Catalonia: Political Prisoners or an Extrajudicial Elite?

Yves here. This post is bound to rile some readers, but the point must be made: there is no evidence that Catalonia’s separatists had or have majority support. Polls sponsored by Catalonia’s own government prior to the referendum showed that independence got the support of only 41%. The referendum cannot be seen as an indicator due to the lack of ballot controls and the refusal to participate by those who agreed with the ruling of the Supreme Court, that the referendum was illegal.

David Jiménez Torres is an associate professor at Camilo José Cela University in Madrid. His previous post was as Lecturer in Contemporary Spanish Cultural Studies at the University of Manchester. He is also a regular columnist for the newspaper El Español. Originally published at openDemocracy

It is difficult to see why actions taken by the government in Madrid ought to be regarded as a curb on dissent, and not as a preservation of the country’s constitutional order.

On December 7, Catalan nationalists are expected to demonstrate in Brussels under the slogan ‘Wake up, Europe. Help Catalonia’. The protest is a new push to focus international attention on Catalonia ahead of regional elections on December 21, and which follow months of tense struggle between the regional and national governments.

Over the coming weeks, Catalan nationalist leaders will continue to frame the Catalan conflict along two lines of argument. The first is that Catalans are a unified ‘people’ fighting against an authoritarian ‘state’ (presumably one with no ‘people’ behind it). The second is that they have merely operated at a ‘soft’ level of expressing beliefs and identity, whereas the national government headed by Mariano Rajoy has responded on a ‘hard’ plane with police action and incarceration of political leaders.

To study the playbook pursued by the Catalan movement is of value to any European or world citizen with concern or interest at the dimensions of contemporary ethno-nationalist populism. This is because neither of the arguments mentioned above stands up to rational scrutiny. Nationalist leaders have not simply been expressing dissent or putting forward political solutions; they have taken unilateral actions which affect the rights of all Catalans – and, indeed, all Spaniards – without having a mandate to do so. One might argue, in fact, that it is nationalist leaders who have turned a state (in the form of the powerful devolved administration) against its people. What is at stake in the Catalan crisis, then, is not a nineteenth century struggle for national liberation, but rather the very contemporary question of whether élites are answerable to the rule of law.

State Versus People

In 2015, Catalan premier Artur Mas called for regional elections. He did so after a couple of years in which he had reversed his deep unpopularity – the result of government cuts and corruption scandals affecting his party – by blaming Catalonia’s woes on the Spanish government, and by arguing that, if the region did not receive substantial concessions, it should vote on independence from Spain. Mr. Mas also harked back to the presumed grievance inflicted on Catalonia in 2010, when the Spanish constitutional court struck down some provisions in Catalonia’s regional charter. This grievance, it is worth pointing out, had not prevented Mr. Mas from voting in 2012 alongside Mr. Rajoy’s party in order to impose sweeping austerity measures in Catalonia.

The national government explained to Mr. Mas that an independence referendum was impossible: the current constitution, which received the support of 91% of Catalan voters in 1978, does not allow for this type of referendum to be held at a regional level; and a constitutional change would require building broad, cross-party support at the national level. Yet Mr. Mas pushed ahead, claiming that the new regional elections would be a plebiscite on independence.

The results of these elections-turned-plebiscite were clear: 52% of Catalans voted for anti-independence parties. A seriously flawed electoral law, which grants overrepresentation to rural areas, allowed pro-independence parties to achieve a majority of seats in the regional assembly, but it is nevertheless hard to imagine that anyone would have interpreted these results as a mandate for secession.

That, however, was exactly what the nationalist parties did, and the powerful resources of the devolved administration were soon mobilised towards the organization of a referendum on independence. This course of action was despite numerous warnings from the courts that no regional government had the authority to call for such a referendum, and that the new Catalan administration – now headed by Carles Puigdemont – was taking on powers which it did not constitutionally have.

On 6 and 7 September 2017, pro-independence parties passed laws in the regional parliament which would allow for both a referendum on secession and a ‘national transition’ towards independence. This was accomplished by circumventing the procedures of the chamber and by overruling the parliamentary rights of the non-nationalist minority (which, it must be stressed again, represented the majority of Catalan voters).

