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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


09 February 2018 02:06 PM


Rachel Bathgate | Barcelona

On Wednesday, in a Spanish parliament plenary, the topic of exiled and deposed president Carles Puigdemont being sworn back in as leader of the Catalan government was debated. And, after a pro-independence 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 Carles Puigdemont as a presidential candidate, the internet has taken note of the peculiar turn of phrase she chose to use. As well as a hot topic in the media, 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

It all started when, in the Spanish hemicycle on February 7, an MP for the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party, Joan Tardà, urged the Spanish vice president and her government to, among other things, “return the institutions of self-government” that Rajoy’s executive implemented following a declaration of independence, effectively seizing Catalonia’s self-rule and placing Sáenz de Santamaría herself at the head of the Catalan government. “We are suffering,” said Tardà, adding that Article 155 “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” through Article 155.

The effect of a ‘nuclear option’

Article 155, the so-called ‘nuclear option’ of the Spanish constitution was triggered by Mariano Rajoy’s executive following a declaration of independence, dissolving the Catalan government and calling snap elections to replace it. December 21 was the day chosen, the implication being that after the voting, a new executive 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 exile in Brussels and is wanted by the Spanish judiciary. With Rajoy’s government standing in the way of every attempt of his reinstatement, some of the forces for a pro-independence state have begun to question the feasibility of a substitution for Puigdemont, with Tardà being one of them. 

In an interview, Tardá spoke figuratively of sacrificing an attempt to reinstate a figure in a movement, something which the internet is debating as very different from Sáenz de Santamaría’s reference to sacrificing “a Catalan.” 


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  • Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría on January 26 2018 (by Tània Tàpia)