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The congress of the pro-independence party Junts per Catalunya (shortened as Junts, abbreviated as JxCat, and translated as Together for Catalonia) has just elected Jordi Sànchez i Picanyol as its general secretary, along with Carles Puigdemont as president, marking the transformation of the three-year-old JxCat electoral brand into a new, fully-fledged party. Sànchez, a political scientist by training, has a long trajectory in pro-independence, pacifist and left-wing activism, and in the autumn of 2017, when he led the pro-independence group Catalan National Assembly (ANC), he became, together with Jordi Cuixart, president of the other major pro-independence group Òmnium, half of "the Jordis". Sentenced to 9 years in prison by the Supreme Court in last year's trial, and already having spent more than 1,000 days in jail, Sanchez now has the challenge of articulating JxCat as "the centre lane of the independence movement." Sanchez spoke about this with in his first interview as general secretary of JxCat, in the last hours of what has turned out to be his last prison leave for the moment, and from Lledoners prison, where he received the news of his election.

How does it feel to have to go back to prison after 15 days of an open regime which has now been suspended?
Strange, very. You are aware that you are being caged up again. You are a bird that has been released for a few hours and is forced to return. There is a certain impotence but also the conviction that the strength of all the political prisoners - in terms of commitment to our political work and the defence of self-determination - is much stronger than any door that closes and limits our movements. A strange feeling of a certain helplessness. But also of strength, because the intentionality of the prison has not had the effect they were seeking: they have neither buckled me nor buckled us.

In these conditions, you have been elected general secretary of Junts per Catalunya and Carles Puigdemont president of the party. To what extent can an organization like this be governed from prison and exile?
There is a political leadership that president Puigdemont and other people represent, myself included, and imprisonment or exile not only does not make this impossible but has consolidated it. Leadership is also exercised from prison and from exile. The government of a project like Junts per Catalunya is a more complex reality. Despite the very strong leadership of president Puigdemont, it is not a one-man project, there is a team of people and it has plural governance. In the most executive dimension, which is the area that concerns a general secretary, I will propose a series of measures so that, although I am in prison, this does not lead the direction of Junts per Catalunya to be less efficient and resolutional.

Is the new formulation of Junts per Catalunya as a party the umpteenth refoundation of the so-called post-Convergència space or is this the real thing? Is it the definitive version?
Junts is not the refoundation of anything. It is the consolidation of a space that was born in December 2017 under a repression unleashed by the Spanish state's institutions, in the midst of a new situation for everyone and which caught us unawares. Prison and exile forced us to make decisions and formulations that we sensed might have some durability. But we didn't imagine all that we had to experience from January 2018. In this scenario, Junts per Catalunya was born with a stamp of transversality, which most closely resembled what [unified 2015 pro-independence electoral ticket] Junts pel Sí used to be. Now, in July 2020, this political space has finally decided to organize itself with the aim of becoming a party that occupies the [pro-independence] centrality. And there we can find all the different sensibilities of pro-sovereignism.

And how come no agreement has been reached to integrate PDeCat after months of negotiations?
There were people from PDeCat and other political formations who wanted more traditional formulas, in the style of coalitions or federations...

... this is not the case with the formation that up till now has been yours, the Crida, which has entered a process of dissolution within JxCat...
... out of coherence. The Crida was not a party, it was an association. The idea was not to create a sum of acronyms. Coalitions, federations... they are part of the past. And that is true for the Crida, for the PDeCat, for Reagrupament... We must be able, as occurred at the end of the Franco regime and at the beginning of the Transition, to create a new space that gains the confidence of many people, to gain centrality, and we must do so starting from the people, who are the real political players. I am convinced that although we are neither the refoundation of the old Convergència space nor a sum of organizations and nor will we be a coalition, many people from the circles that have come from that space which for so many years was the majority space in Catalonia, will be in JxCat and, above all, in its electorate.

I hope, and president Puigdemont also said it at the opening session of the congress, that we occupy the centrality of this country. 

Do you think that in the end the bulk of the members and leadership of the PDeCat will end up, on a personal level, becoming part of the new party, of Junts?
I wouldn’t want to get into issues that could hurt or offend other organizations. My commitment as general secretary is to work with all political and social organizations, offering a space that people can join and grow, Junts per Catalunya, but being deeply respectful of other organizations. I hope, and president Puigdemont also said it at the opening session of the congress, that we occupy the centrality of this country. We are born with the will to be a majority group, to be a government, to bring together the maximum number of votes. And, of course, all the knowledge and political experience of all those people who are working in the institutions, town halls, county councils, who believed in the October 1st referendum, that self-determination and independence are possible, who committed themselves until the end and remain convinced that this country must be able to figure out how to combine two things to come out as the winner ...

Which two things?
The first is to maintain democratic combat, a democratic confrontation with the state in order to win the effective exercise of self-determination. The Spanish state will not give us anything, not even dialogue; we will have to conquer it and we want it, to make self-determination tangible. And the second goal, that the economic and social situation we inhabit requires all our efforts to be made with the best government possible to build confidence in the social and economic sectors.

Jordi Sanchez 2The general secretary of Junts per Catalunya, Jordi Sànchez, during the internet conversation with / EN

Will president Puigdemont be the Junts candidate again?
That depends on two things. The first is that it depends on him whether he wants to be or not. And the second, even more important, or as much as the other: that the members accept it in a process of primaries. We will make this party an example of democratic participation. It will not be an assembly party, but a deeply democratic one. The main decisions, and of course the decision on the person who heads an electoral list, will be by the members. Puigdemont will be a candidate if he deems it opportune, if he stands in the primaries and the membership trusts him. I hope so, and I'm convinced of both, but that's a decision the president and the members will make at the appropriate time.

