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6.02.2017

Puigdemont's arrest

Original: La detenció de Puigdemont.
http://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/la-detencio-de-puigdemont-article-pere-cardus-opinio/
by Pere Cardús.
Translated by  M. Strubell
It's 7 p.m. In front of the Palau de la Generalitat in Plaça de Sant Jaume, the whole square is chock-a-block. Everyone's there. Well ... not everyone.
Six o'clock in the morning. In front of the house, a car with dark tinted windows awaits. 

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It has a more prominent antenna that those of other cars that still have one. Standing next to the car, a plainclothes policewoman inspects the street up and down. The door of the house opens. The president emerges wearing jeans and a white shirt. He'll change in the palace. In the Canon's Residence he has a wardrobe full of suits, jackets, shirts and ties for any occasion.
Shortly after seven, the car arrives at the presidential Palace. It parks in the indoor courtyard and the president climbs the stairs towards the Gothic gallery. Before going to his office, he crosses over the Bishop Street using the bridge that links the palace to the Canon's Residence. It is a cold morning because the sun has not warmed the air. In the presidential room, the President has a coffee without sugar and dresses for the occasion. Today is no ordinary day.
At 11, media from across the country and those from abroad that have sent special teams to follow political events in Europe will gather, having received just half an hour's notice. The government will sign the decree calling the independence referendum and the President will give a press conference at the Orange Grove courtyard, in front of the bust of President Macià.
Today is Monday 4 September. Just over two months after the Parliament adopted the Act on referendums that gives legal cover to the government. Obviously, as foreseen, the Spanish government challenged the bill within minutes of its having been adopted in the Parliament plenary. The public prosecutor called for prosecution of the Speaker, Carme Forcadell, and all the MPs that had voted the bill, including six CSPQ members. The Constitutional Court, at a special meeting the day after the Parliament plenary, suspended the law and issued an injunction warning the President, the ministers, the deputy ministers and the members of parliament that any deployment of the law or action related to it would lead to their prosecution for disobedience and malfeasance, considered serious felonies.
The government meets at 10 to receive its final instructions from the President and Vice-President as to how it will have to behave up to October 1, the referendum day. All the ministers have planned so as to make it possible. They know what the game is. But if they have come this far it is because they were aware of the risk and of the consequences of the democratic commitment of the 27-S election. One by one they enter the Golden Hall, where the large table of the Republican Generalitat's Appeal Court and the mural by Antoni Tàpies, which honors the writers of the four medieval chronicles, await them.
The President and Vice-President have lunch together with some of their main collaborators in the Canon's House. They have prepared a light lunch because they know that the afternoon may well be eventful. Before even the end of the second course, the Secretary of the Government comes in looking worried. He looks at the President and says: 'They've come to fetch you.'
"Who have?", asks the President.
"The police", the secretary replies.
President looks at the Vice-President and the other diners, raising his eyebrows. He behaves as if he can't believe it. But he rises out of his chair and goes out to meet the committee of police officers. They are waiting for him in the Palace. Hospitality - which is not swept aside even at moments like this one - has made the President's team take a pew in the Virgin of Montserrat room, the waiting room for the President's office. When the president enters, the four plainclothes officers stand up. The President asks what brings them there. And they tell him an arrest warrant.
Meanwhile, the group of Catalan policemen that safeguard the Palace have shown up at the office door. The president looks at them, sees they expect an order, but asks them not to intervene. The President asks the Spanish police officers where he will be taken and who issued the arrest warrant. It comes directly from Madrid, they say. Right from the very top. 'We have orders to take you to the High Court", they add. The President calls for the Presidency lawyers.
It's 7 p.m. In front of the Palau de la Generalitat in Plaça de Sant Jaume, the whole square is chock-a-block. Everyone's there. Well ... not everyone. Town and village squares throughout the country are overflowing. The international media have deployed mobile units with their satellite dishes to connect to their news services. The President of Catalonia has been arrested.
The scandal is considerable. Some European governments have issued statements condemning the President's arrest. No TV station in the world has chosen not to speak about it on the news. There is much confusion about Spain's intentions as regards the President. Will they let him free? Do they want to send him to prison? The arrest warrant is justified on the grounds of disobedience and sedition.
Early next day, the streets and public transport are empty. The democratic parties and organizations have called for an indefinite strike. Pickets have cut some main roads in the country. La Jonquera is paralyzed, as are the entry routes from Zaragoza. Some activists have occupied the airport runways. Trains and metros do not work.
Towards noon, the streets and main squares of cities and towns again fill with people with flags and banners starry. The banners call out 'de-mo-cra-cy' and 'We want to vote". The Vice-President yesterday took control of the Government. The ministers spent the night in the palace. This morning a meeting has been called of the Government, Members of Parliament and representatives of the provincial and city councils across the country. They are determined to stick to the announcement of the referendum and to make it possible.
PS: I mean no harm to President Puigdemont. Perhaps this scenario is unlikely. But we cannot rule it out. So it would be good for the mentality of those that want the referendum to be held to accept that there are many possible scenarios. Have got thus far, it is clear that there is no alternative. The referendum has to take place. Even a high intensity repressive act requires the most courageous response of all: to hold the referendum, with a high turnout. Spain will not let Catalonia go without having exhausted all possibilities. They will spare neither fear nor repression, if they believe that is the way to stop the Catalans' commitment to liberty and democracy. That is why we must not be ingenuous. We must foresee every option and get ready, if we are to move ahead.
@PereCardus journalist
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