The regional premier of Catalonia, Quim Torra, has made a fiery speech in Washington in defense of Catalan independence during his first official tour to the United States.
“I want to announce that I have, more than hope, the firm conviction that Catalonia will soon join the rest of the free nations of the world,” he said on Tuesday at the opening of the Catalonia American Council, a private lobby group aimed at strengthening ties between the United States and the northeastern Spanish region.
Torra promised to reopen Catalonia’s diplomatic office in Washington
“The Catalan people have the right and the will to create our independent state,” he added.
Torra is a hard-line separatist who has promised to continue down the road of unilateral secession for the region. He was voted in as premier in May in a 66-to-65 vote in the Catalan parliament, after being nominated by ousted premier Carles Puigdemont, who is in Germany fighting extradition to Spain for charges of rebellion and misuse of funds in connection with his unilateral independence drive last year.
The Catalan premier traveled to the US to open a folkloric festival organized by the Smithsonian Institution featuring Catalan performers. During his four-day trip, Torra is also scheduled to meet with a legal firm specializing in conflict resolution. His official agenda does not include any meetings with Congress members or representatives of the government of President Donald Trump, who strongly supports the territorial unity of Spain.
At the inauguration of the Catalonia American Council – his first event in Washington – Torra lambasted the “damaging effects” of Article 155 of the Constitution, an emergency measure invoked by former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in response to the illegal referendum of October 1 and the following unilateral declaration of independence.
The Catalan people have the right and the will to create our independent state
Catalan premier Quim Torra
The measure, which suspended autonomous powers in the breakaway region, sent Catalonia into a “state of emergency” and led to the return of “political prisoners, exiles and victims of repression,” said Torra, in reference to the Catalan separatists in pre-trial detention for their involvement in the separatist drive, and fugitives of justice, such as Puigdemont.
“The Catalan government is fighting against the sinister effects of the state of emergency and condemning the injustice suffered by our premier Puigdemont, who now lives in forced exile,” he told the audience. “This regression of democratic values in Spain is intolerable for any democracy.”
Direct rule in Catalonia was lifted on June 2 and the Spanish government of Pedro Sánchez has also removed spending controls on the region.
In his speech, Torra also announced plans to reopen the region’s overseas diplomatic offices, which were closed as a result of Article 155, promising to open the Washington delegation – previously led by Andrew Davis, the head of the Catalonia American Council – as soon as possible.
Torra’s visit to Washington is a strong reminder of the tour Puigdemont made to the United States in March, 2017
“I want to thank all the men and women of the delegation who have been unjustly removed from their jobs by the Spanish government,” he said. Addressing Davis, Torra added: “The work all your team has done has been essential to defining us as a nation before the world. But the Spanish government wanted to silence us by closing our delegations.”
Torra’s visit to Washington is a strong reminder of the tour Puigdemont made to the United States in March, 2017. During this trip, the ousted premier made a strident speech against Spain at Harvard University and met with various US Congress members in Washington to promote his plans for Catalan independence.
But the political panorama has changed a lot in a year. With Puigdemont in Berlin awaiting extradition orders, it is Torra who is now campaigning to strengthen ties between Catalonia and the United States – places that, quoting former US president Thomas Jefferson, both share the values of “freedom, the respect for human rights and peace,” said Torra.
English version by Melissa Kitson.