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Catalonia, hostage to Puigdemont

The independence process has left the region at the mercy of a visionary with a breakaway plan

Carles Puigdemont arriving at the University of Copenhagen.
Carles Puigdemont arriving at the University of Copenhagen. AFP

The events that followed the Catalan regional elections of December 21 leave no room for doubt: supporters of unilateral independence are intent on pushing ahead with their road map. The failure of the independence process, the loss of self-rule after Article 155 of the Constitution was enforced, and the pledges made by some jailed secessionist leaders, may have created the illusion that Catalan separatists would seek out other (legal and more moderate) channels to keep advancing toward self-government and earning the social majority that they still lack.

But their insistence on appointing Carles Puigdemont, a fugitive from justice, as the next head of the Catalan government suggests a much more radical plan that is also more detrimental for Catalonia. As is clearly emerging, one of Europe’s wealthiest regions has become hostage to a visionary with no political project but a great command of the workings of the media.

Everything suggests that a return to normality is no longer an option for the secessionist bloc

At this juncture, it would be pointless to pick apart the ravings uttered by Puigdemont, who showed up in Denmark as the persecuted victim of a Francoist, totalitarian state and avoided all questions concerning his own disregard for the law. At this point, it is up to the secessionist bloc to ask questions about the ultimate goal of Puigdemont’s juggling game and about their own project for Catalonia beyond a mere clash with the Spanish state through the defense of an impossible appointment.

Not so long ago it would have been very hard to believe that the pro-European, pro-business, moderate CiU, the dominant party of Catalonia for so many years, would so quickly fall into the hands of an irreplaceable chieftain and embrace the worst kind of populism under its new brand name of Junts per Catalunya (JxC).

The Catalan Republican Left (ERC) – Puigdemont’s ally in the Catalan government until the latter’s dissolution under Article 155 – is trying to play the ambiguity game, but its acts show that it has no agenda of its own and remains a prisoner of Puigdemont’s trip to nowhere. The letter just sent by Catalan house speaker Roger Torrent to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is an apparent call to dialogue that nevertheless insists on violating the rules and denying the separation of powers when it asks the Spanish executive to facilitate the fugitive’s appointment to the Catalan premiership because anything else “would be a violation of fundamental rights.”

One of Europe’s wealthiest regions has become hostage to a visionary with no political project but a great command of the workings of the media 

Everything suggests that a return to normality is no longer an option for the secessionist bloc. After radicalizing their grassroots supporters – particularly followers of JxC – the politics of law and reason have become useless. Contrary to custom, speaker Torrent has not yet set a date for the investiture debate. Not even the urgency – which even ERC has underscored – of forming a new government and ending Madrid’s regional takeover is making the secessionist bloc change its behavior or modify its strategy for destabilizing whom they view as their adversary. After sowing the seeds of discord, they feel comfortable in the ensuing storm. Supreme Court Justice Pablo Llarena has refused to play Puigdemont’s game, using legal arguments with political depth. The ball is back in the secessionists’ court. The game is still on, but until when?

English version by Susana Urra.

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