A Public Letter: From Spanish Student to Professor

Samuel Barney writes his open letter to Clara Ponsatí


Dear Professor Clara Ponsatí,

I am a study abroad student from Spain at the University of St Andrews. I address you in English, although writing in Spanish would be easier for me, as I want the students, staff and any inhabitant in St Andrews interested in the current matters to understand this public letter.

As you can imagine, I have been hearing about your case from both Spain and Scotland, and the message is quite contradictory. Spanish friends and family, knowing of my residence in St Andrews, ask about you, as well as friends over here trying to make me explain the matter. Still, I am overwhelmed by opposite messages.

On one hand, Spanish newspapers condemn your political action in the Catalan independence movement, almost accusing you of participating in a coup d’etat against the Spanish and Catalan societies and evading justice. On the other hand, reading papers such as The Guardian, or our local The Saint, your case is that of a political dissenter persecuted by the Spanish state; I understand that this is also the position of the University.

Despite the confusion, I believe I’ve got a more or less clear political conscience, and therefore I would like to clarify my views on this matter, responding to both Scottish and Spanish acquaintances who constantly ask me about the broader Catalan sovereignty movement and your particular case, including similar ones of other members of the ANC (Catalan National Assembly, an organisation for independence) or the major Catalan independence parties, such as former president Carles Puigdemont, arrested yesterday in the Danish-German border.

My aim in this letter is not to discuss your political background in opposition to mine, and I do not seek polemic nor sympathy from you in this aspect. I even think that exposing my opposition to your political principles would be almost disrespectful given the exceptional situation you might come to be in. Also, I don’t want to bore the readers with forced historical comparisons of today’s matters with 20th century scenarios. So, let’s leave our distant principles aside and let me speak about the “Spanish democracy”.

Many people seem shocked and surprised by the serious sanctions the Spanish Government is imposing on members of the Catalan Independence movement, not only in the streets, where physical repression is well known to have happened, but also the imprisonment of important political figures as the two “Jordis” or Oriol Junqueras. Yet, I am not surprised. Post-Franco Spain has known how to sell the image of the excellent transition to democracy to the other powers in the western world. It is not until now, with the Catalan question, that some voices are starting to be heard, in my view, questioning the democratic nature of the Spanish state.

But I know that democratic Spain is also the Spain of Felipe González’s nepotism in state-sponsored companies like Endesa. Democratic Spain was the one in which the dirty war of the GALarose in the heart of its institutions. Democratic Spain is the one that keeps war-crimes from the Civil War hidden. Democratic Spain is that one that instants after the tragic terrorist attacks of March 11 2004 permits serious, vile calumnies of certain politicians, like José María Aznar, in order to stimulate the electorate towards their party interests.

Democratic Spain is one that has counted more than four thousand cases of torture during the darkest days of the Basque conflict. Democratic Spain is that one that imprisons young artists and rappers, such as Pablo Hásel or Josep Valtonyc, by verdict of the Audiencia Nacional (High court of Madrid) for criticizing the Crown and corruption scandals. Democratic Spain is that one that investigates, fines, and imprisons users of social media for expressing their political opinions. I could enumerate many other worse injustices that haven’t made it to the international spheres during these past years with the same degree of intensity as the Catalan question since the October referendum.

Accordingly, I stand in solidarity with your case, and with the many members of your cause, with whom I nonetheless deeply disagree. As a Spaniard, I am concerned with the state repressing opinions of my people and I am concerned with the Spanish judiciary apparatus developing harsher policies as the foundational contradictions of the constitution start to rise, with growing opposition.

Finally I would like to apologise in the name of the Spanish Left for the complicit silence of many of our leaders, mainly belonging to the domesticate centre-left, concerning the repression

of Catalan independence movements with violence, in some cases. I hope your case serves to uncover the pseudo-democratic mask that the Spanish government has, and furthermore, helps to do the same to other western states that are collaborating with Spain’s political witchhunt. I believe that unfortunately many constitutional and democratic western states would have done the same if their traditionally most industrialised region sought to secede. A state is democratic until you start to unveil the contradictions within its hegemony.

Finally, Prof Ponsatí, I wish you the best of luck for these coming days. I will attend the demonstrations, not as an independent non-partisan of the Catalan independence cause, but as a Spanish student revolted by judicial disproportion.

Yours sincerely,

Samuel Barney

St Andrews



  1. “A state is democratic until you start to unveil the contradictions within its hegemony.” Care to explain what’s democracy? As far as we know, it is a form of government. Propaganda is the only tool left for both the catalan and spanish statists.

    • Hello Carlos, I’m very sorry for my late answer. I have just, out of coincidence, run across your comment.
      I meant that any so called “democratic” state, tends to apply extraordinary measures (like the Spanish government on the October referendum deploying a massive repressive force, Great Britain with Northern Ireland and home rule, or the very “republican and democratic” rule of De Gaulle during the French-Algerian crisis). Political impasses happen in every type of political system, even in the most constitutional governments of Western Europe, and the response is usually with judiciary exception, not only in the streets, but also with their leaders, in the case of Catalonia, with penitentiary dispersion and international arrests. When I wrote this, I was not at all an advocate of the separatist cause at all, I only wanted to illustrate that Spain was living a moment of crisis in which the regular system of justice was acting in a repressive and disproportioned manner due to this logic of state of exemption. Yours best


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