Columns of tractors waving the lone-star flag of Catalan independence are converging on the region’s towns in support of Sunday’s banned referendum.
Supporters cheered as a column of vehicles, dubbed a Tractorada, rolled into the capital, Barcelona, streaming past the famous Sagrada Familia church.
“We are asking for tractors to be parked peacefully near polling stations and, if they try to close them, impede them or make it as difficult as possible,” a member of one farmers’ group, Gerard Batalla, told AFP news agency earlier this week.
Teachers Shake Keys in Support of Catalonia Vote
Hundreds of Catalan educationalists chanted “Obrirem!” – “We will open!” – and jangled their keys symbolically as they vowed to use schools as polling stations in Sunday’s vote in a meeting with Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.
Firefighters Support Referendunm
Catalans Occupy Polling Stations
Supporters of Catalan independence have begun occupying polling stations in a bid to protect Sunday’s vote from a crackdown by the Spanish government.
Catalonia’s vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, said Catalan citizens will be able to vote “even if somebody takes voting stations by assault and tries to avoid something as natural as placing a voting slip in a ballot”.
Mr. Junqueras said an internal poll showed more than 60 percent of the 5.3 million eligible voters plan to cast ballots.
He displayed a prototype of the plastic ballot boxes planned for more than 2,300 voting stations.
Europe Supports Zombies
In an interview with the Telegraph ahead of the vote on Sunday, Mr Puigdemont insisted the referendum would go ahead as planned despite the Spanish government’s attempts to block it.
If the referendum returned a “Yes” for secession, the Catalan government would stick to its pledge to declare independence 48 hours later, he vowed.
But the Catalan leader dismissed the idea of an abrupt split from Spain, saying there would then be “no alternative” but dialogue with Madrid – and Europe – on a stable and agreed transition to an independent state. This, he said, would be “a moment for Europe”.
“Europe that is looking the other way, staying silent, supporting Spain, like a zombie – in that moment, Europe cannot keep looking the other way,” Mr Puigdemont said, adding “the whole world is seeing it, that there is a problem”.
Vote Will Take Place
After weeks of insisting the vote will not take place, including a report a few days ago that it could not take place because of ballot box confiscation and police actions, Eurointelligence changed its tune in an Email early this morning.
The Spanish government has disrupted the Catalan referendum, but is likely not to be able to stop millions of Catalans from casting votes anyway despite a massive police deployment.
There are about 17,000 Mossos, as well as maybe an equal number of Police and Guardia Civil, mostly deployed around Barcelona, and local police in some 250 town over 5,000 inhabitants. This doesn’t seem enough to seal off the maybe 2,700 polling stations in the region, of which some 500 are in Barcelona and another 500 in towns without a local police, given the calls for students and activists to occupy polling stations before the police come to close them.
On a more serious note, Andrés Boix i Palop enumerates on Verfassungsblog a series of Spanish enforcement actions decisions which are raising alarm among an increasing number of legal experts. The logic is that the Spanish government wants to avoid the political cost of declaring a state of emergency (Art 116 of the Spanish constitution) or commanding the Catalan regional government (Art 155). Instead, they are using alternative means which push the limits of constitutionality. In other words, the Spanish government is violating the constitution in order to protect it.
UN Criticizes Spain
The UN Human Rights Council issued a statement Thursday criticizing Spanish government efforts to block a referendum on independence in Catalonia.
In the council’s statement, UN human rights experts say, “Regardless of the lawfulness of the referendum, the Spanish authorities have a responsibility to respect those rights that are essential to democratic societies.”
The statement notes that authorities have searched printing establishments, seized referendum material, blocked websites, stopped political meetings and deployed more than 4,000 police officers to the Catalan region. They also express concern that leaders of the mass protests have been charged with sedition and about the arrest of politicians.
“The measures we are witnessing are worrying because they appear to violate fundamental individual rights, cutting off public information and the possibility of debate at a critical moment for Spain’s democracy,” the UN human rights experts say.
Responding to a week of dramatic actions by Spain’s central government — including a court order barring the referendum as illegal, the arrest of local officials who organized it, the confiscation of ballot papers by police officers from outside the region and the blocking of electoral websites — Catalan officials displayed a new set of ballot boxes for reporters on Friday.
