Sánchez Needs to Show Statesmanship in Catalonia

Opinion, Top Story

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
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 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 “Sánchez Needs to Show Statesmanship in Catalonia”

Catalan Independence Leaders Sentenced to 9-13 Years in Prison

News

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Oriol Junqueras
Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Catalonia’s Republican Left, makes a speech in Barcelona, Spain, July 20, 2015 (CDC)
  • 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.
  • A European arrest warrant has been reissued for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who denounced the verdict as an “outrage” from self-imposed exile in Belgium. Read more “Catalan Independence Leaders Sentenced to 9-13 Years in Prison”

What Catalonia Has in Common with the United States

Analysis

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
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 “What Catalonia Has in Common with the United States”

Spanish Politicians Need to Come to Grips with Coalition Politics

Analysis, Top Story

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Spanish party leaders Pablo Iglesias and Pedro Sánchez speak in Madrid, February 5, 2016
Spanish party leaders Pablo Iglesias and Pedro Sánchez speak in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

Spanish politicians are still coming to grips with coalition politics.

Both at the national and the regional level, parties are reluctant to make compromises and blaming each other for making deals with different parties. Read more “Spanish Politicians Need to Come to Grips with Coalition Politics”

It Will Be Hard for Catalans to Accept Supreme Court Verdict

Analysis

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Seat of the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, November 27, 2012
Seat of the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, November 27, 2012 (Wikimedia Commons)

Spain’s Supreme Court will soon decide the fate of twelve Catalan independence leaders who stand accused of sedition and rebellion against the state. The verdict will be hard for Catalans to accept as fair, especially when the same court has sided with the family of Francisco Franco.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court suspended the planned exhumation of the dictator’s remains from the monumental Valley of the Fallen in the mountains near Madrid, arguing it would not be in the “public interest”.

In its verdict, the court used the honorific “don” to refer to Franco and wrote that he was head of state from October 1, 1936. That is when Franco was proclaimed leader of the coup against the Republic, but his government wasn’t recognized as legitimate by most countries until after the Civil War.

To many Catalans, especially left-wing separatists who imagine themselves heirs to the Republic, it confirms that the rest of Spain hasn’t reckoned with the past. Read more “It Will Be Hard for Catalans to Accept Supreme Court Verdict”

Tragedy in Catalonia

Opinion, Top Story

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Night falls on Barcelona's Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017
Night falls on Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017 (Sergio Marchi)

Twelve Catalans — ten politicians and two activists — went on trial this week for their role in the 2017 independence referendum and attempted secession from Spain.

There is a good chance the defendants, who include the former Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras — who still leads one of the region’s two largest pro-independence parties — will be found guilty of at least some of the charges against them. The Spanish Constitutional Court had, after all, forbidden the referendum in advance and the Spanish Constitution refers to the country’s “indissoluble” unity.

Hopefully the Supreme Court in Madrid (which is separate from the Constitutional Court) will throw out the more serious — and much harder to prove — accusations of rebellion and sedition, which carry prison sentences of up to 25 years.

But even light sentences would be a tragedy. This trial should never have happened. The 2017 referendum, which most opponents of independence boycotted, should never have happened. The reason it did is that the Spanish government at the time, led by the conservative People’s Party, refused dialogue with an increasingly restless nationalist movement in Catalonia. Read more “Tragedy in Catalonia”

Spanish Right Loses Its Mind Over Concession to Catalans

Analysis

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
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)

From the opprobrium being heaped on Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez from the right, you would think he had just signed away half the country.

Pablo Casado, the leader of the conservative People’s Party, has accused the socialist of “high treason” and argued Spain now faces the gravest threat to its democracy since the failed military coup of 1981.

Albert Rivera of the liberal Citizens has called Sánchez “a danger for Spain”.

What horrible crime has Sánchez committed?

He has agreed to appoint a facilitator in talks with the separatist government in Catalonia. Read more “Spanish Right Loses Its Mind Over Concession to Catalans”

A Year Has Been Wasted in Catalonia

Analysis

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
View of the Palau Nacional from downtown Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013
View of the Palau Nacional from downtown Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013 (CucombreLibre)

Catalonia has made little progress toward either independence or normalizing relations with the rest of Spain since its failed attempt to break away a year ago.

Spain has returned home rule to the region, which it suspended in the wake of the 2017 referendum, and the new prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, sounds more conciliatory than the last.

But two activists and seven politicians remain in pretrial detention for their role in the 2017 vote, which the Spanish Constitutional Court had ruled illegal. Four have gone on hunger strike to protest the fact that their trial still hasn’t started after one year.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and six other leaders remain in self-imposed exile in other parts of Europe, knowing that if they return to Spain they will be arrested. Read more “A Year Has Been Wasted in Catalonia”

Torra Gives Spain Ultimatum. His Position Is Weak

Analysis

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region's president, May 14
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Catalan president Quim Torra has given the Spanish government of Pedro Sánchez an ultimatum: allow the Catalans to exert their right to self-determination (which Spain doesn’t recognize) by November or lose the support of Catalan nationalist parties in Congress.

Sánchez needs the Catalans for his majority, but Torra’s position is weaker. Read more “Torra Gives Spain Ultimatum. His Position Is Weak”