Reder David is on vacation in on vacation Catalonia. He is now in Barcelona and will go fly fishing in the Pyrenees. He sent videos that he took of a peaceful anti-independence protest in Barcelona.

David Writes …

Buenos Dias du Barcelona, Mish. On a long-ago scheduled visit to Barcelona and the Pyrenees (fly fishing), my lucky day, having a prime spot for the big demonstration this afternoon. I will try to send videos taken on my phone this afternoon.

The demonstration was lively and friendly. On a mild day, with very light rain, the demonstration began at 400pm (local time) and passed slowly under my window for over 30 minutes. I am not a crowd estimator by any means, but I would the guess the group was perhaps 20,000 people, mostly younger.

In chatting with people, I’m still not sure about the clarity of the basis for the actions. Catalunya and the rest of Spain have a long history. The ‘aftertaste’ of Franco, including the executions and disappearances of thousands of people, influence the social mood. A strong social competition exists between Madrid and Barcelona. The lingering effects of the recent economic collapse also influences opinion. Unemployment remains a huge problem, and especially younger people feel they have been screwed over by decisions made long ago and far away (in Brussels and in Germany). They feel they have no voice in the things that matter to them. I ask ‘where to go for a good job,’ they say ‘Germany.’

By the way, on my first visit here, I offer my highest recommendation. Catalonia offers great food and wine, history and culture, gracious hospitality, and favorable prices for goods and services. Already I imagine a return visit.

Barcelona, si. Catalunya, si.


Note: The MOV file David sent was much sharper than the result from a Google upload to YouTube.

Tensions Mount

The Guardian reports Catalonia riven with tension as referendum day arrives.

Catalonia was tense this weekend ahead of an independence referendum that has divided Spain. At the final rally, the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, said the region was only one step away from independence. “We’ve got this far and we have until Sunday to win,” he told the crowd on Friday evening.

The authorities have confiscated voting papers and ballot boxes, raided printers and newspapers accused of aiding the poll, shut down websites and blocked an app explaining how and where to vote. Police have occupied the Catalan data agency, blocked access to the census and are seeking to thwart communication between polling stations. The national data protection agency has warned anyone manning a polling station they face fines of up to €300,000 for breaking the data protection law.

The Catalan vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, said that however many people vote, Catalonia will have won the right to be respected and listened to: “It’s inevitable and obligatory the central government sits down to negotiate.” Madrid has said all along that it will negotiate on anything but a referendum. The Catalans offered to cancel the illegal referendum in return for the promise of a legal one. As tensions have mounted, Rajoy has said that Puigdemont and Junqueras are not fit negotiators and called for a fresh round of Catalan elections, the third in five years.

Sixty lawyers, 70 international observers and 25 psychologists will be on hand. Despite polls indicating that only a minority of Catalans favour independence, there has not been a “no” campaign, although pro-Spanish unity demonstrators were out in force in Barcelona on Saturday.

Both the European Union and the United Nations have voiced concerns over the manner in which Mariano Rajoy’s Madrid government has sought to ensure the poll does not take place.

The Guardian keeps repeating that the majority do not favor independence. That may have been true in Apil or May, but after Madrid’s actions, I doubt it holds true today.

Barcelona, Si

Without a doubt, mass demonstration in favor of independence dwarf anti-independence efforts in Catalonia, and vice-versa outside Catalonia.

Spain Shuts Down Voting Technology

Fox News reports Spain shuts down Catalonia independence vote technology as tensions rise.

Spain’s foreign minister vowed Saturday that a planned independence referendum in Catalonia would not take place as the Madrid government sought to dismantle the vote’s IT systems.

In an interview with Sky News, Alfonso Dastis said there are “no voting premises, no ballot papers [and] no authorities to check the authenticity of the result.”

Spain’s Interior Ministry said police had sealed off “most” of the region’s 2,315 polling stations and disabled software being used in the referendum. Enric Millo, the highest-ranking Spanish official in the northeastern region, said parents and students were occupying at least 163 schools that were to be used as polling places by mid-Saturday, when about 1,000 more still needed to be checked. In a later update, the ministry didn’t provide a new figure but only said “some” schools remained occupied.

Police have set a deadline of 6 a.m. Sunday for the activists to vacate the schools, a move designed to voting from taking place, since the polls are supposed to open three hours later. Some parents decided to send their children home and girded for pre-dawn confrontations with police.

Catalonia’s defiant regional government is pressing ahead anyway, urging the region’s 5.3 million voters to make their voices heard.

Families Occupy Polling Stations

The Washington Post reports With kids in tow, Catalonia’s pro-independence parents occupy polling stations in mass act of civil disobedience.

Officials with the central government told reporters that police had secured some 1,300 of 2,315 schools in Catalonia used as polling stations. The same officials also said that activists had occupied 163 schools. Those figures could not be verfied and were challenged by pro-independence activists who said many more schools were filled with supporters of Sunday’s vote.

The activists, who asked that their identities remain anonymous because their activities are deemed illegal, said it was also possible that even if normal polling places are closed, the vote could be staged down the block at another public building that someone has the key to.

I suspect the independence movement has planned this and will have alternate place established or will simply conduct votes in the street.

Catalonia History

I highly encourage readers to read the Council on Foreign Affairs document Can Catalonia Split With Spain?.

The article provides a nice history of the region as well as the massive mistakes by prime minister Mariano Rajoy that fueled the separatist vote.

The courts, at the request of Rajoy, tore up a referendum agreement between Spain and Catalonia that both Spain and Catalonia approved.

Thanks to Rajoy, the “middle ground for a new contract between Madrid and Barcelona essentially vanished.”

So here we are. Best wishes to Catalonia.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock