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Catalan leaders urge ex-president Puigdemont to end return bid

By Sara Shayanian
Catalan leaders urge ex-president Puigdemont to end return bid
Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont during a debate at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Photo by Ricardo Ramirez/EPA

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Catalan leaders are calling for ex-president Carles Puigdemont to end his bid to return to power after text messages emerged showing him casting doubt on the region's independence movement from Spain.

Puigdemont, is living in Brussels, Belgium, while facing criminal charges in Spain. Pro-independence parties control the Catalan parliament, which could re-install Puigdemont as the region's leader in an upcoming vote that was delayed Tuesday.

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Miquel Iceta, the leader of the Catalan branch of the Spanish Socialist Party, said Puigdemont isn't in the position to "effectively serve as [president]."

Meanwhile, Xavier Garcìa Albiol, the leader of the Catalan branch of the conservative Popular Party, asked for Puigdemont to stop "making a fool of himself" and give up his bid for the position.

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Opposition party leader Inés Arrimadas said Puigdemont and pro-independence officials need to have "the courage" to accept the independence movement "died along time ago."

Puigdemont said in leaked private messages to Toni Comín, the region's former regional health minister, that he had been sacrificed by members of his own side, spoke of the "last days of republican Catalonia" and declared that Spanish government "has won."

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"I suppose you understand that this is over ... we have been sacrificed by our people, at least I have," Puigdemont said through the Signal messaging app.

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"You will be ministers (I hope and wish) but I've already been sacrificed just like Tardà said," the ex-Catalan leader added, referring to pro-independence Catalan MP Joan Tardà, who suggested Puigdemont should step aside.

The former president confirmed he had sent the messages in a moment of weakness on Twitter on Wednesday, but said he was still the best candidate to represent Catalonia.

"I am a journalist and I have always understood that there are limits, such as privacy, which should never be violated," Puigdemont wrote on Twitter. "I am human and I, too, have moments of doubt. I am also the president and I will not fold or back away out of respect for the gratitude I feel towards - and the commitment I have - to the citizens and the nation. Onwards!"

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Catalonia has been under the control of the federal government after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, responded to the Catalan parliament's unilateral declaration of independence by sacking Puigdemont and his ministers and calling for snap elections.

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If Puigdemont returns to Spain, he will face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of government funds.

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