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'Free the political prisoners!': April 15 Barcelona demonstration

Catalonia in Spain:
Europe's key struggle for democracy

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Resources: For English-language news and information sources on Catalonia, click here. For solidarity information click here. For an administrative map of Catalonia click here. For an explanatory note on this blog click here.

Translation: Unless otherwise specified, translations are by the European Bureau of Green Left Weekly and Links, International Journal of Socialist Renewal


Keeping up with Catalonia in English



Week ending February 10


February 5

Background (Ara)

The chasm with Catalonia grows wider

The drive to seize back devolved regional powers is strongest in Castile, Aragon and the Madrid region


What sort of territorial organisation do you prefer? (CIS survey of opinion in the Spanish stater)

A single central state or less autonomy                 A state of autonomous regions, as at present       More self-government or independence


Do many in Spain wish to return to the centralised administration system that was pervasive, for instance, during General Franco’s regime? Well, it would appear that way, even after nearly forty years of devolved regional powers. If we are to believe the latest report published by CIS, the Spanish government’s polling body, in Spain as a whole only 16 per cent would like the central government to scrap the system currently in place. But when you also consider that 12.1 per cent of respondents say they would like to see some powers taken back from Spain’s autonomous governments, you get a more significant 28.1 per cent. If we zero in on certain regions, we soon discover that some parts of Spain openly oppose the current system of autonomous regions. Specifically, nearly 50 per cent of respondents in Madrid, Cantabria, Castile and Aragon favour some form of regression. In Madrid’s case, for example, supporters of a recentralised administration outnumber those who prefer the current system or might even like regions to be granted additional powers.

Paradoxically, in the upcoming regional elections many Spaniards who oppose the current system will go to the polls and, for the first time, they will elect MPs (i.e. Vox) who propose scrapping the regional parliaments. It is not unlike the situation you get in the European parliament with eurosceptic groups, such as France’s National Front and Britain’s UKIP. We will see whether Spain’s political system can withstand the surge of Vox, the far-right party that longs for the mythical Spain from a time now long gone, with one single parliament, one central government and fifty provincial prefects.

The CIS poll paints a picture of a country split into three. We have already discussed the first group: those who favour recentralisation can be found mainly in Castile and Aragon, a region that claims to be a historic nation in its Statute, but now wants to relinquish self-rule. In the second group we have the regions that are content with the current state of affairs: the southern regions (Andalusia, Extremadura and Murcia), the Canary Islands and some regions where a language other than Spanish is also spoken (Galicia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands). In the last of the three groups we have Catalonia and the Basque Country, followed at a distance by Navarre, where the general feeling is quite the opposite: most respondents would like to be granted either greater powers or full independence.

Spain’s future politics will also need to be explained in terms of the public’s preferences on this matter. Any debate about a constitutional reform will also have to take into consideration that, according to the CIS poll, Spaniards who would like to amend the Constitution to limit regional powers outnumber those on the opposite camp. The figures show that the current system of uniform autonomous regions is seen as a failure in many parts of Spain, particularly in those regions where demands for self-rule were unheard of before 1978.

In this context, Catalonia and the Basque Country increasingly find themselves drifting further from the Spanish average, with starkly contrasting views on how territorial coexistence ought to be organised. Any political system that aims to live on must be able to adapt to reality and not the other way round. That is the reason why the “coffee for all” system, which was meant to cohere Spain into a whole, has had the exact opposite effect (1).

Translator’s note:

(1) In contemporary Spanish politics, the decision to divide Spain up into 17 regions (1978) is often referred to as “coffee for all” meaning that they were all given (mostly) similar devolved powers … whether they liked it or not.

Translation: Ara, slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


Week ending February 3


February 3

February 2

Òmnium Cultural video replying to España Global offering (see below, The Anti-Borrell (episode 2)

February 1


January 31


The Anti-Borrell (episode 2)

As the Spanish government increasingly loses the propaganda war over its treatment of the Catalan political prisoners, here is the less than convincing counterattack of España Global, a  PR campaign launched by Borrell and run by Irene Lozano, former member of the Spanish centralist Union, Progress and Democracy.


