Tensions between Spain and Catalonia appear to be on the verge of a breaking point. Spain plans to enforce Direct Rule over Catalan, beginning this Friday. Meanwhile, The Independent reports that Catalonia’s Vice President has stated that “the Spanish government has given them “no choice” but to declare independence.”
ABC reported that Catalan’s Vice President Oriol Junqueras told the press: “The Spanish government is giving us no other option than to defend the civil rights and citizens’ rights through the best tools that our institutions have.”
If the extreme violence of Spanish riot police during the Catalonian independence referendum is any indication of events to come, the Catalonian people may experience a crackdown the likes of which have not been seen in Western Europe for decades. The EU has been largely reticent on the use of violence by Spain, sparking concerns that excessive use of force will go unpunished.
Similar concerns were expressed by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange earlier today:
Excessive use of force is especially likely in the coming days given Spain’s attempt to remove a large part of Catalonia’s Mossos police force. In the lead up to plans to take over, the Spanish Government was reported to be finalizing plans to “purge Catalonia’s police force of pro-independence officers who could obstruct the rollout of direct rule over the rebellious region by the Spanish government from Friday.”
During the Catalan referendum, Catalan’s Mossos police and volunteer firefighters defended Catalonians from the worst of Spanish riot police brutality. Spain’s attempt to purge Catalan’s police force comes in the days before Spain has indicated it will invoke article 155 – referred to by the New York Times as ‘the nuclear option’ which would allow Spain to “take full administrative control of independence-minded Catalonia.”
The removal of the Mossos appears to constitute an effort to remove what was a protective force during the referendum. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that the violence by Spanish riot police during the vote was anything other than a preview of much worse conflict to come.
Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis has also called images that documented Spanish violence against Catalan voters during the referendum ‘fake news.’ The BBC reported that Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis described photographs of police violence in Catalonia during the referendum as disingenuous.
The Telegraph reported Dastis’ statement: “If there was any use of force, it was a limited one, prompted by the fact that the law and order agencies were prevented from discharging the orders of the courts…I am not saying that all are fake pictures, but some of them are and there have been a lot of alternative facts and fake news.”
This blatant misrepresentation discounts the violence on the part of Spanish police during the referendum, and serves to pave the way for the denial of future atrocities perpetrated against Catalonians. The over-reaction represented by Spain’s brutality towards Catalans during the referendum also extends to the press narrative.
Spain has also indicated its intent to utterly take over Catalonia by jailing leaders of the Catalan independence movement. The Guardian related that the Spanish High Court jailed the leaders of two of the largest separatist organizations. The report also states that Catalan regional president, Carles Puigdemont, likened the move to Franco’s dictatorship: “Spain jails Catalonia’s civil society leaders for organizing peaceful demonstrations. Sadly, we have political prisoners again.”
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange echoed these sentiments, stating that “Spain just created its first high level political prisoners over Catalonia’s referendum. This evening it jailed (for ‘sedition’) the heads of the rather fittingly named ANC (Catalan National Assembly) and Catalonia’s cultural promotion organization.” Assange has consistently voiced the opinion that events in Catalonia are setting a disturbing precedent for Western democracy in general.