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Thread: Some Background and Foreground on the Catalan Battle for Automony

  1. #1

    Default Some Background and Foreground on the Catalan Battle for Automony

    Franco’s Last Breath: On Catalan Independence

    August 25, 2016
    By Eric Smith

    Catalonia’s desire for independence has resurged in recent years, thanks in large part to the intransigence of the central Spanish government in Madrid. Historian Eric Smith reviews the history and background of the Catalan independence movement.

    People attending the 2014 Diada, a Catalan National Holiday, waving ribbons with the Catalan flag. Photo Marcoil CC-BY-4.0
    Catalonia has long had dreams of independence. It once contained more than half of the land and population of the Kingdom of Aragon, and in the late 19th century erupted in independence fervor. Spain’s Second Republic granted the region a status of autonomy in the 1930s that Francisco Franco with his visions of fascist nationalism would not tolerate. He ended it by decree in August 1938 six months before the civil war ended. What has become increasingly apparent amid the recent dispute over Catalan independence is that this aspect of Francoism remains very much alive, and the Catalan crisis might be the infamous fascist’s dying breath.
    Anti-Catalan sentiment during the Spanish Civil War erupted in a wave of atrocities that Paul Preston documents in his book The Spanish Holocaust. Franco’s goal was genocide against Republicans, his primary motivation for prolonging the war after he had already assumed control. Catalans were among the strongest supporters of the Spanish Republic, and they faced the brunt of Franco’s wrath: even after the purge of tens of thousands, many republican women were forced into prostitution; women and their children were imprisoned; properties were stolen; Barcelona’s infrastructure was left to languish long after other parts of the country were rebuilt; in fact, too many examples exist to recount here. That Franco has escaped an historical indictment that would place him alongside other abhorrent figures of the twentieth century attests to both the success of the dictator’s propaganda and to democracies willing to forgive a reliable anti-communist ally.

    Spain’s Second Republic granted the region autonomy, which Franco would not tolerate.


    Franco envisioned a nationalist Spain where none had historically existed: extreme measures were required. As the Catalan government’s website explains: “The clear objective of Franco’s regime was the elimination of all that was related to Catalonia.” Franco planned to erase Catalan culture with an internal colonization project that brought Spaniards from other parts of the country into cities like Barcelona. The Catalan language was long banned from most public or official use, though it survived in the homes of Catalans where it continued to be spoken.
    With Franco’s death and the transition to democracy the Catalans feared a new civil war and toned down their regional ambitions. The 1978 Constitution granted the Basques and Catalans some autonomy. But whereas the Basques earned fiscal as well as political autonomy along a federated model, the Constitution provided the same for the Catalans minus the fiscal governance, which was retained by the national government. A statute proposed by the Catalans, debated in Madrid by the Cortes, and adopted in 1979 named Catalan one of Spain’s four official languages, and granted Catalonia control over education, its own police force (considering the role of the national police during the Civil War), as well as local decision-making with respect to heritage and culture. But the statute was greatly diminished from what the Catalans had originally sought and was finally approved by the Catalans with great disappointment and a 40 percent abstention.
    Today, Franco’s acrimony with the Catalans lives on in Castilian-speaking regions, where daily discourse in some media outlets lambastes the Catalans in language that sounds eerily similar to what was heard in the Balkans in the run-up to the violent civil conflicts of the 1990s. (Following the intentional crash of the Germanwings flight into the Alps, one Spanish commentator stated publicly that it was too bad the flight wasn’t filled with Catalans.)

    In one recent attack, the Minister of Education urged the “Spanish-izing” of Catalonia—just as Franco had tried to do.


