In this guest edition of The Interview, Silvia Alvarez Ribes talks to former Catalan President Artur Mas.
With the controversial investiture debate — in which a new pro-independence government headed by Carles Puigdemont will be elected in the Catalan parliament — set to take place, former President Artur Mas’ role in Catalonia’s quest for independence comes sharply into focus. Mas’ popularity has won him five consecutive elections held in Catalonia from 2003 to 2015. He served as president of Catalonia’s Generalitat from 2010 until 2016, his tenure marked by increasing calls for the region’s independence from Spain. On January 9, 2018, Mas stepped aside as head of the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT), exactly as he had done two years earlier when he stood down from his role as president, having designated Catalonia’s current leader, Carles Puigdemont, as his successor.
Mas seems to be making a habit of leaving at the height of political success. In 2016, his departure came after his project, Together for Yes — a transversal ideology coalition that included the PDeCAT — won the first pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament. His latest move followed an even greater victory with the same transversal formula, this time with the Together for Catalonia party, which led the pro-independence bloc victory of the December 2017 regional elections. The elections were seen as a plebiscite between two contending blocs: a vote for and against the restitution of Catalan self-government.
This renewed pro-independence mandate has not yet changed the position of the Spanish judiciary, which has two pacifist pro-independence leaders and two of Puigdemont’s cabinet ministers in custody pending trial on provocation charges. Puigdemont himself, along with four of his ministers, is in exile in Brussels. In this context, a collective of experts, academics, members of European Parliament, law professors, Nobel Prize winners and other influential figures have signed a petition in support of Catalans’ right to vote and denounced Spain’s reiterated violation of fundamental rights in Catalonia, now amply documented by international organizations such as Human Rights Watch.