US congressman stands up for Catalan self-determination

Dana Rohrabacher could be Trump's Secretary of the State

Among the possible candidates to become Donald Trump’s secretary of state is a man who shares a bond with Catalonia: Dana Rohrabacher. He is a veteran Californian congressman and ally in Washington of pro-Catalan independence politicians. Over the course of this year, he has held several meetings with representatives from the Catalan regional government, the most recent of which took place in September. The interlocutor was the Catalan foreign affairs chief, Raül Romeva.

US president elect, Donald Trump.
US president elect, Donald Trump.

Rohrabacher’s office has neither confirmed nor denied that Trump is taking him into consideration for the secretary of state role, and compared to the possible competition, he has an outsider profile when it comes to international relations. Despite Republican consensus against Vladimir Putin, Rohrabacher has praised the Russian president. In that sense he is close to Trump, who has done nothing to hide his good relationship with Russia.

Kremlin finds a defender in Congress,” wrote The New York Times in March 2014, when Russia was mired in conflict after the annexation of Crimea. Rohrabacher is a rare example of someone who is in favor of Russian expansion in Ukraine. He met Putin in the mid-1990s and, like Trump, would prefer a closer relationship between Moscow and Washington.

Rohrabacher, who is a lover of surfing and is married to a woman from the Basque Country, has been in the Capitol for more than 25 years. His fondness for the independence movement started in September 2015, three weeks before the Catalan elections, which were cast as a plebiscite on pro-independence by regional parties.

The congressman later held a meeting with the then-foreign affairs secretary, Roger Albinyana. He and two other members of Congress subsequently announced their public support for the Catalans’ right to decide their future. They compared the situation in the region to the origins of the United States, which was under the rule of the British government when it opted for independence. This statement astonished the Spanish embassy in Washington.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

“For many years he has been conscious of all the pro-independence movements,” a Rorhabacher consultant told EL PAÍS, adding that he supported the “principle” of autonomy and independence despite not being involved in the Catalan process.

The politician comes from the ex-president Ronald Reagan’s orbit. He is an expert on Russia and Afghanistan, and is in favor of strict policies to combat immigration, as is the president elect. Rohrabacher, 69, also chairs the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats.

Rohrabacher’s fondness for the independence movement started in September 2015

His support for the principle of self-determination is not just limited to Catalonia or Crimea. In 2012, he tabled a bill in the House of Representatives in favor of the recognition of this right for Balochistan, a region in the south of Pakistan. In an article in The Washington Post, he justified his stance based on the “horrific violations of human rights” committed by Pakistani security forces in the region, and its treatment as “a colonial possession.”

Rohrabacher’s office is decorated with photos of Afghanistan, after in 1988 he spent several weeks in the country fighting alongside a unit of mujahedin. At the time the US was supplying military material to be used in the fight against the Afghan army, which was supported by the Soviet Union. According to a feature article published in Mother Jones in 2010, he joined up with a “rebel infantry unit whose mission included laying siege to a Soviet position.”

English version by Clàudia Bell and Marta Clapés in English

From November onward, the Catalan edition of EL PAÍS,, will include a selection of news stories in English.

The texts will be prepared by journalism students at the Pomepeu Fabra University (UPF), who will be adapting content from Catalan current affairs every week, adding extra information and explanation to these stories so that they can be understood in a global context.