Puigdemont at Harvard: "Our struggle is a reflection of the fight for American civil rights"
Catalonia’s aim for independence is related to the US civil rights movement. This is one of the main ideas which Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, set forth this Monday in a conference at Harvard University. “Our struggle is a reflection of the fight for American civil rights,” he said during the conference “Catalonia, Today, Tomorrow”, but lamented that, in contrast with American institutions which “have respected democracy and the will of its people to adapt over time”, Spain's refuses to open a dialogue over Catalonia's pro-independence aspirations and the will of its citizens to hold a referendum. “We are convinced that this is the best option,” he said but pointed out that “up to now it has been impossible, due to the Spanish Government’s constant, absolute refusal to discuss it”. However, he warned, “Catalonia will hold the referendum in any case.”
Boston (CNA).- Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, compared Catalonia's pro-independence process to the US civil rights movement in his speech Monday at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies. “Our struggle is a reflection of the fight for American civil rights.” he said during the conference “Catalonia, Today, Tomorrow”. However, in contrast with American institutions which “have respected democracy and the will of its people to adapt over time”, Puigdemont lamented Spain's refusal to open a dialogue and agree on a referendum so that Catalans can decide their political future. “We are convinced that this is the best option,” he said but pointed out that “up to now it has been impossible, due the Spanish Government’s absolutely steadfast refusal to discuss it”. However, he warned, “Catalonia will hold the referendum in any case.”
Puigdemont emphasized that the "challenge" of organizing a referendum is not only his Government's "commitment" but the "democratic response to the demands of the Catalan society" since around 80% of Catalans are in favor of holding a self-determination referendum and the decision is backed by the majority of the Parliament.
"Catalonia wants to vote this year so it can gain its own voice," said Puigdemont emphasizing Catalonia's willingness to negotiate. "That is what this is all about: the power to express our voice in a Spain that does not want to hear us, a Spain that does not want to listen to its own citizens," he lamented.
Although the Catalan Government's "proposal for dialogue and consensus will remain open until the very last day," if Spain's continues to be in denial, "Catalonia will hold the referendum in any case," he stated.
"Putting out a ballot box has been a cause of political debarment"
Puigdemont also decried that Spain has not extended the fundamental right of democracy “to Catalan citizens, neither at home nor abroad". He was referring to the problems that many Catalans abroad experienced when trying to vote in the Catalan Elections on September 27, 2015. "In the most recent elections for the Catalan Parliament, at a crucial time for Catalan interests, only one out of every 13 Catalans living abroad was able to vote," he noted.
He also spoke about the Spanish Constitutional decision to ban former Catalan President, Artur Mas and former Catalan Ministers, Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau from public office for allowing the non-official vote on independence in November, 2014. "Back at home, putting out a ballot box has been a cause of political debarment," he said.
"A country with a competitive economy"
Besides setting forth the current political situation, Puigdemont also explained the key points of "Catalonia's DNA" and its goals for the future. "We need the instruments of State to strengthen the strategic sectors in our economy, to stimulate investment, and to consolidate a vibrant business sector which generates value and employment," he said.
To this end, "we need public investment to be directed towards the productive economy and to have a social and economic return." In this vein, Puigdemont named Spain's underinvesment in the railway network and the historic delay in the construction of a long-awaited key piece of infrastructure which is the Mediterranean Railway Corridor. "We only demand efficiency in the decisions taken to promote competitiveness, openness, and economic integration. The centralized operation of all Spanish harbors and airports, an abnormality in European countries, has to end if we are to promote competition and encourage trade with Asia and, as a by-product, boost both the Spanish and European economies."
"A reliable European and Mediterranean partner"
Amongst other key points such as Catalonia's bid for social justice, freedom of speech, and its commitment to having an independent judiciary system, the Catalan President also referred to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean. "We cannot simply turn our back on it," he said and emphasized Catalonia's heritage as a welcoming land. "Our citizens are calling on us to tackle the current human drama without delay."
"Only with the power of a State can our response capacity be used in an effective way. We have directly offered the European Commission thousands of places to admit refugees, since the Spanish government is not fulfilling its commitment to the 17,000 refugees that were supposed to arrive months ago," he lamented.
Quoting Pau Casals
As an introduction, Puigdemont quoted the words of Pau Casals, one of the greatest cellists of all time, a guest of the White House in 1961, later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Kennedy, and in 1971 awarded the United Nations Peace Medal in recognition of his stance for peace, justice, and freedom.
"I am a Catalan [...] Catalonia has been the greatest nation in the world. I will tell you why. Catalonia has had the first parliament, much before England. Catalonia had the beginning of the United Nations. All the authorities of Catalonia in the 11th century met in a city of France, at that time Catalonia, to speak about peace. 11th century! Peace in the world and against, [...] war, the inhumanity of war. This was Catalonia. I am so, so happy, so moved to be here, with you," he said.