The Latest: Ex-Catalan leader speaks to mayors in Brussels
MADRID (AP) — The Latest on Catalonia’s bid for independence (all times local):
Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont says he will defeat at the ballot box next month what he calls the Spanish government’s “repression” of Catalonia’s wishes for independence.
Puigdemont says Catalonia “has one path to becoming a republic — via democracy.”
Puigdemont spoke mostly in French to around 200 visiting mayors from Catalonia who gathered in a Brussels art museum. They gave him a rapturous, standing ovation before he began speaking, chanting “president, president.”
The Catalan leader fled to Brussels after the Spanish government dismissed the regional government and parliament because of their attempts to secede from Spain. The Spanish government says it is upholding the law, but Puigdemont claims he and his separatist allies are being persecuted.
Catalan officials at the Brussels event Tuesday urged European Union leaders to take up the Catalan cause. A group of mayors held up letters spelling “Help Catalonia.” At the end, they sang the Catalan anthem and the mayor raised their walking sticks— the symbol of mayoral power in Spain.
An Early regional elections is scheduled for Dec. 21.
The ousted president of Catalonia is making his first public appearance in Belgium since he appeared in court Sunday on an arrest warrant from Spain.
Around 200 mayors from Catalonia gathered in a Brussels art museum on Tuesday to show their support for Carles Puigdemont. Spanish authorities removed him from office on Oct. 28 and are seeking to extradite him to face possible rebellion charges.
Puigdemont and other former members of the regional government are being investigated for their roles promoting Catalonia’s secession from Spain.
The mayors raised walking sticks— the symbol of mayoral power in Spain — in the air and chanted “President, president, president” as they waited for Puigdemont to come through the door.
The Catalan mayors rallied at the European Union’s headquarters earlier in the day as around 100 opponents of breaking the region away from Spain rallied nearby.
Around 200 mayors from Spain’s Catalonia region have gathered in Belgium in a show of support for ousted president Carles Puigdemont as Madrid seeks his extradition for trial.
The mayors descended on the European Union quarter of Brussels, as around 100 pro-Spanish supporters rallied nearby, some with signs saying “No to Catalan independence.”
Angles town mayor Astrid Dessed said the local representatives were there “to say to the members of the Catalan government who are here that we are standing with them, we support them.”
She also thanked Belgium for not jailing Puigdemont — nine former Catalan government members have been imprisoned in Spain. He stands ready to campaign for snap a regional election called for Dec. 21.
Dessed added: “We ask Europe, please, listen to us, we feel European, and we are here at the heart of Europe to say this.”
Catalonia’s opposition leader hopes that disillusion among pro-independence supporters can help her Ciutadans (Citizens) party and other pro-Spanish unity groups gain a majority of seats between them in the region’s crucial Dec. 21 early election.
Ines Arrimadas says that the secessionist parties of the recently ousted Catalan government will have no credibility if they again promise a bright future for Catalonia’s independence.
She says no country recognizes their secession declaration made on Oct. 27, the EU insists an independent Catalonia will be expelled and thousands of businesses have since moved their headquarters from the region.
The 36-year-old Arrimadas, whose party holds 25 seats in the 135-deputy Catalan parliament, said “demoralization” among the pro-independence camp and mobilization of unionist parties could help swing the balance in Spain’s favor.
She said polls show “an alternative majority is possible.”
The latest government-run poll in Spain says that Catalan independence has become the second cause of concern for Spaniards, behind unemployment and ahead of corruption.
Catalonia’s separatist government held a banned independence referendum Oct. 1, deepening a political crisis that continues to grip Spain with the removal and criminal prosecution of regional officials.
Around 29 percent of those surveyed identified the prospect of an independent Catalonia as among their top three main worries, up from 7.8 in September, when the issue was down at ninth position in the ranking of concerns, according to the much-watched CIS survey.
About 66.2 percent chose unemployment, the second highest in Europe, as the main concern, while corruption and fraud came third.
CIS quizzed 2,487 Spaniards in interviews conducted between Oct. 2 and 11, with a margin of error of 2 percent.
A civil society group that spearheaded the Catalan endeavor for secession from Spain wants all of Catalonia’s separatist political parties to run in a joint pro-independence coalition in the Dec. 21 regional elections.
Assemblea Nacional Catalana is calling for the joint coalition to include jailed separatist activists and members of the deposed Catalan cabinet as candidates.
The parties have until midnight Tuesday to register an interest in forming coalitions.
Pro-secession parties held a slim majority in the Catalan Parliament before it was dissolved by Spanish authorities after it voted for a declaration of independence. Judges are gauging possible rebellion charges against the former Catalan separatist officials. Some of them are fighting extradition in Belgium.
Recent opinion polls have forecast a tight electoral race between parties for and against the independence.
Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has criticized the passivity of European politicians in showing solidarity with the deposed and jailed government of Catalonia.
In an interview Tuesday in Brussels with Catalan public radio, the separatist leader says there is an “absolute disconnect between the interests of the people and the European elites” and that Catalonia’s problem is an “issue of human rights that requires maximum attention.”
Puigdemont is fighting extradition to Spain, where other members of the ousted Cabinet have been sent to jail while awaiting the results of a probe for allegedly weaving a strategy to secede from Spain.
The Spanish central authorities are now in direct control of the northeastern region, where early polls on Dec. 21 are shaping into an electoral battle between separatists and unionists.