If this is alarming for anyone who believes that respect for agreed-upon procedures is an integral part of the democratic process, it was nevertheless in keeping with the ethno-nationalist outlook of Catalan separatists, who have form in disregarding non-nationalists as mere ‘foreigners’ or -worse- ‘traitors’. Indeed, the president of the regional assembly who presided over these fraught proceedings, Carme Forcadell, once explicitly excluded supporters of non-nationalist parties from her definition of the ‘Catalan people’.

The measures passed in early September abolished the framework of the same regional constitution which the nationalists had claimed to value so dearly. Their leaders legitimized these moves, as they have often in the past, with the argument that while there is no majority support for independence, there is large support for a referendum on the issue. This is true, yet the more pressing question is how many Catalans were in support of the path of unilateral secession (via referendum) that nationalist leaders had embarked on? The more pressing question is how many Catalans were in support of the path of unilateral secession (via referendum) that nationalist leaders had embarked on?

When viewed this way, the drop-off in support is stark. International audiences whose attention was understandably captured by the images of police action during the referendum of October 1 may be surprised to know that: this was a referendum that the ‘No’ camp did not recognize as valid – and thus did not participate in; that journalists showed that it was possible for one person to cast multiple ballots on the day; and that the results have yet to be verified by any independent, international authority. Even in this context, and according to the regional government’s own – and questionable – figures, only 38% of the Catalan census would have voted for independence. In a poll published a couple of weeks later, only 29% of Catalans favoured declaring secession from Spain on the basis of that vote.

Nevertheless, and once again, nationalist leaders pushed ahead and proclaimed independence on October 27. The effects that this has had on the welfare of their citizens (2900 companies have fled Catalonia since early October, and Catalan society is the most polarized it has ever been) seem to be of no concern to them.

In contrast to all this, the actions of the national government have achieved broad support across the Spanish political spectrum. Mr. Rajoy’s decision to activate Article 155 of the national constitution, which allows the national government to step in if any of the country’s regions are flouting the constitutional order, was agreed to with the Spanish Socialist Party and the centre-right party Ciudadanos (which, incidentally, is led by a Catalan, Albert Rivera). The decision to sack the regional government and call for new elections were thus not the result of some shadowy authoritarianism, as nationalist leaders would have it, but rather the work of a cross-party front which represents nearly 70% of votes cast in the national elections of June 2016. For many groups and voters who are otherwise actively opposed to Mr. Rajoy, what is most at stake in this crisis is whether a regional elite can hijack that region’s institutions.

This in particular is an issue that often gets lost in foreign coverage of the Catalan crisis, but without which it is impossible to understand its recent developments. For many groups and voters who are otherwise actively opposed to Mr. Rajoy, what is most at stake in this crisis is whether a regional elite can hijack that region’s institutions and push an agenda for which it does not have majority support, in open defiance of the democratically-sanctioned rule of law; all in the name of diffuse national essences. As someone who has voted against Mr. Rajoy in two general elections (and will likely continue to do so), I consider myself among the many Spaniards for whom the constitutional issues involved in the Catalan crisis go well beyond the question of which party happens to be in power.

Political Prisoners or Politicians in Jail?

Following the ineffectiveness of the declaration of independence, Catalan nationalism has reorganized itself under a new rallying cry: one which calls for the liberation of ‘political prisoners’.

These would be both the leaders of nationalist associations Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, and the members of the sacked regional administration, all of whom have been placed in preventative prison pending their upcoming trials. The charges against Cuixart and Sánchez are for directing a crowd against a police unit that was carrying out an investigation, while the government ministers are charged with sedition and misuse of public funds in the lead-up to the declaration of independence.

It is telling that, in recent weeks, a number of activists who were jailed during the Franco dictatorship have come forward saying that the label ‘political prisoners’ does not apply to Catalan nationalist leaders. Their arguments are simple: it is not the same to rebel against a dictatorship as it is against a democracy and its democratically-sanctioned constitution. They might also point to the fact that the current Spanish judiciary can hardly be considered a puppet of the national government. This became particularly clear a few months ago, when Mr. Rajoy was called upon to testify in an ongoing trial over his party’s finances. The judicial system has, in fact, already sent a number of previously high-ranking officials in Mr. Rajoy’s party to prison over corruption charges.

