RM: This is a long-standing cultural issue. The regions speak different languages, and this difference has always been strong. Catalonia also has certain autonomous privileges within Spain. They have certain powers that are not controlled by the central government in Spain, and they have more of these powers than other independent areas within the borders of Spain. Unlike these other big regions, such as the Basques that have been fighting for a long time for independence from France and Spain, Catalonia is the richest part of Spain. Therefore, they feel that they could do better by themselves, or they do not want their money to be redistributed to the rest of the country.
DTH: Why is there Spanish resistance to Catalan independence?
RM: It would be like if Texas or California wanted to leave the U.S. Regardless of what you think of the people in those states politically, we would be losing a big chunk of what we consider our nation to be. There is also a fear that investments in the areas could disappear. A smaller Spain may make you sad, but if other groups like the Basques follow Catalonia and it keeps going from there, then you’re left with nothing.
DTH: What happened during the vote on Sunday, and what has the response been from both sides?
RM: The outcome was not clear. If you had, had a vote where everyone in Catalonia participated, it is not clear that independence would have passed. A lot of polling showed that maybe a majority of Catalans actually did not support the movement even though the results of the vote were in favor of independence.
Leading up to the vote, the Spanish government felt that it could not wait for the results and that it had to be aggressive during voting. Now, people are saying that these aggressive moves are what pushed support for independence very quickly to be stronger and more widespread. We will see if this push holds up. However, it is interesting that the Spanish government would respond this way because surely they know about the likelihood and danger of images of their aggressive response spreading across social media and causing controversy.
DTH: How has the international community responded?
RM: Catalonia says they are going to declare independence this weekend, so we will see if that changes anything. European heads of state like Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are probably not going to like the results because they are currently the people running the European Union, and this means that they do not want nation-states to start breaking up. This is also a time where the EU is facing challenges, especially with Brexit, and cannot afford any more controversies. The identity of the EU is being questioned more so than in the past, and this is not going to help. However, the smaller regional folks like the Kurds in Iraq and the Basques in Spain will probably like this movement because it affirms what they want as well.