Catalonia: State of Uncertainty

Catalonia declares independence from Spain
Catalonia declares independence from Spain – crowds near the Parc de Cuitadella Barcelona, on October 27, after the Catalan Parliament ratifies the Yes outcome of the independence referendum held on October 1st. davewalshphoto.com

Note: This article first appeared on The Irish Times website on November 8, 2017. This version has links added, and some updates too. 

Having escaped police violence during Catalonia’s independence referendum on October 1st, trouble arrived this week in the town of Sant Cugat, where I live, just north of Barcelona.

On Monday night, an angry group of 300 people, waving Spanish flags, used knives to rip down a large banner that hung from the town hall. The banner read “Llibertat Presos Politics” – “Freedom for Political Prisoners” – in support of the Catalan government ministers and activists currently jailed in Madrid, following the recent declaration of the Catalan Republic.

The unionists tussled with local police and shouted at journalists, before leaving the banner in tatters on the city’s Rambla. It was strange way of going about building “unity”. The next morning, town council staff could be seen cleaning egg stains from windows.

In contrast, downtown Barcelona on October 27th was an ocean of blue, yellow and red, Esteladas, the flag of the pro-independence movement, as thousands packed into the city centre to celebrate the Catalan parliament’s acceptance of the October 1st “yes vote”.

Pro-independence gatherings tend to be peaceful, friendly and inclusive. If you turned up draped in a Spanish flag, you’d likely be welcomed. But that night, when Spanish flags appeared on the streets, people were assaulted and the windows of Catalunya Radio – a public broadcaster – were broken by protesters wearing la Rojigualda (the Spanish flag).

Passing into Catalonia from France a couple of days a later, I spotted a lone Spanish flag flapping in the wind. A hundred metres later, three Esteladas (the unofficial Catalan flag) flashed in the afternoon sun, their flagpoles straining under the tramontane wind. A hundred kilometres down the motorway, a banner on a bridge read “Willkommen in der Republik Katalonien”.

We are now living in a state of uncertainty, not quite Spain, and not yet the Republic of Catalonia. Ireland’s lengthy transition to independence is often cited here as a way to say “patience, patience”.

Since the declaration of the Catalan Republic, life has gone on. But things have changed. The Spanish government has applied Article 155 of its constitution, claiming it must uphold the unity of the Spanish state by seizing control of public institutions, including police and public broadcasters (Update: it seems to have, for now, backed down on the broadcasters).

Seven Catalan government ministers, after arriving in Madrid to facist chants and nazi salutes, were jailed after a hearing that lasted just a few minutes.

Two civil society activists, known as the “Jordis”, have spent more than three weeks in custody. Eight schoolteachers in the small town of Seu d’Urgell are under investigation for having debated the referendum in the classroom, after the parents of one child complained (both of whom are Guardia Civil). Two people in Lleida were arrested for criticism of police violence, while the editor of a popular satirical magazine El Jeuves is in trouble for making a joke about the Spanish police (using up all of Catalonia’s cocaine) – he had to admit in court that the satirical article was ‘fake news’. Since mid-September, a litany of court orders has been directed at activities, publications and websites that challenge the authority of the Spanish government.

Yet those involved in fascist-like or violent behaviour can seemingly act with impunity. The number 155 has now appeared alongside nazi swastikas daubed the houses of pro-independence supporters, and on a monument to the poet Verdaguer. A few days ago, one young man in Mataro was beaten and hospitalised while leaving his house wearing a pro-independence t-shirt.

The unleashing of Article 155 means the central government will seize back autonomy from Catalonia. On Tuesday, civil servants from Madrid arrived to “take over” government institutions in Barcelona, demanding that work be carried out in Castellano rather than Catalan, echoing the days when Catalan was banned under Franco.

General Strike in Catalonia: Protestors in Sant Cugat del Valles hold up yellow clothes and plastic bags to make a giant ribbon symbol, in protest of the Spanish governments seizing of Catalan media, public services overall autonomy, and the jailing of Catalan government ministers and activists. Dave Walsh 2017. davewalshphoto.com

 

General Strike in Catalonia
General Strike in Catalonia: Activists occupy the railtracks at the Sant Cugat del Valles FGC rail station as part of a strike that also saw major motorways being closed, in protest of the Spanish governments seizing of Catalan media, public services overall autonomy, and the jailing of Catalan government ministers and activists. Dave Walsh 2017. davewalshphoto.com

 

Today, Catalonia has shut down in a general strike, in an attempt to warn prime minister Mariano Rajoy of the power and resolve of the Catalan people. By 9am this morning, protesters had stopped traffic on the AP-7 Motorway, part of the Europe’s E-15 artery that links Spain and Portugal to the rest of Europe. (map demonstrating other blocks)

It’s not clear if the agreed elections on December 21st can happen in any fair way, especially if candidates are in prison or in exile. While a pro-independence coalition will likely win, the continuously intransigent Popular Party under Rajoy (which holds less than 10 per cent of seats in the Catalan parliament) is adamant it will continue to apply Article 155.

