This Friday marks the deadline in Spain's Congress of Deputies for the registration of partial amendments to the proposed Penal Code reform that aimed to repeal the crime of sedition and modify that of aggravated public disorder. And the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which has already announced its overall support for the new law, will present amendments in an attempt to include the additional reform of the crime of misuse of public funds. This news, reported by the ACN agency and confirmed to ElNacional.cat by ERC sources, who explain that they are in negotiation with the Spanish government. The proposal involves a "surgical" reform that will test "the margins to redefine the offence, will clarify it and avoid biased interpretations" once the application of the penal regulations is in the hands of the judges.
On Tuesday, in the usual informal gatherings that take place in Madrid on Spain's Constitution Day, it was Pedro Sánchez himself who showed himself ready to consider the reform of the crime of misuse of funds. In a conversation with journalists, the Spanish prime minister did not clarify how it would be carried out, but he made it clear that he will not agree to reduce the penalties for corruption offences because there can be "no step backward" in the fight to combat it. The issue is that the misuse of funds offence as currently defined takes in public spending decisions that have nothing to do with embezzlement or self-interest. The Socialist leader also recalled that Friday marks the deadline for presenting amendments to the sedition reform, and asked reporters to wait until that day to know the content of the amendments that will be registered.
Nor did ERC sources consulted by ElNacional.cat want to reveal the content of the amendments in advance, beyond confirming that they will be presented. Be that as it may, these same sources affirm that they "continue to work demandingly" with the aim of "putting justice where there is injustice". With these amendments they want to "advance the dejudicialization of social and political life and limit the potential arbitrariness of the Spanish state to persecute and repress the independence movement". And they add: "We want to prevent the crime of misuse of funds from being used arbitrarily again to persecute the pro-independence movement, and at the same time to ensure that a reform cannot be used to reduce penalties in the event of corruption."
In 2015, under the government of Mariano Rajoy, the crime of misuse of public funds was reformed to expand its breadth: it was no longer only those who appropriated public money for their own or another's benefit that were punished, but also who carried out "disloyal administration" of these. This last crime, "disloyal administration", already existed. But the PP executive unified them in a single article and equalized the penalties, which reach up to twelve years in prison and twenty years of disqualification. The law change came in the wake of Catalonia's first unofficial consultation at the polls on independence, in 2014, and the new law was used to convict some of the politicians who, in line with their electoral mandate, carried out Catalonia's second independence consultation, the 2017 referendum.
Podemos: amendments on public disorder
The misuse of funds section is not the only area that will be addressed in this process of amendments to the reform of the Penal Code. The junior partners of the Spanish coalition, Unidas Podemos, are also focusing on the modification of the aggravated public disorder offence, which at present broadens the definition of the crime and also makes penalties more severe. "We are working with expert lawyers so that the protest is not criminalized," say sources consulted in the alternative left party. With regard to misuse of funds, they will be watching the amendments that come out of the negotiation between ERC and the Spanish government.