The first step along a road full of obstacles

2 min
Pedro Sánchez during the Council of Ministers that has approved the pardon for political prisoners.

The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tse is credited with a phrase that perfectly describes the situation in which we find ourselves after the Spanish government approved the pardons for the nine political prisoners: "Even a thousand-mile-long journey begins with a first step". That is to say, any journey that one wishes to undertake, from the shortest to the longest, from the easiest to the most difficult, begins in the same way: with the small gesture of putting one foot in front of the other until a first step is completed. And this is what the Spanish government did this Tuesday: to take a first step and start a path that is full of obstacles and bends, but a step that was essential to start this uncertain journey with a minimum chance of success.

The pardons, therefore, have to be evaluated on two levels. In the individual case of those affected, it is a relief from the suffering to which they and their families have been subjected by an unjust and disproportionate imprisonment. From this more human point of view, it is impossible not to rejoice at the fact that these people can be reunited with their loved ones and recover their daily lives, which were brutally altered by the judicial decisions of October and November 2017. And, moreover, they will do so without having given up one ounce of their convictions or their commitment to the cause of Catalonia's freedom. From this point of view, it is a success for the movement.

From a political point of view, however, pardons are the starting point for a process that will need time and a lot of skill and even more determination on the part of the Spanish government to deactivate the mines that judicial repression has been placing in its path. The same royal decree in the case of Raül Romeva admits this when it says that "the pardon, by itself, will not resolve the political conflict in Catalonia, it only aims to facilitate a habitable climate to move forward with solutions". Indeed, the political climate will not normalise while there are people pending legal proceedings, here or in exile, or being seized by the Court of Auditors. Everyone can understand that political dialogue will not bear immediate fruit given the enormous distance that separates the two positions right now, but there has to be a minimum consensus that allows the powers of the State that are not only against Catalan independence, but also against an open and progressive vision of the State to be neutralised.

From the staging of the pardons that Pedro Sánchez has wanted to make, one might think that the Spanish government sees them more as an endpoint than a starting point. If this is so, it could not be more wrong. The same opinion of the Council of State already gives him more duties, such as the reform of the crime of sedition or the cancellation of the Euro-orders. The first request has to be the next step to take on this path, since the denunciation of the abusive use of the crime of sedition is shared internationally, but the Court of Auditors also has to be reformed to prevent it from acting against people's assets indiscriminately. Only by taking these steps will a passable path be opened.