Carles Puigdemont Turns the Tables on Rajoy 266


Before his speech on Independence to the Catalan parliament, Carles Puigdemont seemed to be in an impossible position. Declare Independence and he would be immediately arrested and direct rule imposed from Madrid. Rajoy appeared to have all the angles covered; the EU had already specifically greenlighted the use of armed force in Commissioner Timmermans’ disgraceful address to the EU Parliament. The intergovernmental side of the EU, the Council, had through its President Donald Tusk called on Puigdemont not not to declare Independence but rather to enter dialogue, in terms that accepted the Spanish insistence that the very notion of Independence was inadmissible.

So Puigdemont was placed by the right wing governments of Europe into a position where if he declared Independence he would be portrayed as an unreasonable fanatic refusing dialogue, and his imprisonment would be portrayed as justified. On the other hand, if he did not declare Independence he would appear a traitor to his own supporters, would be breaking the referendum law of his own Catalan parliament and the cause of Independence would be damaged by disillusion.

The entire World was wondering how Puigdemont would deal with this fix. His answer was peculiarly brilliant. He started off by speaking at length of the history of Catalonia’s attempts to enter dialogue on more devolution, and their constant rebuttal by Madrid. This was so reasonable and effective that the live blog of the rabidly Unionist Guardian plain refused to translate or summarise any of it (see 18.31 here).

Puigdemont effectively turned the tables on Rajoy by both declaring Independence and not declaring Independence. He proclaimed the result of the referendum and said as a consequence the parliament would declare Independence, but in the next breath announced they would seek dialogue on the way forward with Spain. All media sources are saying that he stated Independence would be declared but suspended for two weeks pending dialogue. Unless the Deutsche Welt interpreter missed it, this did not come across as I listened live and I wonder if there was a last minute change to the circulated text. But the effect of what he said was much the same.

It is Rajoy who is now in the impossible position. The World has seen a very mild and moderate Puigdemont positively pleading for dialogue and mediation. It is going to be very difficult for Rajoy to arrest him for that. More importantly, Puigdemont appears to have acceded to the request of Donald Tusk and the European Council. But he has done so safe in the knowledge that Rajoy will not enter dialogue and never had any intention of doing so.

There are only two possible outcomes of a dialogue or mediation. One is greatly enhanced powers for Catalonia in a new devolution settlement. The second is an an agreed and binding Independence referendum. But Rajoy has taken a line of absolutist opposition to either of these ways forward, which opposition is fundamental to his centralising, Francoist world view. Rajoy, having whipped up Spanish nationalism to violent fever pitch, cannot give any ground to Catalonia without substantially alienating his own Francoist core support.

Puigdemont, in short, has acceded to EU calls for dialogue and negotiation which he knows Rajoy will refuse. As it becomes ever more evident that Rajoy has no plan at all except violence, the popular revulsion across Europe against the Francoists will gather momentum.

Puigdemont appeared boxed in, but he has skipped past Rajoy and left him sitting on his arse in the mud.

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266 thoughts on “Carles Puigdemont Turns the Tables on Rajoy

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  • Paul Barbara

    ‘Spain: Police Used Excessive Force in Catalonia’:
    https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/12/spain-police-used-excessive-force-catalonia

    ‘Spain: Excessive use of force by National Police and Civil Guard in Catalonia’:
    https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/10/spain-excessive-use-of-force-by-national-police-and-civil-guard-in-catalonia/

    ‘Catalan referendum: Jeremy Corbyn urges Theresa May to intervene ‘to find political solution to the crisis’:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/catalonia-independence-referendum-jeremy-corbyn-theresa-may-violence-intervention-mariano-rajoy-a7976976.html

    ‘Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged Theresa May to appeal to the Spanish prime minister to end the police violence in Catalonia following the disputed independence referendum.

    Mr Corbyn has called on the Prime Minister to intervene after a day of intense violence which has seen members of the Civil Guard firing rubber bullets on the crowds who turned out to vote in the poll which has been deemed illegal by the Constitutional Court in Madrid.

    The police, who have been drafted in from other parts of Spain, have been caught on camera beating voters and throwing them downstairs as they attempt to shut down polling stations across the region.

