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Catalonia, a call for an amnesty and signs of a will to negotiate from Carles Puigdemont and Pedro Sánchez. These have been the only ingredients necessary to awaken the centralist and anti-Catalanist old guard of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) in recent days, with the indispensable participation of regional "baron" Emiliano García-Page. Felipe González, Alfonso Guerra, Jordi Sevilla, Nicolás Redondo and Joaquín Leguina are some of the Socialists who this week have fired off ammunition against the current Spanish government for not closing the door to agreeing to a law that would exonerate the independence process protagonists persecuted by Spanish justice.

It already happened with the pardons of the 9 Catalan leaders and now it is happening again: the dependence of the current PSOE on pro-independence votes in the Congress of Deputies has accentuated the prominence of Carles Puigdemont at the political table and has shown that the requirement of an amnesty for those pursued by justice over the Catalan sovereignty process may end up materializing. The first step taken by Pedro Sánchez's executive has, in fact, been something it has stopped doing: the party has ensured it no longer expresses, either actively or passively, that this measure is unconstitutional, and it is precisely this that has caused the Socialist old guard to vent its sensations of indignance.

One of the first to raise his voice was the party's elder figure par excellence, Felipe González. The former Spanish PM went so far as to admit that at the last general election on 23rd July he voted for the PSOE with little conviction; and he raised his hands to his head when he saw that, if this legislature stays alive, the Spanish government will depend constantly on Carles Puigdemont. Thus, the ex-Socialist leader harshly criticized the possibility of granting an amnesty to those who have faced retaliation by the state over their roles in the independence process. "The Constitution is not a piece of chewing gum that you can mould to the particular desire of each one," he said.

According to the former Spanish prime minister, granting an amnesty to those prosecuted for the independence process actions automatically translates into admitting they were right and making them think that "they acted correctly". It is also well to remember that Felipe González came to align himself with the theses of People's Party leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo during the election campaign, even urging Pedro Sánchez to let the list with the most votes govern. That is, the PP.

The old guard of the PSOE, united by the same common denominator: Catalonia

The old school PSOE leader who has gone even further has been the former deputy PM of Spain, Alfonso Guerra, who, indeed, was Felipe González's right-hand man for years and years. Although the two ended up drifting apart, Guerra showed this Thursday that there will always be something that binds them: their centralist notions of the Spanish state and the view that Catalonia should be kept on a short leash. The author of that famous phrase in which he boasted of having "ventilated" the draft bill of Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy in Congress, "passing the plane" across it, has now gone so far as to call the proposed amnesty an "impure" act, regardless of whether it is constitutional or not.

"It's a way of saying that democracy is repressive and that the coup plotters are the democrats", said Guerra, in reference to Carles Puigdemont. "They were not legal persons, they were coup plotters", reiterated the former number two figure in the Spanish government, referring to the pro-independence leaders. He even went as far as to characterize the Brussels meeting between the current deputy PM Yolanda Díaz and the Catalan president-in-exile as an "infamy against democracy".

The debate on the amnesty also caused another legendary Socialist leader, Nicolás Redondo Terreros, who became party secretary in Euskadi in the late 90s, to say that he intends to tear up his membership card. In an article, he argued that a new amnesty law would represent a downgrade for the 1978 regime; being, in his opinion, an exculpation contradictory to the one that took place in 1977. "Spanish democracy is in the hands of shameless people and criminals", he went as far as to state.

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Archive image of former Spanish deputy PM Alfonso Guerra / Photo: Europa Press

Redondo Terreros, who at the beginning of this century backed an alliance between Socialists and PP against the parties of Basque nationalists, affirmed that it is "difficult" to leave a party after serving in it for decades, but admits that he would have no other alternative if in the end Puigdemont and Sánchez agree on an amnesty for those responsible for the independence process, from the biggest protagonist to the least important. "It will continue to be called PSOE, but it will not be the party of the last years of the last century", he said.

Joaquín Leguina also had a similar message, accusing Pedro Sánchez of "playing" with the Constitutional Court on Wednesday. His words are not surprising. The former president of the Community of Madrid was expelled from the PSOE after expressing his support for the current incumbent, the PP's Isabel Díaz Ayuso. Now he has decided to request an alliance between Feijóo and Sánchez, in order not to depend on the pro-independence parties.

Leguina stressed that there are "other positive solutions" for the PSOE that do not include "handing over the key to government to a gentleman who is self-exiled, a fugitive from justice, which would undermine Spanish justice, destroy the independence of powers, etc." From this point of view, he too defended a pact between the PSOE and PP, as Feijóo offered to Sánchez last week, proposing that the Spanish conservatives occupy the Moncloa palace for two years. The excuse that Leguina gave for opposing an amnesty for Catalans is that "the Constitution prohibits general pardons".

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File image of Emiliano García-Page / Photo: EFE

Jordi Sevilla, Zapatero's minister, also opposed

Although José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has always flaunted his almost unconditional support for Pedro Sánchez, he cannot stop some of the politicians who were previously part of his government from doing the opposite. The Valencian Jordi Sevilla, public administration minister between 2004 and 2007, was very brief but very forceful when Carles Puigdemont declared the amnesty law to be a condition to start negotiating with the PSOE for an investiture of Sánchez. "I call for an election, and I leave it there," he wrote on his Twitter account.

Emiliano García-Page flings mud, and also condemns the amnesty

One of the only survivors of the PSOE in the Socialist defeat in the Spanish municipal and autonomous elections on 28th May, Emiliano García-Page, also had words to say on the issue of the amnesty. The president of the huge Castilla-La Mancha community, an eternal enfant terrible for Pedro Sánchez, has warned that approving this legislation would imply "violating the principle of equality before the law".

Page, who together with Javier Lambán already came out months ago to loudly proclaim his opposition to the reform of the Spanish Penal Code, stated on Tuesday that an amnesty "collides with the Constitution". As well, he asked to start "making it clear" that self-determination is "simply impossible".