I was eager to get inside regional president’s head and figure out just what made him tick. He was so different from his predecessors. Jordi Pujol who in comparison seems moderate, turned out to be a money-hording fiend. He and his family amassed upwards of 30 million euros in laundered money and tucked them away in fiscal paradises all over the planet. Artur Mas was a handsome and gallant man who gave you the impression he was going to charm his way to becoming president of his own country. But Puigdemont just looked different. Maybe it was that moppy hair, those glasses, that frail frame, the slight stoop and the hands that always met at the fingertips as he talked. Maybe. He had a school boy humbleness about him, sheepish. And yet, if you gave him a pair of British prep school shorts, you could imagine him taking on the role of Angus Young and air jamming to AC/DC in his basement when no one was home.
Was he presidential material? The following weeks would tell. But one thing was for sure, he wasn’t the most law-abiding individuals out there. Elected head of an autonomous region within the Spanish electoral system, he had endeavored to violate numerous of his country’s own laws, sidestep court rulings, ignore executive orders, betray his own sworn promises to defend the interests of all of his constituents, and use the nation’s institutions to declare independence from it. Kind of.
Fascinating, to say the least. Mindboggling would be a better choice.
Puigdemont had declared he would present his case to the Catalan parliament on Monday, October 9th, but when that was pronounced inviable by the central government, he changed the day to Tuesday. I was beginning to wonder just how long this game was going to continue. Tuesday came and the members of the regional legislative body were scheduled to meet at 6:00p.m. for what was supposedly going to be one of the most historic moments in Catalan history. The time came and went, and no Puigdemont or declaration. They had pushed it back an hour because they were working some points out. Now, this may have seemed like an insignificant lapse of time on a universal level, but to the outsider, it appeared to be clear sign of hesitation. About what, no one was really sure. But if you are planning on telling Spain to kiss off at a specific time, you damn well better show up. Rumor had it, the independence parties did not agree on the course of action or the wording, a suspicion which was more or less confirmed just a few minutes later when Puigdemont sort fumbled through some explanation that even though he didn’t have the votes or unequivocal proof that Catalonia should be free, he argued that it probably did have enough votes and, regardless, Catalonia had earned its right to declare itself independent. This is some pretty baffling reasoning and a shrewd use of surgically extracting data to justify you ends which was, as many feared from the beginning, declare independence at any cost. The crowds outside erupted with emotion as many believed that their time had finally come. But orgasms last but a few seconds. Just about the duration of their independence. I joke not. And there was no cuddling afterward.
Once the roaring had died down, the crowd settled to listen to their fearless leader’s next words. What they heard was anything but intrepid. Before the minute was out, Puigdemont had slammed on the brakes and suspended the state of sovereignty temporarily in order to open up a round of talks. Ok. Let’s see if we’ve got this straight. The famous procés, which was synonymous with “unstoppable path towards nationhood” finally, after a lengthy list of pursuasive, albeit, distorted ressons, culminated in a kind of formal announcement in favor of breaking away from Spain, and then they say they want to sit down and talk about it. Just what was there to talk about?
I gotta be honest with you guys. I felt sorry for the people out in the streets. Regardless of their opinions, many as usual were everyday, ordinary citizens who had believed in a cause and had been led to think that this man was going to deliver the goods. Everything that had been done in the previous few weeks made them think that independence was imminent. However, he kept the ture intentions of his hand well hidden not only from the central government, but from many of his own supporters. I would have been peeved, just as many were. And even though with today’s highly unpredictable situation, one can never quite say where and how this will all end, if Carles Puigdemont ends up being a forgotten element in the secessionist movement, a non-factor, a has-been, we can look to this moment as the point where his downfall all began.
The rest of the world was equally left baffled and struggled to make heads or tails of what just happened. Rajoy’s administration wanted to know just what had occurred. Had Puigdemont and company declared independence or not? International onlookers asked themselves similar questions. It just didn’t add up.
What was he thinking? Puigdemont may have been a victim of excessive fancy footwork. Trying to appease all sides at once. Calling for independence to content the most radical groups while asking for time to debate the matter as the more moderate supporters probably hoped for. After all, despite all the rhetoric, having to leave the European Union was no laughing matter. It was also possibly an attempt to make him appear to be the only reasonable half in the standoff. The man offering to find a peaceful solution. That might garner greater sympathy on an international level. There is certainly some logic to it, but it was a miscalculation. The outpouring of sympathy they had received just a week before had, for the most part, turned into cautious observation.
The Spanish government had learned its lesson from October 1st. It was going to step away from the physical force, but stiffen its position on the political one. The three main parties, PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos had banded together like a dam so leak-proof there was no where for the secessionists to move. The pro-independence Catalans, on the other hand, were beginning to show signs of fissures. The fiasco on the evening of October 10th was proof of that. Then there were knee-jerk reactions by anti-establishment parties, like the CUP which called on Catalans to withdraw their money from the Catalan banks which had moved their headquarters elsewhere. The measure failed miserably. Companies were pouring out of the region.
Then there was the articulo 155.