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Spain: Catalonia, Basconia and the Regional Question



     WAIS is not just an exchange of postings; it is a network. This was illustrated by this exchange between two WAISers. The daughter of Professor Anthony D'Agostino of San Francisco State University is going to study in Barcelona, so I put him in touch with Joan Ubeda, Professor of TV communication at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, who sent this report:
     The next 6 weeks will be an interesting period because we have Catalan elections scheduled for October 17. The current president of the Catalan government, Jordi Pujol, has been in office for 19 years, and his opponent from the Socialist party, Pasqual Maragall, is the most serious contender Mr. Pujol has had to face in an election. There is indeed a fin-de-régime atmosphere, although nothing is set on stone, and Pujol could win again (he has vowed not to run again in 2003).
     Another interesting political story is the peace process in the Basque country. ETA, the Basque terrorist organization, called a cease fire one year ago, and since then there has been at least one meeting between the Central Government and ETA representatives. Last week, ETA accused the government of stalling the talks, and there has been an exchange of statements from both sides.
     My comment: The regional question is important in many European questions, notably in Spain. The Catalan and Basque situations are similar in that they are prosperous regions at opposite end of the Pyrenees and the French border. They are linked by a resentment of control by Madrid, which has led to a kind of pact. At the same time, they are different in culture, language and temperament.
     Catalonia has an ancient Latin civilization and a tradition of commerce favorable to democracy. I am less sanguine about the Basque provinces. They have been wracked by ETA violence, featuring murder and property destruction. Promoting the strange Basque language to stress a Basque identity, ETA youths parade around dressed like Che Guevara, with scarves hiding their faces. They have just made demands on the peaceful Basque Nationalist Party, which seems finally to have decided that it would not deal with them. Che Guevara style gunmen are a danger to democracy in many countries.

Ronald Hilton - 08/30/99


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