Tragedy in Catalonia

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

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

Barcelona Spain
Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor on Mount Tibidabo in Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Jorien van der Sluis)

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

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”

Sánchez Has the Right Idea: A Referendum on Catalan Home Rule

Catalan president Quim Torra is welcomed by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Madrid, July 9
Catalan president Quim Torra is welcomed by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Madrid, July 9 (La Moncloa)

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez has proposed calling a referendum on a renegotiated statute for Catalan home rule.

In 2010, the Spanish Constitutional Court rewrote parts of Catalonia’s 2006 autonomy statute. Most of the changes were minor, except they limited Catalonia’s fiscal autonomy and took out the description of Catalonia as a “nation”.

As a result, Sánchez said in a radio interview, “Catalonia has a statute that it didn’t vote for.”

78 percent of Catalan voters ratified the 2006 statute in a referendum. Read more “Sánchez Has the Right Idea: A Referendum on Catalan Home Rule”

The Pettiness of Catalonia’s Unionists

A yellow ribbon is wrapped around a statue in Brussels, Belgium during a Catalan demonstration for independence, December 7, 2017
A yellow ribbon is wrapped around a statue in Brussels, Belgium during a Catalan demonstration for independence, December 7, 2017 (Wikimedia Commons)

Catalan unionists, including the leaders of the region’s largest anti-independence party, Citizens, have taken to the streets to remove yellow ribbons that agitate for the release of separatist leaders.

Some eighty people descended on La Bisbal, a small town close to the French border, last night to remove yellow ribbons from buildings, wearing white industrial suits and masks.

The mayor, Lluís Sais, condemned the action, saying,

When someone has nothing to hide, and has no shame, they do not cover their faces.

Citizens party leaders Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas nevertheless joined the protest on Wednesday, removing yellow ribbons in Alella, half an hour’s drive north of Barcelona. Read more “The Pettiness of Catalonia’s Unionists”

Spanish Right Takes Harder Line on Catalonia, Immigration

Pablo Casado greets members of the executive committee of Spain's People's Party in Barcelona, July 26
Pablo Casado greets members of the executive committee of Spain’s People’s Party in Barcelona, July 26 (PP)

The new Spanish conservative party leader, Pablo Casado, is making good on his promise to move the People’s Party to the right.

  • In talks with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who leads a minority left-wing government, Casado refused to support dialogue with Catalan parties that want to break away from Spain.
  • Separately, he argued Spain cannot “absorb millions of Africans who want to come to Europe in search of a better future.”

Both positions mark a hardening from those of Casado’s predecessor, and the previous prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. Read more “Spanish Right Takes Harder Line on Catalonia, Immigration”

Puigemont’s Bid for Relevance Divides Catalan Independence Parties

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)

Deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s bid for continued political relevance is dividing the two largest independence parties in the region.

  • The Republican Left is refusing to join Puigdemont’s latest political vehicle, the National Call for the Republic, which is meant to succeed the electoral list he led into last year’s regional election, Together for Catalonia.
  • The Republican Left also argues that both parties must respect a Supreme Court ruling and suspend from parliament those six lawmakers who are awaiting trial for their role in last year’s independence referendum. Together for Catalonia argues that Puigdemont doesn’t have to give up his seat, because — unlike the leader of the Republican Left, Oriol Junqueras — he is still a free man. Read more “Puigemont’s Bid for Relevance Divides Catalan Independence Parties”

Catalan and Spanish Leaders Take Steps to Normalize Relations

Catalan president Quim Torra is welcomed by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Madrid, July 9
Catalan president Quim Torra is welcomed by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Madrid, July 9 (La Moncloa)

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez and Catalan president Quim Torra have met for the first time.

The fact that a simple meeting is considered a step forward says something about how poorly Sánchez’ conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, managed relations between the Spanish state and its richest — and rebellious — region.

Beyond the symbolism of the meeting, the two leaders made substantive progress. Read more “Catalan and Spanish Leaders Take Steps to Normalize Relations”