“L’Estat espanyol ha escrit avui una pàgina vergonyosa en la seva història de relació amb Catalunya, tristament no és la primera… Avui hem dit que això ja s’ha acabat (Spain has written a shameful page in its historical relationship with Catalonia, sadly it is not the first time… Today, we say it is over).” –Catalan President Carles Puigdemont
October 1, 2018 was the day of the Catalan referendum; when the people of the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia voted for independence – an act seen as illegal by the central government in Madrid. In response to an exercise of democracy, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy deployed the Guardia Civil and the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía to stop the referendum from happening.
Following the vote, as of Monday, Reuters reported over 840 people injured after the law enforcement bodies scuffled with citizens standing in line to vote, broke down the doors of polling places to seize ballot boxes, and used all means necessary to ensure the vote did not proceed. Videos across the internet showed average citizens being beaten with batons, shoved to the ground, pushed down stairs, dragged by their hair – all in the name of blocking a referendum.
In response, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said during a press conference to discuss the chaos being broadcast to the world, “Hoy no ha habido un referendum (Today, there was no referendum).” And in reference to the visible abuses at the hands of national law enforcement, the prime minister said, “La policía nacional ya la guardia civil han cumplido con su obligación y con el mandato (The national police and the civil guard fulfilled their obligation and mandate).”
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria also praised law enforcement’s actions, calling the chaos a “consequence” of the decision to push forward with the referendum and noting in a separate press conference, “Ellos han cumplido las ordenes de la justicia han actuado con profesionalidad (They have complied with the orders of justice and have acted with professionalism).”
Directly from the mouths of the prime minister and deputy prime minister of Spain, the actions taken by the national police and the guardia civil were state-sponsored acts of violence.
The events drew the attention of other world leaders, including Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who tweeted, “Violence can never be the answer! We condemn all forms of violence and reaffirm our call for political dialogue.” Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a member of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, sent a barrage of tweets, including a link showing the violence being perpetrated by police, with the caption, “Some of the scenes in Catalonia this morning are quite shocking and surely unnecessary. Just let people vote.”
“Increasingly concerned by images from Catalonia,” she later tweeted. “Regardless of views on independence, we should all condemn the scenes being witnessed and call on Spain to change course before someone is seriously hurt.”
Sturgeon added, “Let people vote peacefully.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the European Union (EU) has been relatively silent.
In a report by Jon Henley and Rowena Mason for British newspaper The Guardian, with the exception of a very few, they wrote, “The EU and most member states were reluctant to respond formally, seemingly viewing the dispute as an internal Spanish matter.”
However, earlier this year, the EU went after President Rodrigo Duterte on both the arrest of Senator Leila De Lima, along with his ongoing war on illegal drugs.
Why does the EU believe an event happening in their backyard, witnessing police in riot gear beating average citizens who only want to cast a vote, with the aggressors being commended by local leaders, is a nonissue; yet, they make these hyperbolic gestures to condemn what they believe to be egregious human rights abuses taking place halfway around the world, based on hearsay and political maneuvering.
De Lima is being propped up for partisan politics by waving the banner of human rights. Opponents of the president consistently fail to acknowledge allegations of links to illegal drugs and only want to make it look like politics – when those making the allegations are the ones playing games. A warrant was issued by Judge Juanita Guerrero of the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court, had she been arrested without a warrant, then perhaps the opposition would have some validity in their argument – but, in the end, it’s all politics and propaganda.
The EU even went as far as drafting a resolution demanding De Lima’s release. How do they claim to be respecting domestic issues on one hand, but on the other, make demands flouting a sovereign nation’s legal system? Do they see the Philippines as inferior and believe they have the right to push the country around? Is it a similar position they have with Catalonia and they choose to stay out of the matter, believing Spain will eventually quell the situation – which, as the world has seen, through excessive force (something the EU apparently does not view as human rights abuses).
As for the war on drugs, the president gave an order for the Philippine National Police (PNP) to handle cases of resisting arrest accordingly. In many instances around the globe, resisting arrest is in itself a criminal charge. If a suspect fires back at a law enforcement official or threatens the use of a firearm, the arresting officer has the right to defend him or herself. This is not akin to Rajoy’s congratulatory praises of police attacking voters, Duterte is dealing with suspects allegedly linked to illegal drugs – there is a difference.
The hypocrisy the EU has shown over the past year is remarkable and it exposes both an arrogance, wherein they choose not to see the fault in themselves but quickly condemn those outside of their circle; and hypocrisy when it comes to the policies they promote.
According to James Landale, diplomatic correspondent for the BBC, he wrote in a piece shortly after the referendum and ensuing chaos, “[Separatists movements] are seen as a threat to what is still a club of sovereign nations.”
He succinctly points out the sheer hypocrisy in the EU position on Catalonia, noting, “A European Union that gives daily lip service to the idea of breaking down the boundaries between its members looks silently away as one of its members uses state violence to protect the integrity of its borders.”
Hamish McRae penned a piece for The Independent, where he discussed Catalonia’s viability as a sovereign state, writing, “In economic terms Catalonia will be fully viable and there is no practical reason why it should not continue to use the euro.”
What stands in their way would be a defiant (and bitter) Spain.
The EU wants to protect its own – Spain – and makes moves to stop efforts of self-determination (Catalonia) and distract media watchers with issues irrelevant to their state of affairs (Duterte). The ideology of the EU has seen members countries grow ever-more financially dependent on other nations, most European economies in stagnation, and acts of terrorism popping across the expanse of Europe; and their only recourse is for people to look the other way./WDJ