Catalonia

The U.S. Declaration of Independence on secession:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

In other words, Thomas Jefferson (and his co-authors) warned that independence movements are more likely to result in outcomes that are worse for the people than their current state, and that secession movements should be narrowly focused toward situations of despotism.

As far as I can tell, Catalonia is a wealthy region of a democratic and wealthy country. Of course, the 20th century was a crazy one for Spain, but for 40+ years, I'm not aware of any particular abuses of the Catalan people. The main arguments I've heard for secession are that Catalonia provides 16% of the population but 19% of GDP and doesn't get its tax revenue back, net-net, and oh yeah, Barcelona and Madrid are bitter football rivals. These are basically grounds for many states in the U.S. to secede.

What am I missing here? What are these great abuses that the Catalonian people are suffering that would inspire people to risk their livelihood and maybe even their very lives? Can some Europeans or knowledgeable Americans fill me in? Seems to me that the idea of tyranny has shifted radically from the era of the Soviet Union.

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Comments (61)

Best Response
Oct 25, 2017 - 5:17pm

I've been following recent events in Catalonia, but am no means an expert on the region.

Catalonia has had a long tradition of resistance to Castilian and French rule. Given its location between Spain and France and the inter-mingling of these peoples along a historically shifting borderland, the cultural and national identity of the Catalans does not fit either of these molds. Despite being fluent in Spanish, I was surprised to find that I could not communicate effectively with the locals due to significant differences in the Catalan dialect.

With that bit of history, there has always been a movement for the province to secede from Spain, but has been largely overshadowed by the more violent independence movement in the province of Basque. Within Spanish politics the question about what would happen to the future of Catalonia has long been unanswered. As a conciliatory gesture, the Spanish government agreed to grant Catalonia an autonomous provincial government, which rolled up to the federal level.

Spain's response to the independence referendum has only poured gasoline on the fire. On the day of the vote, the Spanish government sent the full force of the federal police to try to shut down the referendum. Unarmed, non-violent voters (not protesters) were clubbed, hit with rubber bullets and tear gas to try to break up the polls. Footage of masked police officers entering polling stations and seizing ballot boxes can be found online. Despite these jack-booted measures, the referendum passed, and the governor stated that he would declare independence. Given the realities of the situation, and that Catalonia has no real leverage, independence talks have been indefinitely tabled.

For some excellent on-the-ground coverage of the referendum and the Spanish government's response, I highly recommend checking out Tim Pool's videos on YouTube.

As you point out, the economic rationale for secession does not hold up. Sure, they are pulling more than their fair share of weight for the Spanish economy, but the turbulence that would arise out of secession would wipe out any economic gains from independence. I believe the broader motivations arise out of a collective identity which does not see itself as Spanish, and seeks to control its own self-determination. Taking this desire for sovereignty into account, we can take a step back and see the EU as a bigger threat to the interests of the Catalans since they bear the brunt of whenever Merkel and Brussels decide to take a shit on their neighbors. A Catalan exit would create a nation on the continent which is not part of the EU, and would not likely want to subordinate their interests to a foreign super-national body.

However, the Catalan independence movement is entirely toothless. They have no military, no 2nd Amendment, and every other nation has stood by the Spanish government in trying to preserve its territorial holdings. The semi-autonomous government in Catalonia is about to be abolished. The EU is dead-set against any kind of independence as it would lend credence to numerous secessionist movements across the country, which could tear the union apart. Off the top of my head, there are formidable independence movements in Scotland, North Ireland, Venice-Lombardy and Belgium already ongoing. This is not a line that Brussels could cross without the disintegration of the EU.

Oct 25, 2017 - 5:23pm
Spin Control:
The semi-autonomous government in Catalonia is about to be abolished.

To this point, as Jefferson warned, a people is more likely to be worse off than before whenever it rebels or seeks secession. Perhaps the Catalans feel so alienated culturally that a rebellion, so-to-speak, is worth the risk. But what have we learned from history? That we learn nothing from history, and I imagine the average Catalan pushing independence has not considered the lessons of history.

