A torn sticker depicting a Spanish flag is seen on a streetlight in Barcelona, October 2017.
Gonzalo Fuentes / REUTERS

Of all the examples that a government facing a separatist movement could follow, Spain seems to have chosen the Serbian one. It has now threatened to shut down the Catalan regional government if it considers the independence referendum result, as Serbia did with the Kosovar government in 1990. Since October 1 it has maintained a massive presence throughout the region—with police sent in from other parts of the country—despite apologizing for this week’s violence. On Thursday it dispatched hundreds of soldiers to the region, also mimicking the Serbian government’s reaction to Kosovo’s declaration. To many Catalans, all of this resembles an external force occupying a territory rather than a legitimate law enforcement presence attempting to maintain the peace.

On the day of the referendum, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy characterized the crackdown that brought about nearly 900 injuries as a liberal move designed to protect Spanish democracy. In

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  • R. JOSEPH HUDDLESTON is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Southern California.
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