Catalan people seek independence - The Echo News
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Catalan people seek independence

Editorial Board | Echo

Freshman News columnist Bree Bailey informed our readership of what’s happening on the northeast coast of Spain, in a region known as Catalan (i.e. where Barcelona is situated) in the Oct. 27 issue of The Echo.

On Oct. 1, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont issued an independence vote for his citizens, a move deemed illegal and undemocratic by the Spanish government in Madrid. Spanish police seized control of some polling places, but of the votes collected, 90 percent of Catalan citizens cast a vote for Catalan independence from Spain.

For weeks, Puigdemont was expected to formally declare independence, and for weeks, Madrid threatened to take control of Catalan institutions. On Oct. 27, each side fulfilled its promise.

Puigdemont fled to Brussels, Belgium, after being charged with rebellion, and he remains there in self-imposed exile. Madrid dissolved the Catalan parliament, indicted numerous secessionist leaders and scheduled new regional elections for Dec. 21, 2017. Since last week, secessionist parties have been gearing up for an electoral battle come December.

Demonstrators take to the streets of Barcelona, waving Catalonian flags. (Photograph provided by Wikimedia Commons.)

Demonstrators take to the streets of Barcelona, waving Catalonian flags. (Photograph provided by Wikimedia Commons.)

Needless to say, Spain has been thrust into major political turmoil. But this isn’t the first Catalonian push for independence — only the most motivated effort.

“The Catalans have been fighting for independence for a very long time,” said sophomore Christian ministries major Emmanuel Boateng, whose family currently resides in Catalonia.

The Catalan people are distinct in many ways from the rest of the country. They have their own language and customs. They’ve always held some level of economic autonomy. Why do they want to secede now? Boateng shared that perhaps they feel it is their time to break free.

There’s a long history of suppression stemming from the Spanish central government in Madrid, as Associate Professor of Philosophy Brad Seeman indicated.

“Spain languished under Franco’s dictatorship from 1939 to 1975, and that background profoundly shapes the current political landscape,” said Seeman, who travels to the Basque region of Spain every other year to teach Contemporary Christian Belief. “Catalonia and the Basque Country were suppressed for decades, and that is very much in living memory.”

At multiple points in Spanish history, Madrid has violated the economic autonomy of Catalonia. It is, after all, the wealthiest region of Spain, revolving around their port metropolis, Barcelona. The instance that has focused this particular effort is from 2008. Spain experienced a major recession, and Madrid taxed Catalonia heavily to relieve the debt burden. Of course, the Catalan people found this unfair. Why must they shoulder Madrid’s economic troubles?

This brings us to October. Puigdemont is calling Madrid’s interference in the Catalan independence referendum an assault on democracy, and yet, few outside of the region itself support the independence movement. European Union (EU) leaders vowed to not recognize Catalonia’s legitimacy as an independent state.

“It makes no sense (for Catalonia to secede),” said sophomore film & media production major Yanira Trujillo, whose family resides in the Spanish-held Canary Islands. “It’s like they saw London leaving the EU . . . they’re like, ‘Oh! Now they did it, I can do it too,’” Trujillo said.

In fact, there is a clear individualist trend we’re seeing in Europe. Several other European nations are fielding independence movements as well — Scotland (from the United Kingdom), Bavaria (from Germany) and Veneto (from Italy) to name a few — although these have not been as internationally dramatic as Catalonia’s recent push.

Many, then, believe that, despite Catalonia’s cultural and economic differences, only a unified Spain could solve the debt crisis. Indeed, some say the real-world costs of an independent Catalonia would be too much to bear, even if their independence would exist in an ideal world.

Certainly the EU feels that weight. So, on the one hand, an entire region is denied the freedom to declare economic autonomy, which they requested by referendum — when 90 percent of a population agrees, they ought to be heard. On the other, an international community is panicked about the chaos that could ensue.

Of course, it’s a highly nuanced and emotional situation. For now, we look toward the parliamentary elections on Dec. 21. Should secessionist parties win a majority of seats, we could see a more legitimized independence effort.

“Right now, my hope is that there would be peace on the 21st of December when the Catalans are voting,” Boateng said. “(I hope) for Spain and Europe to respect the outcome of the voting . . . I would ask the Taylor community to pray for peace for Spain and Catalonia, and that in this process of seeking peace, the Catalans would come to know where there is true peace, in Christ.”

The opinions expressed here represent the views of the student produced newspaper, The Echo, and not necessarily the views of Taylor University. The topics and stances taken in this editorial are decided by the editorial board. Readers who agree or disagree with the views expressed are invited to write a letter to the editor in 150 – 200 words and email it to Opinions page editor Andrew Hoff at andrew_hoff@taylor.edu.

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