As if it wasn't enough to have Spain's Central Electoral Commission (JEC) once again acting to remove an MP from office and the Pedro Sánchez government postponing the next meeting of the dialogue table until the spring, this morning the arrest of four anti-home eviction activists by the Mossos d'Esquadra police has exploded like a bomb under the planned meeting between the president, Pere Aragonès, and the CUP party, the first in a round of contacts with parties and organizations to strengthen pro-independence unity. In the approach to the first anniversary of last year's Catalan elections - which returned a Parliament with an absolute majority of pro-independence deputies - actions to shore up the unity of that majority are not unfolding as well as the Catalan president had planned.
The staff of the presidency learned this morning, through a message sent to them by the CUP, that deputies Dolors Sabaté and Eulàlia Reguant would not be attending the meeting called by Aragonès to take stock of this first year of the legislature. Subsequently, the far-left party MPs made their decision public via a strong statement denouncing the arrests and warning that "the CUP does not share the approach of the current ERC and JxCat government to this legislature".
At the same time as the meeting had been scheduled, the CUP convoked the press outside the Mossos police station in Barcelona's Les Corts district where the activists were being held. There, in the presence of a large part of the CUP parliamentary caucus, spokespeople for the anti-eviction platforms expressed their dissatisfaction with the actions of the Catalan government and the Mossos d'Esquadra, whom they have accused of "persecuting and criminalizing" their organizations. Barbara Roc, activist in the Endavant strand of the CUP party, summed up the protests of the anti-eviction spokespeople in front of the cameras with a message that she wanted to address "directly to Pere Aragonès": "We have known for a long time that your government is not on our side. You promised not to send the Mossos to home evictions and today in Poble-Sec there has been another eviction with a police presence with no guarantees," said the activist, amid a cascade of reproaches against the president and his government.
Tension in Parliament
The uneasiness of the CUP comes on top of the tension afflicting the independence movement in Parliament as a result of the decision of the electoral board's move to strip deputy Pau Juvillà from his seat. The speaker, Laura Borràs, has called for the cessation of the activity of the chamber until the MPs Statute Committee considers the issue this afternoon. No one, however, doubts the outcome of the order from the JEC, which has demanded a response from the speaker by this Friday, detailing the actions taken to carry out the ban on the MP. There is also no doubt that the issue will once again ignite the relationship between the pro-independence groups. For the time being, the CUP is skeptical of Borràs's movements, while ERC backs the speaker's strategy, although it advocates limiting the length of time that the chamber is affected by the paralysis. However, ERC does not forget the condemnation that their party colleague Roger Torrent received from Junts when, as speaker, he made effective the removal of president Quim Torra from his seat.
All of this is happening at a time when some media are pointing out that the dialogue table, Aragonés's main strategy for finding a way out of the conflict between Catalonia and Spain, could be postponed until spring. This represents a new setback for the president after his government has been insisting for weeks that the meeting would be held sooner after New Year. During all this time, Junts has not hesitated to criticise the ERC commitment to dialogue, from which they became detached after Aragonés's rejection of the party representatives they proposed for the first meeting: including the Junts general secretary of Junts, Jordi Sànchez, and its vice president Jordi Turull - both non-members of the current government.
Meetings with Junts and ERC
Amidst this poitical minefield, at two o'clock in the afternoon, the Aragonès government issued a new statement announcing that tomorrow the president will begin the round of contacts he had planned and will do so with Junts at 12 noon and will continue at 4pm with ERC. The press note merely regretted the CUP's refusal to attend their meeting, which was to have been held this afternoon, and reiterated the government commitment to the right to housing.
However, the Catalan presidency insisted on the need to strengthen pro-independence unity. "A space to continue working on how to move forward in resolving the political conflict through amnesty and self-determination," the statement argues. Before this round of contacts ends, however, the pro-independence parties will have to have responded to the JEC, which is waiting to hear from the speaker of parliament on the disqualification of Juvillà on Friday. The ability of the pro-independence political groups to generate more heat than light still continues. For now, Aragonès has announced a conference for February 14th with his proposal on how to advance the independence process.