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Catalonia-Spain Endgame Scenarios: 2017


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 In 2014, I charted five potential paths for the Catalan independence movement. I mapped the most likely progression for each of these scenarios, using a move-countermove framework involving the government of Catalonia, Spain and the potential involvement of the European Union. At each step, when options have presented themselves, I assigned a probability for that outcome based purely on my personal experience and judgment. These probabilities have been revised over time.

I’ve written previously[1] on the increasingly tense situation in Catalonia, Spain’s prickliest province that also wants to become Europe’s newest independent state. The Catalonia-Spain endgame scenarios were originally published in 2014 and updated again in 2015. Since then, the situation has ebbed and flowed with the amount of time and energy each of the two parties could dedicate to the other. Catalans had an unauthorized, unofficial referendum in 2014 followed by elections cum referendum in 2015: and then the pro-independence coalition promptly fell to bickering over the day-to-day minutiae of running the regional government for almost a year. Meanwhile, the ruling Partido Popular was forced to focus on the challenge for the left-wing Podemos party and Spanish government disappeared from the scene completely as the dramatically contested December 2015 election prevented anyone from forming a government for six months. These internal distractions have been put aside and now tensions have returned to the boiling point.

  • Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has promised an official “legal and binding” referendum on the region’s independence this September, with or without approval from Madrid;
  • Prime Minister Rajoy has indicated that he is willing to use force to prevent the ballot boxes from opening. In response, pro-independence Catalans have hinted that the referendum date might be advances to April or May if the government continues legal proceedings against their leaders;
  • Catalan representatives have been aggressively courting their European colleagues with mixed success – Mr. Puigdemont addressed the European Parliament on the 25th of January despite protests by delegates of the Spanish ruling party. But so far, despite a cordial reception, the European institutions refuse to intervene in the dispute or pressure the Spanish government in any way;
  • The Spanish Constitutional Court is now sitting on the trial of Artur Mas, the former Catalan President who “permitted” the unofficial referendum in 2014. His Vice President, Joana Ortega, and the Education Minister, Irene Rigau, are also on trial for failure to heed the Court’s order to provide no aid or assistance to the referendum[2]. The arrival of the three former officials to the Court took on the character of a victory march, with thousands of supporters with pro-independence banners joining Mr. Mas on the streets and outside the courthouse. The former president is using the opportunity to contrast his support for democracy and the will of the people with what he describes as the “heavy-handed” anti-democratic refusal of the Spanish state to engage with Catalonia on any issue of importance.

Until recently, the Catalans have been pursuing the tortoise approach to nationhood: “slow and steady win the race.” They portray this as mere prudence: there is no sense declaring yourself independent if you don’t have the means or institutions to run your own government properly. And they are keen to show Europe that they are prepared to be a willing and capable partner from Day One; no failed state or anarchy in the southwest corner of the continent. The Catalans are less forthright about the other motivation: how do you gain independence without provoking a violent backlash?  Very slowly. In the Pacific, the Chinese face a similar problem of pushing the boundaries of their sovereignty without provoking a military response from the United States. Over there, they are pursuing what are called “salami slicing tactics”; but while the Catalans have their own national deli meat, “butifarra-slicing tactics” work in exactly the same fashion. The method is to encroach upon the institutions of the state and slowly appropriate them. To create a shadow administration that does everything the central authorities do, but without any irrevocable breach until the time is right. In other words, the Generalitat will create a Catalan tax authority in parallel to the Spanish one, but will still pay taxes to Madrid. It is a delicate balancing act: the Spanish state will see these parallel structures being built, but no single step must be sufficient cause to “send in the tanks”.

The butifarra-slicing has been going on for some time now, but Catalonia is rapidly approaching the endgame: it will either commit to independence or the “process” will collapse for a generation. Madrid too is also facing a stark choice: engage in dialogue with the Catalan government in an attempt to manipulate the plebiscite and its outcome for their own ends, but likely face a popular backlash in the rest of Spain; use force and risk both civil turmoil in its most prosperous province as well as financial and economic pain; or accept whatever results comes from the ballot boxes.

