Spanish vice president’s comment on ‘sacrificing a Catalan’ goes viral

Speaking to an MP from pro-independence ERC party, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría asked a controversial question in reference to Carles Puigdemont

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría on January 26 2018 (by Tània Tàpia)
Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría on January 26 2018 (by Tània Tàpia) / Rachel Bathgate

Rachel Bathgate | Barcelona

February 9, 2018 02:06 PM

On Wednesday, in a Spanish parliament plenary, the topic Carles Puigdemont being sworn back in as leader of the Catalan government came up in an unexpected way. After a pro-independence Catalan MP addressed the issue of returning Catalonia’s self-rule, Spanish vice president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría asked: “Is it such a big deal to sacrifice a Catalan, when you’ve sacrificed your businesses, your public services, and your wellbeing?”

While Sáenz de Santamaría was referring to Puigdemont as a presidential candidate, the peculiar turn of phrase she chose to use has drawn comments. As well as turning up in the media, indeed, it has taken over the Twittersphere, with various public personalities in Catalonia having their say.

Germà Bel, former Catalan MP, noted that the last time he "took on" Sáenz de Santamaría it "cost him an 'accusation by the Spanish justice for hate crimes," he "can't avoid pointing out that this is inquisition and religion, not politics."  

"This question will be in textbooks for when people talk about this time we're going through, no?" asked Galician writer Suso De Toro.

Catalan singer-songwriter and anti-Franco activist Lluís Llach listed the pro-independence leaders in prison and in Brussels and referred to them as "already having been sacrificed," adding that Sáenz de Santamaría's "language is frightening."

'We are suffering,' affirms ERC MP

Sáenz de Santamaría's comment on February 7 in the Spanish hemicycle, was a response to Joan Tardà, MP for the Catalan pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party, after he urged the Spanish vice president and her government to, among other things, “return the institutions of self-government.” Tardà was referring to the implementation of Article 155 by Rajoy's executive, which also effectively placed Sáenz de Santamaría herself at the head of the Catalan government. “We are suffering,” said Tardà, adding that the measure “affects all Catalans,” pro-independence or not. 


“I think you have a problem,” responded Sáenz de Santamaría, further remarking that pro-independence forces “were prepared to sacrifice all of Catalonia, its economy and the well-being of its citizens.” Then, she proceeded to ask the controversial question, adding that, now, all these Catalan institutions “are controlled by (the Spanish) government.”

The effect of a ‘nuclear option’

Article 155, the so-called ‘nuclear option’ of the Spanish constitution, was triggered by the Spanish government following the declaration of independence, dissolving the Catalan government and calling snap elections to replace it. December 21 was the day chosen for the polls, the implication being that after the voting, a new cabinet and parliament would herald the return of Catalonia’s self-rule.

But this has still not come to pass. Pro-independence forces won the majority in Parliament, but their presidential candidate, Carles Puigdemont, remains in Brussels and is wanted by the Spanish judiciary. With Rajoy’s government standing in the way of his reinstatement, some of the forces for an independent state have begun to question the feasibility of a substitution for Puigdemont, with Tardà being one of them. 

In an interview with the newspaper LaVanguardia, Tardà spoke figuratively of sacrificing an attempt to reinstate a figure in a movement. Yet this is, according to the internet, something debatably different from Sáenz de Santamaría’s reference to sacrificing “a Catalan.”