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Crisis in Catalonia

Catalonia
Photo by Graphic by Alexis Will
Catalonia

Since the results of Catalonia’s independence referendum were announced, Spain has entered a time of political turmoil that hasn’t been seen in the nation for decades. Many people, including Spanish Aggies, have strong feelings about the crisis.
On Oct. 1, the Spanish autonomy of Catalonia held an independence referendum, which is forbidden by the Spanish constitution. When 90 percent of Catalan voters cast their vote in favor of independence, the national government imposed direct rule over the region. Now, Catalonia’s ex-leaders are in Belgium with conditional freedom, while their country fights over its fate.
Alberto Moreiras, a Spanish professor in the Department of Hispanic Studies, said he is in favor of Spain as a national union. This stance, he said, is not due to an extreme nationalist position, but because Catalonia has been part of Spain for more than 500 years.
“I believe in the rule of law,” Moreiras said. “What you have is a situation where the Catalan government decided to radicalize its nationalism and seek independence from Spain unilaterally. In other words, [they are] not following the proper legal procedures for that through the Spanish constitution.”
Moreiras said despite Catalonia’s prosperous and happy 40 years, they wanted more.
“They wanted to have independence, meaning sovereignty,” Moreiras said. “They wouldn’t have to obey anyone. If there was a government in Madrid that the Catalan government didn’t agree with, they wouldn’t have to pay respect. In other words, they actually wanted to break Spanish democracy unilaterally.”
Alexis Couch, an international studies freshman who spent the summer in Spain, said she doesn’t think Catalonia should be independent, but she understands why the Catalans are pushing the issue.
“This isn’t just a new development,” Couch said. “I feel like you have to look at it from a historical perspective, knowing that the Catalan people have always wanted to be separate.”
Jennifer Velasco, an international relations and political science student from Spain, said this long struggle for independence has only left Catalonia with detrimental effects.
“The issue about Catalonia wanting to be independent has been around since I was young,” Velasco said. “The process has never gone so far until now — and for nothing. It has just damaged the economy and the social view of Catalonia.”
Because Catalonia accounts for 20 percent of the Spanish economy, Couch said she doesn’t think the national government will ever approve of Catalonia’s independence.
“I do not think that Madrid will allow Catalonia to become independent,” Couch said. “There’s a possibility of military action from the central government. Hopefully it doesn’t cause a civil war, but in the most extreme case, that could happen.”
Moreiras said the most radical implications of Catalan independence could make Spain a failed state. From there, he said the European Union could be destroyed through a domino effect.
“The most tragic element of all of this is the fact that this process is dividing Catalan society in half,” Moreiras said. “More Catalans are against the independence process than in favor of it. These people are suffering tremendously because they can see their country go through huge turmoil and, in turn, friends are not talking to friends anymore. Parents are not talking to their children and wives are not talking to husbands. This is a disaster.”
Moreiras said it’s important to note that people who are against independence are not against Catalonia at all. He said that he has a great love for Catalonia.
“To be against independence does not mean to be against the Catalans,” Moreiras said. “The Catalans claim that the Spanish hate them and the Spanish claim that the Catalans hate them. This talk of hatred is really unfortunate.”
Velasco said she also dislikes all the hatred being spread in her country. She said she is a believer in peace and thinks hateful attitudes lead to terrible violence.
“I hope that we recover,” Velasco said. “I wish we weren’t in this situation because it’s very sad to see people argue through hate. You don’t have to have the same opinion, but have a constructive dialogue and respect each other.”

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