Telegraph: 'Pep Guardiola makes impassioned plea for Catalonia to split from 'authoritarian' Spain' #LoveDemocracy

diumenge, 11 de juny de 2017



Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City FC, today issued a powerful call to arms for Catalonia's independence referendum, urging the international community to support the Spanish region in defying "an authoritarian state" in Madrid.

The former captain and coach of Barcelona made the unusual public appeal two days after the Catalan president announced an independence vote for October 1, a move that the Spanish government insists is illegal.

Ironically, secession from Spain would see Barcelona FC kicked out of La Liga, the Catalan government has admitted.

The Catalan Government will hold a referendum on their independence from central government on 01 October .

Speaking to a crowd of 30,000 from the steps of Barcelona's National Palace, Mr Guardiola said Madrid was "persecuting political debate" in "a threat that affects all democrats".

"We Catalans are victims of a state that is carrying out political persecution unworthy of a democracy in 21st Century Europe", the football star insisted.

Reading a referendum manifesto in Catalan, Spanish and English, he declared: "We are here to say clearly that on October 1 we will decide our future, even though the Spanish state doesn't want us to."

The vote was announced by Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, on Friday after attempts to negotiate a way out of the secession crisis fell apart in recent weeks.

The government of Mariano Rajoy has consistently rejected all attempts to hold a referendum, insisting a vote would be unconstitutional and ordering the country's Supreme Court to focus all its efforts on the issue.

Mr Guardiola holds a ballot box during the protest CREDIT: AP PHOTO/EMILIO MORENATTI

Amid an increasingly vicious war of words, Madrid has accused the Catalan government of mounting a "coup" in the Spanish autonomous region. Mr Rajoy has compared its push for secession - even if unilateral - to that of "the worst dictatorships", and warned a independent Catalonia would be immediately thrown out of the EU. The exchanges have escalated to veiled threats of confrontation: after the Spanish government last month vowed to stop a referendum "by any means", Mr Puigdemont challenged it to explain if the state was "willing to use force."

Spanish state interference is a deeply sensitive issue in Catalonia, where the legacy of General Francisco Franco and his brutal attempts to crush Catalan identity still loom large in the public memory.

On Sunday, to cheers from supporters waving Catalonia's flag, Mr Guardiola accused Madrid of trying to destroy the Catalan movement by blocking infrastructure investment, bringing politically motivated prosecutions against its leaders and undermining the region's school system.

"We appeal to all the democrats of Europe and the world to stand up to the abuses of an authoritarian state", he said.

The president of the Catalan regional government announced last friday that a referendum on the region's independence will be held 1 October CREDIT:  AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENELLUIS

Pablo Casado, vice-secretary of communication for the ruling Partido Popular (PP), hit back at Guardiola, reminding him that "when you are offside, you are breaking the law... and the referee, which is the government and which is the judiciary, is going to blow the whistle on this illegal play."

Mr Guardiola, born in the central Catalonian town of Santpedor, has been at once the independence movement's biggest celebrity supporter and its most discreet. He symbolically lent his name to the candidate list for the pro-independence alliance in the 2015 Catalan elections - styled as a de facto referendum after a 2014 "consultation vote" was ruled illegal - but has largely avoided speaking publicly on the issue until now.

Now, his intervention - for which he was publicly thanked today by Mr Puigdemont - may be sorely needed. While three-quarters of Catalans support a vote the movement has been losing momentum.

Mr Puigdemont has lost key support, including that of Left-wing party Podemos and the Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, with his insistence on pushing ahead unilaterally, leaving him reliant on more radical pro-independence elements.

An April poll published in Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia found increasing pessimism among independence supporters, with just 29 percent of those who back a vote believing it will happen, down from 37 percent in January.

But with neither side willing to give ground, it remains to be seen how a major collision will be averted. Mr Guardiola insisted that faced with Madrid's instransigence, "we don't have another way out: the only possible response is to vote."

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