VÍCTOR-M. AMELA 11/10/2020
Image: Mané Espinosa
Raphael Minder, correspondent for ‘The New York Times’ in Spain and Portugal
I’m 49 years old. I am a journalist, I report on Spain for ‘The New York Times’. Single, with one son, Ian (7). Politics? As a Swiss son of immigrants, I feel like a citizen of the world. Beliefs? As the son of Lutherans and Orthodox, I feel agnostic. I adore skiing, and playing tennis and soccer.
‘This is Spain?’
Raphael Minder tells the readers of The New York Times (with a million readings, some articles) what has happened in Spain for ten years … as long as his bosses accept the themes he proposes: the tension between correspondent and their distant bosses is part of the content of the book This is Spain? (Peninsula), a journey through Minder’s personal and professional experiences in our country, with an equanimous view of what we Spaniards are and do (Catalans included: three entire chapters struggle to unravel the keys of Catalan conflict before which Minder does not hide his perplexity). It’s the book of a front-line witness who feels privileged to be it… and who takes it very seriously.
You have been in Spain for ten years.
“You go to a corner in southwestern Europe, don’t dream of covers,” my boss warned me in 2010.
And was it right?
The decade has smiled on me: many things have happened and I have had many covers.
How has this Spanish decade been?
Turbulent, uncertain, emotional, polarized, roller coaster. Very good for me!
Have your bosses bought everything from you?
“This is the Spanish version of …”, I tell them, and I make comparisons. And I link each issue to substantive issues.
What line does The New York Times follow?
It has a progressive liberal vision, believes in the division of powers in balance. And he longs for President Trump’s replacement, now.
What does your newspaper think of Trump?
Always seeking confrontation is a mistake, and it has discredited the United States.
Television networks censor him …
Because a fraud is invented and despises democracy, in order to retain power.
What topic about Spain you verify?
The topic of Spanish passion: I watch sports journalists, and they are fans! And there is polarity about almost everything: soccer, bullfighting, religion, civil war … Or pandemic: one another blaming the dead! That creates more anguish.
And have you dropped any prejudice?
That the monarchy was consolidated, and that there was no room for the extreme right.
Describe the Spanish.
Passionate, sociable, open, very clan-forming, devoted to their ideas and colors, and to their own. And very, very diverse!
That might sound cliché …
I distinguish a Cordovan from a Donostiarra.
And to a Catalan who proclaims “I am not Spanish”?
They look for their particular identity. The drive to construct a singular story … is universal.
It is here a lively socio-political conflict.
Spain feels like losing part of itself if Catalonia leaves. To many in England, so imperial, if Scotland leaves … they care little.
More than one cover has given you this mess.
And more than one insult: some have accused me of selling myself to the Generalitat, and others of selling me to the power of Madrid. What are you going to do?
Have you written in your chronicles “jailed politicians” or “political prisoners”?
If a politician knowingly ignores democratic legality and the Constitutional Court’s warning … what is expected happens: he is judged. He is not imprisoned for his opinions or ideas, then, but for illegal behavior. The harshness of the sentence is highly debatable.
For many, here, they are political prisoners.
Yes, but if they have proclaimed their roadmap to avoid national laws and democratic protocols in their Parliament …
Summarize your vision of the process.
These pro-independence political leaders decided to go too far too fast because having a parliamentary majority … does not mean having a social majority.
It has had an impact on all Catalans.
You need to have a more constructive debate. A pro-independence politician boasted to me of “cleaning” his networks of criticism: mistake!
Do you think this conflict will be resolved?
I see too many politicians too installed in this conflict. And very comfortably
How have you become more Spanish?
I have adapted to your schedules. But I avoid being late, yes: I am Swiss.
Point out something of ours that surprises you.
The perennial envy of those who stand out: if a rich man tries to sponsor, it is branded as “charity”.
We like to penalize success, then?
And even more failure: it embarrasses you, instead of assuming it as learning. If something goes wrong, nobody here takes responsibility!
Now, go with the complaints …. elsewhere!
You shake off the fleas. In other countries, if a minister admits not knowing something about his ministry, he resigns! Look at October 1 in Catalonia: Minister Zoido said to the Supreme Court not to know anything! Rajoy said to not know anything …!
What have you learned from that?
Very little: what was the chain of orders for the police action, or for Puigdemont’s flight? Who was driving his car, huh?
However, at the same time, our justice jails members of the elites.
That is true: Urdangarin, Matas, Rato, Bárcenas … Spanish justice dismantled the Gürtel plot! All a pride, even at the cost of taking two steps forward and one back.
How do you see Pedro Sánchez?
On a train trip, being a deputy, I encouraged him to renew his party generationally.
He listened to you, and has gotten away with it.
It is impressive how he overcame so many obstacles: even El País called him “unscrupulous”!
And how do you see Puigdemont?
He wanted to live in Girona, and you see. And beware: the wounded politician is a dangerous animal!
It is very professorial. And he is very angry that Puigdemont, without showing his face, is still capable of dragging so many voters.