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Catalonia: Madrid calls Puidgemont’s bluff

Spain imposes direct rule on Catalonia; calls snap elections

Alexander Mercouris

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In the weeks since Catalonia’s illegal independence referendum the President of Catalonia’s government Carles Puidgemont has been behaving increasingly like a man whose bluff has been called.

He has repeatedly called for talks with Madrid without however agreeing to Madrid’s fundamental pre-condition, which was for him to say that notwithstanding the referendum Catalonia is not declaring independence from Spain.

He has called for EU mediation, only to have the EU turn a deaf ear to his call.

As I predicted not a single government around the world, and importantly none of the Great Powers – the US, Russia, China and India – has lent him support.

Nor have the governments of the EU’s two big regional powers: Germany and France.

Meanwhile there is a rush of banks and businesses exiting Barcelona for Madrid, and the Spanish Senate has now voted overwhelmingly to support the Spanish government’s request that it be allowed to impose direct rule.

It is sometimes said that in this situation Puidgemont and the Catalan independence movement had no other option but to declare independence, as they have now done.

That is simply wrong.  The alternative and proper route for them to follow was actually very clear: it was to return to legality.

That would however have involved agreeing that the independence referendum does not provide a legal basis for independence, and agreeing to the fresh elections, which are the only realistic way out of the impasse.

In the event Puidgemont refused to admit that the independence referendum does not provide a legal basis for independence, and he refused Madrid’s call for fresh elections, a fact which incidentally reinforces my view that there is less support for independence in Catalonia than is sometimes said.

What happens next will largely depend on how skilfully the Spanish government handles the situation.

Puidgemont has called for ‘peaceful resistance’ to the imposition of direct rule, but no one should take that call seriously.

In a situation where Puidgemont and the Catalan independence movement have no other cards left to play the only remaining thing they can do is stage violent confrontations with the forces deployed to Catalonia by Madrid in the probably forlorn hope that this will gain them sympathy both internationally and in the rest of Spain.

Faced by this tactic the Spanish authorities need to act both consistently and firmly, refusing to make unwarranted concessions to Puidgemont and the Catalan independence movement and pressing ahead with the imposition of direct rule, but refusing also to be provoked into disproportionate reactions.  Provided this situation is handled intelligently the power of the Spanish state with the authority of the law behind it is all but certain to prevail in a situation like this.

So far the Spanish authorities have handled the situation properly, and there is no reason to think that they will not continue to do so.

At this point a number of further myths which have grown up around this crisis need to be jettisoned.

Firstly, unconditional negotiations in a situation where someone is behaving illegally is not the path to peace.  On the contrary by rewarding illegality such a step undermines constitutional order, leading away from peace and directly towards violence.

In this case unwarranted concessions to Puidgemont and the Catalan independence movement would not secure peace in Catalonia.  On the contrary they would risk spreading the crisis to the whole of the rest of Spain, putting peace there in jeopardy.

Secondly, the case has been made by some people that the issue of legality is being over-emphasised.  Perhaps the most eloquent expression of this argument has been made by Craig Murray, who as a supporter of Scottish independence is also a supporter of the Catalan independence movement.

I dealt with imprisonment of political prisoners all round the world when I was in the FCO. Very few of them were extra-judicially detained. Uzbekistan’s 8,000 political prisoners have almost all been tried and condemned under Uzbek law. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ken Saro Wiwa, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, all were imprisoned by judges. The “rule of law”, where it ignores human rights, is not enough. That is the line the EU, to its great shame, has crossed.

Every one of the cases Craig Murray refers to took place in countries which were not democracies, democracy being here defined as a political system in which all citizens of the country in question have the free exercise of the right to vote.  Moreover every one of the individuals Craig Murray refers to – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ken Saro Wiwa, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi – specifically made precisely this point in explaining their acts of illegality and disobedience.

I would add that Mandela and Gandhi were both lawyers with a huge respect for the law – as they made repeatedly clear in their many statements – who defended their occasional resorts to illegality precisely because the laws they were challenging had been imposed undemocratically in a way that made them both oppressive and unaccountable whilst allowing for no avenue for peaceful or legal protest in order to change them.

For a powerful statement of this position see Nelson Mandela’s speech at the Rivonia trial, where South Africa’s apartheid authorities sentenced him to life imprisonment, though Mandela’s arguments apparently made a very strong impression on the Judge, who refused the prosecution’s implicit request for the death penalty.

By no conceivable stretch of the imagination is Puidgemont’s or Catalonia’s position remotely analogous to those of Mandela or Gandhi or of course of Solzhenitsyn and Ken Saro Wiwa or of the people imprisoned, killed or tortured by the Uzbek dictatorship, or indeed by any other dictatorship, dictatorship in this context being defined as a political system whose basis ultimately is not law but force.

Not only does Catalonia function within a political system where all Catalans have the right to vote and stand in law in an equal position to all other Spanish citizens, but Catalonia is actually Spain’s richest province and Puidgemont is an elected official possessing state authority.

