Two eventful weeks of September
The huge demonstration on September 11th has been the turning point. 2 million people peacefully marching down the streets of Barcelona which made it to newspapers all over the world.
I couldn’t make it to the demonstration itself, since at the moment I live and work in England but I was there on the weekend of the 14th and the main topic of convesation with everybody I spoke with (an african friend who runs a restaurant, my hairdresser, relatives, a friend) was independence. Without me even having to raise the topic.
The ANC organised the referendum and now it is the time of the politicians. President Mas has taken the challenge. This has surprised many people. Including, I have to admit, myself. Especially since he declined to go to the demonstration. I don’t know if he was planning from the beginning to do what he did or he was overwhelmed by the demonstration and decided to take action. We may never know.
It is also true that Mas had not much more choice than doing what he did. After the demonstration he had no more room to approve budget cuts while closing those deals with PP and the nth humiliation was having to request the bailout from the Spanish Government which is like having to ask a loan from the burglars who emptied your house.
Mas’ is a smart decision and also a brave one and now he knows the country backs him. A better decision than being caught by the tsunami and disappear politically. Not doing what he did would have left him this week limited to discuss all the unpopular budget cuts from the last two years without a light at the end of the tunnel and with the European bailout to Spain threatening to weaken Catalonia even more.
On november 20th, thursday last week Mas and Rajoy had a meeting where Mas requested Rajoy, as agreed by the Catalan Parliament, that Catalonia should manage all its taxes. In the same fashion as the Basque Country and Navarre already do. And Rajoy said it was impossible. This had been Mas’ main promise two years ago to win the elections. Since this failed it was time for elections.
On tuesday during the annual general politics debate at the Catalan Parliament Mas made a historical speech [ca]. He said that “the time has come for Catalonia to exercise its right to self determination”. Mas called for early elections which will be held on November 25th. The last ones for Mas, as he said he won’t run again for President after Catalonia’s national transition was complete.
On wednesday Mas clarified that he wants for Catalonia the same status as any other European nation [ca]. Like Denmark, Slovenia or the Netherlands. He also clarified that if there is a qualified majority of deputies in the Parliament a self determination referendum will be held whether Spain allows it or not. And for that, the Catalan parties CiU, ERC, SI and ICV have agreed to make a joint statement today [ca] to explain further how the process will take place.
Spain, has hurried to say that such a referendum would be illegal and newspaper El Mundo has gone as far as to threaten Mas with jail and Catalonia with military intervention [ca] should the process continue.
I have criticised Mas in the past for his vagueness and lack of decisiveness but these last two weeks he has proved that he wants to lead Catalonia’s national transition to become a european state. If he continues down this path he’ll have the people’s support.
The reactions from Spain
While the debate about independence goes on in a completely normal and democratic way in Catalonia Spain has so far behaved according to the script. Hysterically. In ways more according to the XIX century.
The Spanish King, going beyond his duties as Head of the Spanish State wrote a shocking political note against the process going on in Catalonia. At least by picking that side we know now that the future Catalan State will be a Republic. I can’t help but wonder where was he while the Catalan Statute of Autonomy was cut? or where is he, in his position as head of the spanish army, while military threats are sent on a daily basis? he has not raised his voice about those.
The rest of responses from Spain from politicians, newspapers or TVs have also been hysterical so far. Ranging from the calls to military intervertion [ca], to explaining how Catalonia would be expelled from the EU and banned by Spain. Attempting to instill fear by saying that Catalonia would not be financially viable as an independent state (but without explaining why). Using the Spanish Constitution as a hammer to say that independence from Spain is impossible, that it would be illegal. PSOE leader in Extremadura Guillermo Fernández has gone as far as to suggest that the 150000 people from his region who emigrated to Catalonia during the 50s and 60s should be deported back to Extremadura should Catalonia become independent(!).
Some spanish politicians are timidly hinting that a solution may be to convert Spain into a federal country. A solution that until 2 weeks ago had no advocates in Spain, only in Catalonia. But it looks, by the vagueness of what they propose that it’s just yet another distraction manouvre. Federal countries are always a free union of States, not the case of Spain. Plus Spain has used the anti catalan hatred so much that the public opinion would never accept such a deal.
But the most shocking so far, not one single argument for Catalonia to stay in Spain formulated in positive. All of them based on fear, imposition and negativity. Spain refuses to enter the debate, I wonder if it may be because they have nothing to offer?
Spain has always perceived negotiation as a weakness. Having lived in Mexico, and having learned from their process to independence I know this is the typical reaction from Spain. What is surprising is that Spain hasn’t learned a single thing in all these centuries. But that is something they will have to deal with by themselves. Catalonia can’t waste any more time in a failed state that works against its interests and shows such a lack of democratic culture.