End Game Scenarios

The original endgame scenarios listed 5 possible outcomes of the current Catalan drive for independence. At this point, they have already exhausted two of the options:

  1. End the referendum process and accept the status quo;
  2. Hold an unofficial referendum – completed on 9 November 2014;
  3. Hold an unauthorized referendum;
  4. Call for elections on a single platform of separation, which would serve as a de facto referendum – completed on 27 September 2015;
  5. Unilaterally declare independence.

The preference of both Messrs. Mas and Puigdemont is for a negotiated referendum agreed to with the Spanish state. That possibility has always been rejected by the Partido Popular. But because the Catalan government wishes to avoid a violent confrontation with the Madrid and because it wishes to join the European Union as soon as possible – if not as a successor state that never actually leaves the union – it needs as much democratic legitimacy as possible. For this reason, the unilateral declaration of independence remains a threat to prevent Spanish escalation, rather than a true policy option. It would only come in the event that the Spanish attempted to take over the Generalitat through legal means, such as the invocation of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution.

There is always the possibility that the pro-independence leadership will get cold feet between now and November; or that they may be made “on offer they can’t refuse” by Madrid. In such a case, they would attempt to call off the referendum process and put the best face on it they can. However, in current Catalan politics, this would be tantamount to electoral suicide for the most moderate of the pro-independence parties: the “process” has already consumed the most successful political party in Catalan post-dictatorship history, the Convergencia i Unió[3]. Unió has been wiped from the electoral map and Convergencia is facing a similar crisis, even within the context of the pro-independence unity party. To surrender the process now would be to ensure the ascendancy of the Esquerra Republicana in Catalan politics. Mr. Puigdemont will not back down at this point.

Option 1: End the Process:

Scenario 2: The “Unofficial” Referendum

President Mas originally intended to hold an authorized referendum (scenario 3) – but authorized by the Catalan parliament, with or without Madrid’s approval. When the Spanish Constitutional Court overturned the authorizing law, Mr. Mas elected to shift gears: the authorized referendum became an “unofficial” referendum, similar to the one celebrated the same year in the Italian province of Veneto[4]. The “unofficial” referendum avoided using the machinery of the state in lip service to the letter of the Court injunction, but it also would not have the support of the Catalan Parlament, with all the legitimacy that this confers; it would not be considered binding, even by the Catalans. Mr. Mas undoubtedly felt that a massive turnout and support for independence would put tremendous pressure on Madrid and improve his negotiating position with both the Spanish State and with the European Union. As it turns out, he achieved both conditions, but neither of the results.

Scenario 2 has played out as predicted below, leaving the Catalans with three remaining options.

Option 2: Unofficial Referendum:

Scenario 4: Regional Elections As A Substitute Referendum

Blocked from holding an official referendum, and wishing to avoid the consequences of illegally organizing an outlawed plebiscite, the Catalan government opted for the perfectly legal fallback of organizing new elections. The Spanish Constitution grants to the autonomous communities full powers to call for and organize their own regional elections. The Spanish government has no say in the matter; it cannot be blocked by Madrid and does not require the approval of the Spanish Parliament. Mr. Mas calculated that an election whose focus was on independence would provide him with the legitimacy needed to either negotiate a true referendum with Spain or else push for a declaration of independence in the Catalan Parlament.

This strategy had drawbacks as well: perhaps most importantly, however much the campaign revolved around separation, it still lacked the full legal potency of a single issue referendum submitted to public vote, and it would not be recognized as such by international organizations or other states. Additionally, no election ever revolves around a single issue: people vote for governments for many reasons. The inherent contradictions of the different pro-independence parties, from the center right Convergencia to the leftist Esquerra Republicana, guaranteed that the distractions of social policy, budgetary policy and economic issues all intruded to muddy the message.