Indeed, the claim that nationalist leaders currently under investigation should be considered to be political prisoners is not merely disingenuous; it should be offensive to activists, journalists and opposition leaders in authoritarian countries, and to anyone who cares about their struggles. This is because nationalist leaders are not being prosecuted for expressing dissent. On any day of the week one will find an abundant supply of Catalan nationalists putting forward their views both in regional and in national media, and rightly facing no consequences for it. Yet the nationalist leaders’ declaration of independence was not the expression of dissent, but a top-down push to alter the constitutional order and the entire structure of citizens’ rights in Spain. The declaration would have made non-separatist Catalans foreigners in their own land, despite their being in the majority of the population. The only reason why this did not happen was because of the national government’s decision to intervene. The declaration would have made non-separatist Catalans foreigners in their own land, despite their being in the majority of the population.

Rather than operating on the level of discourse, then, Catalan nationalist leaders have acted on the much harder stuff of citizens’ rights. In doing this, they have called into question at least one of the pillars of any mature democracy: the limits that the rule of law may place upon the actions of politicians. Meanwhile it is difficult to see why actions taken by the government in Madrid ought to be regarded as a curb on dissent, and not as a preservation of the country’s constitutional order against a threat that has professed itself at-ease with measures that are unilateral, and extrajudicial.

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  1. Watt4Bob

    Nationalist leaders have not simply been expressing dissent or putting forward political solutions; they have taken unilateral actions which affect the rights of all Catalans – and, indeed, all Spaniards – without having a mandate to do so. One might argue, in fact, that it is nationalist leaders who have turned a state (in the form of the powerful devolved administration) against its people. What is at stake in the Catalan crisis, then, is not a nineteenth century struggle for national liberation, but rather the very contemporary question of whether élites are answerable to the rule of law.

    Well, why not, it’s all the rage, everybody is doing it?

    1. Watt4Bob

      IOW, if you don’t understand that our own wealthy elite have turned our devolved government against us, We the people, you haven’t been paying attention.

  2. diptherio

    Thanks. This provides a lot of missing context. It probably shouldn’t be too surprising to find out that politicians in Catalonia are as cynical, self-serving, and incompetent as politicians everywhere.

    However, I don’t believe the fact that the actions of the Catalan leadership were unconstitutional was a valid reason for Spanish police to violently disrupt the referendum. If the referendum is indeed illegal, then it’s results mean nothing anyway, so Madrid loses nothing by letting it go ahead and then ignoring the results (and pointing out that a large percentage of the populace boycotted the vote). Of course, if your goal is to divide and conquer and you want to create even more divisiveness in the region (and you know that unjustified government violence is never called to account anyway) then it might seem like good tactics…not that I’m foily…

    Two wrongs don’t make a right — Rajoy’s response in ordering the violent disruption of the referendum by Spanish police was unjustifiable on humanitarian grounds. Commensurability of crime and punishment is supposed to be a basic standard of justice, and getting whacked with a truncheon is not commensurable with putting a mark on a piece of paper.

    For me, this article is just more support for my pre-existing belief that anyone who wants to be in charge of society should not, under any circumstances, be allowed. This is what we get when we allow our political leadership to self-select: a whole lot of pig fights…but ones where, unfortunately, it’s not just the pigs but also the rest of us who end up covered in mud.

  3. joe defiant

    This all sounds great if you ignore the historic oppression of the Catalans. Franco systematically removed the culture of two generations of the Catalans. The young people of Catalonia are relearning that which was murdered and oppressed out of them. Catalonia has always been an autonomous region which was suspended during the reign of Franco (who many in Spain supported.) If not for old age Franco would still be ruling Spain. The Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 1979 reaffirmed this autonomy after the death of Franco. They have their own civil courts and police force (squad lads).

