Don't think about a pardon

This text belongs to 'Penínsulas', the newsletter that Enric Juliana sends to the readers of 'La Vanguardia' every Tuesday.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
12 February 2024 Monday 09:21
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Don't think about a pardon

This text belongs to 'Penínsulas', the newsletter that Enric Juliana sends to the readers of 'La Vanguardia' every Tuesday. If you want to receive it, sign up here.

People who follow the political news of this country with some interest, who are not the majority of the population, have been perplexed by Alberto Núñez Feijóo's surprising turn on the question of Catalonia in the middle of the Galicia election campaign. Many people are still astonished after three furious months in which the Popular Party has moved heaven and earth against the amnesty law, calling up to five consecutive demonstrations in the capital of Spain, with thousands of participants in each of them.

After having proposed the dissolution of the independence parties (an approach later qualified), after having assured that there was terrorism in Catalonia during the events of October 2017 and during the protests of November 2019, after having managed to get the European Parliament to include to the Catalan independence movement on the list of suspects of collusion with Russia, the PP has informed sixteen journalists covering the Galician campaign that it would be willing to pardon Carles Puigdemont, if he returned to Spain, submitted to trial and expressed regret. The pardon would be granted within the framework of a strategy of “reconciliation with Catalonia”, to forge new political horizons. In the same communication it was noted that the Popular Party sees it as “very difficult” for judges to prosecute Puigdemont for terrorism. Amazing. Amazing if we take into account everything that has happened in this country since José María Aznar, sitting next to Núñez Feijóo at an event at the Atlantic Government Institute, launched the slogan of permanent national mobilization against the amnesty on November 2, 2023. : “He who can make him do.”

This information was published last Saturday at eleven at night, the time at which the embargo agreed upon by the journalists who were present at the conversation ended. An hour after its publication, the PP issued a note emphasizing that it would never support a pardon that was not accompanied by repentance, without at any time denying the veracity of the information. On Sunday morning, Núñez Feijóo accentuated the contrition a little more - “not a single one of the conditions for any possible pardon are met” -, with the obvious purpose of protecting the waterline of the Galician PP campaign, but He was very careful not to amend the work of journalists. The information was true. After three months of fury, the current leadership of the PP launches the idea of ​​pardon and reconciliation in the middle of the Galician electoral campaign. This is the twist and from here on all are interpretations about his motivation.

The dominant interpretation is that of “controlled blasting”. Frightened by the possibility that Puigdemont would reveal in the coming days the real content of the conversations that the Popular Party held with Junts last summer, Feijóo decides to make a preventive move to lessen damage and maintain control of the story during the last few days. of a campaign that is being more difficult than the popular ones expected. Something is happening in Galicia. A 'vote for change' seems to have been activated that would capitalize on the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) to the detriment of the PSOE. At this time, the revalidation of the absolute majority of the PP is not entirely assured. Feijóo would have caused a small disaster to avoid a bigger disaster on the eve of February 18 if Puigdemont decided to press the “revenge” button.

There were contacts. PP and Junts met last summer. Lola García, deputy director of La Vanguardia, reported this on January 3 in a very interesting article that had a lot of impact. Possibly there was a second meeting between both groups, which to date has not been confirmed. In those conversations they talked about amnesty and pardons. Junts proposed the amnesty and the PP studied it for at least 24 hours, as is now recognized. As an alternative, a pardon and a progressive resolution of the criminal cases affecting the independence supporters would have been proposed, without making much noise. Let's think about the famous "back door", which popular senator Ignacio Cosidó Gutiérrez, former director general of the Police, spoke about in November 2018, a man who knows very well how the State apparatus works. The PP could not assume the amnesty, but it could offer Junts alternative avenues, based on its strong influence in the state apparatus. Esteban González Pons, deputy general secretary of the PP and Feijóo's trusted man, did not hide in August, in public and private, his willingness to negotiate with Junts. Let us remember his words: “Junts is a party whose tradition and legality are not in doubt.” Then Aznar ordered them to stop and they began to treat them as terrorists. National November. National December. National January. Agrarian and Galician February. Three months later, Feijóo decides to give the situation a new twist, out of fear, calculation or miscalculation.

Because of fear? Where would that fear come from? It could be the result of the letter sent by Puigdemont at the end of last week to all Catalan MEPs explaining that nothing of what has happened in recent weeks – the accusations of terrorism and high treason, the PP offensive in the European Parliament - would have happened if Junts had supported the investiture of Núñez Feijóo in October or had obstructed Pedro Sánchez's candidacy for the presidency of the Government in November. The letter concluded with a lapidary expression: “Everything will be known.” With this solemn ending, Puigdemont undertakes to explain what the PP offered him and also to give an account of the sporadic relations that the Catalan independence movement has maintained with Vladimir Putin's regime in recent years.

