Article written by Fernando Betancor, available at his website. Thank you Fernando Betancor for your permission to post this excellent article to our blog. Last April, I introduced the Catalonia-Spain Endgame Scenarios[i], a step-wise progression of actions and counteractions revolving around the “process” towards Catalan independence. At each step, I defined probable actions by one of the key actors – the Spanish national government or the Catalan Generalitat – in response to prior actions. By assigning probabilities to each of these steps and linking them in a logical manner, the Endgame Scenarios serves as a useful model to determine the likelihood of possible outcomes at key decision points along the chain. The model does not account for random, unpredictable events and the estimation of probabilities relies wholly on public information and the author’s judgment. I have provided the model in Excel format for non-commercial use by the general public with appropriate accreditation in the hope that others may contribute their insights into this work.
There was a critical development in the breakdown in relations between the Catalan Generalitat and the Spanish national government. Spanish newspaper El Mundo[ii] broke an exclusive report alleging the existence of “Catalan moles” in the National Police Force (Cuerpo Nacional de Policia – CNP). These agents, who form part of the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s regional police force, would be in a position to take over key functions of the CNP that do not currently reside with the Mossos, such as border control, in the event of a Catalan declaration of independence. The regional police have been able to establish a presence at the international frontier posts of Melles Pont du Roi and Le Perthus[iii], key transit points between Spain and France that would become the Franco-Catalan frontier in the event of the latter’s secession. The agents also undoubtedly provide useful intelligence on CNP intentions towards the Mossos and the Catalan government. The article furthermore states these actions have the sanction and active direction of important organs of the Catalan government, naming especially the Catalan Police Academy (Academia de Policía de Cataluña) and the Catalan Institute of Public Safety (Instituto de Seguridad Pública de Cataluña)[iv]. These organizations and the Mossos have also been establishing regular contact with foreign and international police and intelligence agencies[v], such as Interpol, Europol and the French and American intelligence services[vi], under the pretext of fighting jihadists. The article alleges that the primary motivation is not fighting terrorism, but to establish the Catalan police for as a national police force with pre-existing ties to their international peers. So far, there have been no official comments to the article by the CNP, the Mossos or the national and regional governments. However if these allegations are proven correct, they have major implications:
- Catalonia is much further along in its process of building parallel institutions, which would be fundamental for a quick and orderly transition of power – whether agreed to or not – in the event of a declaration of independence;
- The state’s monopoly of violence is the most basic functional characteristic, along with the power of taxation, and it now appears that the Generalitat is in a position to put both into operation simultaneously. Numerous Catalan municipalities have already stated that they will henceforth pay taxes to the Generalitat’s Fiscal Authority rather than to the Spanish Treasury directly[vii];
- The loyalty of the Mossos d’Esquadra has been the great unknown variable in any estimation of the possibilities of a successful secession. If the Mossos remain loyal to the national authority, then orders from the government to arrest Mr. Mas and any Catalan parliamentarians who vote for independence would be obeyed and the fact that it was Catalans arresting Catalans would reduce the probability of violent resistance as well as the perception of “foreign” invasion. But if the Mossos remain loyal to the Generalitat, then the Spanish government would be faced with a well-armed force that might very well resist any attempts by the CNP or Guardias Civiles to re-impose the national authority. At this point, the Spanish government is faced with the prospect of armed resistance, which is more usually referred to as civil war;
- If the allegations are true, then the loyalty of the Mossos to the Generalitat no longer seems to be in question. The alleged actions are not those of rogue agents; they are institutional and systematic. Furthermore, they seem to have progressed to a very great degree before the CNP concluded its investigation, which implies support from the majority of the rank-and-file Mossos involved. Otherwise, someone would have blown the whistle much sooner;
- Taking this parallelism to its logical conclusion, we can also assume that there is a Catalan intelligence agency in operation within some department of the Generalitat, mimicking the National Intelligence Center (Centro de Inteligencia Nacional – CNI) and probably with agents operating within that body as well, providing information of any surveillance activities directed at key members of the Catalan government and civil society.
The last is only a hypothesis, not referred to in the El Mundo article, but it would appear logical. Even without it, the importance of these allegations cannot be overstated. It means that the situation is far graver than has been publicly admitted to by the Spanish government and that Catalonia is acting as a de factoindependent state already. A Catalan declaration of independence come September would not be to make them something they are not, but rather to declare a fact something that already exists.
It is entirely possible that the early Catalan elections cum referendum on the 27th of September have several purposes besides the obvious one of returning an electoral majority to the separatist parties and thus providing a democratic mandate for a declaration of independence:
- The 27th of September serves to fix the attention of the Spanish government on that date, rather than on what is going on now. Through distraction, the Generalitat would then be able to continue with its preparations and the finalization of these parallel structures in relative peace;
- The 27th of September also ensures that the election will be held while the hated Partido Popular is still in power. If the election were delayed until 2016, there is a very high probability of a national government composed of a coalition of leftist parties, like the PSOE and Podemos. This would re-open the possibilities of a “third way” of dialogue, which many Catalans might still favor over outright independence[viii]. The Popular government has provided pro-independence Catalans with the biggest electoral boost they have ever seen and they are all for making hay while the sun shines.
