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PROFILE: Quim Torra, the Catalan separatist anointed by Puigdemont

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PROFILE: Quim Torra, the Catalan separatist anointed by Puigdemont
Photo: AFP
08:41 CEST+02:00
Quim Torra, the man chosen by ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to be his successor, may be a newcomer to politics but has long been a committed separatist.

Puigdemont on Thursday rejected being re-appointed leader of the region a day after the Madrid government stepped in to block him from once again becoming president of Catalonia.

The man the self-exiled Catalan leader has named as his preferred candidate to form a regional government is a dyed-in-the-wool independence advocate cut from the same cloth.

READ MORE: Madrid blocks second Puigdemont comeback bid in Catalonia

A native of the Catalan town of Blanes, on the Costa Brava, 55-year-old father-of-three Torra only entered politics a few months ago.   

But he has been a major cultural figure over the last decade pushing for the region to fully break from Spain.

After a long career with the Swiss insurance firm Winterthur, Torra used a severance package to set up a publishing house in 2008.   

There he specialised in reviving texts by Catalan journalists from the civil war and Franco dictatorship era.

He soon made a name for himself in Catalan nationalist circles, joining various separatist organisations, including those that helped organise the huge rallies that eventually led to last year's independence push and  subsequent political crisis.

Until 2015 he also managed a cultural centre in Barcelona's El Born district which became notorious for pushing for independence.   

In March he gave a rousing speech to the regional parliament calling on separatists to keep up their campaign against the central government in Madrid.

"The cause of freedom for Catalonia is a just cause, the cause of independence for Catalonia is a just cause, the cause of the Catalan Republic is an honorable cause," he said.

"Do not think for a moment we will give up, not even a millimetre, to defend the justice, legitimacy and honorability of this cause," he thundered.   

Those convictions will be music to the ears of the more radical elements of the Catalan independence push. But regional opposition groups who want to stay part of Spain are rattled.

Ines Arrimadas, leader of the liberal anti-independence party Ciudadanos, tweeted Thursday night that Catalonia needed a regional president who recognised that the separatist movement had failed.

The anti-independence Socialists' Party of Catalonia added: "We regret that the independence bloc has chosen a person with one of the most sectarian profiles."

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