Only a few days ago, the Catalan Parliament proclaimed independence from the rest of Spain. It was a very exciting moment for a lot of catalans who have followed closely the political process during these past few years. The Spanish government’s reply was almost instantanious, however, with the Spanish Senate approving a motion which allowed article 155 of the Consitution to be applied. This article – which had never been used in the Spanish democracy – allowed the shutdown of the catalan autonomy, the removal of its government and the control of regional security forces and media. Even more recently, a high court judge gave the former regional government officials prison sentences which could amount to almost half a century.
But how did we get to this situation? If we go back a few years, specifically to 2010, we can find the origin of the rise of the catalan independence movement, which helps to answer this question. On the 10th of July of that year, the Spanish Constitutional Court – the highest body with the power to determine the constitutionality of certain acts and statutes – modified many articles of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, which works as a regional Magna Carta. This sentence passed by the Consitutional Court, which was requested by the Popular Party, caused indignation amongst a great deal of Catalans, with over 1 million people taking to the streets in order to express their discontent. It is from this moment when support to catalan independence has done nothing but increase.
The Popular Party, undisputed heir of the fascist dictatorship lead by Francisco Franco for almost fourty decades in Spain, took over the Spanish Government after their election victory in 2011. Since then, their strategy has been to avoid providing an answer to the worries of Catalan citizens, who only asked for their self-government system to be respected. Instead, the Mariano Rajoy Administration has tried time after time to censor the voice of those who demanded more freedom, deny their national identity and suppress the language and culture of a nation with over a thousand years of history.
Recent events, like the many pro-independence demonstrations which have taken place every year since 2012, have proven the clear will of a great part of Catalonia de break away from the rest of Spain. In addition, the greatest argument of pro-independence forces has been pacifism, as these protests have occurred without any form of violence, despite continued repression from the Spanish government like the police brutality during the referendum which took place just over a month ago.
The future is uncertain, as nobody knows what is going to happen these next few months. The Rajoy Administration seems adamant to carry on with its repression of catalan institutions and government officials so as to mantain the unity of Spain. One thing is for certain, however, and that is that if this is the case, the catalan people will carry on defending their most valuable idea: freedom.
This article was written in collaboration with Tomàs Garcia-Espot