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Catalans Take to Streets, Block Roads After Puigdemont Arrest

  • People protest after former president Carles Puigdemont was detained in Germany, during a demonstration held by pro-independence associations in Barcelona, Spain March 25, 2018.

    People protest after former president Carles Puigdemont was detained in Germany, during a demonstration held by pro-independence associations in Barcelona, Spain March 25, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 March 2018
Opinion

The Catalan uprising stems from the constitutional court ruling in 2010 denouncing the regional government’s aspiration for more autonomy.

Thousands of pro-Catalonia independence protesters blocked main roads in Catalonia Tuesday to protest the arrest of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other pro-independence leaders.

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The Tuesday protests were organized by the Committees for the Defence of the Republic, which were put in place right before the October Independence referendum for Catalonia was banned by the courts.

"With the latest jailings and the arrest of president Carles Puigdemont, it seems clear that we have crossed a point of no return," the organizing group said in a statement Monday as they announced a wave of protests.

Nearly 90 people suffered slight injuries during Sunday's pro-Puigdemont protests in Barcelona, where at least 22 police officers were also injured. 

Spain wants to try Puigdemont, along with other Catalan leaders, for secession from the crown. He remains in Germany after being arrested there few days ago while crossing into the country from Denmark on his way back to Belgium, where he had been for few months, from a visit to Finland.

Puigdemont fled to Brussels after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed his regional administration and imposed direct rule from Madrid. Charges against Puigdemont could lead to 25 years in prison.

The modern Catalan uprising stems from the Spanish constitutional court ruling in 2010 denouncing the regional government’s aspiration for more autonomy, and deeming it unconstitutional.  

In 2006, during the time when Zapatero government (PSOE) was in power, the Catalan parliament brought forth demands for increased self-governance in Catalonia through a 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, a law passed by the legislature in the autonomous Spanish community, which went on to be approved by Spain’s parliament and later ratified in a referendum by Catalan voters.

Then-opposition party PP challenged the statute, taking it to the constitutional court, which after four years, in 2010, decided against the statute, overruling it as an unconstitutional regional power move. The constitutional court also struck down the idea of making the Catalan language more visible in the public sphere. 

"The interpretation of the references to ‘Catalonia as a nation’ and to ‘the national reality of Catalonia’ in the preamble of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia have no legal effect," the constitutional court decreed.

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In a February interview, Gabriel Rufian of the Republican Left of Catalonia told Jacobin Magazine the recent disconcert of Catalans stemmed from lack of adequate social policies to help alleviate poverty. 

"The Spanish constitutional court has nullified forty-four parliamentary regulations passed by Catalonia’s government — regulations that were intended to fight against energy - and housing - related poverty."

Earlier in October, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro condemned Spanish prime minister's crackdown on people demanding a free Catalonia. "Who is the dictator now?" Maduro said, on a broadcast on the Venezuelan state network, VTV, ridiculing Rajoy's repeated attacks on the Venezuelan socialist government and Maduro.

"Mariano Rajoy has chosen blood, sticks, blows, and repression against a noble people. Our hand goes out to the people of Catalonia. Resist, Catalonia! Latin America admires you," the president added in the broadcast. 

The Venezuelan leader has maintained his solidarity with Catalonia as he recently lamented the arrests of the independence leaders.

"What’s happening in Spain is shameful, Catalan politicians jailed only for their ideas … whether or not you agree with these elected lawmakers' ideas, their persecution is an embarrassment," Maduro said at the international meeting on African descendants rights in Venezuela's capital, Caracas Saturday.

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