Saturday, October 14, 2017

He Said WHAT?

We still have difficulty grasping the undercurrent that lurks in the shadows of the independence movement in Catalan, headquartered in Barcelona, and the Spanish government rooted in Madrid.

For some perverse reason the royalist government, well rooted in Spain's fascist near past under the dictator Francisco Franco, insists on overplaying its hand. It began when Madrid sent its storm troops, the Guardia Civil, into Catalan two weeks ago to beat up peaceful Catalans holding an independence referendum. The ghost of that murderous old bastard Franco rode again.

Now this.

The warning from the spokesman of Spain's ruling party stopped hearts across Catalonia: If Carles Puigdemont declared independence, he might "end up like the man who declared it 83 years ago".

That man was Lluis Companys, the Catalan president who was imprisoned and later executed by the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

Today his death, on October 15, 1940, will be marked by a march to Barcelona's Montjuic Castle, the site of the public act of punishment which still rankles deep in Catalans' historical consciousness. Accompanied by his entire cabinet, Mr Puigdemont will lay a wreath at the tomb of Companys, whose reported cry "For Catalonia!" as he faced the firing squad immortalised him as a martyr to the modern day independence movement.

As the Catalonia crisis deepens, -nationalist tempers are flaring and civil war insults flying in both directions, polarising Spain further into two -distinct realities where one side's -traitor is the other's hero.

"They criticise our schools and the way we teach history," said Elisenda Paluzie, economy professor at the University of Barcelona. "Who? Those who have political leaders who ignore the shooting of Companys."

As long-simmering resentments -surface, sights that many regarded as consigned to history are once again -being witnessed. Members of Franco's Falange - small but increasingly active - perform the fascist salute and sing the dictatorship anthem Cara al Sol at protests against Catalan independence.

Hopes of dialogue - always slim - fade further with each seething exchange. Mr Puigdemont has suspended Catalonia's declaration of independence to allow for talks, while Mr Rajoy holds out the prospect of national -constitutional reform if he retracts the declaration entirely.

But many on both sides feel they are past the point of no return, and the -suspension of Catalonia's autonomy looms. Experts lay at least some of the blame with Spain's failure to deal with the legacy of the dictatorship, hastily swept under an amnesty law after the death of Franco in 1977.

Goran Lindblad, president of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience, said Spain needed to take steps to address the lingering pain of the dictatorship years, adding: "There are always problems when a totalitarian past has not been properly managed."

As for Mr Casado's conjuring of -Companys' fate, he said: "It is not responsible to talk about executions in a democracy."

This is hardly a time to bare the bloody fangs of fascism of just a few decades past when Franco, backed by Hitler's Nazis, crushed the Republic and, over time, slaughtered 400,000 political opponents and dissenters.  That monstrous history is a stain seemingly worn with some pride by senior members of the royalist government in Madrid.

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