There's now an alternative pro-union narrative about the Catalan independence process doing the rounds and its representatives have managed to trick none other than the Financial Times, who on Friday published a 3,497-word article (in other words, it's very long) which, in short, explains that the Catalan government, in collusion with the Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan police, allegedly, put together a secret service to spy on opponents of Catalan independence. The newspaper's correspondent in Madrid, who skilfully repackages the reports fabricated by Spanish police on the famous documents seized from the Mossos at an incinerator, summarises the idea as "the crisis over independence has turned the tourist destination into a hub of espionage", concludes that the independence push "has turned the tourist destination into a hub of espionage".
Nothing new. The funny (or tragic) thing is that the newspaper of reference of the City of London has swallowed it and presented it as a story in the style of The Third Man. In fact, the headline it "City of spies". They even directly compare today's Barcelona with cold-war Vienna, the film's setting.
Despite the journalist quoting the sociologist Oriol Bartomeus saying that Spain has seen its "most serious political constitutional crisis in Spain since at least the end of the Franco regime", this doesn't suit him and he dramatically trivialises everything to strengthen his story of a cold war. Events, they write, have left "[an]other Barcelona, a land of espionage, warring political tribes and secret recordings". Later on, they double down on the idea: the independence process is a "profound political and social crisis" which has "turned one of the richest and most cosmopolitan parts of Europe into one of the most turbulent". They return to the theme again at the end: "Catalonia has been plunged into social and political turmoil". Scary, right?
The problem is that the correspondent doesn't mention a single number to back up their apocalyptic claims. Strange for such a newspaper
The problem is that the correspondent doesn't mention a single figure to back up their apocalyptic claims. Strange for such a newspaper. If they'd done their job, they'd have had a shock: the number of crimes has gone up -at hardly scares rates, including the terrorist attacks of last summer-, but the social and economic crisis, if we look at the data, isn't there, nor is one expected. The independence process hasn't left serious economic harm. Quite the opposite. The FT, of all newspapers, should know this. It goes without saying it doesn't recall the approval of the decree, raced through in September 2017, to ease the transfer of companies' registered head offices out of Catalonia. And it's like this throughout the article.
The only new thing offered is the testimony of a "Catalan police intelligence officer" called Jordi Cruz, who warns the journalist: "My colleagues could kill me for talking to a journalist, seriously". The man from the FT is so struck that he doesn't even note that the officer's fake name is the same as a famous TV chef. Cruz explains that the Catalan government and police wanted to develop their "own secret intelligence service to rival that of the Spanish state", a service he "became aware of... through friends who were on the inside". Through friends. Impressive, right?
Cruz is very clear on everything. Others aren't so sure. The correspondent has also spoken with "four officers... as well as people close to the Spanish intelligence services and the Spanish government" who only "believe [that] attempts were made". As this doesn't fit with the story, they cite again the Spanish police report which claims that the Mossos had an "illegal espionage department". What do you want them to say? Well, yeah.
They've lumbered the journalist, in a very theatrical operation, with a couple of notes fabricated by a former police inspector who wanted revenge on a rival
It's all older than sliced bread. Someone has again lumbered the journalist with four notes from 2014 to 2017 fabricated by a former Spanish police inspector who wanted revenge on a rival, resuscitated by certain Madrid newspapers in December and March, despite Fernández Díaz's interior ministry itself discrediting them. They were repackaged in "oficio 3022/2017" which the Barcelona Provincial Information Brigade of the Spanish police delivered to judge Carmen Lamela at the National Audience court, the investigating judge in the case against former Mossos chief Josep Lluís Trapero and others over the referendum.
Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn also refuted them decisively.
The FT, however, buys the whole pack. The victims of the pro-independence secret service, they explain, were "lawyers, politicians, professors, journalists and civil-society groups deemed opponents of the independence process". Representative of these victims, they present, with black-and-white photos, Josep Ramon Bosch, founder of the far-right entity Somatemps and former president of Societat Civil Catalana, and José María Fuster-Fabra, a lawyer sympathetic to Ciudadanos, former activist for Fuerza Nueva and defender, among other soldiers and police officers, of general Rodríguez-Galindo (sentenced to 71 years for murder) and four of the Mossos charged over the death of Juan Andrés Benítez in Barcelona's Raval while he was being arrested (they agreed to accept imprisonment).
