Acute uncertainty is like sand in the gears of the local economy.
It’s amazing how fast the wheels of the Spanish justice system go round when the establishment wants them to, and how slowly they revolve when it doesn’t, which is usually when members of the same establishment — senior politicians and civil servants, bankers, business owners, or even royalty — are in the dock, which is happening with disturbing regularity these days.
On Thursday we saw Spanish justice at its fastest. In the dock was the recently sacked vice president of Catalonia’s separatist government, Oriol Junqueras, and seven other elected representatives of the breakaway region who stand accused of a litany of charges, including rebellion, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment.
The counsel for the defence had less than 24 hours to prepare the case. After just a few hours of hearing preliminary evidence, the National Court Judge sent half of Catalonia’s suspended government to jail without bail. On Friday,the same judge issued an international arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont, the disputed Catalan president who fled to Brussels on Monday, as well as four other former ministers who did not show up to court on Thursday.
Catalonia’s separatist politicians are paying a very high price for overplaying their hand. As we warned months ago, many in the Catalan government had hoped that threatening to declare independence unilaterally, or even following through on the threats (which it kind of did on Friday), might be enough to push the Spanish government into having to compromise. It was a massive bluff, and it’s hugely backfired…