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Subject: Meanwhile, in Spain... rss

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J J
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So, thoughts, especially from locals, on the current events in Catalonia?

Madrid has raided (with police in riot gear, no less) the offices of a number of Catalan government figures, some of whom have been arrested, in response to a proposed referendum on independence. This has led to demonstrations on the streets of Barcelona.

I see many reports of people making comparisons to Franco's time...
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Jasper
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Madrid is framing it as restoration of democracy (what with the referendum presumably being against the rules).

Heard on the radio that there is at least one cruise ship docked in Barcelona port which houses police from Madrid.

Very sad to see such extreme measures as bringing in police from other regions and arresting civil servants and (I think) elected officials. Madrid is really overplaying it's hand here, and will only galvanize the supporters of self-rule.

Spain could really borrow a page from the UK this time, where the Scottish independence referendum was at least handled as if adults were in charge.

Really curious what Vic and Jorge have to say about this.
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Jon M
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Seems madness to me. It is definitely handing ammo to supporters of independence. Why not let the vote go ahead then fight it in the courts (as not being legally binding) if the result goes against you? Police in riot gear rounding up democratically elected officials is always going to look bad.
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Vic Lineal
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Oh boy.

It is a situation that has a lot of layers to it, and it's still unfolding; I honestly have no idea how it's going to end. It would definitely require several long posts to contextualise properly.

In short:

- Yes, the Spanish government is IMO screwing up.
- However they have their reasons to do so. Rajoy, as much as I dislike him, is not an idiot.
- I'm not particularly sympathetic to the Catalan government, but
- I do want to vote on the 1st of October (it would my first time voting in ages).
- It's going to have political effects beyond Catalonia.
- The genie is out of the bottle and there are only a few ways in which this can end, mid-term.

I'll be happy to answer concrete questions before I find the time to write a longer post.
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Jorge Montero
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Comparing this to Franco is more than a bit hilarious, and as Vic said, the problem is very complicated. Ultimately, Rajoy's position is unenviable: His party's predecessor fed this separatist movement when he came into power, and nobody since has done jack to stop this. At this point, all solutions are terrible.

This is not a matter of sensible grievances: They are all kind of laughable from where I stand. What feeds them is the same engine of populism behind Trump and Brexit, just with a different local flavor, as there's no way as anyone from Spain was going to end up wishing to go back to the 50s. Nothing good will come out of it, which is sad, as there's plenty of opportunity for positive reforms, but none of that is ever going to happen like this.

I don't see how historians don't look back at all of this positively.

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Pontifex Maximus
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viclineal wrote:
Oh boy.

It is a situation that has a lot of layers to it, and it's still unfolding; I honestly have no idea how it's going to end. It would definitely require several long posts to contextualise properly.

In short:

- Yes, the Spanish government is IMO screwing up.
- However they have their reasons to do so. Rajoy, as much as I dislike him, is not an idiot.
- I'm not particularly sympathetic to the Catalan government, but
- I do want to vote on the 1st of October (it would my first time voting in ages).
- It's going to have political effects beyond Catalonia.
- The genie is out of the bottle and there are only a few ways in which this can end, mid-term.

I'll be happy to answer concrete questions before I find the time to write a longer post.


Was there a certain trigger event that caused this reaction? Because the NY Times noted this

Quote:
Recent opinion polls have shown support for Catalan independence waning, but they also show that most people in the region want the right to vote on Catalonia’s future.


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/20/world/europe/catalonia-re...

The Times article also talks about raids on printers and delivery shops seizing ballots and campaign material. Also stopping ads related to the referendum. This kind of action shows why independence from the National Government might be a good thing making the separatists case for them as it were

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Vic Lineal
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Nope. Nope nope nope nope.
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Kumitedad wrote:
Was there a certain trigger event that caused this reaction? Because the NY Times noted this


Yes and no. The immediate trigger is that the Catalan government convoked a self-determination referendum on the 1st of October . This referendum is not legal. However, the referendum is the end point of a two-years long "procés" that has seen an escalation of Catalan demands and no dialogue from the Spanish government.

Beyond the merit of the actual positions, the people in Catalonia have become convinced that there is no political space in Spain to discuss how Catalonia fits in Spain. [This is itself a question that hasn't been properly resolved for centuries.] Right or wrong, many people in Catalonia have reached a point where they think that nothing is to be won by insisting on negotiation because there's no one listening at the Spanish end of the phone line.

Quote:
Recent opinion polls have shown support for Catalan independence waning, but they also show that most people in the region want the right to vote on Catalonia’s future.


This is exactly right. The people actually supporting independence is down from a couple of years ago (now it's around 30% I think), but what has become an hegemonic position is Catalonia is that there should be a right to decide that; over 70% of the population supports a referendum.

With that sort of numbers, simply denying a referendum is unsustainable - that 70% of the Catalan electorate isn't going anywhere any time soon - but at the same time, the right wing Popular Party in Madrid is in a slow electoral decline and its base does want "mano dura" (a firm hand) against Catalonian independentists - it's a very popular position with its base.

