MADRID, Jan. 24, 2018
Spanish security forces will do everything possible to stop former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont returning to the country undetected, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said Tuesday.
Puigdemont is currently in exile in Belgium facing charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds, but he is the only candidate to be named the leader of Catalonia following regional elections on Dec. 21.
The push for independence by the Catalan government, while Puigdemont was a regional leader, triggered a serious political crisis in Spain.
The Spanish government ousted Puigdemont’s cabinet, dissolved the regional parliament and called a December regional election as part of special powers invoked following the independence declaration.
Puigdemont said he can carry out his duties from exile, although it is uncertain whether the law would allow him to be sworn in by video link or whether he would have to do so in person at the Catalan assembly.
Speaking on Spanish TV network Antena 3, Zoido made it clear that he was prepared not to allow that to happen.
He said Spanish security forces were following Puigdemont to ensure he could not “cross the Spanish border in a helicopter, by boat or in the trunk of a car.”
“We are working so that doesn’t happen. There is no doubt we are worried about it,” added the minister, who said the Spanish Civil Guard were “working in an intense manner, morning, afternoon and night.”
“We have designed an organization to stop this happening… we are working at the border, inside the border… everywhere,” said Zoido.
The minister’s remarks come a day after the Spanish Supreme Court rejected a request by the Spanish prosecutor’s office to reactivate a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont during his visit to Denmark on Monday.
The Supreme Court explained its decision saying that detaining Puigdemont would actually make it easier for Puigdemont to become invested as Catalan leader as he would be able to delegate his vote from inside a Spanish jail.