Let’s get to work to win back our freedom

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Only two days ago I was discussing the threat of impending incarceration that loomed over all of us with my friend Raül Romeva, the Foreign Minister. The words of Spain’s Attorney General Maza were not a good omen: “the harder they’ll fall”. In fact, we had already seen how in the case of the Jordis [1] rumours about an impending arrest warrant were circulating in media and political circles a couple of days earlier, suggesting that everything had already been arranged beforehand. Indeed, that is how it panned out: a five-minute long hearing was enough. Eight Catalan cabinet ministers, myself included, are now detained in a Spanish prison by virtue of the Spanish criminal code currently in place. We were “summoned” through media on Tuesday evening; the actual court summons did not arrive until Wednesday November 1, a public holiday, leaving us less than twenty-four hours before our court date at Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional to face charges that could carry a penalty of as many as thirty years in prison for every one of us.

On Tuesday minister Romeva said that if jail was the price we had to pay for freedom, then so be it. He spoke vehemently, with words that were composed and clear, and I was touched by the dignity of his message. Also present were our friends and colleagues Carles Mundó, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, who had said their goodbyes to their families, children, spouses and friends over the last few days. All of us had done the same, trying to spend the last days with our loved ones, such as my two children, who are still too young to understand what it is going on. For days we have been well aware of the level of aggression coming from the PP government, legitimised by the PSOE. Please allow me to calmly ask whether Article 155 [of the Spanish constitution] might have been triggered without the PSOE’s complicit disposition, including the PSC’s, [the socialists’ Catalan branch]. Without the PSC, which has eagerly thrown itself into the arms of the PP, none of us would now be in jail. Not one. Nor would the Jordis. The PSC has willingly legitimised the repression perpetrated in Catalonia. Faced with a choice between the PP’s authoritarian stance and listening to the voice of the people who merely want to vote and decide, the PSC’s leadership has chosen repression, the suspension of freedom, the liquidation of Catalonia’s institutions and prison for all of us. I am not being spiteful. Rather, I feel deep sorrow and pity for a party that has ended up marching in the streets with the PP and the far right, and siding with Europe’s most corrupt party. The PSC has closed ranks with the political party whose democratic credentials are the poorest ever, the party that started a signature petition “against Catalonia” led by PM Mariano Rajoy, the party that has turned Spain’s judiciary into his master’s voice and systemic corruption into business as usual at all levels; a government whose Interior Ministry conspired to fabricate evidence to smear [pro-independence leaders], ruin their lives and destroy our national health service. And they have got away with all of it.

However, I do not want to write one more word about them. They are not worth it. A verse in the Bible reads: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. Precisely. Let us forget the pain which they wish to inflict upon us and let us get carried away by one single feeling: our love for freedom. We need to channel all our energy into standing up for democracy, organising the defence of our civil and political rights, working to win back our freedom and striving to secure respect for the civil and political rights of all the citizens of Catalonia, regardless of their place of birth, language spoken, whether they regard themselves as Catalans, Spaniards, Arabs or Argentines —or any combination thereof—. Our struggle is not about flags, but about democracy and allowing the voice of the people to be respected. We must persevere with courage, civic-mindedness and determination, but also with the utmost respect for everyone’s views, rejecting all forms of violence, including the only kind that we are currently seeing in our streets: the far right’s, which has been given carte blanche.

I also wish to ask all the political parties and grassroots groups to get down to work, everyone at their stations, presenting a solidly united action front. And, I beg you, for the sake of everyone’s concord and harmony, enough with the debate and controversy over how each political party should run in the election. Enough of that: it is a harmful debate that distracts us from the job at hand. We have already gone through all that once and it was catastrophic. Everyone should choose the best way to stand in these elections and may no democrat stay at home on December 21. All freedom-loving people must go to the polls, all political parties must strive to do as well as they can and our joint action and shared strategy must be what brings us together, with respect for everyone’s feelings.

As president of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, I would like to send a message to the people of ERC and to those that have joined us in recent years. I expect all of you to stand together with our Secretary General, Marta Rovira, a remarkable woman whom we love and trust: she is our future. I know that we will continue to broaden our base to build a great political force at the service of freedom and justice. I expect us to remain an example of honesty, rigour and decency. In fact, I have nothing to worry about in that regard, as I am surrounded by individuals who are much better than myself, uncompromising people of great calibre. I refer to my dear Joan Tardà and Gabriel Rufián, who represent our MPs and senators [in the Spanish parliament]: hold the line, my friends! I am delighted and honoured to make this journey with you. Chaquir, Alba Vergés and Roger Torrent and the rest of the parliamentary group in Barcelona: you are truly decent people, as are all our mayors and local councillors who work hard every single day; all of you, the party members that work passionately in your home towns and villages, mark my words: we are the ones who will never tire, the ones who will never quit!

One last message. To the people of Catalonia: never give up. There is so much at stake that everything is at stake. Let us honour the memory of those who came before us, think about our children, remember that we are at the receiving end of a punitive operation against our freedom and against Catalonia. They want to see us submissive and down on our knees. They want to turn Catalonia into a defeated province. They stoke the hatred against our school system to create a problem where there aren’t any. Day in and day out, they undermine our decisions and our will, they unashamedly encourage companies to leave Catalonia and fuel an economy based on speculation while they scorn the productive economy. They won’t even commit to respecting the result of the snap election they themselves have called. Our response to all that must be calm, determination, mobilisation, commitment and ballots. Let us set an example by going to the polls massively, as we did on October 1 despite the Spanish police’s batons and brutality against the people who wanted to cast their vote. So now let’s go out and vote because ballots are sacred to us and the best response that we can provide is victory for democracy on December 21. Let’s work tirelessly, let’s carry on and persevere with our heads up and a joyful heart. A fraternal embrace to all Catalans. We are a great people and should be proud of that. We will prevail! Do not doubt it for a moment, no matter how rocky the journey might be, because ours is the cause of freedom and fraternity among all the peoples.

 Oriol Junqueras is the Vice President of the Catalan government

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Translator’s note:

[1] Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, known in Catalonia as “the two Jordis”, are the leaders of the two main pro-independence grassroots groups who have been remanded in custody for several weeks over charges of sedition.

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