    The national government in Madrid has long antagonized Catalonia. With a tax structure that favors poorer regions like Extremadura at their expense, Catalan highways and schools are underfunded compared to other regions. When Madrid decided to build a high-speed train, it bypassed Catalonia entirely. The culture too has been under attack. Pervasive misinformation about Catalan education—like the untrue claim that the Spanish language is banned in Catalonia’s schools—fans the flames. In one recent attack, the Minister of Education urged the “Spanish-izing” of Catalonia—just as Franco had tried to do. Other Spaniards have been trying to sustain a boycott against Catalan made goods.
    Just as important, Catalans of non-Catalan ancestry clearly identify with the culture they are part of, so that even that demographic has come to support the independence movement, contrary to what President Mariano Rajoy and other members of the People’s Party (PP) claim. The movement is not “racial.” It is interesting to note that the neighboring province of Valencia, which also speaks Catalan but calls it Valenciano, has not endured the same hostility as its northern neighbor, in large part because Valencians have long voted the correct way, that is for PP.
    A series of political decisions by Madrid from the Law on Self-Governing communities to the watered-down Statute have thwarted Catalan ambitions to this point. Catalonia contributes 20 percent of Spain’s GDP, yet holds less than a sixth of the country’s population. No wonder Madrid simply refuses to let the region leave.
    At the 2012 Diada, Via Laietana, Barcelona. Photo Lohen11, CC-BY-3.0
    All of this has aroused the latent spirit of independence. The more moderate demand for regional autonomy was rebuffed by Rajoy and his ruling conservatives, and his predecessor, the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero mishandled a potential solution to the problem. With the PP’s refusal to negotiate federalism, the Catalan government resorted to calling early elections as a referendum on independence. The Catalans as a whole didn’t necessarily want independence before, but Rajoy’s refusal to discuss any Catalan grievances—let alone federalism—has increased support for independence.
    Several years ago a Spanish Colonel and the Association of Spanish Soldiers (AME) threatened military action should Catalonia secede. The Colonel was removed from his post but given Spanish history such threats cannot be taken lightly. Catalan former president Artur Mas, outflanked on a referendum on independence, raised the specter of a constitutional crisis once again with indications that a new Catalan constitution independent of Spain is in the works. The potential for violence in the other direction also remains. Not permitting dialogue and stubbornly refusing the Catalans could promote desperation among young Catalan idealists who then might turn to violence the way ETA once did.
    The obvious solution of federalism may already have passed. Rajoy refused to stand down, repeatedly calling the Catalan ambitions “a joke,” the same word used by the PP’s Catalan MP, Xavier García Albiol whose party was then routed. But will Spain’s leaders exacerbate the crisis into openly violent hostilities? Will the EU sit idly by? In an historic gesture, the Podemos Party earlier this year called for a referendum on Catalan Independence as part of an attempt to form a coalition government with the Socialists but then failed to make gains in the June elections. The PP did, signaling a continuation of the same game. Still, intransigence and the persistent sniping about Catalans and the need to be rid of them, is a Francoist tactic whether non-Catalans recognize it or not.
    Eric R. Smith holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is the author of American Relief Aid and the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (University of Missouri Press, 2013).
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  2. #2

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    Catalan referendum: preliminary results show 90% in favour of independence




    Spanish prime minister defends violent response to poll, as raids on ballot stations by riot police leave hundreds of Catalans injured


    Sam Jones, Stephen Burgenand agencies
    Monday 2 October 2017 00.04 BSTFirst published on Sunday 1 October 2017 13.50 BST


    Catalan officials have claimed that preliminary results of its referendum have shown 90% in favour of independence in the vote vehemently opposed by Spain.
    Live Catalonia referendum: 90% voted for independence, say officials – live update
    Jordi Turull, the Catalan regional government spokesman, told reporters early on Monday morning that 90% of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted Sunday chose yes. He said nearly 8% of voters rejected independence and the rest of the ballots were blank or void. He said 15,000 votes were still being counted.The region has 5.3 million registered voters.
    Turull said the number of ballots did not include those confiscated by Spanish police during violent raids which resulted in hundreds of people being injured. At least 844 people and 33 police were reported to have been hurt, including at least two people who were thought to have been seriously injured.
    Catalonia’s regional leader, Carles Puigdemont, spoke out against the violence with a pointed address: “On this day of hope and suffering, Catalonia’s citizens have earned the right to have an independent state in the form of a republic.

