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It's taken a while, but it has arrived. From now on, it will not be possible to claim that it is just a mantra of the Catalan independence movement: Spain is now classified, in the annual ranking published by the influential business magazine The Economist, as a flawed democracy, having lost the status it had previously been awarded as a full democracy. The pressure that the Spanish government must have been exerting - since no one likes to be in this position and for many years Spain has been approaching the abyss, but has always managed to avoid it at the last moment - must have been enormous, given other known precedents. But this time it has not been enough and until next year, when a new ranking is published, Spain will have to carry the The Economist's assessment in its backpack of democratic deficits; as well as the realization that the Spanish judiciary carries around too many burdensome injustices for it to be considered comparable to that of countries which are in full democracy.

Probably, Spain has taken this plummet because of the enormous weight that justice has had in such different decisions as those of the gag law, the persecution of artists over what were clearly issues of freedom of expression, the ban on parliamentary debates on territorial unity or the monarchy and the disproportionate sentences given to the pro-independence political prisoners. Or the situation of members of the Catalan government who went into exile in 2017 and whose extradition the Spanish Supreme Court has demanded from the justice systems of different countries which, one after the other, have rejected the requests. From Belgium, which was the first, to Germany, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands and also Italy. No country in the European Union or the rest of the continent has given way to Spain's Supreme Court, the exiled leaders have maintained their status as citizens with freedom of movement, much to the chagrin of the Spanish courts and the media loudspeakers which support them.

This new ranking is a significant victory, as The Economist cannot be seen as a medium that is in tune with Catalan pro-independence demands, but rather with the need for a referendum that will clarify the reality of the the demands made by the pro-independence parties as winners of all Catalan elections held since 2012. That is, the publication is against independence but treats democratic pronouncements made by the people with enormous respect. It is very normal that the Spanish government does not want to talk about the issue and even tends to minimize the impact of such negative news. It is no less curious that Spain has been defined as a flawed democracy when a PSOE and Unidas Podemos government is in power and, on the other hand, managed to avoid this downgrading under the governments of Mariano Rajoy.

This goes to show two things: on the one hand, it has taken root internationally that Spain has a serious problem with justice, when courts in other countries are seen to be going in a different direction. The naive idea that it the others who are heading in the erroneous direction has little international credibility. The ruling of the EU's General Court on exiled president Carles Puigdemont and the other members of his government who left Catalonia and went into exile in 2017 is expected around May or June this year. It may be the blow that finishes off this exceedingly dark era in which the highest Spanish courts have been the protagonists.

But there is a second equally important factor: Spain's lack of international credit. It is not that Joe Biden has so far avoided meetings with Pedro Sánchez and even dodged a photo in the hallways, it is that the Spanish government's level of participation in international conflicts or in multilateral decisions is politically very minor. The executive is trying, and one day will probably succeed, to get some non-existent green shoots to yield results. But you only have to pay a little attention to the chancelleries based in Madrid or to those deals made in Brussels or Berlin to see that the capacity for foreign influence is equal to that of the Catalan pro-independence parties in Spanish politics. That is, zero.