In 2012, Quim Torra (Together For Catalonia JxC, Junts), appointed on Monday as the new First Minister of Catalonia by a simple majority vote, wrote an article for El Món in which he described Spaniards variously as "beasts", "vultures", "vipers" or "hyenas".

"Beasts with a human form", he wrote in the article: "who, however, shed hate. A perturbed, nauseating hate, like false teeth full of mould, against everything language stands for".

"They are among us. They are repulsed by any expression of Catalanism. It is a sick phobia. There is something of Freud in these beasts, a rough patch in their DNA."

The leader of Ciudadanos in Catalonia, Inés Arrimadas, brought the article to the attention of the regional parliament on Monday during the second-round debate in his candidacy for First Minister.

"There are hundreds of articles like this one", she said: "it's not about a few tweets".

On Friday, Mr. Torra—himself a Spanish citizen—apologised during a TV interview for a series of racist tweets he had written the same year: "If anyone was offended by them, I apologise because that was not my intention".

"The beasts have a name and surname", he wrote in his 2012 article: "and we all know at least one of them. They are everywhere. They live, die and reproduce".

He went on to describe an incident on a Swiss Air flight that year in which a Spanish-speaking female passenger—described by Mr. Torra as "one of those beasts"—complained about the use of Catalan, not Spanish, on a flight.

"Angry water frothed from the mouth of the beast", he continued, in reference to the woman's reaction: "the stench of a cesspit rose up from its seat".

"It moved around, worried and desperate, horrified to hear a few words in Catalan. It couldn't escape."

Mr. Torra ended the article with a question: "When will the attacks of the beasts stop?".

On Monday, Margaritis Schinas, spokesman for European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, said "I will not dignify them with a comment" when asked about Mr. Torra's ideas and articles.

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