Andreu Mas-Colell, the misstep of Spanish repression

Image: La República

On June 29, the 77th birthday of the world-renowned Catalan economist Andreu Mas-Colell, he and 39 other former Catalan senior government officials will have to appear before the Spanish Court of Auditors in Madrid, an administrative body that is able to impose multimillion-euro fines on them without procedural guarantees, such as the right to defence, effective judicial protection, and presumption of innocence.

They are charged with allegedly having embezzled public funds to promote Catalan independence abroad from 2011 onward. Going back up to six years before the Catalan referendum of independence, a non-judicial body determines that the ordinary spending of a country’s foreign action amounts to embezzled money. This endogamous, discredited state body, dominated by the major Spanish political parties, transforms the daily management of the Catalan administration into a crime in a flash. Without any justification or evidence, it then proceeds to punish officials, following a primitive logic of revenge, more akin to the previous Fascist regime than that of a EU Member State.

The fines for the former presidents of the Catalan Government (Generalitat), Artur Mas and Carles Puigdemont, as well as former ministers and senior and middle-ranked officials of the Catalan government, could add up to tens of millions of euros, and cause a de facto “civil death” of the defendants, who would suffer an embargo on their bank accounts, properties, and income.

It does not take much to realize that such a massive and arbitrary persecution of public servants is actually a warning sign to anyone who works for the Generalitat of Catalonia, as they could risk losing all their assets if they agree with pro-independence ideas. The Catalan people are a discriminated minority within the Spanish state, where self-government is considered a criminal offence, until the European courts prove otherwise, often years later.  Meanwhile, Catalonia suffers incessant repression that conditions public and private life. Since 2017, the Spanish state has lacked the minimum democratic respect for the citizens of Catalonia. The Spanish authorities sacked the government and snatched control of the Catalan institutions by twisting Article 155 of the Constitution, and in the process, they took advantage of it to start a prospective investigation of the Catalan public accounts and used them to build the fake case against Mr. Mas-Colell and his peers.  Spanish nationalist governments in Madrid have repeatedly trampled on the Catalans’ right to vote, forcing them to hold elections arbitrarily, and criminally pursuing many of their elected representatives. The authorities have altered the composition of the Parliament of Catalonia, the Spanish Congress, the Senate, the European Parliament and even the Barcelona City Council.

One can speak of a ferocious repression, because among the forty former officials persecuted by the Court of Auditors, one can find political prisoners such as former Vice President Oriol Junqueras and former Ministers Raül Romeva and Jordi Turull, who have been tried and convicted for their role in the organization of the 1st of October 2017 independence referendum, as well as the Catalan President in exile Carles Puigdemont, and even politicians who have been already prosecuted and fined in the past by the same court, to reprimand them for the popular consultation on independence of November 9, 2014.

It is important to remember that organizing a referendum is not punished by criminal law in the Spanish state. Thus, the Spanish authorities chose to attribute to the Catalan independence leaders the anachronistic crime of sedition, plus embezzlement – without a single bill to prove it. When holding a referendum was a crime – during Franco’s dictatorship – one could be sentenced to a maximum of 5 years of prison. However, nine Catalan political and civic leaders have been sentenced to 9 to 13 years for actions that no other European court has considered criminal. Not a single extradition of the exiled members of the Catalan government in 2017 has been granted.

The repressive network against Catalonia has be borne in mind when justice and due process are demanded for the honourable Andreu Mas-Colell. We welcome the awareness campaign launched by his son, supported by prominent economists, followed by a campaign. They have brought up the case at an international level, the rule of law irregularities in the Spanish state. Nevertheless, the claims they make are incomplete and inaccurate. Were Mas-Colell a “Spanish economist”, he would have had no trouble with the state, none at all. They harass him for being Catalan, like thousands of others. It is not because of aone-off malfunction of the Spanish institutions, but because endless vengeance against the Catalan nation is being exercised. Spanish prime minister Mr. Pedro Sánchez, far from being a victim, is a co-participant, and therefore guilty of this discrimination.

A blind and resentful state is the normal functioning of the institutions of Catalonia, a national minority. Not even the right to autonomy recognized in Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution is respected.

The deep state is so rampant that it blunders and makes the mistake of pitting itself against a global figure in Economics, and getsitself bogged down in yet another reputational crisis of its own making.

The Spanish state does not deserve anyone, however well-intentioned, trying to hide its mistakes. From a Catalan standpoint, we have new evidence that only independence will bring us freedom.

Erika Casajoana

Brussels, 21 June 2021


Article originally posted in digital newspaper La República (Catalan)