Friday, January 15, 2016

Catalunya On the Road to Independence

We had a bet about the new Catalan pro-independence government.  My friend paid up the five euros, thinking that our bet had been that Junts pel Si and the CUP would reach an agreement in time and there would not be new elections.  But after rereading my last blog post, I realized our bet had been that Artur Mas would be invested.  I’ve returned the five euros and forked over five.  We’re both sad to see President Mas go, but happy that the process is once again moving ahead.

Still, I wasn’t confused about everything.  I was right to think that President Mas would step aside in order not to be the stumbling block on the road to independence.  Just when we all thought that on Monday new elections would be convoked for March, President Mas announced on Saturday afternoon that the Junts pel Si coalition and CUP had come to an agreement.  He would step aside.  The CUP would formally agree, in writing, that they would enable a stable government and not vote against anything that promoted the move towards independence.  There would not be new elections in March after all.  Mas proposed Carles Puigdemont as his successor and this was acceptable to the CUP.

Carles Puigdemont has, until now, been the mayor of Girona.  He is a journalist and a long-time independence supporter, helping to form and serving as the president of the Association of Municipalities for Independence.  He speaks Catalan, Spanish, English, French, and Romanian.

I was thrilled that the two sides had come to an agreement.  I was equally sad that Artur Mas would not be the president who would lead the process to its conclusion.  I watched his 50-minute discourse on television on Saturday and had that overwhelming experience when you cry both for joy and for sorrow.

I’m very sorry that Artur Mas will not be the next president of Catalunya, the one who brings in the new era.  I am also disappointed with the people who never liked him and still don’t like him and don’t give him credit for the work he has done – at significant personal risk and with all the force of the powerful Spanish state against him – and for what he has achieved for Catalans in spite of much adversity. 

These are the self-proclaimed, so-called radicals, supposedly open-minded, progressive people who reject prejudice and injustice.  And yet they are the ones who can’t let go of an old idea -- the idea that because ex-President Jordi Pujol was (probably) corrupt (pending trial), that his successor is also corrupt.  Guilt by association smacks of injustice.  It is an old idea that should have been retired by now. 

They hold it against him that he joined the independence movement late.  “He didn’t use to be an independentista”, some friends tell me.  And so what?  “He only became an independentista because he saw the public demand for it”.  But isn’t that what a good public representative is supposed to do?  I’m sure many Americans would like that of their elected representatives when it comes to imposing some sort of gun control.  It seems to me that someone who can see what the public wants and can see that there is, practically speaking, no other real solution to the nation’s problems, merits credit, not scorn.  Artur Mas was able to see the reality around him and change his political stand accordingly.  His critics are not able to do the same. 

Carles Puigdemont, the new Catalan president, appears also to have what it takes to do the job.  Those on both sides of the old arguments support him and wish him (and the nation) well.  He has been officially invested, the new government has been formed, and Catalunya is back on the road to independence.

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