'Repression cannot stop struggle for democracy and freedom,' says jailed activist
People need to be ready for prison to defend values, Jordi Cuixart tells the Catalan News Agency from behind bars
Jordi Cuixart has been in prison for nearly a year. He is the president of Òmnium Cultural, an organization that promotes Catalan language and culture. He is also a key figure of the pro-independence movement.
As preparations for the independence referendum got underway, despite the former Spanish government's refusal to accept it as legal, the president of Òmnium tried to rally up all those in favour of breaking away from Spain and forming a Catalan republic.
A motion was passed in the Catalan parliament to hold a referendum on self-determination, despite Spain's rejections. Preparations for the vote got underway, but Spain's administration was adamant for it not to take place, maintaining that it was illegal.
Spanish police raided Catalan government buildings in order to halt any kind of preparation that went towards the vote on independence.
Jordi Cuixart, alongside the then head of the Catalan National Assembly Jordi Sànchez, called on pro-independence supporters to take to the streets and protest against the raids. Accused of sedition for their role in the independence referendum on October 1 as well as protests against Spain's measures to prevent it, both grassroots activists were imprisoned and have been behind bars now for nearly a year.
Speaking on Sunday, Cuixart said that the ongoing Catalan independence movement must assume that there will be more imprisonments.
"It would be absurd to put prison and threats of violence from the state as a limit," he told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) from the Lledoners prison where he is currently being held. For Cuixart, the independence of Catalonia is a cause worth going to jail for.
"There needs to be a motive of collective self-esteem, of people in Catalonia ready to go to prison to defend democracy in the 21st century," he said.
The judiciary case against last October's referendum was the "biggest attack on democracy since February 23."
Known in Spain as 23-F or the Tejerazo, in 1981, Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Tejero led 200 Guardia Civil officers into the Spanish congress during the vote to elect a prime minister. An old-school coup d'état. Shots were fired, hostages taken. Nobody died. The next day they surrenderd.
Cuixart referred to the actions taken by former Spanish president Mariano Rajoy's administration to silence the question of a vote on Catalan independence.
Thousands of police officers from Spain were deployed in Catalonia in order to prevent people from reaching the ballot box.
Cuixart asserted that the "pro-independence movement is peaceful, and repression cannot stop the struggle for democracy and freedom."
Life on the outside has changed since Cuixart was locked up. Mariano Rajoy of Spain's mainstream conservative People's Party (PP) was ousted in a vote of no confidence. After seven years of right-wing PP policy, the moderately left Socialists took the helm.
Cuixart may be locked up, but he's not locked out of what is going on in the political stage. "It is important to note that, beyond gestures and words, the repression continues to exist," he remarked.
"There are nine of us political prisoners locked up, seven people in exili, the gag law is still in force," he said. "For now, apart from good words, we haven't seen anything."
Although tensions between the Catalan and Spanish administrations have subsided, especially after direct rule was lifted by the Rajoy administration, the situation remains unchanged. The Catalan president has stated that he will not give up on a push for independence.
His Spanish counterpart has not ruled out applying article 155 of Spain's constitution, like his predecessor, stripping Catalonia of its self-governance, should the process veer of the course of written Spanish law. From his jailed perspective, Cuixart showed little optimism of Pedro Sánchez agreeing to a referendum on independence.
"Sánchez himself has already recognized that the solution is to vote but he has said that he has no intention of agreeing on a referendum on self-determination. They continue to have an incomprehensible fear of the polls. In any case, Madrid must respect the democratic will of the Catalans, repeatedly expressed in the ballot box," he said.