The referendum was officially declared according to Catalan law and was immediately ruled to be illegal under Spanish law. A clash of legitimacy has already taken place. The state shows its strength by threatening the President of the Catalan government, the Speaker of the House, the Parliamentary Bureau and the entire government with imprisonment and financial ruin, while hundreds of senior officials and mayors risk being banned from holding public office. The crime in question? Calling the voters to the polls on 1 October.
For several weeks now, some government suppliers have been receiving intimidating visits, with law firms not being immune to such practices. The objective is to make it clear that any company can be wiped off the map for the merest infraction. That Spain’s Guardia Civil might knock on their door at any moment or that tax inspectors —who in their diligence, are bound to find something amiss— might also pay them a visit.
Such threats lead to conversations that are reminiscent of an earlier, darker era. As Oscar Wilde wittily observed, just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they aren’t after you. The major players aren’t going to make things easy for those who are trying to frustrate their plans. For several months, meetings have been held without the presence of mobile phones, which are kept in special boxes to prevent them from recording conversations, in case they have been bugged, and systems to avoid anyone outside the building from eavesdropping electronically. For months, there have been meetings where the location isn’t released until the last minute and in which many people are aware they are taking a big risk. Them and their families. However, there is also a determination to stay strong, in spite of the fact that the landscape and the route are not optimal and may even appear unpleasant to some its protagonists. The majority of Catalans will continue to support and remain loyal to their government.
With the decision being made to hold a referendum, Spain has gone from employing threats to punishment. The ‘trainwreck’ has already happened. The Spanish State knows it is more powerful than what it sees as a bunch of idealistic politicians from a small peripheral parliament. Nevertheless, it is underestimating Catalonia’s ability to fight and resist. The majority of Catalans want to vote and will end up doing so. Independence will ultimately win, either now or in the near future, since Spain has no project and it is in its very nature to despise diversity, so feared by Spain’s ruling elite.
The PP government knows that the battle will be won abroad and it is down to the European Union to act as a moderating force against its deaf and monolithic nature. It speaks of proportionality, yet it won’t reveal its strategy prior to 11 September [Catalonia’s National Day] to avoid causing public outrage. But nature is nature and one must not rule out any coercive measure in an attempt to silence those who wish to express themselves.
Catalonia has gained international support when it has shown its civic-mindedness, its practical intelligence and its perseverance. Over the last five years Catalonia has lost the sympathy of the international media when it has jumped the gun or has been overly direct, and it has won it massive peaceful rallying and exposing the bias inherent in Madrid’s economic or infrastructure decisions, for the benefit of a capital that acts like a black hole sucking up resources.
The role of the Catalan government has almost come to an end and now the baton will be passed to the people. Violence is not an option on any side.
It is time to take responsibility and also for everyone to know what their role is. Not to abdicate responsibilities, but also not to make life easy for those who want us silent and submissive. Nobody knows what will happen in the coming weeks or to what lengths the Spanish government is prepared to go, bound as they are to those who wish to wipe a fundamental political issue off of the map of Spain. But Catalan is not spoken out of a sense of annoying obstinacy and neither will a nation’s conscience disappear by throwing a whole generation of politicians in jail. Spain is facing a major institutional crisis and it is doing so without the help of politics. The Rajoy government has many coercive instruments at its disposal, but it is also guilty of not having made a thorough analysis of the reality in Catalonia, of having fought against a Statute that was a final gesture to resolve the coexistence between different nations, of not having had the courage to reform an unfair financing system that puts the brakes on an indisputable economic engine. Rajoy's lack of courage ought to have consequences for a Spain that accepts such a weak democracy.
Only the people have the capacity to ensure the next steps are taken with dignity. Everyone knows how they can best serve their country and their role and their place in achieving this objective. Here at ARA we will do so by guaranteeing the freedom of expression, the veracity of information and the freedom of opinion. The only useful newspaper is one that continues informing accurately and publishing the most diverse opinions. Information and opinions that some would prefer to silence. We will not make it easy for them.