In Franco’s true inquisitorial style, the Madrid government needs a culprit for the Catalan rebellion. But applying article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in its most severe form, even inventing measures it never mentions, is clearly only one aspect of the repression intended in answer to the Catalan Parliament’s declaration of the Catalan Republic on October 27th.
Spain’s ultra-right government, with the moral support of socialists and Ciudadanos, seeks to uproot what it believes to be the causes of Catalan rebelliousness. And for this it has the full apostolic blessing of the Catholic hierarchy as epitomized by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares’ 2015 public prayer for the unity of Spain just before the Catalan elections. “Catalanism is a sin” is the central message*.
Criminalizing everything that has accompanied or seemingly led to the 2015 and 2017 absolute indy majorities in Catalonia has been a national crusade, unleashed in unanymous fury on the political front and on almost all major Spanish media in recent years. The evil Catalan leaders that have sewn this diabolical seed are to be beheaded (this is the term vice-president Soraya Saenz de Sanatamaría used last month) and the arms that the Catalans have been using against Madrid rendered useless.
This policy, of course, is what has landed vice-President Junqueras in Soto del Real prison and placed President Puigdemont in exile in Brusselles. On another level, it is also what has led to the expulsion of ex-President Mas’ wife and TV personality Pilar Rahola from the Tous jewellers’ Foundation, apparently at queen Leticia’s own iniciative. It goes to show just how willing Spain’s monachy is to partake of the PP’s blitz against all who have shown sympathy for the Catalan cause.
And what are these arms? Basically three: Education, the mass media and the economy. Hence, the three major steps the Spanish government is using article 155 for are: 1) to set about putting the Catalan schoooling System in check 2) to gag the Catalan public radio and TV channels (Catalunya Ràdio and TV3) and 3) to tamper the economy so that, under the pretext that “not one euro is to go to indy-orientated policies”, the negative derivatives of the intervention may be blamed on the independentists because of the “insecurity” they are accused of causing on the markets (although recent figures show that this too is highly questionable).
“Catalan schools breed nationalist louts” is, in a nutshell, the spirit of the attack being perpetrated against the Catalan education system by Spanish nationalist parties PP and Ciudadanos. It has been the mantra of Albert Rivera, leader of this latter party, whose ideas have for years been massively aired on Spain’s well-watched private channels Tele 5, Antena 3 or la Sexta, amongst others. Rivera has for years lied to audiences around Spain saying that to use Spanish in Catalonia “you have to be willing to be hit in the face”. It is nothing more than cheap, populist rubbish. Rivera has no qualms about concealing that Spanish is widely taught in all schools, that 97% of films viewed in Catalan cinemas are in Spanish and that 89% of court cases are heard in that language. The truth is that it is the use of the Catalan language that is in danger, being virtually marginal in several heavily populated coastal areas in Barcelona and Tarragona. If that weren’t enough, Rivera also conceals that the Catalan schooling system he attacks has wide international acclaim as regards its standards and linguistic model application.
The other big target for the Spanish nationalists are the Catalan public media. The huge upset the 21D election result has meant for them has led their spokespeople to sharpen their calls for their intervention. Knowing that it would raise eyebrows in the EU to incurr in open censorship or channel annulment (as the PP had practiced in Valencia some years ago) the PP government has opted for applying a more subtle economic choke on TV3, Catalonia’s excellent public television channel. Little does it matter to them that international observers deemed it to be the most impartial TV media operating during the last elections. No. TV3 must be blamed for all this “nationalist” rebelliousness, no matter what the real situation is. Someone must foot the bill for the PP’s appalling election result (down from 11 to 4 of 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament). Indeed, no holds are to be barred in Madrid’s blind attempts to emulate Franco in the reduction of the Catalan people. One thing is for certain. Juncker will be uttering no complaints against Madrid’s tyrany.
*For more on this, you can consult Chapter 5 of “El moment de dir prou” (Pagès editors, 2008), “La nació “moral”, pp. 77-91.