Hemorrhage of Catalonia? What's Behind Its Upcoming Independence Referendum

Casey Dawson
September 30, 2017

The students gathered outside a building at the University of Barcelona in the center of the Catalan capital on Thursday to defend the region's right to hold an independence referendum.

Reporters Without Borders said in a report published yesterday that pressure by the Catalan government and social media harassment by "hooligans" of the pro-independence movement has created a suffocating atmosphere for journalists covering the referendum.

This is therefore not a proper referendum but a plebiscite of a decision imposed on the rest of the democratic body in Catalonia and Spain as a whole.

The spokesman stressed that the referendum had been prepared by the Catalan government "on illegitimate grounds". Catalonia's separatist government, however, remains committed to holding it on Sunday.

And when internet sites promoting the referendum are blocked, others re-open.

One of the boats is decorated with giant Looney Tunes cartoon characters, including Tweety.

He urged people to vote "responsibly" and "not to yield to provocations of those who want to stop the vote".

"We think the right way to solve the situation in Catalonia is not to declare independence but to reach a new agreement between Catalonia and Spain, so this is our proposal".

Independence supporters have seized on the imbalance, arguing that stopping transfers to Madrid would turn Catalonia's budget deficit into a surplus.

"Everyone I know is dismayed, we talk of nothing else".

"This has to do with identity more than anything else", says Ignacio Molina, professor and senior analyst at the Elcano think-tank, pointing out that speaking Catalan and being from rural areas are highly correlated with a desire for independence.

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"It's the result of a revolt of the middle-class against the state, which isn't doing its job right". Catalonia is its most economically productive region.

The pro-independence forces are vowing that the vote will go ahead in spite of efforts by Madrid to block it - in many cases literally. "I'm delighted so many Fifers came together to show their solidarity with the people of Catalonia".

And on the subject of independence, Catalonia is divided nearly down the middle. even within families.

Since then, support for an independent Catalonia surged from 23 percent in 2010, according to the Center for Sociologic Research (CIS) to slightly less than 50 percent, according to recent polls and the Catalan elections.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, though, refuses.

"We can change the constitution if there is a consensus in order to change it", he said.

In an article published in the Guardian, a British newspaper, the mayor of Barcelona, Ana Colau, also called on the European Union commission to "open a space for mediation" in order to "find a negotiated and democratic solution to the conflict".

Thousands of additional police have been deployed to the region, with orders to take control of the voting booths. "The police were nowhere to be seen with the exception of some local traffic cops whom politely facilitated the procession as it went through the city centre".

The unilateral political process thus far has contravened every applicable legal framework - from the parliamentary rules of Catalonia's own Statute of Autonomy to the Council of Europe's Venice Commission.

Some 5.3 million Catalan citizens, he said, are called upon to vote and 2,315 electoral colleges with 6,249 voting stations will be set up.

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