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Climax of foolishness

Catalan separatists’ march in Brussels seals their break with democracy and with Europe

Demonstrators in Brussels on Thursday.
Demonstrators in Brussels on Thursday.Virginia Mayo / AP

Well-meaning Spanish citizens who exercise their democratic right to demonstrate deserve everyone’s respect, even if their cause may occasionally not rise to the occasion. They are free to demonstrate inside and outside the country thanks to the fact that Francoism, which banned public expressions of dissent, ended many years ago. And also thanks to the fact that Spain is an established and exemplary democratic regime. Were this not the case, the thousands of Catalans who crossed several borders to be in Brussels on Thursday would not have been able to.

Toni Comín has squandered his own legacy and tarnished the family name

Unfortunately, they marched behind secessionist signs and leaders whose attitude on Thursday represented a climax in a long chain of distorted facts, lies and insults aimed solely at destroying Spain’s image. It is sad to see these figures who failed to secure enough support for their attempt at popular revolt, now trying to push their fantasy forward by liquidating the social harmony that allowed Catalans to experience their highest levels of self-rule and progress. Carles Puigdemont and his people are now merely enforcing a scorched earth policy.

To denigrate today’s democracy by equating it to the long-gone dictatorship, and to scorn the European Union and its leaders for their purportedly anti-liberal attitude is more than just political stupidity. It is a self-inflicted wound for those who might otherwise find additional channels, mouthpieces and support on top of what the Spanish Constitution already affords them. And it is a source of shame for all Catalans and Spaniards, because they could be labeled as collectively irresponsible.

The best institutional response to so much nonsense was provided by Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European Commission, who said that everyone has the right to march and ask for change, “but the law cannot be ignored.”

To denigrate today’s democracy is more than just political stupidity

The demonstration, which aimed to be a miniature version of the Diada (the marches held annually on Catalonia Day, September 11), was crowded, colorful and orderly, like the marches of times past; but it was marred by the presence of individuals and symbols from neo-fascist, xenophobic and racist groups, those shady bedfellows of Catalonia’s separatist leaders. And the march barely made an impression on a city accustomed for decades to demonstrations featuring tractors, people pouring milk on the streets, hurling vegetables through the air, and other imaginative forms of protest.

The escalating foolishness suggests a need to individualize and define political responsibilities so that nobody will be taken by surprise later on. Puigdemont has associated himself with anti-European extremists against the consensus of Catalan and Spanish society, thus losing whatever shred of credibility he might have had left. His stature has shrunk to a size bordering on the ridiculous. His former government minister Toni Comín derides as Francoist the very democracy that his own father, the Catholic and communist leader Alfonso Carlos Comín, made significant contributions to. He has squandered his own legacy and tarnished the family name. Meanwhile, the secretary general of the Catalan Republic Left (ERC), Marta Rovira, uses bellicose language to announce that their intention is to “devastate.” As public argumentation techniques go, she is much more effective when she bursts into loud sobs. What a bunch.

English version by Susana Urra.

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