The Catalonian situation explained to English speakers

Why Catalonian politicians organized the referendum

  • Money transfers between Spanish regions and the central government aren’t publicly available. This is a shame and has to stop. Catalonian politicians claim they transfer an inordinate amount of money to the central government, but until the actual numbers aren’t public, we don’t know and this debate can’t be rooted in truth. It has to be rooted in truth. In the meantime, the Catalonian government has used it to create the motto of the movement, “Spain steals from us”. It’s easy to use an external enemy politically.
  • Spain is a shit show of corruption and neither one of the two alternating ruling parties have done anything against it. Since nobody’s addressing it, many think “I don’t want to be part of this banana republic”, (even if Catalonia has higher than average corruption and the former Governor was discovered with billions of dollars stolen).
  • Education was transferred to the regions (equivalent to US States) 2 decades ago, and the Catalonian curriculum was changed to markedly support nationalism. You can see it in the vote per age. It’s the inverse of Brexit: the younger you are, the more pro-independence you are.
  • The economic crisis has hit Spain especially hard as the EU economy most relying on Real Estate and Finance. The Catalonian Nationalist parties were successful at harnessing the subsequent discontent.

Why the referendum makes no sense

  • It’s illegal as per Spain’s democratic constitution of 1978, approved by more than 90% of Catalan voters. You can’t allow an unconstitutional act to move forward unobstructed, because it eliminates all legal guarantees. What prevents the secessionists to declare some people’s property rights void, if not the law?
  • It’s illegal according to international law, which recognizes secession only in cases of colonialism, foreign invasion or gross discrimination and abuse of human rights. Anybody that has traveled to Catalonia will tell you none of them apply.
  • It’s just dumb. According to that logic, independence votes should be allowed for every region, every municipality, every house. If Catalonia seceded, would it allow hundreds of votes across its municipalities so they could decide which one wants to stay and which one wants to go? No.
  • (Personal opinion: I also think Nation States are a dumb lie made up 4 centuries ago in Westphalia to abuse the People. It’s super easy for politicians to use it to gain power. We fall for it like flies. This is what 95% of the debate in Spain is on the street.)

Why it doesn’t really matter

  • Catalonian politicians didn’t care about a true vote. They were going to declare a win anyways, which was easy since they controlled the polled stations and the “No” side was never going to vote. They just wanted pictures of the police charging so they could play the victims.
  • At the end of the day, legality doesn’t matter much when a huge movement has been created to support a cause. Now that a bit less than 50% of Catalonians want independence, you can’t just avoid the topic.

Why the Spanish Government is dumb

  • It just hoped this was going to fizzle out.
  • It didn’t try to address the underlying concerns.
  • It thought it could just use rule of law and muscle to win.
  • It didn’t fight the media war. This is even worse than Clinton vs. Trump. It’s like they haven’t paid attention to world politics over the last 2 years.

How do you solve this politically

  • Everybody take a step back and breathe heavily. A bit of yoga and meditation would help. More importantly, talk with each other. Every time I’ve sat with somebody on either side, we’ve come to a much more peaceful conclusion, bonding over the stupidity of Spanish and Catalonian politicians.
  • Admit Spain has massive problems. It needs a Constitutional reform, which includes solving forever the regional tensions, as well as its endemic corruption.
  • Reframe the problem. Right now, the government of China and Russia are laughing so hard. The more EU is divided, the weaker we are, and the easier it will be to take over. This is the true story in international geopolitics, and we’re missing it with our petty fights.

What can you do as a citizen?

  • If you’re reading this, never say “Spaniards” or “Catalans” in this context. Both groups are split, and broad generalizations don’t help. Want to make a difference? Start referring to Spanish and Catalonian politicians. They are the ones who put us in this mess.
  • Fake news are everywhere and citizens and journalists aren’t doing their due diligence. Be very cautious. Think the police is overreacting? Look up the evidence and don’t be swayed by images that might be staged, photoshopped, or from another time. Think the Spanish Government did everything it had to? It didn’t: it only used laws when the fight was happening in the hearts of people.

Bring it home for me. What’s an equivalent for the US?

Imagine a parallel world. It’s 1998. To get support for a law in Congress, Bill Clinton transferred all Education authority to the Texas Government 20 years ago. Texas changed its curricuum according to its beliefs at that time. 20 years later, in 2016, imagine Trump didn’t win the elections, but Hillary. Angered by the result, a Breitbart-supported Texan Governor decides to unilaterally declare a referendum to be held a year later, to decide whether Texas should become independent from the US.



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Tomas Pueyo

Tomas Pueyo


2 MSc in Engineering. Stanford MBA. Ex-Consultant. Creator of applications with >20M users. Currently leading a billion-dollar business @ Course Hero