Puigdemont will be a candidate if he deems it opportune, if he stands in the primaries and the membership trusts him. I hope so, and I'm convinced of it

Could the situation of January 30th, 2018, be repeated, when Puigdemont could not be sworn in electronically because the speaker of Parliament complied with rulings by the Spanish courts?
Well. That question should be answered by speaker Torrent and the governing bodies of Mr Torrent's [ERC] party ...

Can the fragmentation between you and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which has even shown itself in the functioning of the Catalan government, as president Torra acknowledged a few months ago at the end of the legislature, be reversed in any way?
I wouldn’t talk about fragmentation. There have been specific actions in response to extreme political situations, such as the one we just discussed, which we have not agreed on. With parties that are different it can happen and it has happened. I am convinced that not only with the Republican Left but with other pro-independence forces, we will all have the ability to relocate ourselves in a scenario that allows us to continue moving forward.

Do you think that a certain strategic unity of independence can be rebuilt?
It won't be Junts that holds it back. Obviously, under one premise: that it is done in order to continue working and promoting the independence process. If this commitment is there, we are convinced that we will reach this new stage. At the moment there are ways of communication, of dialogue, which allow us, little by little, to regain confidence. It's also true that this will have to be seen once the election is over. Right now we don’t even have an election called, so it’s premature to talk about it.

Those of you, who, unfortunately due to the circumstance in which you find yourselves - imprisoned - are very close to Oriol Junqueras, what is the relationship there?
Well, it's a very good personal relationship, as with the rest of the prisoners. Prison builds strong personal and emotional bonds, and Oriol is no exception. And politically, we’ve had, or have, views that don't coincide, and that’s normal. That said, dialogue exists and now with a significantly different option than we had. As general secretary of Junts, my commitment is for this dialogue, this communication - at political level I mean, because at personal level we have already resolved it - be carried out and more intensely. Knowing that Junqueras is the president of the party (ERC) and that the president of the party (Junts) is president Puigdemont. The paradox is that in our abilities to communicate we have our "wires crossed". The president of Junts has an easy ability to communicate with the general secretary of Esquerra Republicana [Marta Rovira], who is also in exile, and the president of Esquerra Republicana will have it with the general secretary of Junts: we are in prison sharing a module. These are the paradoxes of repression. We will build all the bridges. Junts will do all it can to become the majority party to push for the culmination of the unfinished process of independence; and, two, being aware of the plurality of actors, we want to work to build a strategic unity that will allow us to recover initiatives. And these are the rules of the game which I will start on in the coming weeks.

As general secretary of Junts, my commitment is for this political communication with Junqueras to be carried out more intensely

Jordis Sanchez Cuixart escenari dissolució manifestació 20-S

Flashback to the demonstration of 20th September 2017: "the Jordis", Sànchez and Cuixart address the crowd during the evening.

In any case, the next elections have the aroma of a final, definitive battle between you and ERC...
Every election can be read as a final battle and no election is a final battle. We are all well aware that, no matter what happens at the next election, Junts will continue to occupy centrality and probably take first place in seats at the polls, and ERC will also continue ... and the CUP will also continue. Independence, unfortunately, will be fragmented again in an election. Both president Puigdemont and I have worked very hard to achieve electoral unity, but that is no longer part of the present, unfortunately. We have a situation where this unity which was desirable will not occur. We have accepted the Republican Left’s refusal to form a single electoral front, so there is no other solution than to run democratically for the best results.

And the day after the election?
The day after the election we will all be there. We are not in a final, final battle, in which we are going to exterminate ourselves. We will present credentials to the public. Junts, for the first time, with an organized, solvent project, much more solid than its first appearance, in December 2017, when we had to improvise and with the frustration of not having managed to repeat the Junts pel Sí unified candidature just when it made most sense to do so. All of this is already part of history, so let’s leave it at that, no reproach, it’s just analysis. We will now present ourselves with new credentials. I am convinced that we will get great results and ERC will continue to be a major force. No final battle. From 8pm on election night, the obligation of Junts per Catalunya will be to work hard so that the absolute majority which will have come out of the polls - which we are convinced will be pro-independence - will once again thread the needle to ensure the best of all possible governments. And, above all, the continuity of the democratic struggle for independence. In this scenario, Junts per Catalunya counts on the Catalan Republican Left, undoubtedly.

Junts per Catalunya counts on the Catalan Republican Left to continue the democratic  combat for independence, undoubtedly

When should the next Catalan elections be?
Well, that decision is president Torra's. And I think president Torra, with president Puigdemont, will talk, they have spoken and they will decide. I don’t want to get into this dialectic of when the election should be. President Torra set very specific criteria based on overcoming this major public health crisis which we have. He has the confidence of everyone and will make the best of decisions and when it is appropriate he will communicate it.

It may be the case that, finally, it is the Supreme Court that calls these elections if it disqualifies Torra definitively, as is expected ...
Yes, but President Torra will also make the right decision ...

... so that the Supreme Court does not do this?
Yes, but this is a debate that we shouldn't give excessive importance to. Since president Torra has already been tried and convicted by the Catalonia High Court, the Supreme Court and the Spanish judiciary, they have already taken the decision to influence the activity of the Parliament of Catalonia. They have already taken the reins. Now there is the need to materialize an electoral calendar. But the interference by Spanish justice in the Catalan legislature has already happened.