    He tweeted to condemn the violence against the Catalans as “shocking” and said the “Spanish government must act to end it now”……’

    ‘…Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable insisted Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson should call in the Spanish ambassador and tell him that the police response was “unacceptable”.

    Sir Vince said: “Police in a democracy should never drag people violently out of polling stations, whatever the arguments for or against holding a referendum.

    “The police response looks to have been brutal and completely disproportionate….’

    ‘…Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called on the Spanish government to “change course” and let people “vote peacefully” in the Catalan poll.

    Ms Sturgeon expressed her concerns on Twitter, stating: “Some of the scenes in Catalonia this morning are quite shocking and surely unnecessary. Just let people vote.”…..’

    BUT: ‘…A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “The referendum is a matter for the Spanish government and people.

    “We want to see Spanish law and the Spanish constitution respected and the rule of law upheld.

    “Spain is a close ally and a good friend, whose strength and unity matters to us.”…’

    ‘Catalan referendum: muted response from EU leaders over police crackdown’:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/01/catalan-referendum-eu-leaders-remain-muted-over-police-crackdown

    ‘…Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, was among the few national leaders to denounce the violence, which the Catalan government said had left 465 people injured as police forcibly removed voters from polling stations and on one occasion fired rubber bullets.

    “Violence can never be the answer!” Michel said on Twitter. His Slovenian counterpart, Miro Cerar, also expressed his concern, saying he was “concerned” and calling for “political dialogue, rule of law and peaceful solutions”…….’

    ‘…Former Belgian prime minister and senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt also said that while he did “not want to interfere” in Spain’s domestic affairs, “I absolutely condemn what happened today in Catalonia”. It was “high time for de-escalation,” he said…….’

    ‘…But Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, has said that Brussels must abide by the decisions of the Spanish government and of Spain’s constitutional court…..’

    ‘At last! MEPs break EU silence with crisis debate on ‘very serious’ violence in Catalonia’:
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/861448/Catalonia-referendum-MEPs-hold-crisis-debate-Spanish-state-violence

    But all I can find a word by Theresa May about the violence used in Catalonia by the police is in this small Hansard record:
    https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-10-09/debates/B119A163-5708-4B76-847A-0F8AFE4CD5F9/UKPlansForLeavingTheEU?highlight=Catalonia#contribution-A5A54C49-489B-4AD1-BF7E-21A9A5FBD5D3
    The Prime Minister
    ‘None of us wants to see the sort of violent scenes that we saw on the streets of Catalonia; I want to see this situation resolved peacefully, as I am sure do all hon. Members. But we are very clear as a Government that the Spanish Government have the right to uphold the Spanish constitution and that all parties should be operating under the rule of law.’

    There are a number of good statements by various MP’s on the following Hansard record, kicked off by Hywel Williams:
    https://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2017-10-10b.23.3

    • freddy

      I have heard on the radio, that Carles Puigdemont has turned the tables on Rajoy
      by writing Rajoy a letter, neither confirming nor otherwise,
      independence.

      Well, that’s clear then.

      • fred

        Then it will get home rule suspended. Any answer other than a clear unambiguous statement that independence has not been declared will get home rule suspended.

          • fred

            At the moment he is visiting an area of Spain ravaged by wild fires in which people have died.

            If Puigdemont had the bottle he would answer a simple question with a simple yes or no answer.

          • freddy

            You might have thought that it was a simple question.

            Question
            have you announced UDI

            answer one = YES

            answer two = NO

          • fred

            Answer one and Rajoy will take control of the Catalan government then call an election to instate a legal government.

            Answer two and Puigdemont will lose the support of the Nationalist parties and have to call an election himself.

            It’s win win for the people of Catalonia.

          • freddy

            Oh Nicolas Sturgeon
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-41570722
            Possibly the longest ovation of the conference – for anyone with a name not ending in “urgeon” – was for some representatives of the Catalan government, who didn’t even get onto the stage.
            Catalonia was fairly inescapable throughout the conference, from flags flying inside and out to T-shirts and pin-badges.
            There is vast sympathy amid the SNP’s activist base for the Catalans, fellow seekers of independence.

