Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Basque Have Arrived - By Mike Konrad

Catalonia wants to hold a referendum this October concerning its desire for independence from Spain. The Spanish courts are using every judicial trick in the book to suppress the vote.
Catalonia officially sets independence vote for October 1 – CNBC
One method of Madrid's coercion is to threaten any Catalan official who lends aid to the referendum.
The former Catalan president Artur Mas has been banned from holding public office for two years after being found guilty of disobeying the Spanish constitutional court by holding a symbolic independence referendum three years ago. -- The Guardian
This is no minor matter to a regional government worker, who might be stuck between the conflicting demands of a separatist regional Catalan administration, and a national Spanish court threatening such a worker.
Separatist leaders now face fines and suspension from office if they go ahead with the referendum, which has been declared illegal by the central government in Madrid, with the support of Spanish courts.
Some 6,000 ballot boxes have been stored in a secret location for fear that they could be confiscated by the police. The Catalan Parliament has been fast-tracking legislation amid walkouts by unionist lawmakers and objections from the assembly’s own lawyers. -- New York Times
So now, those in favor of the independence referendum in Catalonia are trying to stage this 'illegal' referendum without subjecting the working participants to the legal consequences of such an action.
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau told Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont in a letter Friday she couldn’t allow use of [its voting] centers until he could outline plans for protecting public employees from the consequences of working on the vote, according to El Pais. Spain’s constitutional court on Thursday said it would ask 947 Catalan mayors to avoid taking part in the referendum. -- Bloomberg
Apparently, somebody has not thought this process through. At some point, if independence is sought, one is going to have to openly defy the centralizing government, or the process is going to fail. If the regional employees are not on board for the duration, the separatists have a real problem.  At the present moment, the separatists are looking where to locate the ballot boxes while insulating their employees from sanction by a Madrid government, which is serious about stopping Catalan independence.
On Thursday, [Spanish Prime Minister] Rajoy told Catalonia’s mayors, elected officials and civil servants that their duty was to “prevent or paralyze” an illegal referendum. As Spain’s leader, he added, “I will do everything necessary without giving up anything” to stop secessionism in its tracks. -- New York Times
This is not to say that Catalans do not want independence or deserve it. It is to say that they apparently have not steeled themselves for the struggle.
Of course, the separatists talk proudly.
…Catalonia’s government has promised that the referendum will be binding, even if it is declared illegal by Spain’s constitutional court and even if Catalan opponents of independence boycott it. --New York Times
Bold words, no doubt; unless one realizes that the separatists' first concern is protecting regional employees who may have no stomach for the fight. Catalonia's leaders seem to have little resolve for facing the possible repercussions, or even a threat of legal consequences, however minimal, which may be the sine qua non of independence.
One cannot imagine the Continental Congress being so concerned about protecting local stamp tax collectors from the ire of King George III. I seriously doubt that Jefferson Davis' first concern was to make sure that local post office employees south of the Mason Dixon line were not fired by President Lincoln.
But all is not lost. As I have noted, in my writings on Catalonia, behind every polite Catalan working to effect change peaceably, is the threat of a Basque separatist, who might be sympathetic to armed struggle, and has a history. The Basque are starting to speak up. For a while, it looked like the Basque might be waning; but the blood has started to boil again.
Hundreds of Basques turned out on the streets [in the Basque city of San Sebastian /Donostia] on Saturday in support of Catalonia and its planned referendum on independence from Madrid, an ambition long fought for by Basque separatists.
The demonstration was symbolic, in a region still marked by decades of violence waged by [the] armed [Basque] separatist group [the] ETA, and where the desire for independence remains strong despite the current peaceful times.
Arnaldo Otegi, a veteran leader in the northern region who was once part of ETA and now heads up Sortu, a party that campaigns for independence, was present at the march. -- The
This is what Spain really fears. The Catalans will bring up lawyers. The Basque will bring up former guerrilla fighters. Both the Basque and the Catalans are sympathetic to each other's struggles. Where they have differed is in their willingness to use violence.
Another difference is that the Basque do not mind outrightly defying Madrid. When Spain declares one of their separatist parties illegal, the Basque vote for the party anyway. This has led to an odd situation where the winner of an election was disqualified, while the loser was imposed by the Madrid authorities. The Basque did not care. As soon as Madrid declares one of their separatist parties illegal, the Basque form a new political party almost identical to the one banned.
Spain's Supreme Court has barred a new Basque political party, Sortu, on the grounds that it is a continuation of Batasuna, the banned political wing of the terrorist group ETA. -- The Telegraph (2011)
The Basque persevered, and sued to get Sortu made legal.
Though officially, the violent leftist separatist group, the ETA, has disarmed… officially… Spain cannot be sure. Apparently, armed struggle holds a mystic chord for much of the Basque as this made in 1996 video showed.
Even as recently as 2015, Spain was going after defiant Basque separatist parties.
A trial of 35 members of Basque separatist parties including Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed Eta group, got underway on Thursday in Spain after being repeatedly postponed. -- The
Even more frightening, as it must be to Madrid, this resolve cuts across the political spectrum. The center-rightist PNV [Basque Nationalist Party] is officially as much against Madrid as the leftist ETA is, differing only in method. Independence is not merely a leftist fantasy. The PNV might wax and wane in emphasizing its independence agenda according to whims of the polls, but ultimately they also want out of Spain.
Basque National Party hopes September election will pave way to independence – IBTimes (2016)
Catalonia has heart, to be sure; but what it seems to lack is determination. The Basque could supply that, and now that they have started to seriously enter the debate decidedly on Catalonia's side, Madrid has a real problem. The Basque Country and Catalonia are the only truly productive economic regions in Spain -- the only thing keeping Spain from third-world status.
This would be getting interestinger and interestinger, were it not for nervous Catalan public employees.  But the Basque are now on board, so it merits watching.
Besides once again thrusting the cause of Catalonian independence back into the public’s eye, the importance of this demonstration is twofold. First, it’s significant for the identity of the protesters. Basque has [sic] long wanted independence from Spain, and their efforts have gravitated towards the violent. The Basque people showing up to publicly support the October first independence referendum gives Catalan a public boost for their efforts by having the blessing of the original Spanish independence group. -- Texian Partisan
Let's hope no violence occurs, whatever the outcome.  But to an American like me, Spain remains fascinating.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago. He writes on the Arabs of South America at He also just started a website about small computers at