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Catalonia and the blow to democracy

On 1 October, one of the worst moments in Spain’s recent history occured. The right to vote and demonstrate was withdrawn, provoking a social rupture, seemingly imposible to repair.

 

Cataluña Wikimedia Commons 4Juanjo Andrés Cuervo

 

I am a Spaniard who did not live the era of the dictatorship and I have always been a supporter of a united Spain, of real democracy.

For more than three years I have been living in London and I have observed, with a mixture of sadness and rage, various situations that threaten to overthrow a legacy of freedom that has accompanied us since Franco’s death. I also feel some frustration, for here I have witnessed many protests against the UK government, in which the right to peaceful demonstration has been respected.

Not too long ago, Spain began to emerge from a darkness that had plagued it since the beginning of the Civil War, and left thousands dead and a society destroyed.

For almost 40 years, the dictatorship destroyed the possibilities many dreamed of, and part of the population emigrated to save themselves from a destiny that seemed chaotic.

Cataluña Wikimedia CommonsThus, the fall of General Franco in 1975 was the end of the nightmare, and a word began to spread unanimously within the country: democracy.

One of the regions that most appreciated the beginning of this transition was Catalonia, which received its own parliament with significant autonomy, the one that Barcelona lost under the dictatorship from 1939.

But after the recent events, it seems that the gap between the region and the Spanish government has opened up definitively.

During the referendum on independence, members of the national police attacked demonstrators, using rubber guns and hitting them with batons. These images went viral on the continent.

Governors of countries such as Scotland and Belgium, and in the United Kingdom, the parliamentarian Jeremy Corbyn, condemned the violence exercised by the state security members.

October 1

A date marked as the day on which the Catalans would cast the vote to choose their fate, inevitably with much Spanish society waiting on what would happen during the referendum.

Cataluña Wikimedia Commons 2Everything took place in the midst of a tense situation, where the independentists claimed to suffer the abuses of the Spanish government. Many still remember the Franco regime, where the prohibition of Catalan made a dent in the region. And they claim to have given more to the Spanish government than which they have received.

Taking into account the arguments of those who wish to become independent from Spain, the fact is that Catalonia, and especially Barcelona, is one of the most industrialized and rich regions of the country. On the other hand, those who are against the separation of Catalonia and Spain explain that the Constitution of 1978 declares the obtaining of independence by any region of the country illegal.

History of a crisis

Currently, 7.5 million people live in the Catalan region, an area that, since the 19th century, has seen a boom in the identity of its inhabitants.

Cataluña Wikimedia Commons 3At that time, Catalan revived as the language of literature, and the community began to campaign for political autonomy, and even talked about separatism.

Recently and after the global crisis of 2007, the situation in Spain worsened and the struggles began again.

Three years later, the Spanish constitutional court set limits against the Catalan proposal to become independent. Before this, many Catalans protested and blamed the Zapatero government for the expansion of the crisis.

In 2014 an informal election was held regarding the independence from Spain, where 80% voted for “yes”. That is why a referendum was planned for October 2017.

A referendum that was lived with pain, fear and anger and, according to the authorities, left about 900 protesters injured during the course of the day, and a nation feeling shattered once again.

(Translated by Gareth Trevor)Photos: Wikimedia Commons

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