Catalonia’s Defiance of Spanish Authority Turns into Rebellion

Yves here. Because Brexit has become an even more important story than anyone might have anticipated due to the unprecedented degree of Government arrogance and ineptitude, we’ve had to relegate some other important European developments to Links.

The escalating power struggle between Catalonia and the Spanish government seems noteworthy because it is starting to look like a game of chicken. While Catalonia is in theory in a weaker position, it does have a nuclear option of defaulting on its debt, which would be enormously detrimental to it and the government in Madrid. Even though the odds of Catalonia detonating that bomb still seem very remote, the aggressive measures by Spanish government to tamp down the incipient rebellion have increased the probably of very bad outcomes.

By By Don Quijones of Spain, UK, & Mexico and an editor at Wolf Street. Originally published at Wolf Street

“Do not underestimate the power of Spanish democracy.”

With these words, eerily reminiscent of a line once spoken by Star Wars villain Darth Vader, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy brought to a close a week of frenzied drama. It began with a foiled attempt by the Spanish police to close down the official website for the Catalan independence referendum. As often happens with web-based raids, the official site was up and running again within minutes, albeit with a different domain name.

Next, the Public Prosecutor’s office ruled that the referendum is now illegal “beyond all doubt” and instructed the Civil Guard, National Police, Catalan Police (Mossos d’Esquadra) and local police forces to act to stop it. It also launched criminal investigations against the entire Catalan government, the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, the leaders of two separatist municipal associations and more than 700 Catalan mayors (representing 75% of Catalonia’s municipalities) for agreeing to cooperate with the planned plebiscite.

On Friday, Spain’s Finance Ministry joined the fracas by introducing a motion that would hand Madrid much greater control over how Catalonia spends its money in an effort to block the regional government from using state cash to pay for an illegal independence referendum. It has also frozen Catalonia’s monthly advance of the national liquidity fund (FLA), worth some €1.4 billion a month, and demanded that banks report any transactions related to the referendum vote to the central government.

The ultimate goal is to turn the Catalan regional government into an empty shell of an institution — one that has no autonomy, or for that matter any practical function or purpose.

Starving Catalonia’s regional government of funds could well make the vote logistically impossible, but the policy is not without its risks. As we warned a few months ago, if the Catalan government feels that it’s backed into a corner financially, it could weaponize its tick-tocking debt bomb. If Barcelona refuses to honor its debt to Madrid, both Catalan and Spanish debt could be declared in default, with disastrous consequences for both.

While such an outcome is still highly unlikely, especially given the potential scale of the fallout, there are no signs as yet that either side of this conflict is prepared to back down.

 

But how did relations between Spain and its richest province plumb such depths? How did Catalonia, a region that enjoys levels of autonomy in education, health care and public policing that would be the envy of many other parts of Europe, particularly those across the border in France, end up embracing a cause that would put it in direct confrontation with Spain’s central state?

While many of Catalonia’s grievances date back decades, and in some cases centuries, the latest explosion of separatist fervor is relatively recent. In 2007 just 14% of the Catalan population supported independence, according to the regional government’s own stats. By 2013 the number had more than tripled, to 48%.

What happened in such a short time to spark such a sea change in collective thinking? A large part of the answer can be found in the following three developments.

1. The Financial Crisis.

When Spain’s gargantuan property boom began crashing in 2009, prompting the domino-like fall of the country’s savings banks, the inevitable result was a massive contraction in the economy that laid waste to millions of jobs. By 2012 unemployment in Catalonia had hit 19% while in Spain as a whole it was a staggering 26%.

As public anger in Catalonia rose, so, too, did support for the separatist cause. In what was largely a calculated move to divert attention and blame away from its mismanagement of the local economy, unpopular cuts in public spending, and political scandals, the region’s governing party, Convergencia, hitched its wagon to the rising movement.

