Cover story In English Voices From Spain

Carlos Alsina interviews Joaquim Torra

Onda Cero. “Más de Uno”. February 13, 2019
Full transcription.

Photo by Onda Cero

CARLOS ALSINA: Here with us now is Joaquim Torra, President of the Regional Government of Catalonia. Good morning, Mr Torra

JOAQUIM TORRA: Good morning

CA: Thanks for being here

JT: Thanks to you

CA: [Former President] Puigdemont’s favorite, Vicar of Puigdemont, Puigdemont’s errand-boy, puppet, understudy. All these terms have been used by journalists, or by us journalists on radio show to refer to you. Which of them do you feel best describes your role?

JT: The title of President of the Regional Government of Catalonia.

CA: You said the true Regional President was Charles Puigdemont. This is what he said in your inaugural address.

JT: No, I am the president of the Regional Government. The legitimate president and the person we want to vote in again is President Puigdemont, of course. He ran in the election, I was on his ballot and one of our aims is to achieve his inauguration.

CA: In whose name does Mr Torra speak? Does he speak for the Catalonian Government? Does he claim to speak for Catalan society as a whole? Does he speak for Puigdemont?

JT: I speak… I am President of the Regional Government, and therefore I speak as President of the Regional Government, or course as regards President Puigdemont I also speak as a member of the group Junts per Catalunya, which, I insist… We ran on a very clear platform in which we demand that the Catalan constitution be restored, that was our goal, knowing a clear turning point in this term will be the possible convictions in this trial against our colleagues.

CA: You speak in the Government’s name. Do you make any decisions without checking with Mr Puigdemont?

JT: I make many decisions without checking with Mr Puigdemont. I try to keep myself advised by a great many people. President Puigdemont is one of them, indeed. Apart from that, he’s the political leaders of my party, can you imagine me not talking to him! But I make it a habit to seek advice from many people and of course from my coalition associates and colleagues In Esquerra Republicana.

CA: Who’s making today’s decision on whether Esquerra Republicana and the PdCat withdraw their full objection [to the proposed budget] in the Spanish Parliament?

JT: We make decisions collectively. You’ve seen the footage. We have a working group with members of the Regional Parliament, members of the Regional Government, members of the PdCat leadership, my government colleagues and in these sessions we decided on our strategy.

CA: Are you hoping Pedro Sánchez will call a snap election?

JT: I’m hoping Pedro Sánchez will be willing to discuss — that any Spanish president will be willing to discuss the demands of the majority of the Catalan people, the great Catalan consensus whereby 80% of Catalans want to peacefully and democratically exercise their right to self-determination.

CA: Are you getting that 80% from the survey published by the [pro-secessionist] journal Ara?

JT: That 80% comes from the survey published in Ara and from many other surveys.

CA: What was the question people were asked in the Ara survey?

JT: What’s important, if I may, is to sort of realize that, I think, in Catalonia, it’s difficult to reach this level of consensus, which is not easy (interruption) — sorry sorry

CA: What was the question people were asked in the Ara survey from which you’re getting that figure of 80% of Catalans in favor of self-determination?

JT: I’ll get to that, but I just want to make sure this is clear. I mean, we Catalans went through the Spanish transition to democracy after Franco’s dictatorship by reaching a broad consensus. Freedom, amnesty, a regional statute, these were great ideas. We’ve defended those ideas over the last 40 years. And Catalan society, in the last 10 years, has evolved. It’s evolved as a result of the new statute, of how that statute was struck down first by the Spanish Parliament and then by the Constitutional Court. There’s been a reaction from the Catalan people. This needs to be understood. And this has generated new dynamics and a new consensus. In 2012, Miquel Iceta of the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) favored the right to self-determination and a referendum in Catalonia, for instance.

CA: Back then you called it … well, actually, back then you weren’t really involved as a key political player, in fact you never were a key political player until a few months ago.

JT: Yes, that’s right.

CA: Back then you called it the right to decide. You still hadn’t started speaking openly of self-determination, which you consider a right and, as you know, many other people don’t. It’s true that the PSC had a position that was, so to speak, less clear than its current one. But going back to this 80% consensus figure you’ve given me…

JT: And the Socialist Party of Spain (PSOE) was in favor of the self-determination of the peoples of Spain in 1974.

CA: Yes, well, Convergencia Democrática only wanted self-government until 2011.

JT: Yeah, yeah, I mean… Everyone changes, but PSOE was there, ok? PSOE was there. I don’t know, I mean, why…


CA: The 80% consensus.


JT: During Franco’s dictatorship I was on one side and we went into exile, Catalans and Socialists, and fought for self-determination together. Well, why can’t we go back to that? Why must we Catalans just accept that there isn’t a Spanish government willing to listen to the voice of Catalonia. We just want to vote. We just want to vote. In the 21st century, in the year 2019…

CA: I’d assumed you’d be hoping for Sánchez to call a snap election, since you’re all so eager to vote, since democracy is voting, why not encourage Sánchez to call the election tomorrow at the latest.

