Catalonia should be able to vote on independence without fear of being overrun by Spain
Christine Beyleveldt // News Editor
Independence has been a pressing concern to the people of Catalonia for centuries, and today the region of Spain at least deserves to vote on the issue without the Spanish Government violently interfering.
Catalonia’s government went ahead with an independence referendum on Oct. 1 — even after Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended it — but was met with brutal opposition.
Spanish security forces seized ballot boxes and fired rubber bullets into crowds of people in an attempt to shut down the vote. Hundreds were injured and even though less than 50 per cent of the population were able to cast votes, over 2.2 million votes were counted at the end of the day and 90 per cent were in favour of independence.
Referendum advocates pointed out that the excessive police force was a blight not only on the Spanish government, but Spanish democracy itself, which is relatively young and memories of Francisco Franco’s fascist rule are still fresh.
Marketplace reported that Catalonia’s motive for holding the referendum may have been economic, as the region has been propping up the entire Spanish government amidst an economic crisis that has been ongoing since 2008.
During the police raids voters chanted “this is what happened with Franco.” To make matters worse, Spain gave Catalonia an Oct. 16 deadline to make their decision on the matter of independence, which they failed to meet
Later that same day, two prominent independence leaders from the Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural were arrested and imprisoned on charges of sedition. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange tweeted that “Spain just created its first high level political prisoners over Catalonia’s referendum.”
Catalonia has given Spain plenty of headaches in the past, similar to the way the Quebec population has felt resentment towards Canada. Like Quebec, Catalonia has its own set of customs and culture, with an entirely distinctive language to the rest of Spain.
The last independence referendum Quebec held was in 1995, which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled to be illegal after the vote. In that year, there were no armed police with batons beating back the people who turned out to vote. There are a lot of parallels that can be drawn between Catalonia and Quebec, one of which is the country’s response to a determined independence movement.
While Spain clearly needs Catalonia given the economic crisis they’re in, they won’t wear down the movement’s resolve by denying them the right to vote or by refusing to negotiate with leaders of the independence movement. Now, if Catalonia does separate from Spain, it will be disastrous for both of their economies. Over 35 per cent of Catalonia’s imports are from Spain and on the flip side of the coin Catalonia accounts for 20 per cent of Spain’s gross domestic product.
However, the region should be allowed to vote without fear of citizens being arrested or beaten by Spanish police. There is a strong link between the modern Spanish government’s reaction to Catalonia’s push for independence and Franco’s similar hardline approach. When the fascist dictator was in power, the Government of Catalonia was shut down and even the Catalan language was forbidden.
The term “fascism” is thrown around a lot today, but its real definition is the total control of the people through government force. A fascist government allows no opportunity to vote and no freedom to protest it. This kind of political response from the Spanish authority is one that people should be concerned with and speak out against if we’re to prevent any nation in the western world from falling into tyranny again.