The Catalan government tried to force Mexico to be one of the first countries to recognize independence and to vote in favor of the referendum of October 1, 2017. The reason for this election is the importance of this American country in welcoming exiles after the Spanish Civil War, when it was openly placed in favour of the Second Republic.
The country’s blessing on the other side of the Atlantic had to be the spark to initiate the definitive separation of Catalonia from the rest of Spain, being considered a moral reference in the defense of noble causes. But things have changed a lot since 1939, and now Spain is no longer a dictatorship.
On 16 September 2017, fifteen days before the referendum, the Director-General for Foreign Affairs of the Generalitat, Maria Badia, sent an email to the Foreign Councilor, Raúl Romeva, to his secretary general, Aleix Villatoro, and to Ivan Altisent, Romeva’s chief of staff, in which they attached a text that would officially have to be submitted to the Mexican Senate for approval.
The Mexican President’s Response
The text left no doubts about its intention, and established four points: “First: to recognize the legitimate right to self-determination of the people of Catalonia and to support the holding of the referendum on 1 October; secondly, to record that political problems of great importance, such as the relationship between Catalonia and Spain, have to be solved by political means and not with the judicial debit of ideas, disqualification or even imprisonment of charges democratically elected politicians; third: to note that the democratic principle has to prevail in advanced Western democracies, so the will of the people of Catalonia freely expressed through equal, direct, free and secret voting must be the basis of the future political organization of Catalonia; fourthly, to ask the Government of Spain not to prevent Catalonia’s referendum on 1 October next and to accept the will of the people of Catalonia democratically expressed in the polls.”
The mail and the document are quoted in a report of the Guardia Civil dated February 2018 but which has just been incorporated into the summary that instructs the court of instruction number 13 of Barcelona and to which EL TRIANGLE has had access. The researchers point out as observations that “the Department of foreign affairs orients part of its efforts and activity to the recognition of both the banned referendum of October 1st and the independence of Catalonia”.
Romeva’s strategy, however, did not work. On October 12, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto clarified doubts: “Mexico has spoken in favor of a single Spain, and in the event of a unilateral decision, Mexico will not recognize Catalonia as an independent nation. It is Mexico’s position and we have expressed it over and over again,” said the then-top Mexican representative.
At the same time, according to the emails in question, Romeva contacted the Canadian organization International Sustainable Community Assistance-Appui International Durable aux Communautés (SALGA-AIDC) to buy political wills in favor of the independence outside Catalonia. Thus, if the Presidency had used the think tank Independent Diplomat and had later hired The Hague Centre of Strategic Studies through the Swiss embassy, Romeva created its own network of friendly NGOs across the Atlantic. ISCA-AIDC is officially not for profit and creates “opportunities for communities in need to help them build sustainable agricultural systems,” according to its website.
This is about paper, because in reality it seems to function as a lobby. According to the Civil Guard report, ISCA-AIDC and another NGO named IRAI committed their assistance in favour of the referendum, and the two were hired to “provide legitimacy” the consultation by sending on 1 October a group of “observers” “in Catalonia” which, beyond any non-profit intention, pocketed a generous pile of banknotes.
The role of Albert Royo
Albert Royo, Secretary General of Diplocat, the body that centralized the Generalitat’s international strategy, actively participated in the recruitment of these entities. Royo received from ISCLA-AIDC an Excel document detailing the expenses of the international team of observers, which he moved to Romeva. The mail was from a Lloyd named Lloyd, probably Lloyd Dalziel, one of the specialists of the NGO, who worked for MISSIONS of the UN, OAS or OSCE. The intention was for the visiting team to be in Catalonia from 25 September to 2 October. The head of the mission would receive 30,216.62 euros and the total expenditure to be disbursed by the Generalitat was 145,771.94 euros. The then counselor sent an email to his two subordinates, Altisent and Villatoro, in which he commented on the missive and the budget sent by Royo. “I understand that we have to say yes. We don’t have room to negotiate anymore,” Romeva said.
The detail of the expenditure explained that the deputy to the head of the mission would have emoluments of 20,320.48 euros and each of the members or analysts would receive 16,703.60 euros. The contracts were therefore up to more than 110,000 euros, to which more than 30,000 euros had to be added for meals and 5,750 euros more for taxis. The document submitted by the Canadians obtained the approval of Romeva, which, according to the Civil Guard, “instructed to accept an expenditure budget of 145,771.94 euros, for a mission of representation on an activity related to a vote would occur between 25 September and 2 October, which suggests that it concerned the activity of international observers for the october 1 referendum.”
In its conclusions, however, the Civil Guard adds to this figure that was paid to IRAI observers, so that, according to the city, it claims that it ordered expenditures of more than 200,000 euros. “It is not known whether payments of these amounts were finally made or not, but it is known that during the implementation of the pseudo referendum on 1 October there were international observers in Catalonia”, the report says.
Vote of residents abroad
The Guardia Civil stands out in one of the sections of its report that Romeva tried to launch the electronic vote. “It has been proven that studies and even a bill for the conduct of an electronic online vote for Catalan residents abroad have been found to be carried out within the Department of Foreign Affairs. It should not be overlooked that, outside the analysis of this email, it has been known in the different investigations that the registration of Catalans abroad was intended to be used as a census to make an electronic vote for the referendum of 1 October,” says the Civil Guard in the report.
An e-mail from the same Raúl Romeva to the head of her Office, Joana Muñoz, dated August 22, 2017, certifies that the government of the Generalitat intended to use electronic voting in the consultation. In the document that Romeva sends to her subordinate, “it is stated that electronic voting online is the most interesting option because of its potential for service to the citizen, since it substantially facilitates voting from abroad”. What the counselor did not imagine is that all these communications would fall into the hands of the Civil Guard soon after.