Aragonès disavows Rufián after he called Puigdemont a "moron" over Unilateral Declaration of Independence

ERC spokesman apologises to Catalan former president for "unfortunate" statements

3 min

BarcelonaParliament's Question Time, after the new Catalan language law was passed, had an unexpected protagonist: Gabriel Rufián. The ERC's spokesman in the Spanish Parliament said on Tv3's Planta baixa that it is of "moron" to say that because of a tweet of his the independence of Catalonia was proclaimed, and added that, in any case, "It is the person who proclaimed [independence] who is a moron, not the one who tweets". His statements have caused an uproar in Together for Catalonia (JxCat) and have also caused discomfort within ERC ranks. So much so that Catalan president Pere Aragonès, has disavowed him during Question Time. After the president of JxCat group, Albert Batet, asked him about Rufián, he said: "Not only I do not agree, but I absolutely disagree with him".

In his speech, the head of the Catalan executive wanted to recognise "all the people who have dedicated their lives to achieving freedom" for Catalonia, and the president of ERC's group in Parliament, Josep M. Jové, expressed "all my respect for president Puigdemont." Rufián's statements were also openly criticised by the fourth secretary of the parliamentary bureau and ERC MP Ruben Wagensberg: "This treatment of a president in exile and who suffers repression is indecent and disgusting. [...] No anti-repressive culture from someone who, by the way, will never suffer repression"

JxCat spokesman Josep Rius also replied to Rufián via Twitter. "These statements are part of a despicable and inadmissible style of doing politics. The ERC spokesman in Madrid has crossed all red lines. It is a lack of respect for all exiles and all voters in the 1 October referendum," he said. Catalan vicepresident Jordi Puigneró also wanted to show his indignation: "With words like these we can see that Rufián is not worthy of Catalonia".

The Catalan president has advanced that there will be "an explanation, if not a correction". First it came in the form of a tweet from Rufián himself: the ERC spokesman in Parliament said that "he failed to explain himself". "I want to qualify this headline taken out of context [...]. I was talking about the unionist mantra that has been claiming for five years that the independence of Catalonia was proclaimed by a tweet".

Shortly after, Rufián himself explicitly asked for forgiveness for statements that he considers to have been "unfortunate" and directly addressed former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont. He also apologised to current Catalan president Pere Aragonès, and ERC leader Oriol Junqueras. In statements to the media, Rufián said "he wanted to take on certain statements downplaying the will of the people of Catalonia, which in 2017 proclaimed independence. Those who seek to play it down try to make it look as if it is a Twitter spat." "It could be explained in many different ways and I have explained it in the worst, sorry," he added. Sources around Rufián assure that it has been a "misunderstanding" and that at no time did he mean to refer to the former president. In fact, they recall that from the first day they have had to constantly answer questions about the now famous tweet about the 155 silver coins.

Strategy in Madrid

The ERC spokesman's statements have not been the only issue on which Batet has attacked Aragonès. JxCat's leader in the Catalan Parliament asked the Republicans to review their strategy in Madrid after the Spanish state repeatedly failed to keep its word. "How do you justify continuing to support the Spanish government? It is time for action, leadership is needed, you will have us at your side in a coordinated way to move forward," said Batet, who has remarked that ERC supported the 2021 budgets of which under 36% have been executed.

And if it had not been for Rufián, the control session would have turned on the lack of investment of the State in Catalonia. Aragonès said that "it is not acceptable" that the State itself admits that it is not executing what it had promised. The leader of the Socialists, Salvador Illa, has also addressed the issue, and he has done so to defend Pedro Sánchez: the Socialist has assured that the Spanish government "is improving things". "The path is that of collaboration and not competition", he has resolved, and has asked Aragonès to open up to "dialogue."

Accumulated controversies

It is not the first time that Rufián's statements have strained relations between coalition partners. In fact, the previous controversy was quite recent. In the Spanish Parliament's Question Time, the ERC leader shouted to Unidas Podemos leader Jaume Asens, that "he should not go to Waterloo so much", which provoked a formal complaint from JxCat to Pere Aragonès

Nor was that the first time it happened: JxCat already asked Rufián to rectify after he branded Puigdemont's entourage as a "rich kid" playing "James Bond" over his contacts with Russians, which as part of the Volhov case are being investigated. The Catalan government allegedly contacted the Kremlin to get support for the independence of Catalonia.