    Not surprising that people in the USA support Spain over Catalonia. Franco could not have won and retained power without the support of the people of the USA. This is all about money and global interests. Too many resources in Catalonia for them to just let them go…

    Pointing to a sham referendum vote when the people voting recently could be put to death for supporting Catalonia or even speaking their native language is not surprising.

    1. joe defiant

      Opposing opportunistic politicians like Rajoy who swoop in to take over grassroots movements does not equal opposing Catalan independence.

      The Democrats in the USA take over many grassroots movements. It doesn’t negate the idea behind those movements.

    2. Rob

      You have repeatedly implied that people are being put to death for practicing the Catalan language, which is flatly not true. Please stop.

      My personal anecdote: My girlfriend in Spainish and grew up in Galicia before moving to Barcelona to study, and has lived there for the past 7 years. She is restricted from applying for her dream job at MACBA (Barcelona’s state funded contemporary art gallery) because she does not hold her C1 (university level) certification in Catalan, even though she is a native Spainish speaker and also holds another masters level university qualification.
      My point being, that although the Catalan language may have been persecuted in the past, it currently holds a prioritised position in Catalan social systems (schools, universities, and state bodies).
      Yes, the Spainish central government is grossly corrupt. But so is the Catalan separatist movement. This is a power struggle for money that has been framed as ‘people’s right to self determination’. Don’t buy into it.

      1. joe defiant

        Two generations of catalonian people who are still alive have been put to death for practicing their culture. Nowhere did I say it is currently happening. The point being that their culture has been systematically removed from them which is why using the “referendum vote” as an argument is useless.
        I have no control or say over what the Catalan people do, neither should anyone not Catalonian. I was responding to the pro NATO/EU arguments that were posted.

      2. joe defiant

        If it’s merely a power struggle for money why do the elites of Spain have more right to the money than the elites of Catalonia?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Oh, come on. This is ludicrous. Catalonians are whingers who don’t want to support the less affluent parts of Spain. You don’t see people in New York or California complain about paying more in Federal taxes than they get back. This is sheer local greed.

          Moreover, Catalonia would collapse if it were actually to become independent. It would not be recognized by any country save maybe Russia or China or Venezuela, parties with which it cannot trade. It has no ability to manage a border or the costs of having a national government (defense, foreign embassies, which are a very big cost).

          And there isn’t majority support in Catalonia.

          As much as Rajoy has been heavy handed about it, this separatist movement isn’t legitimate. It does not represent the will of Catalonia.

          1. Strategist

            this separatist movement isn’t legitimate. It does not represent the will of Catalonia

            Yves, you have no right to say that until the elections have been held on 21 December.

            The other side did not turn up to the previous votes in the Catalonian parliament so they certainly cannot say they represent the will of Catalonia.

          2. FKorning

            I disagree vehemently here.

            Economic issues come second, and in any case the question of continuing transfers, staying in in a federated Spain, or even staying in the EU, were open questions to be adressed at a much later time.

            The contract of any democratic polity is voluntary participation and a peaceful process. The referendum, whether or not driven by cynical aims or genuine principles, was aiming for an initial discovery of intention. Such a plebiscite, however unpleasant to the central power, should never be suppressed. That doesn’t mean its results should be considered as binding, but this level of interference is untenable in a democracy.

            My own native land, Quebec, has had its share, and funnily enough I am a federalist back home, but would support nationalin in Catalonia if assurances of EU membership were made. In any case, this has been an orderly, peaceful discussion that has has spanned generations.

            But it’s up to them.

          3. joe defiant

            Catalonia has always regarded itself as independent of Spain. New York does not have the same claim, nor a different language and culture.

            1. St Jacques

              Err, since when was “Catalonia” independent? Under the Crown of Aragon before the King of Aragon married the Queen of Castile? Or when the Count of Barcelona married the Queen of Aragon? Or when the Count of Barcelona owed fealty to the Frankish emperors as part of the Spanish March of the Carolingian empire? There were several attempts to make Catalonia independent: 1641 during the Franco-Spanish war, 1873 and 1931, the last, when the Catalan state was declared but voluntarily became an autonomous region within the new Spanish Republic in a very turbulent time. The salient point today is that the present Spanish constitution was overwhelmingly voted for in all regions of Spain and the government of Catalonia gains its authority from that very constitution and therefore has no right to go beyond it.

