The situation has suddenly turned tense in Spain following the declaration of an independence vote by the wealthy Catalonian regional government to potentially be held on October 1st.
Spain’s highest court has declared the vote unconstitutional as only the central Madrid government can declare a referendum according to Spain’s constitution.
But Catalonia’s regional government is apparently not backing down, vowing to go ahead with the vote. While Spain’s Prime Minister vowed to stop short of nothing to block the vote.
The standoff escalated yesterday when police was sent to seize 100,000 ballot boxes. The rest was apparently hidden by independence supporters.
700 Catalan mayors have been threatened with imprisonment if they facilitate the vote, with suggestions electricity might be cut off in schools or institutions where the vote is held.
In turn, the Catalan mayers turned out with their staves determined to hold the vote, while others protested outside to protect them.
The Spanish government stated on Friday they are to seize Catalonia’s finances within 48 hours with Spain’s Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro stating: “These measures are to guarantee that not one euro will go toward financing illegal acts,” BBC reports.
This prompted a tweet by Julian Assange who, linking to the above report, stated this is “why all freedom loving people and states need Bitcoin.”
He has strongly come out in support of the referendum, saying “I ask everyone to support Catalonia’s right to self-determination. Spain cannot be permitted to normalize repressive acts to stop the vote.”
A referendum on independence is supported by 70%-80% of Catalonia’s seven million population, but a vote under these conditions is supported by only around 40%.
Polls suggest around 40% of Catalonia’s support independence, but a symbolic non-binding vote in 2014 showed an astounding 80% in favor of independence. However, the turnout was low, with suggestions the unionists had boycotted the 2014 vote.
Spain’s central government has refused to offer the Catalonian people a referendum on independence in the same manner as Britain did for Scotland. Nicolas Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, stated that “the principle of self determination is enshrined in the UN Charter.”
While the right to free speech is enshrined within Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It’s unclear whether this has been violated after reports that the referendum website has been seized:
It’s unclear at this stage how the situation will resolve. Nor is it clear whether the seizure of finance would make the holding of a vote logistically impractical.
If Catalonia had accepted bitcoin for taxation, like the Swiss town CryptoPolis plans to do, and had kept it as a hedge, there may have been some cushioning as you can’t digitally seize bitcoin, so needing physical access to the private keys.
But, in the current situation, whether they can actually finance the referendum remains a question. Just as it remains uncertain whether Spain will be able to peacefully resolve the situation.