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As someone raised largely in the US, it would seem through my rose-colored glasses that revolution is a basic right of the citizens of any democracy. The Declaration of Independence, one of the two most important legal documents in the US alongside the Constitution, even regards revolution as a duty, stating, "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government".

While I fully understand that a move to imprison those who might otherwise further a push for secession might be a very effective way of keeping a country together, at least in the short term, a leader forcefully taking over a region within his country, deposing its leaders and then taking them to court for fighting for freedom would seem to be something a dictator would do, not the leader of a democracy.

Does this move make sense in the cultural and legal context of Catalonia and Spain?

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    As someone raised in the US...do you not recall that whole civil war thing? – user1530 Oct 31 '17 at 4:33
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    You seem to be missing a long string of words and adjectives in that section of the Declaration of Independence. It in no way says "eh, we don't like it, so we're entitled to rebel!"; it says "when shit has hit the fan, evil rules the world, you suffer a brutal existence under the government's heel, and everything has been generally f'd up for a really long time, then you should rebel". – zibadawa timmy Oct 31 '17 at 7:05
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    It's also extremely important you recognize the following: the Declaration of Independence is not a legal document. It legally binds no one and nothing in America or elsewhere. It did not legally establish the colonies as an independent nation. And it does not grant you, say, a legal right to any of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. Any such rights would be found in the constitution and (supreme) court precedents. In modern terms, it is more like a press release. – zibadawa timmy Oct 31 '17 at 8:08
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    The US Supreme Court ruled a long time ago that secession, at least State secession, is un-Constitutional i.e. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_v._White. As such the US government is, currently, legally obliged to treat a State secession as an illegal act. As was the Spanish government with the illegal Catalonian secession declaration. The Supreme Court would need to reverse its ruling for the situation to be different. – Alex Oct 31 '17 at 10:03
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Is it normal for a democracy to prosecute secessionist leaders for rebellion?

They are not being prosecuted for being secessionist1, they are taken to court because they have been charged by breaking Spanish law. It is up to the judges to decide the issue (and of course, Puigdemont and others are entitled to due process, defense, and appeals up to the European Court of Human Rights).

that revolution is a basic right of the citizens of any democracy

No. No country, democratic or not, recognizes that right (at least for their own citizens). Of course, in some countries you have the right to call yourself "revolutionary" as long as you support the "revolutionary" government2.

Rights are granted by laws. A revolution is refusal to obey those laws; it is the creation of a new legal system not bound by the previous one, and aimed at replacing it. Few countries grant a right to secession and from those some seem unpractical (Liechenstein, Moldova) or specific to certain far away territories (France, Netherlands).

While I fully understand that a move to imprison those who might otherwise further a push for secession might be a very effective way of keeping a country together, at least in the short term, a leader forcefully taking over a region within his country, deposing its leaders and then taking them to court for fighting for freedom would seem to be something a dictator would do, not the leader of a democracy.

If we were talking about 65%, 70% of a region pushing for independence in a "do or go to jail/die" situation, the current intervention would be little effective. But that is not the situation:

  • numbers are not even close to that. To put the figures into context:

    • the two political parties pushing for independence got 39.6% and 8.2% (total 47.8%) in the last election.

    • turnout at the last referendum was stated by the Generalitat (without independent verification) to be of 43%. Compare to turnout at independence referendums in Scotland and Quebec (80%-90%).

    • turnout at a pro-independence referendum in 2014 (without police intervention) is estimated between 37% and 41% (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_self-determination_referendum,_2014#Results). Again, no independent verification, and the Catalonian government did not issue turnout data

  • While it could improve -which government couldn't?- Spain is not the tyrannical government some claim it to be:

    • It is a democratic country with rule of law. If it were not, it could not be part of the EU.

    • It regularly ranks high in decentralization ranks. For example, it ranks higher than the USA3:

      • Regional government chosen by elections? Check.

      • Ability to enact and enforce its own laws, as long as they do not contradict the Constitution? Check.

      • Regional language official and taught at schools4? Check.

      • Regional police forces? Check.

      • Self-management of part of the taxes? Check.

    So much for a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism.

    And that leads to the absence of massive general strikes, public workers leaving their jobs en masse, and all the struggle that happens in actual revolutions/independence movements against actual oppressive regimes5. This also explains why independentist parties and organizations will take part in the next elections, instead of boycotting them.

taking them to court for fighting for freedom

These are not the charges.

would seem to be something a dictator would do, not the leader of a democracy.

See the point about Rule of Law. And it is not the the President who has filled charges against Puigdemont and others, and certainly it will not be him who will proceed with the trial and judge them.

And, last but not least:

a leader forcefully taking over a region within his country,

What has happened is that the regional government has been ousted and new elections have been called for (December 21st); once those happen Catalonia will regain its self-government.


1There have been (legal) independentist parties, propaganda and elected leaders since the current Constitution has been in place. Being independentist is not the issue.

2Mexico kind of aced this one, with its PRI or Partido Revolucionario Institucional(Institutional Revolutionary Party).

3Of course rankings of this type are complicated and you could alter some valorations so you could argue that the USA is higer, or not. The important point is that it is at the top of the list.

4To put an example, one of the most conflictive issues is the teaching of and in Spanish in Catalonian schools. The central government "imposition" is that 25% of the time lessons must be done in Spanish.

Do you imagine New Mexico issuing a law so that schools teach in Spanish and the Federal Government answering "well, as long as 25% of the time you teach in English we are ok with that"?

5Pro-independentists often quote the example of Kosovo independence, but neglect to mention the thousands of casualties that happened before that.

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    Good answer. Let me point out two things: 1. it is not the the President who has filled charges against Puigdemont and others. Well, it was the General Attorney, which is directly assigned by the government and that has been disapproved by the Congress of Deputies. 2. once those happen Catalonia will regain its self-government the vice-president of the Senate announced that the 155 will remain depending on the results. – fedorqui Oct 31 '17 at 11:54
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    @SJuan76 Contrary to your usual posts, this one is too heavy on opninion and lighter in facts. It's true that Puigdemont or the leaders of ANC and Omniun are not being prosecuted for being "independentist", but on several criminal charges, but so is Leopoldo López in Venezuela, and he's often recognised as a "political prisoner" by many spanish politicians. The issue of decentralization is way too opinable; yes, they can make laws as long as they don't interfere with national laws... but there are national laws about nearly everything, so the margin of law-making is rather thin, etc... – Rekesoft Nov 2 '17 at 10:49
  • @Rekesoft I thought it was pretty heavy in facts, with the references to the electoral data and the Regional Authority Index data. But I can add that, from CEOE studies, only in 2014 the Autonomous Communities issued 813.256 pages of new rules and requirements(42.802 pages by Autonomous Community, if Ceuta and Melilla are included) and as of 2012 there were 67.000 Autonomic laws – SJuan76 Nov 2 '17 at 13:30
  • @Rekesoft And of course, a significant portion of the national laws are just application of EU laws, which are to be incorporated into the set of laws of all EU members. – SJuan76 Nov 2 '17 at 13:32
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    @SJuan76 It's not as much there aren't enough facts in the post as the quality of them. Most aren't objective enough. A single law on education setting the curricula is way more important than 5000 laws regulating provisions, or stablishing the right XML or PDF format of a certain kind of official document. – Rekesoft Nov 2 '17 at 14:43

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