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Oct 25, 2017 - 5:38pm

Spot on. Unless Spain were willing to cede the territory, the Catalan people would truly suffer as Spain would move in and subjugate the province. We are talking about economic punishments and deprivation of civil rights. Given that Spain was a dictatorship until the 1970s I'd even say that human rights abuses to maintain order would be on the table.

Unless an anti-EU foreign power like the UK, Russia or the US (a stretch, I admit) were willing to engage in a proxy war with Spain and the rest of the EU, it's never going to happen. What would any major power gain in striking from this angle?

Oct 26, 2017 - 9:57pm

Having spent a lot of time in Catalonia recently and participated (as a curious tourist) in both pro and anti session marches, the theme I often heard was that they want more freedoms/autonomy and pointed to the Basque country as an example. Madrid is, for some reasons I don't understand, a true Democracy. The Basque are proud Spaniards but they collect their own taxes and feel some independence from Madrid. The Catalans want more of that. It;s the same Scotland - Brexit - Bernie Sanders - Trump wave that's circling the globe. It's emotional and I totally get it - but it's also irrational. All the marches I saw and witnessed were peaceful and happy so i dont see this ending poorly.

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Oct 26, 2017 - 10:59pm
Paladin:
All the marches I saw and witnessed were peaceful and happy so i dont see this ending poorly.

I don't see this ending in civil war, but at the very least I see greater risk than reward with regard to the well being of the people. So I agree then that it's an irrational push.

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Oct 27, 2017 - 3:57pm
dsch:

Please explain how prioritizing your own national interests rather than subordinating them to the EU/UN is irrational.

What does Catalonian independence have to do with the EU? Genuinely curious since I haven't seen this come up as an argument for independence.

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Oct 27, 2017 - 1:42pm
Dances with Dachshunds:

Catalonia declares independence:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/spain-poised-roll-back-catalonias-regional-a…

It will be interesting to see if ultimately the Catalans are better off as a result of their secessionist behavior. I cannot understand why a wealthy and free people would behave in such a manner. We are such a spoiled generation of people in the West.

From what I've heard, the silent majority in Catalonia are AGAINST secession. It is a radical, vociferous, and corrupt minority that are pushing for secession, of which the current government included.

Oct 27, 2017 - 2:25pm

This is what I have heard as well.

To me, even if 50% + 1 supported independence, I try to put myself in the position of the minority. What if the Virginia state legislature voted for secession and to dispossess me of my U.S. citizenship against my will?

These faux democratic independence movements really bother me. Look at Scotland's movement--they push for a referendum, lose, lose, lose, lose, and they'll lose 100 times in a row, finally win a slim majority and then declare that democratic principles require independence. (Different for BREXIT since that is not a national union.)

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Oct 27, 2017 - 3:26pm

Thanks for the article. After reading how the parliament carried out a secret ballot, and only had 80 of 135 seats actually cast votes mars the legitimacy of the secession. I personally can't give carte blance to an independence movement that does not fully reflect the interests of its citizens.

I figured the low turnout for the referendum was due to interference by the Spanish national police.

Oct 28, 2017 - 2:28pm

Catalan independence:

-is about getting sovereignity and the lose it immediately by joining the EU while Juncker and co are pushing for ''federal Europe''.
-is about regaining cultural identity from Spain.. to dilute immediately in the name of multiculturalism
-is about being more leftwing compared to the austerity of the Spanish government, but also about not sharing wealth with the rest of Spain (!) and at the same time join the EU which forces austerity and would ask for regional transfers of wealth.

In short.... it's a bunch of nonsense. The most two faced, hypocritical independence movement ever.

Those who call the Spanish government fascist need to seriously stop repeating propaganda, open a history book and check what was the reaction of any government (not just ''fascist'')in history to a region declaring secession: deploy the army, kill the insurgents.

Let's also look at what it takes to win independence: weapons, foreign powers supporting you, willingness to die for it. Kurds have all of those, Catalans have none.

Waving flags, declaring independence just to suspending it 6 seconds later then redeclare it, or social media slacktivism don't give you independence.

I just don't see it happening. All I see is a bunch of spoilt millennials without any clue of what they are doing. Let's see if they prove me wrong.

