The recent crisis in Catalonia dates back to Franco’s dictatorship when individual liberties were limited and the region’s autonomy was eliminated. Although Catalonia’s independence movement is not new, independent sentiments have intensified in the past few years. Catalan nationalists have long complained that their region greatly contributes to the country´s economy and gets little in return from the central government. Whether it is political or financial freedom they are fighting for, it is clear that the independence movement has submerged itself in a deeply divided ideological confrontation with those who oppose it.
On October 14th, the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine out of twelve Catalan politicians and activists to between 9 to 13 years in prison, charged for sedition and misuse of public funds during the failed independence referendum in October 2017. This has helped little to reduce the ideological divide and has created further tension, with large crowds of pro-independence protesters taking up the streets in Catalonia and even both national and regional security forces believed to have become politicized and to be taking sides.
The Supreme Court´s sentence has faced mixed responses. Some have respected it, arguing it will set a precedent for future political conduct and it will contribute to preserving public order while others argue it is disproportionate and will only worsen the crisis. The biggest risk that Spain would face after these sentences were that it would exacerbate opinions on both sides and create more distance between them. And that is exactly what has happened – more polarization.
Spain has become the playground for competing politics, nationalisms and realities and what we´re seeing is a battle that is purely political in nature where those who are taking an active part cannot solve it and those who should are refusing to ‘answer the phone’: neither protesters in the streets or a sentence by the Supreme Court will put an end to the crisis. It is those politicians who are refusing to sit down and talk in peace who have in their hands what Catalonia needs: unity and security. The question then becomes: will leaders in Spanish politics try to find a compromise to reduce this divide? Now more than ever, politicians have to stop building walls and come together for a political and peaceful solution, where dialogue is based on feasible and legal proposals under constitutional terms.