Mas responds to Spain’s “assault" with legal action, more pro-independence pedagogy

The Catalan president believes the actions of the Spanish government "should seriously worry the whole of the EU", and states that "the best response is for the 48% in favor of independence to become 50% in a few months"

ROGER TUGAS/ MARC COLOMER Barcelona

A cry of alarm from Artur Mas, acting President of the Generalitat, in the face of the takeover of Catalonia’s finances by the Spanish government. "It is an institutional assault by the State on the entire Catalan population", warned Mas, who noted that the measures adopted by Mariano Rajoy’s government to force Catalonia to abandon the pro-independence process by cutting off liquidity "hurt" equally the entire population of the nation, "both those who favor independence and those who oppose it". These measures were taken despite only 48% voting in favor of the pro-independence option on September 27th (27-S).

"They are punishing and harming Catalonia for espousing political ideas that are absolutely respectful of Human Rights by peaceful, democratic means", complained Mas, who also said that the "assault" by the State, "by force", is "extremely serious, and shows alarmingly low democratic standards, which should seriously worry the whole of the European Union, because this assault against a democratically elected parliament is taking place within a member state". "We have the right to act in legitimate self-defense”, he warned after affirming that the Govern will always act with "serenity" and in a peaceful manner, but also with "firmness".

And what measures are being proposed by Mas to respond to this situation? First, there are legal options, as "we have already tasked our legal service with responding to this disloyalty and assault by the Spanish government using every possible means". Nevertheless, the acting Catalan president assured that he does not have much confidence in the success of these actions, in spite of wanting to use "all legal means", and not exclusively the Constitutional Court: "We are not discounting the administrative complaint option, which could get to the Supreme Court --we're not discounting anything". In fact, he has not ruled out resorting to European courts.

The second course of action would be political. "The more assaults we receive, the more examples we can give to the pro-independence base in the nation, thus making the process more irreversible", he warned, something in which, he noted ironically, the Spanish government is helping. "The best response is for the 48% to become 50% in a few months, and we will get down to it", insisted Mas, adding that the alternative to independence, according to him, is to be "swallowed up by the machinery of the State, which is trying to marginalize the Catalan project". Nevertheless, he extended a hand to the eventual new Spanish government that will emerge from the December 20th general elections, to open a process of dialogue and negotiation, as established in the breakaway declaration, as well as with the European Union. "If the government stops dedicating itself to a permanent suffocation and the persecution of democratic ideas, the Catalan institutions will be open to talking and negotiating", he declared, something which is impossible with the current Madrid government, he lamented.

Institutional assault

The acting president of the Generalitat slammed the Spanish government for "no longer limiting devolved powers, but taking them back", which affects "decisions in extremely sensitive areas: how we pay at the end of the month, whether we can pay, or not, in priority areas". "There are many types of assaults: physical, gender-based, verbal, psychological, and also institutional. What the Spanish government is doing is a proper institutional assault, an assault by the state against a people, against an entire population", he lamented after the cabinet meeting in which the Ministers of Economy, Interior, and Justice had explained how these latest actions by the State would affect the government.

On this subject, Mas referred to the complaints filed by the Attorney General of the State against him personally, against former vice president Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau, acting Minister of Education, for organizing the consultation of 9 November 2014. He also mentioned his exclusion from the round of talks to prepare the anti-jihadist fight, as Mas is head of the Security Committee of Catalonia and, as such, the only elected official with power over security forces to be ignored by the Spanish government. Finally, he lamented the unusual conditions imposed by the Finance Ministry on the Generalitat to access the Autonomic Liquidity Fund (FLA).

"It is the first time that Catalonia has been singled out and the “no exceptions" policy has been ignored in order to punish us and humiliate us even more", Mas noted ironically, and complained that the €1.318 billion that the central government says the Generalitat hid was spent on building roads and prisons, as had already been made public, via a deferred payment method that was used by previous Catalan administrations and which the Spanish government still uses. "Montoro is playing with fire and will get burned if he continues down this road", he stated, since he assured that the cost of the high-speed trains, the compensation paid to Castor, and the bankruptcy of the radial roads around Madrid do not show up in the budgets, something which Brussels could soon demand to be changed, and then "all of the problems of the worsening of the Spanish deficit will be felt in a significant way".

The weakness of an acting government

However, Mas believes that it is still too soon to activate a Catalan Treasury to improve the region’s finances, as there is still work to be done. He also stressed that "in my government’s way of proceeding there is no willingness to create problems of legal uncertainty for the people of Catalonia". He also recognized the weakness that being only an acting government represents when responding to this takeover: "We have a very powerful adversary before us, and we are in a weakened situation". However, he acknowledged that talks with the CUP are in progress, but everything "is going very slowly" and "it is difficult to move forward". "It is a fruit that must continue to ripen, but there is no guarantee that it will do so", he added, although he has prioritized a global agreement later over one just for the appointment of the new president. Whatever happens, he ruled out throwing in the towel and withdrawing his name, as his "first responsibility is to bring to a safe harbor that which the Catalan people have voted for at the ballot", and will try "to exhaust all possibilities to move the project forward".

As for payments to pharmacies, nursing homes, and other contracts or providers, Mas complained that there are problems "because the State will not transfer the funds when it must", whether or not the Catalan government is "acting" or not. "We had difficulties when we were not an acting government, because Madrid imposed unattainable deficit targets on the Generalitat", he recalled, and went on to insist that the consequences of the chokehold by the State affect both the pro-independence pharmacists as well as those who are not.