The one-year anniversary of Catalonia's independence referendum was marred by violence after separatists clashed with police in the streets of Barcelona. Approximately 200,000 pro-independence supporters marched throughout the regional capital, but some of them blocked roads and railways, while others got completely out of control and started rioting. The most extreme elements among them even tried to storm the parliament because of how furious they are that President Quim Torra is supposedly ‘too soft' on supporting their cause.
The incumbent leader replaced former President Carles Puigdemont earlier this year after his predecessor fled the country to evade charges of "rebellion", though the separatist icon is still a very vocal proponent of independence and even surreally projected himself as a hologram during a Catalonian rally once. Puigdemont has been able to operate with impunity because Belgium, where he's currently located, refuses to extradite him back to Spain. This in turn has led to a bizarre state of affairs.
In real life, Catalonian independence is a fantasy because Madrid still controls the region, but it nevertheless continues to live on in virtual reality and on the internet. Sometimes the virtual becomes physical, however, such as during the recent one-year anniversary of the separatist referendum that wreaked havoc in Barcelona's streets and showed that there are still plenty of die-hard supporters of this cause. Even so, they're still not thought to represent the majority of Catalonia's inhabitants.
The recent unrest in the region poses a very real risk for Spain as a whole because of the weakness of the minority-led Socialist government that came to power earlier this year on the back of what some have described as a so-called "soft coup" against the conservatives. The Catalan question and other problems such as budgetary disagreements could lead to the central government's collapse and the holding of new elections, which would extend the period of instability that Spain's been plunged into in recent years.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Miquel Puertas, teacher and blogger from Barcelona, and Enrique R. Acedo, Spanish-based geopolitical observer, from history to leadership, and writer for Geopolitica.Ru.
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