October 3, 2012


Spanish Prisoners (RICARD GONZÁLEZ and JAUME CLOTET, 10/02/12, NY Times)

The region accounts for about one-fourth of Spain's exports. But for every euro Catalans pay in taxes, only 57 cents is spent in the region. Before taxes, Catalonia is the fourth richest of Spain's 17 autonomous regions. After taxes, it drops to ninth -- a form of forced redistribution unparalleled in contemporary Europe.

For a society suffering the acute pain of budget cuts and a deep recession, the burden of fiscal transfers, which cripple the Catalan economy's ability to compete globally, is unacceptable. Unable to draw on its own tax base, the Catalan government recently went through the humiliation of being forced to ask Madrid for a bailout. Americans know well that an unfair taxation system can easily ignite calls for independence.

But money isn't the only cause of secessionist sentiment. We Catalans have long been attached to our distinct identity and never accepted the loss of national sovereignty after being defeated by the Spanish monarchy in 1714. For three centuries, Catalonia has striven to regain its independence. Most attempts to establish a state were put down by force. The "Catalan question" was a major catalyst of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship harshly repressed Catalan culture.

At the core of Catalonia's unique identity is the Catalan language, which is distinct from Spanish. Since the re-establishment of Spain's democracy in 1977 and Catalonia's autonomy in 1979, Catalan has been revived in the region's schools. However, a recent ruling by Spain's Constitutional Court threatens this policy. To most Catalans, our language is a red line. If the current system of autonomy can't guarantee protection of it, independence is the only solution.

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Posted by at October 3, 2012 5:05 AM

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