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The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Conflict Reignites In Spain Over Catalonia’s Fight for Independence


Tensions between Spain and its wealthiest region, Catalonia, resurfaced recently after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez accepted a compromise that gave Catalan separatists amnesty. But what does the amnesty actually mean? Understanding the history of Catalonia is crucial to untangling the conflict long driven by Catalonia’s pursuit of independence and Spain’s commitment to national unity. 

“Back in the 15th century, Catalonia joined the union with Castille and Aragon (through the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella Castille), forming modern Spain,” said Mario, a 45-year-old tour guide living in Barcelona. Mario, who earned his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Barcelona, said he identifies as Catalan and has been studying and advocating for his region’s independence for most of his life.

“Over time, Catalonia had its moments of self-governance, but during the Spanish Civil War under Franco’s dictatorship, its independence was suppressed,” he said.

That suppression was intense, including a ban on the Catalan language during Franco’s 36-year-long dictatorship, which began in 1939 and further strained relations between Catalonia and the central government.

After Franco’s death in 1975, Spain transitioned to democracy and recognized the autonomy of Catalonia. However, in recent years, the region has witnessed a resurgence of calls for independence.

Earlier this month, large protests occurred throughout Spain as people opposed the amnesty law proposed by Sanchez. Many say the law — which represented a compromise with Catalonia’s powerful independence movement — is why he was recently elected to a 4-year term.

The draft of the amnesty law asserts that Spain will end its criminal cases against several hundred pro-independence leaders and supporters. The cases relate to what the Spanish government considers Catalonia’s unlawful bid, in 2017, to hold a vote calling for its formal breakaway from Spain.

One prominent figure, the Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, fled to Brussels after staging the failed independence bid, and many from the movement were jailed. 

The amnesty law will allow Puigdemont to return to Spain, allegedly free of charges. Sanchez said the law will “promote peaceful coexistence” between Catalonia and Spain after years of turmoil. 

Many Spaniards, however, consider Puigdemont an infamous figure because they see his quest for Catalan independence as endangering Spanish unity, and say he should be sent back to Spain to face justice rather than freedom.

About 400 people who assisted in organizing the 2017 referendum, or who participated in protests, will specifically benefit from the law. Police officers facing legal action over violent efforts to stop the referendum and clashing with protesters will also receive amnesty.

Anna Sanchez, a teacher who identifies as half Catalan and half Spanish, said she believes the proposed amnesty is a good idea.

“The amnesty was necessary. I don’t personally like it, but I think the final objective is a qualification of progress,” said Sanchez, who doesn’t consider herself a separatist nor does she support Catalonia’s independence movement. Her reasoning was blunt.

“The ultra-right [Spanish nationalists] rising is a considerable danger,” she said.

Sanchez said a federal government model, like the kind that exists in the United States, would be a better solution — one where Spain’s power would be divided between a central authority and the various constituent units of the country, known as provinces.

Most Catalans agreed with the amnesty law, with 49 percent of Catalan Socialist supporters calling the law favorable, while 41 percent opposed it, according to data from El Nacional Cat.

“If this bill is passed, Carles Puigdemont could maybe run for Catalan regional elections in 2025,” said the tour guide Mario. “I believe he will be welcomed back by many Catalan separatists, but not all. There are divisions, even among Catalan parties.”

He added, “I disagree with letting people who have committed crimes go without consequences.”

Anna Sanchez said she thought that recent events show the political landscape might be shifting.

“The Catalan independence parties are declining,” she said. “Elections are happening next year in Catalonia, but predictions are saying the independent parties will go down.

“This means independence is not a priority anymore: social policies, economic policies, and housing culture will all be prioritized,” she added.

Vanessa Franco is a staff writer for The Inquirer, studying this semester in Barcelona.

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About the Contributor
Vanessa Franco, Staff Writer / Barcelona Correspondent

Comments (2)

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  • J

    Jani solanoNov 30, 2023 at 9:45 am

    Give people a chance, if they want to separate they should have the right to do so. We the people should be able to decide if we want to be under a stupid imposed old monarchy or look into a brighter future with our own government

  • A

    Albert UbedaNov 29, 2023 at 4:02 pm

    The Unity of Spain and the loss of Catalonia’s Independence was forced as from 17 September 1714 – why can’t people/reporters remember this ??