The value of Pablo Iglesias's words on exile
BarcelonaThe words of the vice-president of the Spanish government, Pablo Iglesias, in which he defined Carles Puigdemont as an exile and even compared him to the Republican exile have caused a political storm in Madrid, where the three rightwing parties have united once again to demand his resignation. Evidently, the declarations of Iglesias touch a sore spot because to recognize the existence of exiles for their political ideas means accepting that Spanish democracy does not respect the rights that it claims to defend in its Constitution. Therefore, there may be a point of incoherence in these words from someone who is the vice-president of the government of a state that imprisons political opponents and forces them into exile, but as he stated in the same interview, the members of his formation have discovered that it is not the same "to be in government as to be in power".
And this is because Iglesias's position will not have immediate consequences, as Catalan vice-president Pere Aragonès demanded, because Podemos is the minor partner in their coalition government with the Socialists, who does not seem keen to work towards an amnesty law, nor even to approve pardons or reform the crime of sedition before the elections. Even so, it would be a mistake to diminish the importance or value of the fact that the vice president of the Spanish government expresses himself in these terms, and does so knowing the discomfort that it would provoke in his socialist partners and the furious reaction that the right wing would have. Iglesias is proving to be brave and coherent, sometimes even more so than the Catalan branch of Podemos.
Part of the controversy has centred on the comparison with the exile provoked by the Civil War. This debate, which we have already had in Catalonia in the past, is out of place, since neither the historical circumstances nor the volume and conditions of exile are comparable. Moreover, as in all these processes, there were many kinds of exile provoked by the dictatorship. The exile of a councillor of the Generalitat was not the same as that of a mayor of a small town, nor the exile of a POUM militiaman the same as that of a university professor purged in the sixties. In the 1940s only a minority were able to enjoy a comfortable exile, but the majority had to flee to France or other countries in very precarious conditions and a not inconsiderable number ended up in Nazi concentration camps.
Fortunately, today's context is very different. And here what is substantial is to point out that, just as in 1939, in 2017 a group of Catalan political leaders went into exile seeing their comrades accused of crimes they had not committed, such as sedition or rebellion, in an offensive led by the most conservative judges and prosecutors. They are therefore exiled for political reasons because, as Iglesias said, they have neither become rich nor stolen or hidden money from the Treasury. One can be critical of their actions or directly against them, but any democrat would have to subscribe to Iglesias's words and admit the legal outrage that has been perpetrated on the Catalan pro-independence leaders. Unfortunately, voices such as those of Iglesias are few in Spain.