UNItED STATES. international press reaction

From silence to uproar

In recent months the US media has begun to take more notice of the Catalan question, even taking sides with demands that the Spanish government allow a vote on self-determination

On June 23, The New York Times published an editorial that created quite a stir. The article was a leap forward in how the Catalan process is dealt with in the US. First of all, being an editorial, it was not the opinion of a single journalist but the stated opinion of one of the most influential and prestigious newspapers in the world. What’s more, the position the editorial takes could not be clearer, recognising the political mistreatment of Catalonia and recommending the Spanish government to allow a referendum so that Catalans can vote one way or another. The reaction of the central government was visceral and, on social media, it began a brutal onslaught against the newspaper’s correspondent in Madrid, Raphael Minder, who it accused of being the “instigator” of the editorial. In fact, a few days after the article was published, Spain’s ambassador to the United States and former defence minister, Pedro Morenés, published a response to the editorial based on article 1 of the Spanish Constitution. However, the article did not appear as an opinion article, but was published among the letters section.

Yet, The New York Times editorial was not an isolated case. In the past few months, we have seen a series of articles published in the US that not only deal with the Catalan issue, but do so from very clear position. To give an example, on October 1, 2014, the Bloomberg agency published the editorial: First Scotland, now Spain, which contrasted the positions of the UK government to that of Spain’s. The article called the banning of the November 9 non-binding referendum “a mistake” and called on Spain’s political leaders to allow a vote and make the union case .

Executive cautious

In contrast to these explicit postures, the position of the US government has been much more cautious. So far, the current tenant of the White House, Donald Trump, has made no reference whatsoever to the conflict between Catalonia and Spain. Nor did his predecessor, Barack Obama, make any explicit references to the issue. After months of pressure from Spanish diplomats, the Obama administration did its best to avoid the situation, finally limiting itself to an announcement that “the status of Catalonia is an internal Spanish issue.” Only on one occasion, during a meeting with King Philip VI, did Obama let slip that the US was “deeply committed to maintaining strong relations with Spain.”

Let the Catalans vote
Opinion, October 1, 2014
If the Catalans want independence, there should be a path. The centuries-long marriage with Spain, never a happy one, has been on the rocks for some time.
First the Scots, Now the Catalans
Opinion, October 13, 2014
Something as complex and emotional as national identity cannot be reduced to a purely legal issue; it requires political solutions.
First Scotland, Now Spain
Opinion, October 1, 2014
The Catalans want a referendum... the Spaniards aren’t inclined to let them have it. This is a mistake, and Spain’s leaders need to show some unwonted statesmanship.
Catalonia’s Challenge to Spain
Opinion, June 23, 2017
The best outcome for Spain would be to permit the referendum, and for Catalan voters to reject independence — as voters in Quebec and Scotland have done.
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