Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s violent crackdown against peaceful Catalan voters on Sunday is being compared by some to the Fascist clampdowns of dictator Generalísimo Francisco Franco.4,000 members of the Guardia Civil were shipped to Barcelona and are currently living aboard large cruisers off the Catalan coast while they brutally enforce Spanish law.
Ironically, the Franco dictatorship removed Rajoy’s own grandfather from his job as a university professor for his role as an architect of the Autonomy of Galicia, in the northwestern region of Spain, where Rajoy was born and raised.
Since the death of Franco in 1977, the Spanish State has been undergoing a slow process of devolution, with Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country declaring themselves “nationalities” and gaining self-government. Most of Spain’s other regions have followed suit.
Carles Puigdemont, leader of Catalonia’s Autonomous Community has said, “We have no problem with Spaniards. We have nothing against Spain. We have a problem against the Spanish State and the Spanish political system.” Evidently, he also has no problem with the EU and would like to have Catalonia deal directly with Brussels, similarly to what Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has suggested for her country, the majority of whom did not vote for Brexit. There is currently no legal framework for this, however.
Sturgeon has shown support for Catalan independence, as have politicians from Belgium’s Flanders region, who have also called for secession. Between Brexit, the other “-exits”, these independence movements and others around the world, the very idea of nationhood is being shaken up.
For pro-independence Catalans, the fight for freedom goes back to 1714, when Spain’s King Philip V captured Barcelona, then part of the culturally/linguistically distinct Kingdom of Aragon. Break out the popcorn, because whatever happens in Spain over the next few weeks is sure to be interesting!