Sánchez Needs to Show Statesmanship in Catalonia

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018 (La Moncloa)

Demonstrations for Catalan independence have always have been peaceful — until Tuesday, when a sit-in outside the Spanish government delegation in Barcelona led to acts of vandalism and altercations with riot police.

While most separatists, who were protesting the long prison sentences given to their leaders by the Spanish Supreme Court, left around dinner time, some donned masks and threw bottles and firecrackers at the police. Later in the evening, trash cans were set on fire and barricades erected on the Passeig de Gràcia, a luxury shopping street. It took until early Wednesday morning to clear the avenue.

The knee-jerk reaction from the Spanish right is to clamp down. Pablo Casado, the leader of the largest right-wing party in Congress, has called on Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a social democrat, to declare an emergency and take command of the Catalan regional police.

That is the worst thing he could do. Tensions are running high. The mossos (troopers) are at least seen as fellow Catalans by most protesters. Send in the National Police or the gendarmerie and the riots are bound to get worse.

Let Sánchez come to Barcelona instead, meet with members of the regional government and start listening to their demands; something he promised to do when he came to power a year ago, but still hasn’t.

This will be seen as weakness in other parts of Spain, where there isn’t a culture of compromise and consensus, but it will signal to Catalans that Madrid is finally taking them seriously. Read more

Trump’s Withdrawal from Syria Is a Disaster

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017 (Turkish Presidency)

The calamity of Donald Trump’s withdrawal from northern Syria is hard to overstate.

  • More than 160,000 people have fled the region.
  • A Kurdish politician and at least ten others have been killed.
  • Hundreds of fighters from the self-declared Islamic State (ISIS) — which the Kurds did more than anyone to defeat — have been freed from prison.
  • Trump doesn’t care, saying, “They’re going to be escaping to Europe.” No matter that’s where America’s best friends are, or used to be.
  • Turkey has attacked an American commando outpost in Syria.
  • Abandoned by the West, the Kurds are appealing to Bashar Assad and his patron, Vladimir Putin, for help. Read more

Catalan Independence Leaders Sentenced to 9-13 Years in Prison

Catalans demonstrate for independence from Spain in Barcelona, October 3, 2017
Catalans demonstrate for independence from Spain in Barcelona, October 3, 2017 (Fotomovimiento)
  • Nine Catalan separatist leaders have been found guilty of sedition and in some cases misuse of public funds by Spain’s Supreme Court.
  • Among the convicted is former Catalan vice president, and leader of one of the two largest independence parties in the region, Oriol Junqueras, who has been sentenced to thirteen years in prison.
  • The Supreme Court threw out the most serious charge, rebellion, which carries a 25-year prison sentence.
  • Demonstrations have broken out across Catalonia. Protesters are blocking major streets in Barcelona. Some are attempting to occupy the airport. Read more

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Republican Ground Shifts Beneath Trump’s Feet

American president Donald Trump and his defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018
American president Donald Trump and his defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (NATO)

I haven’t written much about Donald Trump this year, because what’s the point? As I reported in December, the scandals keep piling on — from corruption to illegal payoffs to making apologies for white supremacists to Russia — but half of America either doesn’t believe it or doesn’t care.

Trump campaign officials have been arrested, indicted and convicted; migrants have been treated so abysmally at the southern border that seven children have died in detention; the president launched a disastrous trade war with China and threatens to unravel the entire world order that has kept America and its allies safe for seven decades, and still members of Trump’s Republican Party would not speak out.

They finally are. The president’s behavior has become so erratic in recent weeks that even some of his supporters are disturbed. Read more

What Catalonia Has in Common with the United States

A demonstration for Catalan independence in Perpignan, France, November 10, 2018
A demonstration for Catalan independence in Perpignan, France, November 10, 2018 (ANC)

Asked to judge such dirty tricks as spreading false information about an opponent or removing yard signs, both Democrats and Republicans in the United States are far more forgiving if their own party is to blame — and outraged if such misdeeds are perpetrated by the other side.

Partisanship colors how we interpret events. Catalonia could be another case study. Read more

Macron’s Pension Reforms Are Eminently Reasonable

Then-Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy is received by President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017
Then-Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy is received by President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017 (Elysée)

Having liberalized labor law to make it easier for companies to hire, reined in labor migration from Eastern Europe to protect low-skilled workers in France and shaken up intercity bus service and the state-owned railway company, President Emmanuel Macron, just fighting his way back from the reactionary Yellow Vests protests, is taking on a reform of France’s sprawling pension system.

You can’t accuse the man of not trying. Read more