November 01, 2017
Brussels receives Catalan president as a circus
Carles Puigdemont gave his press conference in Brussels yesterday, where he essentially announced that he will fight his extradition from Brussels. He did not say it in so many words, but when you say Spain doesn't guarantee your freedom or safety, and deny that there is effective separation of powers in Spain or that you can get a fair trial there, this has to be the conclusion. Puigdemont did say that he would return to Spain only when "guarantees" exist. He also said he was not in Brussels to seek asylum or to evade justice. But, of course, appearing before a Belgian extradition judge is not evading justice. The noted Belgian human-rights lawyer Paul Bekaert, who had previously confirmed being retained by Puigdemont, told Flemish TV station VRT that they will fight any Spanish request for extradition. We therefore expect Puigdemont to miss his court appointment at Madrid's Audiencia Nacional on Thursday and Friday. If he does, there would be prima-facie evidence of "risk of flight" and so the procedural situation of his fellow indictees - the members of his cabinet - may worsen.
Puigdemont's appearance was otherwise rather contradictory. While calling himself the legitimate president of the Catalan government, he explained he and his government didn't resist their dismissal or call public servants to resistance because they wanted to spare the Catalan public a violent crackdown by Spain. On the other hand, he called on the public to resist the application of the Article 155 measures allowing the Spanish government to control the Catalan government. And, by framing the December 21 regional election as a plebiscite on the Art 155 measures, he accepted the elections called by Mariano Rajoy.
While seen from outside Catalonia it may seem that the game is over, and the general tone was to treat Puigdemont's press conference as a circus, there are two million separatist voters who have been mobilised for five years and are now under strong cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is not necessarily resolved by accepting reality. More often than not, a narrative is found that allows people to go on with beliefs and behaviours that are contradicted by the facts. Such as attempting to organise a cross-party list for the elections headed by Puigdemont, his deputy Oriol Junqueras, and the two grassroots leaders currently in jail.