Manel Manchón – 02.15.2020 00:00 h.
Image: Juan Pablo Cardenal, with the cover of his book ‘La telaraña’
Cardenal: “To the pro-independence sector, their moves have been almost for free”
The journalist and writer, author of “La Telaraña” believes that the governments of the PP or the PSOE do not know how to see that the pro-independence forces “will try it again”
Juan Pablo Cardenal had no intention of writing a book about the proces. Journalist and writer, he was a correspondent in Asia for ten years, and has followed as few journalists another process: that of China’s internationalization. He has contributed in the main news outlets of Spain, and, precisely when following what was happening in Catalonia, –he is from Barcelona– Cardenal concluded that something was happening. And he gives notice of it in ‘La Telaraña’ (Ariel), a book in which he investigates, as a great report, with quotes and interviews with the main stakeholders, how the independence movement knew how to work, with public money, for its project, seeking the complicity of the media and social and civic entities abroad. And without the Spanish Government of Mariano Rajoy knowing how to confront it, renouncing, in fact, to take concrete measures. Cardenal believes that the pro-independence forces will “try it again,” and that “to the pro-independence forces their move has been almost for free”
– Question: One of the questions that you define is that, at the beginning of the procés, the Government of Artur Mas plans to speak in the international media only about financing, that Catalonia is poorly funded.
–Response: Yes, I spoke with Josep Martí, who was the communication secretary in the Government of Mas. That was the intention, at that first moment. I do not doubt that for them the priority was a financing agreement because, as they said, in Spanish public opinion that issue had no further trajectory. But they let themselves be swept by events. They adapted to another reality, which was already coming from afar. That is, there was a pro-sovereignty project, of Catalan nationalism, which does not start in 2012 with the Diada. It starts earlier. It already exists with the left-wing tripartite. Although it is made official, it is true, in 2012.
Q- Is the role of the delegations of the Generalitat so decisive in the procés?
R. – Although they have been part of the institutional organization chart, there has always been an element of nation building. There has been a project to make visible a Catalonia different from Spain. In Berlin, the delegation ends up establishing a bilateral relationship with Germany. We cannot think that all that had not been set before. It explodes with the procés but, as I said, it comes from very far back.
Q. –You believe that, in reality, the so-called 2000 Program designed by Jordi Pujol is being fulfilled.
R. – We cannot be inside Pujol’s head, but I believe he has always believed that eventually all this could lead to the independence of Catalonia. But his program was to have as many areas as possible under control, regardless of whether or not it served for medium or long-term independence. What he does is just designing what I call the ‘telaraña’, with clientele entities. In the book I have been analyzing this issue, and there are up to 502 companies and entities in which the Generalitat has a stake, with small and large percentages, from 5%, 30% or more than 50%. And it is true that all that gear needed a lever. The button is pressed with the procés. Although, and it must be reiterated, the supporters of that project have not reached half of the Catalan population.
Q. – And what was the Spanish Government doing? Was it fooled?
R. There is a mixture of factors. The context in which agreements were reached, -there are interpretations that qualify them as concessions-, was of a certain confidence. Catalonia was supposed to remain in Spain. But that does not relieve the State of guilt. I identify it with the central governments, and in the national parties. But there are many others responsible. The Spanish governments have acted out of political calculation, out of incompetence, and out of ignorance. And you see that when you speak with the so-called Madrid elites. Even those who know the Catalan question with some depth do not have all the elements. They always lack one more point, they don’t breathe Catalonia, they don’t just understand it. And at a time when a perfect storm occurs, with the economic crisis, you get to the procés. Many years before, however, Jordi Pujol takes advantage of all that ignorance I was speaking about.
Q. – What do these elites not understand?
R. – They have not seen the real intentions coming. I sensed that something was wrong, that for years Catalan nationalism was building its project. These elites have always worried about satisfying the nationalists, and they have stabbed time and again the non-nationalists in Catalonia. From the psychological point of view, they accepted that Catalonia was the nationalist Catalonia. They have accepted, explicitly, that their interlocutor was that nationalist Catalonia. And the language has been perverted.
