By Nimra Noor, International News Writer
On Thursday, October 19, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s office sent out an official statement that in order to curb the uprising secession movement in Catalonia, it would invoke Article 155 of the constitution, a provision described as a “nuclear option,” that allows the central government in Madrid to suspend the autonomy of the Catalan regional administration, according to CNN.
In response to the government’s deadline of October 19 for Catalonia to clarify its stance on independence, the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, sent out a letter to the Prime Minister, calling for a dialogue before following the mandate for independence, as per the independence referendum held on Sunday, October 1. Despite that it was declared illegal by the Spanish central government for Catalonia to hold a referendum for independence, which it thought “only served to cause serious harm to coexistence among Spaniards,” the voting was held anyway by the Catalan regional authorities. According to BBC, Spain’s supreme court has deemed the vote illegal, stating that it violates the constitution which illustrates the country as indivisible. BBC reports 2.2 million people to have voted out of 5.3 million people who could have voted. According to the Catalan authorities, just under 90% of those who voted backed independence.
Violence sparked when the Spanish government sent the police troops to shut down electronic voting systems and seal off schools to prevent the vote on Sunday. According to the Human Rights Watch, there were many incidents of excessive force used by the police when confronting demonstrators in Catalonia, using batons to hit non-threatening protesters and causing multiple injuries. Besides the initial insistence that “all actions by law enforcement officers were prudent, appropriate and proportionate to the objective of ensuring compliance with the law and the rights of all citizens,” there was an apology sent out by the central government for the police interventions during a television interview.
The need for Catalonians to have a referendum of freedom is not an incident of today, but their struggle can be traced back to four centuries. Although their continued effort made the Spanish government grant the Catalan Republic a state of autonomy in 1932, the Catalan nationalist movement was crushed when Francisco Franko came to power in 1939. However, the region got back its autonomy after Franko’s demise. In the present day, Catalonians nationalists enjoy more freedom and power than most other parts of Spain. Nonetheless, some of the residents still think that it is not enough for them, along with the budgetary issue of paying more in taxes than getting back from investments in services such as schools and hospitals, which is the primary reason which accounts for the need to vote on the issue of an independent state. Correspondingly, the majority voting in favor to see Catalonia as an independent nation stood victorious. However, those who chose to remain loyal to the Spanish central government pointed out that at least 6 in 10 voters stayed home.
As the loyalists and the separatists swarm the streets of Barcelona, Spain confronts a serious political and economic crisis. There has been a drastic decline in the tourist industry due to the instability, along with the fear from financial experts to see the Spanish bonds and stock market decline if the central and Catalan government fail to come to any agreement, according to Euro News.
Madrid plans on starting to take away Catalonia’s autonomous status after the passing of the deadline for independence declaration. At an emergency meeting on October 21, Rajoy “outlined plans to remove Catalonia’s leaders and take control of the separatist region.” Additionally, the government may take control of TV3, Catalonia’s public broadcaster, according to El País newspaper. The ball is in Puigdemont’s court once again, as the world awaits to see where Spain’s political and economic situation flows in the upcoming days.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 24th print edition.
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