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

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Oct 28, 2017 - 3:02pm
neink:

-is about being more leftwing compared to the austerity of the Spanish government, but also about not sharing wealth with the rest of Spain (!) and at the same time join the EU which forces austerity and would ask for regional transfers of wealth.

Left/right aside (I really don't understand European politics), from the first time I read about independence for Catalonia maybe a year ago it came off to me that the main driver--or at least the main public justification--driving independence is the independence movement's contempt for sharing resources with the rest of Spain. In other words, it immediately came off to me as a rich area not wanting to share with a less rich area. As a person who looks upon the principles of the American independence movement in awe (really, principles from the European enlightenment, including Englishmen), I can't help but to feel no...sympathy(?) for the movement. It feels..."principle-less."

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Oct 28, 2017 - 5:25pm
Dances with Dachshunds:

neink:

-is about being more leftwing compared to the austerity of the Spanish government, but also about not sharing wealth with the rest of Spain (!) and at the same time join the EU which forces austerity and would ask for regional transfers of wealth.

Left/right aside (I really don't understand European politics), from the first time I read about independence for Catalonia maybe a year ago it came off to me that the main driver--or at least the main public justification--driving independence is the independence movement's contempt for sharing resources with the rest of Spain. In other words, it immediately came off to me as a rich area not wanting to share with a less rich area. As a person who looks upon the principles of the American independence movement in awe (really, principles from the European enlightenment, including Englishmen), I can't help but to feel no...sympathy(?) for the movement. It feels..."principle-less."

Yep, let's call it as it is, greed.

Catalonia is a rich region that benefits from being part of Spain, a lot. They also have enormous autonomy, especially if compared to equivalent regions with independence ambitions like Brittany, Veneto, Lombardy etc. So, all the arguments boil down to keeping a bit of tax revenue within the region and aspiring to become another micro-state parasyte of Europe like Luxembourg, Malta etc.

Fuuuck that.

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

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Oct 28, 2017 - 9:01pm

People rationalize Trump voters and racial resentment when blue collar white male's slice of the pie has been stagnating. I would imagine living in a country with 15-25% unemployment over the past 10 years would make them bitter, especially if they were being sold on secession how brexiters were sold (lied to profusely).

Oct 29, 2017 - 8:02am
ArcherVice:

People rationalize Trump voters and racial resentment when blue collar white male's slice of the pie has been stagnating. I would imagine living in a country with 15-25% unemployment over the past 10 years would make them bitter, especially if they were being sold on secession how brexiters were sold (lied to profusely).

Considering we are still waiting for the doom and gloom scenarios by Bremainers about unemployment and recession, it's hard to claim anyone did not lie when it comes to the UK referendum.

I agree with the rest of what you say though. If a country is going to shit, people will look around for solutions and change, whatever they are.

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

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Oct 29, 2017 - 9:01am

The UK is still in the EU. The fallout won't kick in until the details of the new trade deals start to be known and the UK government starts writing checks.

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Oct 29, 2017 - 10:16am

Also true but most of the doom and gloom predictions were by economists that were well aware of the two years timeframe before the official leave. Nonetheless they predicted doomsday scenarios for 2016 and 2017, which are before the 2 years deadline.

None of that happened.

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

Oct 30, 2017 - 8:02am
ArcherVice:

None of that has happened.

I like the market way: put a position on it, if you are right make money, if you are wrong take a loss. The more you wait for those experts to be proved right, the bigger the loss.

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

Oct 29, 2017 - 1:04pm

I took a family trip to Barcelona. Beautiful place. My tour guide was very proud to be Catalonian. Unfortunately for them, they have been on the losing side of many wars and conflicts.

Have compassion as well as ambition and you’ll go far in life
Oct 29, 2017 - 3:24pm

I am torn on the issue. On one hand, I am against everything European Union ("EU") and thus I'd love for Catalonia to secede and give the EU a headache. On the other hand, Catalonia appears to be wanting independence so they can become even MORE socialist. Spain has some capitalism, but is really socialist. I hate socialism with a passion and so I wouldn't want a new socialist country rising. Tough issue. My decision would be to see the EU be given a headache. Let Catalonia destroy itself from within.

