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Home » Content » Catalonia, Spain. Trapped in the nationalist narrative
Puigdemont's personal situation turns this party (Junts) into an anti-system movement, resolutely focused on fighting the state, cultivating its particular anti-Spanish xenophobia.

Miguel Trías, 18 August 2023

Junts deputies in Congress yesterday – Juan Carlos Hidalgo / EFE

It was six years ago yesterday that fanaticism took the lives of 16 people who were peacefully strolling along the Rambla in Barcelona and the port of Cambrils. They were the deadliest terrorist attacks in Catalonia in the last thirty years. Like the Atocha bombings in 2004, the most lethal attack in Spain, they were the result of the radicalisation of young Muslim immigrants who had settled in our country. Both have an unfortunate parallel that connects us with the current political situation, for far from displaying the unity required in the face of acts of this kind, the nationalists in power in Catalonia and Spain, respectively, displayed an irresponsible sectarianism that led them to manipulate the reading of what happened to the point of exacerbation.

In Catalonia we were in the throes of the procés, and Puigdemont’s government did not hesitate to proclaim through its public media that the effectiveness of the Catalan police showed that Spain was not needed at all. Josep Lluís Trapero was then elevated to the altars of his particular reverie. Many of us were pained and outraged by the treatment of the information, in which the secessionist narrative prevailed over the unity that the moment demanded. One people, they said, and they did not hesitate to split it in two at the most serious moment.

Something similar, or perhaps worse, led José María Aznar’s government to maintain the thesis that ETA was responsible for the 11-M attacks. Faced with evidence that was accumulating before the eyes of the public and the international community, ministers Acebes and Zaplana continued to keep on their screens the version of events that best suited their short-term electoral interests. The bill came immediately, in the form of defeat at the polls, but Aznar, still in the interview with Jordi Évole in 2021, fed the conspiracy theories so as not to have to recant.

These two nationalisms, in their extreme versions, encourage hatred against immigrants and multiculturalism, whether in Ripoll, where the perpetrators of 17-A resided, today governed by xenophobic independentism with the acquiescence of Junts, or in so many localities in the rest of Spain, where frictions with immigrants are exploited by the demagogy of Vox.

The pact in Congress is a mirage; a tortuous and foreseeably brief legislature lies ahead.

Immigration, particularly from Africa, is already the great issue that divides our societies. On the one hand, it is clear that Europe needs it in the face of a declining population trend. On the other hand, we do not have well-structured instruments to deal with the culture shock that this entails, as the rebellion in France last June showed us. The integration of immigration requires pragmatic trial-and-error policies, not radical formulas that are supposed to save the day.

We now find ourselves in the post-electoral swamp, in which the majority of the population, who voted for moderation and would be in favour of grand pacts, is trapped by its extremes.

It can be argued that Catalonia has not yet nurtured a party comparable to Spain’s Vox, and to some extent this is true. Vox is pure and simple extreme right, in the style of its European partners in Poland and Hungary. But it can also be said that, at least formally, it claims to be constitutionalist. Xenophobic Catalan nationalism, despite having a certain tradition, has only given rise to a few eruptions in the Plana de Vic and now in Ripollès. But it is there. Junts cannot be directly accused, but Puigdemont’s personal situation turns this party into an anti-system movement, resolutely focused on fighting the state, cultivating its particular anti-Spanish xenophobia.

Despite yesterday’s mirage with the election of the president and the Bureau of Congress, it is very difficult to conduct government action with the firmness required by the challenges that lie ahead. Although a potential investiture agreement with Junts would have the beneficial effect of providing a landing strip for this party in the Spanish political reality, it will not generate a more stable environment for a programme for a legislature that seems tortuous and probably short. The pact between parties that our country undoubtedly needs will have to wait for a more propitious framework.



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