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The maturity of Spain's democracy is on display in Catalonia

Having read the Oct. 31 editorial, “Spain's ham-handed attempts to intimidate Catalonia are feeding a political crisis,” I cannot help being shocked by The Times Editorial Board’s lack of objectivity and disrespect for a country that does not need to prove it is a democracy under the rule of law.

You use the adjective “Franco-style” to describe the response of the government of Spain to the secessionists’ attempt to break Spain’s sovereignty. It is appalling, offensive and absolutely out of tune with reality in Spain. The government is enforcing the Constitution and our laws, thus protecting all Spanish citizens, including those in Catalonia.

To do so, the Spanish government is invoking Article 155 of the Constitution, an extraordinary control mechanism known as “federal execution” to be used when a region does not fulfill its obligations under the Constitution or other laws, or when it acts in a way that seriously harms the general interests of the country. This mechanism is not unique to Spain — in fact, President Eisenhower invoked the principle in 1957 to fight racial segregation in Little Rock, Ark., and President Kennedy took a similar approach in Alabama in 1963.

After a long period of dictatorship and many struggles, Spain has over the last 40-plus years transformed itself into a thriving democracy, a progressive country that is open to the world and upholds human rights. Despite this, your editorial emphasizes a long-gone past. Spain has learned the lessons of that period so well that we lack far-right representation in both our national and regional parliaments, something that not every country can say.

Your editorial discourages “efforts by the national government to criminalize peaceful behavior and imprison those pursuing a nonviolent political dream.” That is not up to the government to decide. Spain is a democracy that is governed by the rule of law and the separation of powers. Our country defends the rights and freedoms of all its citizens. No one is persecuted for having or expressing ideas, but all must be held responsible for their acts if they are found by our independent judiciary to be contrary to the law.

The actions of the regional Catalan government constitute neither peaceful behavior nor a political dream. Instead, their efforts violate the rights of the people of Spain, especially in Catalonia. Any political ambition can be accommodated if it is expressed and directed through legally established channels.

Finally, you mention something that people in Spain remember all too well: the terrorism of the group ETA. Your choice of words to describe the group — “Basque separatists who waged a four-decade armed struggle for self-determination” — is ill-advised, to say the least.

Your failure to use the word “terrorist” is alarming. As you surely know, the U.S. State Department designated ETA a foreign terrorist organization on Oct. 8, 1997, and the European Union did the same on Dec. 27, 2001. Referring to ETA as merely “Basque separatists” is not only insensitive of the fear and pain ETA has inflicted on the Spanish people by killing more than 800 people, it is also inaccurate.

Pedro Morenés is Spain’s ambassador to the United States.

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