What do you call an economist who forecasts? Wrong!
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Oct 29, 2017 - 7:38pm
FinancePilot:

I am torn on the issue. On one hand, I am against everything European Union ("EU") and thus I'd love for Catalonia to secede and give the EU a headache. On the other hand, Catalonia appears to be wanting independence so they can become even MORE socialist. Spain has some capitalism, but is really socialist. I hate socialism with a passion and so I wouldn't want a new socialist country rising. Tough issue. My decision would be to see the EU be given a headache. Let Catalonia destroy itself from within.

Catalonia wants to leave Spain and then join the EU.

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

Oct 30, 2017 - 4:01pm
FinancePilot:

Catalonia wants to leave Spain and then join the EU.

Doesn't that require 100% (unanimous) support from all EU member nations? That seems like an almost impossible obstacle for Catalonia to surmount. Heck, Greece is blocking Macedonia over its name!

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Oct 30, 2017 - 10:06am

It would be interesting to see another socialist country immediately go down in flames while libtards in america argue "it wasn't true socialism". Apparently every socialist country in history hasn't actually been socialist.

Oct 30, 2017 - 2:20pm

So who cares. It's their decision. How well has holding onto insane, prog/socialist strongholds worked out for the US? If they want to break off and try their hand at becoming a socliast paradise, then let them try. The worst that will happen is that once again it will be a failed experiment for all the world to see.

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."
Oct 30, 2017 - 2:17pm

Are you arguing that the people that live in a certain place should not be allowed to govern themselves and separate from governance they dislike? That seems like a pretty...strong...point of view. I'm certain many in England in the 18th century said the same thing...

It is strange, I think, that so many hold the opinion that one must "prove" the case for invidvual rights, liberty, freedom, etc. That's not at all how western civilization is supposed to work at all.

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."
Oct 30, 2017 - 4:06pm
PeterMullersKeyboard:

Are you arguing that the people that live in a certain place should not be allowed to govern themselves and separate from governance they dislike? That seems like a pretty...strong...point of view. I'm certain many in England in the 18th century said the same thing...

It is strange, I think, that so many hold the opinion that one must "prove" the case for invidvual rights, liberty, freedom, etc. That's not at all how western civilization is supposed to work at all.

There is no right to secession that I'm aware of in any national constitution anywhere in the world, particularly not with a simple majority vote. There are obvious reasons for that, including the fact that secession dispossess dissenting citizens of their citizenship; not even serial killers and traitors are dispossessed of their citizenship, at least in the United States.

So if you're going to violate the law and national territorial integrity in order to secede then you darn well should 1) have good moral justification for it; and 2) be ready to fight to the death for that right.

Do the Catalans have good moral justification for independence (e.g. are they living under "absolute despotism" as Thomas Jefferson phrased it?), and, if so, are they willing to accept the consequences that come with secession, including potentially having to take up arms? When people say "freedom isn't free" this is what they mean.

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Oct 30, 2017 - 4:30pm
Dances with Dachshunds:

PeterMullersKeyboard:

Are you arguing that the people that live in a certain place should not be allowed to govern themselves and separate from governance they dislike? That seems like a pretty...strong...point of view. I'm certain many in England in the 18th century said the same thing...

It is strange, I think, that so many hold the opinion that one must "prove" the case for invidvual rights, liberty, freedom, etc. That's not at all how western civilization is supposed to work at all.

There is no right to secession that I'm aware of in any national constitution anywhere in the world, particularly not with a simple majority vote.

I'm not sure if it's in their national constitution, but, If I remember correctly, Liechtenstein allows secession at the level of villages, and the monarch was even pushing to allow for secession at the INDIVIDUAL level. Pretty amazing country.

Oct 30, 2017 - 4:42pm
Dances with Dachshunds:

There is no right to secession that I'm aware of in any national constitution anywhere in the world, particularly not with a simple majority vote. There are obvious reasons for that, including the fact that secession dispossess dissenting citizens of their citizenship; not even serial killers and traitors are dispossessed of their citizenship, at least in the United States.

