Clearing up Confusion about Catalonia
By RICHARD REN
Catalonia’s government held a referendum for independence last month, despite the Spanish Government declaring it illegal. When attempting to stop the vote, the Spanish national police used violence that resulted in over 700 injured.
Here is a primer for those interested in the issue, but confused…
Context: The Background behind Catalonian Independence
Catalonia is located in northeastern Spain. It is one of Spain’s richest and highly industrialized regions. According to NowThis World, although it is under Spanish rule, Catalonia has its own government, which
manages itself in areas such as health, education, and security.
The region has its own language and culture which it takes pride in. According to the BBC, this identity was suppressed under Francisco Franco, a Spanish dictator during the mid-20th century, which is where the history of Catalan-Spanish contention begins. Catalonians were granted autonomy again in 1978.
Much of the money Spain collects from Catalonia in tax revenue goes to support other regions of Spain instead of being used in Catalonia. Because of this, some Catalonians have been advocating for freedom from Spanish rule. The notion of Catalan independence keeping more of the money in the region is questionable, because of factors like having to reapply to the EU and companies leaving the region.
Spain is extremely opposed to Catalonia breaking away, afraid of losing a major economic region and potentially causing instability in the country.
Some Jericho High School teachers have lived in Spain and know the situation well. Spanish teacher Ms. Hernandez said, “I lived in Spain a number of years ago and while in Madrid experienced violence: bombings, shootings, targeted attacks, etc., in light of the Basque Country’s independence movement. If Cataluña goes independent it would only be a matter of time until other regions clamor to do the same, fragmenting the country into independent states, essentially weakening the region overall.”
What Happened: The events and actions that occurred during October 1st
In September 2015, Catalonia saw pro-independence parties secure a majority in the regional elections. On October 1st, Catalonia’s regional government held a referendum on Catalan independence.
Prior to October 1st, Spain’s constitutional court ruled the referendum illegal, and the Spanish government vowed to use all possible means to stop the referendum from being held.
Around 42% of the voter roll turned out and 90% of them voted in favor of Catalonian independence. Voter roll was relatively low because those not in favor of Catalonian independence saw the vote as a fraud and opted to boycott it.
While people were attempting to cast their votes, Spanish national police tried to stop them with violence, fear, and intimidation. According to CNN, they fired rubber bullets at voters and used batons to beat them back, resulting in nearly 900 injured.
Leaders from all around the world have criticized Spain’s actions.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted, “Regardless of view on independence, we should all condemn the scenes being witnessed and call on Spain to change course before someone is seriously hurt.”
Some in Jericho High School also condemn Spain’s use of violence. Ms. Hernandez said, “The violence was uncalled for; it seemed like a reckless show of power.”
AP European History teacher Mr. McGibney said, “I don’t think violence should ever be the answer, especially when trying to stop an election.”
Videos circulating around the internet depicting scenes of riot police beating protesters drew international attention to Catalonia and emboldened the separatist movement, giving them a public relations victory against the Spanish government in Madrid.
According to The Guardian, Madrid decided to take direct control of Catalonia, and the Catalan leader issued a defiant response calling for “democratic opposition” to the takeover.
As of October 31st, Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, has fled to Brussels. According to the New York Times, he left Catalonia as Madrid took control of his region to put Spain’s territorial conflict “in the institutional heart of Europe.” According to Reuters, Attorney General of Spain Jose Manuel Maza called for charges of sedition, rebellion, fraud, and misuse of funds to be brought against the Catalan leaders who organized the referendum. According to The Guardian, Puigdemont had promised to return home if a fair judicial process was guaranteed.
Mr. McGibney said, “The issues I get concerned about is that a country like Spain is not necessarily going to want to lose a territory like that so you have the issue of [civil wars and] violence…”
As for now, Catalonia is still under the Spanish government’s control and the future of Catalonia is unclear.
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