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The Spanish Government’s Great Blunder on Catalonia

BY KRAIG PIERCE AND DANIEL SAENZ

On October 1, the regional government of Catalonia drafted a document that would officially declare its independence from Spain. This move followed a rather controversial referendum that was approved by the Catalan parliament in late September. The referendum wound up winning by 90% despite the fact that it has been illegal in Spain for territories to break off from the central government since 1978. Such a strong desire for self-determination in Catalonia is not unprecedented.

Catalonian independence goes all the way back to the 12th Century. Originally an autonomous region on the Iberian Peninsula of Europe, Catalonia lost its independence once a local count of Barcelona married the Queen of Aragon. With this, Catalonia became a part of the Kingdom of Aragon. By the 15th Century, the arranged marriage between King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile would finally unite all of the various regions on the Iberian Peninsula into what is now known as Spain.

Nonetheless, Catalonia retained its autonomy and was allowed to have its own parliament, speak its own language, and was even allowed to veto taxes if it so desired. The resentment between Spain and Catalonia began, however, when the Spanish kingdom taxed Catalonia without its consent during a war with France during the mid-1600s. After that, Catalonia’s autonomy would fluctuate up until the 20th Century. The independence movement would eventually be crushed once Fransisco Franco took power during the 1930s. Catalan became illegal to speak and participants in the independence movement were kidnapped, tortured, and killed throughout Franco’s tenure. Once Franco died in the late 70s, however, the movement regained ground as showcased by this recent referendum.

Unfortunately, the Spanish government is once again using draconian measures to deal with independence ambitions in Catalonia. Days before the referendum was scheduled to take place. Spanish police have been filmed raiding voting offices and beating demonstrators bloody. Following the independence victory, the Catalan Congress has been completely disbanded with several Catalan leaders arrested. The United Kingdom has set the best example by consistently allowing Scotland to vote for independence every year. Consequently, the independence vote always loses as there is no violence or hostility to embolden such a movement. The Spanish government should respect the wishes of the Catalan people and allow them to vote without further inflaming hostilities.

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