“Do not underestimate the power of Spanish democracy.”
With these words, eerily reminiscent of a line once spoken by Star Wars villain Darth Vader, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy brought to a close a week of frenzied drama. It began with a foiled attempt by the Spanish police to close down the official website for the Catalan independence referendum. As often happens with web-based raids, the official site was up and running again within minutes, albeit with a different domain name.
Next, the Public Prosecutor’s office ruled that the referendum is now illegal “beyond all doubt” and instructed the Civil Guard, National Police, Catalan Police (Mossos d’Esquadra) and local police forces to act to stop it. It also launched criminal investigations against the entire Catalan government, the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, the leaders of two separatist municipal associations and more than 700 Catalan mayors (representing 75% of Catalonia’s municipalities) for agreeing to cooperate with the planned plebiscite.
On Friday, Spain’s Finance Ministry joined the fracas by introducing a motion that would hand Madrid much greater control over how Catalonia spends its money in an effort to block the regional government from using state cash to pay for an illegal independence referendum. It has also frozen Catalonia’s monthly advance of the national liquidity fund (FLA), worth some €1.4 billion a month, and demanded that banks report any transactions related to the referendum vote to the central government.
The ultimate goal is to turn the Catalan regional government into an empty shell of an institution — one that has no autonomy, or for that matter any practical function or purpose…