President of ERC and candidate for Congress, Oriol Junqueras, has this Friday entered the Spanish general election campaign. Junqueras was today able to give his first press conference after almost a year and a half in prison. He had a clear message to send: ERC won't allow a far-right government "either by action or by omission". This involves, he explained, not setting any red lines in potential negotiations with PSOE which they could refuse to meet, leading to a "blank cheque" for a far-right government.
"We won't enable a far-right government, all European democrats would do the same", he said during a videoconference from Soto del Real prison. "That doesn't mean we're gifting anything, because we'll be demanding with our other conditions", he said, adding that a "referendum and the end of the repression" are "nonnegotiable".
He didn't want to get into plans for different possibilities, however, saying they would wait for the results from the ballot boxes. His closest comment was to remark that a vote for PSOE is a vote for them to govern with Cs, arguing "it would be a shame for those who supported [article] 155 to win" and that "they wouldn't hesitate to apply it again".
Junqueras said that a clear, ongoing victory for pro-independence parties in Catalonia will end up "inevitably" leading to a referendum. Despite the repeated refusals from Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez to concede to a referendum, Junqueras said that if they, especially ERC, achieve a "large victory" on 28th April, they'll "be in a better situation to argue for" one.
He also used the press conference to denounce the "democratic anomaly" that he should be in prison and on trial for crimes he said "don't exist in the penal code, since neither voting nor organising a referendum are in it". Despite the situation, Junqueras made it clear that he doesn't plan to renounce his political objectives, despite the up to 25 years in prison he faces.
The leader of ERC said his party will keep working "tirelessly for a referendum" to be agreed with Madrid and that they'll "never be cowed". "Our objective has been, is and will continue being independence," he said.
Junqueras is a candidate for both the Spanish Congress and the European Parliament, besides being a current deputy in the Catalan Parliament. Today, he confirmed he will take his seat in the former if elected later this month. Elections for the latter will come in May, and he said he'll wait for those results before "taking the corresponding decisions".
A passionate, very human Junqueras
Over the last year and a half, Junqueras had only been able to communicate with most people through letters. He had been seen and heard speaking live once, when he was testifying in the Supreme Court during his trial.
Unlike, EFE's press conference with Jordi Sànchez (JxCat) yesterday, from the same room in Soto del Real, the Spanish flag and the photograph of the king didn't appear in today's images provided by ACN.
Over an hour and three quarters, Junqueras appeared very human, comfortable and smiling. There was an emotional moment when he greeted his children, Lluc and Joana, in case they were watching, his colleagues in exile and those in jail with him. Junqueras, who was clearly very keen to be able to speak, said he missed press conferences and joked that when he leaves prison he'll speak for three days straight: "you'll take turns", he told journalists to laughter.