A mere 24 hours after the swearing-in of Pere Aragonès as president of Catalonia, the Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez has given the first public signals from Brussels that, in the coming weeks, sitting on the table before his government cabinet, will be the pardons for the Catalan political prisoners. The way he explained it deserves, as a minimum, the following considerations.
First, a pardon is a measure of clemency by the Spanish government that none of the prisoners benefiting from the measure has requested. That said, it would be better for them to be set free than to spend a single additional hour in the unjust imprisonment they endure. In no way does an individual mercy decision solve the political problem that is deeply entrenched and without a solution on the horizon.
Second, to present the pardons with an assurance that vengeance and revenge are not principles of the constitution is no less of an empty gesture. It was due to a part of the Constitution, article 155, that Catalan autonomy was suspended and the government sacked, and there was no greater vengeance and revenge than that imposed or allowed by the Spanish government through the repression of the independence movement. It is understandable that Sánchez seeks to be understood in Spain but his government too has fuelled anti-Catalanism and the coup d'etat narrative.
Third, the loyalty that he asks of the Popular Party (PP) is in reality a gesture of cowardice. It is the same attitude which he has employed in allowing the issue to rot since the no-confidence motion with which he displaced Mariano Rajoy from the prime minister's seat in 2018. There has not been, nor will there be, a good time in Spain for pardons as the PP is tirelessly waiting for them to be granted in order to set the political situation ablaze. This has been known for a long time and, like everything that is delayed, it comes to Sánchez at the worst moment, with the Spanish conservative party activated and in electoral mode after the overwhelming victory of Isabel Díaz Ayuso in the Community of Madrid.
Fourth, an amnesty and the right to self-determination. The independence movement must assert its decisive strength in the Congress of Deputies to achieve a change of register in the relationship between Catalonia and Spain. Obviously, no one wants this as much as the pro-independence world, but any democrat will also support the release of the political prisoners and the return of the exiles. However, through its electoral results, Catalonia has won something more than just crumbs. Scotland is raising the issue and this must also be the battle for Catalonia. Brand Spain cannot continue to weigh down democratic values like a ball and chain and the results of February 14th, with 52% of votes for the pro-independence parties along with 74 seats out of 135.