Following the confiscation of millions of ballots in recent days, and the Spanish governments' pressure on local mayors to deter the October 1st independence referendum, AP reports that the grassroots groups driving Catalonia’s separatist movement defied Spanish authorities on Sunday by distributing one million ballots for the vote that Madrid has called illegal and vowed to halt.
Jordi Cuixart, president of the separatist group Omnium Cultural, announced the ballots were being distributed during a rally in Barcelona.
“Here are the packs of ballots that we ask you to hand out across Catalonia,” Cuixart said.
Catalonia’s separatists have pledged to hold the vote regardless of the central government’s wishes and rallied Sunday in public squares in Barcelona and other towns in the region.
Many carried pro-independence flags and signs calling for the independence vote and urging the “Yes” side to victory.
The crowds were asked by secessionist politicians and grassroots groups to also print and distribute posters supporting the vote.
“I ask you to go out and vote! Vote for the future of Catalonia!” Carme Forcadell, the speaker of Catalonia’s regional parliament, told a Barcelona crowd.
Polls show the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia are roughly split on breaking with the rest of Spain, but as WolfStreet.com's Don Quijones points out Madrid’s crackdown on Catalonia is already having one major consequence, presumably unintended: many Catalans who were until recently staunchly opposed to the idea of national independence are now reconsidering their options.
If it spirals out of control, the conflict between Barcelona and Madrid could have ugly repercussions far beyond Spanish borders, as we warned in a 2015 article. Yet the European Union steadfastly refuses to mediate in the crisis, arguing that it must respect Spain’s constitution.
Given Brussels’ long-standing habit of meddling in others’ affairs, including toppling the elected leaders of Greece and Italy at the height of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, it’s a poor excuse. And most of Europe’s governments (with the possible exception of the UK, which is already engaged in a gargantuan struggle with Brussels) refuse to support Catalonia’s separatist movement out of the fear — largely justifiable — that it could fuel separatist tensions closer to home.
But the crisis in Catalonia is not going to go away just by ignoring it.
In the last few weeks alone three major international newspapers — Le Monde, The New York Times and The Times — have called for Madrid to allow a referendum. And with Rajoy and his government seemingly determined to pummel Catalonia into submission, at just about any cost, the chances are that their ranks will grow.
And this is where Madrid is making arguably its biggest mistake. For a new country to be born, it must first be recognized. Thanks to years of sustained, non-violent protest and the often overblown reaction of the Rajoy government, Catalonia has already massively increased the positioning of its brand internationally. Ten years ago, most people in the world didn’t even know what or where Catalonia was. Now, it’s hogging the headlines of the front pages of the biggest newspapers.
“Do not underestimate the power of Spanish democracy.”