As such, the ballot count showed an underwhelming degree of support for independence. The pro-independence faction did not win an absolute majority of the vote, and the narrowest of pluralities in delegates. The Catalans can legitimately say that there is a pro-independence governing majority in the Parliament, but even President Puigdemont recognizes that the results do not justify an independence push. In his opinion, the electoral issues only served to add an element of confusion that disadvantaged the pro-independence parties.

Based on the historical electoral results[5] and polls[6] held in 2014, I predicted a high probability of a separatist victory. In other words, the sum of separatist parties’ seats in the Parlament would equal or exceed the 67% they won in the last elections. The original scenario analysis did not consider the possibility that the pro-independence “national unity” coalition would win a plurality but not a majority; but this is indeed what happened. I have updates scenario 4 below to reflect this outcome.

Option 4: “Electoral” Referendum

The muddled electoral results frustrated Mr. Mas’ strategy and truncated the further evolution of this scenario. It spared Madrid the prospect of an overwhelmingly pro-independence government in Barcelona wielding this results to demand negotiations or threaten a DOI. It permits Mr. Rajoy to continue to employ his favorite tactic of waiting on events, one that has worked well for him in the past: more often than not, his political opponents have imploded without a need for decisive action on his part. But the disorganization resulting from the election has not proven to be a permanent solution and Mr. Puigdemont has gotten his house in order enough to proceed to the next scenario.

Scenario 3: The “Unauthorized” Referendum

President Puigdemont has stated that the next Catalan referendum will be the definitive one, that it will be authorized by (Catalan) law and that it would not heed any directive from Madrid to stop. This will be the crisis point: once the Catalan Parliament passes the referendum authorization bill, the Spanish government will ask the Constitutional Court to invalidate the law. If Mr. Puigdemont carries through with his threat and ignores the court order, then it will provoke the “end game” constitutional crisis.

Option 3: Unauthorized Referendum:

At this point, the Spanish government would have a wide range of options available to impose its will on the recalcitrant Catalans. The three most likely to be used – either singly or in combination – are:

  1. The issuance of arrest warrants for President Puigdemont and his key ministers, as well as some of the pro-idependence members of the Catalan legislature[7];
  2. The suspension of Catalonia’s charter of autonomy;
  3. The suspension of the Catalan Parlament and the imposition of direct rule from Madrid.

In the cases of the dissolution of the government or the suspension of the Catalan charters, the Catalans could choose to ignore Madrid and to continue to function illegally. This choice, or if Madrid immediately plays hardball by issuing warrants, would precipitate the fundamental crisis: because the Catalan government is already up-and-running, it doesn’t need to do anything to continue in operation. The onus falls on the Spanish government to re-impose its flouted authority, as well as the responsibility for initiating a course of action that could result in fatalities. Of course, Spain will argue that it is the Generalitat that bears the moral burden of any deaths resulting from their illegal secessionist activities: but at the end of the day, it is Spain that will have to send in armed men to regain control of the situation.

Option 3: Unauthorized Referendum – page 2

Madrid’s first move would likely be to order the Mossos d’Escuadra, Catalonia’s autonomous police force, to execute the warrants. This will be a critical acid test of loyalty: will the Mossos fulfill their duty to the Spanish state, or will they remain loyal to the Generalitat? The degree of violence that is likely to ensue largely hinges on their choice, for if the Catalan police refuses its duty, Spain’s recourse will be to send in the Guardia Civil. At this point, you will have to large bodies of armed men and women in close proximity, in a city of several million people, most of them hostile to the Guardias. The potential for disastrous escalation is self-evident.

If the Mossos remain obedient to the national government, then I estimate the probabilities of violence are significantly reduced. Catalans repressing Catalans is hardly a pleasant scenario to consider, but it would ease the government’s task considerably and totally negate the “ethnic angle”: police action could no longer be viewed as some sort of Castilian attack on Catalans; and Madrid would undoubtedly be delighted to exploit any evident divisions in Catalan society.

