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)

  1. 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.

  2. 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)

  3. 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 organizing 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)

  4. 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)

  5. 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)

  6. Electoral farce in Catalonia

    Catalonia is about to vote in an election that was imposed from above by Madrid. The Spanish government called the poll when it seized control of Catalonia, dismissed its government and dissolved the regional parliament following the declaration of independence by separatist lawmakers in October. But one of the pro-indpendence leaders is exiled and the other in prison. Carles Puigdemont of the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT), the ousted leader of Catalonia, has been campaigning via satellite link from Belgium, where he fled to escape arrest. His former deputy, Oriol Junqueras of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), is behind bars in Madrid. If elected, it is unclear how they could then take their seats in a new Catalan Parliament while also facing prosecution for sedition and rebellion, which can carry 30-year prison terms. And if the pro-Spain Ciudadanos (Ciutadans) party wins, its mandate will be suspect given the circumstances of the race. (NYT,  Bloomberg, WaPo, France24)

  7. Catalonia: pro-independence parties keep their majority

    Catalan separatist parties are on track to win most seats in the new regional parliament, setting the stage for more confrontation with Spain's government. With nearly all votes counted, the pro-independence parties Together for Catalonia (JxCat), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Popular Unity (CUP) were together on course to win a total of 70 seats, giving them a majority. Within the separatist party bloc, ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont's JxCat (a new alliance of PDeCat and independent candidates) was slightly ahead of the ERC, led by his former deputy, Oriol Junqueras. However, the Citizens party, which wants Catalonia to remain part of Spain, is the biggest winner. As a result, it is unclear who will be given the right to form a government. (BBC News, EU Observer)

  8. Spain Supreme Court orders arrest of Catalan ex-MP

    magistrate of the Second Chamber of Spain's Supreme Court on Feb. 21 ordered the arrest of former Catalan member of parliament Anna Gabriel i Sabaté for failing to appear before the court to answer sedition charges in connection with the Catalan independence referendum and declaration of secession in October. (Jurist)

  9. Catalan leader denied release by Spain supreme court

    Judge Pablo Llarena of Spain's Supreme Court denied on March 9 the requested release of former president of the Catalan National Assembly Jordi Sànchez. The request was filed to allow Sànchez to attend the investiture debate in the regional parliament next week for the new leader of Catalonia. (Jurist)

    Meanwhile, the fugitive Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has suspended his attempts to return to office but says intends to preside over a government in exile and carry on his drive for independence from the safety of Belgium. (The Guardian)

  10. Protests in Barcelona after Catalan leaders jailed

    Thousands of protesters filled the streets of Barcelona after Spain's high court jailed five Catalan politicians who played a role in the region's declaration of independence. Demonstrators March 23 carried the single-star flag of the presumptive Catalan Republic and signs with slogans such as "Freedom for Political Prisoners." Spanish Judge Pablo Llarena ordered detention without bail for Jordi Turull, cabinet chief of Catalonia's regional government, former regional legislators Josep Rull, Raul Romeva and Dolors Bassa, as well as the ex-president of the parliament, Carme Forcadell. Llarena said an investigation into their pro-secession moves "has reflected clear insurrection." (Al Jzaeera)

  11. More protests in Barcelona as Germany jails Catalan leader

    Protests broke out across the Spanish region of Catalonia on March 25 after former leader Carles Puigdemont was taken into custody in Germany. Puigdemont, who is wanted in Spain for sedition and rebellion, was detained by German police acting on a European arrest warrant. He was detained while crossing from Denmark on his way to Belgium, where he has been living in exile.  (BBC News)

  12. Former Catalan chief of police charged with sedition

    Judge Carmen Lamela of Spain's National Court on April 4 charged the former Catalan chief of police, Josep Lluís Trapero, with sedition for his role in the 2017 independence referendum. The judge concluded that Trapero facilitated the execution of the referendum by instructing the police force (the Mossos d´Esquadra) to disregard orders from the Spain's national government to block the vote. (Jurist)

  13. German court refuses extradition of former Catalan leader

    A German court on April 5 rejected an extradition request for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on the charge of rebellion for his role during Catalonia's independence movement. The Neumünster District Court stated the rebellion charge Puigdemont faced in Spain is not a criminal offense in Germany. While Puigdemont was released on bail, the court agreed that extradition was possible on the lesser charge of misuse of public funds. (JuristDavid Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, meanwhile urged Spain not to press rebellion charges against Catalonian leaders. (Jurist)

  14. Spain: high court denies second appeal for Catalan leader

    The Spanish Supreme Court on April 12 rejected a second appeal by Catalan political activist Jordi Sanchez. His first appeal was denied in March by the same judge. While in jail, Sanchez will not be eligible to be elected leader of a regional Catalan independence party. Sànchez has been in custody since October over charges of rebellion and sedition based on his alleged role in using demonstrations to stop police from halting the unilateral independence referendum, that eventually was found to be unconstitutional. (Jurist)

  15. Spain drops warrant against Puigdemont

    Spain's supreme court has withdrawn its European Arrest Warrants against former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and five of his aides who remain abroad. A German court ruled earlier that Mr Puigdemont could not be extradited to face the Spanish charge of rebellion over Catalonia's push for independence. But the charges against the six remain, meaning they still face arrest if they return to Spain. (BBC News)

  16. EU Parliament strips three Catalan MEPs of immunity

    The European Parliament voted March 9 to waive the immunity of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and two other Catalan separatist MEPs, Antoni Comin and Clara Ponsati, for their role in organizing a 2017 Independence referendum for the Spanish region of Catalonia. The three are subject to European arrest warrants issued by Spain, which is seeking their extradition for offences related to their role in organising a 2017 independence referendum deemed illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Following the referendum, the Spanish government retook control over Catalonia, forcing Puigdemont and his allies to flee to Belgium in 2017. Spain is now expected to renew its European arrest warrant seeking the extradition of the three from Belgium. (Jurist)

  17. Catalan exile Puigdemont freed by Italian court

    An Italian court has ordered the ex-president of Spain’s Catalonia region to be freed following his arrest in Sardinia. Carles Puigdemont is free to leave the island but must return for a hearing in October. He was arrested on a Spanish arrest warrant on Sept. 23.

    Puigdemont fled Catalonia after leading a breakaway independence vote in the region in 2017. He later became a member of the European Parliament.

    Italian police were waiting for Puigdemont at Alghero airport in Sardinia, and he was taken to a nearby prison. He travelled to the Italian island for a Catalan folklore festival, and was held overnight in Sassari prison, a short distance from the airport. (BBC)