Almost two years after then Catalan president Carles Puigdemont called, the day after the Dantesque images of violence from the 1st October 2017 referendum, for the withdrawal of the Civil Guard and National Police Corps from Catalonia, a parliamentary initiative this Thursday will lead to the approval by the Catalan Parliament of the departure of the gendarmerie from Catalonia's four provinces. The proposal by Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra Republicana comes at a moment of strong political controversy over the nine arrests carried out by the Civil Guard on Monday for alleged crimes of terrorism, rebellion and possession of explosives and the accusations from pro-independence parties that it's a political set-up. Depending on what CUP officially announces (it seems unlikely that its delegates won't join the proposal), it would be the first time that the Catalan Parliament has spoken with such forcefulness and would set a precedent as the legislative chamber of no other autonomous community has approved the idea to date. The Basque Parliament, which also debated the idea, rejected a full withdrawal of the gendarmerie in February 2017.
After a day of rebukes between the government and the other parliamentary parties, during which the actions of Cs spokesperson Lorena Roldán linking the Catalan CDR (Committees for Defence of the Republic) with ETA and showing a photo of ETA's attack against the Civil Guard in Vic were especially disagreeable, doing away completely with the presumption of innocence and the fact that the initial accusation against those arrested are very much in question, the general policy debate this year won't go down in history. Presumably, because what is to come is of such intensity that nobody wants to waste powder in a parliamentary plenary session which will disappear from the media scene within hours. In the case of Roldán, that shot of the photo of the Vic attack in her hands will hang around for Spain's TV channels and the Madrid media, although given the boredom there is in Madrid over the repeated television stunts from Cs it's probably it won't get the media return of previous years with Rivera and Arrimadas.
Since the Catalan Parliament reproached the king and called for the abolition of the monarchy in July 2018 (in that case with the votes of JxCat, ERC and En Comú and the abstention of CUP), a resolution which the Constitutional Court overturned, this proposal on the withdrawal of the Civil Guard is perhaps the one of the greatest institutional substance brought up by the Catalan chamber. Not for its result, which Spanish acting interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska won't even stop to examine, but for the institutional challenge it means to a whole state body which has more than 3,500 officers in Catalonia, according to recent figures he provided. A total which his ministry wants to increase by 750 anti-riot reinforcements on the eve of the anniversary of the referendum.
It's escaped nobody's notice that this increase in agents in Catalonia has nothing to do with public safety, since the Mossos, who are responsible for the matter, haven't submitted a request and they've got more than enough resources. We are, as such, talking about a political and pre-emptive decision by the Spanish government which has also placed the triad of the independence movement, violence and terrorism on the same plane in the debate. And which, even, from the mouth of prime minister Sánchez, president Torra has been urged in the last few hours to condemn the potential use of violence by the CDR to dispel doubts, he says. Doubts about what, one could ask. Has the Catalan independence movement not been clear and conclusive enough historically in its rejection of violence?