If you don’t live in Spain, chances are you may have missed the recent headline news about Mr Jordi Pujol, ex-President of the Catalan Autonomous Government, a position he led for 23 years. He is the founder of a centrist political party, he has been key in the democratic transition in Spain, and has acted as a broker between parties. For more than those 23 years, Mr Pujol was the face of the democratic, moderate Catalonia.
Mr Pujol has acknowledged that, since the 80s, he has held his father’s inheritance in Andorra, a tax heaven. Despite several occasions where successive Spanish Central governments have offered citizens an amnesty to legalise their finances ‘and move on’, Mr Pujol declared that he “never found the right time” to do so!
Mr Pujol’s declarations have sent shockwaves through Spain for obvious reasons. A full investigation is now underway.
His political heir, Mr Mas, and current President of the 7 million Catalan region, leader of the ‘independentist’ movement, reacted to the news with the unfortunate statement that ‘this was a private affair of Mr Pujol’. Probably not much critical thinking at the time of the tsunami.
That’s the problem with leadership: it can’t be unbundled, it’s a package. Leaders can’t be good at vision and then have a laxed approach to values, or pretend that leadership can be separated between private and public life. When leadership is good, it’s good. When it fails, as in this case, the repercussions are enormous. The casualties here are trust, hope, a vision for a country, values. You name it.
It does not mean that leaders have to be perfect. Human beings have human failures. But leadership is not a ‘pick and mix’ affair.
The most common reaction I’ve heard in the streets of Catalonia was: he has screwed things up for all of us (‘screwed up’ being a benign transaction of the real thing)!