Aragonès demands the State to put an end to all repression: "It is the time to return to politics"
The president of the Catalan government says pardons help to give dialogue "credibility"
BarcelonaPardons are not enough. This was the Catalan government's first reaction after the measure of grace granted by the Spanish government to political prisoners was made official. President Pere Aragonès spoke from the Gothic gallery of the Palau de la Generalitat. To give the speech maximum solemnity, all members of the Government accompanied him. The main idea has been that pardons are a step in the right direction, but far from being a solution to the problem. Thus, he called for an end to "repression" in all its aspects and not only repression affecting political prisoners. "It is time to return to politics," he concluded.
What does it mean to put an end to all repression? The Spanish government's measure of grace towards political prisoners is not the only step by the State to de-judicialise the conflict. There are still cases being heard at the Court of Auditors and Barcelona's 13th and 18th courts, to mention just a few examples, and we must not forget that the exiles are still unable to return to Catalonia because of the risk of being imprisoned. Therefore, Aragonès has demanded that the next step in the long road to resolving the conflict is for the Spanish government to accept an "amnesty" for all victims of reprisals to bring the conflict back to the political arena in its full dimension: "We demand the withdrawal of extradition demands and an end to the persecution of political representatives and public servants. We demand the state to halt all repression". The pro-independence movement, therefore, considers that there continues to be a "general case" against the movement that will not end when the nine political prisoners are released from prison for good.
In addition to amnesty, Aragonès has put a second demand on the table. On such an important day, Aragonès has said that if the conflict returns to the field of politics, politics should achieve a referendum on independence for Catalonia with "international endorsement". This would mean that, the day after it is held, it has a result that can be recognised by the whole world - unlike the ones on November 9, 2014 and October 1, 2017. "The time has come for an agreed referendum", he has proclaimed.
Junts per Catalunya and CUP have followed the same line when speaking in Parliament, since they have insisted that pardons do not solve the conflict. Both the spokeswoman of JxCat, Mònica Sales, and CUP spokeswoman Laia Estrada have opted for self-determination and amnesty, asserting that the measure of grace does not make them change their political strategy. In fact, Estrada has denounced a "state operation" to finish off the Independence bid behind closed doors and has called on the independence movement to get together for a "new democratic onslaught". Junts' "scepticism" about the dialogue table remains and they have attributed the pardons to the international pressure after the report by the assembly of the Council of Europe in which it asked for the liberation of jailed politicians and the return of exiles. "It is not a question of the will of the Spanish government," Sales said -Núria Orriols Guiu reports.
Dialogue and negotiation
But the Government knows that, although the pardons are already a reality, amnesty and a referendum are a long way off. The PSOE has never even wanted to debate the issue. In spite of everything, Aragonès is determined to bring these two demands to the dialogue table between the Generalitat and the State -which ought to be reactivated soon- with the argument that pardons also seemed impossible at the time and this Tuesday the council of ministers has given them the green light definitively. That is why the president has repeated several times that, although the agreement to solve the political conflict is still far away, "dialogue" and "negotiation" will preside the action of his executive.
In addition, he has interpreted that the pardons are a step that gives "credibility" to the dialogued way, that is to say, to the table of dialogue. This message is more for his own ranks, since his coalition partners, JxCat, and his parliamentary partners, the CUP, have always distrusted this instrument of negotiation.
Jèssica Albiach, leader of En Comú, has also claimed that pardons are an opportunity to activate the dialogue table and try to resolve the fundamental conflict with the state. In her opinion, the next step is the reform of the crime of sedition for the return of exiles and to reach an agreement between the two governments to submit a consultation of the citizens of Catalonia. Albiach has not excluded a referendum on independence, but PSOE has already starkly rejected this option. Albiach believes that it is necessary to consider greater self-government for Catalonia or having its own treasury, which would solve its position with the rest of the State.
Recognition for prisoners
If the Spanish government expected words of gratitude from Aragonès, it didn't get them. He did, on the other hand, praise the political prisoners. "They entered jail with the conviction of not having committed a crime [...]. They leave with their head held high and their ideals intact, with the strengthened will to build a Republic". The Catalan Government wants to organise a reception of the prisoners at the Palau de la Generalitat, as does the Catalan Parliament's speaker, Laura Borràs.