Originally published at thestar.com
Will Spain’s most explosive crisis in a generation turn even more violent and become a nightmare for all of Europe? That possibility is now becoming real as a toxic mix of unbridled nationalism and incompetent politicians takes hold of that country’s future. At issue is the apparent determination of the separatist government of Catalonia, one of Spain’s wealthiest regions, to declare unilateral independence. Its leaders claim this will happen in a matter of days even though Spain’s national government and its courts declare this would be illegal. If undeterred, this will be a historic collision between two extreme and stubborn sides that is certain to end badly. We saw a preview of that last Sunday as Catalonia held a banned referendum on independence amid horrific scenes of police violence. The Spanish government did its best to block the voting, and its brutal efforts were dramatically captured on television. There were scenes of Spanish police smashing their way into polling stations, dragging out voters, firing rubber bullets into crowds and beating pro-independence demonstrators. More than 900 people were injured. But still, the Catalan government claimed, somewhat incredibly, that it received a clear mandate for its region to secede. According to official figures, 2.26 million people voted, a turnout of 43 per cent of eligible voters, with 90 per cent supporting independence.
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