              1. Antoni Jaume

                Catalonia was independent since when the Frankish king demonstrated his lack of interest, or aptitude, to help them against the Muslim armies. I reckon it is a quite good reason to break a feudal link. And kept their self-ruling institutions until the war of Succession. Because they were a self-ruling country under the lead of the Count of Barcelona, the king of Aragon found convenient to have his daughter marry a count of Barcelona and give him his kingdom in inheritance. To reason otherwise is akin to claim that France is no longer an independent country because she is not a kingdom.

              2. joe defiant

                “In 1981, a manifesto issued by intellectuals in Catalonia claiming discrimination against the Castilian language drew a response in the form of published letter, Crida a la Solidaritat en Defensa de la Llengua, la Cultura i la Nació Catalanes (Call for solidarity in defence of the Catalan language, culture and nation), which called for a mass meeting at the University of Barcelona , out of which a popular movement arose. The Crida organised a series of protests that culminated in a massive demonstration in the Camp Nou on 24 June 1981. Beginning as a cultural organisation, the Crida soon began to demand independence. In 1982, at a time of political uncertainty in Spain, the Ley Orgánica de Armonización del Proceso Autonómico (LOAPA) was introduced in the Spanish parliament, supposedly to “harmonise” the autonomy process, but in reality to curb the power of Catalonia and the Basque region. There was a surge of popular protest against it. The Crida and others organised a huge rally against LOAPA in Barcelona on 14 March 1982. In March 1983, it was held to be ultra vires by the Spanish Constitutional Court. During the 1980s, the Crida was involved in nonviolent direct action , among other things campaigning for labelling in Catalan only, and targeting big companies. In 1983, the Crida’s leader, Àngel Colom, left to join the ERC, “giving an impulse to the independentist refounding” of that party.”

              3. St Jacques

                I was expecting this answer.

                Really, the lack of interest on the part of the Carolingian rulers had more to do with being pre-occupied with the instability of their imperium, which was the whole point of creating the Spanish March in the first place.

                At that point the Count of Barcelona felt strong enough to show the Carolingians the middle finger – but clearly not strong enough to declare himself King of Catalonia like happened later with the Count of Portugal.

                Point is, by marrying the Queen of Aragon, whatever defacto independence was exercised by the Counts of Barcelona was extinguished by making Catalonia a constituent part of the Crown of Aragon.

                But none of this ancient history matters given that the present authority for the autonomous government of Catalonia flows from the constitution voted for democratically in 1978. The rest about “language” and “culture” is just nineteenth century “blood and soil” nationalist bollocks.

                1. joe defiant

                  Your attitude is why many are turning to “blood and soil” because it is fast becoming the only alternative to foreign elite stealing your resources and pillaging the land of your people while destroying your culture to force dependence on their system.

                  But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can respect the rights of people to organize themselves and live on their land in the manner they please without extracting their resources to fund your civilization.

                  I keep hearing how Catalans are just selfish and want to keep their riches to themselves. What right does someone else have to their resources anyway? If you build a civilization dependent on subjugating others, expect resistance.

                  It’s the same attitude that subjugated the native americans, mexicans, palestinians, iraqis, afghans, and anywhere else the civilized have decided they have the right to others resources and land.

          4. Antoni Jaume

            Pretty biased, I suppose that only Catalans should pay into the common good. Basques, whether from Euskadi or Navarre, have a quota, cupo, they negotiate from time to time about how much they contribute to the common services of the state and then deal with all taxes internally. The Autonomous Community of Madrid, ACM, enjoys that it is the capital of the state, and so concentrate the higher ranks of administration, and also they have most corporative headquarters, I won’t keep from thinking that they collude with the state administration, as many high officers of the state go to work in the private sector in a revolving doors way.

