A Catalan political storm arrived, thundered and wreaked destruction, and then apparently departed again - all on a single afternoon. It was a clash with well-known protagonists: once again, ERC deputy Gabriel Rufián let loose an invective aimed at Catalan president in exile and former Junts leader Carles Puigdemont, without mentioning the latter's name. It happened on the TV3 programme Planta Baixa when Rufián was interviewed after being awarded the prize of Best MP 2.0 by the Association of Parliamentary Journalists (APP) last night in Madrid. Ironically, the incident blew up when he was asked to comment on past mistakes he had made on social media, and after mentioning a couple of examples, Rufián was drawn back to one of the tensest moments of the independence process, in the final week of October 2017 when it was uncertain whether president Puigdemont's government would declare the independence of Catalonia - or perhaps step back and call elections as an autonomous community of Spain. Said Rufián: "To say that you have never completely messed up on the internet is to lie. On the other hand, to say that the independence of Catalonia was proclaimed due to one of my tweets is idiotic. In any case, the idiot is the one who proclaimed it, not the one who tweeted". Immediately, journalist Ricard Ustrell joked and replied to Rufián: "You just tweeted, give it a nuance if you want." But Rufián let it go: "No, no, a pleasure." And that was the end of the interview.
🎙 “Dir que no l’has cagat algun cop a la xarxa és mentir. Dir que per un tuit meu es va proclamar la independència és de tarat. En tot cas, tarat és qui la va proclamar, no qui fa un tuit.”— Planta baixa TV3 (@plantabaixatv3) June 8, 2022
👤 @gabrielrufian, millor parlamentari 2.0 #PlantaBaixaTV3
▶ https://t.co/MxqOBxQFac pic.twitter.com/zfqs0vUuuv
Rufián's words caused outrage, first of all among Puigdemont's colleagues in Junts. One of the toughest critics was Josep Rull, who said that Rufián had been "Arrogant and rude, as always. And presumptuous. His tweet about '155 silver coins' - apart from being disgusting - was irrelevant to the decision to maintain the Declaration of Independence (agreed by Parliament with the vote of 70 'idiotic' deputies)". For his part, the Junts MP Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas was also indignant: "If any of us had said that about Oriol Junqueras, ERC would be incensed. We look forward to disauthorization and apologies. Enough!"
Rufián's comment not only opened up the ever-present differences between the two main Catalan pro-independence parties, but did so with a reference to one of the most divisive moments of all in their recent history: the days of late October 2017, when Catalans who had voted in the referendum clung to hopes for independence at the same time as the Spanish government was preparing to impose direct rule under Article 155. In this context, when it was announced that the Catalan government was going to step back from the brink and call Spanish autonomous elections, Rufián had tweeted his famous message: "155 silver coins" he tweeted, an analogy to the 30 silver coins for which Judas betrayed Jesus of Nazareth.
Disavowed by Aragonès
With this context, combined with other more recent accusations by Rufián against Puigdemont, the MP's ERC colleagues also came quickly to disavow his words. Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, made an immediate public statement in the Catalan Parliament, expressing his rejection of Rufián's phrase and asking his party colleague for "an explanation but also a rectification". The president also contacted Puigdemont, to whom he also conveyed his displeasure at the ERC parliamentarian's words.
And thus, only a few hours after setting the independence movement ablaze, Gabriel Rufián himself came in with the hose to try and douse the fire, in statements in the corridors of the Spanish Congress: "I apologize to those who may have felt offended, starting with Puigdemont, Pere Aragonès and Oriol Junqueras. I think it's possible to explain this in many different ways and I have explained it in the worst way. In other words, I'm sorry". Thus, Rufián admitted his mistake after Aragonès had publicly disavowed him.
"I think everyone makes mistakes and everyone can make mistakes. I did so today. My statements are very unfortunate, in any case, and I must apologize to anyone who may have felt offended. I wanted to clear up statements that have been made for years underestimating the will of the people of Catalonia who proclaimed independence in 2017 and who came out full of courage and strength. There are people who belittle that, presenting it something that happened because of something that was said on Twitter. I wanted to clear that up and I made a mistake," Rufián acknowledged in his statement.