Ousted Cata­lan leader vows peace­ful re­sis­tance

The Dominion Post - - World -

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.

PHOTO: REUTERS

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.

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