Pablo Iglesias’ 94-second response, in which he talked about Catalan president Carles Puigdemont's political status as an exile, comparing it to the Spanish republicans exile after the Spanish Civil War and pointing out the differences with the fugitive Juan Carlos, former king of Spain, is surely the most important gesture made by one of the main players in Spanish politics since the events of October 2017.
I do not know what led Iglesias to take a step forward Sunday night on live television, in a large audience format; nor how long he will be able to hold out without clarifying the meaning of his statements. As it was to be expected, all sorts of adjectives, insults and disqualifications are falling on him after his declarations. I am not very keen on Iglesias, and it is likely that there are interests in play hidden under his response, truthful as it may be. However, what politician does not try to make a profit from his statements? Iglesias showed bravery, knowing that his statement would awaken a patriotic closing of ranks, in response to any declaration that sounded even remotely like a defence of the exiled Catalan president.
Iglesias made this statement not only as the undisputed leader of Podemos, but as the fourth vice-president of the Spanish government. Hence the added value and importance. What follows is a transcript of the conversation between the journalist and Iglesias, which lasted just over a minute and a half.
Question: Why is the former king of Spain an escapee and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont an exile, as described by your words?
Answer: If Carles Puigdemont is in Brussels, it is not because he stole money from anyone, nor because he tried to get rich, but because he took his political ideas to an extreme, through -in my opinion- wrongful ways which are not necessarily exempted from legal proceedings. But in a way he, excuse my French, screwed over his life forever due to his political ideals, which I do not share. I also do not believe his actions should not be exempted from legal proceedings. Regarding Juan Carlos however, if it is true, allegedly of course, far from me to accuse him of anything without proof... if he did steal money, used financially-opaque credit cards or otherwise, I believe the moral consideration is entirely different.
Q: Do you consider him [Puigdemont] a true exile, such as the republicans who went into exile during the Franco dictatorship, for example? Can there be such a comparison?
A: I’ll say it clearly, I believe so. That does not mean I believe in their cause, the path they chose to follow, or that his actions should be exempted from legal proceedings. I do believe, however, that his actions were motivated by his beliefs. I think they were a mistake; I do not want Catalonia to be independent from Spain. But if you were to say: Puigdemont’s actions are as reproachable as Juan Carlos’, I would have to disagree. I am truly sorry if my words cause discomfort. But I do not agree with that statement.
Two questions, two specific answers, were enough to reopen Pandora’s box. One can clearly see how damaging the one-sided narrative of the a por ellos, the trial against the independence movement and all the lies that were told there, the trivialisation of the coup d’état concept, the rebellion charges and the depiction of the peaceful Catalan independence movement as a group of criminals have been. In Spain this narrative has been fed for years, again and again, over television, radio and newspapers. It has soaked through every crevice of the Spanish territory.
That is why Iglesias statement is so important, and why I care little about the -electoral?- interest it may have. It helps the process of deconstructing the imposed narrative, which will take a long time. One example of this: How long must it be before it is recognized that the Catalan exiles did not flee Spanish Justice, but instead preferred to put themselves in the hands of European justice when faced with Spain’s injustice?