The Spanish government has chosen to treat the problem as a strictly legal question: insisting that the referendum is illegal, repeatedly stating that it won't happen, and, now that the date is coming, using police to arrest Catalan officials and many people involved in the referendum. By "strictly legal" I mean that the government has rejected to consider the political content of the conflict; instead, the referendum is treated merely as a crime, as a technical legal question. It also has party political dimensions - the Rajoy government very narrowly avoided losing power a year and a half ago, and is now critically dependent on other political parties with disparate agendas.

Looking a bit further back, I'd probably say that the roots of the conflict lay in the mid-2000s, when a left wing coalition government in Catalonia upset many traditional balances of power. They put forward an Estatut, sort of a regional constitution, that was approved in both the Catalan and Spanish parliaments but which was later annulled by the current governing party. From then onwards, there has been an increasing gulf between Madrid and Barcelona that isn't so much a straightforward question of nationalism as it is a crucible in which many unresolved political questions in Spain are being expressed; in part, the starting point of the independentist "procés" was a Catalan regime crisis that involved the Occupy-style "indignados", rampant corruption, the emergence of Podemos and municipalism and unpopular austerity. However, the Spanish government in front of it was also experiencing similar duress, and reacted in very inflexible, very centralist ways, essentially refusing to sit down and talk seriously.

As a result, the "procés" grew steadily and eventually escaped the control of the Catalan nationalist far right that had set it off.

Quote:
The Times article also talks about raids on printers and delivery shops seizing ballots and campaign material. Also stopping ads related to the referendum. This kind of action shows why independence from the National Government might be a good thing making the separatists case for them as it were


Yes, yesterday was the first day that Catalan officials were arrested, but the requisition of ballots, campaign materials, etc. had been going on for a couple of weeks before; lots of mayors from small places that had announced support for the referendum had also been summoned to declare in court. The intent was clear cut; to weaken the logistics behind the referendum to make it materially impossible to happen.

There has also been intervention of money accounts and the Catalan finances are in a process of being taken over by the ministry in Madrid.

The Catalan officials that were arrested yesterday were important, but not vital - essentially part of the second line of power. I think it was a very calculated level of force, intended to convince first line leaders that they have a lot to lose.

I don't think it work as intended, though. I expect the referendum to actually occur.
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Pontifex Maximus
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Some of the latest

Quote:
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Barcelona, protesting the Spanish government and expressing support for a planned Oct. 1 vote on Catalan independence.

Spain considers the referendum to be illegal. On Wednesday, Spanish police with court-ordered search warrants seized millions of ballots and detained more than a dozen Catalonian politicians. A top treasury official is being held on sedition charges, the BBC reports.

Demonstrations against the police action have been roiling ever since, as Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid:

"It started peacefully, with some 40,000 protesters singing the Catalan national anthem outside a government building raided by Spanish Civil Guards. But clashes broke out overnight," she says. "Police cars were vandalised and Civil Guards trapped for hours inside a building.

"Catalan separatists have called for indefinite protests," Frayer reports.


http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/21/552596015/...

A couple of questions. A. Was Madrid really blind to the fact that this was the most likely outcome? B. What long range strategy to they have to cope with this crisis, or are they just working on short term damage control? Because they really providing the pro independence voices a gift from God as far as their cause is concerned
 
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Bill Cook
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Kumitedad wrote:
A couple of questions. A. Was Madrid really blind to the fact that this was the most likely outcome? B. What long range strategy to they have to cope with this crisis, or are they just working on short term damage control?


Pretty sure this is the thinking in Madrid:

- We can stop the referendum, and have people marching in the streets, or
- We can have the referendum and have people marching in the streets.

What you call a "crisis" is what they call "Thursday."
 
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Wendell
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Fans of Brexit in the UK can keep this in mind too -- Spain has no reason to go soft on the UK and/or make any reassuring noises to Scotland re its post-Brexit relations with the EU should Scotland split from the rest of the UK for fear of setting any precedents for Catalonia.

It's a mess.
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Pontifex Maximus
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Meanwhile...

Quote:
With tension mounting as Oct. 1 approaches, Spanish authorities contracted three ships usually used as ferries and brought them to northeastern Spain to provide accommodation for the additional security forces being deployed in the region. Authorities have not disclosed how many officers will be on duty
.

God I am hoping this was part of their backup plan all along and they just aren't winging it. Improvisation in situations like this usually end really really badly.

And when all else fails how about a nice naked threat

Quote:
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose opposition to the referendum has the support of the main opposition Socialist party, has warned Catalan leaders of “greater harm” if they don’t call off the referendum bid.


Because that always works so well in similar scenarios

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/catalan-pro-sece...

If we did not have a deranged kindergartener running the US right now, this would be getting a lot more attention here.
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