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The Predicament of Catalonia

The Spanish government has announced plans to suspend the autonomy of Catalonia on Saturday. If Madrid follows through with its stated action, then what recourse would be left to the independence-seeking people of Catalonia? 

Madrid has threatened to invoke Article 155(the nuclear option) of the country's 1978 Constitution, allowing the central government to take over the running of a region, thus suspending Catalonia's autonomy. However, Catalonia's leaders have said the region's parliament would vote on independence if Spain continued its "repression", the BBC-News reported.

But Madrid's aim to take over the Barcelona region is not a cut and dry circumstance. Article 155 has never been invoked before. It allows for Madrid to take over a region if it believes that region is acting against Spanish interest so to speak, and if that region fails to correct the action. It requires an absolute majority(more than 50 percent) of votes in the Madrid senate. Then, before Madrid could take over Barcelona, mechanisms for the effective running of Catalonia would have to be approved and put in place before any takeover takes place. How would Catalans react during such a time?

On October 1, 2017, the people of Catalonia overwhelmingly approved a referendum on independence. The Spanish Supreme Court later judged the referendum unconstitutional. Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, delayed an explicit declaration of independence for the region pending negotiations with Prime Minister Marino Rajoy's Madrid government. Apparently, no terms have been reached to diffuse the impending divide.

The Spanish Constitution protects that the Catalan statute of autonomy cannot be repealed. Therefore, any actions by Madrid against Barcelona could raise broader constitutional questions and complications for sometime to come. 

Moreover, while Article 2 of the Spanish Law states that: "The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible country of all Spaniards;" the document explicitly "recognizes and guarantees the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions".

Left to broad interpretation and without the presence of a foreign enemy, the people of Catalonia possess a bona fide constitutional argument as to their aspirations. However, if Madrid's Senate takes an Article 155-vote before Catalonia makes a formal declaration of independence, then the balance of scales would appear to benefit Madrid. Such is the predicament of Catalonia.

Whatever happens on Saturday, the destiny of Catalonia must rest solely in the hands of its people.