Protesters hold banners reading 'Freedom for political prisoners' Lluis Gene/Getty Images

A Compromise for Catalonia?

Catalan separatists won't win independence for their region. But if they reengage with Spain's state institutions and build alliances with other political forces that want a federal system, they could achieve far-reaching constitutional reform.

MADRID – Many foreign observers have misread the impasse between Catalan secessionists and the Spanish government. The general view from abroad seems to be that the Catalan independence movement is democratic and peaceful, and that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy could resolve the issue simply by calling for a referendum, or by granting greater fiscal autonomy to Catalonia.

If only it were that simple.

Among the biggest misconceptions is the belief that secessionist leaders are democratic; they are anything but. Not only did they violate Spain’s constitution in launching their bid for independence; they also ignored the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, the region’s highest law, when they rammed a secession law through the Catalan parliament in September 2017.

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