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“Occupation” Forces Booted from Catalonia: What’s Next?

Courtesy of Mish.

10,000 police from Spain tried to stop a Catalonia independence referendum but failed.

In the wake of the referendum, in which 90% voted for independence, Catalans now refer to the Spanish police as an occupation force.

Mayors in two cities booted 500 of them. What’s Next?

Anti-Police Strike Hits Public Services

The above images from the BBC article Anti-police strike hits public services.

Insurrection Comments from Eurointelligence

We don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call what has been going on in Catalonia for the past four weeks – not four days – an insurrection. After the show of popular mobilization at Sunday’s independence vote, the next step is a “national stoppage” today.

There have also been serious incidents between Spanish security forces and the public which, though limited so far, could easily escalate. People are beginning to refer to the over 10,000 officers brought in from outside Catalonia as “occupation forces”. 500 National Police and Guardia Civil have been asked to leave three hotels in the town of Calella, and at least one in the town of Pineda del Mar. This is the result of political pressure on the hotels from the mayors, following a confrontation in Calella between some of the Guardia Civil officers and the public. Late on Sunday evening a group of about 200 people gathered in front of one of the hotels to protest Sunday’s events. At one point a small group of Guardia Civil left the hotel in plain clothes, but armed with batons, and charged the protesters through the police cordon set up by the Catalan regional police.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the tone of the official reaction from the EU and the other member states shifted somewhat. To the usual endorsements of the Spanish constitution and reminders that this is an internal issue of Spain, now officials add calls for dialogue. The first came on Sunday afternoon in a tweet from Belgium’ PM (@CharlesMichel), who has since been joined by the German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel. At Monday’s midday briefing, the European Commission also issued a statement with these new elements:

“We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue. Violence can never be an instrument in politics. We trust the leadership of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish Constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein.”

We don’t share the Commission’s trust in Rajoy’s leadership. As yesterday’s Financial Times editorial recalls,

“The original sin of Spain’s central authorities, and of Mr. Rajoy’s conservative Popular party, was to torpedo a revised statute of autonomy for Catalonia agreed in 2006 and partially struck down in 2010 by the Spanish constitutional court.”

The PP’s torpedoing was the constitutionality complaint that led to the 2010 ruling, which goes to show that the instrumentalization of the Spanish constitutional court for political purposes is standard operating procedure for Rajoy.

On Sunday, Rajoy promised to convene all political parties represented in the Spanish parliament. Yesterday he met successively the leaders of PSOE, Pedro Sánchez; and Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera. Rajoy is ready to study any proposals that other political parties make, “well understood that they are moved by seeking the common good and the defense of [Spain’s] democratic system”. Sources from other political parties, from Podemos to the Basque Nationalist Party to the parties in the Catalan regional government PDeCat and ERC, tell El Plural that they have not yet been contacted by the PM’s office to schedule meetings.

What, no Catalan independence yet?

If you thought Catalonia would declare independence 48 hours after Sunday’s referendum and were holding your breath in anticipation, you can breathe now. The declaration of independence is supposed to come within two days of the official proclamation of results, which has not happened yet, and cannot happen today given that the Catalan government will take part in the national stoppage. A declaration of independence can come no earlier than Friday and might be delayed further.

The central scenario continues to be a declaration of independence, to which the Spanish government is likely to react by invoking Art 155 of the Spanish constitution allowing it to commandeer a recalcitrant regional government. Government sources told the press last month that this can be done in five days, as there are some formalities including requiring the regional government in question to take corrective action, followed by a vote of the Spanish Senate to authorize the proposed intervention measures. A minimal intervention would be for the Spanish government to call a snap Catalan election, which would dissolve the current Catalan parliament and put the Catalan government in caretaker mode, but otherwise would not constitute an abolition of Catalan self-government.

If the Spanish government does invoke article 155, however, it’s likely that there would be street protests. Although the Spanish government has deployed over 10,000 National Police and Guardia Civil from outside Catalonia to maintain order, it would probably not be wise for the Spanish government to use them as they are already being accused of being “occupation forces”.

More cynical commentators suggest that the Catalan government will delay independence indefinitely, in hopes of drawing Rajoy into a negotiation. A unilateral declaration of independence is unlikely to garner much international support unless there is another violent crackdown by the Spanish government. The longer pent-up tension is allowed to build up, the more likely that becomes.

Reflections on Catalonia


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