Spanish Jews recoil as ousted Catalan leader tweets ‘awesome’ video of PM Rajoy and Hitler
A group representing Spain’s Jewish communities has criticised a video tweeted by the ousted Catalan president that features images of the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, along with archive footage of Hitler and Franco.
Shortly before Catalonia’s regional parliament convened to elect a new speaker on Wednesday, Carles Puigdemont renewed his attack on the Spanish authorities for sacking his government after it staged an independence referendum last October.
“They understand only fear, violence and imposition,” Puigdemont tweeted. “We will teach them that there is nothing that can bend the spirit of a free, peaceful and democratic people. We are restoring our institutions. We are fighting for the country. We are exercising dignity. Long live the land, and long live free Catalonia!”
Només entenen de por, violència i imposició. Els ensenyarem que no hi ha res que pugui doblegar l'esperit d'un poble lliure, pacífic i democràtic. Recuperem les nostres institucions. Lluitem pel país. Exercim la dignitat. Visca la terra, i visca Catalunya lliure! pic.twitter.com/fz5VRScKVn
— Carles Puigdemont (@KRLS) January 17, 2018
Beneath the message was a video that mixed footage of the Spanish police violence during the referendum with film of a 1940 meeting between the Nazi leader and the Spanish dictator, immediately followed by a video of Rajoy.
Puigdemont thanked the maker of the “awesome video”, adding: “The commitment and determination of the new generations are the best guarantee of the republic.”
The video was condemned by the Federation of Spanish Jewish Communities as senseless and counterproductive.
“The deceitful use of photos and images relating to the second world war makes no sense and undermines the credibility of the message,” it said in a statement. The federation also said it supported – and would always support – Spanish law and the constitution.
A source close to Puigdemont said: “He wasn’t making any comparison between Franco and Hitler and [Rajoy’s] People’s party. All he was doing was sharing the video and saying that it was impressive because it showed the power of the [Catalan] people on 1 October.”
The source added that Puigdemont had always been firmly against attempts to play down the horrors of Nazism. Puigdemont’s former government has previously compared the Spanish authorities to authoritarian regimes in North Korean, China and Turkey.
Puigdemont, who led the region’s push for secession from Spain, fled to Brussels in October after the Catalan parliament made a unilateral declaration of independence, prompting Rajoy to sack the regional government, take control of Catalonia and call fresh elections.
The polls, held on 21 December, saw Catalonia’s three pro-independence parties retain their majority, winning a total of 70 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament.
Puigdemont intends to return as president, but faces immediate arrest on possible charged of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds as soon as he sets foot in Spain.
His supporters believe he could be sworn in again as president by appearing via video link or having one of his MPs read out his speech in the investiture debate likely to be held on 31 January.
Rajoy has insisted that Puigdemont will not be allowed to govern remotely.
“It’s absurd that someone may intend to be a candidate to be the head of the regional government while being in Brussels and running away from justice,” he said on Monday.
“This is no longer just a judicial and political problem, this a problem of pure common sense.”
On Wednesday morning, Roger Torrent, a member of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left party, was elected the new parliamentary speaker.
Torrent said he intended to focus on ending the Spanish government’s direct rule and looking for “understanding and dialogue in Catalonia’s political life”.
Puigdemont congratulated Torrent, tweeting: “I am sure you will exercise the role with nobility and bravery, protecting institutions and the country.”
The former Catalan vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, remains in prison facing possible charges over the push for independence, as do the region’s former interior minister and two prominent pro-independence activists.
Article 155 of the Spanish constitution – which permits Madrid to maintain direct rule over Catalonia – will stay in place until there is a new Catalan government. If no candidate is elected within two months of the first investiture vote, parliament will be dissolved and new elections held 54 days after the date of the first investiture vote.