Catalonia will move forward with a secession vote in November, despite the Spanish government’s rendering the vote nonbinding. Catalan President Artur Mas spoke Tuesday in a news conference, saying that the people deserve to have their voices heard.
“Like all the nations of the world,” Mas said, “Catalonia has the right to decide its political future. We want to vote, and we want to decide, and now we have to means to do so.”
Catalonia includes the four easternmost provinces of Spain: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona. They have long held differences with the rest of Spain, culturally, linguistically and politically. It is already considered an autonomous region of Spain, holding more independence than most similar regions in other countries.
Catalonia is economically much wealthier than the rest of Spain, and the country’s recent economic woes have driven a wedge between Catalans and the rest of the nation. But the enmity runs deeper. Most of the current differences have their roots in the early 1930s with the Statutes of Autonomy in 1932. The subsequent Spanish Civil War and reign of fascist Francisco Franco all but stripped the region of any and all independence. With Franco’s death in 1975, Catalonia gradually regained much of what they lost over the years becoming increasingly independent until modern times.
“Madrid pressed the red button,” said University of Barcelona professor Xavier Arbós Marín, an expert on Spanish constitutional law. “The constitutional court can suspend any law from a region. And the Spanish constitution does not recognize the right of self-determination. So there would have to be a change to the constitution for a referendum to take place.”
In other words, any law that Catalans pass regarding their region is binding unless it is overridden by Madrid. This has been especially troublesome for pro-independence groups in Catalonia in recent years, especially with regards to economic policy.
The main issue in the current debate is a 2012 law that redistributes wealth from richer regions to poorer ones. The socialist policy favored other regions at the expense of Catalonia, driving President Mas to begin to fan the flames of secession.
“We have sufficient strength to do what we said we would do, which is to consult the people of Catalonia,” said Mas, insisting that there would still be balloting on November 9th.
If Catalonia were to secede, they would take some 7.5 million people, about 16 percent of Spain’s population. This would be the rough equivalent of California, Washington and Oregon all leaving the United States.
For now, the people of Catalonia will have to settle for a non-binding poll to see where the opinions truly lie. Unlike the recent secession effort in Scotland, it seems that they don’t have much in the way of legal standing and will have to either hope Madrid begins to treat them more fairly, or eventually allow them to leave.
“We want to be like everyone else,” said Josep Ganyet, who is from Lleida. “We’re a nation. We have our own customs and traditions. I’ve been pro-independence all my life. It’s not a romantic idea. We want to have the right to decide who we want to be.”