Spanish government pardons independence leaders in Catalonia. How did you get here?

(CNN Spanish) – The government of Spain granted a pardon to the nine convicted in the so-called “Procés trial”, the case followed by the leaders of the process that in 2017 sought the independence of Catalonia with a referendum that was declared illegal by both the central government and the Justice.

The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, ad his intentions on Monday at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, an emblematic place in Barcelona, ​​during the conference “Reunion: a future project for all of Spain”.

On Tuesday the Council of Ministers approved the pardon proposed by Sánchez. Pablo Casado, deputy and president of the Popular Party, ad that he will appeal the measure to justice.

The Supreme Court of Spain had handed down sentences of up to 13 years in October 2019 for nine Catalan independence leaders mostly involved in the Catalan government during the Procés, with charges such as sedition and embezzlement. The pardon will exempt them from serving their prison sentences, but will not raise them to disqualifications.

The President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez.

Sánchez said that the pardons are aimed at promoting reconciliation between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. “It is the best for Catalonia and for Spain and is in accordance with the Spanish Constitution,” Sánchez said in a nationally televised statement. “The government will work for understanding and not for confrontation.”

How did it all begin?

In October 2017, the Generalitat of Catalonia, led by Carles Puigdemont, called a referendum to declare the independence of this region in the northeast of Spain.

This is a long-standing conflict: on the national day of Catalonia, September 11, it is remembered when the army of King Philip V captured Barcelona in 1714.

The first statute of autonomy of Catalonia was approved in 1932, but during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco it was repressed and the use of the Catalan language was even prohibited.

A second statute of broad autonomy followed in 1979, four years after Franco’s death and during the democratic transition in Spain. At the same time, the Catalans voted in a majority (90%) in favor of the Spanish Constitution of 1978.

In 2006, the Spanish government supported Catalonia’s request for more powers and financial control over that region, and recognized for the first time its status as a “nation”. But four years later, in 2010, the Constitutional Court annulled that status, arguing that although there is a Catalan “nationality”, Catalonia itself is not a nation.

Pro-independence protesters campaigning for the 2017 referendum in Catalonia (Credit: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images)

After the financial crisis of 2009, the Catalonia campaign, one of the richest regions of Spain, for independence it gained momentum due to the collapse of the Spanish economy.

Specifically, the Generalitat proposed its own financial regime – similar to that enjoyed by the communities of the Basque Country and Navarra – alluding to the argument that Catalonia contributes much more to Spain than Spain does to Catalonia.

In 2014, a symbolic vote was held in Catalonia, according to which 80% of voters supported complete secession from Spain. However, only 32% of those qualified to do so voted.

With a participation of approximately 42% of the population, more than 2.5 million people turned out to vote in the referendum of October 1, 2017 and support for independence obtained 90% of the votes, according to the government. Catalan.

Amid strong protests, Spain’s highest court had declared the very holding of the consultation illegal under the Spanish Constitution. But the Generalitat went ahead anyway.

The Spanish government also sent thousands of national police officers before the vote. Almost 900 people were injured in the crashes.

The deposed president of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium after the failed independence referendum on October 1.

Meanwhile, the Catalan parliament then responded by voting in favor of the declaration of the independence of Catalonia at the end of October 2017.

How did Madrid react?

The then president of the government of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, invoked article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to annul the autonomy of Catalonia and dismiss the government of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

Shortly after, Spain’s attorney general, José Manuel Maza, announced in November that he would file charges for alleged crimes of rebellion and sedition against the deposed president of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, all members of his cabinet and other regional leaders.

But Puigdemont and four other former councilors of his government traveled that same day to Belgium, where they turned themselves in to the authorities of that country to avoid being arrested in Spain.

How the independence crisis unleashed in Catalonia 1:37

“I am not here to ask for political asylum. I am here in Brussels as the capital of Europe. I am here in order to act with freedom and security, “said Puigdemont in statements to the press.

Who were sentenced to prison?

The trial against the rest of his government continued in Spain and in October 2019 a sentence was handed down against nine Catalan independence leaders for the crime of sedition, condemning them to prison, while three others were released and sentenced to pay fines.

It was the former vice president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, (13 years in prison and 13 years of disqualification); former councilors Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa (12 years in prison and 12 years of disqualification); the former president of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell (11 years and 6 months in prison and the same period of disqualification); the former directors Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull (10 years and 6 months in prison and the same period of disqualification; the activists Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, (9 years in prison and the same period of disqualification)

All those convicted rejected the charges presented against them “for not being the facts constituting any crime,” according to the Spanish justice ruling.

On Twitter and from Belgium, where he still resides, Puigdemont reacted at the time to the sentences: “100 years in prison in total. An atrocity. Now more than ever, by his side and that of his families. It’s time to react, like never before. For the future of our sons and daughters. For democracy. For Europe. For Catalonia ».

In addition, there were new protests, highway shutdowns and clashes between supporters for independence and the Police.

Positions for and against independence

One of the main arguments in favor of Catalan independence is economic. The match Republican Esquerra, One of the promoters of the Procés, ensures that the creation of a Catalan state is necessary to ensure the well-being of the population, pointing out that this would allow Catalans to access their own resources and solve the tax imbalance with Spain: for years, the region complains of contributing more than it receives.

Is it a good idea for Catalonia to become independent? 12:36

Another argument put forward refers to a lack of identification with Spain and the fact that Catalonia would be a different nation with its own history, culture and language.

Among the reasons for opposing independence, is precisely the identification with Spain.

«I am Catalan and Spanish. I do not want Catalan society to break down as it is happening now. We lived very well, the Catalan people united, and they have turned things into what you can see, what you have seen in recent weeks, “Susana Andrés, 45, told CNN in 2017.

The economic argument is also taken by those who oppose independence. “It would be a disaster,” said Carlos, 57, who owns a business with suppliers in Spain and Europe, where the European Union indicated that it would not recognize Catalan independence.

«I feel a brutal division, I feel that those who are not independentists are singled out. And let’s not forget that (those who voted) are 2 million – Catalonia has 7 million. But they are the ones who make the most noise, “he pointed out.

The “reunion” sought by the government of Spain

Sánchez, current president of the Spanish government, announced on Monday that he will propose to the Council of Ministers on Tuesday, where it is expected to be approved according to the current law of 1870, to grant clemency to the nine convicted, almost a year and a half after their sentences.

“Spanish democracy is going to take a big step towards a necessary and urgent reunion,” said Sánchez during a conference given from the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

Sánchez, who seeks to end one of the political crisis that has been going on for more than three years and has shaken Spain, said that the pardon “does not question or revoke a sentence” and that it is carried out for reasons of “equity, justice or utility public ”.

“The reason for the pardons that we are going to approve is their benefit for coexistence,” he said.

Meanwhile, a recent survey carried out by the Center d’Estudis d’Opinió (CEO) of the Generalitat indicates that 47.7% of Catalans are against independence, while 44.5% say they are in favor.

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