Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize winner (1980) and activist for the rights of peoples, defends Catalan right to self-determination
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel : “Unfair laws must be resisited” / DAVID FERNÁNDEZ / EFE
Nobel Peace prizewinner (1980), Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, gives his support to the Catalan independence referendum. He is an activist in favour of the rights of peoples and defends Catalan right to self-determination.
Why does he support the 1 October referendum?
All peoples have the right to self-determination, to sovereignty and to Independence. This is upheld by the United Nations.
Do you believe that the right to self-determination is applicable to Catalonia?
Yes, but it is important to open a debate, find paths that do not lead to violence or confrontations. The right must be negotiated and discussed by the parties. Catalonia is not the only case în Spain*: there are also the Basques and the Gallicians.
For the time being, the Spanish government says it will not allow the referendum.
That depends on the decisiveness of the Catalan people. They have to be listened to, their history must be known and see which path is chosen. The Spanish government must respect this, otherwise its authoritarianism and imposition by force, not by law.
However, the Spanish government says it is illegal to hold the referendum. Is it legitimate to go ahead with it even if it is forbidden?
Laws are often unfair and unfair laws must be resisted. We must consider how to reach agreements with the Spanish state that take account of the right to self-determination.
How would the international community qualify if the Spanish government withdrew the ballot boxes on 1 October?
It will be seen as a use of force. You can dominate a people by the use of force, but you cannot suppress them. However, much will depend on the international alliances of the Catalan people. We have yet to see what the EU will have to say. The situation cannot give rise to violence or confrontations. The case of the Catalans must be solved as civilized peoples, via discussions and the rule of law.
Do you think the result of the referendum can be applied, whatever the rate of participation?
The key is the participation by the people. If they don’t, it won’t go forward. It has to be a majority issue.
You are working on the case of Santiago Maldonado who disappeared a month ago during a protest by the Maputxe people. What is the situation?
It’s very serious. The [Argentinian] government has been avoiding its responsibility for a month now, saying that the Maputxe people are violent. 32 people have now been arrested. The government is violating the rule of law. We are still awaiting the answer that has not been forthcoming; they must face responsibilities regarding the whereabouts of Maldonado. They are, at present, denying that it is a forced disappearance, a crime against humanity.