What is being questioned in Spain today is whether it is a healthy democracy

I'm an independentista, an activist for independence. It's not a confession, I have always said it, loud and clear, since I was old enough to reason. And I am in favour of the right to self-determination, in the sense that rights are there when there is a will to exercise them. A right recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that cannot be exercised or is prevented from being exercised is not a right. Or worse still, it is the symptom of a deficit in a system of freedoms that is in flagrant violation of the founding principles of democracy.

We held a referendum in Catalonia on October 1: that is what I have stated before the Supreme Court. In other words, the people of Catalonia were called to express—peacefully and democratically—their will for the future of Catalonia, answering a very clear question. Holding a referendum is not a crime. Just read the Criminal Code. In fact, it is clear that it is not, since the offence was taken off the statute book in 2005. In other words, there was a debate on this issue and the Spanish Parliament decided that it was not a crime.

That October 1, exercising my rights as a citizen, I voted, as did over 2 million people. I voted, proud to be able to express my will in a ballot, democratically. Because as well as being an independentista, I am first and foremost a democrat. It has always been that way. On that day, I saw personally and with my own eyes a new lesson in civic citizenship. No one was obliged to go and vote. And all those who did vote, did so as they had always done, peacefully. Many with a smile, even proudly.

The Supreme Court today claims that violence was committed and it intends to indict the government of Catalonia for that violence. The European democracies cannot see this violence. What everyone has seen, in any case, is the police charges against peaceful citizens at the polling stations. What everyone saw, what shook public opinion and appalled us, was the shocking use of force against peaceful citizens. That is why millions of people decided to strike on October 3, in protest against that use of force, against the images that stunned us all, all democrats. So much so that the Spanish Socialist party announced that same day a motion to reprove Spain’s Vice President Sáenz de Santamaría as the person responsible for the police violence on October 1.
But through a ploy improper in democratic and impartial justice, it is now claimed that the violence, the only one seen in the streets of Catalonia, was carried out by the Catalan Government or by the citizens who voted. Because it is the only way to sustain crimes with 30-year prison sentences; to blame us for the exercise of violence, which we have always been diametrically opposed to, we who have always acted guided by the most profound democratic and peaceful convictions, those who express rejection of all violence, is beyond falsehood. It is perverse and immoral.

The very Europe that is cold, distant or clearly contrary to the independence of Catalonia has called into question the crimes that are attributed to us and maintains that there is no rebellion because there is no violence. In fact, what is in question today in Spain is the very existence of a healthy democracy, what is at stake is the separation of powers.

I am a member of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya—the Republican Left of Catalonia, a legal party, except during the Franco dictatorship, a party that has never concealed the fact that it wants a Republic, as its name shows; a party that wants a fair and free society, which as we understand, the best way to achieve is with the independence of Catalonia.

Voting democratically to express our will, answering a clear and concise question, is always a triumph of democracy. And dialogue and agreement are instruments of this democracy, and these make up the path along which we have said again and again that we wish to follow. To ask that we should waive the right to self-determination is as much as asking us to waive the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the founding principles of the United Nations. And we will never give up democracy. Still less when we see the progressive deterioration of rights and freedoms, when we see how authoritarianism and injustice make their way forth. We are a people of peace, and at at once a people who hunger for justice and thirst for freedom. And we have shown it every single day, with our trajectory, with our words and with our deeds. As is manifest with the hundreds of thousands of people who once again have protested civilly and massively in the streets of Barcelona, as we have always done, with a smile and in peace.