Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Catalonia - not so simple... by JD

A few more thoughts based on my reading of many of the Spanish newspapers as well as some phone conversations with friends in Spain.  My friends vary in other opinions from 'not quite reactionary' to 'not quite republican' but they are unanimous in regarding Puigdemont as deranged! This evening's news that Puigdemont thinks the Spanish government has carried out a coup d'etat against Catalonia is proof that he is living in a parallel universe...

Nice touch to have TinTin observing the landing! Elsewhere on the news pages a previous catalan leader, Josep Tarradellas,  is quoted as saying in his memoirs that 'in politics, everything is acceptable except ridicule' Once you become an object of ridicule you are finished. 

The Spanish newspapers online have readers' comments, as they do in the UK. A large percentage of those comments regard 'El Puchy' as a joke. In fact I saw in one of the papers a photograph of a Puigdemont Halloween costume complete with baggy suit and oversize 'Beatles' wig.

This scorn and contempt began after Puigdemont had called a meeting of his political party at which he was expected to announce regional elections. While party members assembled and waited for his announcement he was in a car travelling to France and, after boarding an aeroplane in Marseille, he turned up in Brussels to plead his case 'at the heart of the EU' instead of before his own people. He ran away from the conflict which he had created. At that point he lost all credibility. His own supporters were extremely angry and even called him a traitor. And then Rajoy called the election for him.

 Last week the former Spanish PM, Felipe Gonzalez, said that Puigdemont running away to Brussels was an act of cowardice. In Spanish that is a very serious accusation. You can insult a man by calling him 'cabron' or 'coño' or say he is 'de puta madre' and they will have minimal impact but to call him a coward will produce a volatile reaction because that is to call into question his manhood. Many of the online comments have reflected this view.

There have also been more than a few comments about who is paying for this long and expensive stay in Brussels. "Is it coming from an anonymous bank account in Andorra or from the famous 3%, (a reference to the backhander extracted on all public contracts in Catalonia.)"  The two previous Catalan parliamentary leaders, Jordi Pujol and Artur Mas are both currently under investigation for fraud and two of Pujol's sons have served prison terms in connection with the aforementioned 3%. So it is logical to expect that people will ask those questions of Puigdemont.

Another thing I have noticed in the Spanish press is the exasperation and irritation at how the press of other countries view Spain in terms of stereotypes; flamenco and bullfighting and sunshine and vino. But invariably they view Spain in terms of the Civil War and through rose tinted glasses. They rely on the romantic fiction perpetrated by Orwell, Hemingway and going back as far as Washington Irving. And it is very definitely romantic fiction! 
Even the historian Paul Preston finally acknowledged on ‘Start the Week’ on Radio 4 in 2012  that Orwell's book, Homage to Catalonia was about as relevant to the Spanish Civil War as Spike Milligan’s Hitler: My Part in his Downfall was to World War Two. 

The foreign press and commentators all rely on the same tired clichés about Spain: they focus on ideals instead of common sense. They are more in love with Don Quijote than with Sancho Panza. They ignore the reality and the seriousness of the current farce, a tragic farce.

"The escapade has damaged those former ministers who faced up to their responsibilities in Spain by seemingly creating a push for them to be subject to strict precautionary measures because they constituted a flight risk. Indeed, eight of them are currently being held in pre-trial custody. Puigdemont’s behavior must be entertaining for some, but it is tragic for those who were unlucky enough to be in government with him.

"The decision by Puigdemont and his ex-ministers to call themselves a government in exile is laughable in that they are responsible for nothing, in contrast with the Catalan and republican governments based overseas during the rule of Franco. They oversaw the protection of exiles, assets and archives, while also being responsible for institutional relations with other countries that recognized them."

"The comparison between the restrained 40-year resistance of the former premier of Catalonia Josep Tarradellas and the shameful adolescent blunders of his successor over the course of just one week is a sad one for both Catalonia, and for a Spain that is committed to an autonomous and pro-autonomy Catalan region."

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