Carles Puigdemont is still awaiting extradition hearings in Belgium, with several serious criminal charges awaiting him in Spain, and that could easily lead us to believe that the nascent attempt at Catalonian independence is all over but the shouting. But is it? Last night’s news brought word of more unrest in the streets and a general strike called by the independence-minded parties. This resulted in an almost total closure of the major roadways in and out of the region as well as many stores and government offices either being closed or on reduced hours.
Protesters blocked some of the highways and authorities were even forced into a few confrontations. (Reuters)
A general strike called by pro-independence campaigners in Catalonia severed transport links on Wednesday, as leaders of its secessionist movement sought to regain political momentum after failing to agree a joint ticket to contest an election.
Protesters shut down roads, causing huge tailbacks into Barcelona, and some public transport ran minimum services in response to calls for action by two civic groups — whose heads were imprisoned last month on sedition charges — and a labor union.
People stood across dozens of major highways in the region waving placards and chanting “freedom for political prisoners”, TV and video images showed, while minor scuffles were reported on social media as police attempted to move protesters.
When your citizens are chanting for freedom for political prisoners, your government has a problem on its hands. In the case of Spain, it summons up visions of their very troubled past in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Madrid has to tread very carefully here because the federal government still holds on to a relatively strong degree of support among some of Catalonia’s citizens who enjoy a measure of autonomy but are not up for a full-blown revolutionary war. If the central government is seen as being too heavy-handed, beating down and bloodying people in the streets, that support could evaporate quickly.
But that’s a knife which cuts two ways. The independence movement isn’t going to get anywhere if too many of their own citizens are opposing them or only luke-warm in their support. Puigdemont could be returning home to a place where the will doesn’t exist to support a bid for his freedom and return to leadership.
That looks to be the deciding factor here. There were enough people to call a general strike, close down a lot of operations and shut down the roads, but it’s not nearly unanimous. Reuters interviewed a number of Catalans who were not participating in the strike and seemed to find the entire thing a bother.
“Why should I strike, nobody is going to raise my salary. In this world we have to work and not argue so much,” Jose Luis, a construction worker, told Reuters TV as he walked through Barcelona on his way to work.
“The politicians should work more and stop their silliness.”
Those aren’t the words of a revolutionary patriot in the making. They’re the sentiments of someone who hopes for a return to normality and doesnt’ want to see his nation torn apart. If that’s the prevailing feeling in too much of Catalonia, Puigdemont should probably just apply for asylum now and not bother running in the December 21st elections.