There are indications that the Generalitat has prepared for such a contingency. In May 2015, a Spanish newspaper made allegations regarding the existence of “Catalan moles” in the National Police Force (Cuerpo Nacional de Policia – CNP). These agents, who form part of the Mossos d’Esquadra, would be in a position to take over key functions of the CNP that do not currently reside with the Mossos, such as border control, in the event of a Catalan declaration of independence.  The regional police would thus have presence at the international frontier posts of Melles Pont du Roi and Le Perthus, key transit points between Spain and France that would become the Franco-Catalan frontier in the event of the latter’s secession. The agents also undoubtedly provide useful intelligence on CNP intentions towards the Mossos and the Catalan government.

The article furthermore states these actions have the sanction and active direction of important organs of the Catalan government, naming especially the Catalan Police Academy (Academia de Policía de Cataluña) and the Catalan Institute of Public Safety (Instituto de Seguridad Pública de Cataluña). These organizations and the Mossos have also been establishing regular contact with foreign and international police and intelligence agencies[8], such as Interpol, Europol and the French and American intelligence services[9], under the pretext of fighting jihadists. The article alleges that the primary motivation is not fighting terrorism, but to establish the Catalan police for as a national police force with pre-existing ties to their international peers.

A police crackdown ordered from Madrid does not necessarily imply that violence would ensue. The Mossos could refuse to execute the arrest warrant yet not interfere with the Civil Guards and National Police. One reason is that Catalan politicians may want to be arrested and have their day in court. A public trial could be good publicity if the Spanish government mishandled it: international opinion could actually look more favorably on the “democratic” underdog than on a strong-arm government. It is doubtful whether any of them would spend much time in jail; but Gandhi did and came out the stronger for it[10]. Or the politicos may not want to be arrested, but they may be unable to convince the Mossos to risk bloodshed to prevent it. Regardless, the intervention by extra-regional law enforcement greatly increases the risk of violence in all scenarios.

Catalonia would then have to be administered directly from Madrid, or with some combination of a rump Parlament of pro-union legislators and officials sent from the capital. In either case, a majority of Catalans would be outraged by a perceived gross violation of their rights and would consider the de facto government as nothing less than a fascist takeover and wholly illegitimate. A probable outcome would be passive resistance; perhaps spontaneous, but possibly planned in advance for such an eventuality. The Spanish government would find itself with political martyrs in Madrid and a non-stop wave of strikes, demonstrations, marches and rallies throughout a region that represents 20% of Spain’s economy.  Passive resistance would seek to impose so high an economic and political cost on Madrid that the government would be forced to negotiate an end to direct administration of the province. The question then become one of who is most stubborn: can passive demonstrations and strikes paralyze the region and inflict enough economic pain to force Madrid’s hand or can the Spanish state deal with the political, economic and financial fallout long enough for people to start giving up and going home?

Although every single Catalan politician and leader is on the record stating that the independence movement is committed to non-violence and peaceful, democratic means, there is a non-negligible chance of violence breaking out. Whether caused by excessive use of force on the part of police or by radicalized civilian protesters, once violence breaks out it could become generalized. Bricks and steel pipes are ubiquitous in any city, and making Molotov cocktails is child’s play. As the crises in Kiev and Caracas have demonstrated, a determined group of civilians can effectively resist police forces in an urban environment, especially if the officers are not even locals. The Spanish government would be very hard pressed to put a good face on a situation with potentially hundreds injured, hospitals overflowing and large sections of the major Catalan cities in anarchy.

Option 3: Unauthorized Referendum – page 3

Violence, at least of the sustained, organized kind, remains a remote possibility, but one that cannot be ruled out. There are hotheads and violent radicals in every country and political movement. Indeed, the use of agents provocateurs cannot be ruled out, either by the government or by extremists in Spain’s own ultra-nationalist movements. The former would see a benefit in discrediting the “non-violent, democratic” character of the Catalan independence movement, especially if some prominent pro-union Catalan politician were violently assaulted.