    Catalan referendum: hundreds injured as police attack protesters – video“My government, in the next few days, will send the results of [the] vote to the Catalan parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum.”

    Why do some Catalans want independence and what is Spain's view?

    Puigdemont had pressed ahead with the referendum despite opposition from the Spanish state, which declared the poll to be illegal, and the region’s own high court. He told crowds earlier in the day that the “police brutality will shame the Spanish state for ever”.
    The Spanish government defended its response after hundreds of people were hurt when riot police stormed polling stations in a last-minute effort to stop the vote on Sunday.
    Although many Catalans managed to cast their ballots, others were forcibly stopped from voting as schools housing ballot boxes were raided by police acting on the orders of the Catalan high court.
    The large Ramon Llull school in central Barcelona was the scene of a sustained operation, with witnesses describing police using axes to smash the doors, charging the crowds and firing rubber bullets.


    Spain’s interior ministry said 12 police officers had been hurt and three people arrested for disobedience and assaulting officers.
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    The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, speaking on Sunday night, said the government had done what it had had to do and thanked the police for acting with “firmness and serenity”.
    “Today there has not been a self-determination referendum in Catalonia. The rule of law remains in force with all its strength. We are the government of Spain and I am the head of the government of Spain and I accepted my responsibility.
    “We have done what was required of us. We have acted, as I have said from the beginning, according to the law and only according to the law. And we have shown that our democratic state has the resources to defend itself from an attack as serious as the one that was perpetrated with this illegal referendum. Today, democracy has prevailed because we have obeyed the constitution.”
    Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, demanded an end to the police actions and called for the Rajoy’s resignation.

    Artur Mas, the former Catalan president whose government staged a symbolic independence referendum three years ago, called for the “authoritarian” Rajoy to stand down, adding that Catalonia could not remain alongside “a state that uses batons and police brutality”.
    Enric Millo, the most senior Spanish government official in the region, said the police had behaved “professionally” in carrying out a judge’s orders.

    Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, the Spanish deputy prime minister, echoed that position, saying the police had shown firmness, professionalism and proportionality in the face of the “absolute irresponsibility” of the Catalan government.
    She called on Puigdemont to drop the “farce” of the independence campaign, saying Spain had long since emerged from the authoritarian shadow of the Franco dictatorship.
    “I don’t know what world Puigdemont lives in, but Spanish democracy does not work like this,” said Sáenz de Santamaría. “We have been free from a dictatorship for a long time and of a man who told us his word in the law.”
    The Catalan government’s spokesperson Jordi Turull said 319 of the 2,315 polling stations set up for the referendum were closed by police.
    Jesús López Rodríguez, a 51-year-old administrator, had taken his family to vote at the Ramon Llull school in the morning. Like thousands of Catalans, they began queuing from 5am. Three and a half hours later, national police officers arrived in riot gear.

    “They told us that the Catalan high court had ordered them to take the ballot boxes and that we needed to disperse,” he told the Guardian. “We chanted, ‘No! No! No!’, and then about 20 police officers charged us. It was short – only about two minutes – but we stayed together.”

    Riot police attack protesters in Girona – videoAfter about 15 minutes, eight or nine more police vans appeared and officers began cordoning off the surrounding streets and arresting people, López Rodrígue said.