          • freddy

            “Privately, SNP bosses crossed their fingers that there was no declaration of independence from Catalonia during the conference; you could almost hear the chants of “UDI” welling up in the hall already.”

            Has Nicola yet decided if she still wants independence from the U.K.?

          • fred

            There is a big difference between Catalonia and Spain and Scotland and Britain.

            Catalonia subsidises Spain.

  • Paul Barbara

    @ fred October 16, 2017 at 11:27
    Another difference: Spain and Catalonia produce brandy; Scotland produces whisky, and Britain produces meths and White Lightning.

  • Paul Barbara

    Most European leaders don’t want to condemn the police violence because they know this is how their own countries are going to react before too long, as dissent and protests increase.

  • Paul Barbara

    ‘Catalonia: Spain detains two separatists’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-41646142

    ‘A Spanish judge has jailed two key members of the Catalan independence movement.
    Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, who lead prominent separatist groups, are being held without bail while they are under investigation for sedition.
    The men were leading figures in the 1 October independence vote, which the Madrid government regards as illegal.
    Their detention led to protests overnight, with more expected across Catalonia on Tuesday.
    Mr Sánchez, who heads the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a pro-independence organisation, and Mr Cuixart, leader of Omnium Cultural, appeared before the High Court in Madrid on Monday.
    They are being investigated over a protest on 20 September in which a crowd blocked Civil Guard officers inside a building in Barcelona, Catalonia’s regional capital….’

    Sedition in Spain carries up to 15 years imprisonment.

    • freddy

      Carles Puigdemont turns the tables on Rajoy
      by refusing to say if Catalonia has become independent.

      It’s the way you tell them.

  • freddy

    Mr Puigdemont has also angered Madrid by refusing to clarify whether or not he declared independence last week.
    He has until Thursday to clarify his position.

    Are we assuming, if Carles does not clarify his position, to the like of Mr. Rajoy.
    Mr.Rajoy will have Carles incacerated?

  • Paul Barbara

    ‘200,000 take to the streets of Barcelona demanding release of pro-independence leaders’:
    http://catalannews.com/society-science/item/200000-take-to-the-streets-of-barcelona-demanding-release-of-pro-independence-leaders

    ‘200,000 take to the streets of Barcelona demanding release of pro-independence leaders

    Candlelit demonstration in Catalonia’s capital and several other marches in the country’s main cities

    17 October 2017 08:55 PM byACN | Barcelona SHARE
    Once more people took the streets all around Catalonia massively. On Tuesday evening 200,000 protesters rallied in the country’s main cities, according to the local police. Yet this time the main march, in central Barcelona, was different from the protest. Two key people will be missing: Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the leaders of the main pro-independence civil organizations in the country, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural.

    In fact, the aim of the demonstration today is to protest against the judge’s decision to send both of them to prison less than 24 hours ago. They are being investigated for sedition. This unprecedented measure to any leader of the Catalan independence movement today has sparked protests all around the country. The main one was held in central Barcelona, with people holding candles. Girona, Lleida and Tarragona also hosted marches to support Sànchez and Cuixart.’

    Boycott Spain and Spanish produce. A good way to get Rajoy to the negotiating table.

    • freddy

      Spain will move to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy unless the region’s leader drops his push for independence,
      the deputy prime minister says.
      Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría gave the warning a day before a Spanish deadline to Carles Puigdemont was due to expire.
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-41664839

      Well that is fairly clear
      back down or go to prison.

  • Martinned

    FYI, EJIL:Talk! just published a summary of the Legal Opinion by an International Commission of Legal Experts addressing the question of Catalonia: The Will of the People and Statehood. The Commission was composed of Professors Marc Weller (UK ), John Dugard (South Africa), Richard Falk (USA) and Ana Stanic (Slovenia). Although the Opinion was commissioned by Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, its findings represent the agreed and independent views of the authors.

    https://www.ejiltalk.org/secession-and-self-determination-in-western-europe-the-case-of-catalonia/

    I think the analysis there is broadly right (and not just because it spends a lot of time analysing In Re: Secession of Quebec, like I did in comments on this blog and elsewhere).

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