Over the past week, we have seen the faltering of a hopeful peace talk between Spain’s central government in Madrid and Catalonia, a semi-independent region in Eastern Spain, which illegally voted to secede from Spain. This led to the declaration of a short-lived Catalan Republic and Madrid’s subsequent imposition of direct rule upon the region, taking away its autonomous status. The nature of the entire debate was confusing, and the amount of support the referendum received caught many Spaniards and foreigners off guard. Because of the Catalan Republic’s unconstitutional nature and its reliance on a Spanish law framework, it is hard to find reasons to support such a secessionist movement, and we as foreigners should not move to pick a side and judge what is best for the people of Catalonia.
The referendum was plagued with trouble from the start. Less than half of the population in Catalonia participated in the vote, making the result an unreliable measure of Catalonians’ opinions. The vote itself also lacked transparency, and there is concrete evidence of many voters voting multiple times. There has been some support for the independence movement among Americans. The entire editorial board of Chicago Tribune decided to support the secessionist movement, even drawing comparison with the U.S. Declaration of Independence, citing no concrete evidence but rather blurring natural rights to which Catalans are supposedly entitled. A WordPress blog called Americans for Catalonia — with more than 25,000 hits — cites the need for “peace, freedom, dignity and democratic rule in Catalonia,” has been established as well. Neither the board nor the blog, however, provided a comprehensive outlook of financial, political, economic and cultural consequences of such a secession if it were to actually happen.
Other media outlets, however, made some relevant research and almost unanimously come to the conclusion that the secessionist movement, at least in its current form, is not worthy of support. First of all, most public support for the movement and Carles Puigdemont, the regional president of Catalonia, came from other right-wing, nationalist propaganda propellers worldwide, such as pro-Brexit Nigel Farage, far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and many more. Additionally, despite claims promoted by the secessionist campaign, Catalonia is not economically robbed by Spain — in fact, it received more than it contributed, as it is generally a less economically capable region when compared to Madrid.
While many has criticized Madrid’s actions as brutal and undemocratic, it is important to realize that Spain’s action is backed by its written constitution, and countries like the U.K., France and Germany have all denounced what has happened as countries like the U.K. attempt to tackle their own struggles with secessionist movements. Spain’s moves to stop the secessionist sentiment from spreading might have been overboard, but it does not change the fact that the entire referendum was an illegal act to start with and had no rational basis to support its outcome.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Wayne Chen at [email protected]