The Spanish government hardly helped matters by repeatedly reducing the amount of public investment in Catalonia, which merely fuelled Catalans’ sense of economic injustice. Catalonia contributes nearly a fifth of Spain’s gross domestic product, yet the region receives just 9.5% of Spain’s national budget. Even in the last couple of years, after repeated promises from Madrid that it will inject more funds, the total investment has continued to fall.

2. The Still Birth of Catalonia’s New Statute of Autonomy.

As with all of Spain’s autonomous communities, Catalonia’s regional government holds sway in certain areas of culture, education, health, justice, environment, communications, transportation, commerce and public safety. It also has its own police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, though the Spanish government keeps agents in the region for issues relating to border control, terrorism and immigration.

However, Catalonia has virtually no say in fiscal matters, unlike Spain’s other separatist region, the Basque Country. That was all supposed to have changed with the new Statute of Autonomy signed in 2006 by the Catalan executive and Rajoy’s predecessor in government, José Luis Zapatero.

But the agreement was not to last. In 2010 Spain’s highly politicized Supreme Court, at the urging of the People’s Party, annulled many of the articles of the already diluted Statute, effectively stripping the agreement of any meaning and giving Catalonia’s independence movement its biggest boost in decades. When the decision was made, three of the twelve members of the Court had already finished their terms while a fourth member had died and not been replaced. Nonetheless, the ruling still stood.

As Rajoy says, “do not underestimate the power of Spanish democracy.”

3. A Full-Frontal Attack on the Catalan Language.

In Catalan culture one thing is more sacred than any other: the region’s language, which was ruthlessly banned from public and official use during the Franco dictatorship. But that didn’t stop the governing People’s Party from using its absolute majority to bulldoze into law a deeply unpopular education bill that, among other things, sought to introduce a trilingual model (Spanish, Catalan and English) in schools that would de facto suspend the current Catalan immersion system. The Catalan executive refused to comply with the law.

It was its first major act of open defiance.

Now, five years later, it’s in open rebellion. If Rajoy carries out his threat and unleashes the full power of Spanish “democracy” in the weeks ahead, stripping away Catalonia’s autonomy at a time that it’s crying out for more, the rebellion could even become a revolt. By Don Quijones.

The closer the referendum, the more draconian Spain’s response. Read…  Investors Fret as Catalonia’s Independence Turmoil Seethes

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33 comments

  1. Oregoncharles

    Hmmm.
    “When you owe the bank $1000, it’s your problem. When you owe them millions, it’s the bank’s problem.”

    Wouldn’t reducing the Catalan gov’t to an empty shell produce precisely the default everybody fears? How can an empty shell make payments on a loan? And why would it, if it could?

    The next question is what the Catalan police will do. The Spanish gov’t seems to be doing its best to provoke a civil war. So soon they forget.

    Reply
    1. Mattski

      “Wouldn’t reducing the Catalan gov’t to an empty shell produce precisely the default everybody fears?”

      And won’t it produce precisely the angry sentiment toward Madrid that independence promoters, long mired below 50% in polls, need to push independence over the top? Rajoy’s aggressive moves have to be swinging votes in that direction. The Irish Times also speculates that no voters won’t turn out because the referendum is illegal. . .

      Reply
  2. Powertothepeople

    Antoni Puigverd today in La Vanguardia (moderate/conservative monarchic paper from bcn) on how Madrid based media routinely characterize catalan secessionists as a monolithic rightwing brainwashed crowd.

    http://www.lavanguardia.com/opinion/20170918/431379321762/respeto.html

    In fact we are the same “rightwingers” that 14 years ago opposed Iraq invasion with million strong street demonstrations, and the same “supremacists” who demand we receive more Syrian refugees. Thats how the Madrid eco chamber works.

    Reply
    1. RabidGandhi

      What has struck me reading the mainstream Spanish press is not its obvious bias against the secessionists– which is sadly to be expected– but rather the way they have thoroughly bought into Rajoy’s conflation of the terms “rule of law” and “democracy”. Obviously, in Spain the movement to restore democracy after Franco came coupled with a call for a return to the rule of law. But these terms are not the same; a country can assiduously adhere to the rule of law whilst also being utterly undemocratic. Thus Rajoy’s repeated claims that “democracy will prevail” by preventing an election must surely have the Ghost of George Orwell guffawing.

