Tensions run high in Spain after mock execution of ex-Catalan leader

Published 24.04.2019 00:14

Ahead of the upcoming elections, tensions have escalated in Spain after locals in a Spanish town set alight and shot at an effigy made to resemble Catalonia's former separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont.

Spain's Foreign Minister Josep Borrell condemned the incident on Monday. "I reject the terrible act against the figure of Carles Puigdemont in Coripe and the displays of intolerance which various candidates have fallen victim to in this election campaign," Borrell tweeted.

On Twitter, Puigdemont, who is still wanted in Spain over his role in the secession bid, slammed the mock execution. He said they were making "mockery of the struggle for the freedom of political prisoners and exiles," in reference to jailed or exiled separatist leaders like himself. On Monday, he thanked Borrell for coming to his defense.

Spain's parliamentary election on April 28, one of the country's most divisive since its return to democracy in the late 1970s, is being fought more on emotional and identity issues, such as Catalonia's botched independence bid, rather than on the economy.

Tensions between regional and central authorities peaked with the 2017 breakaway attempt but the conflict has been festering ever since. The crisis has split the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia and caused deep resentment across Spain, with national flags hung from many balconies in the capital in an expression of unity. The separatists want Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to agree to talks on self-determination for their region, but the government argues that Spain's constitution doesn't allow it.

Every year on Easter Sunday, Coripe organizes the fake execution of a figure meant to represent "what is negative for society," which they call "setting Judas on fire." This year, several men, including municipal police, shot at an effigy of Puigdemont dozens of times, according to footage broadcast by Spanish media.

The real Puigdemont is currently living abroad in exile after fleeing Spain following a failed secession bid in October 2017.

The act of burning model figures of differing personalities is not new in Spain, where it takes place in high-profile and lesser-known traditional festivals. But this time, the fake Puigdemont was "executed" as a tense, acrimonious electoral campaign rages ahead of the Sunday polls where the future of Catalonia is a major issue.

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