As such Puidgemont has no grounds or excuse to resort to illegality and given that – by his own admission – he is acting illegally, instead of continuing in his defiance like any other person who has broken the law he ought to be submitting to the law’s judgment upon his actions.

Here I will express my own view, which is that I continue to be baffled by the demands that Puidgemont and the other leaders of the Catalan independence movement should be given a free pass for their wilful resort to illegality.

Just as everyone else is subject to the law so the elected officials of Catalonia should also be.  Treating them any other way gives rise to the inevitable question of why if these highly privileged people are to be allowed wilfully and publicly to break the law anyone else should obey it?

Past experience repeatedly shows that whenever such a question starts being asked, the result is not peace but a breakdown of law and constitutional order, and ultimately a turn to violence.

This in turn brings me back to the question of whether or not Catalonia will now slide into violence, and whether there is any risk of civil war.

Nothing has so far happened which changes my view that both are extremely unlikely.  Whilst I expect some violence over the course of the next few days and weeks, I believe the Spanish authorities are sufficiently sophisticated and experienced to know how to deal with it without falling into Puidgemont’s trap by acting disproportionately.

Here I repeat my previous view – made previously by Haneul Na’avi – that since the Catalan independence movement is by no means a revolutionary movement but a conservative middle class movement, the prospect of it being successfully mobilised for violence or civil war is slim.  On the contrary once the immediate crisis has been overcome I expect a strong swing back towards support for the Spanish government in Catalonia, which may be visible as soon as the elections which have been called in December.

However if violence does escalate beyond the point of the usual street clashes between police and demonstrators, then it is clear where responsibility lies.

It lies squarely with Puidgemont and the Catalan independence leaders, who wilfully and recklessly and without assessing the situation properly have led their followers onto the path of violence and illegality when they had other peaceful, legal and constitutional options available to them

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What Lies Behind the Malaise of the West?

Prime Minister Theresa May was just forced to pledge that she would not lead her party in the next election — to survive a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


Is it coincidence or contagion, this malady that seems to have suddenly induced paralysis in the leading nations of the West?

With lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen’s confession that he colluded with Donald Trump in making hush money payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, America’s stage is set for a play that will run two years.

As Democrats test the waters for a presidential run by savaging Trump, the establishment Trump detests and defeated in 2016 will use every weapon in its considerable arsenal to break and bring him down, as it did half a century ago to Richard Nixon.

By spring 2019, Americans will be unable to escape the vitriol on cable and social media. And the outside world will see America again as a house divided. Our politics will be even more poisonous than now, and it is not easy to see what would bring our warring tribes together again.

Consider, then, the situation of our old ally Great Britain.

Prime Minister Theresa May was just forced to pledge that she would not lead her party in the next election — to survive a no-confidence vote in Parliament. A third of all Tory members voted to throw her out.

The no-confidence vote was called after May had to cancel a vote on the Brexit plan she had negotiated with the EU, when it was evident that a coalition of Tories and Labor would vote to kill her plan.

May has been humiliated. Yet her humiliation solves nothing. The clock is running toward a March deadline for concluding a Brexit deal. And no plan acceptable to both Parliament and the EU is on the table.

The possibility exists that Britain could simply crash out of the EU, causing severe economic damage to both.

Realizing this, Brussels has left the door open if Britain should vote in a second referendum to remain in the EU. But calling and carrying out that referendum would be a betrayal of the 52 percent of the British people that voted to restore full national independence.

While London wanted to stay in the EU in 2016, England voted to leave. Northern Ireland wanted to stay, as did Scotland, though 45 percent of Scots had earlier voted to declare their own independence from Great Britain.

In France, after four Saturdays of anarchy, arson, looting and vandalism of her national monuments, President Emmanuel Macron capitulated to the rioters. He withdrew the fuel tax that triggered the uprisings. He agreed to have his government add $113 a month to those earning the minimum wage, and to let workers get overtime pay and Christmas bonuses tax-free, and to revoke higher social charges on modest pensions.

The cost of Macron’s retreat is estimated at $11 billion, 0.4 percent of France’s GDP. Saturday will tell us if his appeasement bought peace.

The political collapse of Macron has been extraordinary.

In 2017, he won almost two-thirds of the national vote, and his La Republique en Marche! won an absolute majority of the National Assembly.

Today, one poll puts Macron’s approval at 21 percent. The idea that he can replace Angela Merkel as the recognized leader of the EU seems ridiculous.

As for Merkel herself, hailed as leader of the West in the time of Trump, her party and coalition lost so much support in the recent election that she stepped down as leader of the CDU and pledged not to run for another term as chancellor.

Europe’s fourth-largest economy, Italy, is now led by a coalition of the populist-left Five Star Movement and populist-right Lega party. The coalition seeks greater freedom on spending than Brussels is willing to allow, and a halt to migration from across the Med.

