Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Thursday, 21 september 2017 | THE GUARDIAN


Spain’s attempt to block Catalonia’s referendum is a violation of our basic rights

The aggressive tactics of Mariano Rajoy’s government have caused this crisis.
All Catalan citizens want is to peacefully exercise our democratic right
Catalan leader accuses Spain of violating rights in referendum row

Image: A Catalonia independence flag flies during a protest in Barcelona after police arrested a top official in the region’s economic affairs office. Photograph: Emilio Morenatti/AP


Carles Puigdemont
Democracy has been under a lot of pressure in Catalonia for the past few weeks. European values, civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of information and freedom of assembly are being violated by Spain’s central government, which has sent the police to search newspapers, printing companies and private mail services; ban political meetings; seize referendum material; and threaten to imprison democratically elected politicians.
On Wednesday, this moved up a gear, when threats became reality and Spanish paramilitary police took Catalonia to a de facto state of emergency. Fourteen high-ranking government officials were arrested as part of the anti-referendum operation, as police raided government buildings, offices and private homes. Catalan home rule has effectively been suspended due to this anti-democratic attitude from the Spanish government. It’s a situation that harks back to the dark past of this country, when democracy was not a part of the Spanish dictionary. What is happening here in Catalonia would not happen anywhere else in the European Union.
We have arrived at this unacceptable situation after asking Madrid for political dialogue dozens of times, and each time being rejected by the Spanish executive, which has consistently refused to discuss Catalonia’s future. But a healthy democracy needs dialogue in order to evolve. Instead of engaging in discourse, the Spanish government has opted for police and judges, taking us beyond the limits of a respectable democracy.
With the arrests of high-ranking officials and threats to detain democratically elected politicians, I believe the Spanish government has violated the European charter of fundamental rights. The EU itself is built on these values and is committed to guaranteeing the rights proclaimed in the charter and in the EU treaties. As an EU member state, Spain should respect that. If not, it is the European commission’s duty to intervene. The rule of law is accepted across Europe as the guarantee of our rights, but the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, is twisting our law to suit his own political ends in blocking the referendum. Spain’s constitution was introduced to cement democracy after Franco’s dictatorship, but this government is exploiting its wording as a means to deny us our right to vote.
Catalan citizens are peaceful, European and open-minded, we want to contribute to better international and European governance. The crackdown on our attempts to achieve a democratic process is alien to the way that we both think and act. Our response has been peaceful, despite the heavy-handed tactics from central government, putting democracy and good humour at the forefront. All we want is to carry out the greatest expression of a free democracy, and vote on Catalonia’s future. This is not about independence, it is about fundamental civil rights, and the universal right of self-determination.
We have only arrived at this crisis due to aggressive tactics employed by Rajoy over the past seven years. In 2010, the Spanish constitutional court annulled a large part of the Catalan statute of autonomy negotiated between Catalonia and the previous prime minister, José Luis Zapatero. This demolished one of the main agreements achieved during the Spanish transition to democracy – Catalonia’s recovery of self-governance.
The ruling by the court – whose current president is a former activist for Rajoy’s conservative Popular party – showed contempt for the legitimacy of the statute of autonomy, which had been approved by both the Catalan and Spanish parliaments, and also by the Catalan citizens through a referendum. More than a million people marched against this annulment in Barcelona in July 2010. Since then, millions more Catalan citizens have taken peacefully to the streets in defence of self-rule and the right to decide on their political future.
No longer will we compromise on our desire for a referendum. We won’t give up on it. Catalans will exercise their right to decide in the 1 October referendum – whatever the actions of central government. We call on the international community to stand with Catalonia in its defence of democracy and true European values. In the meantime, our citizens must be ready to defend democracy and self-rule in the coming days with the only weapons we have: ballot boxes and a peaceful attitude.

• Carles Puigdemont is the 130th president of Catalonia

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia