Crisis in Catalonia

Catalonia’s fight for independence

Catalan protestors demonstrating in front of the National Police.

Catalan protestors demonstrating in front of the National Police.

Max Jimenez, Staff Writer

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Last week, the government of Catalonia held a referendum on gaining independence from Spain. The referendum question was “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” With a vote count surpassing 2 million votes, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of independence.

Dissatisfaction with the government occurred as a result of the 2008-13 economic crisis that saw skyrocketing unemployment. The region also has a distinct language and culture, which was unbeknown to many people outside of the country of Spain.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has fought to establish an independent Catalan state since taking office last January, and called the referendum in June. The Catalan government estimated that over 750,000 votes were not cast due to polling stations being closed off by the Spanish government and its police force.

If you are not familiar with Catalonia, Catalonia is a region on the eastern coast of Spain. Its capital city, Barcelona, contains a metropolitan area with over 1.5 million Spanish citizens living in it and has an urban area with a population of over 4 million. As you can see by now, this is a very important area of Spain, which is one of the world’s leading tourist, economic, and cultural centers. Its influence in media, fashion, and science contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities.

This is causing a huge conflict, because the government of Spain opposes any independence referendums, as the Spanish Constitution deems it illegal to have a vote for independence without their consent. Many unions that operate in Catalonia have gone on a general strike to protest National Police and Civil Guard action after 900 Catalonians were badly injured by officers who fired rubber bullets at protestors. However, this did not slow down them at all. On Tuesday, workers’ unions held strikes and 700,000 demonstrators filled the streets of Barcelona.

Another reason as to why Spain opposes the push for an independent Catalonia is because of the sheer economic power the city of Barcelona has. The region alone makes up around one-fifth of Spain’s economy. In 2012, Barcelona had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $170 billion and led Spain in employment rate. This would affect Spain very negatively for years to come.

Spain’s King Felipe VI made a statement on the protests and the Catalan referendum. He openly criticized leaders of the independence movement, stating “They have infringed the system of legally approved rules with their decisions, showing an unacceptable disloyalty towards the powers of the state.” This is still a developing conflict, and the decision that the governments of Catalonia and Spain make could deeply change the country of Spain forever.

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