Ex-leader backs down over Cata­lan sep­a­ratism

The Timaru Herald - - WORLD -

SPAIN: The de­posed Cat­alo­nian pres­i­dent has said ‘‘a so­lu­tion other than in­de­pen­dence is pos­si­ble’’, in an ap­par­ent climb­down from his hard line on sep­a­ratism for the re­gion.

Car­les Puigde­mont, who was ousted af­ter lead­ing an il­le­gal in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum last month, has told Bel­gian news­pa­per Le Soir he is ‘‘pre­pared to ac­cept the re­al­ity of an­other kind of re­la­tion­ship with Spain’’, hint­ing at a pos­si­ble fed­eral state struc­ture.

He said he would never give up on the pos­si­bil­ity of a ‘‘deal’’ with Spain on a new sta­tus or the pos­si­bil­ity of hold­ing a le­gal ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence for Cat­alo­nia.

Puigde­mont fled to Brus­sels to avoid the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing jailed, af­ter all mem­bers of the re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tion were ac­cused of re­bel­lion, sedi­tion and mis­use of pub­lic funds.

His com­ments come days af­ter Carme For­cadell, the speaker of the Cata­lan par­lia­ment, told a judge in­ves­ti­gat­ing her and five other col­leagues for re­bel­lion that the dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence had been merely ‘‘sym­bolic’’.

Clara Pon­sat, one of the four re­gional min­is­ters who fled to Bel­gium along with Puigde­mont, has also said her gov­ern­ment ‘‘was not suf­fi­ciently pre­pared to ap­ply in­de­pen­dence’’.

The na­ture of Puigde­mont’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the elec­tion re­mains un­clear as he awaits a court hear­ing in Brus­sels on Spain’s re­quest to have him ex­tra­dited.

Speak­ing in Barcelona on Mon­day in his first visit to Cat­alo­nia since he im­posed di­rect rule, Mar­i­ano Ra­joy, Spain’s prime min­is­ter, urged Cata­lans to ‘‘vote mas­sively’’ against sep­a­ratist par­ties in the snap elec­tion on De­cem­ber 21.

Puigde­mont told Le Soir he did ‘‘not wish to be a can­di­date for a po­lit­i­cal party’’, but the idea of a unity list of Cata­lan par­ties has lost strength since two ma­jor proin­de­pen­dence forces, the Cata­lan Repub­li­can Left and the an­t­i­cap­i­tal­ist CUP, an­nounced they would run sep­a­rately.

‘‘I have, be­ing pro-in­de­pen­dence all my life, worked for 30 of to years to have an­other way Cat­alo­nia be­ing an­chored Spain,’’ Puigde­mont said.

How­ever, he gave no hint to Le Soir how such an agree­ment could work.

Spain was plunged into its worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis since a failed mil­i­tary coup in 1981 when Puigde­mont’s sep­a­ratist gov­ern­ment de­clared in­de­pen­dence. Ra­joy re­sponded by sack­ing the Cata­lan gov­ern­ment, im­pos­ing di­rect rule from Madrid and call­ing re­gional elec­tions.

– Tele­graph Group, The Times

PHOTO: REUTERS

For­mer Cata­lan leader Car­les Puigde­mont ap­pears to be pre­pared to com­pro­mise over in­de­pen­dence for Cat­alo­nia.

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