    “They dragged them out violently. We stood our ground but they kept dragging people away, kicking them and throwing them to the ground.”
    More police arrived and jumped over the school fence to enter the building to look for ballot boxes. After using axes to break down the doors of the school, they emerged with the boxes.
    López Rodríguez said that at about 10.25am, police began shooting rubber bullets – “at least 30 or 40”.
    He fled the shots with his wife and children, returning to their flat opposite the school. “I feel really angry about it,” he said, “but I also hope people in Europeand around the world will see what’s happening in Catalonia.”
    Similar scenes were reported elsewhere. Riot police smashed the glass doors of the sports centre near Girona where Puigdemont had been due to vote. Despite forcing their way in, they failed to stop the Catalan president voting. Pictures showed him casting his ballot in nearby Cornella del Terri.
    The day started peacefully and hopefully in polling stations across the region. Hundreds of people started queuing outside the Cervantes primary school in central Barcelona from well before dawn.
    “I’m here to fight for our rights and our language and for our right to live better and to have a future,” said Mireia Estape, who lives close to the school. One man in the queue, who did not wish to be named, said he had come because “Catalans need to vote; they’re robbing us in Spain”.
    Another would-be voter said simply: “I don’t want to live in a fascist country.”

    Many Catalans saw their wishes fulfilled in polling stations as officers from the regional force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, hung back.
    Joaquín Pons, 89, was delighted to have cast his ballot, as he had done in the symbolic referendum three years ago.
    “Last time it was cardboard ballot boxes,” he said. “This time they were real. It was very emotional.” Pons said he felt Catalans had had little choice but to proceed unilaterally.
    “It would have been nice if we could all have stayed together in Spain but the Madrid government has made it impossible. It’s sad but that’s the way it is.”
    News and images of the police operation travelled quickly through the crowds in Barcelona and elsewhere, adding to the uneasy atmosphere that has intensified since police arrested 14 Catalan officials and seized millions of ballot papers last week.
    On Sunday afternoon, FC Barcelona announced that its Spanish league game against Las Palmas would be played without fans at the city’s Nou Camp stadium. In a statement, the club condemned the attempts to prevent Catalans “exercising their democratic rights to free expression” and said the professional football league had refused to postpone the game.
    Sunday’s violence came less than 24 hours after the Spanish government had appeared confident that enough had been done to thwart the vote.
    On Saturday, Millo said police had sealed off 1,300 of the region’s 2,315 polling stations, while Guardia Civil officers acting on a judge’s orders had searched the headquarters of the Catalan technology and communications centre, disabling the software connecting polling stations and shutting down online voting applications.
    “These last-minute operations have allowed us to very definitively break up any possibility of the Catalan government delivering what it promised: a binding, effective referendum with legal guarantees,” he said.
    Additional reporting by Patrick Greenfield

    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  3. #3

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    Catalan referendum: hundreds injured as police attack protesters – video


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    Graham Russell (now), Nicola Slawsonand Patrick Greenfield (earlier)
    Monday 2 October 2017 03.03 BSTFirst published on Sunday 1 October 2017 08.17 BST


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    3h ago03:03
    This liveblog is going to be put on hold for the moment. You can find all the latest details on Sunday’s events in this full report.
    Catalan referendum: preliminary results show 90% in favour of independence


    Spanish prime minister defends violent response to poll, as raids on ballot stations by riot police leave hundreds of Catalans injured


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    3h ago02:52
    The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said earlier the referendum “only served to cause serious harm to coexistence” among Spaniards but he is “not going to close any door” to dialogue.







    Spanish PM open to talks with Catalan separatists – video

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    4h ago02:35




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    4h ago02:27
    The pope made a plea for unity during a tour of northern Italy on Sunday. During a stop in Bologna, he told students there they had a right to culture, hope and peace and that recent populist and nationalist movements in Europe were threatening that peace.
    Pope Francis didn’t refer directly to the violence of Catalonia’s banned independence referendum but urged Europeans to put aside nationalistic and other interests for the sake of unity. “Don’t be afraid of unity,” he said. “May special interests and nationalism not render the courageous dreams of the founders of the European Union in vain.”


