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Félix Bolaños. SUR
Victims of abuse
Opinion

Victims of abuse

The Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition of 'gaslighting' runs as follows: "psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts [or] perception of reality [...]."

Mark Nayler

Malaga

Friday, 8 December 2023, 12:33

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I think I'm going mad. I thought I was fine until reading an interview with Spain's justice and presidency minister Félix Bolaños late last week, in which he breezily told Politico that the EU has "almost forgotten" about the Catalan independence issue and that there is "no concern" in Brussels about the amnesty bill that Pedro Sánchez has promised the region's separatists. After reading that several times to check that my eyesight isn't failing along with my rational capacities, incredulity set in: "Wait a minute, I could have sworn...".

Around a month ago, Politico was among the many English-language publications that reported the contents of a letter sent to Spain's then-acting government from the EU's justice commissioner Didier Reynders. The missive expressed "serious concerns" over the proposed amnesties for Catalan separatists and asked for details regarding "the personal, material and temporal scope of this envisaged law", which Sánchez says he will pass in the first quarter of 2024.

The letter was sent to none other than Bolaños himself, who in a dismissive reply reminded Reynders that, in its acting capacity, the Spanish government couldn't present, let alone pass, any new bills itself. Reynders must have imagined the proposed amnesty law, then - along with Spain's top courts, large swathes of the Socialist party, the centre-right opposition and the tens of thousands of people who protested against it last month.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition of 'gaslighting' runs as follows: "psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts [or] perception of reality [...]." So I am not insane after all - phew! But I am being gaslighted - gaslit? - by Bolaños. At least I know I'm not alone: Brussels is suffering along with me, and I think perhaps you are too.

An EU spokesperson quickly denied Bolanos's parallel-world assertions, explaining that the Commission "has not yet said the amnesty law does not raise concerns" because it has unanswered questions and "analysis [of the proposed bill] is still ongoing". Bolaños, though, maintains that Reynders has told him "on the phone and [in person] that there is no concern for the rule of law [in Spain]".

The second part of Merriam-Webster's definition of 'gaslighting' says that it can lead to "dependency on the perpetrator". This applies perfectly to the situation in Spain: a battered electorate showed that it did not want the amnesty bill, but is now uncomfortably dependent, for another four years, on its controlling, abusive partner - i.e. Sánchez's government. And now we're being told by one of the coalition's senior ministers that the Catalan amnesties were no big deal and that no one, least of all the EU, was worried about them in the first place. Let's say it together: we are victims of abuse.

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