JT: Mr Sánchez will make whatever decision he so chooses based on his electoral interest and he’ll call the election whenever it most benefits him. I don’t know if it’ll be in April, if it’ll be in May, if it’ll be in the fall, if he’ll resist. He’s turned his ability to resist almost into a lifestyle, so maybe he’d rather resist. I don’t know.

CA: Let’s go back to the Ara survey, since you haven’t answered my question. What was the question in that survey? Because I’m sure you know, if that’s what you’re basing the claim that there’s a consensus on. 80% of Catalans in favor of self-determination, no less!

JT: The survey in «Ara» and many other surveys.

CA: It’s always very important, as you know, Mr President, to know what the question is in a survey, because that’s usually where the trick lies.

JT: Yes… It was about the right to self-determination.

CA: The question was: “Are you in favor of an agreed-upon referendum of independence?”

JT: And what’s a referendum of self-determination?

CA: What’s an agreed-upon referendum?

JT: An agreed-upon referendum is what Scotland did. Why should Catalans resign themselves to not having a referendum like the Scottish had?

CA: Scotland is a nation, legally recognised as such by the United Kingdom.

JT: And we aren’t?

CA: You know you aren’t. You know that in the Statute of Catalonia, Catalonia isn’t defined as a nation.

JT: It isn’t precisely because in the draft Statute we (in the Parliament of Catalonia) sent to Madrid that was there. It was Madrid that removed it. The Constitutional Court…

CA: It was Mr Mas, it was Mr Mas who struck a deal with Zapatero regarding the definition as a nation.

JT: No, no, no. It was in the preamble, it was in the preamble.

CA: The preamble says that the Parliament of Catalonia has said that Catalonia is a nation, and that the Spanish Constitution says it’s a nationality, and then if you go to Article 1 it says Catalonia is a nationality in the shape of–


JT: Mr Alsina

CA: Agreed on by Mr Mas and Mr Zapatero

JT: If there’s no room for self-determination in the Spanish Constitution.

CA: There isn’t.

JT: Then maybe the problem lies with the Constitution and not with Catalonia’s right to self-determination.

CA: So promote an amendment to the Constitution.

JT: I don’t have the majority needed for that. That’s why I’m waiting…

CA: So forge that majority and promote it.

JT: I’m waiting for Spain and for the Government of Spain, any Government of Spain, to have the courage and the strength to listen to the demands of a majority of the Catalan people

CA: 80%

JT: Yes, that 80% exists. And there are two other very interesting eighty-percents.

CA: But those 80%, looking at that survey you’re getting the figure from, those 80% say they’re in favor of an agreed-upon referendum of independence. The question is very interesting, because indeed an agreed-upon referendum is at the moment not possible constitutionally, so in order for there to be such an agreement, the Constitution would first have to be amended.  

JT: So amend it.

CA: So let me ask you: are you in favor of an agreed-upon referendum, subject to a prior amendment of the Constitution and, therefore, a prior vote by the Spanish people as a whole to ratify that new Constitution?

JT: I’m in favor of whatever the Parliament of Catalonia decides, first of all. To me this is very important. I was sworn in, when I became President of the Regional Government, on the same terms as President Puigdemont. I owe loyalty to whatever the Parliament of Catalonia decides, and therefore I’ll always serve at the pleasure –exclusively– of the decisions made by the Parliament of Catalonia, which is where I believe the sovereignty of the Catalan people resides.

CA: How many times is that in the text (…)?

JT: Sorry, I’ll–I’ll (…) It’s just that it’s very important (interruption), to see the full circle…

CA: But if I don’t get this in now I’ll forget, Mr President. You’ve just mentioned “the sovereignty of the Catalan people”

JT: Of the three consensuses…

CA: How many times does the word sovereignty appear in the Statute of Catalonia?

JT: The thing is if you’re going to turn to the legal texts, then maybe the conversation might be difficult…

CA: Which texts would you prefer I turn to?

JT: Let’s turn to what the people of Catalonia want.

CA: What the people of Catalonia want? That 80% from the Ara survey?

JT: Why not hold a referendum, why not hold a referendum and…

CA: Are you telling me to look not at the legal texts but at a survey published in a pro-secessionist journal says?

JT: I’m asking you that–there have been several surveys in Catalonia and this is cross-cutting, I mean, there are activists… You know? In the self-determination referendum we held on 1 October, 200,000 people

CA: Illicit. The illicit referendum.

JT: No, the referendum we were entitled to hold, after a democratic process in the Parliament of Catalonia, which ratified by a majority of the chamber that we could hold the referendum

CA: Without having the necessary powers

JT: You can use whatever adjective you want now

CA: Illicit.

