Catalans respond as Madrid once again uses the big stick

Photo by Andreu Dalmau/EPA: National Police attack demonstrators with raised hands to show their peaceful intent
Contributed by Joe Montero

The Catalan political crisis has taken a new twist. Former president and exile, Carles Puigdemont, was detained by German police while visiting that country, on a European arrest warrant issued by Madrid, brought before a German court and imprisoned.

Photo by Lluis Gene/ AFP: A big crowd forms at EU Commission office in Barcelona hours after the arrest of Puigdemont

An arrest warrant has been issued for the leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia secretary Marta Rovira, after she published a letter saying she had to take “the path of exile,” fearing she would be imprisoned for her political work.

Twenty five Catalan leaders are on trial for rebellion, embezzlement or disobeying the state, over last year’s last year’s referendum and the subsequent declaration of independence.

And on Friday night (local time) huge crowds spilled into the streets of Barcelona and throughout the region. In a revival of last year, National police waded in, attacked demonstrators, and according to the latest reports from hospital sources, at least 92 were injured.

The latest candidate for regional president, Jordi Turull was arrested, and this prompted the Catalan parliament to suspend debate. Warrants have been issued for the arrest of a further four Catalan leaders.


Video from ITV News


Many observers believe these actions have a political intent. This is to inflame the crisis, as a means for Madrid to stall the situation until the 22 May deadline. This is when in a situation where a new president does not come into office, a new election will be triggered automatically.

This situation would also invite the re-institution of direct rule from Madrid. Resources can then be directed towards ensuring that the independence parties will not win.

How is this likely to be attempted? The continuation of arrests of political leaders, restrictive conditions for standing for election, the cobbling together of an alliance between the Popular Party (governing in Madrid) the right-wing Ciutadans (regional affiliate of Ciudadanos)

and the Socialist Party, and if these measures do not seem likely to work, to postpone the election and maintain direct rule.

As has been the case so far, the odds are high that the strategy to stage manage the next election will not succeed. Madrid has a track record of failing to credit the importance of the organised grass roots movement that has the capacity of maintaining resistance and exerting its influence, and that in the face of this, manipulation though legal, administrative, violent and under the table methods, is much less likely to work.

This leaves the prospect off ongoing direct rule a real possibility.

The strategic flaw is that direct rule will strengthen the Catalan sense of grievance and will be confirmation that they are being denied a voice over their own affairs. It is doubtful that this will put an end to the political crisis.

This mess has come about, because the traditional political circles in Madrid retain much of the world outlook of the Franco era, believing much more on enforcement than building agreement.

The Popular Party is a minority government, losing its support base to the staunchly anti-independent Ciudadanos, but more importantly facing the highest level of national political unrest in more than half a century.

The Spanish nation is built on a fragile and often unwilling collection of national groups that has through the history of the nation been held together through the use, or threat of state violence. This has been a source of the xenophobia among the dominant Castilians, among which the myth of the Spanish single entity is the strongest.













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