Lola García, 28 January 2024
Deputy editor of La Vanguardia
Judge Garcia Castellón entering the Audiencia Nacional / EFE
Not everybody was a grumpy dog (xuxu rondinaire).
The years of the ‘procés’ were very disconcerting. Not so much because a significant part of Catalan society embraced independence, but because the way in which it was intended to achieve this end oscillated between grotesque episodes and others that bordered on the precipice.
During the years of pro-independence euphoria, there were moments of popular exaltation to which part of society enthusiastically subscribed. To recall some curious passages, let us cite the floral tribute organised by the Terrassa CDR in front of a bollard that Catalan police Mossos had to pull down two years earlier to leave after a search of the Unipost company for 1-O ballots. The tribute may seem like a joke, but it has its flip side in the fact that former minister Lluís Puig is accused of embezzlement, allegedly for ordering census cards from the company for the referendum. The Supreme Court acknowledged that the payments were not made, although Puig remains under indictment.
Catalan ‘procés’ had two faces. One of strong political and social tension. Another was certainly picturesque. Until 2017, in general terms, the second one predominated. For example, a municipality in Girona, Bàscara, declared itself a “liberated territory” and “border crossings” were installed, including posters on the façade of the town hall welcoming the Catalan republic. The concept of the “revolution of smiles” gave rise to all kinds of popular voluntary actions that spread through the social networks, such as a website on which to make a fake Catalan ID card.
But there were also serious events, especially after the summer of 2017, with the approval of the disconnection laws in Parliament, which sought to violate the law. According to documents collected by the Guardia Civil from the company T-Systems, CESICAT, Catalonia’s cyber-security agency, also tried to set up a Catalan ID card, this time for real. And pro-independence leaders went to Egara, the headquarters of the Mossos, with the frustrated intention of gathering information from police databases to draw up the 1-O census. Neither on that nor on other occasions did the pro-independence leaders manage to get the Mossos leadership to agree to their demands.
The CNI arrived late to investigate the pro-independence movement, with the ‘procès’ already well underway.
The CDR began to act, groups of activists who began by blocking roads and ended up leading the violent riots in Via Laietana in 2019. But in this time the judges have not identified a clear political leadership of these groups. In order to investigate them, the CNI requested judicial authorisation to spy on some twenty leaders of the ERC, Carles Puigdemont’s entourage, the CUP, the ANC and Òmnium and even the moderate PDCat. It is not known what they were able to find out about the CDR, although with such a range of wiretaps it was possible to draw a complete map of the state of the pro-independence movement.
To carry out this spying, the CNI requested judicial authorisation on the grounds that it suspected Pere Aragonès of ‘leading’ the CDR, despite the fact that the then vice-president of the Generalitat was very critical of the president, Quim Torra, precisely because of his public statements in favour of these groups. Considering Aragonès to be the head of the CDR only shows that it took the secret services some time to get up to speed on who was who in the pro-independence movement. Concentrating for years on ETA, then on jihadist terrorism and even on protecting the Crown from scandals, the CNI turned its attention to Catalonia well into the pro-Catalonia process. Paradoxically, it was Pedro Sánchez who changed the National Defence Directive when he arrived at the Moncloa in 2018 to make Catalan independence a priority for the CNI. And it is just at that time when the Centre asked for permission to spy on leaders such as Aragonès.
After the ruling on the pro-Catalan procès ruling, when the Supreme Court sentenced its leaders, the Tsunami Democràtic emerged. From the first moment it was known that leaders of the pro-independence parties created it in order to control the protests. In the same way that the masses were instigated to go to El Prat airport, the mossos who were deployed there saw how the demonstrators received instructions at a given moment to withdraw. But in the last five years, judicial investigations have not been conclusive about the people who were at the forefront of the Tsunami.
It is only now, when an amnesty law is about to be passed, that Judge Manuel García-Castellón suspects that Puigdemont was not the leader of a pro-independence movement, but of a terrorist gang. During these years it has not dawned on him that the tourist who died of a heart attack at the airport was a collateral victim of an attack. Not only that. He went through the Guardia Civil’s reports and unexpectedly discovered that the Tsunami intended to “act in the path of the King’s retinue”. All of this was based on messages from a Catalan police agent nicknamed “xuxu rondinaire”[grumpy dog] in which this character passed on to the activists very basic information about a royal visit in July 2020 that never took place.
Five years later, Judge García-Castellón suspects that Puigdemont is a terrorist leader.
The grumpy dog “xuxu rondinaire” is linked to the popular side of the ‘procés’.At that time, the pro-independence movement was beginning to feel frustrated and tired. The term “rondinaire” (cantankerous) was emerging almost as a post-‘procés’ evolution of the “upset Catalan” (and we can suppose that “xuxu” refers to the sweet “xuixo”, which refers to Girona’s origins).
In short, several investigations have remained suspect, among other things because of the intrinsic difficulty in discerning responsibility for actions that enjoyed broad popular support. It was not all innocent smiles and colourful demonstrations, as the pro-independence movement now claims, but neither did half of Catalonia allow itself to be seduced by a terrorist group, as some judges and not a few politicians would have us believe.