Actually, a few countries including Canada, Switzerland, France and Austria have express or implied rights to secession embedded into their constitutions. And while the UK doesn't explicitly allow for secession, Scots managed to hold a free and fair referendum with full support from the UK government.

The right to self determination has also been embedded to the UN charter of human rights since the 60s (it first appeared as one of eight principle points in the Atlantic charter signed in 1941 by Roosevelt and Churchill). Every UN members is a signatory to the charter.

Oct 30, 2017 - 7:22pm

There isn't? So anyone is just stuck with whatever governance they happen to be stuck with? That seems a bit...wrong. Why wouldn't that right exist? What would prevent it from existing? And why shouldn't it? To what end should it be prevented from happening?

Strange that you're also worried about the dissenting parties, given that the result of literally every single vote on anything is necessarily a compromise between those who said "no" and those who said "yes" - should we also refrain from having presidential elections because for the 45% who vote for the other candidate, it "dispossess them of their citizenship" or some such?

I don't know what "national territorial integrity" is, sounds made-up. Or a fancy way of saying "secession" which is, yes, what they're trying to do. Why are you assigning morality to the shape of a country's border? Or the size of it? I'm not aware of any good moral arguments that can be made for either.

If they believe themselves to have the right to govern themselves differently, I cannot think of any good reason to deny it. Your argument doesn't hold up, because according to the ground rules you've laid forth, literally any group of people that wants to separate and break off from governance that doesn't serve their interests is wrong and doing something immoral, illegal. Quoting line of Jefferson is hardly justification enough, I may agree with many things he said but I don't have to agree with every word he ever spoke or wrote in any context.

What is the moral argument against it? I still can't find an answer from anyone anywhere on this topic other than the word "secession" makes most Americans feel funny.

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."
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Dec 13, 2017 - 3:54pm
Dances with Dachshunds:

What am I missing here? What are these great abuses that the Catalonian people are suffering that would inspire people to risk their livelihood and maybe even their very lives? Can some Europeans or knowledgeable Americans fill me in?

I was born and raised in Catalonia so let me explain you.

Besides the economic question you already stated, there are two main factors that has lead to increase the support of independence.

The independence movement has existed for centuries. That's because Spain is composed by different regions with different languages and cultures, meaning different identities.

The Spanish Constitution (Article 3) recognises Spain as the main official language in the whole territory while other languages are OFFICIAL in their respective autonomous provinces. These languages are: Catalan (Catalonia Province), Valenciano (Comunitat Valenciana Province), Gallego (Galicia Province) and Euskera (The Basque province). There are other languages with special treatment such as Aranés.

It's been years that the Catalonian government has called (several times) to the central government to talk about the economic problem. The government always refused to even have a meeting regarding that issue and last time the PM (Mr. Rajoy) and the Catalonian President met, the PM refused to shake hands with him. Now, that was totally disrespectful towards him and the whole Catalonia. Obviously, catalans were unsatisfied and some non supporters join the movement.

The other main factors are related with culture and identity. Back in 2005 there was a reform on the Catalonian constitution or the rules of Catalonia (Estatut de Catalalunya) and was passed by law. However, the opposing party (PP Party) appealed for 114 articles against (14 were similar as other province yet the PP didn't appeal to that province). From these 114 articles some were about identity/language matters.

For example
"Article 6. 1.
Catalonia's own language is Catalan. As such, Catalan is the language of normal and preferential use for public administrations and the public media in Catalonia, and it is also the language normally used as a vehicle for teaching and learning."

This article is considered now anti-constitutional because of PP. But according to Article 3 from the Spanish constitution it shouldn't supposed to be anti-constitutional. So, how happened that? The PP is the most corrupted, criminal and fascist organisation existing in Spain. Their goal is to go back to the Franco days and they are doing right now with the 155 and other stuff that the international media doesn't cover.

PP manipulates the media to the point that many people in other provinces didn't know that the military police rant over non protesters during the referendum day (over 900 people were injured). The PP and media kept saying that catalans hate Spain, meanwhile distracting the population they are stealing all the pensions money! There are over 65 cases of corruption (investigations on going). Yet, these cases are on the news but the majority of Spanish are dumb and only care about flags, gossip shows and soccer instead of standing up against corruption, dethroning the PP and call for real democracy.

