A sense of unreality hangs over Catalonia. There are the dreams and hopes of many citizens and public officials, and there is the incredulity of many others following the declaration of independence, in an intense Parliamentary session, approved by 71 out of 135 representatives.
President Puigdemont, who had been on the verge of calling a snap election, changed his strategy at the eleventh hour, at the very last minute, for two reasons. On the one hand, the failure of both sides to negotiate, despite the efforts of many mediators led by Basque president Íñigo Urkullu that lasted until Friday morning. Without direct conversations and from a starting point of enormous deep distrust, Puigdemont asked for guarantees that the PP government would not trigger Article 155, while in the Senate PP leaders García Albiol and Javier Arenas were weaving a narrative of revenge and institutional conquest. But there was a second reason. The Catalan president, an independence supporter since he was 15 years old, felt furious. Despite having carried forward an extraordinarily difficult mandate with very diverse colleagues, Puigdemont saw how his own people were calling him a "traitor". The man who had announced the calling of elections to his colleagues, who had provoked a strong implosion in the government and parties, justified it by saying that having promised to bring the country to "pre-independence", he did not now want to leave it in "pre-autonomy" due to the application of Article 155. But some opportunistic resignations and ferocious tweets prompted his change of heart and his decision to go all the way, regardless of the consequences. President Puigdemont surrendered to the weight of the dream.
NEW CARDS. The announced and much feared application of Article 155 was approved to the senators’ applause. The Jacobin majority in the Spanish higher chamber enthusiastically approved the devastation of Catalan self-rule within a country that is theoretically decentralized, thanks to a concession from the Transition that it will now have the golden opportunity to rectify.
The bureaucratic machinery of the State was set in motion to penetrate the Catalan administration down to the marrow of its bones, and Rajoy delegated duties to his deputy and to Enric Millo, the representative of the Spanish government in Catalonia.
The first blow of authority came with the decapitation of the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force. Spain’s Interior Minister, who should have resigned over the ineptitude shown in the Catalan crisis, the man who gave the order to beat thousands of peaceful citizens who were protecting polling places throughout Catalonia on October 1st, and who was unable to intercept even one single ballot box, remains in the Spanish cabinet, while the man who dismantled a jihadist cell on August 17th and opted for avoiding violence outside Barcelona’s Finance Ministry HQ on September 20th is removed from office and indicted. The firing of Josep Lluís Trapero exemplifies the complexity of the situation, the leverage that the Spanish State has thanks to its executive powers and the Public Prosecutor. At the same time, the transition within the Mossos d'Esquadra has revealed that the Catalan police will keep within the hierarchical discipline of the corps, this now under the orders of Article 155 legality. The fiction —irresponsibly fueled by some politicians— that the Catalan police can be allowed to act differently under Spanish direction ends here.
The real surprise factor over the last few hours has been Rajoy dissolving the Catalan parliament and calling a snap election for December 21st. The Spanish PM has made a political move. This scenario forces a re-thinking of strategies and to make them public, out of respect for the people.
The president, removed from office by the State, with the institution of government and all of its instruments taken over by Madrid and a very fragile declaration of the Republic, as shown by its financial insufficiency and the lack of international recognition, issued a message calling for "patience, perseverance, and perspective" in "democratic opposition" to Article 155. In the coming hours we will find out the strategy for the day after the declaration, as well as its solidity. The leaked conversations from the Court 13 brief in which the Catalan Treasury Secretary admits the limitations of the tax collection figure by a Catalan Revenue service and strives to withhold financial details from the president's circles, are bad news for the people involved intensely and trustingly in the strategy planned for the day after. "It isn't ready, and anyone with half a brain knows it", they say in the brief.
Puigdemont made no reference yesterday to the calling of elections in Catalonia by the Spanish government, which will open an intense debate. To analyze it, it is necessary to know what the planned resistance strategy is and to be realistic with the desolate outlook outside of the institutions. With high office holders removed, Catalan ministers without infrastructure or even security details, and the Treasury, signatures, and decisions intervened, the defense of the institution is in the hands of people in the streets. Political leaders must be very responsible, aware, and careful of the costs that all this could mean, depending on what is asked of the general public.
The debate over participation in or boycott of the elections will be heated. With what objective, what platform, what formula? In the end the key question is how to recover the Generalitat, and it will be necessary to evaluate the consequences for the next few years for the two parallel legitimacies. One with the strength of the streets and the other with the force of the State.