Letter from Barcelona (11): ‘We Catalans are victims of political persecution,’ says Pep Guardiola. Did you hear that, Mr.Rajoy?

My Spanish isn’t perfect, but I’m seriously worried about Mariano Rajoy’s English. Despite every British newspaper headline of the past two days lampooning Theresa May’s disastrous election results (‘She’s had her chips’ from The Sun; ‘May stares into the abyss’ from The Times; ‘Coalition of Crackpots’ from The Daily Mirror; & ‘Bloody Idiot’ from The New European being among the best), Rajoy took it upon himself to Tweet a message of congratulations to May for her ‘victory’. Congratulations? To Theresa? That must have cheered her up. The ‘Queen of Denial’ is what the London Evening Standard put as their headline alongside Mrs.May … and Rajoy himself must be the king (or prince) of denial, too.

This is the man (as summarised brilliantly on The Weekly Noticias), who only wanted to testify by videoconference in the corruption case of Gurtel because to go to court requires a 23km journey. But travelling 1,968km to Cardiff for the Champions League Final was no problem at all …

Rajoy has certainly kept his head in the sand on all matters relating to his government’s corruption scandals – and he’s also denied the Catalans any dialogue at all in relation to their request for a referendum. I’ve written about this before, for The New European, and also in a blog here and here, among others.

Today, however, in the centre of Barcelona, and in front of a crowd of many thousands, I’m hoping that Rajoy will have at least received a transcript of Pep Guardiola’s impassioned speech, delivered in Spanish, Catalan and excellent English, calling on the international community ‘to stand by us in defending the rights that are under threat today in Catalonia, such as freedom of political expression and the right to vote. To face up to the abuses of an authoritarian state.’

This is serious stuff, Mr.Rajoy. On top of all the corruption scandals that have ties to your Partido Popular, this is also a terrible image for Spain. Stop sending Tweets of congratulations to Theresa May, as she’s not going to be in power for much longer. Sort out the issues in Spain. And in the words of Pep Guardiola, stop ‘politically persecuting’ the Catalans. Let them vote.

Here is Pep Guardiola’s speech in full. Strong words:

“We are here today to make it clear that on 1 October we are going to vote in a referendum to decide our future. We will vote even though the Spanish state doesn’t want us to. We have tried to reach an agreement 18 times and the answer has always been “No”. With this response, they are ignoring the support for a referendum of 80% of the population, and showing contempt for the large majority in favour of it in Catalonia’s Parliament. We have no other solution. The only possible answer is to vote. Today, we Catalans are victims of a state that is carrying out political persecution unworthy of a twenty-first century European democracy. An interior minister who conspires to destroy our health system; political police units that fabricate false evidence against our political leaders; banning from office and prosecution against the President of the Catalan Government for having held a ballot. We all know about the attempts to destroy the Catalan school system, a foundation of our social cohesion. And the blockage on investments in our infrastructure, such as ports, airports or railways. Today Spain even persecutes political debate. This threat affects all democrats: the Catalan government, the parliament, the president of parliament and her deputies. Even our civil servants and business people are being pressurised by the prosecution service and the judicial police. This is unheard of and democratically unsustainable. This scandalous political situation can only be responded to with more democracy. For that reason we call on the international community to help us. We appeal to all democrats — in Europe and around the world — to stand by us in defending the rights that are under threat today in Catalonia, such as freedom of political expression and the right to vote. To face up to the abuses of an authoritarian state. We Catalans are going to vote this 1 October.”

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