JT: We held that referendum. In that referendum, there were 200,000 Catalans who under those circumstances, while the police was hitting them, went and voted “no” to independence. 200,000 Catalans. Voting “no” under such circumstances. And I want to acknowledge the value of this, I mean, it’s not just secessionists that want this referendum of self-determination. There are many non-secessionists who want to settle the issue in the way that seems to use, in the 21st century, to be the most democratic, which is to vote like Scotland did, like Québec did. Why should I, as an European, have to resign myself to having fewer rights than a Scottish citizen?

CA: You don’t have to resign yourself to anything, you simply have do as they did in Québec and Scotland, that is, follow the existing legal channels of the nation you are a part of, which is Spain. And the legal channel for what you’re proposing is the prior modification of the Constitution.

JT: We’re a minority in the Spanish state.

CA: You have it in writing in those papers for the National Transition Council commissioned by Mr Mas, where it clearly says what the channels are and which of them is the only one that is clearly not illegal, and that’s Constitutional reform. But since you’ve mentioned surveys, let me share two things with you. First, regarding the Ara survey and the agreed-upon referendum. It’s an interesting survey because it says 35% of Ciudadanos voters are in favor of a referendum of independence and of self-determination. 35% of Ciudadanos voters. And it says 24% of PP voters are in favor of a referendum of independence. These are rather surprising figures, from my point of view. But there’s another survey, since you’re interested in surveys, published in October by El Periódico de Catalunya.

JT: (nods)

CA: You haven’t mentioned that one. It says 43% of Catalans support self-determination and the referendum of independence. 43%. And that 27% support a self-government referendum, which means a new Statute for Catalonia and is exactly what the Spanish government has proposed to you.

JT: No, they haven’t proposed that. The government of Spain hasn’t proposed anything. If there’s one thing I’m complaining about it’s that the government of Spain…

CA: Mr Sanchez has proposed this, at least publicly.

JT: He hasn’t proposed anything to use. That’s actually where the our disagreement lies. Throughout these months, the dialogue we’ve maintained with the government–in the first meeting we had here in Madrid, I laid it out for the president, I said, “Look, our aim is self-determination”. And he said, “We won’t accept that”. Ok. Second meeting, in Pedralbes: our aim is self-determination, we make an effort to specify our objectives, our 21 points. The Spanish government shows up with nothing, no proposals. We say, well, we can’t keep meeting to talk about “dialogue, dialogue, we’ll hold a dialogue, we’ll talk”. No, let’s specify that that dialogue is about. Let’s specify what we mean by “dialogue”. Let’s give it a specific meaning. What we’re saying is, let’s write this down. I mean, what is the Catalan proposal? Here it is, this is it. So now, what’s the Spanish proposal?

CA: The proposal of the Catalan government, you mean.

JT: Of the Catalan Government, yes, ok. Well, I’ve been sworn in and I have the same legitimacy, I suppose, as the President of the Spanish government does to put forth its proposal in the name of the Spanish government.

CA: Well, as I see it the proposal should originate in the Catalan Parliament, which is where Catalan society is represented.

JT: And it’s where I was sworn in, with the required majority, isn’t it?

CA: Yes, in accordance with the regional Statute and the Constitution.

JT: Just like President Sánchez, I think, right? As two presidents we both have the same legitimacy. Sworn in by two parliaments.

CA: Sworn in by two parliaments, indeed.

JT: This is a government-to-government negotiation in which we’re saying, “Look, this is our proposal. What’s your proposal?” We don’t know. Ok. Let’s put it all into writing. I mean, let’s put down the idea of the rapporteur, let’s put down proposals.

CA: Tell me one thing, when in Pedralbes you gave this document with your 21 points to President Sánchez, what did President Sánchez do?

JT: He told me he’d keep it and study it.

CA: Did he read the document? Did you walk him through the 21 points?

JT: Yes, absolutely, I actually told him that I would be attending the Employer´s Association meeting, as we had a meeting there where we would talk and where I would be making a speech where these three…in this document, sorry, well, there are these different blocks. He said it was fine and…

CA: He said the document was “fine”?

JT: No, he said that it was fine that I would speak about those three blocks

CA: But when the president went through the 21 points, did he not tell you, “well, Joaquim, the first one is impossible, the second one does not even make sense…the fourth one is unconstitutional” …

JT: I think there are many points…if you only focus on the democratic response, but we made an effort to say: could we also discuss the democratic reforms that Spain needs? Could we also speak about the “de-francoization” Spain needs? We are very worried about the rise of fascism we’re witnessing in Spain. Very worried. We are very worried about these francoist bastions that are still present in Spain. I mean, with the left-wing forces that still remain in Spain, Catalans have in the past always been able to find areas for agreement. Could we agree on that? Could we agree to push democratic reform forward? There are 15 points that do not relate to self-determination, whereas five others do. Of course, because what you can’t expect from me is…

CA: Regarding those 5 points on self-determination, did Mr Sanchez, Prime Minister of Spain, not tell you: this cannot be, these points are not admissible?

