Spain: Catalans defy Madrid to seek independence
Catalonia is hurtling toward a showdown with Spain, said Michael Stothard 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.”