Catalonia could withhold its share of Spanish debt, regional premier warns

As region prepares for pivotal elections, Mas criticizes Madrid’s “strategy of fear”

Catalan premier Artur Mas is criticizing Spain's "strategy of fear."
Catalan premier Artur Mas is criticizing Spain's "strategy of fear."ALBERT GARCIA

Less than a week before Catalonia holds pivotal elections that are triggering innumerable displays of pro- and anti-secessionist sentiment, regional premier Artur Mas has hardened the tone of his own public statements.

Last weekend Mas criticized the banking sector for saying that lenders could walk out of Catalonia if it breaks away from Spain.

On Sunday, he also asked voters to “give the finger” to the Popular Party (PP), the Socialists and Podemos, three parties that oppose secession.

Will we be the only country in the world without banks, without foreign investment?”

Catalan premier Artur Mas

“Big chiefs come to Catalan reserve to tell natives what is good to vote,” he said, imitating the way Native Americans are portrayed in parodies. “Natives give a big finger and say victory of Junts pel Sí, which they will not like at all.”

On Monday, Mas also admonished Bank of Spain governor Luis Linde for suggesting that there could be a risk of a corralito in Catalonia if the region secedes – as Mas is threatening to do if his secessionist bloc Junts pel Sí wins an absolute majority of seats at this Sunday’s elections.

“There are people in power who don’t want to lose their seats,” said Mas. “Today we have another example, the governor of the Bank of Spain: people at the service of the state who do not wish to lose power.”

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Regarding the chance of capital controls in an independent Catalonia – which Linde himself termed “a highly unlikely prospect” – Mas said that it was “false and they know it.”

“It is irresponsible and indecent to issue threats that nobody in a democratic country would dare voice. They do it because they have no other arguments.”

The regional premier, who has become the chief figure of the secessionist movement in recent years, then flexed Catalonia’s financial muscle to issue a warning of his own.

“Spain has a lot at stake. Imagine there is no deal on Spain’s public debt. How would the state service its debt if there is no agreement for Catalonia to accept its share? The price of not reaching an agreement is implacable,” said Mas, whose Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) party ruled the region in tandem with the Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC) for over three decades until the independence issue caused a rift between the partners.

Bank of Spain governor Luis Linde said secession could entail a risk of 'corralito'.
Bank of Spain governor Luis Linde said secession could entail a risk of 'corralito'.EFE

Meanwhile, all the other candidates running with the Junts pel Sí bloc – chiefly made up of CDC and the smaller Catalan Republican Left (ERC)  – are casting all statements against secession as part of a bigger “strategy of fear” by the Spanish state.

“Will we be the only country in the world without banks, without foreign investment?” asked Mas, who is not seeking another term as premier but is running fourth on the Junts pel Sí ticket.

“They keep treating people as though they were incapable of the most basic analysis. We’re not buying it; I ask people not to let themselves be dragged down by the strategy of fear.”

English version by Susana Urra

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