JT: [not] in that moment, he had already told me in June. You know, I´m well aware of the position of the Spanish state on this topic. But precisely if we are going to have a serious dialogue, it is because we´re going to say, on a paper that we would both sign, what the position defended by the Government of Catalonia is. Because you cannot expect from me to not be who I am. I want the Independence of Catalonia and will therefore come with a proposal [to achieve it].

CA: And half of the citizens over which you rule, do not want it.

JT: (He hesitates) Let´s vote. Let´s vote to know what that percentage really is.

CA: But we have already voted. You do not need to use polls. Regional elections in Catalonia…how many months ago?

JT: No, let’s organize a referendum like the Scots did. Let’s give ourselves the opportunity to have a debate between those who want independence and those who do not. Why do I want independence? I want it so that we can have a better health system, a better education, the infrastructure we cannot have now, the pensions for our elderly. That’s what I want independence for; so that I can regulate what [the Spanish] Congress regulates for my country now

CA: Regional elections, the last ones held in Catalonia. December last year, not even one year ago. Pro-independence votes: 2.100.000 catalans: 47.5% in favor of independence, which was defended by both Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra.

In favor of self-determination…

JT: And what about the Commons? [political alliance including, among others, Podemos]

CA: I include them there.

JT: No, you don’t

CA: No, no. I’m saying that I will add them in now. One thing at a time.

JT: Great

CA: In favor of independence: Junts per Catalunya, Esquerra and CUP, is that correct?

JT: Yes

CA: 47.5% of the catalan people. Self-determination (where I include the Commons): 55% of all voters. 55% of voters in favor of self-determination according to the latest elections in December last year.

JT: Yes, yes

CA: Against self-determination, and of course against independence, 45% of Catalans. These are those voting for PSC, PP and Ciudadanos.

JT: In Scotland, with these results, they would already be independent.

CA: And you tell me that you are only speaking in the name of those 55%. Because what you defend is self-determination and independence.

JT: And in the name of which percentage do Mr. Sanchez or Mr Rajoy speak? In the names of their own respective majorities, don´t they?

CA: Mr. Sanchez, for as long as he opposes self-determination, speaks in the name of the majority of the Spanish people, of course. Sir, this is precisely the issue.

JT: I think that Podemos is in favor of self-determination.

CA: Yes, in [Spanish] Congress, 30% of MPs are in favor of self-determination.

JT: I have seen polls in this country, from the government’s opinion center, in which I think there is a majority of Spaniards who want to proceed along the way of dialogue. But no one can pretend for us to be any other than who we are. Spain must understand this.

CA: And what about Spaniards, should we tell them they must no longer be Spaniards?

JT: No, of course not. But that’s why we are going to meet, so we can talk, right? How do you want to solve this conflict? And how do we want to solve it? So, let’s sit and talk with someone who tries to approximate positions, such as a mediator.

CA: You want to solve it in such a way that the Spanish society accepts what you are demanding. It is the only solution that you suggest, this is, that Spanish society accepts self-determination for Catalonia. That is your goal.

JT: But, isn’t that normal?

CA: No, how could I think that!

JT: No? Really? In the XXIst century, how could you govern against…

CA: How could I consider normal for you to dedicate your whole political action to snatch from us, Spanish citizens, our right to decide about the Spanish nation?

JT: It’s not true, it’s not true. I have no right to decide about what the Basque people want to do about their future. I do not consider myself to have any right upon it.

CA: And do you think that Spanish people do not have the right to decide where Spain starts and ends?

JT: Of course, I believe that in a self-determination referendum to be held in Catalonia, Catalans must decide on their own. Did the English people vote in the Scottish referendum? Did they?

CA: But Scotland is not Catalonia. It so happens that Scotland is a nation, and therefore…

JT: Oh, whereas we…

CA: According to the legal order in the UK, that referendum was possible without breaking any rule.

JT: No, no, no. It was a political agreement. I ask Mr. Rajoy [he says the name of the previous Spanish Prime Minister], oh, sorry, Mr. Sánchez, I apologize, to act like Cameron did. To have his political courage. Do we really need to resign ourselves to hear, from any Spanish government, a permanent “No” to what Catalans demand, which is being able to vote? What solution is left for us Catalans?

CA: I will now express an opinion. Given that I express it every day, I will not abstain from doing it now just because you are next to me. The problem you have is not with the Spanish government – not with this one, not with the previous one, nor with whichever will come. It is actually with the Spanish people, since you are trying to take from them their right to make decisions regarding the Spanish nation.

JT: I have no problem with the Spanish people.

