Barcelona’s Mayor Ada Colau has announced that she will not participate in the welcoming ceremony for Spain’s King Felipe IV, who will visit the Catalan city on occasion of the Mobile World Congress, on Sunday. This is the first royal visit since the Oct. 1, 2017, Catalan independence referendum, which was brutally repressed by Spanish forces.
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“One thing is institutional respect, and another thing is homage after what happened on October 1,” Colau said on Saturday. Citing last year’s application of article 155 of Spain’s Constitution, which allows the Spanish central government to force any of its autonomous communities to comply with constitutional obligations, Colau justified her decision.
“We are in a political context without normalcy for the enforcement of 155. Hence I have informed the Royal House that I will not participate in the official receptions in these events with the King. It doesn’t proceed. It is my responsibility as a protest to the political and police actions of repression during October 1. The figure of the King should have maintained neutrality and advocated for conciliation, instead he showed zero empathy and opted for a hard line,” Coalu explained.
The president of the conservative Partido Popular de Catalunya (Popular Party of Catalunya), Alberto Fernandez, accused Barcelona’s mayor of being a “kamikaze,” and “boycotting” Barcelona.
But Colau is supported by other political parties. Municipal representatives of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia), whose president Oriol Junqueras has been jailed, and of the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (Popular Unity Candidacy) have decided they will not attend the event’s official dinner in protest against the King's presence.
The pro-independence organization Omnium (Latin for all) has organized a widespread protest for Sunday at 9 p.m. to demand the release of what they call political prisoners.
After the Catalan independence referendum, democratically-elected government officials including Junqueras, former Vice President of the Government of Catalonia, Jordi Sanchez, president of the National Catalan Assembly, Joaquim Forn, former security counselor of Catalonia, and Òmnium Cultural member Jordi Cuixart, were imprisoned.
The President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont was removed from his post and is currently wanted by Spanish judicial authorities. He and other three ministers in his cabinet remain in Belgium.
Puigdemont was recently appointed the president of Catalonia’s parliament, but Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria has said the Spanish government would use "all the instruments of the law" to prevent Puigdemont from being reinstated as the leader of the region, including imprisoning him upon his return to Spain.
All of the jailed or self-exiled pro-independence activists are charged with treason for participating in the referendum process.