Barcelona attacks: What could they mean for Catalan independence? (BBC News)
Secessionists condemn the fact that some of Spain’s biggest newspapers have used the attack against their cause
Patrick Jackson, Barcelona.- Ten years ago this month, a foreign news event occurred that ultimately had a major impact on relations between Catalonia and the rest of Spain.
The credit crunch, which began when French bank BNP Paribas froze funds over US subprime mortgage sector fears, eventually plunged Spain into recession.
Old grievances among Catalans were revived, as secessionists argued that their wealthy region was being milked by incompetent governments in Madrid.
Now a very different kind of outside factor, jihadist violence, has returned to Spain, which last saw such carnage in the Madrid train bombings of 2004.
This time Catalonia was attacked, less than two months before its unrecognised referendum on independence.
While there is no suggestion Barcelona was targeted for any reason other than being Barcelona, could the attack become the wild card that gives the sovereignty game back to Madrid?
Because they clapped the king of Spain on Plaça de Catalunya?
When King Felipe and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy joined Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau at a rally on the city’s central square, they were simply there to mourn.
“How could the king and the prime minister not travel to Barcelona?” says Manuel Arias-Maldonado, political scientist professor at Málaga University. “They had to go.”
For Adrià Alsina Leal, professor of journalism and communications at the Central University of Catalonia and a Catalan independence activist, “solidarity is welcome from wherever it comes”.
“It’s only normal that they came,” he says, noting the sense of “correctness and politeness” at the event. “I wouldn’t attach any other significance to that.”
“It could even be argued that circumstances have forced Puigdemont and Rajoy to show, albeit reluctantly, some unity of purpose,” Prof Arias-Maldonado suggests.
“There are, of course, minor details: Puigdemont’s references to the ‘Catalan character’ in his speech, Rajoy’s call to co-operate and leave behind what separates in the face of greater challenges.”
How long will the correctness last?
The tacit truce between Madrid and the secessionists may rapidly unravel after Sunday, when Catalonia’s three days of official mourning end.
Activists have suspended campaigning for that period, and I saw no sign of campaigning along Las Ramblas, beyond the occasional estelada (the unofficial lone-star flag of independence) in some of the shops.
But secessionists are indignant at how some of Spain’s biggest newspapers have used the attack against their cause.
For instance, an editorial in El País essentially argued that an attack of this magnitude should act as a reality check for Catalans and persuade them to set aside thoughts of independence.
“Using an editorial to sort of shame Catalan independence supporters like that was probably a bit over the top,” says Prof Leal.
However, the real battle for hearts and minds may be fought on social media.
Some secessionists, Prof Arias-Maldonado points out, are already praising the response of Catalan “state-like structures” as confirmation that Catalonia is ready for independence.
“Some are even advancing the idea that these things would not happen in a free Catalonia,” he says.
Full original article: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40990947