Spanish government on pardons: "We will always do what we consider best for the general interest of Spain"

Sanchez's partners endorse pardons as a starting point for dialogue

4 min
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

MadridPardons for political prisoners have already become one of the main topics of political debate in Madrid. The Supreme Court's report is scheduled for this very week and some reports already point to the Spanish government not debating whether to grant it or reject it, but under what conditions it will reduce pro-independence leaders' sentences. What is already certain is that the measure of grace will be rejected by the right, while Pedro Sánchez's parliamentary partners advocate for granting pardons. They consider them the starting point for dialogue with Catalonia.

Meanwhile, the Socialists remain silent officially. After Minister of Justice Juan Carlos Campo asked on Monday to consider pardons natural, this Tuesday the minister spokesperson, María Jesús Montero, has indicated that they would "always" do what they consider "best for the general interest of Spain", but has again denied a link between a new meeting of the negoiating table and the pardons.

In fact, the Moncloa does not fully believe that Junts per Catalunya will allow a new meeting and at the moment it considers that the most "logical" thing would be that first the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, meet the Spanish president in Madrid. Out of "courtesy", Pedro Sánchez will attend him because "dialogue is never superfluous", Montero stressed during the press conference after the Council of Ministers, although she has again closed the door to a referendum on self-determination and an amnesty law.

On the negotiating table, the minister spokeswoman has asked that the Generalitat be the one to set a date for the meeting because, in her opinion, the Spanish government has shown "willingness" from the outset and because she considers that it was ex Catalan president Quim Torra who kept grinding things to a halt. Spanish government sources point out that they "trust" ERC, but point out that right now they are not in a position to commit themselves "beyond generic will to dialogue" and stress that in no case do they link dialogue to pardons. This scenario diametrically opposed to that of Sánchez's partners.

Pro-independence parties do not reject individual solutions for prisoners, but stress that it does not put an end to the political conflict and that is why it insists on amnesty. This path has been obstructed in the Spanish Parliament through the bureau - which has twice blocked the processing of the bill presented by ERC, Junts, PDECat and the CUP - and this Tuesday afternoon will emerge in the plenary in the lower house as a result of a motion by the anti-capitalist party which PSOE has wanted to alter. With the reform of sedition stalled, pardons are presented as the only possible way for the Spanish government and all its parliamentary partners endorse it.

"If you want to give a solution to the Catalan question, the first step is that political prisoners are released from prison," said Basque Nationalist Party spokesperson Aitor Esteban at a press conference on Tuesday. The lack of repentance - those involved refused to take a position on the pardon when the Supreme Court asked them - is one of the factors that opponents of the pardon brandish to justify their position. According to Esteban, however, the 1-O was not a coup d'état nor an "attack" against the State, and he has remarked that perhaps there can be another vote "based on an agreement". "If they have to give up the aspiration of citizens to vote and independence, if they have to make an act of contrition, Spain lacks democratic character," said the spokesman for the Basque nationalists.

In the same vein, the spokesman for Unidas Podemos - PSOE's coalition partner - Pablo Echenique, has agreed that you can not require anyone "to renounce their ideas" and has repeated that his political space believes that pro-independence leaders should never have been sent to prison. "Hopefully we can see how dialogue is resumed now that there is a government and how the territorial conflict is deflated, which means so much energy lost to our country, when it should be put into economic recovery and the fight against the pandemic".

The leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón, has spoken along the same lines: "If they represented even 3% of the population, we could talk about a problem of public order, but if there is a political crisis it is because they represent half of Catalan society. We have to re-establish dialogue with this half and doing so is a more important political goal than punishment". This Tuesday EH Bildu spokeswoman Mertxe Aizpuruahas also referred to pardons, and asked Sanchez to go "beyond pardons" and face a real dialogue with the independence movement to reach a "political solution".

"Naturalise" pardons

The debate has been revived this week following the words of the Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo, who on Monday called for "naturalising" the procedure of pardons, whether they end up being granted or not. It is a measure provided for in the Spanish legal system and, as such, it must be taken with "serenity," he remarked. The right has interpreted these statements as a clear indication that the executive will opt to partially pardon the pro-independence leaders and the PP has changed a question of the control session on Wednesday to address the Minister of Justice directly to on this issue.

The conservative party has already announced that it will appeal a hypothetical granting of pardons to the Supreme Court, as has Vox. PP sources believe that they can present the appeal to the administrative contentious room of the high court although they have not been part of the procedure, and it will have to be seen whether the far-right party is allowe, taking into account that the Supreme Court did not ask Vox to comment on the pardon because it did not consider it an injured party.