Speaking at a news conference where the ballot boxes were unveiled, the regional government’s foreign minister, Raül Romeva, said that there was no legal basis for treating the vote as a criminal act.
On Thursday, Romeva was in Brussels, where he called for the European Commission to mediate between officials in Barcelona and Madrid. Underlining the urgency of the situation, Romeva made it clear that the Catalan parliament, known as the Generalitat, still plans to declare independence within 48 hours of the referendum if the Yes side prevails.
While recent polls suggest that Catalonia’s population is almost evenly divided on independence (an El Pais survey in April showed the Yes camp trailing by 49 percent to 44), there is overwhelming support for the principle that the population should be allowed to vote on the matter.
The Intercept marred an otherwise decent report with complete nonsense about “recent polls” from April that shows the yes camp trailing by 49 percent to 44).
April is hardly recent. I suspect the vote will be 65-75% S
Twitter Translation: “For them!” they shouted at Huelva to the GC before leaving for Catalonia. I do not want to live in such a country.”
Corrected Translation: Reader Edwin says: The Tweet should read “Go get them” not “For them” This crowd of Spaniards believe Catalonia is tearing Spain up so they are cheering the Guardia Civil (like our National Guard) to rein Catalonia in.
In an age of fragmentation, the Catalan referendum stands apart. Unlike the Kurds, who voted overwhelmingly this past week to separate from Iraq, Catalans are not driven by an external threat or compulsion, by a war or by an economic collapse. They live well, in the prosperous heart of Europe. Their grievances are old and bone-deep, reawakened by political movements, both in Catalonia and in Madrid, magnified by partisan media on both sides, and accelerated by the Spanish government’s blunt, reflexive clampdown.
“We have been waiting for this moment for 300 years,” said Guillem Carbonell Vidal, 18, who is studying to be a theater technician. He was excited, and also sleep-deprived, having spent the last week running from one political meeting to another, debating such matters as whether to print a new currency and nationalize the banks.
Ask “independistas” why the need to break away from Spain is so urgent, and the answer goes back to 1714, when Philip V of Spain captured Barcelona during the War of Spanish Succession, bringing an end to the Catalan principality.
Many Catalans have grown to adulthood believing that they were, simply, not Spanish. Under Franco’s dictatorship, which ended in 1975, the government tried to stamp out all Catalan institutions and the language, and thousands of people were executed in purges. Virtually no Catalan family emerged from that period unscarred.
The responsibility to choose fell heavily on ordinary people, like Marta Suana Rovira, 48, the headmistress of an elementary school on Carrer de Sant Marian in Terrassa.
A few days earlier, she had received a letter from the central government in Madrid, enumerating the criminal charges that she would face if she allowed her building to be used for voting: Among them was sedition, which under Spanish law carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
Ms. Rovira gave the officers a friendly welcome. Her mother grew up under Franco’s dictatorship, when it was forbidden to study Catalan in school, and recalls watching her teachers burn Catalan workbooks to prevent the inspectors from Madrid from spotting them.
But the question of keys is a tricky one, she added with a twinkle.“The thing is, it is used for a lot of activities, and all those entities, they all have keys,” she said. “Town Hall has a key. The teachers have keys. The parents’ association has keys. Organizations which use the center have keys. ”
She spread her hands, as if to show that she was helpless in the matter.
“It is impossible to control,” she said, and then went off into a gale of laughter.
Extremely Bad Move by Rajoy
That was a terrible move by Rajoy. I believe it sealed the fate of the vote. Even anti-independence mayors such as Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, denounce the move.
Had Rajoy sat down with the separatists instead of working with the courts to undo a 2010 agreement, the independence vote would likely have failed.
Why is Obama silent now in contrast to his cheerleading in Egypt? Where’s Trump? Mainstream media ducked this story until today, finally waking up to the fact a vote is likely.
Hooray for Catalonia!
Rajoy may back down and offer a referendum at a later date or he may send in more troops. The former is too little, too late, the latter will backfire.
Less than two days to go.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock