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In the face of the Catalonia referendum, constitutional order must be restored

The secessionist challenge is posing a threat to democracy, freedom and social harmony in Spain

Protestors at a campaign rally in favor of the illegal referendum.
Protestors at a campaign rally in favor of the illegal referendum.Albert Garcia

The democracy and constitutional order with which Spaniards bestowed themselves in 1978 following a long dictatorship are currently at a critical juncture. The challenge laid down by the Catalan government, and by the parliamentary majority behind it, is threatening to destroy our unity and social harmony.

By acting irresponsibly, stripping the institutions of legitimacy, abusing democrats’ good faith and misusing the legal safeguards that operate in states governed by the rule of law, separatists have embarked on an unprecedented challenge against Spain. The central government, like all other institutions, has an obligation to act firmly and use all legal means to defend the Constitution, democracy and the rights and freedoms of all Spaniards.

Promoting a rebellion against a democratic state in 21st-century Europe is an offense against citizen liberties

Restoring the constitutional order involves preventing the secessionist referendum from taking place. It is an illegal consultation that violates the Constitution and the Catalan Statute of Autonomy; it was passed by the Catalan legislative and executive branches in flagrant violation of their own legal dispositions, and was subsequently suspended by the Constitutional Court. It is a vote devoid of any democratic guarantees, aimed at eroding the foundations of the Spanish state; its promoters do not hesitate to intimidate, threaten and discriminate against those who disagree with their views, thereby undermining their personal liberties.

The Catalan government’s disobedience of the Constitutional Court and Attorney General’s Office leaves no room for doubt regarding its determination to press ahead with its incitement to sedition. Holding the consultation would be tantamount to admitting that the Constitution no longer operates in Catalonia, thus abandoning to their fate the millions of Catalan citizens who still wish to go ahead with the coexistence project we established in 1978.

As part of this illegal drift, mention should be made of the attitude displayed by the Catalan police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, a law-enforcement agency whose main mission, like all other law-enforcement agencies in the state, is to guarantee that the law is upheld and that citizens’ rights and freedoms are maintained. Yet after receiving orders from prosecutors to stop the consultation from taking place, this agency – which owes allegiance to all Catalans, not just some of them – is standing by while crimes are being committed against the Constitution and the Statute.

Rajoy has the obligation to act in order to prevent Spain from becoming a state that is unable to enforce the law

It is unacceptable for a police body to put itself at the service of a cause, rather than being loyal to the state and the Constitution.The Spanish government must end the constant abuse and deviation of power that have become the norm within secessionist-controlled agencies. This is about restoring the rights established in the Constitution and the Estatut and arbitrarily repealed or suspended by secessionists.

Democratic legality is above politics, opinions and emotions. Promoting or supporting a rebellion against a democratic state in 21st-century Europe is an offense against citizen liberties, against their social harmony, and against their most inalienable rights. Against the prevailing demagoguery that’s been spread around by a few opportunistic political leaders and sorcerer’s apprentices at the Generalitat, it is necessary to stress that there is no tension between democracy, legality and legitimacy. All three concepts walk hand in hand and it could be no other way in such a solid, well-established democracy as Spain happens to be.

From the moment of its foundation, EL PAÍS has always defended democratic legality against any attempt at involution. All Spaniards remember the special edition that this newspaper ran on the night of February 23, 1981, when there was a failed coup attempt inside Congress. Our headline then: “EL PAÍS stands by the Constitution.”

At these times of particular gravity, we find ourselves forced to, once again, firmly express our support for the fundamental law of the land and our defense of the rights of all Catalans and all Spaniards. This defense has not prevented us from repeatedly asking for constitutional reform and review in order to incorporate federalism as a formula to organize the various communities and territories of Spain. But faced with this challenge by the Generalitat, the first and most pressing matter is halting this shameless coup against democracy. There will be time enough later for holding those responsible to account.

The Spanish prime minister must urgently convene all the main parties in parliament to inform them of the measures he will undertake to efficiently restore legality, and to ask for their support. And he must make a public appearance to explain the situation to all Spaniards. He has reason and legitimacy on his side. But above all, he has the responsibility and the obligation to act in order to prevent Spain from becoming a state that is unable to enforce the law or uphold its own Constitution.

English version by Susana Urra.

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