SEPARATION ANXIETY

Drawing swords with Spain, Catalonia’s new president vows to put Carles Puigdemont back in power

Catalonia’s new president Quim Torra drew the battle line with Spain today (May 15) when he declared that he is just keeping the seat warm while he prepares to put the exiled former leader of the autonomous region back into power as soon as possible.

Torra traveled to Berlin to publicly take the baton from former president Carles Puigdemont, who is not permitted to leave Germany until the courts decide whether or not to free him or extradite him to Spain. At a joint press conference in the west of the city, hardliner Torra told reporters that his goal was to see Puigdemont reinstated.

“We would never have come to this point if democracy had been respected in Catalonia,” Torra said. “We demand the Spanish government to respect the outcome of the December 21 election, until then I see myself as a caretaker president.”

He said the new Catalan government would immediately request dialogue with Madrid, adding: “The first goal of this government is to end the suspension of self-rule in Catalonia.”

Torra, who was Puigdemont’s pick for successor, won by a narrow vote in the Catalan parliament yesterday. He said in Berlin that he would insist Spain lifts Article 155 of the constitution (the direct rule from Madrid) and give Catalonia control over its own finances. Like Puigdemont, he continues to demand that Madrid free the jailed separatist leaders.

Puigdemont, taking the stage after Torra, said, “the ball is in the field of the Spanish government. It’s an opportunity for the Spanish government to show it has respect for the results of the elections and to start a political dialogue.”

His appointment should in theory mean Spain must lift the direct rule it imposed on the region in October, after its failed declaration of independence. Prime minister Mario Rajoy has indicated that he is open to talking to Torra, but said he wouldn’t allow for actions going against the Spanish constitution.

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