Claudi Perez and Miquel Noguer – Barcelona – 18 JAN 2020 –
Seven doors and two long corridors later, Oriol Junqueras (Barcelona, 50 años) appears in a black shirt and jeans. He greets behind the double pane of the communications room of the Lledoners prison and starts with a hard, stiff, impenetrable speech. Dark beginnings, clear endings: throughout the interview he will leave threads from where to pull. Almost all of them end up in the same place, the negotiating table agreed between ERC and PSOE, on which the Budgets and, therefore, the legislature depend. The classics said that in politics the difficulty is not in saying, but in not saying: Junqueras does not say that he will support public accounts, but affirms that if the table is on the right track everything will go; he does not guarantee support of ERC to go through the whole legislature, but he maintains that trust is earned on a daily basis and for that reason he refers again to the mentioned table. The classics also said that politics consists of civilizing the emotional and preventing the exploitation of passions, but Junqueras prefers the romantic: “We will do it again”.
Question. Would you do it again?
Reply. Yes. From the strictest democratic principles, what we did in autumn 2017 was well done. In a normal country there would have been no problem. But Spain cannot be a normal country if those who are going to vote are beaten, innocent people are imprisoned, governments are dismissed and parliaments are closed for putting up the polls.
Q. Is that the lesson you get from the last two and a half years?
R. The lesson is that we did it so that we could do it again.
Q. That 27-O of the unilateral declaration of independence was seen with a
face of concern, or fright, or both. Really that day did not occur to you that
you would end up in jail?
R. We knew that the state apparatus could not withstand that democratic challenge, but I repeat: it was the way to earn the right to try again.
Q. Puigdemont fled, won the European elections and is already MEP; you are in jail. Don’t you feel that you have lost the legal and political game?
A. I was always willing to go to jail for the rights of my country. In my family there have already been members accused of rebellion; Spaniards should ask themselves what happens if generations go by and this continues, with a judicial system and a state apparatus of marked Francoisttics.
Q. The current Government, with a party that sympathizes with some of the
demands of independence and the other agreeing a table with ERC, does not
dismantle that account of the oppressing State heir to Francoism?
A. No. The State strives daily to demonstrate that it is a worthy heir to the dictatorship.
A. The Prosecutor launches false accusations and nothing happens. The Ministry of Interior invents false evidence and nothing happens. Justice condemns innocents and nothing happens.
Q. If so, why does ERC allow investiture?
A. Because the alternative, a PP and Vox government, was much worse. We abstained as any European democrat would have done. That said, the parties we have negotiated with continue to show amazing doses of inhumanity: they know we are innocent and keep quiet. Catalan socialists have applauded the prison of innocents.
Q. That is not what the Supreme Court says.
A. The Supreme is not right at all. It will be a pleasure to meet the Catalan socialists when I leave here and see if they do not avert the eyes.
Q. Is the Supreme right when it points out that you were bluffing?
A. I repeat: the Supreme is not right at all.
Q. What do you expect from the dialogue table? Would ERC accept to vote on a new Statute that collects part of its claims?
A. Esquerra has always talked: we did it even with the PP, we do it even in prison.
Q. But do you think Pedro Sánchez has enough strength to yield to where you
A. I don’t know if 120 MPs are enough, but I defend the dialogue from prison. Does Sánchez have less strength than me in here?
Q. You do not answer: would a Statute be sufficient for part of your requirements?
A. That conditional is a way of misleading: conditionals are suggestive when used in literature, theater, poetry, but not when applied in politics. In politics they are distracting maneuvers.
Q. Are you worried about Vox?
A. I am not afraid of Vox. The governability of Spain at this time is quite strategic for ERC: I am convinced that if we and the PSOE do things right, the extreme right will have little space.
Q. A MP from your party said that she does not give a damn for the
governability of Spain. Does that help? Do you share it?
A. And so much! Put yourself in the shoes of a person who has her sister in jail: she will not give a damn for anything.
Q. Does the agreement with the PSOE go beyond the dialogue table? Are you going to support the Budgets?
A. Let’s sit down, and see if it is possible to reach agreements.
Q. Is that a yes?
A. Budget support is conditional on advances in the dialogue table. Let’s go step by step. You cannot ask Quique Setién about the team he will set up for the seventh game hereinafter.
Q. What is the lowest common denominator to pave the way for the
A. The PSOE only dialogues when circumstances demand it. Pedro Sánchez has not felt the need to do so for months and even had an attitude contrary to it, so he has to show that he really wants to dialogue and that he is willing to give in. Our position will depend on the attitudes we see and so far nothing has changed.
Q. Have you not detected any signal that allows you to be optimistic?
A. None. Nothing.
Q. And the time has not come to change the independence/non-independence axis for the left-right axis?
A. ERC has been approving social measures for a long time. We have won the last two elections that way.
Q. Do you see upcoming elections in Catalonia? Does the era of Convergencia hegemony come to an end?
A. We have demonstrated what we do in our areas of Government, and we aspire to enlarge our support base. From there, may the best one win.
Q. Do you see social polarization in Catalonia?
A. It is very difficult that there is no polarization when there are innocents in prison. And it is myself who most call for dialogue, from jail.
Q. In April you said you would support the Budgets and did not. Is ERC reliable?
A. The PSOE did not want to negotiate the Budgets. Sanchez chose to go to elections. Charging ERC with that responsibility is imprecise.
Q. You talk time and again about dialogue: there can be no dialogue without concession. What cessions will ERC make?
A. If I confess what cessions we are going to make, I lose negotiating capacity. But the goal was and is independence. And it will fall by its own weight: you just have to work to convince more people.
Q. You declared independence with less than 50% of the votes: Isn’t that
running over the other 50%?
A. Thanks to what we did we have earned the right to repeat it.
Q. But don’t you need much more support for that?
Q. And if you don’t get it?
A. If the Catalans decide no, it won’t be.
Q. Is the unilateral way left behind?
A. That route was imposed by the State saying no to everything.
Q. That does not answer the question.
A. Any complex process must necessarily be multilateral. And in this case it implies Catalan, Spanish, European and international political institutions, private companies; and having sufficient support.
Q. Didn’t you deceive the Catalans by promising impossible independence?
A. Bollocks! And a fucking shit! We told the truth: that the proces had to end in independence. That was prevented with beatings, jail, dismissing governments and closing parliaments.
Q. You are in prison and disqualified. Will you take a step to the side?
A. That will be decided by ERC. If there is an option I do not give up anything.
Q. What do you expect from the future state attorney general?
R. Nothing. I do not see any gesture. And I don’t expect anything at all.