Background information on the upcoming trial of the Catalan political prisoners (contribution 7)

The International Trial Watch web site

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Carme Forcadell and Dolors Bassa, the women defendants in the trial
Former ANC president and Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and former Catalan social security minister Dolors Bassa, the women defendants in the trial

Material relevant to the case that has been translated translated into English, can be accessed on the website of International Trial Watch or via these links:

International Trial Watch introduction to the case

Extraordinary Case No. 20907/2017, brought before the Spanish Supreme Court, is the criminal proceeding against 12 people charged by the Public Prosecutor’s Office with the crimes of rebellion, disobedience and embezzlement of public funds, for which it has requested 177 years’ imprisonment. The criminal proceeding began with the events related to the Referendum of the 1st of October 2017 and the trial will be held in Madrid at the beginning of 2019. The defendants include civil society leaders, the President and vice president of the Parliament of Catalonia and members of its Bureau. Nine of the defendants have been in pre-trial detention since March 2018, and in some cases since October 2017. The months of pre-trial detention in Madrid have led to long periods of time during which the defendants have been far from their families and defence teams. The rest of the defendants are free on bail.

In addition to the 12 defendants, another seven people who are currently in other European countries are being processed in the same lawsuit. The National Court and the Supreme Court have issued several European Arrest Warrants. These European Arrest Warrants have been issued and withdrawn several times because they had not obtained the desired result or it was foreseen that they would not obtain it. In Germany, the Higher Regional Court of Schleswig-Holstein did not recognise that the requirements of the crime of rebellion in the European Arrest Warrant against Catalan President Carles Puigdemont were met. There is currently no European Arrest Warrant pending resolution, which means that these seven people are not being prosecuted even though they are being prosecuted for the same facts on which the trial is based. Although they are free in different European countries, there is an arrest warrant issued against them in Spain.

The crime of rebellion, with which the Public Prosecutor’s Office is charging some of the defendants, is one of the most serious crimes in the Spanish Criminal Code. It involves a ‘violent and public uprising’ and is punishable by imprisonment for up to 25 years. The only precedent for the crime of rebellion since the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 was Fernando Tejero (Lieutenant-Colonel of the Guardia Civil’s) conviction for his attempted coup d’état on the 23rd of February 1981, which involved the occupation of the House of Commons by armed units and the deployment of tanks in the street.

In addition to the charges filed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, there are two further allegations. Firstly, the State Attorney is charging them with the crime of sedition, which involves a ‘public and tumultuous uprising’ and carries penalties of up to 15 years in prison. Secondly, the far-right political party VOX demands even higher penalties, adding to the crime of rebellion the crime of criminal organisation.

The defence teams have warned from the start that this is a political trial. They have alleged the nullity of the crimes of which their clients are accused and have repeatedly asked for their release. They have also claimed that the Supreme Court and the National High Court have no competence, because they do not have legal jurisdiction over these cases. They have also alleged violations of fundamental rights before the Constitutional Court repeatedly, which have been admitted but not resolved, blocking access to the European Court of Human Rights. Finally, the defence teams have also taken the case before the UN Human Rights Committee and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions.


January 30

Background information on the upcoming trial of the Catalan political prisoners (contribution 6)

Comment (Ara): Spain’s Supreme Court denies any similarity with the Demirtas case

The court that will hear the case against the Catalan leaders is trying to pretend that pro-independence views are not being suppressed

Last Monday (January 28) Spain’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal to release the Catalan political prisoners, arguing that their situation is not at all like that of Selahattin Demirtas, the Kurdish opposition leader whose pre-trial detention in Turkey was ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights on November 20 last year. Among the reasons given, the Supreme Court argues that, unlike Demirtas, the Catalan leaders “were not the voice of dissent, suppressed by an overpowering policy imposed without any balances” and that, in their case, “they were fully integrated into the region’s power structures”.