CA: In fact, you defend that you have already achieved that, because for you, all 2 million Spanish Catalans, pro-independence Catalans who voted in that illegal referendum you were referring to earlier, those two million citizens sum up to a popular mandate in front of which the rest of the Catalan society or Spanish society for that matter have absolutely nothing to say. All is left for them is to accept what those 2 million citizens have already decided. And even if there´s forty million of us, we must remain silent as we have no vote or voice. That is your position.

JT: Mr. Alsina, I come from a conception of a multinational state in which the different nations that make up this country have a set of rights. Galicians, Basques, Catalans have those rights. I do believe it. You do not believe these nations have any right. I believe they do, that they have a right to decide their future.

CA: No, it is not true that I don’t give them any right at all. They have a right to self-government as defined in the Spanish Constitution. That is what our Autonomic State is all about.

JT: No, for me, Democracy is above the law. Voting is above any imposition. Seriously, in the XXIst century, how will you govern against the peoples of Spain? You just can’t. Give them a vote, give them the opportunity to have this debate. Sincerely, that’s where we are and where we will always be. For as long as we have a majority of course, if one day we lose it, then…

CA: But the thing is that what you call “giving Catalans a vote for self-determination” is for me nothing but “taking away the right Spaniards have to vote about their own nation”. Because you are saying that 2 million pro-independence voters in 2017 constitute a democratic mandate…

JT: For me, they are

CA: … that the remaining 40 million Spaniards  must accept, regardless of the fact that the Spanish Constitution states that national sovereignty belongs to the Spanish people as a whole. For you, all of this has no value or importance. You say that, all we must do, all Spaniards represented in parliament can do, is to accept what 2 million Spanish pro-independence Catalans have decided.

JT: Look, you know that the Catalan regional charter recognizes the Aran’s Valley right to self-determination…

CA: So what?

JT: Well, I think it is very relevant. We Catalans have accepted that this set of people which we consider to be a nation, the Occitan nation, can decide their own future.

CA: Then you should promote a Constitutional reform. We always end up in the same place.

JT: I have no majority to do that.

CA: Well then you should obtain that majority.

JT: I will not succeed.

CA: Are you not advocating for social consensus? Well then you should achieve the social consensus necessary for a constitutional reform. Start by the Catalan parliament which is who should make the proposal for a constitutional reform. If you are not able to achieve consensus in the Catalan Parliament…

JT: How many times have we not come to the Government? We have defended it in Madrid’s Parliament, the possibility to organize a referendum. It has been rejected over and over again. We have asked 18 times to exert the right to vote, and eventually in a democratic, peaceful, nonviolent process, we ourselves decided to self-determinate and make the October 1st referendum.

CA: Every time you’ve been told “no”, it is because the legal order in our country does not currently allow for what you are asking.

JT: You can’t confine…

CA: And then you have said: we ignore the legal order, we will do it on your own. This is the mandate and the rest shall just put up with it.

JT: No, no, we put the will of the people and democracy above all law. Of course. Democracy goes first, right?

CA: Democracy is first. Above Law, there is the Democracy…

JT: It is Democracy, the will of the people.

CA: Even if Democracy means ignoring the Law, according to you.

JT: Well, actually what I think we are asking is, referring to international treaties, which recognize the right to self-determination…

CA: Well, it is recognized for colonies, not for Catalonia, which is an autonomous region

JT: No, excuse me, Canada, Quebec, why could they organize a self-determination referendum?

CA: Because it is accepted by the legal order in Canada.

JT: No sir, because the Supreme Court of Canada allowed for that referendum to take place.

CA: And the Constitutional Court in Spain said that in order to organize that referendum which you are asking for, first you must reform the Constitution. The problem for you, and that is why you do not want to explore that path, is that in order to reform the Constitution you need not only a majority in Congress and Senate, but then you need the Spanish people to ratify it.

JT: So, “he” left it tied up and well tied up [popular expression that colloquially refers to the fact that Franco would have left things under control when he passed away]

CA: Who?

JT: Therefore, we cannot exert the right to self-determination

CA: You may not take away sovereignty from the Spanish people.

JT: But no one wants to take anything away from the Spanish people. We want to decide ourselves what we want to be.

CA: Of course, you do

JT: As we also want for the Basques to be able to decide what they want to be, or the Galicians. Either we depart from the liberty that all nations of Spain must have to decide, or you will be governing against their will. Sincerely, I don´t know, I think we´re skidding around the issue. But I will always be there. I think the issue is democracy, the issue at stake here is the right to self-determination. It is taking into account Quebec, Scotland, the International Court´s of Justice ruling on Kosovo, very interesting, because it says, hey, even if you are not a colony, if you push forward a peaceful, democratic process, I will recognize you as independent.

CA: Careful there, you may start talking about Slovenia and get in trouble again…

JT: I dont’t know, the Slovenian way, it ends up with the independence of Slovenia. After that, another path starts. But Slovenia ends there, right?

