In a gesture intended to win the confidence of the ECB, Felip Puig — Minister of the Interior for the region of Catalonia — has once again managed to convey to the general public (and investors with no interest in ignoring social facts and their long-term consequences) both his incompetence and his eroding legitimacy. This is just par for the course for Puig, who famously vowed to go “as far as the law allows, and even beyond” to repress social movements.
It started with the preventive incarceration of students, activists and union leaders in the aftermath of the March 29th Spanish general strike, with the excuse that the detainees were likely to either flee the country or participate in the May Day protests and the May 3rd protest against the European Central Bank’s summit in Barcelona. The Spanish government, acting on Puig’s request, also suspended the Schengen protocol (which guarantees the free movement of European residents across European borders) citing security reasons.
Puig also announced the creation of a snitch-site, a government webpage that asks citizens to identify pictures of protesters allegedly engaged in property destruction during the general strike. In addition to being illegal (violating citizens’ rights to privacy and including photographs of minors), this is an exceptionally tasteless decision in a country whose scars from a bitter civil war have yet to heal.
All of this alarmist securitization would lead one to believe that Al Qaeda, the shadow KGB and armed dissident factions of the Illuminati were finally teaming up with anti-globalization activists in Catalonia. The only problem was that no one had called for a protest against the summit. In fact, Puig’s declarations were the first most activists in Barcelona had heard about the gathering to begin with.
What did coincide with this date was a massive and curiously humble student protest against exponentially rising college tuition rates and in solidarity with the jailed student activists, who remain in preventive custody after more than a month. On a beautiful spring day, thousands of students marched through the Arc de Triomf to share a meal at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and collect funds for legal fees. But the Apocalypse Express had already departed, and the president of this university, Joan Josep Moreso, decided to shut down the university due to security concerns rising from the university’s proximity to the 5-star hotel in which the ECB summit was taking place.
As I write this, there are still roughly 8.000 riot police (reinforcements were flown in from all over Spain) holding down the city to guarantee fluidity for a march that only exists in Felip Puig’s mind (and in the currently trending hashtag #manificcion, or “ficticious march”). The absurdity of the situation reminds me of something my father once told me about the difference between being a neurotic person and a psychopath. A neurotic imagines castles in the sky; a psychopath lives in one.
I can’t think of a better characterization of Puig’s jihad against dissent.