The latter would deliberately seek an escalation in the crisis in order to achieve their goals of military intervention in the province and a permanent suspension of the Catalan charter of autonomy, rather than a temporary one. The bloodier the “uprising” is, and the longer it goes on, the more likely the ultras are to achieve their objective. These radical sectors, which include the openly fascist New Falange, seek to preserve the unity of the Spanish state, but that is not enough: for some, it has become a matter of punishing the Catalans for their temerity in questioning the superiority of Spanish nationalism and culture with their own “false history of lies and deceits”. The most radical of these elements go so far as to reject the current Constitution as being too weak, liberal and federalist, and would like to replace it with a much stronger charter for a strong, unitary state ruled from Madrid and with the complete dissolution of the “autonomous communities” as recognized political entities within it. Fortunately, the extreme right is almost unrepresented in Spanish politics and in no position of authority to dictate policy. That should be little cause for celebration: Gavrilo Princip was also in a tiny minority when he set the world on fire[11]. However, we already see a ratcheting up of the rhetoric, with some mainstream conservative politicians calling for measures that could have come out of a right-wing manifesto, such as sending a Brigadier-General of the Spanish Army to take-over the Mossos d’Escuadra and “end the separatist trend once and for all.” The Spanish police and Armed Forces also have their hotheads, some of whom might be discreet enough to keep their opinions to themselves – for now.

Active resistance on the part of the Catalan population would make the job of the Spanish government extremely difficult. It would also provoke necessary police measures that, on camera at least, would look extremely brutal, such as clearing streets with water cannon, tear gas, and riot police charges. As casualties mounted on both sides, the actions would become brutal – that is the inevitable nature of escalation in these matters. At some point, if police measures are ineffective, the Spanish government could declare Catalonia to be in a state of insurrection and call in the military. How much more effective that will be than using law enforcement alone is unclear to me: soldiers are trained to kill the enemy, not pacify their own people. When troops are used, then the civilians inevitably become “the enemy” and unintended deaths usually result.

Yet the government might be forced into this desperate act for lack of better options. In a scenario where violence continues unabated or escalates, when economic and political damage to Spain becomes widespread, and with immense pressure coming from the hardline elements to the right of the Partido Popular, Mr. Rajoy may be pressured into giving that order. It is unlikely to be successful in quelling unrest; it is certain to fail in making the Catalans love their Spanish neighbors; but it is the sort of desperation ploy that politicians and generals often make when they are in a bad fix and don’t know what else to do. Mr. Rajoy may even find himself without any say in the matter: any “weakness” on his part, evidenced by a desire to negotiate or even let Catalonia go, might be met with an ultimatum from within his party. It is not impossible to imagine Mr. Rajoy being invited to become “temporarily ill” while people with stronger nerves handle the situation. Nothing so Third World as a coup, mind you….

Option 3: Unauthorized Referendum – page 4

The mediation of the European Union appears to me to be unlikely prior to any violence in Catalonia. For one thing, the EU is not going to want to appear to be interfering in the internal affairs of a member state, and Spain will resent and resist anything that smacks of it. The current EU position is that any secession from a member state would result in the new state having to reapply to EU and Eurozone membership from scratch: a multi-year process. This is pure rhetoric, uttered in the hopes of deterring the eventuality and thus dodging the bullet. But in fact, it is a purely political decision whether Brussels wishes to give automatic admission to Scotland, Catalonia or Veneto. For the time being, the politics are all on the sides of the big countries, namely the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy.