CA: Tell me what you think, today many journals speak about it, you were yesterday at the Supreme Court attending the first day of the hearing on rebellion. And there is a specific moment where you sort of enter the hearing room to say hi to the defendants. Most of them turn to say hi back, arguably to thank you for your support, but Mr. Junqueras does not move, he looks impassible in front of him, pretending you don’t exist. What do you think about that?

JT: Well, that half an hour later, during the break, Mr. Junqueras was right in from of me, we hugged, I was sitting next to his wife. And that’s it. I don´t know, maybe at that moment he did not realize I was there. Truth is, I don’t know, the picture and the stories about it are very surprising. Go and ask any of the people who were there, ask Neus, Oriol´s wife, whether Oriol did or did not come next to me, he said hi to his wife of course, then we hugged, I wished him luck and he wished me luck. He was thankful we were there. So, really, I can’t understand how it is that in a picture among 15 million possible pictures, you take just one and make up a whole story about it, which is really surprising.  All I will say that I had the opportunity to say hi to everyone, to hug them all, and that in only one morning, in one day, the State was stripped of its clothes, of this general cause against the pro-independence movement, which has been a persecution of political ideas, and, paraphrasing the former vice-president of the Spanish government, “beheading the pro-independence movement”. That is what they tried to do. This procedure starts well before October 1st, well before. In Barcelona´s 13th court. All the defendants mentioned it yesterday.

CA: But if this was a General Cause against independence supporters, should you not be prosecuted as well?

JT: Some politicians are asking for it, aren’t they. They´re asking for me to go straight to prison.

CA: Are you being prosecuted, Mr Torra?

JT: No, no. Are there politicians asking for me to go to prison or not?

CA: I believe Mr. Abascal has asked for it, so what?

JT: Imagine

CA: Well, Mr. Abascal may ask for whatever he pleases, but what I’m asking…

JT: PP and Ciudadanos intend to apply article 155 to Catalonia indefinitely. How do you think that might happen? I’m not going to stop being the president.

CA: If voting was a crime, you would have to be prosecuted. If being pro-independence was a crime, you would have to be prosecuted. If supporting self-determination was a crime, you would have to be prosecuted. Are you being prosecuted, Mr. Torra?

JT: No, I’m not being prosecuted. But why did the inquiries of the investigative judge office 13 begin one year before the referendum? Why? It was after some statements made by the judge Vidal that conversations start to be recorded, documents collected and requisitioned. And based on these police reports, which afterwards we noticed that were prepared by a lieutenant colonel that, under a pseudonym was denigrating the independence movement in Twitter, the public prosecutor has written his indictment.

CA: But the defenses have been able to present all the objections that they have seen fit during judicial investigation. And yesterday they had the chance to present prejudicial questions on all the issues that they understand to be infringements of fundamental rights.

JT: Yes, exactly. And those the Government, sorry, the Supreme Court keeps on rejecting. If I complain it has a relative value. You would say, of course you do complain. But if Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch complain, that the world organization against torture complain, that the international pen clubs complain, that United Nations rapporteurs complain… The one on trial is the Spanish Justice, hum?

CA: Yes, the Justice you have already declared guilty. I understand.

JT: Well, what we have witnessed is unbelievable.

CA: Does it seem unbelievable to you?

JT: I find it unbelievable.

CA: Everything has been quite unbelievable in the last 15 months.

JT: No, no, of course.

CA: It’s quite unbelievable that a regional government decided by itself to attempt tearing down the Spanish Constitution, and that it pretended that there would be no consequences. It’s quite unbelievable.

JT: What I find unbelievable is that, due to a political decision, politicians would end up in prison for a year and a half. That social leaders that supported the idea, as Jordi Cuixart or Jordi Sánchez, social leaders, leaders of civic associations, are in prison for defending an idea.

CA: Is the same idea that you defend, and you are not being prosecuted.

JT: Yes, yes, the same idea. Because it could have been me instead of Jordi Cuixart. Because I was president of Omnium.

CA: If you had made the same decisions as Cuixart did.

JT: I would have made the same decisions as Jordi Cuixart, I would be in prison.

CA: If you had done the same things he did, perform the same actions he did, probably you would have been prosecuted. But you are not. That is, is not because of the idea.

JT: But, why is Jordi Cuixart in prison?

CA: Because there are grounds to believe that they committed a crime.

JT: Which crime?

CA: They all appear in the indictment from the public prosecutor and the State’s Attorneys.

JT: What did Jordi Cuixart do? To defend an idea, to support the yes to the referendum.

CA: No, you also defended the same idea and you are not being prosecuted.

