The effrontery of the interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, justifying the infiltration of an undercover member of the Spanish National Police into Catalan social movements due to the need to prevent crimes from being committed, should make us all ashamed. It is a response more typical of the governing ministers who directed the security of the Francoist state in the years preceding the Spanish Transition than a response from the government that defines itself as the most progressive in the history of Spain. It is clear that Marlaska is not a progressive and his past career as a judge shows it. The same for many of the responses he has offered when his ministry has had conflicts, and you only have to recall the scandalous case of the Melilla border fence. But the most concerning aspect is that Marlaska says this because he has carte blanche, he knows that there will be no consequences for him and that it is simply possible to make these types of utterance, which, although they clarify many things, also reveal a lot about the way power is understood without any regard for democratic approaches.
What Marlaska says is no accident. Nor is what he does. The Spanish government has entered a regressive drift and, after reaching agreements up till now with the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) on the key lines of the legislature, it has embarked upon an apparently separate path, a maxim of each to their own. Once the last hurdle was overcome, which was the reform of the Penal Code with the repeal of the crime of sedition, the modification of the crime of misuse of funds and the incorporation of a new crime of aggravated public disorder, the Socialists (PSOE) have followed two premises as regards Catalan independentism: no further concessions, and maximum harassment. With respect to the first, there was a new example this Tuesday with the refusal of the minister for the PM's department, Félix Bolaños, to turn the Via Laietana police station into a centre of historical memory. In fact, he went further and stated that the police station had already been redesignated, because those who work there "defend the Constitution and democratic values".
In the same line, Pedro Sánchez has also made his contribution. In a meeting with the Socialist group in Congress, he boasted that he had broken the independence movement and that under his mandate the situation that originated in 2017 with the independence referendum had been reversed. The prime minister then continued this narrative to recall the famous statement by the then Spanish deputy PM, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, who had also put an end to the independence movement and dismantled the Diplocat - the Catalan government's foreign affairs activity. "It's no longer called Diplocat, it's called Diplocat in liquidation," Soraya said, a few weeks before the pro-independence parties swept back into office in the 2017 elections. It's clear that Sánchez is doing this to attract votes from outside Catalonia, but elections are always like a pendulum: if you don't calculate it right, what you gain in Spain you can end up losing in Catalonia.
Marlaska, Bolaños and Sánchez are, at this end of the political cycle, speaking and acting in a way not very different from how the People's Party (PP) would do, in an attempt to recover the centre they have lost. But the government still has nine months to go, it has to keep passing laws, and a gesture of faux collaboration like that of the PP in the 'Only yes means yes' law helps more to centre the PP than to relocate the PSOE. In the end, given that Podemos takes an opposing view, an alliance between Socialists and PP on such an important issue is not what is most in the Spanish government's interest. Above all, after the recognition of the PM that he had taken up the question late and badly, when a law change was clamorously required in view of the sentences. Because the judges have also been playing their own game here.