might enable the Catalan people to decide. This singular act of inequality was undertaken, it was pointed out, because Nuet “had no intention of disobeying”. From which we may deduce that it was perfectly fair to prosecute other members of the board who had voted exactly the same as Nuet, for having “intentions”. What kind of judicial equality is that, Mr. Rajoy?

If there were any doubts about the role of your government as a major promoter of inequality, maybe we could ask professor Clara Ponsatí, whom your government had expelled from her chair at Georgetown University (USA) for her moral –though unpublicized– support for the right of Catalans to vote. Or Cristina Puig, presenter of Spanish TV’s programme “El debate”, who was irregularly dismissed for having stated her will to widen the choice of participants in her programme. No surprise that 2,200 of her colleagues at TVE should have publicly come out in protest against the overtly partisan and unequal use that your government makes of Spanish public TV. One famous  exemple of this was the near blackout effect given on TVE news bulletins to Catalonia’s million-strong National Day rally in 2012 or the blatant censorship of the scandalous #fernandezgate case mentioned above.

When you visit Barcelona next March 28th, you can preach to us Catalans on any subject you wish. You have every right to try and make us believe the Earth is flat and Catalonia the love of your life. But please, please refrain from speaking to us about equality. Anything but that. To speak of equality towards Catalans and Catalonia in present-day Spain, is to speak of the love life of the unicorn. And I’m not referring to the unearthly fiscal expoliation we have been exposed to since the 90s, nor the dirty war waged on us, nor the way in which the Constitution’s territorial code was cooked to the taste of Franco’s military command, nor the shocking privileges and lawless behaviour of your monarchs, nor indeed, the monopoly exerted by your party (along with PSOE) in the scandalous administration of partisan State pardons and in conducting the unseparated control of the powers.

No. I am talking about the day to day treatment of Catalan citizens, against whom you allow and encourage an overtly Catalanophobic attitude unworthy of XXI Century democratic Europe. An attitude which may result in students not receiving grants merely because they are Catalan; or in unprecedented delays for investments involving vital and long-promised public infrastructures; or in fines for Catalan citizens for using their own language in our countries’ very own airports; or in introducing legislation which empowers one single Spanish-speaking parent to change the whole linguistic protocol of a school class.

All of this is the result of the inequality that the current Spanish political make-up allows for with regard to all things Catalan. It all speaks of a desperately degraded and antidemocratic situation which, for many, no longer permits Spain to be described as a country governed by the Rule of Law. But rather as one in which discrimination, State bullying and crass inequality are rampant and chronic ills.