Cata­lans defy Madrid to seek in­de­pen­dence

The Week (US) - - 14 News -

Cat­alo­nia is hurtling to­ward a show­down with Spain, said Michael

in the Fi­nan­cial Times (U.K.). The au­ton­o­mous re­gion that in­cludes Barcelona has its own lan­guage and dis­tinct cul­ture, and it has been seething with sep­a­ratist sen­ti­ment for decades. That “long-sim­mer­ing con­flict” fi­nally “reached a boil­ing point” last week, when the Cata­lan leg­is­la­ture voted to hold a ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence Oct. 1. Span­ish courts ruled the vote would be un­con­sti­tu­tional, and author­i­ties warned Cat­alo­nia’s 947 may­ors against al­low­ing bal­lot­ing. But most lo­cal lead­ers said they would use of­fi­cial town and city fa­cil­i­ties for the vote; one mayor even ripped up a court or­der “in front of a cheer­ing crowd.” An­nual demon­stra­tions on the Na­tional Day of Cat­alo­nia, which marks the re­gion’s 1714 de­feat by King Philip V, have grown more overtly se­ces­sion­ist for years, and the one this week brought a mil­lion ju­bi­lant Cata­lans into the streets.

Cata­lans have been brain­washed by a “rad­i­cal­ized and in­tran­si­gent mi­nor­ity,” said ABC (Spain) in an edi­to­rial. All of Spain was dev­as­tated by the 2008 global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, but Cata­lan sep­a­ratists chose to “ma­nip­u­late the emo­tions of mil­lions, en­cour­ag­ing them to see in their ha­tred of Spain the so­lu­tion to all their woes.” Cat­alo­nia makes up 16 per­cent of Spain’s pop­u­la­tion and pro­duces 21 per­cent of its tax rev­enue—a small dis­crep­ancy caus­ing dis­pro­por­tion­ate re­sent­ment. Cata­lans are full cit­i­zens who vote in na­tional elec­tions, ed­u­cate their chil­dren in their own lan­guage, and en­joy con­sid­er­able lo­cal au­ton­omy. Yet they are in the grip of a delu­sion “that some­how our na­tion robs and mis­treats” them. The Cata­lan gov­ern­ment has lied to its peo­ple, said El País (Spain), “just as the Brex­i­teers de­ceived Bri­tons into vot­ing to se­cede from the EU.” Do they re­ally think a free Cat­alo­nia would be al­lowed to join the EU? Brus­sels would never en­cour­age sep­a­ratist move­ments by ac­cept­ing Cat­alo­nia as a mem­ber. And Dutch bank ING has cal­cu­lated that in­de­pen­dence would be even worse for Cata­lans, eco­nom­i­cally speak­ing, than Brexit will be for the Brits.

It’s not about the money, said An­dreu Mas in El Punt Avui (Cat­alo­nia). It’s about our dig­nity, and our fu­ture. Cata­lans are sick of be­ing “sub­jected to the whims of medi­ocre politi­cians” in Madrid, who are much more con­ser­va­tive than we are and care about our peo­ple not a whit. We aren’t de­mand­ing the breakup of Spain, but rather “the resti­tu­tion of our sovereignty,” stolen “in blood and fire” some 300 years ago. In­de­pen­dence forces still don’t have a ma­jor­ity, how­ever, said Luis Mauri in El Pe­ri­od­ico de Catalunya (Cat­alo­nia). A plu­ral­ity of 40 per­cent of Cata­lans sup­port in­de­pen­dence, but more want ei­ther greater au­ton­omy within Spain or the sta­tus quo. Yet be­cause Barcelona has declared that even a low-turnout vote will be bind­ing, the se­ces­sion­ist forces are likely to win. Cat­alo­nia has “a bro­ken spine.” The ref­er­en­dum won’t heal it, what­ever the out­come. Let’s hope we will “do no more harm than we have al­ready.”

Thou­sands marched in Barcelona on Na­tional Day.

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