• Desmond Latham

Catalan referendum and Spain's autonomous region conundrum


Spain is literally awash in a sea of autonomous or semi-autonomous regions and the effect of these on the public consciousness has led to Madrid shutting the door on the latest attempt at secession – the Catalan referendum.

Spain has been wracked by sectarianism for decades with the Basque Separatists only agreeing to a cease-fire in 2011 after fighting for independence for most of the period following the Second World War.

But it's the recent Catalan referendum that has worried Madrid more than other secessionist movements for a complicated combination of reasons, the main being economic.

The Catalan region has instituted major changes since the start of 2017, including the ramping up of staff at its new tax office in Barcelona to more than 700. That's because the region was hoping to become independent from Spain, or secede.

While the future is unclear as Madrid has ordered police into the Catalan region and violently suppressed an attempt at a referendum vote, the government is rattled.

Spain has a long history of independent and secessionist movements, including the Basque Separatists who were extremely violent.

Basques rebelled in the late 1800s and this rebellion, called the Sanrocada, is held as the beginning of political Basque nationalism. In 1895, the Basque Nationalist Party was founded.

Basques assert that they're an ethnic group distinct from the Spanish and from the western Pyrenees although their regional identity only extends back to the late 19th century.

Spain allowed the Basques autonomy through the Statute of Autonomy signed in the 1980s which meant they could manage their own public finances, and police. The region experienced extreme violence and terror campaigns linked to the separatist movement known as ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna – meaning Basque Homeland and Freedom).

ETA was the last armed guerrilla group operating in Europe and formally ended its campaigns of bombings, hijackings, kidnapping and robberies in 2011, saying it was ending its five-decade armed struggle.

The geographical link with France saw ETA announce in 2014 that it was handing over its arms cache to authorities.

But they're not alone. The Basques are just one of at least six other regions which believe they're technically separate.

Now its the turn of the Catalans who've been pushing for independence from the Spanish state.

The EU has condemned action on Sunday, October 1, when Spanish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at would-be voters in various polling stations across the Catalan region.

More than 400 people were reported injured, at least a dozen seriously, as police tried to stop the referendum into secession going ahead.

The Catalan health ministry has provided more details on the 465 people injured by police violence.

Of the injured, 216 were hurt in Barcelona, 80 in Girona, 64 in Lleida, 53 in Terres de l’Ebre, 27 in Catalunya central and 25 in Tarragona. The two most seriously injured are in hospitals in Barcelona

#Catalan #Basque #Spain

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