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To a Foreign Correspondent in Catalonia

Isn’t it strange that only those who want the separation from Spain are willing to talk?

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I am a journalist. Although I have occasionally covered events outside Spain, I have never been a foreign correspondent. I have lived in other countries and hence am very much interested in international politics and read international press daily. During the past few weeks I have been deeply disappointed with the information that has appeared in the media, the ones I frequently follow and others, regarding the events happening in Catalonia.

I thought of them as practicing an investigative and rigorous journalism. The kind of journalism willing to present the different perspectives needed to understand a conflict or a crisis. A journalism willing to confirm, to check and to contrast. My disappointment is with those who have failed to do any of this. With a few exceptions, they have broken all or some of the rules I have just mentioned.

I imagine the situation you are in. You are sent to a place that probably you don’t know, or perhaps you know it as a traveller, to inform about an issue you don't have much previous information. You are trying to gather some extra information while you are travelling or when you arrive. When you get there, you find a situation like the one ofOctober the 1st. People on the streets, people inside presumed polling stations, trying to cast their vote and after a few hours the Police and Civil Guard arrive to evict them.

You are inside a scene of protests and police charges. You witness violent scenes. You find on the internet violent scenes where there are children and elderly people. You accept as true the figure of 800 injured. Moreover, you assume they are injured by police batons or rubber bullets. Your conclusion is that you have witnessed police brutality against peaceful people that just wanted to vote. You will choose your witnesses amongst those that are trying to participate in this and they will confirm this idea. Indeed, not only this, but they will tell you that "the Catalans" have been oppressed and repressed for centuries by "Spain".

They will tell you many more things and they will not be true. But the key issue here is not that you believe me. But that you inquire. For a start, you could ask the others, those with a different opinion. Isn’t it strange that only those who want the separation from Spain are willing to talk? Maybe you don’t know that half the population is against this. Ask yourself why the common citizen against the secession is not talking so easily. This is a crucial element to understand what is happening now in Catalonia. The silence and the silencing of the dissenting.

It is possible that on seeing the protests and the police intervening, you might think that the demonstrators are the weak ones and that the police are following orders of the strong and powerful. You would be surprised after a small investigation into this. The organizers of the separatist movement are the ones that have been in power in Catalonia for decades. I assure you, they are not the workers. Their use of power has been far wider and more intrusive than what it should be for a government of a democracy. The political party that kicked off this rupture process has been characterized by its institutionalized corruption. Their former brand became so stained that they had to change their name. Please find out the meaning of the "three per cent".

You may be surprised to find out that the Catalan citizens more in favour of the secession are those with the higher rents while the ones most opposed to it are those with the smaller rents. Someone said recently that we are in front of a revolt of the rich against the poor ones. Maybe an exaggeration. What is in no doubt is that Catalonia is one the richest regions of Spain. The leaders of all this have made very clear that they do not want this region to continue contributing to the development of other poorer Spanish regions.

I will not tell you about the decentralizationdegree of Spain not the autonomousgovernment that Catalonia enjoys. Nor will I tell you that all their specific cultural elements, like the language, are recognised and protected. Catalan language immersion is practiced in schools. Spanish, the native language of half the population has been practically eradicated from the classrooms. I imagine you know about this.

It is less likely that you are aware of the conduct of those in power in Catalonia to promote nationalism and the desire to break up from Spain. Ten years ago, a group of Catalan intellectuals called this "hate pedagogy". Hate to Spain, to what is Spanish, to the rest of the Spaniards. I have seen an article in a weekly German publication stating that the Catalan nationalism is an exception amongst the other reborn European ones as it is not ethnic. A leader of the protests had told them and hence this is gospel truth.

It is true, the Catalan nationalists have been careful to cover their inner xenophobic impulse against the Spanish –as if they were something else– under the blanket of cultural identity. Let’s dig a little bit into this. This was published inLibération:

(…) we find repeated like mantras all the clichés of the bluntest nationalism, tainted with racism, class disdain, or even a form of cultural supremacism: on one side, "we", strong, educated, hard-working, progressive, honest, republican and European people. In front, "them", Iberian backward scum, lazy and corrupt (…)

Let’s return to the 1st October. You should know that this electoral process, summoned by the autonomous government and other organizations funded by them, aimed at proclaiming the secession right now. It was not intended to be to express an opinion as they were telling everyone.

As you know, the 9thof November 2014 these government and organizations made a consultation process to know how many people were in favour of an independent Catalonia. The Spanish Constitutional Court stated this was not allowed but the Spanish government looked aside and allowed this to happen. Only a third of the electoral register, an electoral register that was expanded in this occasion, went to vote. As was predictable, eighty per cent of those voting wanted the separation from Spain. A total of 1.8 million people. I insist: a third of the electoral register.

After this, they called up regional elections with the character of a plebiscite. If the independentism parties won, they would proclaim the independence. These parties did not obtain the majority of votes but they obtained parliamentary majority. Despite this, they did not give in. They did not use the legal path and proposed a constitutional reform: this was always rejected. So, this is how we have ended up in October the 1st. This "referendum" was approved by simple majority in the Catalan parliament. This required quite a few less votes that they were required to change the autonomy Statute. They did this violating the norms of the Statute and parliamentary rights of the opposition.

What would have happened now if, as in 2014, the Spanish government had allowed this "referendum" despite its illegal nature? What would you say if after its celebration a Catalan state was proclaimed? I will go ahead: you would have said that this proclamation was legitimate. That the rest of the Spaniards would have had to accept the will emanating from the polls despite its summoning did not fulfil all the legal formalities.

This proclamation may happen. In this case, you will may say that it is legitimate and we must abide by it. Anyway, when this happens you will be probably far away, as a foreign correspondent elsewhere. In the meantime millions of Spanish will keep on suffering how a minority is trying to ride roughshod over ustrying to destroy our country. Think about this.

Originally published in Spanish with the title "A un enviado especial" on 5thOctober 2017 in http://www.libertaddigital.com/opinion/cristina-losada/a-un-enviado-especial-en-cataluna-83340/
Translated by Laura Cano Lérida

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