Carles Puigdemont has said in a leaked private message to an ally that his drive to create a new independent Catalan republic was over and that the Spanish government had won.
The former regional leader sent a series of gloomy messages to an ex-cabinet colleague on Tuesday night, which were captured by chance by a cameraman for the Telecinco television station.
“I suppose you understand that this is over . . . we have been sacrificed by our people, at least I have,” Mr Puigdemont wrote to Toni Comín, the former regional health minister, just hours after a Catalan parliamentary session to re-elect him as leader was indefinitely postponed.
This postponement came after days of pressure from the Spanish courts, which ruled over the weekend that Mr Puigdemont could not be re-elected as Catalan leader because he was a fugitive from Spanish justice living in Brussels.
Mr Puigdemont fled to Belgium in October after spearheading an illegal and unsuccessful push for independence. He faces charges of rebellion and sedition if he returns to Spain.
In his absence his Junts Per Catalunya party won the most seats among the pro-independence parties in a regional election in December. Mr Puigdemont then secured the backing of the other parties to form a government.
But the courts have ruled that Mr Puigdemont needs to return to Spain and appear before the Catalan parliament to be appointed leader again — something he cannot do without being arrested.
The speaker of the Catalan parliament on Tuesday delayed a session that was set to try to vote Mr Puigdemont into power until there were “guarantees” that he could return safely.
This delay was taken as an act of betrayal by many in the separatist camp, who saw it as a death knell for their attempts to get Mr Puigdemont re-appointed.
“The Moncloa [the seat of the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy] plan has triumphed,” said Mr Puigdemont in the messages to Mr Comín, adding that he had been “sacrificed” by his own followers.
On Wednesday Mr Puigdemont posted a message on Twitter that confirmed he had indeed sent the private messages: “I am human and there are moments when I have my doubts,” he said.
The messages highlight the growing desperation in the separatist camp. Senior figures in the movement have in recent days considered ditching Mr Puigdemont as candidate in favour of another who could better continue the fight for independence.
But none have so far been willing to publicly admit that Mr Puigdemont is finished, for fear of appearing disloyal.
According to Ana Rosa Program, a television show, which published messages from Mr Puigdemont on Wednesday morning, the footage was captured on Mr Comín’s phone by a cameraman during an event in Belgium that Mr Puigdemont was expected to attend.
The crisis between Madrid and Catalonia erupted last October when the regional government under Mr Puigdemont staged an illegal referendum on secession and said the outcome gave it a mandate to declare independence.
In response the national government of Mr Rajoy invoked constitutional powers to withdraw Catalan regional autonomy and called new elections in the region in December.
Unfortunately for Madrid, the pro-independence parties re-gained their majority in parliament and have since been pushing to restore Mr Puigdemont as leader.
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