Spain’s Response to Catalan Separatism Has Failed

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)

Since I moved to Barcelona and started writing about Catalan independence three years ago, I’ve worried that Spain’s refusal to engage with the movement would radicalize it and hollow out the middle in Catalan politics.

This is now borne out by research. Read more “Spain’s Response to Catalan Separatism Has Failed”

Top European Lawyer Argues in Favor of Catalan Politicians

Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017
Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Maciej Szpunar, an advocate general at the European Court of Justice, has argued in favor of Catalan politicians who were elected to the European Parliament in May but have been prevented by the Spanish government from taking their seats.

Former regional president Carles Puigdemont and former regional health minister Toni Comín, both of the center-right Together for Catalonia party, have been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since 2017 to avoid arrest for leading a failed independence bid that year.

Oriol Junqueras, the former leader of the Republican Left, stayed in Spain and was sentenced to thirteen years in prison last month for misuse of public funds and sedition against the Spanish state. Read more “Top European Lawyer Argues in Favor of Catalan Politicians”

The Unrest in Catalonia, Explained

Catalans demonstrate in Barcelona, Spain against the imprisonment of separatist leaders, October 19
Catalans demonstrate in Barcelona, Spain against the imprisonment of separatist leaders, October 19 (Fotomovimiento)

Protests continue in Catalonia against the imprisonment of nine of the region’s separatist leaders.

Tuesday night was quiet, probably because it rained heavily, but I don’t expect this to peter out soon.

In case you haven’t been following the news, or don’t know much about Catalonia to begin with, here is an explainer to get you up to speed. Read more “The Unrest in Catalonia, Explained”

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 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

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

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

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

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”