“Spanish ships of war at sea! We have counted…” all of three?

OK, it’s not quite as impressive as the fleet of fifty-three that Sir Richard Grenville encountered. And for “ships of war” read “gigantic cruise ships loaded with Guardia Civil,” and if that isn’t a WTF moment, what is?
For anybody who’s been sensibly ignoring the news for the last week: Catalonia wants to hold a referendum on independence this coming Sunday. Spain doesn’t want them to.
So far, Spain has confiscated referendum ballots and ballot boxes, sent Spanish – not local – Guardia Civil to arrest over a dozen Catalan leaders (in dawn raids – shades of Franco!), and parked three cruise liners full of Guardia Civil outside Barcelona and Tarragona.
The Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has announced that they have more ballot boxes stashed where the Spanish will never find them; the streets of Barcelona are filled with protestors; and the dockworkers of Barcelona and Tarragona have refused to provide any services to boats carrying security forces.
Oh, and did I mention that at least one of the cruise ships is decorated with oversize Looney Tunes characters? (Some sources say all three, but I haven’t been able to verify that.)
All this over a referendum that, according to polls before the Spanish Crackdown, was unlikely to garner over 40% support. And that wasn’t legally binding. The Spanish government appears terrified of allowing the Catalans even to express their opinions on the subject. So, naturally, they’ve embarked on a series of measures guaranteed to convert the other 60% of Catalans to the side of independence.
Yup. Looney Tunes.
But bear in mind that Sir Richard Grenville lost.

10 thoughts on ““Spanish ships of war at sea! We have counted…” all of three?”

  1. Leaving aside the concept of the invasion of Barcelona by black masked Guardia Civil commandoes whose battle cry is “Thuffering Thucotash in Castilian Spanish, there are other possible repercussions here.

    1) as noted, those who were not pro-independence are being pushed to, if not being pro-independence, to at least hate the government in Madrid.

    2) grudges last generations in Europe. It took a couple of generations to get over the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s.

    3) I would not be at all surprised to find that sometime in the last couple of decades that there were not Armada Española veterans who trained with the Unidad Especial de Buceadores de Combate who remember what a limpet mine is. Cruise ships are not as well compartmented as naval landing ships.

    4) On a less kinetic thought Spain, like all European countries, is fiscally scrod. This does not only include the national government and the ratings of its bonds, but also the bonds issued by provinces. If Catalonia decides to default on its bonds, it will not only affect Catalonia, but also national bond ratings. And they are not in a position to easily ride out such a hit.

    5) With Britain exiting the EU, Poland telling the EU to pound sand over accepting a Muslim invasion, Greece going bankrupt again, despite the EU propping up what little fiscal stability they have, Italy possibly pushing for an EU exit soon, and Germany facing . . . difficulties in forming a stable government after Merkel getting less than 1/3 of the vote and the Socialists declining to join any coalition; the EU may not have the attention or money to rescue the Madrid government.

    6) And if the central government decides that it is going to force submission, matters will start moving rapidly.

    And this does not even take into account the Islamic desire to reclaim Al Andalus.

  2. Compare and contrast with the reaction of the UK government to the notion of Scottish independence. The idea of sending paramilitaries in to seize Scottish ballot boxes would be simply unthinkable.

    And the English are the bad guys???

  3. Yes, the referendum was unlikely to carry (40% support in polls). But it was clearly ruled illegal by the Spanish Supreme Court. Stopping it is a rule of law issue.

    Furthermore, if a Catalan secessionist PM can call a referendum whenever he wants, there’s nothing to prevent him from calling another one, and another one, and another one, until the voters “get it right”. Or seem to – the authority conducting the vote is not impartial. There are lots of ways to skew the vote to get a narrow majority for “secede”.

  4. Fair point on the rule of law. I don’t know of any country whose constitution has an “opt-out” clause. It certainly didn’t work out well for the American South when we tried it.

    I just think – as someone who has survived raising teenagers – that throwing a fit, embarrassing them in front of their friends, and yelling that they’re grounded forever isn’t a great way to deal with simmering rebellion.

    Madrid is acting as if they want a knock-down, drag-out fight. Maybe they do.

  5. It took a couple of generations to get over the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s.

    This is an odd matter. The European Council on Foreign Affairs has a piece about this but it sounds like the “Remain ” argument with Brexit.

    The first myth is that the planned referendum would be a legitimate democratic process, approved by the Catalan Parliament and unfairly banned by the Spanish state.

    Yet the way the secession laws (“disconnection laws”) – that is, one law allowing for a referendum on independence and another on the “Legal Transition” (providing for the elements of an independent Catalan Republic) – were passed on September 6 was shockingly undemocratic.

    Madrid’s conservative government is a popular and easy target for virtue-signalling commentators who lack the nerve to take on the real contemporary Francos in Russia or Venezuela. But Spain is no USSR-like Goliath, nor is the Catalan government of Carles Puigdemont a pious, defenceless David.

    Modern Spain is a pluralistic democracy which ranks high on all recognized standards.

    and three The precedent of Kosovo has also been spearheaded by the Catalan government to buttress their claims of persecution. Thankfully for both Catalonia (a rich region) and the rest of Spain, the comparison with Milosevic’s Serbia and Yugoslavia in general does not hold: there has been no violent campaign of ethnic cleansing, no systematic discrimination leading to mass outflows of refugees, and not one previous international condemnation of Spain’s treatment of its Catalans.

    It’s an interesting argument and I have been in Barcelona but have no idea how to decide wjo is correct, if anyone is.

  6. Imagine if the South had decided to hold “non-binding” independence referendums in the 1930s, how well would that have gone over in the rest of the country?

    In other civil conflict news, I read an article in the paper about Mormon leadership reaffirming their stance on marriage, and they were referred to as a “conservative faith group” rather than, you know, a church or a religion. This is not going to end well.

  7. Imagine if the South had decided to hold “non-binding” independence referendums in the 1930s, how well would that have gone over in the rest of the country?

    By that time, I’m not sure. The South was awfully poor by then and the country was just entering the Depression.

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