Q. –And what role has the left played in this historical process?
R. –I want to be very cautious here. As an observer, what I know is that Pujol crushed the Socialists with that accusation of “dependence” from the PSOE. The dramatic thing is that the left has had many doubts, not only the Catalan one, but the Spanish left as a whole. I think that left doesn’t just have a clear idea of Spain.
Q. – You say that with Minister Dastis, after the replacement of García-Margallo, things change. And that is a paradox, because Margallo points out that he did have clear things about Catalonia.
R. – Margallo was very worried. He takes a step forward, doesn’t share Mariano Rajoy’s low profile strategy. He travelled a lot and did a good job in general working with the diplomats. What happens is that he neglected the foreign media. Although he was confronted with Sáenz de Santamaría, both of them set aside the foreign media. And that was a tremendous tactical error. The opposite is true with Dastis, but not because of the minister, but because of his team, which tells him that he must grant interviews, explain Spain’s position, that Spain is a full democracy and that it has nothing to lose explaining the truth.
Q. – Have the Anglo-Saxon media been the most “understanding” with the procés?
R. –I don’t think so. The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times or The Economist have written excellent pieces. That does not avoid strong criticism of the Spanish Government, but they have made a rigorous and balanced coverage, more or less impartial.
Q. –The problem has been with The New York Times?
R. –It is the most influential medium in the world. People who make decisions are informed through it. I did an analysis of 92 articles about Catalonia, and I saw worrisome things. The articles are not grotesque, but there are subtleties that indicate certain sympathies. There is little talk about the fact that the pro-independence are not a majority. It is cited, but always in the last paragraphs. However, Franco appears at all times. It is a diagnosis that leaves Spain as an authoritarian country. It gives an image of the facts that does not correspond to reality.
Q. – Did the Spanish Government make its big mistake with 1-O?
– I think that 1-O was reached after leaving the majority abandoned. The problem should have been focused on the 6 and 7 of September. It was announced that the Constitutional Court would be used, but nothing was done. I think, as Josep Martí says, that the pro-independence side, if it were a poker game, took all the chips that day, 1-O, but lost them when independence was declared on 27-O. I still cannot understand how Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría appeared before the media late in the morning, when the independence leaders had already done it repeatedly, circulating police charges around the world. If there were only violent charges in 17 schools, out of a total of more than 2,000, why was this not explained?
Q. – The independence movement now says that it only wanted to propose a negotiation with the Government. That it did not raise independence as something real. Is this an excuse?
R. –I have now clear that they tried. If you read in detail the investigations of the Court of Auditors, you realize that it was a priority of the Catalan Government. Many public resources and human resources have been allocated. Everything was aligned for a cause, for a purpose. I have spoken with diplomatic officials hired by the Generalitat. With ‘Independent Diplomat’, and what they tell me is that, already in 2012, it was commissioned to probe European governments on how they could react to a declaration of independence.
Q. – Can the pro-independence forces repeat it?
R. – I believe that for the pro-independence forces the move has been almost for free. Both politically and judicially. They have not moved at all. And they say they want to broaden the base, but we see how Puigdemont claims that we apologize for the implementaion of article 155. They don’t consider themselves wrong. It is true that it is difficult to meet the same conditions for a perfect storm as in 2012, but the pro-independence forces will try again when they can. The best scenario for constitutionalists is that we stay in a dead calm. But I don’t think we can recover anything. And the Spanish governments, of whatever color, will not have the political will to confront this issue, so that the abuses in Catalonia against the non-nationalists will end. The structures of that nationalism, with TV3 and the educational system, have not been touched.
Q. – But what if the independence movement, for the first time, gets more votes in the Catalan elections and passes the 50% threshold?
R –It will be the beginning of the end. It is a problem for the pro-independence sector not to reach that percentage. It is a magic figure. If they get it, they will gain legitimacy, regardless of that electoral law, which already gives them several MCPs of advantage, due to the greater weight of the rural territory. If that happens, the pro-independence side will exploit it with all forcefulness, and will put the Spanish Government in a situation of weakness.