Of course, the author doesn't describe them like that. As in the whole report, they make an effort to ennoble their material and their sources and fit them in a story of union supporters = good, independence supporters = bad. Somatemps, for example, is a "pro-unity civil-society group". Fuster-Fabra is a "prominent lawyer who made his name defending victims of the Basque terrorist group Eta as well as Catalan police officers and their families". Etc. As for the rest, zip.
In 3,497 words (six and a half sides), including a concise history of the independence movement, there's no space to mention those in prison, in exile or facing charges
And you still haven't seen everything. In 3,497 words (six and a half sides), including a concise history of the independence movement, the correspondent doesn't manage to find one or two lines to mentioned that there are imprisoned a vice-president and five ministers from a government, the former speaker of a Parliament, the former president of the Catalan National Assembly and the current president of Òmnium, as well as a president, four ministers and two former deputies in exile (or "not in Spain" for those who are neutral). Nor is there a mention of the others accused, like Cèsar Puig, major Trapero, superintendent Laplana, the 721 town mayors, etc. They're also quiet about the decisions of other European justice systems, which don't think highly of the charges.
Nor is there a word for the police attacks on the day of the referendum and the thousand injured, which reportedly prompted Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, to get involved. Nor the digital repression, considered "unacceptable" by the Internet Society, or for the regular searches of departments, entities and others. Nor for the cost of repression the 1st October: 87 million euros, as admitted by then-interior minister, Ignacio Zoido. Nor for the spying, this time real, by the Civil Guard. It must be that these facts aren't real, proven or important, or maybe only one side has "victims". Watch out, take care.
To make matters worse, this surgical exercise in selective reporting confirms that the Spanish secret service had "a dozen-strong team" following president Puigdemont all over Europe. They don't mention, on the other hand, that there are legal investigations open in Germany, Belgium and Finland looking into this. Anyway. We'd never finish.
How has the union movement managed to trick a Financial Times correspondent educated at Cambridge and with eight years' experience, four of them in Paris?
Cruz is clever and seems to know who he's talking to. He's got it all thought out to sell his story to a Brit. He tells the journalist that the idea is "as if the Scottish regional government started trying to create its own rival to MI5 and were targeting people for their political ideology".
Another of the report's objectives, or the operation behind it, is to discredit the so-called Operation Catalonia, the misnomer by which a varied series of actions (political, police, economic, etc) against the independence movement are known. They're satisfied with saying that "the Spanish government has long denied that Operation Catalonia ever existed, and no wrongdoing has ever been proved in the courts". Wow. What a surprise. On the fall of Fernández Díaz or the parliamentary commissions in Barcelona and Madrid on the case, nada.
That the correspondent is clueless about Spanish politics or they'll do anything for a pittance is confirmed by various details. We'll mention three to not overdo things. At one point they write that the PP is "generally loathed throughout Catalonia", but doesn't add the detail which would help quantify this: they've fallen from 19 seats (of 135) in the Catalan Parliament in 2012 to 4 now. Earlier, they write of the "beloved constitution", skipping over the fact that more than 60% of Spaniards would love it, yes, but if it were reformed, according to all the surveys of the last eighteen months. A third clue: they quote an OK Diario journalist, which is the newspaper the most akin to the FT, as everyone knows...
How has the union movement managed to trick a Financial Times correspondent educated at Cambridge and with eight years' experience, four of them in Paris? Some thoughts to put together a hypothesis: the man just arrived nine months ago (August 2017), when the whole independence process was already cut and dried; he speaks Spanish badly, according to colleagues who know him (his LinkedIn profile only mentions English, obviously, and French), and Catalan not all all; he's under pressure to substitute his predecessor, a hardened professional who had mastered both the Catalan case and the Madrid politics scene.
He was a perfect victim.