Monday, September 15, 2014

Madrid says 'no' and makes threats with "penal" actions after 1.8 million Catalans asked to vote

The Spanish Government "cannot change its stance", stated Soroya Sáenz de Santamaría, Spanish Deputy PM, on the day after Catalonia's independence supporters peacefully and democratically formed a colossal rally for the 3rd consecutive year. Furthermore, the Director of Spain's Public Prosecution Office, appointed by the Spanish Government, threatened the Catalan President with "penal" actions if he organises a self-determination consultation vote once it has been banned by the Spanish authorities. 

On Catalonia's National Day, 1.8 million people, according to Barcelona local police, formed an 11km-long Catalan flag mosaic, demanding to vote on the 9th of November, as agreed by a two-third majority of the Catalan Parliament. "Citizens have the right to demonstrate but governments have an obligation to honour the law", stated the Deputy PM. Using a restrictive interpretation of the Constitution, the Spanish Government has been insisting that Catalonia does not have the right to self-determination and therefore a vote on such an issue is "illegal". 
In addition, Sáenz de Santamaría said "to respect" the "several demonstrations" that took place in Catalonia, implicitly comparing the 1.8 million-strong rally with the demonstration against independence that gathered 7,000 people in Tarragona and the demonstration against self-determination organised by an
extreme-right party that congregated some 40 neo-Nazis in Barcelona. On top of this, the 'number 2' of the governing People's Party, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, said that "governing with demonstrations is not something of democracies", adding that "when the rule of law is abandoned, totalitarian regimes and dictatorships arrive". Besides, the European Commission refused to provide specific comments on the massive pro-independence demonstration carried out by hundreds of thousands of European citizens the day before, repeating it is "an internal issue".


After Catalonia's largest demonstration ever, the Spanish Government has not moved a single inch and persists in its unilateral do-nothing attitude, repeating that a self-determination consultation vote is illegal, according to a restrictive interpretation of the Constitution. In fact, many Constitutional experts have argued that such a vote could be allowed with an open attitude or with minimum legal changes, but both ways require a minimum level of political will. However, such political will is totally absent in the Spanish Government and the governing People's Party (PP), which holds an absolute majority at the Spanish Parliament and has appointed the majority of members of the Constitutional Court, therefore fully controlling Spain's Executive and Legislative powers, as well as having a definitive influence in the Constitutional Court. In fact, this Friday, the Spanish Government once again closed the door to the reform of the Constitution proposed by the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), which is far from recognising Catalonia's nationhood and its right to self-determination.

Madrid and Brussels have stood still for 2 years in front of peaceful demonstrations
A peaceful, festive and colossal pro-independence demonstration was organised in Catalonia for the third consecutive year, showing that the demand shared by a wide part of the Catalan population remains there. On top of this, such demands are being expressed in a totally democratic and civic-minded attitude, without any small violent incident in the last 3 years. No other political or social movements in Spain or anywhere else in Europe can do something like this nowadays, and do it in such good spirit and with such a positive attitude, with a proposing attitude, without insults and without violence. In front of this, the reactions of the Madrid and Brussels establishments are not to change a single word of what they have been repeating in the last 2 years, looking at what is happening right in front of their nose and "taking note" – they say – but nothing else.

The People's Party is not making any concessions and hopes that Catalan citizens and institutions will totally give up on their hope to vote on their self-determination just by repeating that according to the Spanish institutions – which they totally control – such a vote is illegal and cannot take place. The Spanish Government strategy seems to be full-frontal opposition and waiting for those supporting self-determination to get tired or start quarrelling with each other. Furthermore, they keep insisting in linking Catalonia's situation with dictatorships. The 'number 2' of the PP, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, said the day after the massive pro-independence rally that "governing with demonstrations is not something of democracies", adding that "when the rule of law is abandoned, totalitarian regimes and dictatorships arrive".

The Spanish Government shields behind its interpretation of the Constitution
On Friday, after the weekly Cabinet meeting, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister repeated that their stance has not changed after the demonstration. "The government has to honour the Constitution and the laws in this moment and in the future, in Spain and in Catalonia", she stated. In this vein, she was "hoping" that the Catalan President, Artur Mas, "will keep his word" and do not disobey the Spanish authorities' ban on the self-determination vote. She highlighted that Mas is also "obliged to honour the Constitution and the laws". Finally, she said that the Spanish Government is "willing to talk" about "whatever is needed to improve Catalonia", but not about the right to self-determination and the independence vote because "the law is our limit". The Spanish Government has been arguing that they cannot even talk about self-determination because it is also illegal.

"Penal" actions against the Catalan President…
In addition, the Director of the Public Prosecution Office, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, who is directly appointed by the Spanish Justice Minister, stated that he has already "studied the possibilities to act" against the Catalan President. Torres-Dulce reminded Artur Mas that he can use "the Penal Code" against him if he puts out the ballot boxes once the Spanish authorities have banned the self-determination consultation vote.

Brussels takes note but does not comment
Finally, on Friday, the Spokesperson of the European Commission, Pia Ahrenkilde, refused to provide any comment on Barcelona's demonstration, which had taken place the day before. She only said that these sort of events "have our attention", but insisted that they did not have anything new to say about 1.8 million European citizens massively demonstrating for the 3rd consecutive way in a totally peaceful attitude.



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