NPR · Catalonia’s President makes his case for independence from Spain


When the international press corps descend on the Catalan capital Barcelona, as they are this weekend to cover the region’s symbolic independence vote, Catalan President Artur Mas often holds a news conference. Here’s how he usually begins:

“I’ll try to answer your questions in whatever language you ask them,” Mas says. “Catalan, Spanish, French, English — I’ll try my best in Italian too,” he says, and settles in for up to two hours, until all questions are exhausted.

Reporters are often stunned. There are few Spanish politicians who speak any second language, let alone four. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy prefers to address the media in pre-recorded video statements, and rarely answers questions live, face-to-face.

“Rajoy’s style is quiet and dull. He doesn’t say anything if he can help it,” says Enric Ucelay-Da Cal, a historian at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. Mas, on the other hand, is “slicker, smoother, less provincial — while paradoxically defending localism,” Ucelay says. “He has a kind of square-jawed, simple, personable good looks.”

The Catalan leader’s TV-friendly charisma has made him accessible, and catapulted him as a new figure in European politics. Mas’ Catalan regional government has satellite offices in New York, Washington D.C., London and Brussels. He’s working to win hearts and minds — and possibly, international recognition — for an independent Catalonia. […]

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