Martí Estruch Axmacher


No voting--nor talking about voting--allowed

After months of endless, lethal paralysis, at least from a strategic point of view, the Spanish State is waking up and beginning to react to the growing "internationalization" of the new "Case of the Catalans", a direct heir to the "Case of 1714". But reacting in this case means literally that: that some people move and others scramble for an answer. Some send carefully synthesized 5-page reports and others counterattack with unintelligible, rambling 200-page memos. Some program chats and debates around the world and others rush around with their fleet of consuls and ambassadors calling up university deans and think tanks demanding the events be canceled. President Mas’ international visits are in a category all their own and trigger the mobilization of all possible armies, of course.

The obstacles and the letters and calls with threats of varying degrees have a range of results, but in general are not very effective. I have seen some of the letters signed by a Spanish ambassador and they are truly cringeworthy when seen through the eyes of a mature democracy that respects freedom of expression. I'm convinced that in many cases the threats are counterproductive. I will always remember how an important leader from a German "land" explained to me incredulously the pressure he had received from the Spanish embassy in Berlin against their hosting of an event about Catalonia's future organized by the Delegation of the Catalan Government. And he summed it up graphically: "It reminded me of the language and M.O. employed by East Germany."

Thanks to the shame of some or the discretion of others, including Catalan institutions, most cases don't come out in the public light. But once in a while, someone explains a story, like the University of Lisbon professor who published an article in the paper; or Pilar Rahola who explained her personal experience in a recent op-ed in La Vanguardia. The case of Clara Ponsatí will also go down in the annals of freedom of expression, or lack thereof, of Spanish university chairs. Many times, it's true, there is no proof beyond the certainty that something strange is happening. The last case, the conference that the oh-so-dangerous Carles Viver Pi-Sunyer was to give on June 17 in Brussels had a rather serious think tank of the likes of CEPS cancelling with less than 24 hours notice, offering nothing but lame excuses in lieu of an explanation.

The thing is, Europe isn’t buying this obstructionist strategy. When you don't have your own ideas, when all your arguments are based on threats and undermining the project of your adversary, you end up losing the game. In the Spanish State, everything that has to do with the sovereignty process goes right over their heads, and they are just pulling in when we are already a few stops ahead. The bird has flown. All of the evidence accumulated within the Spanish borders, which goes from buying favors, silence, and loyalties to closing newspapers and imprisoning journalists, just doesn't cut it north of the Pyrenees. And yes, Spain is an established democracy, hallelujah. However: not only does it not allow Catalans to vote, but it also doesn't want them to exercise their freedom of expression to even talk about voting to the world. Watch out though, when you walk into a restaurant and see that there are no tables, no waiters, nor a kitchen, in the end, you may suspect that this is no restaurant.

Originally published in Media.cat.