JT: Yes, but that’s what I’m complaining about. We all saw what happened in front of the Economy Department offices. We all saw that there was no violence. The only violence during those days was when they sent the Spanish Police and Guardia Civil to beat up pacific citizens that were queuing in a voting station, which seems to me the most serious thing a government can decide. Look, we are going to send… Where do these things happen? In which country has happened? You are voting and they come to beat you up. To me it is inconceivable. It’s the only violence that there was. The only violence. Not Jordi Cuixart, not Jordi Sánchez, at all, committed any act of violence. It’s what we all have seen. All the images are there. For God’s sake. Jordi Cuixart said “they shall not pass”. He has been prosecuted for saying “they shall not pass”. He’s been prosecuted for, for, for freedom of speech. The president Forcadell, who is the president of a parliament.

CA: If he was being prosecuted due to freedom of speech, I don’t want to be repetitive, but you would also be prosecuted, you are defending exactly the same as Mr Cuixart, right now and in complete freedom. We are witnessing that.

JT: I beg your pardon, but he’s being prosecuted due to freedom of speech. And there are singers that are also in exile because they wrote some rap songs and they had to go into exile. This is happening. Truly, the Spanish society must react before… Because otherwise, I have the feeling that it is the international community who will set everything straight.

CA: Well, if at the end they are found guilty, which I see that you are taking for granted, and the lawyers appeal before…

JT: No, no, we understand that the only possible outcome here is an acquittal. The trial shouldn’t even go on after what was said yesterday.

CA: If at the end they are found guilty, the lawyers will appeal before the European Court of Human Rights, and you do trust in it, don’t you. You trust the European Court of Human Rights.

JT: I indeed trust the European Court of Human Rights, of course.

CA: And you do have experience with it.

JT: Why?

CA: Because you already appealed there the judgement over the Statute, and it was rejected.

JT: Yes, it was rejected, true. But, well, myself and another colleague thought that our rights had also been infringed with a Constitutional Court with overdue members, with PP members, activists of PP in the Constitutional Court. With activists of the socialist party, or former officials of the socialist party, with the lack of renovation, with everything that happened, the leaks that were there, etc, etc. We thought that as citizens of Catalonia that judgement of the Constitutional Court had affected us.

CA: And what did the European Court of Human Rights say?

JT: It didn’t accept it.

CA: So it was all proper, what the Constitutional Court had done, its composition…

JT: It was very difficult to argue that as citizens a ruling over the Statute had affected us. But we tried. And we are going to try, we are going to try everything. We are going to knock on every door in Europe in order to explain what is happening in the Spanish State.

CA: And in every door in Spain? What do you know about Spain, president? What do you know about the rest of Spain? I assume that you know Catalonia perfectly. About the rest of Spain, which is the last city outside of Catalonia that you have been in, or when has it been, with whom you have talked?

JT: Of course, you know me from these last months as politician. I worked for 18 years in an insurance company, “Winterthur”, the central offices were in Barcelona but it had delegations all over Spain, and thus I traveled through all of Spain in my role as lawyer of the company, and also as marketing and communications manager. The last two years I had the opportunity to leave in Switzerland, in the central offices, and thus I also know quite well what a confederation, of a federal country is, profoundly federal. And therefore I love traveling through Spain and I don’t have any problem, at all. I think I’ve gone to all places.

CA: Recently?

JT: Recently I had the opportunity to be in the Basque Country. And … that smile?

CA: Because I was about to ask you about which other regional presidents you have a daily or frequent interaction, other than Urkullu who is the Lehendakari [President of the Basque Country], with whom I understand you have a greater affinity. With which other regional presidents do you speak frequently?

JT: I have met the president of the Balearic Islands, and with the rest of presidents, well, we don’t have a lot of interaction.

CA: You have never talked with Mr Garrido, president of the Community of Madrid…

JT: I have never talked with him.

CA: With Mr Feijoo, president of Galicia?

JT: Yes, with Mr Feijoo yes, a brief telephone call.

CA: With Susana Díaz when she was president of Andalusia?

JT: No.

CA: Ximo Puig, president of the Community of Valencia?

JT: No. I’ve been here for 8 months and no, we have not talked.

CA: With the president of Navarra?

JT: No, although I’d really love to. And with Ximo Puig I’d love to.

CA: With García Page, president of Castile La Mancha?

JT: No, no. I don’t know if he would like to talk with me.

CA: But for the sake of talking, if dialogue is…

JT: Oh, yes, I don’t now.

CA: Mr Fernández Vara, president of Extremadura? Lambán, president of Aragon?

JT: Mr Lambán, I don’t know, maybe considering that we are a cancer he might not want to receive me, would he?

CA: So it can be said that you rarely dialogue with the rest of regional presidents.

JT: Well, maybe they dialogue rarely with me, I don’t know. I think that dialogue is something quite interactive.

CA: But you didn’t take the initiative, have you tried? To know each other better, I mean.

JT: I try to speak with everybody and with whoever who invites me. I’m willing to explain the right to self-determination of Catalonia anywhere. Even more…

CA: In the Senate, for instance?

JT: In the Senate? Under which circumstances?

CA: Just go there and explain yourself.

