Catalan crisis rekindled as Parliament proposes Puigdemont as leader

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont answers journalists' questions upon his arrival at Copenhagen Airport on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Catalan crisis rekindled as Parliament proposes Puigdemont as leader

MADRID/COPENHAGEN: The Catalan Parliament on Monday proposed Carles Puigdemont as candidate for president, dealing a blow to central government efforts to derail an independence movement that has plunged Spain into political crisis.
As the legislature’s speaker named Puigdemont as the sole candidate for a position he was fired from in October, Spain’s legal system sought to tighten its net around him.
The state prosecutor in Madrid requested the reactivation of a European arrest warrant to detain him on charges of sedition and rebellion in Copenhagen, where Puigdemont touched down earlier on Monday on his first trip away from Belgium in three months of self-imposed exile.
He fled to Brussels in October after Spain’s central government sacked him for spearheading an independence drive that culminated in an illegal referendum and a unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament.
He became the top candidate to lead the region again after regional elections last month, called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, that gave secessionists a majority.
“I confirm that the only candidate that has been proposed is Mr. Carles Puigdemont,” said Roger Torrent, the newly-elected separatist speaker at the Catalan Parliament.
“I am conscious of the warnings that weigh upon him, but I am also conscious of his absolute legitimacy to be a candidate,” said Torrent, calling for dialogue with Madrid to resolve the situation.
Puigdemont argues he could govern the region from exile abroad, an option that Rajoy has ruled out.
A Reuters reporter saw Puigdemont come through customs at Copenhagen Airport a little after 0700 GMT and, without being detained, get in a car and leave.
It was not clear where Puigdemont was headed. He is billed to appear at the University of Copenhagen at 2:00 p.m. CET (1:00 p.m. GMT) for a debate on the political situation in Catalonia.
According the Danish Parliament’s diary, he has also been invited to a meeting there on Tuesday by Magni Arge, a deputy representing the Faroe Islands, which have their own independence movement seeking secession from Denmark.
Shortly after Puigdemont’s arrival in Copenhagen, Spain’s state prosecution service said it had asked the Supreme Court to reactivate the warrant, on charges of sedition and rebellion, originally issued against him — and later lifted — after he fled to Belgium.
The Danish state prosecutor declined to comment.
After weeks of uneasy calm, the political crisis triggered by Catalonia’s independence drive flared up again last week when the new regional parliament elected Torrent as speaker at its first sitting.
Despite that tension, Spain’s borrowing costs fell to six-week lows on Monday after credit agency Fitch upgraded its sovereign rating to gave Spain its first “A-” grade since the euro zone debt crisis.


Indian doctors strike over violence from patients and families

Updated 8 min 4 sec ago
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Indian doctors strike over violence from patients and families

  • The strike is in solidarity with doctors in the eastern state of West Bengal after three were viciously attacked by the relatives of a man who died
  • The strike in West Bengal has crippled medical services for the state’s 90 million people

NEW DELHI: Tens of thousands of Indian doctors went on strike Monday calling for more protection against violence by patients and their families, as parliament met for the first time since national elections.
The nationwide strike, which will last until Tuesday morning, is in solidarity with doctors in the eastern state of West Bengal after three were viciously attacked by the relatives of a man who died.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), representing 350,000 of India’s 900,000 doctors, called for tougher punishments for those assaulting medical staff.
Blaming the attacks in part on “high expectations” by patients, poor infrastructure and inadequate staffing, the IMA said hospitals should have more security cameras and that the entry of visitors to hospitals should be restricted.
The strike, which does not include emergency services, takes place as parliament convened for the first time since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was re-elected in a landslide last month.
Doctors in West Bengal’s capital Kolkata have been on strike since last Monday, when a family assaulted three doctors after a relative died during treatment at a state-run hospital.
The family, who blamed the death on negligence by the doctors, lashed out violently and left two of the medical staff critically injured.
The strike in West Bengal, which has also been wracked by weeks of political violence with almost 20 people killed, has crippled medical services for the state’s 90 million people.
On Monday doctors in the state were due to discuss the strike with Mamata Banerjee, the state premier and fierce Modi opponent.
India spends less than two percent of its GDP on health care, making it one of the lowest investors in the sector globally, with the World Health Organization placing it below both Iraq and Venezuela.
However, Modicare — a quietly successful part of Modi’s surprising re-election — is a huge public health initiative set to benefit the poorest.