Torra takes the stage

Despite all the grandstanding, the regional premier failed to produce a real governing program

Catalan regional premier Quim Torra.
Catalan regional premier Quim Torra.Marc Gonzalez

Catalan premier Quim Torra on Tuesday attempted to pass off as a governing program what was nothing more than an agitation plan. His words said nothing new to the citizens of Catalonia, who have already been promised things by pro-independence parties that they are not in a position to offer.

The secessionists have been doing for years – with no results – what Torra has now announced that he will do, as though it were the first time. The regional leader also failed to produce any new proposals for Catalans who reject the secessionist program, despite the fact that Torra’s address affected them directly. And this is not so much because of the content of Torra’s speech, which never mentioned them at all, but because he forced them to decide on the exact nature of an act that was held inside a theater, where the orator up on stage and the audience down in their seats cheered each other on as they rhetorically fought the ghost of a repressive Spanish state that ceased to exist as soon as the lights went back on.

Torra said that his address at the National Theater of Catalonia complied with the mandate that he received from a regional parliament that he and his colleagues are keeping closed. But this was not the only trick that he resorted to in his bid to keep the independence movement artificially united, and to silence the opposition in the name of “the people of Catalonia,” which he described as some kind of metaphysical entity different from the sum of its citizens.

To announce that he will return to parliament to ask it what to do once the courts issue a ruling in the upcoming trial of secessionist leaders is to show disloyalty to his own people. Concealed under the lyrical rhetoric was a crude display of fratricidal treachery, since what Torra was really saying was that he plans to transfer away any criminal responsibility derived from potentially disobeying the court’s decision, passing it on from the Catalan government, headed by the PdeCAT party, to the parliament speaker, who is a member of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC).

In this scenario, his calls for permanent citizen mobilization would have a different meaning, were it not for the fact that Torra also talked about a permanent negotiation with Madrid. So much insistence on negotiation can only mean that he does not know where this mobilization and these negotiations are headed. In other words, other than plans to call new regional elections, Torra lacks a strategy that might lead to the Catalan republic that he keeps promising to some, and which he tries to use as an extortion tool against others.

The grandiose comparisons that Torra routinely resorts to cannot hide the gravity of the decisions that – as the top authority of the regional government, not merely as an actor on a stage – he will have to adopt at the security meeting scheduled for Thursday, and which he will preside. What’s at stake is not the gullibility or the patience of Catalans, who are dealing with a leader who likes to portray himself as a combatant in heroic battles of yore and to proclaim himself to be “on the right side of history.” What is at stake here is the efficiency of police work against the threat of terrorism, and the preservation of a social peace that is at risk due to the partisan way in which Torra and his executive are managing Catalonia’s public spaces.

English version by Susana Urra.

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