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The subversion of democracy against the elected members of Catalonia must be exposed and shamed

3 min read

The right-wing parties of Spain have embarked on a concerted campaign to undermine the right of the people of Catalonia to decide on their own self-determination, writes Ronnie Cowan MP. 


Even the olives were bleeding.

Over the last week or so I have watched, appalled, as the Mossos d’Esquaura have beaten, punched, and kicked peaceful demonstrators in Spain. There have even been cases of people losing an eye as the result of being shot by a rubber bullet. These bully boy tactics are not new. We saw them deployed on the day of the Catalonian referendum, the 1st of October 2017. Subsequently nine people have been sentenced to prison terms of between nine and thirteen years for their part in organising the referendum.

The people of Catalonia democratically elected three Members of the European Parliament, but they have been thwarted in their attempts to take up their seats. And five elected officials of the Spanish parliament, all former members of the Catalan government, have all been suspended. This subversion of democracy against the elected members of Catalonia must be exposed and shamed. The right-wing parties of Spain have embarked on a concerted campaign to undermine the right of the people of Catalonia to decide on their own self-determination. The overtones of Franco’s Spain are there for everyone to see. At this stage no one has been killed but while police vans drive at speed into protestors, citizens are clubbed to the ground and rubber bullets fired into crowds, is it only a matter of time before someone dies? 

It is worth noting that for the five years before the referendum and the two years since, the people of Catalonia have held mass rallies and marches when hundreds of thousands of people have peacefully demonstrated without any arrests or violence or vandalism. I was in Barcelona in summer this year and watched rival protestors face off each other on a main road and it was all done through singing and chanting. I walked from one side of the argument to the other. Neither side was threatening, and both were happy to explain their views to me.

The ongoing state police violence has made that impossible now. And if we can’t have dialogue then we will never resolve this impasse. I was interviewed recently for a Spanish TV channel and they were clear to me. The vast majority of the people of Spain are outraged at what they are seeing. They fear for Spain’s image around the globe. This violence and subjugation of democracy is being perpetrated in their name and they abhor it.   

The situation is now, as it has been for two years. The Catalonian government wants to sit down round the table with representatives of the government of the Kingdom of Spain and talk. It wants to find a diplomatic and democratic solution.

The Spanish government led by Pedro Sanchez refuses to engage. The leader of the official opposition in the UK parliament, Jeremy Corbyn was correctly critical of, the then, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy when he oversaw the referendum and the police brutality that we witnessed that day. But he has been almost silent about the role now being played by his friend Prime Minister Sanchez.

All diplomatic channels must be opened and a peaceful solution must be found. Politicians do not serve themselves or the wider community well by remaining silent on this.

During the Spanish civil war, the Irish poet Charles Donnelly famously said, “even the olives were bleeding”. We cannot run the risk of the Kingdom of Spain returning in any way shape or form to those dark days.

Now is not a time to be bystanders, waiting to see where this will end. Without international pressure, it will not end well. 

 

Ronnie Cowan is SNP MP for Inverclyde. 

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