You might have thought that in a year when Brexit is turning Britain upside down, the most re-tweeted article in the UK’s most prestigious financial paper, The Financial Times, would be about British Prime Minister Theresa May, the former leader of the right-wing UKIP party Nigel Farage or foreign secretary Boris Johnson. Or perhaps it would be about the European Union – often accused of blocking the financial divorce settlement between the UK and Brussels. But you would be wrong.
Supporters of the Catalan independence movement re-tweeted the article without looking too closely at the content
The subject of the FT’s most re-tweeted article in 2017 was none other than ousted former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont, dismissed from his post after Madrid used emergency powers enshrined in the Spanish Constitution in response to the Catalan regional parliament‘s passing of a unilateral declaration of independence on October 27.
And those re-tweeting the November 2 attack on the Catalan leader – who fled to Belgium after the vote of the independence declaration and faces arrest on possible rebellion charges should he return to Spain – are a very large number of unwitting separatists.
“The world has a new and heroic freedom fighter. De Gaulle, Gandhi, Mandela and now Carles Puigdemont,” wrote FT Editorial Director Robert Shrimsley who has a weekly satirical column in the paper known for its unusual pink color.
Delighted to see the name of their ex-president alongside some of history’s most distinguished figures, Eurodeputy Ramon Tremosa and the singer songwriter-cum deputy in the regional Catalan parliament Lluis Llach tweeted the article without looking too closely at the content.
Tremosa and Llach saw no hint of irony in the comparison between Puigdemont and De Gaulle who lead the French Resistance, Gandhi – the Indian pacifist who got the British out of India – and Mandela, the South African leader who beat apartheid. But they were not alone. Other Catalan independence supporters began re-tweeting it liberally as if it were an international endorsement of separatism, sending it to the top of the FT’s viral charts for 2017.
The article sends up Puigdemont with an imaginary conversation between him and his aide:
“Ah Barcelona, will I ever see Las Ramblas again?” says the ex-premier.
“We can have you back there in hours. We could return — like Lenin. A sealed train to the Perpignan Station,” the aide replies referring to the Soviet leader‘s famous 1917 return to Russia after exile in Switzerland.
The satirical piece compares Carles Puigdemont with De Gaulle, Gandhi and Mandela
The conversation continues in this vein with Puigdemont saying: “I would need guarantees.”
To which the aide replies: “What, like a good buffet car? We will get no guarantees. Did Gandhi have guarantees?”
During the dialogue the aide suggests that Puigdemont should consider imprisonment: “Because we’re separatists, not fiscal autonomists,” he says. “What did you expect? Nothing worth winning is painless.”
“No one mentioned pain,” Puigdemont replies. “Pain wasn’t in the plan. I was supposed to threaten independence — go down in the history of Catalonia and then negotiate more devolution with Madrid. I would have streets named after me, hang out with [FC Barcelona soccer player] Lionel Messi. That was the deal. Now I’ve got the police wanting to arrest me for sedition and my supporters want to hang me from a lamppost.”
Despite pending judicial proceedings against him, Puigdemont stood as the candidate for the separatist Junts per Catalunya in the recent Catalan elections. The party surprised many to become the most-voted independence group, picking up 34 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament.
English version by Heather Galloway.