            Also, the income tax is divided in two, one half for the state and the other for the community, the latter can set, within a range, the rates of taxation, the ACM has reduced its part so the top is 43.5 %, Catalonia has a 48 %, bottom is 19 and 21.5 respectively. Nice to live in Madrid when you have a high income. Basques pay more, but they deal with them internally as I already wrote, avoiding frictions.

            People, of nearly 7.5 millions of inhabitants, around of one is people from outside Spain I don’t think they are icluded in vote intention. EU citizens can vote in some elections. Some two millions are locals, other two millions come from other Spanish regions, and the rest is mostly people with one parent local and the other from another region. I do not hold that collective self-determination is an unconditional right, rather an individual duty in opposition to due obedience. Now if there is ground for a self-determination process, I reckon that it should be restricted to the people that is from the region proper, hence the apparently low interest for independence.


    3. nonsense factory

      It might be worthwhile to examine the Spanish situation from the rise of Franco onwards (including his curious alliance with the Catholic Church’s Opus Dei wing, and Josemaria Escriva, the founder of that order), in contrast with Yugoslavia under Marshal Tito during the same period.

      The breakup of Yugoslavia into separate autonomous regions was based on similar arguments about national identity and the desire for independence, with Croats and Serbs being the dominant two groups (there were eight federated regions). However it created a long-term disaster for the region that was exploited by external interests with their own geopolitical agendas; they’d have been better off settling their differences internally within the context of a unified Serbia.

      The same is almost certainly true of Spain.

  4. Synoia

    Article 2 of UN Charter supporting the right of people to self-determination, without limit.

    There is no equivocation in Article 2. No allowance for a majority to control the wishes of a minority.


    Meanwhile it is difficult to see why actions taken by the government in Madrid ought to be regarded as a curb on dissent, and not as a preservation of the country’s constitutional order

    No: “Colonial Government only Escape clause,” despite the decision of the Canadian supreme court over Quebec’s actions under Article 2.

    Article 2 was designed to break up empires after WW II. One can look at the EU as a nascent German Empire, and the US as a defacto Empire.

      1. joe defiant

        There is no reason why Catalonia would be uncooperative with its neighbors. Neoliberal globalization has been deadly for the working class and poor but great for elites. Pushing western consumer culture everywhere is working out great for the world. Any “party” who wants to live a different way would desire to remove itself from it.

        Nevermind the fact that globalization of consumer culture and urban “civilization” will destroy the ability for humans to live on this planet.

      2. Synoia

        Inevitable under the EU umbrella.

        Is there a place for “Countries” in a unified EU (German Empire)?

      1. ToivoS

        That 41% support for independence you keep repeating is an outlier from numerous pols over the past decade. Before last year the polls were closer to 45% yes and 48% no. Today those numbers are probably closer. If we count the number of undecided the no vote is not even close to a majority. There is a reason the central government prevented and is preventing a free and open referendum and that is because they could probably lose.

          1. joe defiant

            Communicating the result of a vote discredits the cause? Since when are votes considered invalid based on the portion of those not voting? Do you put the same onus on voting in the USA? There would never be a vote in the last 50 years that could be considered representative of the whole electorate with these conditions.

            1. argonut

              Perhaps an overlooked detail. The ‘9N consulta’ (2014) bestowed, unusually, both 16-17 year olds and foreign residents the right to vote; IMO, invalidating even further the touted ‘percentages’

  5. The Rev Kev

    ‘Polls sponsored by Catalonia’s own government prior to the referendum showed that independence got the support of only 41%.’

    This may be true but you have to put it into historic context. Historian Robert Calhoon said the consensus of historians ( is that only between 40 and 45 percent of the white population in the Thirteen Colonies supported the Patriots’ cause back in the 1770s but that did not make the feeling in the Colonies at the time invalid.
    Also, the organizing of the referendum was continually harassed by Madrid at the time and I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the reason was that they saw how a free and open vote in the Crimea saw that peninsular rejoin Russia again. Madrid must have determined that there was no way they were going to allow any resemblance of a free vote to allow Catalonia to go their own way.
    Finally, I think that the first two paragraphs of the US Declaration of Independence would be enough justification for the Catalonians to how many thought things should be.

