Ousted Catalan leader vows peaceful resistance
SPAIN: Catalonia’s ousted leader called for peaceful opposition to Spain’s decision to take direct control of the region, saying yesterday that he and other regional officials fired by the central government will keep ``working to build a free country.’'
Carles Puigdemont’s comments, made in a recorded televised address that was broadcast as he sat in a cafe in his hometown of Girona, were a veiled refusal to accept his Cabinet’s dismissal as ordered by central authorities.
They came a day after one of the most tumultuous days in Spain’s recent history, when Catalan lawmakers in Barcelona passed a declaration of independence for the prosperous northeastern region, and the national parliament in Madrid approved unprecedented constitutional measures to halt the secessionist drive.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also dissolved the regional parliament and called a new regional election to be held on December 21.
In his televised statement, Puigdemont said only the regional parliament can elect or dismiss the Catalan government, vowing to ``continue working to build a free country.’'
``The best way we have to defend the achievements to date is the democratic opposition to the application of Article 155,’' Puigdemont said in reference to the constitutional clause that gave Madrid direct control of affairs in Catalonia.
Despite his defiant tone and the use of the official Catalan government emblem, the Catalan and European Union flags but no sign of the Spanish one, some political commentators saw his mention of ``democratic opposition’' as laying the groundwork for political campaigning for the regional election in less than two months.
``Our will is to continue working to fulfill the democratic mandates and at the same time seek the maximum stability and tranquility,’' Puigdemont said. Separatists argue that a controversial victory in a banned October 1 referendum legitimises them to split from Spain.
Andrew Dowling, a specialist in Catalan history at Cardiff University in Wales, said the statement was ``vague and imprecise, certainly not like the president of a new country.’'
``They have led 2 million Catalans to believe in independence, so it’s a big problem to tell them now that it’s actually difficult to build a state when Spain has the upper hand of the law on its side,’' Dowling said. ``They are trapped by their own rhetoric.’'
After Spain’s central authorities made the takeover official early Saturday, Puigdemont and the 12 members who until Saturday made up the Catalan Cabinet are no longer paid.
Spain’s government has said they could be charged with usurping others’ functions if they refuse to obey, which could throw the region into further turmoil by prolonging a monthlong standoff.
Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont strolls with his wife Marcela Topor during a walkabout in Girona the day after the Catalan regional parliament declared independence from Spain.