Juan José López Burniol, 19 November 2022
President Sánchez has announced the reform of the Penal Code to eliminate the crime of sedition at the proposal of the PSOE and Podemos parliamentary groups, to dribble the request for mandatory reports to the Council of State and the General Council of the Judiciary. “It will be an initiative that will help to defuse the situation in Catalonia”, he said; and “I understand that there are Spaniards who have doubts”, he added. The crime of sedition, punishable by up to 15 years and applied to the leaders of the procés (13 years), will thus disappear, to be replaced by the crime of aggravated public disorder, punishable by up to five years. This reduces the sentences applicable to the fugitive leaders and the disqualification of those pardoned. In addition, the government supports, at the request of Esquerra, a downward reform of embezzlement when the direct enrichment of the convicted person is not proven. This alleviates the only crime that still affects those convicted for the procès-presidency, speeding up the return to politics of Oriol Junqueras.
The reaction in Catalonia has been positive, although President Aragonès has considered it only a step, and others will have to be taken to de-judicialise the Catalan political conflict. “With the repeal of sedition, it is more difficult to arbitrarily prosecute pro-independence supporters,” he said. And he added that “we will continue working to build new agreements that contribute to the complete de-judicialisation of the conflict”, making it clear that this reform is the result of an agreement between the PSOE-PSC and ERC.
Esquerra’s joy is logical: it has fully triumphed because it has achieved two essential demands – amnesty and self-determination – and it has achieved the first, albeit obliquely. In law, what is not effects is literature, and the combined effects of the pardons (which I considered convenient at the time), the suppression of sedition and the downward reform of embezzlement are so close to amnesty that they are almost equivalent to it. Therefore, to another goal: self-determination. Because the pro-independence supporters can be blamed for many things, but not for concealing what they want: a referendum on self-determination. Can they achieve it? Yes. How? Let’s see.
The outcome of the next general election will be decisive. If a similar result to the current one is repeated, Sánchez will form a new coalition government with the radical left and the parliamentary support of the independentistas and the taifas. Sánchez is a good tactician, with an extreme coolness, toughness and unburdening, placed at the service of a project that is not exhausted in the personal (retaining power), but that connects with a good part of the young people, grandchildren of the transition, who are sentimentally far from it and are committed to a profound constitutional change.
After the amnesty, a referendum on self-determination will follow.
It is the new left. It is another PSOE. This being so, the moment of truth will have arrived. The pro-independence supporters, now “amnestied”, will demand their self-determination and Sánchez will agree with them on a referendum. The result of the referendum only God knows, but it will in any case mean the end of Spain as the historical entity and the political project we know today. What was bound to happen will have happened: the alliance between socialists and pro-independence supporters, forged in the 1930s with the Pact of San Sebastián, will have been fully deployed. There is no nation or state that can withstand a pro-independence onslaught if the left takes it on.
It will be difficult to consolidate a plural Spain conceived as a sphere of solidarity defined by geography and history. It is true that there are many causes and many responsible parties that have contributed to this end, but it will be the left that will consummate it, as it now understands – according to its intelligentsia – that in the autumn of 2017 there was only a constitutional crisis in which both the pro-independence supporters and the government acted with identical contempt for democracy, so that the pardon and criminal reforms of today only amend the grave errors of that time. We are passing the point of no return, but, as so often in history, contemporaries do not see it.