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In Catalonia, an ‘Accidental’ Leader of Unwavering Conviction – New York Times

(New York Times) BARCELONA — A mayor from the Spanish hinterland, Carles Puigdemont was a relative unknown until thrust into the leadership of Catalonia last year. He was a compromise choice to break a deadlock among separatist parties.

It was “a last-minute and accidental arrival through the back door,” Mr. Puigdemont recalled in an interview this week at the Gothic palace of his regional government in Barcelona.

Now, as Catalonia attempts to hold an independence referendum on Sunday, Mr. Puigdemont, 54, sits at the heart of a constitutional crisis for Spain, an insurgent in the eyes of Madrid.

If the vote goes on, as he says it will, Mr. Puigdemont (pronounced POOTCH-da-mon) could be barred from politics and go to prison for misusing public money to hold a referendum that Spanish courts have ordered suspended.

The prospect seems to leave him unbothered. Mr. Puigdemont may be an accidental leader, but he is a purposeful proponent that Catalonia — prosperous and distinct in culture, history and language — should be independent.

A former journalist, with a Beatles mop-top haircut, he was already calling for separation from Spain on the streets of Barcelona in the early 1980s, when secessionism was a marginal movement in Catalonia.

Still, in the interview, Mr. Puigdemont professed ambivalence about his current leadership role and politics in general. He still commutes from the city of Girona, with a population of only around 100,000, where he was mayor. He compares running the government headquarters in Barcelona to sitting in an electric chair.

Read the full story here: In Catalonia, an ‘Accidental’ Leader of Unwavering Conviction – New York Times