Spain’s vice president Pablo Iglesias has defended calling Carles Puigdemont an “exile”, contradicting most of his colleagues in government, who see the pro-independence politician as a runaway. In 2017, Puidgemont fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution for calling an unauthorized referendum.

In an interview with the Spanish TV show ‘Salvados’, Iglesias offered one of the harshest rebukes of Spain’s role in the Catalan conflict by a Spanish minister. He went as far as acknowledging that Puigdemont’s situation could be compared to that of Republican exiles during the bloody dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Iglesias and his anti-austerity Unidas Podemos party have long been the only Spain-wide political group to defend Catalonia’s right to self-determination.

Since agreeing on a coalition government with the Socialists in 2019, Iglesias became the most prominent voice within the cabinet to reject the imprisonment and prosecution of Catalan leaders for the failed independence push. Asked by the interviewer, the vice president rejected any comparisons between Puigdemont and Spain’s former king Juan Carlos I, who fled to the United Arab Emirates last August following allegations of tax fraud and corruption.

Juan Carlos vs. Puigdemont

“Why do you call the king emeritus a runaway and Carles Puigdemont an exile?”  asked journalist Fernando González. “By no means do I agree with Puigdemont’s political goals, but the reason as to why he is in Brussels is not that he robbed anyone’s money, or tried to enrich himself, or put his hand in anyone’s pocket, but rather for bringing his political idea to an extreme, and in a way that, in my opinion, was wrong and could be subject to judicial consideration. However, in a way, and excuse me for using such words, Puigdemont fucked up his life forever for his political ideas,” said Iglesias.

“Do you consider him an exile, just like many Republicans who left during the Franco dictatorship? Are they comparable?” “Let me be clear, I believe they are. And this doesn’t mean that I agree with what he did.”

Iglesias also defended the need to grant presidential pardons to Catalonia’s jailed leaders, with seven of Puigdemont’s former ministers and two activists convicted of sedition and serving prison sentences of up to 13 years.

Puigdemont has thanked the position of Pablo Iglesias, who has “detached himself from the narrative” on the criminalization and dehumanization of political dissidents. “This does not make him complicit in any pro-independence strategy, nor in mine in particular” he added. In addition, Puigdemont lamented the “misunderstanding” that Iglesias is receiving as a result of his statements.

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