With Poland and Hungary at odds with Brussels over alterations in their political systems, the EU has never seemed less united.

What are the underlying causes of these 21st-century crises of Western democracies?

Certainly, globalization, with its creation of ties among transnational elites at the expense of nation-states and their indigenous peoples is one. Capitals — Washington, London, Paris, Berlin — seem ever more distant from the countries they rule.

Then there is demography. The native-born of almost all Western nations are aging, shrinking and dying. Death rates exceed birth rates. While peoples of the West are living longer, they are producing fewer children to replace them.

At the same time, Western elites have welcomed foreign workers and left borders unsecured against mass migration. And the people coming in, almost all now from the Third World, are not assimilating as the children of 19th- and 20th-century European immigrants to the USA had largely done by 1960.

A consequence and related cause is the rise of tribalism, or ethno-nationalism, the search for identity and community with one’s own. Loyalties to family, tribe, neighborhood, culture and country appear paramount, rising above intellectual and political alignments.

The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing, said Pascal. And so it does.

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Petro Poroshenko and Theresa May: failed leaders on the same disastrous trajectory (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 37.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look how UK PM Theresa May and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko are willing to destroy their country in the pursuit of pleasing their globalist masters, while retaining what little power they still hold.

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https://soundcloud.com/user-901836666/petro-poroshenko-and-theresa-may-failed-leaders-on-the-same-disastrous-trajectory

Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s president has recently warned Russian tanks are amassing along the border between the two countries amid increasing tensions. The comments came late last month after three Ukrainian naval boats were seized in the Kerch Strait by Russia.

President Petro Poroshenko has allegedly shown images of what he claims to be hundreds of tanks preparing for an invasion.

He told Sky News:

“This is the tank base just 18km from our border, this was happening in September, October, and now.”

“This is 18km from my border, this is the same warehouse where they have their ammunition, the same where they have multi-rocket launch systems, we should be prepared to protect my country.”

Satellite imagery from Google Earth taken sometime in November from the Defense Blog has verified Poroshenko claims. Photos show hundreds of Russian main battle tanks at a new military installation in the Kamensk-Shakhtinsky region.

The Russian base is about 18 kilometers (11.1 miles) away from the rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine. Images show hundreds of main battle tanks, with thousands of military trucks, support systems, artillery pieces, tankers, and troop transport vehicles.

Russia has been quietly building up its forces near the border with Ukraine since late summer and now has a military force greater than 2014, the year Moscow annexed Crimea, Viktor Muzhenko, the commander of Ukrainian armed forces, told Reuters in an interview last week.

In front of us is an aggressor who has no legal, moral or any other limits,” he said. “It is very difficult to predict when it will occur to him to begin active combat actions against Ukraine.”

“This (the Kerch Strait incident) was an act of aggression from regular forces, the border service (of the Russian Federation) in relation to the Ukrainian armed forces,” Muzhenko added.

Eric Zuesse via The Strategic Culture Foundation, made a great point in October that Washington is now treating Ukraine as if it were a NATO member, donating warships and military equipment to the country for use against Russia. This is the latest indication that America’s military-industrial complex is shifting to Ukraine as the epicenter to start World War III, and from which the nuclear war is to be sparked against Russia.

There is a reason why Russia is amassing hundreds of main battle tanks on the Ukranian border, that is because the next geopolitical flare-up is right around the corner, likely to occur during the next global recession.

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Canada PM Justin Trudeau in way over his head with Huawei CFO arrest

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Justin Trudeau’s response to U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese officials over of stories around the arrest of Huawei’s CFO in Vancouver and the detention of a former Canadian diplomat in China.

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Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Via Zerohedge


China Arrests Former Canadian Diplomat As Government Fears Reprisal For Huawei CFO
Is this one of the “severe” reprisals threatened by Beijing when it summoned Canada’s ambassador to Beijing for a meeting over the weekend?

According to Reuters, former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig has been detained in China. Kovrig’s employer, International Crisis Group, is working to secure his “safe” release.

The reason for Kovrig’s detention wasn’t immediately clear, and Beijing has refused to comment on his detention. However, Reuters noted that the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has “stoked fears of reprisals.”

“International Crisis Group is aware of reports that its North East Asia Senior Adviser, Michael Kovrig, has been detained in China,” the think-tank said in a statement.

“We are doing everything possible to secure additional information on Michael’s whereabouts as well as his prompt and safe release,” it added.

China’s Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Public Security did not respond immediately to questions faxed earlier about Kovrig’s detention.

The exact reason for the detention was not immediately clear. The Canadian embassy declined to comment, referring queries to Ottawa.

Kovrig, a Mandarin speaker, has been working for the ICG as an in-house “expert” since February 2017. Prior to that, he served as a diplomat for the Canadian government between 2003 and 2016, with stints in Hong Kong and Beijing.

And while it’s possible that the timing of Kovrig’s arrest is purely coincidental, the timing is certainly suspicious.

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