      Yet it is precisely this conflation that proves your point about the actual left/right dichotomy of the secessionist debate. Spain has yet to exorcise the ghosts of Franco’s coup d’état, and those ghosts regularly appear in full force to regurgitate the generalísimo’s revanchism– not limited to the PP as Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez has duly demonstrated– against the pinko commies who would threaten Madrid’s total hegemony. In short, the anti-secessionist position is effectively anti-democratic and ostensibly pro-rule of law (when it suits them), pantomiming Franco. And as with Franco, Rajoy’s attempts to tighten his grip over Cataluña are doing everything possible to increase the Catalans’ support of independence.

      All that said, my own personal take is that the Free Cataluña Movement is of a piece with Syriza and Brexit: parties with actual valid grievances who, if successful, will bring themselves to more grief than restitution, all due to the roach motel structure of the EU. As expected, Juncker already did Rajoy a solid by making it clear that an independent Cataluña would be expelled from the EU ‘on the day after the vote’, meaning the Cataláns would have to go through the entire EU application process and redo all of their trade agreements, which as Brexit fans no know, is no cuppa tea.

      Reply
      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The causes are different, but the issue of freedom to secede seems similar between these struggles today and the one in America in the mid 19th century.

        Will the nuclear option of defaulting be equated with firing on Fort Sumter?

        Who will preserve the Spanish union or that country?

        Those who are declared (by Madrid) subjects of a criminal investigation today, will they be heroes tomorrow, when that particular chapter of history is written by the victors of that chapter? Why should anyone preserve the union, or the country, if some, for example, California over here, today, wants to secede?

        Reply
        1. Sue

          MyLess, good points! Let me add something to your comment. This is not a Calexit-like situation. It is not a voice here and a voice there just unhappy with a new guy. It has a very intense and large social force behind it. For the last six years rallies ranging from 650k to 1.8M people have taken place… people who have met at same time and place on the streets of Barcelona to ask for the right to decide about Catalonia’s future. As Cameron said in regards to Scotland’s referendum: “I am British, but I am a democrat first and foremost “

          Reply
      2. polecat

        Perhaps the Catalonians could then turn to trading with the Russians/Chinese, and their One Silk Road allies instead …. along with Italy & Greece as extra goose sauce.

        I’m sure THAT would put Rajoy’$, and Juncker$ nickers in a humoungous twist !

        Reply
        1. Sue

          Good points! China has already allocated investments in Greece’s infrastructure (i.e Greek’s main commercial port). The EU will have to be fighting the nationalistic anti-EU centrifugal forces and will need to think about accommodating new countries- like perhaps Catalonia- which had been part before of a EU member -this is a situation which sooner o later will occur and more than once- . This is because: 1. as Polecat well said above, it is against EU interests to facilitate China being the one who dominates the political and economic exchanges with the new nations, nations who have the desire to remain in the EU. 2. It is against EU interests to add and strengthen the centrifugal forces (already Brexit and other important current and in the making nationalistic anti-EU political forces ) of dismemberment

          Reply
  3. The Rev Kev

    I can see this going only two ways going by what has happened so far. Spain cracks down brutally by imprisoning all the leaders of the independence movement, declares martial law, brings out draconian legislation by making talk of independence equal to treason and perhaps moves the military into key centers.
    That didn’t work out too well in the American colonies in the 1770s and I doubt that that will form a long term workable solution now. The only way that I can see forward is that Spain reconstitutes itself as a Spanish Federation giving the Basque and Catalonian regions semi-autonomy, except for defense and foreign affairs matters that is.
    If it works, then that may form the template for successful reformations in other countries such as Belgium and Canada – maybe.

    Reply
    1. Irrational

      And that would not be too different from what the central Spanish state has tried before.
      Travelling around Catalunya/Catalonia the last two summers, we went to see quite a few of the fortifications among other historic sights. Essentially, the region was contested by both France and Spain even after they settled the border with the Treaty of the Pyrenees in the 1600s and the language spoken either side of that border is still distinctly Catalan. The real shocker though is Montjuic Castle in Barcelona, where the guns were turned on the city in case they rebelled.
      So to my mind, much more of a “Scotland dynamic” plus a quite successful economy. So you have to asked yourself if you are better off inside or outside the nation state and trading partnership you happen to be in – and I suspect different people/regions come up with different answers – but I do understand there are grievances on the Catalan side.

      Reply
  4. fajensen

    “Madrid” seems to be deliberately provoking some kind of confrontation. A long-term effort it is too, spanning two governments.

    Maybe the Spanish government are serving similar, maybe even the same interests, that fomented Brexit and Ukraine – possibly the migrant crisis too? Spain is in unrecoverable trouble, financially, anyone with infinite money and no questions asked on where it is spent will own them!

    The purpose would be to break up and weaken the EU, partly to eliminate an irritating “socialist” competitor and in the longer term soften up the target, Europe, for a good round of Russia-during-Yeltsin-style looting and pillage.

    Reply
  5. Deschain

    I was in Barcelona a couple months ago and had dinner with a local captain of industry. He seemed convinced (and excited) that the region will vote for independence and follow through with an actual separation from Spain. He’s definitely a 1%er, and based on the theory that their policy preferences are the ones that matter, I wouldn’t be betting against a break right now.

    Reply
  6. Sue

    The Spanish government is violating the most fundamental freedoms and basic rights in Catalonia.In order to hinder the October 1st referendum effectiveness, extraordinary search and seizure actions by the Guardia Civil (top law enforcement national officers) are becoming a routine. They are carried out without the previous search and seizure warrants issued by the Court. Said Court orders are obtained afterwards: an alchemical making of the extraordinary into ordinary. Peaceful gatherings of people have been disrupted and given an end by the police while these gatherings and rallies were taking place. Letters by the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office have been sent to the Catalan media (i.e. Catalan TV) attempting to ban referendum advertisements. Spain’s Finance Minister wanting to have Catalan’s Finance Department accounts de facto managed from Madrid, circumvents statute and jurisprudence. Municipal police (Guardia Urbana) is being ordered to go beyond its normal functions,and now is hunting for “criminal activities” related to the referendum, that is to say, going after referendum campaign literature, paper ballots, ballot boxes, etc. The Spanish Central Government is beefing up all Catalonia with lots of Guardia Civil and National Police units, more backups to fight a crime named peaceful voting.

    Reply
    1. animalogic

      It appears that Madrid has resisted the urge to employ “a Bob each way” strategy. That is, to rely less on negative, repressive measures & instead actually SELL the benefits of the “Nation” (& the real dangers of leaving: ie EU divorce) through a massive advertising/PR campaign.
      Of course, some would argue that such a strategy is internally contradictory – however surely clever politians could square such a circle….

      Reply
    2. Joan

      Sorry to say that the most fundamental rights, and secondaries as well, are all covered in the Spanish constitution voted by the Spanish people, residents in Catalonia as well. Do not anybody forget that for a second. So anything against that is against the Spanish law.
      There is no such a thing as the right of self determination in our (Spanish) constitution, and for that matter in any modern western democracy. The so called Catalonian right to self determination does not exist, it is illegal and will be prosecuted in the court of law. That is something to be grateful.
      Millions of residents in Catalonia are not nationalist (me, for example), they don’t (we) believe in this ever “coming back” God savers with the sweet and appealing message of “you are different because you were born here, we have a different culture, a different language that needs to be protected with blood, we are rich and they are lazy and poor, etc etc etc). Those messages create hate and segregation. World history is full of examples about that. Spain is a historic conglomerate of miscegenation, so I tend not to believe bullshit messages like “you are different, man ! – you have to protect yourself because others will come and steal from you – our community IS the community – we are oppressed).
      Nationalism, all of them, promotes this false sense of entitlement and sweet feeling of superiority…fortunately it is easy to find the cure by traveling.
      Many of us are fully aware that the national sentiment promoted by the Nationalist local government in Catalonia is a pathetic smokescreen to cover years of corruption and mismanagement. A former president of the Generalitat and his family ( The Pujol mob) are great example of that, taking commissions (as much as 5%) for any and every money coming in into the region for many years !!. Rampant unemployment, impoverished social services and an imposed education model into the regime practices, complete the whole picture.
      Many of us, if not the majority, are happy and proud being bilingual, being different and being United. Living In Catalonia these days is becoming unbearable. The social pressure is unbearable. The propaganda of the local Government is unbearable. Hate is the air, hate for anything that smells different from the Catalonian way of life. We want to be much bigger than that.
      There are human rights and they are represented by the constitution, and I am thankful for that. There has been already a public consultation in 2014 in Catalonia asking for our interest on being an independent state (from Spain). Result? Only one third of people being able to vote did it. Wonder why ?, I will let you figure it out. And from that third, eighty percent said yes to that question. I will let you also make the math of how many people were interested in having an independent state (one third times eighty percent).
      I really hope that Spain (our Spain) rescue us all from this insanity. If we are left hordes of Nationalism…they will eat us alive. Franco, the dictator is thankfully long gone. We have a young democracy and a beautiful country, diverse and culturally like no others….and we are going to break that away because an identity c

      Reply
  7. Ned

    “It also has its own police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, though the Spanish government keeps agents in the region for issues relating to border control, terrorism and immigration.”

    The “agents” are the Guardia Civil, an institution created in the mid 1800s to thwart French inspired revolutionary fervor from spreading to Spain. They are a highly effective military organization run by the Ministry of The Interior, staffed by a general and totally controlled from Madrid.
    You don’t mess with the Guardia Civil. They are way beyond “agents.”

    No one wants to go to Madrid, but they do want to go to Barcelona. Catalonia is tourism rich, so much so that the mayor of Barcelona is taking active measures to thwart tourism by stopping the licensing of new hotels, caving to neighborhood activists who are being priced out their neighborhoods by tourism and rampant Air BnB. When a guy can run over hundreds of people with a van before being stopped, you are talking very crowded streets full of people spending hundreds of Euros per day.

    Strange relations with next door France. Hardly anyone admits to speaking French in Barcelona. i.e. They are still pissed off about Napoleon’s invasion and occupation of Catalonia.

    Rajoy’s party is a descendant of Franco’s. Memories are long in Spain. This might get ugly.
    Of course, the best interests of the bankers will probably end up being served so there will be a behind the scenes compromise paid for by the long suffering Spanish people.

    Reply
    1. St Jacques

      Catalonia was always a highly strategic region for Spanish governments of centuries past. When Catalonia and Portugal rebelled during the Franco-Spanish war of 1635-59, the Spanish Habsburg government prioritised recovering Catalonia over Portugal and its far flung empire. The Catalans are not so much pissed off at the French about Napoleon (he is seen as an example of French perfidy) as being pissed off that the French never returned French Catalonia (Roussillon) and refuse to recognise the Catalan language and identity in French Catalonia after the declaration of the Catalan Republic in 1640 in which the French intervened to “help” but ended up trying to take over. The Catalan language there is not given the same official status as it is in Spanish Catalonia. What the French did to the language and identity of Occitan speaking France (including Rousillon) was what Franco dreamed of for Spain. Unfortunately It seems Rajoy’s bone headed Popular Party still secretly harbours that centralising and homogenising dream, aggravating the already tense situation caused by the economic crisis. The PP’s evisceration of the statute of autonomy that the preceding socialist government had been negotiating with the government of Catalonia was what really set the wheels rolling for the current Catalan secessionist movement.

      Reply
  8. Jesus Martinez

    Hi
    From a Catalan here:
    Since the XIX century the opposition Catalonia-Spain has been shaped by the opposition between and industrial economy and an agrarian one.
    Earlier, beginning of the XVIII century, the Bourbons started the French-inspired (they were French, after all) construction of a unified nation. The landmark achievements were the postal roads, designed to make Madrid the center of the country. They were a political achievement, indeed. Economically, though, those roads didn’t achieve much: the most dynamic regions were marginal to those infrastructures.
    So Catalonia (and the Basque Country; and Asturias for that matter, but that is a different story) developed their industries, and the tensions between a politically strong but industrially weak center and industrially strong but politically weak regions in the periphery explain a good deal of nationalist tensions in Spain from the XIX century on. The plan was the same as the French one (one nation, one strong capital city), but where France succeeded, Spain failed.
    By the 1950s Madrid had become the biggest city in Spain, its growth driven by public spending, the corresponding financial institutions, a huge cohort of Spanish government functionaries, state monopolies with their headquarters dutifully registered there, and the rents extracted by the landowning classes of central and southern Spain. From the sixties on it starts to develop a more diversified economy and acquires the trappings of a modern economy.
    For a long time the Spanish nationalists in government perceived clearly (everyone did) that the structural imbalance between industrial regions and the rest of the country was the cause of the irredeemable tendency of the Catalans (and the Basques. Mainly) to ask for devolution of powers. But since Madrid had mutated from an agrarian base to an urban, modern one they set the plan for the final assault: what they had managed to do politically since the XVIII century, they would now do economically: to build so strong an economic center that the provinces would have to be as economically dependent as they already were politically irrelevant. That would kill the beast of Catalan and Basque nationalism.
    From the eighties on, and particularly after the privatizations of the González and Aznar governments this Big Madrid plan gathers pace and by the early 2000s the perception in Catalonia is that Madrid is eating us.
    Now, if that growth was due to the city’s own dynamism, there would be not much to complain about it. But it was not. It was politically fueled, it was paid with our taxes, it was dysfunctional, and it was not sustainable. Also, it was culturally very aggressive (language, attitudes to provincial institutions), and it was built against us (as an example: the pig-headed insistence of Madrid government to link with the Central-European markets with a freight train line across the central Pyrenees in detriment of the cheaper, more beneficial Mediterranean line that happens to cross Catalonia and that would give us a significant advantage over Madrid).
    Anyway, this is getting too long (and there is a soccer match in a while that I don’t want to miss ;-)
    When talking of the effects of Madrid’s centralism the comparison is often established with Catalonia, Valencia… and discussed and discussed forever. What is rarely mentioned are the effects of that centralism on its surrounding regions: Castille, Extremadura, Aragón.
    Barcelona is part of a (Brussels-defined) Euroregion: a network of dynamic cities that spans from Toulouse and Lyon to Valencia, and inland to Zaragoza. The EU has identified 50 of those regions across its geography. They are the dynamic areas in Europe.
    Which one does Madrid belong to?
    None.
    Madrid is not a source of dynamism. Madrid is a big consumption center. It claims to be 19% of the Spanish economy, but it is 9% of its foreign tourism and 13% of its exports. It sucks resources from the other regions.
    Spain has a huge-huge-huge depopulation problem. See the map in the link:https://cartocdn-ashbu.global.ssl.fastly.net/petirrojo/api/v1/map/c83af5bc8e64aaac5f9f55761a15a0ce:1467876295463/0/7/62/48.png

    And it is worst in the regions around Madrid. It is literally sucking their populations, sapping their vitality. The Big Madrid plan is the death of those regions, but because of cultural reasons, cultural continuity, shared historical ties, that hasn’t become a political issue there.

    Now we know that it won’t happen to us.

    Cheers.