This last issue is today a thorn in the side of intelligent independentists. They were wrong and they know it. “Tintin in Moscow”, I wrote in 2020. These contacts existed, they were facilitated by the Italian Northern League and were carried out by adventurers from the CDC environment without a real notion of European politics and international relations. These contacts led to nothing, Puigdemont himself put the brakes on (as recorded in telephone interceptions ordered by the investigating court number one of Barcelona) and today they are a source of discredit in Europe.

On November 16, 2023, Aitor Esteban, parliamentary spokesperson for the Basque Nationalist Party, said: “One day I will tell what the PP offered us.” On February 8, 2024, Carles Puigdemont writes: “Everything will be known.” Everything indicates that the PNV and Junts have information that could put the Popular Party in a bind in the final stretch of the Galician elections. I don't think both parties have any plans to blow up the final stretch of those elections. Both formations need to preserve the bridges with the PP, bridges that today are narrow and unstable. Junts also needs to keep open avenues of contact with the PP. They do not want to be exclusive members of the PSOE. In a public appearance yesterday in Barcelona, ​​Josep Rius, vice president and spokesperson for Junts, reaffirmed the idea: "We are not part of the government bloc, nor of the opposition, we have our own agenda in Madrid." Rius added that for the moment they have nothing more to add to what Puigdemont wrote last week.

The information published on Saturday night did not put anything in Alberto Núñez Feijóo's mouth, referring at all times to “PP sources”, as is usually done in journalistic conversations in which the source demands it. The media kept his word and the PP apparatus was scared to see the word pardon associated with his party, seven days before the conclusion of the Galician electoral campaign. It may seem like a beginner's mistake, but experienced politicians make mistakes sometimes, too.

I suggest a third possibility. Sometimes we don't see what's right under our noses because it's too obvious. The “sources” of the PP were actually renewing their offer to Junts: if the amnesty law runs aground, if there is a definitive break in the parliamentary bloc that gave Sánchez the investiture, if the Government remains in a minority on the eve of the elections European elections in June, if the PSOE comes out of those elections battered, the PP is willing to pardon and put a little oil on the hinges that allow the “back door” to be opened in the Justicia neighborhood of the city of Madrid.

Perhaps there was a miscalculation in the wavelength of the message and the effects ended up being different. Let's see what Junts does before the second processing of the Amnesty law.

In Portugal, legislative elections are going to be held on March 10, after the resignation of the socialist Prime Minister António Costa due to a corruption case that has affected him, without translating, for the moment, into a specific accusation by the Attorney General's Office. General of the Republic, body equivalent to the State Attorney General's Office in Spain. They are uncertain elections in which the Socialist Party, which has governed with an absolute majority since 2022, and the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the center-right opposition, will compete for first place. The PS has turned to the left, with a new leader, Pedro Nuno Santos, who seems to look at himself in the mirror of Pedro Sánchez. The PSD also studies what has happened in Spain and seems to have come to the conclusion that it is not interested in imitating the PP's pacts with Vox on a regional scale.

The extreme right in Portugal is called Chega (Enough) and is led by a former television commentator, specialized in sports and crime, called André Ventura. Chega only obtained 7% in the last parliamentary elections, but this time the polls say that he could exceed 15%, with the possibility of influencing the formation of a parliamentary majority if the PSD were willing to do so. After March 10 we will clear up doubts, but the Portuguese center-right for the moment avoids following in the footsteps of the Spanish Popular Party.

Nine days ago, regional elections were held in the Azores archipelago and the right-wing coalition received the most votes without reaching an absolute majority. Chega immediately offered his votes to form a government coalition and the PDS rejected them. Chega will not be in the future regional government. The leader of the center-right, Luis Montenegro, personally traveled to the Azores on election day to ensure that the leaders of his party in the distant Atlantic archipelago complied with the slogan agreed upon in Lisbon. (In Portugal there are no autonomous communities and the only regions with autonomous status are the archipelagos of Madeira and Azores).

Let's imagine that Alberto Núñez Feijóo had gone to Valencia on the night of May 28, 2023 to impose on Carlos Mazón the slogan of not agreeing with Vox until further notice. As is known, the PP-Vox pact in the Valencian Community was the first to materialize, without Feijóo being able to prevent it. The Valencian pact acted as a trigger in the other autonomies where the PP could opt for a quick alliance with Vox or to explore agreements with the PSOE, an option that would have put the socialists in a real bind.

Montenegro does not want to reach March 10 with Chega on its back. Another way of being right-wing. The Portuguese writer Gabriel Magalhães explained it very well in an article published this past Monday in La Vanguardia.