martes, 17 de octubre de 2017

Catalan brinksmanship

With the streets and squares of Catalunya once again filled to the brim, this time to denounce the imprisonment of our two political prisoners, the bearded Jordi's (see last night's entry), it is time to cast a cool eye on how the fight for independence is fought. Catalans are correct when they claim Madrid is playing a dirty game, abusing its constitutional powers to wage economic warfare on one of its constituting regions. And they are also right in portraying it as a David versus Goliath struggle, where the underlying party has nothing to offer but its good looks. This doesn't mean, though, that Catalunya is playing it fair. Hell, no, they are just as mean and vulgar. The only difference lies in the amount of power both adversaries can bring to the battle field, money and guns versus mere image. So, why you may think poor Catalunya is the underdog in need of rescue, this certainly is not how the game is being conducted in Barcelona at the moment. Let me fill you in on a few details concerning the “process”.

First of all, Catalunya is in it to win it. The last time around they took on the force, they hopelessly lost, leading to one of the darkest periods in its thousand year long history. And when Partido Popular was founded and Aznar became prime-minister, they immediately knew that bad times were dangerously close again. I have no direct access to the realms of power around Plaça Sant Jaume, but it seems logical already then first plans were drafted to escape from Madrid's increasingly suffocating grasp. With Zapatero things looked much brighter, almost too bright, as he seriously intended to modernize Spanish society and even admitted to his affinity with Football Club Barcelona, unheard of for a prime-minister. Luckily, there was opposition leader Mariano Rajoy to keep us angry with his signature campaign against the recently approved Catalan statute, the one he would have his friends in the justice system throw in the dustbin a few years down the road, just before he himself rose to the highest office. As minister of the interior under Aznar, Rajoy was personally responsible for the width of the 2002 tragedy with the oil tanker Prestige, as he, against all expert advice to leave the ship where it was as it was bound to break up and have it destroy one bay rather than half the coast of Galicia, decided to have it slept to open seas, where it broke and spoiled hundreds of kilometres of beautiful coastline for years to come. Just to give you a measure of the man's incompetence and arrogance.
With the scene set for another difficult period, Catalan fears were guided towards the independence movement which filled the streets of Barcelona on their national day of 11 September, when they are commemorating their defeat in the Spanish war of succession back in 1714. For a while, 15M seemed to push the indepes aside for a nationwide uprising, but when Spaniards refused to vote Podemos in sufficient numbers, and Rajoy helped out the second time around, it was back to secession again. Why independence, you may ask? Wouldn't another solution, more liberties within the Spanish state for instance, gather wider support? Definitely so, but the independence leaders were convinced from the start they could only win. They wanted the best deal, which was total freedom. Although demographic realities made it hard to ever garner sufficient backing (lots of people with Spanish ties who oppose independence for sometimes quite childish reasons and lots of poor immigrants who prefer to keep their mouth shut) they knew they would never need full democratic endorsement as long as they played the game cleverly. What was required was high turn-outs on 11.9 and sweeping majorities in unofficial referendums which would likely see only the independence minded cast their vote. Both they got. When pro-independence parties conquered parliament in 2015 with the slightest of majorities, the stage was set for Catalunya's own infotainment show. From then on, it was the media friendly powerless democrats against the cruel, stupid, unsavoury autocrats unjustly wielding their force. So when the planned referendum of 1-O was declared illegal, they knew they would win it by votes, as every next threat emanating from Madrid refrained more no-voters from showing up at the polls. And indeed, the results showed 91% in favour of a Catalan republic, 3% against and 6% blank. If only everybody had got the chance to vote freely, we would have won it by a landslide, the indepes now were able to claim. The fact that police chose to beat up voters rather than block access to polling stations, under these circumstances was like manna from heaven. Poor, bruised democrats. See for yourself, international community, how Madrid handles people's desire to speak up. They say we are terrorists for wanting to break an unjust law, but tell us who the real terrorists are. And now the two Jordi's, every day there's a new disgrace.

It is important to understand the Catalan elites, those with vested interests in the town's well-being, personified by insider Artur Mas, have long ago concluded only independence could harness their economy against Madrid's power abuse, likely around the time Jordi Puyol stopped being a mayor player. And now they are going to get it. After many failed attempts, this time is their run in. Catalunya will be independent, whether as a separate republic or with a status aparte inside the existing borders. To get the Catalans back in line, Madrid will have no other option but to resort to violence and this will make them lose the battle of justice in the eyes of a watchful world. The only question remaining is, will the European Union step in before people are dying or rather afterwards?

I leave you with the video prepared by Òmnium Cultural in case their leader Jordi Cuixart would be sent to jail, as happened yesterday: Help Catalunya. Though the young woman's words are correct and the emotions she is acting are truly felt by many, she is not telling the whole story. Then again, who cares. It's all about saving Barcelona's economy from the idiots in Madrid. Visca Catalunya!

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