Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, commented on the controversy about his meeting with former US President and Nobel Peace Laureate, Jimmy Carter, last Friday in Atlanta. “Of course we didn’t pay for anything,” he said, dismissing the accusations made by the Catalan branch of the Conservative People’s Party (PPC) and also insinuated by Spanish unionist ‘Ciutadans’. According to Puigdemont, such accusations are not “only false but indecent”since they are aimed at smearing a prestigious institution such as the Carter Center. In the interview with Catalunya Radio, Puigdemont also complained that the PP and the Spanish Government are trying to spread the idea that the Catalan executive “does not have the right”to explain its situation abroad and that they treat Catalonia “as a colony”. He added that some Spanish diplomats “feel uncomfortable”with the Spanish executive’s instructions, which include “having to criticize”the Catalan Government and “blocking”events and meetings.

Last Saturday, PPC’s leader Xavier García Albiol said that his party “was certain”that Puigdemont “had to pay in order to meet with former US President, Jimmy Carter”. García Albiol said it was “very serious”that the Catalan executive had spent “Catalan taxpayers’ money to go to the US twice in one week”, referring to Puigdemont’s earlier trip to Boston, Washington DC and New York. In a similar vein, the Spanish Government’s delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, said that the meeting between Puigdemont and Carter was “shocking”since there was “no relationship”between Catalonia’s aspirations and the Carter Center.

The Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia, Diplocat, immediately reacted to the accusations and expressed its outrage. “I categorically deny Mr Albiol’s statement. What proof does he have to justify such defamation?” asked Diplocat’s general secretary, Albert Royo. University of Miami Professor, Ambler Moss, who facilitated the contact between the Carter Center and the Catalan executive, also denied the accusations and described them as “fake news”.

The role of Spanish diplomacy
Such accusations, made by PPC’s leader Xavier García Albiol and supported by the main party in the opposition in the Catalan Parliament, Spanish unionist ‘Ciutadans’prove Spain’s mindset, which “insists on treating Catalonia as a colony”, said Puigdemont. He also regretted the PP and the Spanish Government’s aim of promoting the idea that the Catalan executive “doesn’t have the right”to explain its situation abroad. In addition, he explained that some Spanish diplomats “feel uncomfortable”with the Spanish executive’s instructions, which include “having to criticize”the Catalan Government and “blocking”events and meetings.

Puigdemont said he was aware of the Spanish Government’s attempts to block his meeting with Jimmy Carter, as has happened on other occasions. “What normally happens is that Spanish diplomats go beyond what their job descriptions allow,” he said and added that “some of them have expressed their unease for having to play a role which doesn’t correspond to a diplomatic corps, such as criticizing what they consider to be a region of Spain,” said Puigdemont. “They don’t feel comfortable attacking and interfering with what a democratically elected President could explain himself,” he added.

Two US congressmen back Catalonia’s right to self-determination
Back in Barcelona after meeting with Jimmy Carter on Friday, Puigdemont met with two US Congressmen over the weekend: Republican Dana Rohrabacher of California and New York Democrat Brian Higgins, with whom he already made contact while in Washington DC. The two US congressional representatives also met the delegate of the Spanish Government in Catalonia, Enric Millo, and expressed their support for Catalonia’s right to self-determination. According to Millo, Rohrabacher is in favor of calling a referendum in Catalonia and didn’t understand why the Spanish State refused to allow it if they were sure that independence won’t win. Puigdemont admitted not being surprised by these statements. “We already met in Washington DC and he was very clear about his position,” he said, adding that his statement didn’t necessarily imply support for Catalonia’s independence. “What is strange from an international perspective is that those who expect to win refuse to call a referendum and those who are purported to lose, insist on holding it,” said Puigdemont.

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