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A grotesque escapade

Former Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont is mocking those exiled under Franco, hurting his allies and provoking the Belgians

Puigdemont in the prosecutor's office in Belgium.
Puigdemont in the prosecutor's office in Belgium.NICOLAS MAETERLINCK (AFP)

As well as the circus-like flight of former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont and several members of his ousted government to Belgium, there was the added farce of the group calling itself the “provisional government.” Now, by ending up in the Belgian courts, the episode has provoked “the worst nightmare” of the Belgian government, according to that country’s press.

The escapade has damaged those former ministers who faced up to their responsibilities in Spain by seemingly creating a push for them to be subject to strict precautionary measures because they constituted a flight risk. Indeed, eight of them are currently being held in pre-trial custody. Puigdemont’s behavior must be entertaining for some, but it is tragic for those who were unlucky enough to be in government with him.

Puigdemont’s behavior must be tragic for those who were unlucky enough to be in government with him

The decision by Puigdemont and his ex-ministers to call themselves a government in exile is laughable in that they are responsible for nothing, in contrast with the Catalan and republican governments based overseas during the rule of Franco. They oversaw the protection of exiles, assets and archives, while also being responsible for institutional relations with other countries that recognized them.

That is why Puigdemont’s humorous remarks so infuriate the survivors and descendants of those who managed, with their dignity intact, to achieve the smallest of results in truly horrific conditions (the Nazi Reich, internal divisions).

The problems created in the judicial and political system by the ousted premier show that he is only managing to increase instability and chaos. It confirms that the few sympathizers with the so-called pro-independence procés in Europe are extremist movements such as the Flemish nationalists (whom the Catalans are agitating, weakening a fragile Belgian coalition government), and the Lega Nord of northern Italy, who are aligned with the right-wing Le Pen movement of France. By their friends you shall know them.

Above all, the Belgian episode is projecting the exact opposite image of what it is trying to achieve: supposed international validation has become rejection on the part of perhaps the only groups who were willing to back them. They are slighting their supposed friends: not content with trying to destabilize Spain, they are repeating the attempt elsewhere. Is this the pro-European sentiment that the Catalan independence movement promised? Puigdemont is in for a disappointment, not to mention the damage to Catalonia’s image and, in part, to Spain’s.

The few sympathizers with the so-called ‘procés’ in Europe are extremist movements such as the Flemish nationalists

Puigdemont argues that he is the legitimate premier of a legitimate government. But it is not a government; rather it is the shattered remains of one. It is not legitimate; it violated legality. It has no authority whatsoever. Puigdemont has no authority because he lied again when he said he would not stand in any elections, citing family reasons. Meanwhile, his ghost government lacks all authority because it doesn’t look as if attempts to unify those forces that gave it parliamentary support via the creation of a single ticket for the upcoming regional elections will be successful. The deadline for the registration of coalitions is today.

The comparison between the restrained 40-year resistance of the former premier of Catalonia Josep Tarradellas and the shameful adolescent blunders of his successor over the course of just one week is a sad one for both Catalonia, and for a Spain that is committed to an autonomous and pro-autonomy Catalan region.

English version by George Mills.

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