Meanwhile, the whole of Europe (and its institutions) has largely kept mum about the gross mistreatment of politicians and people of Catalonia, currently a Spanish region, which sought independence in a referendum in 2017, that was struck down by Spanish authorities, while generally peaceful protests in the streets of Barcelona were brutally suppressed by the Spanish police.
Here they are, courageously wrestling two pensioners in 2017:
For the subsequent TWO years, several Catalan leaders have been held under arrest – an egregious insult to the rule of law in its own right – and yesterday, finally, nine of them were handed absolutely shocking sentences, ranging from 9 to 13 years imprisonment for sedition, as ruled by the Spanish Supreme Court – making mockery of civilized rule of law and surely putting Spain among the pariah states of the world, reviving memories of the fascist rule of notorious Francisco Franco.
Yesterday’s ruling marks the rise of a new apartheid state in Europe, where law does not apply equally to all people and principles of international law and human rights are broken by the privileged majority which chose to hold its boot on the necks of every other national group that together form Spain.
If you happen to seek self-determination or merely protest the dealings of a government you disagree with, you’re not only going to have its security forces unleashed on you – in typical, brutal, authoritarian, fascist fashion – but you may also end up slapped with a lengthy prison sentence, labeled as a revolutionary and enemy of the state.
Yesterday Madrid elected to leave the EU and join the likes of Moscow, Caracas or Tehran.
Even Beijing, for decades lectured about its many transgressions by supposedly superior Europeans, looks civilized in comparison. Protests in Hong Kong – a rebellious city which seeks greater autonomy from the Chinese mainland – have erupted several times in the past few years and yet response of the CCP was relatively timid, even amidst outbreaks of reckless violence. Leaders of the protests have been jailed for mere months or weeks – more as a disciplinary measure rather than outright suppression of the opposition.
Joshua Wong, the face of Hong Kong’s protests, who keeps touring the world in support for his political causes, was handed a 2-month sentence earlier this year (for protests he participated in 2014) and released after a month.
In the meantime, Spain elected to destroy the lives of political leaders supported by millions of people by putting them behind bars for a decade or more (after keeping them imprisoned without sentence for 2 years) – terms usually reserved for murderers and rapists.
This is happening in 21st century Europe – in a EU member state of 33 years.
Meanwhile, just three months ago, a recidivist Moroccan jihadist Allal El Mourabit was sentenced to… three years in prison…
The most ludicrous part of this drama is that it is entirely provoked by incompetent politicians in Madrid. Despite certain antipathy felt by Catalans for the rest of Spain (and vice versa), independence has really lacked broad support for many years. There have been vocal proponents of the idea but most Catalans were generally happy with the status quo and support for self-determination was at about 20% in 2010.
In fact, the turnout at the referendum in 2017 was only 42% – meaning that most Catalans decided not to take part in the controversial vote (though many could have been discouraged by preventive actions of the police).
Nevertheless, thousands took to the streets to celebrate the result – 90% in favor of independence – and demand its recognition. Instead of extending a political olive branch and seek compromise and political dialogue, which should – first and foremost – address many of the grievances that Catalans had about their relationship with Spain (requesting greater autonomy and control of their finances) – Madrid opted for a show of force and brutally trampled the protesting public, incurring a considerable damage to Spain’s reputation. As a result, support for separation from Spain has surged to nearly 50% in recent years.
Well done Madrid, well done.
And now, instead of seeking solutions that could support national unity, Spanish politicians and judges decided to make an example of their opponents in a good, old Francoist way.
But their myopia and incompetence do not end there. One of the issues that keep undermining relations between the government in Madrid and restive regions – what also led to decades’ long war waged by Basque ETA in form of terrorist attacks – is the fact that Spain as a country is really poorly managed.
Lots of resentment has its source in the fact that autonomous regions representing de facto separate nations are doing much better economically and feel drained by the central authorities. Add to that the lengthy persecution under Franco, lasting from late 1930s (after the disastrous Civil War) until 1975 when infamous Caudillo departed this world, and you can understand why they do not exactly feel it’s a good deal to keep bankrolling a state which has greatly limited their political freedoms and is, in effect, a continuation of the old regime in a more toned down form – what has started erupting in shows of power like this one.
In fact, one could argue that Spain is the most mismanaged big country in the developed West.
A member of ridiculed PIIGS, burdened by debt in the vicinity of 100% of its GDP, plagued by horrendous unemployment still deep into double digits (around 14% today, after peaking at over 25% mere 5-6 years ago – only Greece is worse) and its GDP per capita levels merely returning today to where they were 10 years ago.
So it’s hardly surprising that many people in the wealthiest and nationally-distinct regions want out from under Madrid’s control.
Perhaps the most surprising thing is that so many of them still want to remain in – although the central government (in yet another feat of enormous incompetence, regardless of which party is in charge) is busy fueling separatist sentiments by subjecting its opponents to tough authoritarian treatment.
What will Europe do?
Well, the obvious, natural reaction to any country slapping long jail sentences on political dissidents over an attempted act of self-determination of a distinct national group should be met with immediate, widespread criticism and political moves to sanction the country’s authorities.
But Europe – or the West in general – is not known for integrity. We’re talking about countries which happily pacted with regime in Tehran, eager to develop closer ties with a theocratic, authoritarian regime endlessly fueling disastrous wars in the Middle East, triggering suffering of millions.
So a few jailed Catalans are unlikely to trigger an EU crisis.
Europe is governed by political castrates, who tend to make a lot of noise but rarely take any meaningful action – so it’s hard to expect it this time either.
Hypocrisy is quite widespread on the Old Continent and EU leaders will be careful not add any more crises to their plates, amidst souring relations with the US and the declining global conditions due to the trade war.
But if they fail to act, they lose any right to question or pressure anybody else on their internal affairs either.
Blind and reckless Spanish have just shown that Europe is nowhere near as civilized as it claims to be. Brussels, London, Berlin and Paris (and partly even Washington) will suffer a headache now, as Madrid is behaving far worse than Beijing, which has for long been accused of abuses in Hong Kong (and in its dealings with ethnic/national minorities on the mainland).
So how can any of them reasonably claim they care about free speech and other civil liberties, when a European government has just sentenced several minority politicians merely seeking self-determination for their nation, for – collectively – 100 years in prison?
Spanish ruling class – both the country’s politicians and its judiciary – have proved not only to be dumb as custodians of what once was one of the greatest empires of the West, but dumb as Europeans, members of a greater family of nations.
Their actions are not only a further blow to Spanish unity, likely to yield very grave consequences in the future – but a reckless and grossly irresponsible act against interests of the entire EU.
If the Union fails to take concrete steps to discipline its own member, how can it lecture anybody else? China has long been accused of many misdeeds – but who is really authoritarian now? The way it has handled excessive violence and repeated dissent is Hong Kong is meek in comparison to what Spain has done to Catalan opposition.
As a result, in an unexpected turn of events, leaders of the protests in Hong Kong should now breathe a sigh of relief and hope Beijing isn’t going to embrace the European ways (that they so admire) after all.