Who will take responsibility for the Catalangate scandal?

2 min
Pere Aragonès in the parliament in an archive image

The way in which Spain has dealt with the Catalan independence movement in recent years leaves much to be desired from a democratic state. If until now we knew about police repression and the actions of a politicised high judiciary, now there are new indications of a third no less scandalous aspect about which there were already very strong suspicions: espionage against elected politicians, activists, lawyers and journalists, which according to an investigation by Citizen Lab, a group of cybersecurity experts from the University of Toronto, affected over 60 people through using Israeli spyware Pegasus, mostly in the years 2019 and 2020. Is this the way a democratic state understands that it must fight part of its population's project to obtain sovereignty? In the cases of Scotland and Quebec, the respective states concerned, the United Kingdom and Canada, in no case used repressive actions, skewed judicial processes or mass spying.

Spain's democratic response to Catalan independence has been based, basically, on a total war that has activated the deep state's darkest means. It is no less scandalous for being a known fact. Now we have new proof: thousands of wiretaps of private conversations. In any other country, such a revelation would make the government hide its face in shame and would lead to an internal investigation to clarify which public bodies and which specific persons are behind this espionage, which the international press has not hesitated to baptise as Catalangate, harking back Watergate. In the Anglo-Saxon world, individual freedom and privacy are sacred. Will anything happen here? Will anyone assumse any responsibility?

When sometimes people talk about the low democratic quality of the Spanish state, some see an exaggerated and interested criticism. Everything is open to opinion and relative, of course. But in this case we are talking about concrete facts: it should be beyond doubt that citizens have basic rights that must be respected. This is what the rule of law is all about, isn't it? Rights and freedoms that in this case have been blatantly and repeatedly violated. It is one thing to take refuge in the Constitution, on the other hand always interpreted restrictively when it comes to the national plurality of the State, to deny the right of the Catalans to decide their future, and quite another to bypass the Constitution to spy on politicians and citizens. This is called dirty war. Behind these illegal actions is the usual Spanish nationalism, which considers national unity as a transcendent fact which, if necessary, must be above the law.

Thus, it is very difficult to believe in an eventual negotiation to find a solution to the dispute over Catalan sovereignty. At this point, almost five years after the Referendum in October 2017, Spain does not seem at all interested in addressing the conflict politically. Pedro Sánchez's government has been delaying the dialogue table agreed with the Catalan government. While the independence movement is divided and repressed – there are still exiles and many open court cases – the Spanish government is in no hurry to seek democratic solutions.