Pepelu Carod-Rovira, president of the pro-Catalan-independence Izquierda Republicana de Cataluña (ERC) political party and Vice-Premier of the Catalan Generalidad, has decided that the best defense is a good offense.
Don Pepelu and his henchman, Pepe Bargalló, just made incredible fools of themselves by bragging before the TV cameras that they had scored a nonexistent invitation for Cataluña to host a pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennial art fair. The Venice Biennial immediately responded that Pepelu and Pepe were full of poop. In feigned embarrassment, Pepe Bargalló turned in his resignation as Head President Number One Nabob of the Instituto Ramón Llull, the government organization that is supposed to do for Catalan what the Instituto Cervantes does for Spanish. Pepelu refused to accept the resignation, of course, and everybody's still holding their lovely government positions.
So Pepelu went to TV1 in Madrid for a program called "I Have a Question for You," in which ordinary citizens ask questions to politicians. Zap and Rajoy have both been on, and last night they invited Pepelu, Llamazares the Communist, and Unión Democrática leader Durán y Lérida.
Four million people were watching throughout Spain.
And Pepelu got all indignant. Very indignant. His dignity was injured. More than that, Holy Cataluña and the Sacred Catalan Language were desecrated.
Some people from Valladolid had the nerve to address him as "Don José Luis."
Here's the video; Pepelu comes on. He's the short bald guy with the combover and the brushy mustache who looks like your 11th grade geometry teacher--you remember that guy, the one with BO who wore a maroon polyester blazer and stared at all the girls' chests.
(Note: Non-Catalan Spaniards do not like the fact that bilingual Catalans can leave Catalonia and pass a government job exam in Spanish, but monolingual Spaniards cannot come to Catalonia and pass a job exam in Catalan.)
Young man: Good evening, don José Luis.
Pepelu: Excuse me. My name is Josep Lluís.
YM: I don't understand Catalan.
Pepelu: You don't have to understand Catalan. My name is my name just as much here as in China. You have no right to change my name.
YM: Señor Carod-Rovira, or whatever you prefer...
Pepelu: No, not what I prefer, what my name is.
YM: My question is simple. Don't you think it's unfair that a Castilian-Leonese, which I am, shouldn't be able to go to Catalonia to take a civil service exam because Catalan is demanded, but it can be done the other way around? Don't you think since both Catalan and Spanish are co-official languages in Catalonia, people should be judged by their knowledge and skills before the language?
Pepelu: You're right, people should be judged by their skills, and in Cataluña there are two official languages. Those who know both languages have more skills than those who only know one. If you went to work as a doctor in Paris would you claim to feel rejected because you didn't know the language of Paris?
YM: But we're talking about Spain.
Pepelu: That's where I wanted to go. Well, this Spain that you love is a Spain that is only in Spanish.
Old Woman: Good evening, don José Luis. I'm from Castilla y León, and I'm sorry I don't know Catalan.
Pepelu: Allow me to repeat something to you. Don't bother. My name is not José Luis. If you haven't learned in the three centuries between 1714 and today to say Josep Lluís, but you know how to say Schwarzenegger and Shevardnadze, you have a problem, not me.
OW: I have no interest in learning Catalan, thank you.
Pepelu: If you have no interest in learning Catalan, how is it that you want people in Catalonia to feel comfortable in a state (Spain) that expresses the scorn for the language that you just showed.
What a self-righteous prick.
Well, he got what he wanted. All the Cataloonies, who only live in Cataluña, have an excuse to forget all about Pepelu's little faux pas about the Biennial, and get all indignantly up in arms because people from León can't pronounce "Josep Lluís" and feel embarrassed about doing it in public. The other result of his tantrum, of course, will be even more support in the rest of Spain for the extreme anti-Catalan wing of the PP. He stirred up his homeboys and antagonized everybody else, which is just what he wanted.
This contretemps was the big story on the TV3 news this afternoon, and the afternoon talk show devoted its roundtable to the subject. All the panelists were righteously indignant at the insult to Holy Sacred Catalanity, and almost all the dorks who send SMSs to the show had their blood stirred up and were ready to raise the barricades.
Get this. La Vanguardia's Web article has attracted more than 1150 comments already. That's more than I've ever seen for any story. Naturally, all the commenters are thoughtful and educated gentlemen and ladies making reasoned and logical arguments.
Meanwhile, the following LV story from page 20 in this morning's paper has received zero reader comments:
The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) yesterday accused Convergence and Union (CiU) of charging illegal kickbacks, after a Barcelona judge ruled that in the year 2003 a contractor paid a 20% kickback when working for Adigsa, a public company belonging to the Generalidad...The investigation began when Pasqual Maragall in February 2005 accused CiU, on the floor of Parliament, of collecting kickbacks of 3% of all public works contracts...The judge ruled that there was evidence of embezzlement of public funds, fraud, influence-peddling, abuse of power, and forgery...The judge wrote that Adigsa's plan to build housing for young people "was created with the goal of winning votes for the party in power in the region, CiU." He mentioned the 20% kickbacks, but could not specify the final destination of the money..."All parties finance themselves in the same way, said Pasqual Maragall yesterday in Valladolid...The ex-premier expressed his surprise at the size of the kickbacks. "I didn't know the commissions were 20%."
All Spanish and Catalan political parties, see, run patronage machines. When your buddies are in power, you get a share of the jobs and the contracts, and you have to pay somebody between 3% and 20%. And everybody gets a share, it's all neatly divided up; the Socialists get the biggest piece, but their partners ERC and the Communists have their own little domains as well. CiU, of course, got the biggest piece back when they were running the regional government; now they're out of power, and desperate to get some back, because they have sagging bank accounts. Pepelu Carod-Rovira's ERC openly levies contributions on holders of patronage (not civil-service) government jobs in the departments they control. This, by the way, is actually at least semi-legal.