As a Catalan I want to protect my language, my culture, my history and my identity. I won't let this government impose another dictatorship as we had. I'm not a supporter of independence because I don't believe we will be better off economically but after the referendum day and that the government has empty the pensions funds I have no reasons to stay in Spain. That's the general opinion right now and that's why the independence movement has become so strong.

  • Fact: More than 50% of Catalans speaks Spanish in everyday life (I barely use Catalan)
  • Fact2: In our academic curriculum we had to learn at least 4 languages: Catalan, Spanish, English + optional (French, German, Latin...) while the rest of Spain only has Spanish and Spanglish.
  • Fact3: Our Catalonian politicians have higher education and speak in several languages. Mr. Rajoy can't speak Spanish therefore can't speak English. At the Congress he said in Spanish "The worse, the better for everyone. And the worse for everyone, the better. Better yours for me. Political benefit"

Police and fireman have to learn English and French in Catalonia meanwhile... our PM...

PP and Mr. Rajoy always alleged that Catalan language is the reason about the independence and " hate towards Spain and that nobody in Catalonia will speak at you in Spanish" but that's a lie.

  • PP and Mr. Rajoy passed the Mordaza Law. Basically denying freedom of speech to all citizens. The EU has called Mr. Rajoy to revoke it. Catalans were taking out from home and work by the military police because posting in support about independence movement in facebook!

  • PP is involved in many corruption cases, including Mr. M (Mr. Mariano Rajoy) but the law is not judging him. why? He has named him as the absolute rightful person, over the justice. AKA dictatorship. Rajoy and his followers have emptied the national pensions and no money is left...I'm assuming they will soon accuse the independence as the reason why millions of euros disappeared.

  • Fascist groups had protest and used violence against journalist and other citizens. The government hasn't condemn them because PP and facist are the same.

  • The government has jailed activists after the referendum. They belong to the Catalonian language and culture association that was made during the dictatorship reign to protect the Catalan language and its culture.

  • The upcoming elections (21D) are not worth it. Why? PP representatives already said on tv "if the independence movement wins it won't be in effect because there's the 155" "we are making new elections in order to make the Right one to win" the Right means PP Or C's party.

  • The PP representatives said that in the Catalonian schools teachers say to students that Catalonia is an independent country according to Catalan books and that students bully others that speak in Spanish or teachers fails students that speaks in Spanish" the reality is --> The books says that Catalonia is an autonomous province and not a country. There's no bully about language and the claim about teachers failing student was proved to be fraud by a C's politician saying she was a student to UAB university. The University also clarify that the person wasn't student there at the moment.

Meanwhile in schools in Spain they make students to kiss the Spanish flag (brain washing)

  • The PP sent a notice to the international media to only write that Spain was right on using the military police and that Catalans were using violence .... lol The PP failed to manipulate these medias

If all these reasons aren't enough, during the terrorist attack the government didn't sent any military police or whatsoever. I was at the location the attack occurred the same day and was scary. When the government sent thousand of military police to prevent the referendum months later, Catalans were angry. The role of police is to protect citizens but they weren't there during and after the terror attack but only came to beat people during the referendum. The government considers a piece of paper as a deathly threat instead of the new threats from ISIS.

Catalonian independence movement calls for real democracy, accountability and transparency, the right of freedom, preserving the Catalan language and its culture and economic independence.

Dec 13, 2017 - 3:55pm

Bloomberg Analysis on the Spanish Stock Market and the Catalonian Independence (Originally Posted: 10/05/2017)

Here I attach a Bloomberg analysis, based on both technicals and fundamentals, I did on the IBEX35 on Tuesday predicting what has happened, a possible huge drop due to the fears of a Catalonian Independence.

Bloomberg Analysis

Dec 13, 2017 - 3:56pm

It has recovered rather nicely though. Good read though.

“The only thing I know is that I know nothing, and i am no quite sure that i know that.” Socrates
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