As an economist, a Catalan and a law-abiding Spanish citizen, I’m concerned by the campaign being moved against the reputation of this country among US academics using the figure of Andreu Mas Collel.
The Spanish Tribunal de Cuentas (Court of Auditors) is a national body akin to the European Court of Auditors, that oversees the proper execution of public budgets and the proper use of public funds. It is enshrined in the Constitution as the overseer of the economic and financial management of the public sector. Its US parallel would be the General Accountability Office. It looks into accounting fraud in the administration and misuse of public funds, in other words.
The Court of Auditors does not deal prison sentences, but it has some bite. Most of it comes in the shape of fines for those convicted of the felonies mentioned.
Mr Mas Collel, a prominent economist and author of well-known texts, and a well-liked figure in academic circles, was also part of the late Catalan regional government that, back in 2017, was involved in staging an illegal vote (“illegal” meaning against the law and court resolutions, with no democratic guarantees, no proper scrutiny, and based on mass theft of personal data to name only a few deficiencies) and an illegal seccession attempt (legislating to abrogate the Constitution and the regional Charter without proper majority, fostering mass protests and riots). This was just a peak in an ongoing behavior of ignoring the law, the courts and individual rights by the long-ruling separatist minority, in a region in which they have made it impossible to have Spanish-language education in a state school even thought Spanish is the majority mother tongue, and in the face of repeated court sentences, to name just one well-documented abuse.
While Mas Collel left office in 2015 and skipped the worst offences, he had time to be involved in running a network of regional representative offices, called «embassies», which used tens of millions of public money to feed partisan views to media and officials in other countries. Embassies anywhere are an exclusive competence of national governments, and they were repeatedly warned that this use of public funds contravened law and court resolutions, potentially leading to fines if they persisted. And they persisted.
Several leaders of that secession attempt have been properly and publicly tried and convicted of secession, and of misuse of public funds for their adventure. This has led some of them to prison (three years later they already spend almost more time outside it than jailed inside, with an incoming pardon – which they reject). Trials for less fundamental offenses are now nearing completion. The Court of Auditors resolutions could, as Mas Collel’s son has claimed, lead to serious fines; lack of payment could lead to the impounding of assets. Not of pensions, though: Spanish law sets a limit to that.
It is important to underline two things: there is no “persecution by the government”, but prosecution by the courts (the government is actually trying to pardon the ringleaders). Mr Mas Collel and partners are not being scrutinized by the Court of Auditors for their “opinions”, but for their blatant misuse of public funds while in office.
To put it in a nutshell, while Andreu Mas Collel is a sympathetic figure, he willingly took part in very serious criminal activity while in regional power. He now risks fines for it. Our sympathy for a thinker should not cloud the awareness of his deeds, nor allow the mass use of uninformed academia as a political weapon agains a democratic, constitutional European regime by a bunch of nationalist agitators. Serious fact-checking is required before leaving the ivory tower with placards, lest academics be made fools of.
I suggest a few fast ones for measurement-oriented minds:
- https://www.eiu.com/n/campaigns/democracy-index-2020/ (The EIU’s democracy ranking, backing Spain’s stance as a full democracy).
- https://worldjusticeproject.org/rule-of-law-index/global/2020 (World Justice Project, Spain’s rule of law ranked above that of the US).
And a qualitative one to give some idea of the action on the ground (The European Court of Human Rights backing the acts of the Spanish judiciary during the coup attempt).
Miguel Cornejo is an economist and the president of Asociación Pompaelo, a non-profit group fostering knowledge of Navarre culture and history, and the values of freedom and equality.