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Where are we headed?

The Spanish government needs to explain to people how it plans to tackle the Catalan challenge

Soraya Saenz de Santamaría speaks at the Moncloa Palace about Puigdemont's letter to the government.
Soraya Saenz de Santamaría speaks at the Moncloa Palace about Puigdemont's letter to the government.Claudio Alvarez / EL PAÍS

Regardless of how one assesses the court ruling specifying prison without bail for the two main activists behind the secessionist revolt, there are certain democratic principles we must all abide by.

The first is the separation of powers, a prerequisite for the rule of law: the independence of each  branch of government must be recognized and respected, and therefore judicial rulings must be complied with. This does not mean one need always agree with them; this is why democracies provide the means to appeal the decisions of judges. This is something that pro-independence forces forget when they mix up different actions by each of the branches, presenting them as generic action by an allegedly hostile state. At the same time, there are those who attribute to themselves the dividends of action taken by other powers.

Where exactly does the government want to take us? How and why is the activation of Article 155 being considered?

The secessionist movement should avoid the false construct according to which Catalonia is being persecuted by dictatorial powers working together and treating Catalonia like a subjugated nation, a construct that is then used to demand a remedial secession endorsed by the international community. Enough of this gross manipulation that is causing so much damage to Spain’s image abroad! It will be up to the courts to decide whether or not the activists now in custody blocked the judicial police from carrying out their duty on September 20, relying on the crowd whose presence they organized in an alleged act of serious disruption of public order.

Under no circumstances are we talking about crimes of opinion, something that would make them political prisoners, as Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and others amazingly claim them to be.  Enough of trivializing terms such as dictatorship, fascism and oppression. Spain is a democracy and, as the Constitutional Court has ruled in connection with the referendum law, it is in Catalonia that the government and the parliament have carried out a de facto suspension of the democratic rights of citizens, endangering their freedoms.

The secessionist movement should avoid the false construct according to which Catalonia is being persecuted by dictatorial powers

Having said that, the Spanish government must not wait for judicial decisions in order to solve current political problems. Judges rule on crimes. They cannot and must not solve political problems. The constitutional system is facing a serious crisis: social harmony is breaking down, the law is being undermined, and the powers-that-be are not capable of restoring constitutional order. Although this crisis was originally caused by a legislative coup by an autonomous region – as was superbly described in yesterday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court – the fact is that the system of regional autonomous power and democracy are twin and inseparable characteristics of the Constitution of 1978, and the cracks in one risk the break-up of the other.

The main problem faced by Spain today is how to restore legality; to determine what level of reach to give the instruments deployed to carry that out; how to combine firmness with deliberation; and what the immediate scenario will be (and the one afterwards) once measures are implemented to forcibly redirect the steps of a region that is currently entrenched in an attitude of disobedience. And the central government is directly responsible for all of this. With the support of Spanish and Catalan constitutionalist political forces, of course, but under the leadership of the government.

The Spanish government must not wait for judicial decisions in order to solve current political problems. Judges rule on crimes

Recognizing that secessionism promotes unlawfulness, causes businesses to flee the region and foments chaos, we ask: Where exactly does the government want to take us? Where are we headed? How and why is the activation of Article 155 being considered?

Mr Rajoy: you are right to demand the support that any democratic government deserves in circumstances such as these, but tell us, what is your plan? How are you planning to get us out of this? Don’t take cover behind letters and institutions. Explain yourself in detail and clearly. Otherwise, how can you call for the full support of the Spanish people, which is indispensable to preserve democracy?

English version by George Mills.

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