A major police operation in Catalonia on Thursday involving several raids and 29 arrests was deemed by pro-independence politicians to be a “smokescreen” to divert attention from the final verdict of the so-called Gürtel case, a corruption scandal for which Spain’s ruling People’s Party (PP) has been found guilty.
Catalan president Quim Torra shared a tweet by a local councilor in Barcelona implying that both developments could be linked. Jordi Coronas, a member of pro-independence ERC party, wrote that ahead of the ‘Gürtel’ sentence it was still not known “which offices in Catalonia will be raided by the Spanish Guardia Civil police in order to cover up the news a little bit.” Torra retweeted the message and added: “Prophetic”.
Torra’s would-be vice president, Pere Aragonès, condemned the operation as “clearly propagandistic in intention.” He said that some media already knew about the operation before it even started, and added that creating a “film set” is not the best way to gather evidence.
Aragonès also stressed that no public funds went towards paying for the independence referendum last October. Spanish newspapers and politicians linked the police operation with Catalonia’s push for independence, yet judicial sources told Catalan News Agency that they were not related.
CUP decries actions
The Barcelona court that ordered the raids opened the investigation two years ago following a complaint by the far-left CUP party and the anarcho-syndicalist CGT union over misuse of funds in Barcelona’s regional authority.
“We will not allow the independence movement to be used to cover up corruption cases” said Maria Rovira, a local councilor for CUP, who added that “nor will we tolerate Spain’s machinery using these cases to attack the independence movement.”
Spain’s justice minister Rafael Catalá said the police operation was part of “the normal functioning of our institutions.” He said that “the judiciary intervenes whenever there is a basis.”
Ciutadans, Spain’s fourth-largest party, took both on pro-independence parties as well as PP, which they support in parliament. “For the very first time in our democracy, we have in the Spanish government a party convicted for corruption,” said Ciutadans leader Albert Rivera, and added that “This harms us at a very delicate moment due to [Catalonia’s] independence challenge.”
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