I admit to having underestimated Artur Mas. In previous articles[ix], I had criticized what I considered to be a ludicrous idealism on the part of the Generalitat: their assumption that a democratic mandate and faith in Europe would be sufficient to gain Catalonia her independence. That has certainly been the outward face of the independence drive. But it now appears that Mr. Mas is pursuing a much deeper and more pragmatic game, though one entailing a very high risk. He is continuing to pursue the democratic course of winning a mandate; and I make no doubt that he would happily negotiate an “amicable divorce” with the Spanish government or receive the good offices of European intermediation; but it appears he is not relying on them. He is building up the bases of traditional state power and he has, I think, declared his timetable: the really critical institutions will be functioning no later than early September this year, possibly sooner.
I would be very curious to have a talk with the director of the embryonic Banco de Catalunya to understand what preparations are being made to introduce a parallel currency and impose capital controls upon independence, since the European Union is not going to deal kindly with a Republic of Catalonia initially. If Greece is any indication, the “Institutions” will attempt to crush the new state in its infancy using their very substantial financial power. Yet Greece is providing the Catalans a very valuable lesson in terms of what to expect: they are undoubtedly profiting from it to prepare themselves. I no longer believe that the Generalitat’s confidence in retaining the Euro is any deeper than their confidence in securing their independence with the magic of an electoral mandate. If a parallel Central Bank is being formed, there will be a contingency plan for a parallel currency as well. These considerations have led me to make major alterations to the endgame scenarios. The new Release 3 increases the probability of an eventual Catalan declaration of independence as well as the probability of a violent reaction to that declaration. I no longer believe that the Generalitat has the slightest intention of turning back; it has gone way too far and there are too many government officials who could already be facing sanctions and jail time under Spanish law. Their most logical escape route now is to get out from under Spanish law, which is why I believe they won’t turn back. The loyalty of the Mossos is the key piece that was missing for me.
The Spanish government has very likely already gotten a green light from Europe to deal with Catalonia as an internal matter in exchange for the government’s unwavering support of austerity and political support for isolating and punishing Greece. I don’t think Mariano Rajoy will hesitate to attempt to re-impose the national authority for fear of the reaction of his European partners. Markets may still react if real fighting actually broke out; but with an unlimited ECB backstop for Spain’s sovereign bonds, the pain might not be enough to make Mr. Rajoy reconsider his actions. Oddly enough, a declaration of Catalan independence followed by a firm government response might be the best and only chance the Partido Popular has of winning the upcoming elections. There is nothing like wrapping oneself with the flag to get votes; little matters like gross corruption are quickly forgotten when the drum beats the call to war. I have speculated before[x] that Mr. Rajoy and his party may have their own agenda regarding the Catalans which also goes down the path towards secession, but not independence. It would be the chance for the conservatives to destroy the hated articles on regional autonomy and to recentralize the Spanish state: what better excuse than the “wild excess and abuse of powers” by one of the regions? Just as Catalonia lost her traditional rights in 1714 for supporting the losing side in the War of the Spanish Succession, and again in 1939 for the same reason, so conservatives might view a Catalan rebellion as the best means of rolling back those rights again.
Sources and Notes [i] Fernando Betancor, “Catalonia Spain Endgame Scenarios,” Common Sense, 21 April 2014 [ii] Esteban Urreiztieta, “La Policía detecta espías al servicio de los Mossos,” El Mundo, 31 May 2015 [iii] Ibid [iv] Ibid [v] This foreign interaction was apparently authorized by the Ministry of the Interior, since El Mundo indicates that the Director General of the Mossos “requested permission for the regional police to deal directly with foreign police forces without other intermediation.” The authorization was obviously not granted for the reasons given by the newspaper. [vi] See note 2. Brazil, China, India and Japan are also mentioned [vii] “80 ayuntamientos catalanes ganan al Estado y no pagarán a la Hacienda española,” El Confidencial, 19 December 2014 [viii] Not that this would likely prove a very fruitful dialogue. A weak leftist coalition is unlikely to be able to negotiate anything that the Catalans would actually be satisfied with; and even if they were, the Partido Popular and Ciudadanos would be in a position to block them through both parliamentary and judicial means, just as the PP did with the previous reform of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy. [ix] Fernando Betancor, “Catalonia: A Flawed Strategy,” Common Sense, 26 February 2015 [x] Fernando Betancor, “The Machiavelli Gambit: Is Mariano Rajoy Fomenting Catalan Secession?” Common Sense, 16 May 2015