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Catalan premier ahead of Sunday vote: “We have already won”

Carles Puigdemont makes speech to thousands at rally in Barcelona on Friday night ahead of planned referendum on independence

Regional premier Carles Puigdemont (l) with his predecessor Artur Mas at the rally on Friday night.
Regional premier Carles Puigdemont (l) with his predecessor Artur Mas at the rally on Friday night.

“We have already won, we have won over the fears and the threats of an authoritarian state that didn’t want to let us get this far and tried to make us surrender at the first sign of difficulty.” That was the defiant message on Friday night spoken by Carles Puigdemont, the regional premier of Catalonia, with less than two days to go before his government’s planned independence referendum, a vote that has been declared illegal by the Spanish justice system.

The politician was speaking at a campaign rally in favor of the “yes” vote organized by pro-secessionist forces, and which took place on the María Cristina avenue, in the Catalan capital.

They didn’t know that given the kind of people we are, we just get stronger with every difficulty we face

Carles Puigdemont

Despite pressure from the central government in Madrid, which is fiercely opposed to the vote and to independence for the northeastern Spanish region, and the actions of the police and Civil Guard to stop the poll from taking place, Puigdemont insisted that the “yes” vote would win out on Sunday. But he admitted that “these hours [before the referendum] will feel like the longest and most impatient on the way to winning independence.” He struck out against the police operations, court-ordered searches and arrests that have taken place in the run-up to the vote, in a bid to find and seize material such as voting slips and ballot boxes. “They didn’t know that given the kind of people we are, we just get stronger with every difficulty we face,” he told the crowds.

Ahead of “concluding with definitive victory on Sunday,” Puigdemont stated that October 1 would see “the end of the [independence] process and the start of progress,” when Catalonia declared its secession from Spain. The scenario that he laid out was of “a country that only asks to be treated like a normal country, where no one has to fear the police, where the internet is not cut off, and whereby no one who says that they want to vote is threatened.

“On Sunday we have a date with the future, and on Monday we will begin to take that path, we will look at ourselves in the mirror and we will not recognize ourselves,” the premier said, without giving any hints as to when or how such a declaration of independence would take place.

If you don’t declare independence, we will never forgive you. Rome does not pay traitors

CUP deputy Mireia Boya

The speeches heard at the rally on Friday night were of a markedly different tone from that given several hours earlier by Mireia Boya, a deputy from the Popular Unity Candidacy party (CUP), a small far-left radical group whose elected representatives have held the key to power for Puigdemont’s Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) group, after it failed to win a majority at the 2015 regional elections.

Boya stated on Friday night that the October 1 vote is neither “a mobilization, nor a participatory process,” as the Podem coalition (formed by anti-austerity group Podemos and Catalonia Greens, among others) describe it, but rather “a self-determination referendum because we want to declare independence.” She also had a warning for the government of Puigdemont. “If you don’t declare independence, we will never forgive you. Rome does not pay traitors.”

She also called on the public to “defend” polling places, which are due to be sealed off by the police, and called for the “occupation forces” to leave, in reference to the thousands of Civil Guard and National Police officers that have been drafted into the region ahead of Sunday’s poll.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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