Opinion

Published on November 14th, 2017 | by Ferran Gonzalez

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Humble region fighting for independence

On Oct. 27, the region of Catalonia (Spain) famously known for its capital Barcelona declared independence from the Spanish state. The consequences of declaring the new republic of Catalonia have caused the unjustified detention of major representatives within the leading political party in this region, including the vice-governor. The governor, Carles Puigdemont, on the other hand, traveled to Belgium seeking European political support for his region’s independence bid. It seems like it is a matter of time until he’s accused for sedition, rebellion, misuse of funds, abuse of authority and contempt. Thus, with all this political turmoil happening in Catalonia, we as critical citizens should be questioning and condemning that first world countries still have political prisoners.

It seems like the referendum held two weeks ago, in which the yes vote overwhelmingly dominated the results, with a 92 percent (2,044,038) against 8 percent (177,547) voting to remain in Spain, hasn’t called the president’s attention. Instead, his tactics seem to rely more on using force and the rhetoric that he’s simply following the sacred Constitution (which in fact was greatly influenced by the successors of the dictator Francisco Franco after his death), to justify the arrestment of the separatist group. What the Spanish president doesn’t realize is that he is simply delaying, and frustrating the people who want to vote democratically.

To understand this critical situation in which Spain finds itself, we need to look back many years ago. In 1714, the regions of Catalonia as well as Aragon (another Spanish region), were part of a separate kingdom from the Castilian Kingdom that later developed into what is now known as Spain. A war took place between the two with major European involvements that benefited Castillia rather than Aragon. Thus, a year later, the defeated Kingdom of Aragon (Catalonia) was annexed by Castilla (Spain). This anecdote clearly illustrates the origins of today’s problem because the winner imposed its culture and language over the loser, seeking to eliminate any little remaining Catalan sentiment.

Centuries passed and the relationship between Spain and Catalonia improved at times, depending on how comprehensive the kings and leaders taking power were. While some understood that a good way of maintaining the alliance was by giving more autonomy to Catalonia and respecting their language and institutions, others simply kept repressing the region more and more until reaching the point where their language was prohibited during Franco’s years. Essentially, the dictator was looking for the benefits of his country, believing that such a delicate issue could be solved with force. However, his method proved to create more anger among the Catalan people.

The Catalan problem can be broken down into four different categories:

 

  1. Financial factor: Catalonia is in a similar situation as California when it comes to contributing to the central government, yet in the U.S., all the states have the freedom to administer the money produced within their territory. Once all the money is spent for different purposes, all the states have to pay a proportional amount of money of their GDP to Washington D.C. However, in Spain, only two of the 17 national states have this type of autonomy and Catalonia isn’t one of them. Instead, the disadvantaged region has to pay what it produces right away to the capital and wait to receive an unfair amount to the one given. In other words, if Catalonia contributes to the nation with 10 dollars, when the time to receive money comes, only 6 dollars come back.      

 

  1. Cultural Factor: In a continent as old as Europe, almost any small territory is culturally different from its neighbor. For instance, even though France and Germany geographically touch each other, when comparing the differences between their customs and lifestyles, we see many distinctions regardless of their proximity. With that being said, if the Catalan crisis shows us anything, it is that understanding another person’s culture and background is key to keeping a diverse population unified.

 

  1. Unfair treatment: As mentioned before, Catalonia’s separatist notion didn’t arise within a day. The anger towards the national government has been increased throughout the years after being victim to complete ignorance. Thus, the desire of auto-administration, economically talking, has come from less infrastructural investments in the Catalan region in comparison with other places in the country. We have that issue now in the U.S.; the emphasis on nationalism seems to discount, even ignore, the cultures of our country’s immigrants, but paradoxically, instead of bringing together a nation, the emphasis on having one culture has driven people apart. Our country is more divided than ever. What is happening in Spain could easily happen in U.S.

 

  1. Desire of a better country: Representing Spain’s 19% GDP and having such a strong capital like Barcelona, Catalonia could be a dreamy country project. Because, with Spain’s unemployment rate as high as 17%, massive corruption within the ruling political parties, controversial traditions, imposed monarchy, monopoly power among the elites and a still present influence of the dead dictator, who wants to be part of such country?   

 

In conclusion, the celebrated referendum was unconstitutional and therefore the independence of Catalonia will not last too long. Without going any further, the Spanish government has shut down the legitimacy of the Catalan president, meaning that the declared independence is somewhat fake and useless. Spain has taken control of all their institutions and is planning on celebrating elections in Catalonia to change the leaders that led the cause that are currently being put in jail for sedition to the state. However, the emergence of a separatist sentiment doesn’t disappear with new elections or threats like many world leaders believe. The result of kicking the can down the road will in the long run create more problems rather than focusing on the seemingly simplest way out to the complex puzzle; celebrating a legal referendum supported by the Spanish state to know once for all what the majority desires.

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