Photo: Serret, Comín, Puigdemont, Ponsatí and Puig, at the event with Catalan mayors who had come to Brussels (Photo by Pascal Rossignol / Reuters)
By Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret, Clara Ponsatí i Lluís Puig
Dear fellow citizens,
We are facing an unthinkable situation for a democratic environment. Part of the legitimate government of Catalonia, with its vice-president and seven councilors, is in prison, and the other part, the president and four councilors, in exile; Parliament was closed early and most of the bureau members are living under threat of imprisonment. And all of this because we have been faithful to the trust and mandate that a majority of citizens have given us. We are talking about a situation that is clearly contrary to the rule of law and the order of the European Union, and drawing the Spanish State further from countries which set good precedent for democratic practice. To put it lightly, the state has now placed itself firmly on the periphery of the central European democratic bloc.
We have always maintained that the democratic way is the only one that will allow us to bring to light our legitimate aspirations for an independent Catalonia, and that is why the State considered that the only way to stop us was to stop democracy, by activating a desperate and extreme strategy in the face of the democratic firmness of the institutions and citizens of Catalonia. If democracy is dead, independence will die; this was the strategy.
The events of recent weeks confirm that the Spanish state has not understood how the world works in the twenty-first century. Depriving members of Government of their freedom, and dissolving the Government of Catalonia by decree, to rob Catalans of their sovereignty, was the only answer the state was able to articulate following repeated offers of dialogue from Catalan institutions, many times. It is a serious mistake to think that repression is a means to convincing a majority of Catalans to abandon their legitimate aspirations. They can impose themselves on us physically, but that will not defeat our mental frameworks. They can stifle us financially, but they will not be able to curb the power of a European, entrepreneurial country with a proven capacity to generate talent and prosperity. They can humiliate and harass us and our families, with the support of the perverse Spanish media system, which has imposed a history of hatred and lies regarding our political institutions and pro-sovereignty civil society bodies, but they can never turn back our democratic aspirations.
We are fully aware of the uncertainties and fears which have arisen in recent days, for all of you, and we understand the confusion caused by our lack of prompt responses to disproportionate attacks on representatives and legitimate institutions in Catalonia, but we assure you we continue to be strong and that no one can steal a shred of our strong and permanent dignity with which we affront these difficult moments of our national life.
Faced with this complex scenario, the legitimate government of Catalonia has a double obligation, which we will fulfill despite the circumstances. The first, is to maintain the legitimacy of the free election that you the people expressed in the elections of September 27, 2015. We will say this as many times as necessary, to the world: we are a legitimate government and we have a legitimate Parliament. From Brussels, with the support of a stable structure which we are putting in place from today, to coordinate the actions of the government, we will fulfill this commitment every day and at every opportunity denounce the politicization of the Spanish justice, its lack of impartiality, and lack of willingness to pursue new ideas, to the international community. We will also reaffirm our strong commitment of the Catalan people and the right to self-determination, dialogue and a well-worked solution. Whether time passes with us behind Spanish gates or in exile, it will be time well used, if remain united, in the defense of Catalonia and in the denunciation of the democratic decadence of the Spanish State as well as the abuses of a Union which tolerated, and even shamelessly protected, Spanish repressive actions. Our commitment to the values of Europe is stronger than ever, because we all need, and we all want, a Europe made up of citizens, with the capacity to overcome fears and threats.
Our second obligation, which in fact involves all of you, is to shore up and support democracy, which is now under threat from the coalition which executed article 155, with the connivance of legal, police and far-right violence. We ask that you contribute to a strong mix of courage, firmness, indignation, rejection, topped with peace and respect; as this is the best position from which to win the battle, against an unhinged and out-of-control state. Let us not be dragged into the violence that reigns in a large part of the Spanish political system, because it is the only area in which we are sure to lose. Remember that when we have attacked using truly democratic tactics, we have always won. Always. The last time was on October 1, in extremely difficult conditions, amid an indecent offensive of violence ordered by the State.
The roadmap for the coming days and weeks is clear and lucid: first of all, defend democracy. Unfortunately, we find ourselves having to do this again, as has happened at other moments of our history, when were visited by the 155 clan in the form of Primo de Rivera, General Franco or Felip V. We must once again resist and persevere; continue defending our language, our culture and our history, which is a success story built on diversity, the capacity to welcome other peoples of Spain and the world and, above all, based on shared hope for the future. We must shake the people out of our institutions, who seek to control them through a coup d’état. We must fight back against those who seek to dismantle our self-government, what was left of it after the picking away at our statute, our laws, decrees and measures, always aiming towards a re-centralisation, sometimes overt, sometimes covert, but always effective in practice. And we will defend democracy by voting, as we have always wanted to do, and we still want to do. We would like to do this as they have done in Scotland and how other countries will do in the future. We have sought to address our citizens’ aspirations through ballot boxes and that is why we will now address the elections which the Spanish state has imposed on the 21st of December as a challenge. The end goal of this challenge will be to recover full democracy, with no political prisoners, without vengeful political actions, without impositions from the centre, and without anger. We will seek to win a future constructed with dialogue, and agreement.
The second central element of the roadmap is to demand and obtain the release of our political prisoners taken by the Spanish State: the Vice President, the seven Cousellors and the Presidents of Òmnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez. We cannot lie down, we cannnot remain frozen in the face of the suffering of their children, their partners, their families, their friends and their people – they represent all of us. It’s time to be more driven than ever. These ten people and their families represent, at this time, your individual and our collective dignity. For them and for other people that we may follow them into imprisonment, we must denounce their situation every single day. As such, next Saturday hundreds of thousands of us will join together on the National Day for Freedom being convened in Barcelona. The impact of this day depends only on us, on you, on our shared strength and convictions.
It is only from the level of the citizen, from democratic commitment, from a grassroots-level, organized, democratic, peaceful but radically unquashable response, can we regain our collective control over our life, and improve it together, through productive democratic dialogue. This is the only way we can create a Republic, the right to which we have won at the polls, and which we will once again have to give meaning to through actions at ballot boxes. This will be the challenge put before our institutions, civil organisations, companies and all of you in the near future. Let us take back our liberty this Saturday in the great rally planned in Barcelona and also in the electoral challenge which the State has imposed on us for the 21st of December. The morning after, let us all walk together, in freedom.