American media barely noticing that Spain may be falling apart

The media mania over the attempts to drive President Trump from office seems to have overshadowed some really serious events elsewhere in the world. The struggle over Brexit is getting at least some coverage, though arguably not enough because British departure from the EU could well lead to a restructuring if not a collapse of that historic attempt to unite the continent that sparked two world wars, albeit under a top-down, undemocratic regime that probably deserves to meet the ash heap of history.

But I have seen very little coverage of what is happening in Spain, specifically Barcelona, where the Catalonian independence movement has totally disrupted life in the fourth largest metropolis in Europe (the EU and EFTA countries).  I was in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago for a few days, just before Spain’s Supreme Court handed down heavy prison sentences for nine leaders of the Catalonian independence movement, which sparked five days of riots, some of them turning violent.

Photo credit: Sergio Uceda

The toll of violence has been formidable:

More than 500 people have been reported injured over the five days of demonstrations-- 18 remain hospitalized with serious injuries-- and nearly 150 have been arrested. (snip)

At least 101 police officers were injured in Friday's riots alone, and 264 police vehicles have been damaged throughout the week, according to Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska.

But even more important than the violent few is the extent of popular support in Catalonia for independence from Spain. Driving and walking around Barcelona, the only Spanish flag that I saw was flying in front of a government building, that also flew a Catalonian flag in the first position. And parked in front of the building was a police van with several officers in riot gear inside. I took this picture of it on a sleepy Sunday morning.

Photo by author

In contrast, everywhere I went in Barcelona, people were flying Catalonian flags from their apartment mini balconies. In some buildings, every single unit was flying a flag, but more typical was the building below, which I photographed because of its façade and the ironwork of the balconies.

Photo by author

It’s very clear that Catalans don’t want to be part of Spain. Maybe, like Quebec, they will compromise and remain in Spain as Quebec did with Canada. But the level of discontent was palpable even to a visitor. People in many advanced countries want more local control. The Scottish and Welsh chafe as part of the UK, and in Spain the Catalans are joined by the Basques in wanting out of Spain. Is this related to the indifference global elites seem to have to the interests of their own citizens? I suspect that it has some relevance.

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