Whole Catalan government pledges to "organize, call and hold" independence referendum

The government turned out in force to sign a manifesto to conquer the doubts of recent days. Junqueras and Puigdemont call for a commitment from all concerned to holding the referendum in spite of the "threats"

Forging ahead with the referendum. With this slogan and in an attempt to dispel doubts in recent days as to the degree of commitment to the referendum from certain members of the government, the President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont and Vice President Oriol Junqueras were joined by the entire cabinet for the signing of a manifesto on Friday in a pledge to "organize, call and hold" a referendum and respect the final outcome.

The act took place in the Patio of the Orange Trees in the Palace of the Generalitat [which houses the offices of the Presidency of the Catalan Government]. The participants included government Deputies and Directors General from every branch of the executive who officially signed an binding commitment to allow the voters to decide at the polls if they want Catalonia to be independent during the current term. The manifesto, which was read by the Director of the Institute of Catalan Letters, Laura Borràs, reiterated the government’s commitment to the referendum as the "practical exercise of an inalienable right, the right to self-determination". The text is of a distinctly political nature, though it is not legally binding, in a bid to reassert a commitment to the referendum without giving the Public Prosecutor ammunition.

After the signing by the Secretary to the Government, the Ministers, the Vice President and President Puigdemont, the latter brought the event to a close by stressing that the government is reaffirming its commitment to the referendum "in the face of the threats and attempts to limit our self-rule". He declared that a referendum, "is not the work of one or two individuals, but rather of the many needed to organise, call and hold the vote".

Puigdemont went on to say that the Catalan government is merely acting as a "conduit" to a demand that has arisen from the people. It is they, he said, who are calling everyone to the polls to decide their future "as in any democratic nation".

Earlier, during the Vice President’s address, Oriol Junqueras’ made it clear that the commitment to "democracy, the ballot box and the referendum" is shared by all members of the government and Junts pel Sí, the governing coalition. Citing the "love of freedom" championed by Paco Candel [a Valencian-born writer and journalist who spent most of his life in Barcelona], the Vice President claimed that from actions which are "individual, but also collective" Catalan society has been able to overcome the "hurdles placed in its path" and present itself to the world "under very difficult circumstances". He ended his speech with a quote from former Catalan president Francesc Macià "Catalans, everyone in their place and Catalonia in everyone’s heart".

From the Nueva Planta Decrees and the dictatorship to the ruling on the Statute

It was a brief but solemn ceremony, which the Catalan government meant as a gesture to combat the "noise" of the previous week. Following the public disagreements which emerged between the PDECat and ERC —who have privately questioned each other’s willingness to go all the way with the referendum—, the government wished to present an unequivocal image of unity around the great objective of the coming months, the vote on independence.

The manifesto, which was drafted during the week by Puigdemont and Junqueras’ staff, states that "the history of the Catalan nation is one of the struggle for freedom" against "the imposition of a legal framework which all too often has not listened to or respected the popular will of the Catalan people". The text thereby manages to equate the War of Succession and the subsequent Nueva Planta Decrees [signed between 1707 and 1716, these aimed to centralize Spanish rule through the abolition of local institutions], the Spanish Civil War and the ensuing Franco dictatorship, the execution of president Lluís Companys, and the ruling on the Statute and the convictions against Artur Mas, Irene Rigau, Francesc Homs and Joana Ortega over the 9-N vote, "the most recent examples of this lack of respect for democracy".

The text, which was signed today, goes on to affirm that Parliament has repeatedly declared itself to be in favour of Catalan self-rule —beginning on 12 December 1989—, and argues that the current government is "the consequence, not the cause, of this majority will of the people of Catalonia.

The manifesto is of a decidedly political nature, and is not legally binding, in an attempt to avoid giving the Public Prosecutor ammunition. Nevertheless, in recent weeks the Prosecutor has made it known that it has doubled its vigilance, monitoring the Catalan separatists’ every move. This has led certain members of the government to suggest that Madrid may well try to find a "loophole" in the manifesto with which to challenge the Catalan executive.

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