More than 600 kilometers separate Madrid from Barcelona, but the preshocks from Sunday’s planned independence referendum in Catalonia are already being felt in the Spanish capital.
The proof is evident in the Spanish flags placed in the last few days in many windows and balconies, a spontaneous gesture against the referendum – a vote declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.
On Thursday, the regional premier, Cristina Cifuentes from the ruling conservative – Popular Party (PP) seized the initiative and ordered the national flag to be hoisted outside all of Madrid’s government buildings “in defense of the unity of Spain,” she said on her Twitter account.
? La ComunidadMadrid con la Constitución y el Estado de Derecho, por la unidad de España, la democracia y la convivencia. #VivaEspaña ????? pic.twitter.com/YnqIcRDewX— Cristina Cifuentes (ccifuentes) September 28, 2017
Cifuentes rejects suggestions that the move will increase political tension, but her decision has been harshly criticized by political rivals: “The Spanish flags on private balconies are the reflection of the freedom of expression but what the Popular Party is doing: to politicise the flag and to usurp a symbol that belongs to us all is a very different thing. You do not become a better Spaniard by trying to repress what will happen in Catalonia, “ warns Lorena Ruiz-Huerta, spokesperson for the left wing Podemos party at the Madrid Assembly.
Podemos is the only national party that supports the consultative vote of October 1, and even then the backing is not unconditional: it is in favour of Catalan citizens’ right to decide, but opposed to an eventual unilateral declaration of independence.
“We are not ambiguous nor have we moderated our position in the last days. We are not an independentist party and we do not want Catalonia to leave Spain, but the Catalan people should be able to speak in a legal and binding referendum. That is why we believe that the mobilization of next Sunday is very important and should be heard by the Spanish government,” says Ruiz-Huerta, before clarifying: “Unfortunately, that referendum will not be able to meet the necessary conditions and the guarantees to obtain a valid result because the Spanish security forces and government will try to prevent people from voting. “
Photo: Manolo Martín-Corral