Catalonia’s Battle ‘Is A Big Problem For Europe’

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A LEADING Catalan official has said Catalonia is in a de facto state of emergency and that its battle with Spain’s central government to hold a referendum on independence is a “big problem for Europe”.

In an exclusive interview, Sergi Marcen, head of the Catalan Delegation to the UK, told The National the Catalan Government would work “to the last minute” to try to reach agreement with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government to go ahead with the October 1 poll.

He said he believed Europe had remained quiet because Rajoy’s Parti Populaire (People’s Party) wielded significant influence and had been pressurising countries to stay out of it.

But he added: “It is a European problem because 7.5 million European people – Catalans – cannot vote on their future; the Spanish Government does not have a majority in parliament and are using the laws in a bad way and this kind of behaviour is like the times of the dictator Franco.

“So it’s a big problem for Europe, not only Catalonia.”

Spain’s actions, he said, were denying Catalan citizens their basic rights. “Spanish Government and the police are going into media offices, lawyers, people’s houses looking for ballots,” he said. “Freedom of expression is banned. Police are seizing Catalan flags, posters or anything related to the referendum. Public events and meetings about it have been banned, so we don’t have the right to speak in public about the right of self-determination in Catalonia.

“The Spanish Government is using prosecutors and the police and is not respecting the basic human right of freedom of space and demonstration so. They are using Spain’s laws to create this state of emergency without a state of emergency [being declared].”

He added: “More than 13,000 police have arrived from the rest of Spain to Catalonia. Catalan police say 17,000 officers are being used to stop people expressing themselves and voting on October 1.”

Josep-Lluís Trapero, head of the Catalan police Mossos d’Esquadra, who is seen as a local hero because of his handling of the Barcelona terror attacks, has refused a Spanish public prosecutor’s order to hand over control of his force to Civil Guard Colonel Diego Pérez de los Cobos.

Pérez de los Cobos was previously prosecuted and acquitted of allegedly mistreating a prisoner belonging to the Basque separatist group ETA.

His brother Francisco was president of the Constitutional Court when it declared unconstitutional the 2014 unofficial Catalan indyref.

Their father was previously a candidate for a far-right political party in Spanish Congress elections.

“Rajoy’s choice of police chief is an example of the kind of people they are sending to Catalonia,” said Marcen. “Everything the Spanish Government is doing makes no sense.

“From the Catalan side we are trying to write an agreement and we will work until the last second before October 1 to write an agreement with the Spanish Government to hold the referendum. But on the other side, there is no-one.”

Marcen added: “Without your voice a lot of people would never understand what’s happening in Catalonia. We haven’t stolen anything or killed anyone, we just want to vote to let people decide what they want.

“We are defending people’s democracy. Spain’s actions are dangerous for a democratic state and the European Union.”

  • Bob Beal

    Poverty, inequality on the rise in Spain as independence vote looms
    By James Lerner, 26 September 2017
    “The growth in poverty and inequality is the intended product of the policies of the Spanish, Catalan, and European bourgeoisie.”
    “The unemployment rate in Spain is 17.8 percent, the second highest in the European Union (EU) after Greece (22.5 percent). The number of young people under 25 without work is 38.6 percent (compared to Greece’s 44.4 percent).”
    [The excerpt below is a nuanced analysis of the political situation.]
    “The role of pseudo-left organisations such as CUP is to divert social discontent, especially among the youth, into nationalist channels, in the process splitting the Spanish working class against itself and in support of rival factions of the bourgeoisie.”

  • Jon

    Bob, Sounds like you do not understand the ML position on the national question, which is in essence a class question. Same thing is happening with the Kurds, and they need support. This is also the reason why the low profile national liberation movement in Hawai’i ought to be supported by all leftists.

  • Bob Beal

    Secession/liberation movements can stem from, and contain, different political tendencies. The article in my posting states the one in Catalonia is driven by competing communities of “haves,” neither of which gives a hoot about their respective “have nots.” The claim is that Catalonia is the wealthiest state in Spain and the ownership class there resents having to send more to the central government than it gets from it. I do see that the machinations have the youth astir there.

    And I have seen some back and forth about organizing within nation-states, given that is the currently the framework we have to work with, or organizing against them. A synergistic movement to wean off the weapons and fossil fuels industries can have effects at both the imperial and community levels. How about WEAN–Water, Earth and Air Network?

    Here’s another excerpt from the WSWS article:

    “About 40 percent of [Spain’s] children were below the official poverty line in 2014, nine points higher than in 2008.

    “The source of this calamitous decline in the social position of the working class is the breakdown of the post-World War II economic and political order, which has resulted in the growth of nationalism and separatism. In Spain, the two-party system has collapsed, and demands for regional independence increased above all in Catalonia.”

  • Lili-Ann Berg

    Compared to the rest of Spain, Catalonia is rich, arrogant and self-seeking region. The clamour for independence is not about democratic rights, it’s about nationalistic pride, perfectly willing to ignore the fact that 44% of Spanish children are living in poverty. They simply don’t want to be associated with the greater Spain and its suffering.
    Nationalism is an ugly beast – it divides our world into enclaves of rich and poor, it fosters inequality, xenophobia and hatred, it creates conflicts and perpetual war. Millions die. There is some truth in the old saying: United we stand, divided we fall. Spain needs Catalonia for so many reasons.

  • Jon

    Good points Bob and Lili. I acknowledge that there can be times when secession can be reactionary, I admit, but it also can be a liberating force, in the process of braking up empires. That is why in general I favor them, But I honestly don’t know much about the Spanish situation, so I need to be a bit more modest in giving this move my assent

  • Jon

    Thanks for you input Lili. Note my somewhat contrite response to Bob. There is a difference, however, between the nationalism of a major power, and that of small countries or want-to-be countries. The nationalism that united the Vietnamese against the French, Japanese, and the Americans, for example was clearly anti-imperialist and to be supported, as I do for the quite but broad and deep national liberation movement in Hawai’i, with which I am very familiar.

  • skywryter

    All promoted by Putin and pals. I don’t see how Catalonia is better off on its own, or how Spain is better off without Catalonia. I live in California but I’m not a secessionist. I pay school taxes and I’m not a parent. Nationalism is really about selfishness.

  • skywryter

    I think the Kurds have a long standing grievance-mostly against the British for partitioning the region. But I don’t think its really in their interests to be a land locked isolated mini state.

  • Jon

    But that is not your call, nor mine, but the Kurds themselves. Generally I will support those since small weak countries are generally not the instigators of war or empire.