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Tensions run high on the Iberian Peninsula as the bitter standoff continues between Spain and Catalonia, one of the nation’s 17 autonomous communities.
Spain functions as a highly decentralized unitary state. While sovereignty is vested in the nation’s central institutions of government, power is devolved to the communities which exercise their right to self-government within the limits of the constitution and their autonomous statutes.
Last week, Spanish police were sent to Catalonia to stop a non-state-sanctioned vote on the Catalan independence referendum. This Oct. 1 vote was previously ruled illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.
The modern Catalan independence movement started when the 2006 Statute of Autonomy, which had already been agreed upon by the Spanish government and passed by a referendum in Catalonia, was called into question in the Spanish High Court of Justice. The court decided that some of the articles in the Statute of Autonomy were unconstitutional.
The controversial decision sparked a series of popular protests that rapidly turned into demands for independence.
A mass protest in 2012 on the National Day of Catalonia called upon the Catalan government to take action and begin the process towards independence.
In Nov. 2015, the Catalan parliament passed a resolution declaring the start of the independence process.
The Spanish Constitutional Court took several actions to prevent the referendum from taking place. It forbade several office holders, the Catalan media and the 948 municipalities of Catalonia from participating in the preparation for the vote.
The Spanish Civil Guard launched Operation Anubis Sept. 20, raiding various headquarters of the Catalan government. Fourteen people, including high-ranking persons and administrative staff, were arrested for their involvement with preparation for the referendum.
On the day of the vote, Spanish police used force to try to close down voting centers.
According to the Catalan health ministry, the violent crackdown left 893 people injured as rubber bullets were fired and voters were physically dragged away from polling stations. Despite the authorities’ efforts, the Catalan regional government announced that the vote was successful. Ninty percent of those who were able to get out to polling stations voted in favor of Catalan independence.
In the wake of the referendum results, Catalans on both sides of the controversy have been taking to the streets.
Pro-independence demonstrators were angered by the police violence that sought to stop the vote. Others are urging both fellow civilians and the government to maintain the unity of Spain.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy shared his opinion on Catalonia’s threats to declare independence from Spain.
“Spain will not be divided, and the national unity will be preserved,” Rajoy told German newspaper Die Welt. “To this end, we will employ all the means we have within the law. It is up to the government to make decisions, and to do so at the right moment.”
France has also spoken out about Catalonia’s desired independence.
“Catalonia cannot be defined by the vote organized by the independence movement just over a week ago,” France’s European affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau to CNews television said. “This crisis needs to be resolved through dialogue at all levels of Spanish politics.”
All eyes will be on Spain as Catalan President Carles Puigdemont prepares to address the regional parliament Tuesday night.
Whatever Puigdemont decides to do, his statement will trigger the 48-hour period in which MPs need to act if they wish to declare independence.