Spanish Parliament to investigate operation aimed at smearing pro-independence process
Madrid (CNA).- The so-called ‘Operation Catalonia’, which aimed at smearing pro-independence politicians during the last Conservative People’s Party (PP) term of office, will be investigated in the Spanish Parliament. Four months after left wing pro-independence ERC, former liberal ‘Convergència’, now renamed asthe Catalan European Democratic Party PDeCAT and the Spanish Socialist Party requested it, a Committee will be created in the Spanish Chamber in order to determine responsibility. Former Spanish Minister for Home Office, Jorge Fernández Díaz, will be one of the main figures to appear before the committee, since he was recorded while plotting to discredit Catalonia’s main pro-independence parties, together with former Director of Catalonia’s Anti-fraud Office, Daniel De Alfonso. Last July, a 500-page-long police report published by newspaper ‘El Periodico’ proved the existence of ‘Operation Catalonia’ and that Inspector José Villarejo had amongst his main competences to discredit the whole pro-independence process.
The Committee will be presided over by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNB). However, two of the Committee’s main promoters, ERC and PDeCAT won’t be part of the Bureau. Both groups have decided to prioritise the role of their spokesmen in the Spanish Parliament instead, Gabriel Rufián and Serfi Miquel respectively.
On the other hand, the leader of the PP in Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, played down ‘Operation Catalonia’ and said that he believes that “it is not transcendental at all”. “These are the kind of things which appear in the media when the pro-independence movement runs out of arguments”, said García Albiol and accused some politicians of taking it “as any port in a storm”.
The creation of this Committee was first requested by left wing pro-independence ERC, former liberal ‘Convergència’, now renamed as the Catalan European Democratic Party PDeCAT and the Spanish Socialist Party, but was delayed due to Fernández Díaz’s serious illness. Indeed, Fernández Díaz is one of the main names set to declare before the Committee, together with Daniel De Alfonso, former Director of Catalonia’s Anti-fraud Office.
The so-called ‘Operation Catalonia’
Last July, a 500-page-long police report proved that there was an ‘Operation Catalonia’ aimed at smearing pro-independence politicians during the last Spanish Government term of office held by the PP. According to an article published by ‘El Periódico’, to discredit the whole pro-independence process in Catalonia was one of the main competences that Inspector José Villarejo was entrusted with. It is claimed that Villarejo launched ‘Operation Catalonia’ together with former police Head of Internal Affairs, Marcelino Martin Blas, in 2012, coinciding with electoral periods. Catalan Vice President, Oriol Junqueras, said at the time that he considered these plots “repugnant” and that they make him “cringe”. The news came less than a month after the release of several tapes that proved that current Spanish Minister for Home Affairs, Jorge Fernández Díaz and former Director of Catalonia’s Anti-fraud Office, Daniel De Alfonso, plotted to discredit Catalonia’s main pro-independence parties.
Another name which appeared in the police report is that of Rafel Redondo, Villarejo’s lawyer and partner. He joined Maria Victòria Álvarez, the former girlfriend of the eldest son of Jordi Pujol, who is the historical leader of the centre-right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), in giving testimony in court, during which she accused Pujol’s son of having shady business. Redondo also joined Javier De La Rosa, another person involved in the revelations made by Victòria Álvarez and former PP leader in Catalonia, Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, the name of whom was leaked to the press. Redondo aimed to have the whole trial moved to Spain’s National Audience when Barcelona’s High Court decided to close the case.
The report also referred to Francisco Nicolás, a young man who has become popular in the last years for having allegedly worked for Spain’s National Intelligence Centre (CNI). According to the investigation, Nicolás contacted Pujol’s family to offer them assistance in the different trials they had to face. In exchange, he is to have asked for information to discredit left-wing pro-independence ERC.
Smear scandal involving Fernández Díaz and De Alfonso
In mid-June of last year, a smear conspiracy involving Fernández Díaz and the Director of Catalonia’s Anti-fraud Office, Daniel De Alfonso, who has since been dismissed, came to light. According to the tapes published by ‘Público’, De Alfonso offered a plan to Fernández Díaz to renew Liberal ‘Convergència’’s leadership. ‘Convergència’ (CDC) was Catalonia’s governing party at the time the recordings are said to have taken place, in 2014. De Alfonso bid for Germà Gordó, Catalan Minister for Justice at that time, to replace Mas at the head of Convergència and assured that many businessmen in Catalonia also supported the plan. De Alfonso told Fernández Díaz that former Catalan Minister for Home Affairs, Ramon Espadaler, leader of Christian Democrats ‘Unió’ [the party in coalition with Convergència for nearly 40 years] agreed with the plot as well.
De Alfonso also referred to the possibility of a joint list which would gather together the two main pro-independence parties in Catalonia at that time, which were Convergència and left-wing ERC. Such a list, which was later created as ‘Junts Pel Sí’, “would be madness”, stated De Alfonso. “This is worrying because if they win, and this is likely to happen, and none of the other parties are able to reach an agreement, these people can call for a unilateral declaration of independence…and then there will be blows” continues De Alfonso on the recording.
Following the uncovering of the scandal, Fernández Díaz, who was PP’s candidate for the Spanish Elections in Barcelona, considered himself a “victim” and described the recordings as “illegal techniques” which aimed “to damage a political adversary and a particular party [PP]” during the race for the Spanish Elections.
For his part, De Alfonso, who was dismissed from office by the Catalan Parliament, considered himself a “victim” of “an illegal recording” which was “biased” and “taken out of context”. The now former Director of Catalonia’s Anti-fraud Office considered all the parties in the Chamber “hypocritical” and accused them of submitting him to a “summary trial” and wanting an Anti-fraud Office which is “overawed” and “docile”.