Just how far did Spain go in the use of unmitigated gangster methods to prevent the Catalan independence movement's initiative aimed at creating a new state within the European Union from prospering? With all that we learned this Monday, it is not yet clear exactly where its limit was, but it is an irrefutable fact that the strategy, launched in 2015, and applied much more broadly between 2017 and 2020, is the largest cyberespionage operation known to date. Through two programs that are only sold to governments - Pegasus and Candiru - the hacking and infection were carried out of the mobile phones of all the presidents of Catalonia since 2010, politicians, activists, lawyers and a long list of other individuals that we now know, thanks to the diligent work of the University of Toronto's research centre, the Citizen Lab, which has also given rise to an extensive report published in influential magazine The New Yorker.
Many of the suspicions that people have held for years have now ceased to be so - as they have become verified facts. All of this has been done without any proper judicial mandate and using programs that are only available to governments and are intended to be used only for the fight against organized crime and terrorism. What we are talking about here does not, of course, fall into those categories. Rather, it is ideological persecution, led by those responsible for intensifying the state's reaction to the mobilization of Catalan citizens in favour of independence. Since all this was done in violation of conventions and bypassing legislation, it is obviously unknown how this information has been used by those who harvested it.
As important as knowing the people who were investigated illegally and who have, ultimately, been attacked by the Spanish state, is to understand the length of time for which this violation of privacy has continued. It began in 2015, with Mariano Rajoy already comfortably installed at the helm of Spain's People's Party government; it became widespread, still under the PP prime minister in turbulent 2017; and it continued when the Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez arrived at the Moncloa government palace on June 2nd, 2018 - for at least two more years. The actions of both prime ministers were, it can be presumed, illegal, but politically there is an enormous difference between one and the other. The Catalan pro-independence parties seated Pedro Sánchez in the Moncloa palace via a motion of no-confidence and the reward they received were illegal actions by the state against them while, at public level, they were being offered political dialogue.
We are not talking about the political fraud of the so-called dialogue table, but something much worse. When the president of Catalonia, Quim Torra, was received with honors at the Moncloa by Sánchez, his telephone rang; when the first dialogue table met in the palace of Pedralbes, with Torra and Aragonès as president and vice president, their phones were presumably apped, because the work of the Citizen Lab defines the period between 2017 and 2020 as when the largest number of infections and attacks took place.
The Citizen Lab report, whose methodology has been endorsed by Amnesty International, includes among its conclusions the need for an official investigation to determine where the responsibilities lie and to know more precisely the scope of the operation. It seems rather difficult that the chefs of the Spanish state will uncover the cake that they themselves have been cooking to make possible action outside the law through this mercenary spyware program. Frankly, you have to be more than skeptical and have no confidence in them. The denunciation that Puigdemont, Junqueras, political leaders and sovereignist organizations will make in Brussels today is essential.
It will be one further step in the public denunciation of the Spanish state. But frankly, none of this will impress even Sánchez, let alone the PP. The former has achieved what he wanted without too much effort and the PP, with Rajoy paid off, now has Feijóo ready to mount his own assault on the Moncloa palace. None of them will be punished by their voters for illegally persecuting pro-independence activists - they could even make political profit from having done so. The seriousness of the piracy committed can only be shown up by Catalans. And, in this aspect, unfortunately, the pro-independence world has not been characterized by its success either.