It's been a week since Pablo Iglesias defended on television that the exile status of Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in Belgium - and by extension, I understand, that of his colleagues Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Lluís Puig and Meritxell Serret - is fully comparable with that of the Spanish Republican exiles during the Franco dictatorship. An interview in which he also pointed out that the standing that former king Juan Carlos I deserved was, on the other hand, that of a runaway. I had doubts about whether Iglesias would withstand the onslaught that would occur, not so much because of his status as the leader of Unidas Podemos but because of his rank in the Spanish government as number two of the four deputy prime ministers. Yet Iglesias has resisted the offensive of the entire right and much of the left, even from within his own ranks, something that has certainly caused him discomfort but must be acknowledged.
The latest to join in the discrediting of Iglesias is the former mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, who stated that she does not understand "how an intelligent and well-educated person such as the deputy PM can say things that have no basis", and she concluded that the appropriate term for Puigdemont was "fugitive" not "exile". Carmena, who was invited by Barcelona mayor Ada Colau to deliver the proclamation speech for the city's Mercè festival in 2019 and who has said that Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez and the other political leaders imprisoned in Lledoners are not political prisoners, is not far from the position taken by the Comuns towards Iglesias on this issue, which has oscillated between silence and criticism.
Colau even corrected Iglesias, asserting that no, Republican exile during the dictatorship was not comparable to Puigdemont's situation. Other leaders of the Comuns went still further, once again demonstrating the difficulties this party has because it cannot approach this issue without leaving its comfort zone. The campaign for the elections on February 14th will not be about exiles and prisoners - the TV, radio and other media networks that control the official narrative will ensure that this is not the case. In fact, we are already seeing the context in which the Moncloa government palace wants to present it all: the official leitmotif is reconciliation. The executioner of Catalan autonomy and article 155, together with the PP and Ciudadanos, hoisting the flag of reconciliation.
It shows, to say the least, enormous impudence, because the facts do not match the words. These elections, if anything, are mainly about the survival of the Catalan nation. About avoiding the dilution of the great tide of millions of people who back the independence of Catalonia due to fatigue or the mistakes of its leaders. Iglesias, unwittingly, put his finger on the sensitive spot in that TV interview, and the independence movement must find a way to defend its prisoners and exiles. With little outside help, but with the strength of its argument and of history.