The politics may change rapidly in a situation where civil war and major economic disruption appear to threaten. It is therefore highly likely as soon as the situation escalates into one of police action; it is certain in the case of the imposition of martial law. If it looks like the Spanish handling, or mishandling, of the Catalan situation is likely to create a financial and economic crisis for the rest of Europe, you can believe that EU Ministers will be shuttling daily between Brussels, Frankfurt and Madrid. It is an open question whether even under these circumstances the EU has sufficient leverage to force Madrid into allowing a peaceful Catalan separation:

  • It would amount to political suicide for the Prime Minister and his party;
  • There is no mechanism for expelling a Member State from either the EU or the Euro;
  • While Spain owes the ECB a very great deal of money that is also a two-edged sword – the ECB could threaten to stop financing Spanish banks and through them the Spanish deficit, but Spain could threaten to not pay back what they already owe. Mutually assured destruction of a financial version;
  • The EU could perhaps threaten to bring cases against individual Spanish officials and officers in the event of gross human rights abuses in the ICJ, but I find it very difficult to believe that they would do so.

In the end, the EU would most likely issue a public rebuke to the Spanish government and very little else. The Spaniards will suffer it: under the influence of nationalistic, patriotic fervor and with their proverbial pride, they are not going to let a parcel of foreigners interfere in the holy unity of Spain. I give the chances of a successful EU mediation a very low probability of success; and the longer the EU waits to make its presence felt, the less likely it is to have any impact whatsoever.

At this point (Cat 10), it becomes impossible to explore this scenario further. Catalonia and Spain will be locked in a race to the bottom, pitting civilian protesters against Spanish law enforcement or possibly military personnel. Which gives way first will be a question of stamina and will: either sufficient numbers of separatists will be jailed, hospitalized or knocked on the head for the rest to stay home; or else the economic losses to the Spanish economy, a skyrocketing risk premium, the outflow of foreign capital, and the effects of international pariah status to “Brand Spain” convince Spanish political and business elites (the only ones who matter) that it is time to cut their losses. It is impossible to predict which will come first, only that the long-term human cost would be dire.

The Unilateral Declaration of Independence

The UDOI is still a possibility, but an extremely improbable one. This final scenario plays out with a unilateral declaration of Catalan independence from Spain without the preliminaries of a referendum or even a regional election to give political cover to the Parlament. It is unlikely for obvious reasons: it is the most extreme option and the one most likely to meet with stern international disapproval. Given how important international recognition and support are for the Catalans, they are not going to risk it without very great provocation.

It cannot be ruled out, however. It remains possible in a scenario where the Convergencia leadership breaks the promise to hold the referendum and voters penalize them by supporting Esquerra Republicana in substantial enough numbers for Oriol Junqueras to become President of Catalonia. Mr. Junqueras has spoken out more than once in favor of the UDOI followed by a Catalan Republic. It is also possible that Madrid’s response to the referendum challenge appears so heavy-handed and personally consequential to the pro-independence Catalan leadership that these decide that the risks of the UDOI outweigh submission. That seems unlikely: so far, Mr. Rajoy has not utilized the extreme limits of the measures that the law and Spanish constitution allow him. He has always offered Catalan politicians a “low cost” exit strategy that would enable them to back down at relatively low personal cost, and though they have not taken this out, it remains a prudent strategy.

Option 5: Unilateral Declaration of Independence

Predicted Outcomes

In all scenarios, the probability of an amicable divorce between Spain and Catalonia is less than 1 in 20; even that may be overestimated. The best option for achieving this result remains the referendum: even though unauthorized, it grants a greater degree of international legitimacy than any other option and is most likely to result in European mediation. This will almost certainly be necessary if the Catalans hope to gain Spanish recognition, no matter how reluctant or grudging. But the pro-independence voters should be under no illusions: Europe will not intervene out of love of democracy, through a principled stance on the right to decide, or any other such reason. They will intervene only if they think that Spain’s response is a risk to the Euro-zone: and that implies a severe or prolonged period of chaos and instability. Given the number of Union-threatening events occurring in 2017, starting with the French elections, it is indeed possible that Europe might try to take one off the table by pressuring Spain to engage in dialogue: possible, but still not likely.

