terça-feira, 7 de fevereiro de 2017

Catalan trial turns into pro-independence show of force

Catalan trial turns into pro-independence show of force
As prosecution of Artur Mas begins, Barcelona and Madrid remain at loggerheads.

By DIEGO TORRES 2/6/17, 8:05 PM CET Updated 2/6/17, 9:02 PM CET

BARCELONA — Around 40,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona Monday ahead of the start of the trial of former Catalan president Artur Mas and two members of his cabinet, who are accused of organizing an illegal vote on independence from Spain in 2014.

In a carefully organized show of force, the defendants walked from the headquarters of the regional government to the courthouse accompanied by members of the current Catalan cabinet. Thousands of supporters made their voices heard, shouting “independence” and “you are not alone” and waving pro-independence banners.

“Thank you for your support, affection, convictions, ideals, for always standing up to defend Catalonia,” Mas told the crowd in a short statement after an initial court hearing.

“Many of us feel that we’re being judged today,” said current Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. “Those responsible for making [the vote] a judicial affair will face a nation that maintains its dignity.”

Mas — who faces a 10-year ban from public office if found guilty — assumed full responsibility before the tribunal for instigating the non-binding vote, but denied having intentionally violated the law.

He claimed that his government was simply supporting the work of an estimated 42,000 volunteers who organized the vote, which was ruled illegal by the country’s Constitutional Court five days before it was due to take place.

Around 2.3 million people — between 36 percent and 42 percent of the electorate, depending on which side’s figures are used — cast a ballot and 80 percent voted for independence.

From left, former Catalan Vice President Joana Ortega, former Catalan President Artur Mas, and their former Education Minister Irene Rigau, in court | Alex Caparrós/Getty Images
“No one is being judged for his political ideas,” Pablo Casado, a spokesman for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party, told reporters in Madrid after the hearing. In Spain, he claimed, “everyone is subject to the rule of law because a democracy without law is not a democracy.”

The trial of Mas, his deputy Joana Ortega and his education minister Irene Rigau — which will last five days — comes at a time of extreme tension between Puigdemont’s secessionist cabinet, which has committed to organizing a new referendum on independence (this time a binding one) before October, and Spain’s government led by Rajoy.

The conservative PM and the vast majority of Spanish political forces oppose the vote and the self-determination of Catalonia. The government in Madrid has made it clear that it will use all legal means to stop the referendum.

Measures could include the seizure of competencies from the Catalan regional government and fresh criminal prosecutions against the current Catalan leaders.

Catalan pro-independence forces won 48 percent of the vote and an absolute majority of seats in the regional assembly in 2015 elections. Lawmakers then approved an 18-month roadmap to independence.

We’ll go far as we need to. We have a commitment to make a referendum” — Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras

With Madrid and Barcelona in a deadlock, and the deadline set by pro-independence forces approaching, a key factor will be whether current Catalan leaders are prepared to disobey Spanish law and go ahead with their planned referendum.

“We’ll go far as we need to,” Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras told POLITICO. “We have a commitment to make a referendum […] and we’ll comply with the democratic mandate that we have because it’s our duty.”

Junqueras is widely expected to become the next president of Catalonia in the next elections, which will likely be called at the end of this year — with or without a referendum. His party, the center-left Catalan Republican Left, leads in the polls over Puigdemont and Mas’ center-right Catalan European Democratic Party, the current coalition partners.

Junqueras said a criminal prosecution such as that leveled against Mas, and a potential ban from public office, won’t deter him from going ahead with the referendum. “Those who come after me will surely do it better than me,” he said.

Fernando de Páramo, a member of the Catalan parliament for the pro-unity, centrist Ciudadanos, said he believes that the regional government will ultimately call new elections and argued that the separatist leaders have walked into a “labyrinth” from which they don’t know how to get out.

Sem comentários: