3 min
Opening doors

Good old Galileo Galilei kept the scientific revolution alive and extinguished its bonfire when, condemned by the Inquisition to abjure heliocentrism, he is to have whispered his memorable (and perhaps non-existent) quip: "And yet it moves!"

Today, the weariness of public opinion in Catalonia would bring about a logical distancing from politics that would favour the cynicism of some and the disaffection of others over pardons and dialogue, but the fact is that something is moving. Little, insufficiently, but it is moving.

The political division over pardons is historic and divides Spain and Catalonia.

In Madrid, the PP is once again setting up petitions to agglutinate anti-Catalanism while trying to cover up a new corruption scandal. However much Casado refuses to respond to journalists and take the front pages, he cannot hide that his mentor, former secretary general of the party and former Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal, has been indicted in a case of alleged espionage against the party's ex-treasurer. The seriousness of the judicial setback for the PP allows us to predict an even greater increase in decibels of the campaign basically led by the right and the far right against pardons for pro-independence prisoners. The "traitors to the flag" will be shouted out, and only Manuel Valls will be absent from the new demonstration in Plaza Colón.

The guardians of orthodoxy

The old political and journalistic guard of socialism is also going through bad days. The men who for so many decades held the monopoly of action and progressive political and journalistic discourse do not know how to cope with the changes and do not accept either their departure from the scene or the loss of influence of their ideas.

The old guard cannot bear to see how Sánchez is willing to try to unblock the situation with the Generalitat and assume the costs of pardons. These costs will only be made greater by his alleged friends, who have tried so hard to eliminate him politically without success.

Sánchez and anyone who dares to rationalise the usefulness of pardons now experience anger or paternalism: the rage or the intellectual superiority complex that is so well known to some independentistas treated as "deviants" in a poor debate dominated by the moral superiority of Spanish nationalism, which confuses the homogeneous and centralist Spain with the plurilingual and plurinational Spain that it is trying to drown.

The campaign against pardons for Catalan political prisoners is led by a right-wing that calls itself constitutionalist without blushing, when it was Aznar's PP and the Constitutional Court's ruling against the Catalan Statute of Autonomy that definitively put an end to the constitutional spirit that had allowed coexistence, unsatisfactory, but coexistence since the Transition.

In Catalonia there are also those opposed to pardons. It is true that the conditions are not known and that the reversibility is a trick. But there is an independentism that, comfortably installed on its sofa, dares to tell nine politicians who have been in prison for almost four years that they are weak, that they will not be "representative". An independentism that teaches lessons without a sense of reality. That is to say, without knowledge of Spain's or of its own forces, and that actively contributed to squander the majority of the 3rd of October with tweets and gratuitous adjectives.

Sánchez is not wrong about the pardons. He has to assume the internal risk because European justice continues to amend Spanish courts, and the private votes within the Constitutional Court are a crack that calls into question, at the very least, the proportionality of the sentences imposed.

The reputational costs for foreign policy are also not negligible when Russia and Morocco use the conflict with Catalonia and when the draft report of the human rights committee of the Council of Europe on the pro-independence leaders asks Spain to "pardon or release" them and withdraw extradition requests against former president Carles Puigdemont and former advisers who are in Belgium.

Sánchez will have to take a risk and cannot expect the prisoners to abjure their political goals. They won't and they don't have to. Independence must be recognised as a democratic and legitimate option, which does not mean that it has not made mistakes. But only by recognising its legitimacy will it be possible to do politics.

The Spanish government and the Catalan pro-independence majority have the opportunity to do politics. The alternative is an eternal pole of impotence, a guarantee of joint decadence.