November 18, 2017 37th and O

The Champion of Democracy Ignores Catalonia’s Independence


by Allie Hubbard-Gourlay

On October 10th, Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence which to split the region from Spain. However, Puigdemont has suspended the declaration in an attempt to negotiate with the Spanish government and officially resolve this long-standing conflict.

The declaration’s legitimacy comes from the October 1st referendum in which ninety percent of the 3.2 million counted votes were in favor of independence. An estimated 770,000 votes were destroyed by the national police and Spanish Guardia Civil who seized ballot boxes in the Spanish government’s attempt to inhibit the referendum, which they had declared illegal, from taking place. Yet in citing Spain’s constitution, which emphasizes  “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards,” Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appears to stand firmly against any type of negotiation with Catalonia about their independence.

Despite the United States’ reputation for being vocal advocates on the international stage (President Obama, for instance, campaigned against Brexit in the UK), President Trump has said very little on this issue. On September 26th, Trump altered the government’s previous stance, that Catalonian independence was an internal issue on which the United States was not taking a position, in stating his opposition to the Catalonian referendum and his desire for Spain to remain united. Yet, since the recent development of Puigdemont signing an independence declaration, the White House has remained silent.

While Switzerland has clearly shown their willingness to help mediate negotiations between the Catalonian and Spanish government, the European commision is maintaining that this is an internal issue for Spain. So should the United States, the supposed champion of the ideals of democracy, intervene?

The United States has a cooperative relationship with Spain, as Trump reaffirmed in his September 26th meeting with the Rajoy; however, there is a precedent for the country to use its large influence upon Spain to affect governmental decisions. Back in 1982, the United States motivated Spain to reverse its resolution to leave NATO, and in 2003, it convinced the Spanish government to enter the Iraq War. So should the United States be making an effort to influence Spain to curb police violence towards Catalonians or volunteer to moderate talks between Prime Minister Rajoy and Catalan President Puigdemont? The United States has historically upheld the protection of human and political rights, so why is the US government now allowing the Spanish government to inhibit its citizens’ right to self-determination? Some argue that the Spanish constitution, as quoted above, prohibits an independence referendum. Yet if Spain truly adheres to its democratic principles, shouldn’t Catalonia, one of Spain’s seventeen autonomous regions, be entitled to determine its political status if it no longer identifies with its national Spanish identity? This referendum has become less of a question of nationality and more one of democracy. Should modern democracy allow for the secession of regions of a country (especially when they have already been ruling autonomously)? If the majority of Catalans identify as a distinct nationality, separated from the Spanish, we shouldn’t let imagined border lines limit their political freedom.

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Sources Referenced in Article:

Jones, Sam. “Catalonia's Suspended Declaration of Independence: What Happens next?”The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 Oct. 2017, www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/11/catalonias-suspended-declaration-of-independence-what-happens-next.

Gearan, Anne. “Trump Says U.S. Opposes Independence Bid in Spain’s Catalonia Region.”The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 Sept. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/09/26/trump-says-u-s-opposes-independence-bid-in-spains-catalonia-region/?utm_term.

“Official Statement by the President on the Political Situation in Catalonia.” 10 Oct. 2017, premsa.gencat.cat/pres_fsvp/docs/2017/10/13/11/30/8bb9ebb0-041e-4b3f-bb27-c5b599d992cd.pdf.

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