On December 4th, Dublin City Council will vote on whether the Catalan flag will fly from City Hall for a month. If councillors vote yes, this will be seen as a strong sign of solidarity for many people in Catalonia who, until their sacked president Carles Puigdemont arrived in Brussels last week, believed the EU had abandoned them. On Tuesday, he was joined by 200 Catalan mayors to protest the silence from the institutions.

Symbolic support is welcome, but it is unfortunately not enough. EU governments and opposition parties must hold the Rajoy government to account, to ensure the political prisoners are released and that a political solution is found to improve the relationship between Spain and Catalonia.

The outcomes of the forthcoming Catalan elections should be subject to rigorous scrutiny, to ensure they take place in a fair and democratic manner. EU members, whether countries or individual citizens, have a duty of care towards other inhabitants of this shared community.

By ignoring the Catalonia crisis, we risk its repercussions throughout Europe. This is about more than flags – the entire “European Project” could be at stake.

-Dave

daev
Chief Bottle Washer at Blather

Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and “known troublemaker” Dave Walsh is the founder of Blather.net, described both as “possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River”, and “the nicest website circulating in Ireland”. Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.


2 comments

  1. Please Help, if there is any one who can understand my poor English!
    God is watching us!
    Even the Aliens are watching us!
    Help!
    It’s not only the issues of the Catalonia or the Spain or the Europe, it’s a test of how we human beings in the earth think of the conflicts of every small one and the whole one!
    To sacrifice the whole just for oneself is really selfish, however, to force the small one to sacrifice or accept the feelings of sufferring any unfair system and treatment is also a signal of violence!

    How can we threaten or force or order the small or the weak to sacrifice itself by keeping an unfair system or treatment especially the Spanish government and the Catalonia people still have some cultural and historical difference that may take more time to lead to the understanding with each other by more communications based on the respect from peer to peer not from a order from a Emperor to his slave?

    The totalitarian government tells everyone for the purpose to remain the unified form and the political stability, all of the surveillance and the unhuman speech/ thoughts control even news filtering are allowable, however, we know the truth is the existence of this government spend more budgets on keeping the internally ruling of political privilege class than foreign military funding!

    What counts in the issue of Catalonia is not its independence or not, but how we lead Catalonia to make the decision of being independent or not.

    Please help the Catalonia people not under the statement of being forced or ordered to accept the fate but getting the chance to conmunicate with the Spain government of discussing a fairer and better system/ cooperation/ relationship/ treatment with each other.

    This is not only for Catalonia, but for all the human beings’ civilization of earth under the evaluation of all the Universe Alliance!

  2. Dear SIR,
    Re: Catalonia and Spain,

    Please take the courage to speak out of the suffering as a real gate lead to the real communication instead of take it as a damage or danger that hurt the relationship between them ^^

    We can take the case as the case that happens normally in a marriage^^

    The real damage that hurt a marriage is never happening on the moment that someone speak out her suffering but while she feel suffering but keep the complaints in her mind!
    The moment to speak out is not fair to be taken as the danger of a marriage but the real chance to save the real relationship with each other!

    For example
    If there is a couple with some marriage problems.
    The wife would like to keep the marriage while the husband has a lot of complains and speak out loudly about his sufferings ~ he has suffered from the financial pressures and the house work and felt that this marriage is totally unfair that he is not willing to keep their marriage any more!

    If we don’t listen to the real feelings of the one who wants to leave, and just force the husband to keep the marriage. Then maybe the form of the marriage will be kept, however, the relationship will be broken!

    If a marriage form is not based on the willing of each other, we know the marriage may not kept stable very long.
    We saw some couples keep very closed relationship after they divorce with each other. They may still live together and cooperate with each other on financial issues or house work or any aspects. However, they break the marriage but leave more respective room for each other. And this respecive room keep the relationship on and make their relationship and cooperation even more stronger than before.

    The real unifying of a nation is always based on the respect and the love!

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