Ramón Noceda Tubío
University Santiago de Compostela
The Catalan independence movement is an ideology with many years of antiquity. Despite this, I want to highlight in this text, the increase of its prominence in recent years, which has made it a hot topic in both Spanish and international.
The problem of Catalonia, from a legal point of view, is related to what is established in two different articles of the Spanish Constitution. To begin with, article 149 SC establishes literally those competences that belong exclusively to the Spanish state. Of all these, the one that we have to highlight is the number 32, which says that it will be the exclusive competence of the State the: “authorization for the convocation of popular consultations through referendum”.
After years of growing independence in Catalonia, the government of this Autonomous Community takes the decision to start looking for a way to achieve separation from Spain and to establish an independent Republic. However, the EC, the supreme law of the Spanish legal system, clearly establishes the unity of the Spanish State, greatly complicating the political aspirations of the Catalan government.
The legal conflict with the government of Catalonia, arises after the call by the government of this Autonomous Community of a popular consultation by way of a referendum. This consultation, legally speaking, is an illegal act and contrary to the Constitution, because Article 149 does not give rise to this possibility.
After this call, the most tense and mediatic stage that Catalonia has lived probably in all its history begins. The call for this referendum launched the actions of the Spanish Government, whose party in power is the Popular Party. In reaction to this attempt at self-determination in Catalonia, the Spanish government decides to carry out a series of measures that are already internationally known for their media repercussion, such as a strong police repression against the places stablished for make the vote and the population that had decided to go out to the street to vote and exercise that right. At all costs it was tried to avoid that the voting was successful and that the Catalan government achieved its purpose. However, despite the forceful police action, famous worldwide for the brutality of its performance reflected in the many images and videos that were published; a large number of people, taking into account the situation that was lived out to vote to freely decide their future.
The consequences of this voting day were diverse. For Catalonia, it was a very tense day, which would arouse the indignation in most of the population of this CCAA, due to the treatment and the retaliation received. In the vote for the referendum the YES would win, however, due to the circumstances of the vote, for which a census was not prepared and with a lack of means to carry it out effectively, it was a confusing result.
The Spanish government would take the worst part in this situation. After the day of the referendum, he let Spain and the world see many of its shortcomings and defects. In a situation that could have been solved in a peaceful way, he decided to use force before a population whose sole objective was to exercise the right to vote, a fundamental and basic right of any democratic State. His performance exposed the kind of government that he was, imposing in front of a peaceful way the repression and violence against his people with the sole purpose of asserting his outdated ideals. But this action, from a perspective both internal and international would have dire consequences for the Spanish Government, questioned more than ever both from outside and from within.
The second legal problem will come from the article 155 of the SC, which says that: “1. If an Autonomous Community does not fulfill the obligations that the Constitution or other laws impose, or act in a way that seriously threatens the general interest of Spain, the Government, upon request to the President of the Autonomous Community and, in the case of not being attended to , with the approval by the absolute majority of the Senate, may adopt the necessary measures to compel the former to comply with said obligations or for the protection of said general interest.”
After the result of the illegal referendum called, the Catalan government, after a time of reflection, decides to carry out a declaration of independence in its Parliament, on October 27 of 2017, approved by 70 votes in favor, 2 blank votes and 10 votes against, having left the plenary session before the voting the 53 parliamentarians of the constitutionalist parties.
As a result of the declaration of independence, an hour later the Spanish Government would approve the application of Article 155 of the SC, ceasing the Government of Catalonia and calling for elections on December 21 of that same year. Due to the application of this article, the main promoters of the independence process were considered criminals by the Spanish Courts and therefore persecuted. For this reason some of them, including the president of the government of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, were forced to escape abroad to avoid imprisonment. However, many others would be imprisoned and some are still in prison.
With this, we can see a reflection of the political situation that exists in Spain. We can see how a government is able to put its ideology before the security and the rights of citizens. A Government that out of fear of what a majority may think decides to use brute force to prevent them from exercising a fundamental right such as the right to decide their own way. It is curious that after the actions carried out by the Government of the Popular Party, many people in Catalonia who did not consider themselves independent and who did not plan to go out to vote, took to the streets only to defend their right to vote on the day of the referendum, running the same fate, unfortunately, that those who had already planned to vote. Events such as those I mention here are what should give rise to reflection on how a fully developed State can repress the Rights of people in this way, how we have reached these extremes in the XXIst century and, most importantly, how to find peaceful solutions and fair through dialogue. I recomendó to all the people to watch the documentary film of Netflix: “Las dos Cataluñas”. It is a very interesting reference to learn more about the situation lived there.