Catalan president: pardons are only 'partial' solution, amnesty real way out

Independence campaigners say "repression of 3,000 people continues" while unionists say move is a concession of Socialists to stay in power

The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès (right), with the mayor of Amposta, Adam Tomàs, on June 21, 2021 (by Anna Ferràs)
The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès (right), with the mayor of Amposta, Adam Tomàs, on June 21, 2021 (by Anna Ferràs) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 21, 2021 02:25 PM

The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, has reacted to the Spanish president Pedro Sánchez's announcement of pardons for the jailed pro-independence leaders by saying that they are not enough.

"The unjust sentencing is now corrected but it is a partial, incomplete solution," he told the press at an event in the Ebre river region – Aragonès did not amend his diary and therefore did not attend Sánchez's speech in Barcelona.

The head of the Catalan government said that the real way out of the issue would be an amnesty for everyone involved in judicial procedures stemming from the independence push, which would not only include the jailed politicians and activists, but also those in exile such as former president Carles Puigdemont.

200,000 signatures for amnesty

Similarly, the four pro-independence parties with MPs in the Spanish congress – Esquerra, Junts, PDeCAT and CUP – agreed that pardons are insufficient.

"They will help alleviate the suffering of these political prisoners, but this does not end here, because repression continues and there are 3,000 people facing ongoing judicial procedures."

All four political forces supported a petition by grassroots organizations Òmnium and Amnistia i Llibertat, delivered to the Spanish Congress on Tuesday with 200,000 signatures in favor of an amnesty – the chamber's bureau did not even accept the proposal for discussion when put forward by pro-independence campaigners in March.

Right-wing unionists flatly reject pardons

While the Socialists and En Comú Podem – the Catalan allies of anti-austerity Podemos – support the move since they are the two parties in the Spanish government, the three remaining political forces in the Catalan parliament flatly reject them.

Unionist right-wing People's Party, Ciudadanos and Vox believe this is a concession by Sánchez to Esquerra, which is essential to ensure a majority of MPs backing him in the Spanish lower house.

The leader of the People's Party, Pablo Casado, said Sánchez is trying to put forward "a change of regime" by "dealing a blow to legality."

"Sánchez is not trying to make the most of a historic opportunity to sort out a Spanish-wide problem, but he uses the problem caused by the supremacism of his allies in order to continue his project of a change of regime."

As for Ciudadanos' leader, Inés Arrimadas, she said that the only reconciliation after the pardons will be "with the coup mongers," referring to those who organized the 2017 independence referendum.

The far-right Vox leader in Catalonia, Ignacio Garriga, contradicted Sánchez saying that in the current conflict "there are not two parts: there are the criminals on one side, and those who respect the law on the other."

He believes that the measure "is not harmony, it is political favors; it is not coexistence, it is blackmailing."

Other pro-independence parties are wary of the pardons

While Aragonès and the Esquerra (ERC) party have welcomed pardons as a "partial solution," their coalition partners in the Catalan government, Junts per Catalunya, have been more vocal in criticizing Sánchez.

"They want the notion that pardons are a real solution to stick, but this is false," said Elsa Artadi, a spokesperson for JxCat.

The vice president of the Catalan government and member of JxCat, Jordi Puigneró, said that "pardons are by no means a victory," but only "a measure that will help ease the pain of jailed leaders’ and their families."

The speaker of the Catalan parliament, Laura Borràs, urged Sánchez to show "political will" to reach an amnesty, and invited him to speak in the chamber to face lawmakers' questions.  

The main political ally of the government, the far-left CUP party, stated that "we can’t leave behind more than 3,000 people facing retaliation." An MP for the party, Carles Riera, told ACN that the party is committed to "keep fighting" and defending "democratic confrontation."    

‘First step towards mutual understanding’

The coalition partners of Spain’s Socialist-led government have celebrated the announcement, with the Podemos party tweeting that "pardons are the first step towards mutual understanding with Catalonia."

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, said that the party has been defending the same position "for many years," and stressed that Sánchez’s government is proving that the "dark times" when the conservative PP ruled Spain and had "no communication with Catalonia" are over.