It Gets Ugly in Catalonia

by Don Quijones, Wolf Street:

Spain’s “ships of repression” are coming to help out. 

Madrid’s crackdown on Catalonia is already having one major consequence, presumably unintended: many Catalans who were until recently staunchly opposed to the idea of national independence are now reconsidering their options.

A case in point: At last night’s demonstration, spread across multiple locations in Barcelona, were two friends of mine, one who is fanatically apolitical and the other who is a strong Catalan nationalist but who believes that independence would be a political and financial disaster for the region. It was their first ever political demonstration. If there is a vote on Oct-1, they will probably vote to secede.

The middle ground they and hundreds of thousands of others once occupied was obliterated yesterday when a judge in Barcelona ordered Spain’s militarized police force, the Civil Guard, to round up over a dozen Catalan politicians in dawn raids. Many of them now face crushing daily fines of up to €12,000.

The Civil Guard also staged raids on key administrative buildings in Barcelona. The sight of balaclava-clad officers of the Civil Guard, one of the most potent symbols of the not-yet forgotten Franco dictatorship, crossing the threshold of the seats of Catalonia’s (very limited) power and arresting local politicians, was too much for the local population to bear.

Within minutes almost all of the buildings were surrounded by crowds of flag-draped pro-independence protesters. The focal point of the day’s demonstrations was the Economic Council of Catalonia, whose second-in-command and technical coordinator of the referendum, Josep Maria Jové,was among those detained. He has now been charged with sedition and could face between 10-15 years in prison. Before that, he faces fines of €12,000 a day.

The confiscation of ballots and other vital voting paraphernalia and the detention of key members of the referendum’s organizing committee, together with today’s decision by the Spanish Finance Ministry to completely block the regional government’s accounts — a move that would not be possible without full cooperation of both Spanish and Catalan banks — could be a major setback for Catalonia’s dreams of independence.

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