    Reply
    1. Sue

      You say very interesting things and indeed is quite difficult to summarize Spanish and Catalan history in a few paragraphs. Very important is to understand how the current Constitution of 1978 came about. After the Civil War, Franco’s dictatorship reigned for 40 years. General Franco’s last words to the monarch Juan Carlos-just before the latter’s passing away- are well known: “preserve the unity of Spain”. The drawing and acceptance of the 1978 Spanish Constitution was marked by the following: 1. an attempt to end an obsolete regime which was out of line with the modern western democracies 2. the still unavoidable influence of the Franquist mindset, whereas the Bourbonic monarchy was imposed and ultimate, true and important decision making by the Catalonian people was effectively quashed (in practice the Constitution itself does not allow through amendments or modifications for it).

      Reply
      1. Sue

        My own correction: General Franco’s last words to monarch Juan Carlos I, before THE FORMER’s passing away are well known, “preserve the unity of Spain”.
        Thanks to NC for the article and let democracy prevail.

        Reply
      2. St Jacques

        Yes, but that 1978 constitution gave recognition to the identity and languages of regions like Catalonia, restored autonomous government, and won overwhelming support in a referendum, all of which would have made the old bastard turn in his grave. Strictly speaking, Rajoy is right when he says he is defending the democratic constitution against an unconstitutional referendum that has been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Tribunal. Of course, the way his government has dealt with Catalan issues and caused deep anger is quite another matter.

        Reply
        1. Sue

          Good discussion. The 1978 so-called consensus and the overwhelming support for the 1978 referendum could hardly have been different (item #1,end of an obsolete regime which was out of line with modern western democracies) insofar as leaving a 40 year militarist dictatorship was, hands down, a significant improvement. I am for neither glorify nor vilify the 1978 Constitution. It is its de facto circularity and Franquist elements which cannot offer any solution to the Catalonian calls for democracy. Therefore, the Constitutional Court, which by the way struck down in 2010 the democratically voted Catalan Estatut ,cannot be the ultimate referee above what must be democratically decided. Let me repeat David Cameron’s words on his allowing for the Scottish referendum: “I am British but, first and foremost, I am a democrat”. My take is that repression must recede and democracy prevail.

          Reply
          1. St Jacques

            Why “so-called consensus”? There was an overwhelming desire in Spain, including Catalonia, that wanted to consign the recurring instability of Spain to the past once and for all, and the current constitution has given Spaniards a period of liberal tranquillity and prosperity it had been unable to achieve in the turmoil of post Napoleonic Spain. The let sleeping dogs sleep philosophy adopted after Franco’s passing was an imminently pragmatic decision that allowed Spain to move forward to become the successful, stable, liberal country nobody was expecting, especially after the coup scare of 1981. Unlike Germany, the hard right won, so a way to move forward without plunging the country back into its pre-Francoist instability required much pragmatism and good faith on both sides. And presenting Catalan history as a simple division of Spain v Catalonia is deeply misleading; the right-left divisions were very deep in Catalonia, and the arrival of Franco’s battalions was enthusiastically received and supported by much of the Catalan bourgeois and land owners. Unlike Scotland, quite apart from the modern constitutional differences between the UK and Spain, Catalonia was never an independent kingdom. Futhermore, metropolitan Barcelona’s development into a great commercial and industrial metropolis was always linked with Spain and its wider interests. You must also take into account that there are also cynical political interests in Catalonia who are equally to blame for the current stand off. Those driving separatism have bitterly divided Catalan society with their hate campaign against Spain and those many Catalans who want to remain Spanish, calling pro Spanish Catalans false Catalans. For these reasons, many Catalans and other Spaniards are very deeply disturbed by current events.

            Reply
    2. Ned

      Wonderful inform, thank you. Also, thank you Yves for restoring comments.
      I wonder about corporate influence in this process and how they will facilitate/interfere with it.

      Outside of Madrid are hidous new KPM and various other custom designed corporate ego billboard highrises. The same seem to be in Barcelona to a smaller degree. How much influence do these transnationals have over state and local policy?

      Reply

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