What Catalonia Tells Us

The news from Catalonia -- at the time of this writing, Sunday night in America -- is not good. There has been violent confrontation over the independence referendum.

Hundreds injured in Catalonia as Spanish police crack down on referendum vote...
Police acting on orders from the Spanish government to stop the voting across the country’s northeastern region clashed with Catalans who were attempting to stop them from confiscating ballots. Videos that emerged Sunday on social media appear to show police using brutal force on people attempting to cast their vote.

Catalonia’s health service said Sunday night that at least 844 people were injured today by the evening -- nearly half of them in the Barcelona region, where police fired rubber bullets near at least one polling station, according to The Associated Press. Spanish authorities said 11 police officers were injured in the melees.
-- ABC News

For weeks, the Spanish state had been doing all it could to obstruct and suppress the then upcoming October 1st vote.  The Madrid government had been threatening people, arresting Catalan officials, and had stepped in to take over the province's finances.

Spain has taken control of Catalonia's finances to prevent funds being used for an independence referendum it deems illegal, a move that limits the region's autonomy and puts in doubt the payment of thousands of public workers' salaries. -- TheLocal.es, September 20, 2017

On October 1st, Madrid followed through with its threats of force should the referendum go ahead. 

What immediately comes to mind is that Madrid did not act as forcefully as Franco would have. Franco would have sent in tanks and just killed people. The present Spanish response might have been thuggish, but it was measured. Likewise, the response of the Catalan people and their representatives were also measured.

It was not totally clear how the vote was going to swing. Pro-Madrid media were accusing the Catalans of suppressing local anti-Independence sympathies; and there seemed to be a degree of truth to that, as the data indicated. Still, however, Catalonia had a long history of striving for independence. There seemed to be real local sympathy for their cause. While most anticipated a victory for the pro-independence side, there was also the precedent of how the referendum for Scottish independence failed in 2014. Recently, even the Catalan government produced some disturbing poll results.

Opinion polls are hard to come by but the clearest indication came in July, when a public survey commissioned by the Catalan government suggested 41% were in favour and 49% were opposed to independence. -- BBC

A check of this page, set up by the Catalan government -- which has a readable Abstract in English -- showed that the matter was not settled as late as July [See page 11& 12 of pdf file].  At that point, the Independentistas may not been as representative of the Catalans, as a whole, as it appeared. On the other hand, the referendum results today may only have demonstrated the inaccuracy of polls, as breaking news, at this time, seems to show.

Initial reports say that the referendum was 90% in favor of secession. This is the worst of all of Madrid's fears. Even if there was local social pressure to minimize or limit the pro-Madrid vote, a 90% result indicates a massive sentiment to remove Spanish rule from Catalonia, even if the turnout was low. And that low turnout can be blamed on Spanish police interference.

Spanish riot police fired rubber bullets and seized ballot boxes from polling stations in Catalonia on Sunday as thousands flooded the streets to vote in an independence referendum banned by Madrid. --  The Telegraph

Spain will soon be in a meltdown of sorts. The Madrid government is constitutionally required to preserve the unity of Spain. The Catalan government has obliged itself to act upon the results of the referendum within 48 hours.

There is a problem: Spain’s democratic constitution of 1978, which was approved by more than 90% of Catalan voters, gave wide autonomy to the regions but affirmed “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”. Only the Spanish parliament can change the constitution.  -- The Economist

Meanwhile, contrariwise:

[T]he regional [Catalan] Parliament has committed to making the result binding within 48 hours, which could translate any approval for a Catalan republic into a unilateral declaration of independence. Under Spanish law, however, the national government could still invoke emergency powers to take full administrative control of Catalonia. -- NY Times, Sept 26, 2017

What happens how is anyone's guess.

Most interesting is how the European Union has steadfastly taken Madrid's side. Separatism cannot be allowed to prosper while the EU is trying to centralize everything. It sets a bad precedent.

Jean-Claude Piris, the former director general of the EU Council’s legal service, poured cold water on Catalonia’s plot to hold an independence referendum.

The Frenchman warned the EU would not welcome an independent Catalonia as a member state and called on Brussels to speak out. -- Express, June 3, 2017

And so, today:

[T]he European Union remained conspicuously silent on the police tactics, which saw masked officers smash their way into polling stations and forcibly remove ballot boxes. -- The Telegraph,Oct 2, 2017

One Catalan politician has finally spoken up to get angry at the EU for their silence.

Silence from the European Union in the face of a violent referendum in Spain has been condemned with one furious politician saying he no longer wants to be European. -- The Daily Express -- October 2, 2017

Another Catalan noted:

Another said: “Do not call me neither spanish nor european any more ... I M CATALAN !!!” --The Daily ExpressOctober 2, 2017

The centralizing bureaucrats of Brussels do not want independent nations.

The Catalan independence referendum is a much bigger issue for the EU than Brexit -- The Independent, September 30, 2017

And one Scots Observer finally put all the pieces together.

“The EU want a fascist United States of Europe. viva Catalan.” -- The Daily Express  

It seems the Catalonia is not merely a problem for Spain, but for all of the European bureaucrats. n order for Catalonia to be free, Catalonia may not only have to defy Madrid, but also the European Union. No longer will the Catalans have the option of trading subservience to Madrid to subservience to Brussels as an option. If Catalonia wants to be free, she may have to decide for total freedom.

If nothing else comes out of this referendum, that alone will be worth it.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago. He writes on the Arabs of South America at http://latinarabia.com

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