Mass strike in Catalonia; Franco-nostalgia in Spain

Hundreds of thousands filled the streets of Barcelona as a general strike was called Oct. 3 to protest "grave violation of rights and freedoms" by Spanish security forces during the vote on independence for Catalonia two days earlier—when close to a thousand people were injured as Civil Guard troops dispatched by Madrid used rubber bullets and tear-gas in an attempt to prevent the poll from taking place. The strike was widely honored; the city's port was shut down, and Barcelona's metro lines cut to a 25% service during rush hour and no trains at all at other times. Street traffic was snarled by barricades erected by protesters on major arteries, with hand-painted banners reading "Occupation forces get out!"

Carles Puigdemont, leader of the Catalan regional government, announced after the vote that the autonomous region had "won the right to an independent state in the form of a republic." But the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, stated that "yesterday's vote in Catalonia was not legal," and that this is an "internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain."

The vote, which drew a turnout of 42.3% of registered voters, went in favor of independence by 90%. Puigdemont has called for international mediation to help resolve the conflict, stating that Catalans "don't want a traumatic break... We want a new understanding with the Spanish state."

But Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido remained intransigent, saying: "We see how day after day the government of Catalonia is pushing the population to the abyss and inciting rebellion in the streets." In a rare televised statement, King Felipe said the referendum's organizers had jeopardized national stability. "With their decisions, they have systematically undermined the rules approved legally and legitimately, showing an unacceptable disloyalty towards the powers of the state."

Civil Guard troops mobilized to Catalonia before the vote had been cheered along the way by crowds of right-wing Spanish nationalists waving the national flag and chanting provocatively, "Viva Franco!" The Civil Guard union, the AUCG, called on Madrid to send more reinforcements to Catalonia. "Right now Catalonia is like the Basque Country in 1981," it said in a blistering statement, asserting that the Civil Guard had been "abandoned to their luck" by government "inaction" and "betrayed" by the "disloyal" Catalan police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra. 

1981 was the most violent year in the struggle against armed Basque separatists, and also saw the first major crisis in post-dictatorship Spain, with an attempted coup by members of the army and Civil Guard. (BBC News, Jurist; VOA, CNN, The TelegraphViento Sur)

Anarchists join Catalan general strike

The Catalan branch of Spain's anarchist-oriented General Labor Confederation (CGT) and National Labor Confederation (CNT) are supporting the general strike—but as part of a "libertarian bloc," which issued a statement saying: "We oppose the State repression because we have suffered it in a systematic form in our own bodies... Therefore we also want to denounce the repressive nature of the Generalitat de Catalunya itself, which has over the past years presecuted, beaten, detained and imprisoned all those who have refused to look the other way every time the civil and human rights of the people are trampled."

Note that the lines are drawn much as they were during the Spanish Civil War... A Catalan regional government seeking greater autonomy (or outright indpendence), a right-wing centralist Spanish state, and an anarchist movement opposing both—but the Spanish state foremost.

Note also that the Civil Guard still has fascist symbols on its website and Twitter page.

Spain: court blocks Catalan parliamentary session on secession

Spain's Constitutional Court on Oct. 5 ordered the suspension of Catalonia's planned parliamentary session on independence next week warning Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and other members of his speakers' board that they will be subject to prosecution if they proceeded with the session. (Jurist)

Spain top court: Catalonia referendum law void

Spain's Constitutional Court unanimously ruled Oct. 17 that Catalonia's referendum on independence was illegal as the regional law upon which it was based was unconstitutional. Since the jailing of pro-independence leaders the previous day, protests have arisen across the country. An ongoing legal investigation claims Jordi Sanchez, leader of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, who heads the Omnium Cultural Association, were heavily involved in organising a massive protest aimed at hindering a Guardia Civil investigation in Barcelona into the build-up for the 1 October illegal referendum. (Jurist, The Independent, BBC News)

Belgian court defers ruling on Puidgemont extradition

A Belgian court has deferred a decision on Spain’s extradition request for the exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four members of his former government to next month. Puigdemont’s lawyer said the case would resume Dec. 4. The timing of the hearing is potentially incendiary as it will take place 24 hours before the start of Catalonia's regional election campaign. (The Guardian, Nov.  17) Spain issued a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and his team earlier this month, seeking their extradition to face charges of sedition and misuse of state funds. Eight Catalan ministers have also been jained by court order on charges of sedition. (Jurist, Nov. 3)

Spain: high court withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan leaders

Spain's Supreme Court on Dec. 5 withdrew (PDF) a European arrest warrant seeking the deportation of Carles Puigdemont, the former president of Catalonia, and four former Catalan officials. A Spanish arrest warrant remains in place to detain the Catalan leaders as soon as they return to Spain. Also Dec. 5, six former ministers of the Catalan who have been detained by Spanish authorities were released from custody on bail. (Jurist)