  6. Antoni Jaume

    Whatever be the reasons of the Catalanist right parties, one of the triggers of this situation is the CUP, a political party that claim to be left wing, and also strongly independentist:

    They have 10 elected representatives, quite near to the 11 of either of CatSiqueesPot(1) on the left, or Partido Popular(2) on the right. The number of popular votes is 337,794, against 367,613 for Podemos and 349,193 for the PP. They are needed for the current government, and calling for Catalan independence was their main condition. AFAICT, they are the only party in the Catalan parliament to disregard the EU as they claim it is a neoliberal project

    (1) it was a coalition of the Catalan branch of Podemos, ICV former communists/ecologists, EUiA other communists, and Equo ecologists.

    (2) or PP, the party of Mariano Rajoy that governs in Madrid.

    1. St Jacques

      Since when can a part vote in place of the whole? Strange idea you have about “democracy”. The German constitution does not permit that as pointed out by the German constitutional court back in February to a bunch of Bavarians who wanted to do a similar thing. Anyway, the Spanish constitution was voted for in 1978 and overwhelmingly approved across the country – including Catalonia, and it would take the whole country to change it, and that is what democracy looks like.

  7. -jswift

    This article is a reasonable summary of one side of the story; the view from Madrid, and it just repeats uncritically a list of oft repeated talking points, but I don’t think it meets the standards of this blog as a resume of the overall situation. It’s impossible to give a good explanation that briefly, but some points that should be evident are missing.

    One can’t say what percent support there is for independence if the question isn’t more precise. If a binding referendum were possible and the proposal on the remain box would just be what Rajoy has offered so far then the vote for independence could easily exceed 60%, but its impossible to know for sure until such a referendum is held. In fact the more realistic scenario is that a binding referendum would force Madrid to make a more attractive offer, and the reason they reject such a referendum is not the constitution, but simply to avoid having to make a more attractive offer. Every other western democracy faced with such a movement has made concessions to avoid a rupture and Madrid is exceptionally pigheaded in their stonewalling tactics.

    To say it’s an elitist movement is also strictly Madridlien view for external consumption; no one in the Catalonia independentist camp would taker this seriously. It’s a very broad based movement which was sleeping for decades and awoke because of the contorted way the Statut of 2006 was emptied of its content.

    Saying they are just greedy to reject the current redistributive system is hypocritical insofar as every government defends its body politic’s interests and such aid usually has benefits for the provider, they don’t do it for purely altruistic reasons.

    The political prisoners are being held purely as an intimidation tactic and as punishment before any trial is held. There’s no serious or irreversible damage that’s been done, just civil disobedience in a typical western fashion. The imprisonments are simply revenge for the embarrassments that Madrid brought upon itself by heavy handed policy and policing.

    I could go on for quite a while here, but mainly want to indicate that the article doesn’t strike me as a serious attempt to analyse the situation, and it doesn’t say anything very new.

  8. ToivoS

    torres writes: A seriously flawed electoral law, which grants overrepresentation to rural areas,

    Gee where have we heard that before. This is what the Democrats keep on saying about our electoral college.

    1. joe defiant

      “A seriously flawed electoral law, which grants overrepresentation to rural areas”

      Writers and elite from urban areas always feel this way when there are rules in place to inhibit their domination of others. Cities cannot exist without importation of natural resources (by force when necessary).

  9. joe defiant

    Ignoring the fact that the Catalonians voting have personally had to mitigate their desire to speak their language and practice their culture with the desire to not be tortured or killed by Franco’s death squad is pretty cold. Perhaps the older people who lived under this still fear persecution? Which is exactly what the heavy handed police action by Spain was designed to do.

    1. St Jacques

      Tripe is all I can say to this. When I was there two years ago, Catalan was the co-official language alongside Spanish and in very good health and old Catalan festivities were as strong as ever. If anything, I detected a Catalan chauvinism towards “Spain” and anything from the rest of Spain, and a subtle systematic persecution of people against using the Spanish language or identifying with Spain.

      1. joe defiant

        Your vacation was a fact finding mission on the state of Catalonians attitudes towards independence and their scorn for Spaniards?

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