It is my impression that the situation in Spain is akin to that of the UK in 1914 than in 2015. Today, the Scots have had their chance at peaceful, democratic self-determination. Back then, Irish Home Rule was on the table, but was put away due to the outbreak of the Great War; Ireland rose in bloody revolt two years later and eventually won her independence after great sacrifice in blood and treasure. Whether Catalonia will gain her independence or not remains in doubt, but it seems likely that a similar sacrifice will be demanded of her citizens.

I am increasingly convinced that Spain and Catalonia are set on a collision course. They already treat each other more like a divorced couple than members of the same nation. Neither side feels that it can back down any more without paying an intolerably high political price, and I don’t believe that they are bluffing: Mr. Puigdemont is as dedicated to the independence of his nation as Mr. Rajoy is determined to preserve the territorial integrity of his. In such cases, the escalation risk is high and violence becomes very likely. It is impossible to foretell which side would be able to impose its will upon the other when the endgame plays out: what seems certain is that even the winner may pay an unacceptably high price. A large and critical piece of the Spanish economy would suffer long-term damage; Spain’s international reputation would plummet even as its borrowing costs soared; and there would be an outflow of foreign investment and capital from Catalonia, one of the primary regions for attracting FDI. Spanish politicians, and many ordinary Spaniards, would be willing to pay this price in order to preserve the territorial integrity of their state; though relations with their Catalan brothers and sisters would be poisoned for another 100 years. It is doubtful if this course can now be changed, even if leaders wanted to: the dynamics of nationalism and mass popular movements have taken hold. They cling to the tiger’s tail and cannot let go.

Sources and Notes

[1] “The Bloody Flag”; “The Most Important Election”, “War of the Words”, “Die Lüge: Ever Closer Union”, “La Serenissima”, “Spain: Horns of a Dilemma”

[2] After the Court had issued an emergency injunction decreeing the Catalan Parliament’s Referendum Bill unconstitutional, the Generalitat was forced to end participation in the organization of the event, which was then taken up by civic organizations like Omnium and ANC and staffed by volunteers. The Court alleges that the three ministers nevertheless failed in their duty by allowing the civic organizers to use public property – i.e. the public schools – for the balloting.

[3] The Unió leadership decided to withdraw support from a continuation of the independence process after the 9 November consultation was blocked by the courts; the split with Convergencia came before the regional elections on the 27th of September because Mr. Mas and Convergencia wanted to continue supporting independence in a unity party called Junts pel Sí. Unió also ran separately and was destroyed in the subsequent vote. Even Convergencia polled worse than it should have in terms of past elections within the Junts pel Sí coalition. The greatest gains went to the more “radical” pro-independence party Esquerra Republicana and to a fringe leftist-anarchist party, Candidatura de Unitat Popular (CUP)

[4] Tom Kingston, “Veneto residents support leaving Italy in unofficial referendum,” The Telegraph, 24 March 2014

[5] Ortiz, Fiona and Phillips, Branden, “Separatist parties win Catalonia election in Spain,” Reuters, 26 November 2012

[6] Jack Pitts, “Poll finds that 60% of Catalans want independence,”  The Independent, 21 March 2014

[7] Such as the misuse of public funds and their diversion to fund an illegal activities.

[8] This foreign interaction was apparently authorized by the Ministry of the Interior, since the paper indicates that the Director General of the Mossos “requested permission for the regional police to deal directly with foreign police forces without other intermediation.” The authorization was obviously not granted for the reasons given by the newspaper.

[9] See note 2. Brazil, China, India and Japan are also mentioned

[10] I am not comparing Artur Mas to Mohandas Gandhi, only remarking that repression, even when legal, may rebound upon the authorities in a manner they did not intend.

[11] Gavrilo Princip was the only one of the six Bosnian conspirators who kept his courage and carried out the planned assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, leading directly to the First World War.

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