Let's go back an exact year, or as exact as it can be if we take into account that we are talking about February 29 of a leap year. There were still 12 days left for the WHO to declare the global pandemic and three more days for the state of alarm to be declared in Spain, but the Generalitat was already aware of the health risk. The cancellation of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was already history and the WHO warned against holding public events with more than 1,000 people. Despite all, the nationalist "govern" delayed its own action plan against COVID-19 (something they have already admitted on TV3) to allow a show of strength in Perpignan (France), a territory that the Catalan independence claims as the "North Catalonia". For that tribute to Puigdemont it had been decided to put 200,000 Catalans in five hundred buses, locked up for hours of travel to concentrate them in a fairground for another many hours and, again, to crowd them into buses and return them to their homes. 14 days later (the COVID-19 contagion cycle), Catalonia was experiencing the largest statistical explosion of deaths in the world, something of which the report prepared by the catcovidtransparencia platform that you can consult here complies. Since its publication, the Generalitat has published dozens of websites with names the same as the name of the report, many of them highly promoted, which has ensured that people do not find the report if they search for it, except with the specific link. The report is comprehensive, based on public and objective data, is easy to understand and leaves no room for doubt.
The numbers that couldn't be hidden
Returning to the facts, the consequences of the event quickly became difficult to hide. The figures (despite the enormous regional opacity) were impossible to make up. At one point, the Generalitat stopped communicating its data on deaths to Madrid, being the only autonomous region that did so. A few days later, the President of the Generalitat, Quim Torra, announced that he was infected. He was the first regional president to catch it and would be the only one for a long time. He had also been to Perpignan.
The escalation was terrifying. Igualada and the Ódena basin were placed in quarantine. In no other Spanish region did a municipality have to isolate itself in those early days of the first wave. 12 of the Perpignan buses had departed and returned from Igualada. More than five hundred people had boarded there, traveled together, spent the day together, breathed the same air for hours, and disembarked in the same place. Some complained of not feeling well already on the same return trip. However, the nationalist government attributed the massive outbreak to a working lunch held the day before, attended by 80 people. That was the official excuse, although the so-called "patient zero" claimed she had not attended the meal. The government never considered rethinking the official version of it. They never considered attributing the outbreaks to an event they had organized themselves.
The public media of nationalism insisted on throwing balls out. In one of the programs broadcast by TV3 with correspondents in Madrid, they overprinted under the journalists: "The COVID crisis, from the place of origin". As always, Madrid was to blame, not Valencia (from where it had allegedly arrived to Catalonia) or Italy (where it could have gone to Valencia), nor Wu-Han, the true origin of the pandemics. And of course, Perpignan was not mentioned. The origin of the evil was Madrid. Ponsatí (one of the speakers from Perpignan) joked "from Madrid to heaven", and after the subsequent escalation of deaths in Madrid, the independentista Canadell made fun of "The emptied Spain..", while Gabriel Rufián protested and the head of health Alba Vergés put all his efforts so that the spanish military did not install field hospitals in Catalonia.
However, the regrettable management of the pandemic is not the purpose of this article, so let's return to focus on the possible collateral damage of the nationalist demonstration.
What mark did the alleged macrocontagion leave in Perpignan?
What can't be denied is that a few days after the meeting (more or less equivalent to the cycle of the disease) Perpignan became the main focus of COVID in the south of France. No other municipality equaled its indicators.
The fact is that even before the event was held, not only did the Spanish media raise the health risk it entailed (we did it in this article
), but also the French media such as Actu.fr
(West France). On the day of the event, the Equinox newspaper warned that the forecast of attendees (200,000 were estimated) was excessive for the fairgrounds and recounted how Puigdemont requested the "reunification
" of Catalonia separated by Spain and France. Politicians like Francis Chouat
(PS) or Guillaume Larrivé
warned of the nationalist harangues that threatened the coexistence and unity of the French Republic. The digital Euronews echoed the criticisms
of different personalities of French politics warning of the serious health irresponsibility.
Until then, the municipal government of Perpignan had maintained excellent relations with Catalan nationalism and had supported the secessionist cause. Support centered around Mayor Jean-Marc Pujol and based on multiple interests that the population of Perpignan didn't seem to share. We'll never know if the possible macrocontagion produced by the demonstration ended up unbalancing the balance, but the fact is that the municipal elections took place at the end of March, a month after the event and with the pandemic rampaging through the municipality. Puigdemont had participated in the campaign supporting the continuation government of his friend Pujol. The result was a complete rejection and a one-time victory for Marie Le Pen's patriotic French extreme right, something unheard of throughout France. The people of Perpignan had voted en masse for a party that claimed a fully French identity, and Puigdemont lost the main support in that municipality.
On April 4, the newspaper of influence in Roussillon Ouillade echoed a complaint in which the pro-independence rally was directly accused of spreading infections and triggering deaths in Perpignan and the south of France. The complaint was impeccably founded and was accompanied by the legal provisions of French law that the organization could have violated. In addition, the complainant opened a petition on Change.org for an investigation into the matter, although that petition was not followed up sufficiently.
France became aware of the dangers of the virus and nationalism
In December 2020 in the French magazine Revue Politique et Parlementaire, the columnist Laurence Taillade remembers the event as a serious and irresponsible health risk as a result of a possible new demonstration in another French town. Taillade takes the opportunity to review the recent history of Catalan nationalism, from the illegal referendum on October 1 (which he calls "rigged") to the flight of Puigdemont and his family ("the least brave", according to the columnist) and describes nationalism as an "organization that extends its tentacles through several countries", denouncing indoctrination in French schools, maneuvers of "linguistic substitution", historical manipulation and "stories about the Catalan country" based on victimhood, as well as the questioning of the quality of the rule of law of the French Republic. Come on, here.
In summary, the concentration in Perpignan could have had two quite obvious and distinct effects. On the one hand, it could have supposed a "perfect storm" (involuntary but reckless) in the spread of the pandemic in both Spain and France. On the other hand, it could be a warning to sailors for the citizens of the South of France who saw how the problems of coexistence in Catalonia threatened to reproduce in their land and how the independence politicians placed their ideology above much more urgent and vital issues.
They seem to have learned. Right now Perpignan seems to have made significant progress in immunization against the virus. And against the independence movement.
Let's see if we learn too.