Saturday 28 October, 2017 Update: Puigdemont’s House of Cards Tumbles Down

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There’s something to be said for the determination of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. Even after he was officially removed from office on Saturday he remained outspoken regarding his commitment to lead Catalonia to independence in the future. On Saturday afternoon after the Spanish government suspended Catalan autonomy, dissolved its government and assumed control of government functions in the region, Puigdemont released a prerecorded address to Catalans. In it he called Madrid’s actions ‘predetermined aggression’ and promised to continue the fight for independence through ‘democratic opposition.’  Regardless of his promises and desires Puigdemont is, for all intents and purposes, a man without a country.

Madrid is imposing direct rule on Catalonia, as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy promised would happen if events continued along the independence path.  The declaration of independence passed by the Catalan parliament on Friday is now officially inconsequential. Whatever power base separatist politicians believe they had following the referendum appears to be dissolving, if it ever truly existed in reality at all. Polls published by the Spanish newspaper El Pais this weekend show more Catalans in favor of dissolving the regional parliament and holding new elections.  Fifty-five percent of Catalans who responded to the poll opposed the declaration of independence, with forty-one percent in favor. Those numbers are not encouraging signs for deposed Catalan MPs and other pro-independence and separatist politicians who want to continue the fight.

Whether the separatists refuse to acknowledge it or not, the writing is on the wall. The bid for independence was doomed from the beginning. Even if the pro-independence politicians had removed the blinders and recognized that the level of support they believed they had was in fact a mirage, there is no conceivable way the Spanish government would’ve ever allowed one of its most valuable regions to break away from the mother country. Had the shoe been on the other foot and Catalonia had somehow won independence from Spain, Puigdemont and his newly formed government would have found their new state to be a pariah on the international scene. Spain’s allies in Europe, along with the European Union, and the United States strongly opposed Catalan’s independence experiment. Although the EU, and a handful of European states offered their help in negotiations between Catalonia and Madrid should it come to that, all foreign states and bodies have recognized publicly that the Catalan Crisis is an internal matter.

The crisis has not passed just yet. There are still hurdles for Madrid to overcome, and it has to determine if and when full autonomy will be returned to Catalonia. The coming weeks and months will be a time to mend wounds and forge a stronger relationship between Madrid and the region. Failure to do so on the government’s part will only invite Catalan separatists to resume the fight for independence at some point down the line.

Wednesday 25 October, 2017 Update: Catalan Separatist Leader Considering a Swift Declaration of Independence

Carles Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras, Ada Colau

Whether they realize it or not, Catalonia’s separatist politicians have an image problem. Carles Puigdemont and company are emerging as the rapscallions of the Catalan crisis instead of the Spanish government. This is contrary to how  Puigdemont and his associates intended the situation to play out. By this point, Madrid was expected to have seen the light and sat down with Catalan’s government officials to negotiate a phased, eventual separation of Catalonia from Spain. To the surprise of Puigdemont, the Spanish government’s response was strikingly different from what was expected. Madrid has stood up to the challenge, and has every intention of fighting tooth and nail to keep Catalonia from breaking off and becoming an independent state. Since the Catalan independence referendum on 1 October, nationalism has taken root across the country. Even in Catalonia, support for independence is not overwhelmingly high, contrary to what the separatists in the Catalan government want people, and the media to believe. In Barcelona, the heart of Catalonia, many residents are critical of their region’s government, accusing the separatist politicians of touching off this crisis purely to achieve their own ends.

Remarks made today by Catalan Vice President Orio Junqueras seem to support the suspicions about separatist politicians. In light of Madrid’s intent to impose direct rule, Junqueras sees a quick declaration of Catalonia’s independence as the region’s next logical step. Speaking on behalf of his Republican Left party’s members, he said the party is committed to “work toward building a republic, because we understand that there is a democratic mandate to establish such a republic.” Whether or not such a mandate exists depends on whom you speak to. Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled against the 1 October referendum making the results invalid.  Junqueras, Puigdemont, and Catalan separatists point to those same results as proof that a mandate exists regardless of the Constiutional Court’s ruling.

Catalonia’s political elite has still not come to terms with the severity of the situation before them. Madrid plans to fire all of them and assume control of the region until new elections can be held. Catalan leadership has yet to put together an effective plan to delay, or block Article 155’s from being implemented. Time is running out and a declaration of independence at this point will do nothing but speed up the Spanish government’s plans to impose direct rule in Catalonia and put an end to the subversion once and for all.