Wolf Richter: Catalonia Cries for Independence While the Spanish Military Threatens To “Crush” The “Vultures”

It started last week in Barcelona, capital of the Autonomous Region of Catalonia, the richest region in Spain. Of the 7.5 million Catalans, between 600,000 and 1.5 million—an astounding 8% to 20% of the population!—protested in the streets, demanding independence.

Antagonism between Catalonia and Spain has simmered for a long time. But the financial fiasco that Spain is mired in deepened the fissures. Out-of-money Catalonia had to ask the central government for a bailout. Catalans are frustra

ted. They claim that under the current fiscal setup, Catalonia transfers €16 billion annually to the central government, and that these transfers bankrupted the region. Now, in exchange for the bailout, the central government has imposed austerity measures that cut into health care, education, and other services.

On Thursday, Catalan President Artur Mas met with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, originally to beg him for a new tax deal. But the massive demonstration in Barcelona had added independence to the agenda. Rajoy brushed him off, with references to the constitution that didn’t allow regions to secede.

“Constitutions may or may not be modified, but they do not subjugate the will of the people,” Mas lamented after the meeting. As leader of the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia and chairman of the governing Convergència i Unió (CiU) coalition, he represents the middle class and has supported Catalan independence only in an ambiguous manner. Until now. “Catalonia will follow its path,” he said. Parliament would meet next week to “consider the next steps.”

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