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    4h ago02:09
    The ugly images emanating from Barcelona and elsewhere suggest Spain has lurched into a moment of deep crisis. Are five centuries of coexistence really under threat, asks Giles Tremlett in this analysis piece:

    The task of clearing up the mess begins on Monday, but there is no obvious way forward and nobody who looks capable at the moment of healing the wounds.
    It may all get rapidly worse. Separatists in the Catalan parliament threaten to declare independence within 48 hours, even though the results of a referendum held in such circumstances may be widely deemed invalid. A unilateral declaration of independence might, in turn, lead to the regional government being taken over by Madrid.
    Both steps would deepen the rift considerably. But since neither side was prepared to budge before the long-expected “train crash” happened on Sunday, there is little reason to hope for caution now – especially as both claim the moral high ground.
    The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, says he was bound to uphold a court decision to suspend the referendum because the country’s constitution does not allow a regional government to unilaterally call one on independence. Many would question if it needed that level of police violence.
    Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, says he was obliged to call the referendum, because that is what separatist parties pledged to do if they won elections in 2015. Opponents in Catalonia accuse him of riding roughshod over the rules that govern even his own parliament.
    In practice, a declaration of independence seems unworkable. Many Catalans who oppose separatism – a majority before Sunday – would be outraged at having their nationality changed like that. Foreign governments and international institutions would deem the declaration invalid, turning Catalonia into a pariah state within Europe.
    Other arguments aside, however, the temptation to wave a red rag in front of Rajoy’s conservative government may prove too enticing.
    Even before this vote, Rajoy’s refusal to consider a legal referendum – along with his history of opposing other transfers of power to Catalonia’s regional government – was largely responsible for the separatist upswing.
    Analysis Catalonia and Spain need a compromise, but who can deliver one?


    Spain is hit by a sudden crisis that could have been avoided. A German-style confederation could still work – if there are politicians prepared to try it


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    5h ago01:27
    Footage from earlier in the day here of one emergency service pitted against another as police clash with firefighters.





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    5h ago01:10
    Summary





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    5h ago01:02
    Puigdemont blamed the situation in Catalonia on the “intransigence, the repression, the complete denial of reality, the hostility seen during the democratic demands made by our country”.


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    5h ago00:56
    Carles Puigdemont, the head of the region’s government, made this video announcement earlier. He said: “On this day of hope and suffering, Catalonia’s citizens have earned the right to have an independent state in the form of a republic ... We have earned the right to be listened to, respected and recognised.”
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    1:38



    Catalan leader opens door to unilateral declaration of independence – video

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    5h ago00:52
    Unions and Catalan associations have called for a region-wide strike on Tuesday due to “the grave violation of rights and freedoms”, calling on people to take to the streets in Catalonia.


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    6h ago00:36
    Turull, the Catalan government spokesman, says authorities have calculated that a total of 770,000 votes were lost because of the disruption. “Four hundred schools [used as polling stations] have been sealed and many votes have been directly stolen,” he said.


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    6h ago00:31
    The turnout was 42%, say Catalan officials. On Sunday afternoon, the Spanish interior ministry said police had closed 79 of the 2,315 polling stations set up for the referendum. Earlier,, the Catalan government had reported that, despite the police’s efforts, voting was taking place in 96% of polling stations.


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    6h ago00:23
    Monday’s front page from daily newspaper La Vanguardia, the main newspaper in Catalonia. The downpage story says Puigdemont will raise the DUI – or unilateral declaration of independence – in parliament in the coming days.
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    6h ago00:10
    The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has welcomed the preliminary results.
    He pressed ahead with the referendum despite opposition from the Spanish state and the region’s own high court.
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    6h ago00:05
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    6h ago00:01
    Jordi Turull, a Catalan regional government spokesman, said early on Monday that 90% of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted on Sunday voted in favour of independence. The region has 5.3 million voters.
    He said nearly 8% of voters rejected independence and the rest of the ballots were blank or void. He said 15,000 votes were still being counted.






    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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