By Jack Wright
Asked by the Central Government of Spain to come out and categorically condemn the violence in the demonstrations in Barcelona and other Catalan cities following the Supreme Court ruling on the Catalonia independence process (known colloquially as the “procés”), the President of the Autonomous Region of Catalonia, Quim Torra, said on the night of 16 October 2019 that the violence is being perpetrated by “infiltrados” (infiltrators). Many in the media covering the demonstrations and the attempt to collapse the Prat Airport in Barcelona aren’t buying the cynical statement. For them, the demonstrations, apparently consisting mostly of high school and college students, are too well organized to be infiltrated pell-mell by undesirable elements.
Where these media are concerned, Torra’s statement is a misrepresentation of facts, not to say an outright lie.
In fact, the acting Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, affirmed in one of his press briefings that the demonstrations, with their violent incidents, are set up by “perfectly organized groups”.
Between Monday, 14 October, when the Supreme Court ruling has been made public, and the writing of this news report (17 October), there seems to have been an increasing number of “infiltrators” and an scalation of violence.
In the middle of it all, and in defiance of Spain’s legal order, Torra has declared that “vamos a poner las urnas (we are going to put out the ballot boxes).” Meaning that there will be a repeat of the illegal referendum on the independence of Catalonia before his term ends in 2020. Goading of the first water.
It is precisely because of that referendum on 1 October 2017, and the ensuing enactment of the law by the Catalan parliament to declare the independence of the region – two significant milestones in the illegal procès – that ten high-ranking members of the Catalan Executive plus two others have been found guilty of criminal misuse of public funds and/or sedition in the four-month trial by Spain’s Supreme Court, televised to insure transparency.
Four of the secessionist leaders have been condemned for sedition and misuse of funds, five for sedition, and three for civil disobedience. Oriol Junqueras, leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and at once the Vice President of Catalonia between January 2016 and October 2017, has been found guilty of sedition and embezzlement and sentenced, accordingly, to a jail term of 13 years. He is, additionally, debarred “absolutely” from holding public office during the period.
Whereas seditious Carme Forcadell, President of the Catalan Parliament prior to her preventive detention, has been sentenced to 11 years and six months in prison and is debarred from public office for the same number of years despite being found innocent of misusing funds.
Which sentences are being used by the secessionists to portray their autonomous region (there are 16 other autonomous regions in highly-decentralized Spain) as a victim of Spanish oppression. Hence the upsurge of the Tsunami Democràtic, a series of Hongkong-style demonstrations to protest against the Supreme Court ruling on the procès. The separatists’ hard sell is that the convicted are actually “political prisoners”. But, in fact, they have been tried and found guilty not for their secessionist ideology but for the criminal acts they have committed in the name of that ideology – for systematically and flagrantly violating the Spanish Constitution.
Meanwhile, the Central Government of Spain is exercising incredible restraint. The phrase “proportionality and firmness (in the face of the Tsunami Democràtic provocation)” has become its mantra.
Though the Central Government has warned that it won’t tolerate impunity, so far it has refused to implement Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution despite urgings from the leaders of the rightwing opposition to go on the offensive already. It is not even considering yet the implementation of the Law on National Security which is less drastic when it comes to the Central Government’s taking over the autonomous region.
As of today, 17 October, the Government places the damage caused by the Tsunami Democràtic at €627. Among others, this awfully conservative estimate doesn’t count in the extra cost of sending the National Police into Catalonia to reinforce the local mossos d’esquadra as called for by the disturbances.
Moreover, at this stage the Central Government sees no sufficient reason to suspend the right of the separatists to peaceful assembly and the freedom to demonstrate.
When Professor of Constitutional Law, Javier Perez Royo, was asked for his comment about the vandalism being committed by the demonstrators, he said that the violence in Catalonia, though visually impacting especially when seen on TV (burnt cars, tires, containers and even some trees), is no worse than the vandalism some strikers resort to. He considers what is going on in Catalonia as not of “extrema gravedad (extreme gravity)”, viewed from sociological perspective.
With just a few demonstrators sustaining serious injuries (one lost an eye from being hit presumably by a police rubber bullet; another was run over by a police vehicle), Grande-Marlaska stated that to date some 100 people have been detained for “hechos delectivos (criminal acts).” One hundred ninety-four members of the national and local security forces have been injured.
As regards Torra, Jaume Collboni, Vice Mayor (“primer teniente”) and Councilor of Barcelona, told La Sexta TV that he “has never been President of Catalonia.” That is to say, he has been acting like the President of solely the separatist Catalans, completely ignoring the other half of the populace who are against the procès. What he is, said Collboni, is a secessionist “activist”. In fact, Torra not only advocates civil disobedience in the Catalan public institutions; he headed up one of the Tsunami Democràtic demonstrations. Not exactly what a President of all Catalonia would do.
Featured image/Ewan McClellan, CC BY2.0
Quim Torras/Gure Esku, CC BY-SA2.0
Grande-Marlaska/Ministerio de Interior-Miguel Berrocal, CC
Catalonia Situation Committee/Pool Moncloa-Cuadrado
Junqueras-Procèd trial/Omnium Cultural-Dani Codina, CC BY-ND2.0
Fire set during strike/Dani del sol, CC BY-SA2.0
Referendum ballot, 1 October 2017/Teresa Grau Ros, CC BY-SA2.0
Tsunami Democàtic’s app, Fair use