The Spanish government in Madrid says that it will suspend regional autonomy and impose direct rule on Catalonia from Thursday 19 October unless president Carles Puigdemont abandons his push for independence for the territory.
A Madrid clampdown would, soon if not immediately, lead to violent clashes such as happened when the Spanish government tried to stop Catalonia’s 1 October referendum. The Catalan police might well side with the Catalan government against Spanish government forces.
On 10 October Catalan president Carles Puigdemont fell short of a full-scale declaration of independence, instead making a “symbolic” declaration to the Catalan parliament which he then immediately “suspended”, calling for negotiations with the Spanish state and international mediation.
The Spanish government has tried to face down Puigdemont, demanding he confirm whether he’s actually declared independence or not. Puigdemont has refused. Spanish police have already arrested two pro-independence politicians on charges of sedition, Jordi Sànchez of the ANC (Catalan National Assembly) and Jordi Cuixart of the Catalanist political and cultural institution Omnium.
The Puigdemont government had hoped that a referendum would force Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy into granting concessions on further autonomy. The conservative Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, with one eye on right-wing and anti-Catalan sentiment in his voter base, called Puigdemont’s bluff and sent cops to try to repress the referendum with police methods.
Both Puigdemont and Rajoy are caught in awkward positions. Puigdemont is being pushed towards a declaration of independence which he probably wasn’t planning on: on the latest polls this year, there is as yet no clear majority in Catalonia for independence. The Spanish government is moving to more and more autocratic measures, feeding a crisis that is damaging Spain’s diplomatic position and sending panic through the economy.
We are not for Catalan separatism. We believe that whatever extra autonomy is necessary to satisfy Catalan rights can be won without setting up new border posts — not under the current Rajoy regime, but within a feasible time. Yet the issue can be settled democratically only by free decisions, without coercion, of the Catalan people themselves. The priority now must be to demand for an end to repression from Madrid and to oppose the revoking of regional autonomy or the taking of political prisoners.