In his speech to mark Catalonia's national day, the Diada, president Quim Torra has requested that Spain perform a "solemn act" to accept its responsibilities for fascist crimes of the Franco era. In particular, Torra focused on Catalan president Lluís Companys, whose execution by the Franco dictatorship will pass its 80th anniversary this October 15th, and called for an apology to the people of Catalonia for the murder of Companys and thousands of others killed "in exile, in Nazi concentration camps or in Catalan prisons". He contrasted Spain's attitude with the formal apologies provided years ago by both Germany and France for their respective parts in the handover and death of Companys.
Torra began his address on Thursday night by referring to the execution by firing squad of president Lluís Companys in 1940, after he had been arrested by the Gestapo in occupied France and returned to Spain. He recalled that Spain has not yet "assumed its responsibility or apologized to the people of Catalonia", although the German government did so 30 years ago through a letter from foreign minister Karl Friedrich Genscher, to the Catalan government. A further apology was made in 2008, jointly with the French government, through their respective consuls.
For this reason and in the context of the commemoration of an atypical Diada, Torra called on the Spanish government to hold “a solemn act in which the head of state and the head of government - that is, king Felipe VI and prime minister Pedro Sánchez - publicly apologize for the persecution, arrest and execution of president Companys and all the thousands of Catalans killed in exile, in Nazi concentration camps or in Catalan prisons”.
Prisoners and exiles
Torra said in his speech that Catalans have not had an easy history and assured that it is only explained in terms of an aspiration to regain freedom and as a "persistent struggle for hope".
"It has been like that for almost three years since the referendum on October 1st, in the face of all the repression that Spain has unleashed on peaceful democrats. It has been like for the political prisoners and exiles, who continue to suffer political persecution from an authoritarian and vengeful state," he said.
If there is no change of script in Spain's Supreme Court, Torra himself is about to be removed from the office of Catalan president, after the hearing next week of his appeal against disqualification from office, for his refusal to remove a "free political prisoners" banner from the Generalitat government palace.
On the eve of an atypical Diada due to the coronavirus, and this atypical situation affecting the Catalan presidency, Torra called for "generosity, honesty, unity, commitment and humility" to make possible "freedom in times of repression", "democracy in times of authoritarianism" and 'the Catalan Republic of civic commitment in times of corrupt monarchies'.
Start of the new school year
Throughout the speech, on the eve of the resumption of the school year in the midst of a pandemic, Torra called for "even more effort and sacrifice." "We need to be more careful now than ever to make the start of the school year a success story,” he warned.
The president called for "health in times of pandemic, recovery in times of economic crisis, decent housing in times of speculation and sustainability in times of climate change". "Let's do it in the way that the country knows how, when it takes on a proposal," Torra said before concluding.
The president finished his speech exclaiming: "For life and for Catalonia".