JT: Well, it depends, it depends. You surely remember that there was an attempt from the president of Congress.

CA: Yes, it was said that she was going to send you a letter and finally that she didn’t invite you.

JT: It was one of those things that happen here in Madrid, “well, let’s invite the president of Catalonia”, we had no information and no letter did ever arrive to invite us. But there was a piece of news about it. I want to explain myself in any place.I agreed to talk to Mr Pedro Sanchez despite there being political prisoners and exiles, and we didn’t put any condition, none at all, to hold that dialogue.

CA: It goes without saying that for me they are not political prisoners, nor they are exiles. It goes without saying. And for you they are.

JT: I’m sorry, I have to regret it, but ok.

CA: Do you notice, president, that every time that you talk about the Spanish state as a repressive, oppressive state that tries to hunt down political ideas, a jailer, a kidnapper, then of course, all the Spanish citizens that consider that this trial is perfectly legal, legitimate and reasonable, all those Spaniards that support the parties that defended the application of article 155 in October, can they feel attacked by your words? Can they understand that you are calling oppressor, repressor, jailer, kidnapper, hunters of political ideas to 70% of the citizens of this country?

JT: And to all of them I ask to consider that the 155 abolishes the Catalan institutions, that is, closes a parliament, closes a government, and puts in jail, a political decision, partners, social leaders that should have never been involved in politics, for a year and a half. During that year and a half Jordi Cuixart, when he entered the prison his younger child was 3 months old. Well, he already walks and talks and he has missed all his infancy, I don’t know, I think that that’s something that must be considered too.

CA: Some quick questions from my fellow panellists, otherwise afterwards they will complain…

NACHO CARDERO: Very quick, very quick. Mr president, you talked before about farces, and in this sense I’d like to know whether the Catalan Republic that was declared in October 2017 still exists, since as we could hear yesterday in the trial there is no rebellion, no sedition, nor embezzlement but there are neither state structures, republic nor anything similar, so have the Catalans been lied to during all this time?

JT: No, a self-determination referendum was held and on September 27th the Catalan Republic was declared. It’s just that we have not made it effective, it’s true. That’s what we are doing now. We are in that way of making effective the Catalan Republic, a always through pacific, democratic and non-violent means.

CA: Very quickly, Ignacio Varela, otherwise the president of the Generalitat will lose his train.

IGNACIO VARELA: It’s a bit unsettling to listen to someone in charge of a government saying that legal norms must be disregarded and that democracy is above any law. The only thing this proves is that the secessionists and you in particular, have a very troubled relationship with the principle of legality. Then, maybe it would be good that rather than setting up a negotiation based on where you want to arrive, you did it based on the starting point. I ask you, which are, in your opinion, the laws in force in Catalonia at the moment? Is the Statute of Autonomy still valid right now? The Spanish Constitution? Are the disconnection laws that you passed in force? Or is Catalonia simply in a state of a-legality?  And second, considering that you don’t have the 2/3 of the Catalan Parliament that would be required to amend the Statute, and Pedro Sánchez doesn’t have the 3/5 of the Spanish Parliament that would be required to amend the Constitution, why are you telling everyone that if you reach an agreement with Sánchez everything will be solved when actually nothing would?

JT: I think that if somebody has a problem with the principle of legality it is Spain, not us. In Catalonia the Spanish Constitution and the Statute of Autonomy are, of course, in force. We enacted a declaration of independence that has not been made effective, I just accepted that, and therefore we are at that point. But we declared it, and there it stands. And as we made a self-determination referendum and declared the independence of Catalonia, we say that we are going to try to find a political solution. The political solution that we found, democratic, normal in any advanced country of the world, that is, well, let’s vote, let’s do that self-determination referendum. We think that it is logical.

IGNACIO VALERA: That’s the situation that is standing.

(Theme, voices)

CA: I’m got to be reprimanded (…)

JT: Yes, yes, I’m sorry, next.


PILAR GÓMEZ: My question is very short; it’s just a yes or no. It is whether you have talked with Ms Calvo or President Sánchez since Friday.

JT: No. No, excuse me, it’s the other way round, they have not talked with us. We are firmly attached to the negotiation table. That’s where we are. That’s what once said, in a providential expression, Lehendakari Ibarretxe, and I think it is quite appropriate. We have always said the same. We have always said the same. If someone should know why he has changed his mind, why he changed it on Wednesday and whether it is because of the fascist demonstration on Sunday,or due to fear to the old and rancid socialist party of Mr Felipe González, Alfonso Guerra, José Borrell, etc, etc, it is Mr Sánchez.

CA: Mr Torra, I thank you for being with us this morning. You are most welcome to come back here to disagree with me.

JT: Thank you, cordially disagree, perfect.

CA: If you lose your train you can blame me in the station.

JT: No, no, thank you, but we will come back for the depositions of Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, and also president Forcadell.

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