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There are two news formats which have been a roaring success in Madrid and which have never fully taken off in Barcelona. Breakfasts with politicians or businesspeople and, in the afternoon, cocktail parties and presentations, either of books or debates between two speakers. It's not that they don't take place in Barcelona, but they shine more in Madrid, since economic, business, diplomatic and even political powers show their faces more frequently; and not in vain, you can always get something from the cliques that form. That's also power: the people in charge know they have to leave their offices and having the official state gazette is not any old factor when it comes to bringing out, for example, senior officials of regulated companies. But, obviously, it's not the same having the Spanish state gazette (BOE) as the Catalan gazette (DOGC).

This Thursday Madrid saw one of those debates between two old glories in need of affection and permanent recognition. Felipe and Aznar1 as a pair, have their fascination. They've moved from the deepest hatred to gigging together. Who would have guessed that after that "váyase, señor González" (go away, Mr González), over the years they would end up holding hands. The fathers of the transition to democracy and the Constitution united against the wishes of the people of Catalonia. The case of González is rather curious: he's gone from appearing with former Catalan president Jordi Pujol, talking basically about Europe, at the beginning of the century, and from debating with Artur Mas as a pair over a solution for Catalonia, to bringing it full circle, getting along with Aznar and talking about Catalonia from the same point of view of the problem.

So, Felipe says to Aznar: "Catalonia is closer to losing autonomy than to winning independence". And the severe former PP leader seems to twirl his transparent moustache, blessing the notion. As before, when he said, talking about the independence movement, that "feelings don't create rights". They're sentences from the former and the latter, although they could well be from the latter and the former. Who's Bert? And who's Ernie? It's hard to tell them apart with this metamorphosis in which the future can only be like the past. Or worse.

Among so much online legal chat, which, far from surprising us, confirms things, nor should it be a shock that González and Aznar should come out to tell us to watch out, because the next 155 will be even worse than Mariano Rajoy's. Always with the threats. Spain never negotiates unless it's with those they see as equals.


Translator's note: 1. Felipe and Aznar are two former Spanish prime ministers: Felipe González (1982 - 1996) and José María Aznar (1996 - 2004). They were members, respectively, of the main Spanish centre-left and the main centre-right party, PSOE and PP.

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