Cuixart, to the 'New York Times': "What will Spain do with me? Eliminate me? They can't."

The leader of Òmnium denounces that he is in prison for his ideas and defends that he "would do it again"

3 min
Jordi Cuixart at the gates of Almeces.

BarcelonaOn newsstands around the world this Tuesday the following headline could be read: "Separatists a Headache for Spain, Even From Jail". It is the front page of the New York Times, which dedicates one of the six main news items of the day to the president of Òmnium, Jordi Cuixart. On the inside pages, the three-paragraph box on the front page becomes an extensive interview with Cuixart in Lledoners prison. The headline asks: "Criminal or martyr? Prisoner Poses a Political Dilemma for Spain". And, in fact, Cuixart does not stop wondering aloud questions that can give an answer to his future: "At some point, Spain will have to ask itself: what do they want to do with me? Eliminate me? They can't," he concludes. Thus ends a report that reviews Cuixart's origins as well as the evolution of the Independence bid.

Tuesday's cover of the 'New York Times'

The American newspaper affirms that the Spanish state sees Cuixart as "a dangerous criminal", despite the fact that "to his supporters, and to many foreign countries, he is a political prisoner in the heart of Europe". "They want us to change our ideas," says Cuixart. The report recalls that several supranational bodies have warned that political prisoners "are detained only for expressing and acting in accordance with their political opinions." According to the article, "for the Spanish government — and for Europe as a whole — they have also become a diplomatic headache, raising accusations of hypocrisy."

To respond to this problem, they cite a statement by the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, who claims that the former ministers and the Jordis "are not political prisoners" but "politicians who have broken the law". They also have the voice of the former president Carles Puigdemont, who rejects Laya's words saying that the current situation evokes the days of Franco's dictatorship. "It has hit us hard and has taken us back to the past," he says.

Picking up Puigdemont's thread, the report travels back to 1961, when Òmnium was founded. It recalls that the entity was driven "by a group of businessmen to promote the Catalan language at a time when its public use was forbidden". It also explains that shortly afterwards the Francoist authorities closed Òmnium and the "group went underground".

Double biography

"When Cuixart was growing up on the outskirts of Barcelona in the 1980s Franco was dead. But he still saw intolerance against his culture," recalling that although Cuixart's parents named him Jordi, in official documents he was registered as Jorge. "They saw difference as a threat," says the leader of Òmnium. The report reviews the independence bid, but also Cuixart's life, and explains that he was "dragged into the world of Catalan literature by an uncle who owned a bookstore" and then entered the world of business. In 1996 he joined Òmnium, which awakened his "nationalist sentiment". "Being Catalan is more than a language and a bloodline. It is a decision to live here and to be here", Cuixart points out.

The Independence bid, at this point, also takes centre stage: the article recalls the suspended Statute of Autonomy, the clamor for independence and the events of October 2017. The 20th of September, in front of the headquarters of the Department of Economy, is described as follows by the New York Times: "Mr. Cuixart and a pro-independence leader, Jordi Sánchez, tried to mediate between the protesters and the police. They set up pathways through the crowd for officers to enter the building and made announcements that anyone considering violence was a 'traitor.'". The report focuses on the Referendum on October 1, which it says was held "amid the crackdown:" "The national government in Madrid sent in riot squads, which seized ballot boxes and even beat some of the voters." But now, according to the New York Times, the will for independence has faded: it says that the "plans for secession are largely dead".

Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez at the demonstration on September 20, 2017

"Very severe" sentence

"But then the charges came: sedition, one of the highest crimes in Spain." The report calls the sentence against Cuixart very "severe" and says that "these charges surprised even legal experts". "I had to look up what sedition even was," Cuixart says. The interview begins and ends in Lledoners, "a penitentiary built for about a thousand inmates that houses drug traffickers and murderers," according to the newspaper. The leader of Òmnium concludes, as he did in the trial, that "I would do it again". "I will not ask for forgiveness", Cuixart states.