I was a supporter of Catalonia's independence since I was a teenager. After Franco’s death –the dictator who ruled Spain for almost 40 years- I was involved in politics. Then, I was 14 years old and political parties sprang up. It was an amazing epoch.
I remember that near my parents’ house there was the the headquarters in the neighborhood of two of them: the Socialist Unified Party of Catalonia (communist) and Convergencia, nationalist centre left at the beginning. A kind of Irish Fianna Fáil.
I joined the last one, probably because of influence of my grand mother, a wife who survived the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s régime without speaking a word of Spanish. But she lived in Barcelona, not in small village near to the Pyrenees. What such an amazing woman!.
Nevertheless I joined the party and the youth organization behind the back of my father who was still then a supporter of Franco. Maybe he was not involved in politics but as a businessman he liked law and order.
I started explainning my personal and political background. Needless to say I gave it up just a few years laters –when I was 17 or 18- and I began my career in journalism after having graduated from the University.
But, what is happening now in Catalonia? Good question: nobody knows. Apparently Catalan government –supported by the parties in favour of the independence- is still fighting to break away from Spain but it has been a process which has already lasted seven years and not without harm: home rule was suspended by the Spanish govenment, half of the members of the Catalan autonomous government went into what they called exile and the other half has been judged by the Supreme Court in Madrid alongside other members of the Parliament and political leaders just a few weeks ago. To be frank, it has backfired.
The main issue is the next one: to try to achieve independence with only 47% of the voters in the elections for the Catalan Parliament held in two successives calls -in 2015 and 2017- is a lot but not enough.
Spain may have a lot of problems but now is a full democracy –even if the nationalists say not- and a member of the European Union, Nato, the Council of Europe, the International Monetary Fund, the Olympics and other international organizations.
I have tried to underline that they really underestimate the power of the Spanish State, the government, the justice and the European Union and overrate their own power: as I mentioned before, 47% is not enough to split away from a western democracy.
So, what did they do it? Why did the Catalan elites of centre-right bet on the independence? Catalonia is a wealthy quite region, not a devastated country. In fact, the current Catalan president, Quim Torra, even said one year ago that there was a “humanitarian crisis”. It reminded me of Somalia or Ethiopia but it is not.
In my opinion there are some explanations: first of all, they tried to cope with the economic crisis which started in 2008 and affected the middle classes of most of the European countries in the last years.
Secondly, Convergencia –the party of the former president Artur Mas, who started the process- has faced several cases of corruption and was condemned to pay six million Euros for a case of fraud linked to Palau de la Música, one of the jewels of Modernism.
Finally, it was also a way to hide the internal political problems after Mr. Mas lost twelve seats in the elections held in 2012, when he tried to achieve an absolute majority.
But, how could they risk social cohesion in Catalonia –the independence issue has been a very divisive subject- for political purposes? The most important thing is that they have been offering the image af all Catalans being behind the idea of becoming independent thanks to some Catalan mass media –for example the public channel TV3, in hand of the government- but it’s not true. It’s not an entire country following the path of the independence. What a pity.