Tension Mounts in Spain Following Catalonian Vote on Independence


Joaquin Matamis '18, Staff Writer

Imagine if today a large state like California or Texas were to secede from the United States. What would happen to culture, people, and life as we know it? How would the government respond? What would the future for the U.S. and either of those states look like? While this example of course is completely fictitious, there is a very real threat of the same nature in Spain.

A Little Context

Spain, historically, is divided into 17 distinctly autonomous regions, each with their own customs, culture, and (in some cases) language. Many parts of Spain take pride in their autonomy and celebrate their uniqueness, even to the point of rejecting the Spanish government. Some of these regions include the Basque Country, the Catalan countries, Galicia, and Catalonia (the largest part of the Catalan countries). These regions have been historically underrepresented in Spain, with the Spanish government reluctant to grant them autonomy. However, there has been no region bold enough to outright turn against the Spanish government. Until now.

What Happened?

On October 1st, the people of Catalonia took an unofficial (and, according to the Spanish constitution, illegal) vote on potentially gaining independence and becoming a separate country. The referendum itself was also supported and organized by the Catalonian government, provoking action by the Spanish government. In response, they sent police to control the over 350,000 protesters gathered in Barcelona, 844 of whom became victims to police brutality. The vote was later confirmed to be 90% in favor of independence. More recently on the 27th, Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s Prime Minister, declared under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution that he would abolish the regional parliament of Catalonia as well as sacking its president Carles Puigdemont. Before these actions were taken, Catalonian parliament took a vote and declared officially its independence from Spain.

What Now?

As one of the biggest crises in Spain since the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Catalonia’s independence has become a divisive issue not only in Spain, but in Europe and the world at large. The addition of a new country on the world stage would affect existing treaties, relationships, and trade agreements. The situation can be seen to mirror that of Brexit, the successful referendum resulting in British removal from the EU. The future of Spain as we know it is in serious doubt. Some sources predict it will be a short-lived revolution, with some even claiming that Puigdemont is looking for “a solution other than independence.” Others claim that it will last long enough to become an issue that the EU and, eventually, the world can handle. Currently the situation has sparked a number of strikes, rallies, and boycotts against the Spanish government as it threatens to impose direct rule on the region. Time can only tell what the future of Spain and Catalonia will be.


SOURCES: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/41483002, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41551466