Hi, I’m Antoni Bassas, speaking from Ara newspaper in Barcelona. I’m a journalist and I would like to share with you the current situation we are living right here in the streets of Catalonia.
You might have heard in the news recently that violent riots have spread in the streets of Barcelona during the last week in this usually very peaceful city.
Clashes between demonstrators and the police have been taking place, especially in the city center, and dozens of garbage containers have been burned to the ground, while being used as barricades in the middle of the streets. As a result, 519 policemen and protestors haven been injured, 194 people have been detained and 28 people have been imprisoned.
At the same time, it is fair to say that hundreds of thousands of people have been participating in peaceful demonstrations like the marches that have been going on all around Catalonia for the past week.
Why is all this happening? Why is it that we have such an array of incidents? Well, you might recall that two years ago, in 2017, the Catalan government organised a referendum of independence without it being recognised by the Spanish government.
In spite of these, the referendum took place and more than two point three million people were able to cast their vote while being beaten by thousands of policemen, members of the special forces, sent to Catalonia for the occasion. Nobody in the international community recognised the outcome of this referendum, but the image of the Spanish government was internationally damaged because of the violent repression that took place against peaceful voters of all ages.
Almost a month later, the Parliament of Catalonia declared the independence. Most of the members of the Catalan cabinet were immediately imprisoned and so were the two main social activists of the independence movement. A total of nine political and social leaders served two year of preventive detention, while awaiting their sentence. Finally, after a four month trial, being prosecuted both for rebellion and sedition, last Monday, the Spanish Supreme Court had them sentenced a range from 9 to 13 years of prison.
Due to this hard and disproportionate sentence, anger and frustration spread all around Catalonia, not only among those in favor of independence, but also among those in favour of political dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan governments. Dialogue has no started yet. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is not taking calls from Catalan president Quim Torra.
It seems absurd to me, and to most people, that after nine years of peaceful demonstrations asking for a referendum, the only answer that the Spanish government has been able to give is a “No”. Instead of trying to find a political solution following the steps of the United Kingdom, agreeing to a referendum in Scotland, the Spanish State has been denying any political solution replaying Catalan claims through the use of police force and judiciary courts. Up to 13 years of prison has only made the situation worse.
The time for political dialogue has come. Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish Prime Minister, needs to put a political solution for Catalonia on the table. If not, Spain, one of the largest members of the European Union, has started a never-ending situation of political instability.
That’s all from Barcelona. Thank you for listening.