Catalonia faces setbacks in their fight for independence

Sydney Gibson, Staff Writer

Female student protests against the Spanish government’s decision to impede Catalonia independence referendum. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Catalonia, one of the 17 regions in Spain, is located in the northeastern section of the nation and has been waging a battle for independence since 1922 to create its own democracy.  

Catalonia is one of Spain’s wealthiest regions and brings in approximately 20% of their GDP, or gross domestic product. Separatists are tired and frustrated that Spain takes more from them than it gives in return and are currently facing setbacks in their fight for separation. The majority of Catalans want a democratic government instead of being suppressed by Spain’s parliamentary constitutional monarchy. 

Carles Puigdemont, the former President of Catalonia, was ousted from office and fled to Brussels, Belgium with four ex-ministers of the region on October 30th. Days later, they sought political asylum with the Belgium government and turned themselves in to the authorities after Spain issued a European arrest warrant. The five were freed from custody late Sunday evening and intend to stay in Brussels to guarantee that they will receive a fair trial in Spain. The Belgium government is planning on preventing the former president and ministers from being tried unjustly. 

During this time, Spain arrested nine former officials of Catalonia’s separatist government. Eight of the officials were jailed without bail and the last was jailed with a $58,000 bail. They are being charged separately for various crimes including rebellion, sedition, embezzlement, breach of official duty and disobedience of lawful authority. 

The Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy is calling for an election in Catalonia on the 21st of December to replace the officials that were recently arrested. Puigdemont is welcoming the idea of running for office even if it included campaigning from abroad. 

The December elections are, “an opportunity to defeat unionism,” and a, “decisive election between democracy and imposition,” stated Puigdemont, “This is the moment for all democrats to unite. For Catalonia, for the freedom of political prisoners and for the Republic.” 

The Catalans that are for seceding are still planning protests for independence and the release of the nine separatist leaders from northeastern Spain. They are persisting and continuing to fight despite their recent difficulties. 

Journalist Stefania Clerici with the Washington Post stated, “I ask Mr. Rajoy to allow a free election and to respect the results. And I ask the rest of the world to watch closely. It is not only Catalonia’s independence that is at play but democracy itself.”