Artur Mas and The Catalan Mercado de Pescado
Name: Artur Mas
Appearance: Trendy glasses, a jaw you could break your fist on, and a quiff like a Kanagawa wave.
WTF? ‘The Great Wave at Kanagawa’ by Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai. It goes from left to right.
Got it. Back to Arturo: No-one calls him that anymore. Mas changed his name to the more Catalan-friendly Artur in 2001.
Origins: A Spanish poltician and economist, Mas hailed from an important Sabadell textile family and worked in the private sector early on in his carrer before entering politics, serving as a concejal for the Ajuntament de Barcelona (1987-1995).
From menos to Mas: Mas was elected as leader of the ultraconservative CiU (Convergència I Unió, a federation of Neoliberal Catalan parties CDC and UDC, which was dissolved in 2015 – more of that later).
CiU later: After serving as the leader of the opposition to Pascual Maragall’s PSC (Partido de Socialistas de Cataluña), the chisel-chinned one was voted in as President of the Generalitat in November 2010.
And immediately began pushing for a separate Catalan state? No. Until 2010 Mas never even committed himself publicly to the idea. But, in the wake of the brutal economic crisis and scathing revelations about his predecessor and mentor Jordi Pujol’s fleecing of public money into secret Andorran bank accounts, he suddenly cranked into an impressive U-turn, not only throwing his lot in with independence, but leading the campaign to form a breakaway Catalonian state with a fervour striking by its previous absence.
‘Machiavellian ploy to draw the media spotlight away from the rife corruption being exposed in his party?’ According to some conspiracy theories currently doing the rounds. In an interview with the journalist Rafael Nebot as recently as 2002, he stated ‘I’m in favour of a plurinational Spain’, and ‘the concept of independence is antiquated and out of date.’ And significantly, ‘Spain is not Yugoslavia.’
Tune. Changed. Thirteen years later on Más was the figurehead behind a defacto (unofficial) referendum, or ‘elcciones plebiscitarias’ if you prefer, encouraging the Catalan populace to decide their own fate (this which led to UDC baling out, unwilling to to pursue independence ‘al margen de la legalidad’)
And the response from Madrid? “We are determined to use all of the means with which the rule of law has furnished democracy to defend democracy itself,” the Partido Popular leader and Spanish President Mariano declared.
Meaning? Not on your fucking nelly.
Outcome: Junts X Si (Together for Yes, yet another kind of cross-party alliance in favour of independence, which had taken over Catalan parliament) had by late 2015 lost faith in Mas’s leadership, perhaps aware the Spanish - even the Catalan - public was probably sick to death of the sight of him. Lovable, heavily-pierced, rebel-rousing hipsters CUP were instrumental in Mas’s fate, flatly refusing to support him. Having tested the patience of Moncloa, pushed the limits of the legality of the Genralitat’s operations and expecting the support of the other members of the Junts X Si alliance, he hadn’t counted on being shot down from within. After initial reluctance, saying ‘the Generalitat is not a mercado de pescado’, Mas however finally did the honourable thing on 14 January 2016 and stood aside, confirming irrevocably that Catalan Parliament is indeed a mercado de pescado. Carles Puigdemont, (another member of Convergencia Democrática de Catalunya and mayor of Gerona) was packed and packaged in his place.
Complicated isn’t it? Deu meu.
Legacy: ‘Catalan folk hero who challenged the Spanish state to the grain and made himself public enemy number one in the eyes of the non-Catalan public in the tireless pursuit of Catalan sovereignty, though ultimately his bid for immortality, presiding over the first fully autonomous Catalan nation state of the modern era, fell short of the finishing line.’
Or: ‘Hideously cynical politician who used the Independence Movement to deflect the media away from his association with disgraced tutor Jordi Pujol and the enormous corruption scandal within his party.’
Only time will tell. And, even, that, perhaps not. Such is history.