Spain is a vibrant democracy, portrayal to the contrary is unjust

I started reading with interest a Jan. 15, 2019 op-ed published on The Hill’s website entitled “Congress must prioritize human rights and democratic values.” The title gave for an enticing opening, and I, as many of your readers, cannot disagree with that statement. Human rights and democratic values - who would not agree? To my surprise, however, I found under that promising sentence a thread of lies and propaganda not worthy of your respected publication. The author is Andrew Davis, former head of the Catalan Delegation in the U.S., a then FARA-registered organization. During his tenure there, Davis unsuccessfully tried, using Spanish taxpayers’ money, to convince the American public that Catalonia is an oppressed region in the very heart of Europe, the same goal he expresses in this article. He tries to convince U.S. readers that Spain is an authoritarian country. Allow me state some facts to the contrary.

Spain is a democracy, a progressive country that is open to the world, respectful of human rights, and which fought hard to become what we are today after a long period of dictatorship. This democracy was permanently instituted in Spain with the Constitution of 1978, which devolved large political power to Catalonia and other autonomous regions. Never in history has Catalonia enjoyed a level of self-government comparable to its current state in its economy, police force, employment, and education, among other important issues. Catalonia and the rest of Spain, together as a united people and country, began and continue to flourish under this new and exciting Constitution. Now, our democracy is stronger than ever, as confirmed by the latest “Democracy Index” published by The Economist. The Index identifies Spain as one of the only 20 “full democracies” in the world, out of 167 countries included in the study.

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Catalan separatists and their “agents” have not only proven to be unfazed by their infringement of the rule of law, but are also willing to actively expand the hatred and lies they express on this side of the Atlantic to a U.S. audience. This campaign, which seeks to discredit the democratic character of Spain, is so ludicrous that it needs to rely on falsehoods, half-truths and distorted facts. The article I refer to contains so many of these that it is difficult to choose where to start, without stating the obvious.

Just to mention some of the most outrageous points: The politicians currently in jail awaiting trial are there, not because of their opinions – that is not a cause for incarceration in Spain – but rather because they broke the law; they sought to organize an illegal referendum against both Spanish and Catalan laws, and against court orders. Others decided to flee Spain and are now in self-imposed exile, for the same reasons. They will be judged by an independent judiciary, subject to the rule of law and due process, and in a transparent manner. 

The Spanish government, which cannot and will not try to interfere in the judicial process, is committed to facing challenges with optimism, dialogue, and respect for pluralism and the rule of law. The secessionist attempt has provoked the most serious institutional crisis to date in democratic Spain. This crisis has divided Catalan society and dampened Spain’s external image. The government’s priority is to restore it by highlighting Spain’s long-standing respect for democracy, the rule of law, and consistent economic growth.

We in Spain are proud of our democracy and strong democratic values and want to ensure that they are represented in a just and correct manner to the public, both in our country and abroad.

Cabanas is Spain's ambassador to the United States.