Political turmoil unsettles Spain

Across the Atlantic from the United States, Spain is experiencing major political turmoil. The region in the northeastern part of the country, Catalonia, has historically had a group of separatists pushing for independence from the country of Spain. The push was brought to a climax this month as the region called for a referendum on October 1, and citizens came together to vote on the matter of independence.

While 90 percent of the turnout voted for independence of the region, not even half of those eligible voted; a mere 43 percent turnout was reported. The vote was declared illegal by the Spanish government in Madrid, and police forces swarmed to the voting areas and effectively shut them down. Hundreds of Catalonians were injured in the clashes as the police welded truncheons and rained rubber bullets into the crowds.

The referendum sparked the decision to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which has never been used before. Using this clause, the Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was able to take the drastic measure of suspending the autonomy of the region, taking control of the finances and police forces of the region. Additionally, the Parliament was dissolved and Carles Puigdemont, leader of the region, was removed.

Meanwhile in Catalonia, on the same day Article 155 was voted into action, the leaders of the region came together to vote on independence. 55 of the 70 members voted in favor of independence. However, merely a few days later, President Puigdemont fled from Spain amid rebellion charges. When asked earlier in the month about the possibility of arrest, he had responded, “Personally, I am not afraid of that.”

Despite the referendum results, not all citizens of the Catalonia are pushing for independence. On Sunday, October 29, hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Barcelona to show their support of unity. The song “Viva España” could be heard as the silent majority made their voices heard.

A reporter for NPR news, Lauren Frayer, comments that despite the push for independence from some citizens, more desire“ to stay a single country. “Support for staying in Spain had been growing in recent years, despite almost daily independence rallies in Barcelona, the Catalan capital,” Frayer says.

The conflicting sides of interest will continue to battle in the country. Spain, amid such turmoil, provides an example of the power of political and regional clashes and as well as conflicting points of view.