That sort of argument holds no water because in both cases the violation of the defendants’ right to proper legal counsel that results from pre-trial detention is identical. In fact, later in the same statement the Supreme Court insists that “political views aren’t being persecuted. No ideology is being criminalised. Actually, the views which the defendants legitimately hold are the same ones endorsed by Catalonia’s regional government”. Here the court is preempting one of the pillars on which the prisoners’ defence will rest during the trial, and one of the issues which the ECHR will eventually need to shed light on. It is a joke in very poor taste to claim that pro-independence views are not being persecuted in Spain when Catalan leaders are in jail or exile due to an ad hoc fabrication for the prosecutor to press rebellion and sedition charges, which carry prison penalties of up to 25 years. Does the court believe that the incumbent Catalan government, even if they support independence, are free to proceed as they wish now that they have seen the price paid by their predecessors? Now that they have seen how the Civil Guard, the prosecutor and the presiding judge have embraced the arguments put forward by Vox’s far-right lawyers? When they are aware that the defendants will face trial from a Madrid prison cell, with cumbersome daily commutes to court and unable to prepare their defence properly?

Quite the opposite: Catalonia’s pro-independence movement feels watched and persecuted by a legal apparatus that has spearheaded a massive intimidation effort and now aims to make an example of the Catalan leaders by means of harsh penalties so that independence supporters will reconsider their legitimate goal. One of the lessons we can draw from Catalonia’s independence bid is that democracies can exhibit authoritarian behaviour that clashes with the rule of law, as we are seeing in many other countries.

Spain and the Spanish Supreme Court are at pains to come across as being modern and well-established because they realise that they will be in the spotlight during the trial against the Catalan leaders. But, as far as the foreign public opinion is concerned, they have already lost part of the game: like in the Demirtas case, pre-trial detention is totally unjustified, and is effectively the prologue to a sentence that hasn’t yet been passed.

Translation: Ara, slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


January 29

Comment

A (very urgent) open letter to the half million members of Podemos

Albano-Dante Fachin, former General Secretary of Podem (Podemos Catalonia)

Albano Dante Fachin.jpg

Former Podemos Catalonia leader Albano Dante Fachin
Former Podemos Catalonia leader Albano Dante Fachin

Hi, Podemos comrades:

A year ago I left my position as Secretary General of Podemos in Catalonia[i] but, regardless of  whether I share party membership with you, I’m still aware that it is critical in times like those we’re going through for Catalan democrats and those in the rest of the State to keep looking for ways to come together and to share struggles. That’s why I’m writing to you on the threshhold of the trials of the Catalan independence leaders. Please give me a few moments of attention because the future of all of you is also at stake in these trials.

The beginning of the trials will provoke something which for Podemos has always been a problem: instead of our message being about how the banks rob us, about the PP, about the IBEX 35[ii] and the rest of the gang, it will be about "the Catalonia business". I understand perfectly the feeling of powerlessness that this situation creates. And I also know how hard it is for you to defend the position of Podemos on Catalonia (plurinationality of Spain and a Catalan right to a referendum) in places like Extremadura, the two Castiles[iii] and Andalusia. I know it is hard to explain that although Podemos is not pro-independence, it is committed to a referendum. I know how hard it is to explain to our co-workers, family and neighbours that we can want a united Spain but at the same time strongly condemn the violence of October 1 and the jailing of the independence leaders. It has always been hard. The bad news is that from now on, with the trial under way,  it’s going to get a lot harder.

During the months that the trial lasts all the television coverage, the newspaper articles and the declarations of the politicians will revolve around Catalonia. There will be a competition to see who is the most Spanish-patriotic and it will be very, very hard to talk about anything else. The mass media run by the banks will repeat the word "coup" ad nauseam, the talk shows will rave about "CDR violence"[iv] and Casado, Rivera and Abascal[v] will have all the hours of television in the world to create a narrative that will be almost impossible to counter. Everyone will be talking about "the Catalonia business" while inequality and social injustice just keep on growing.

I know that many of you are asking what the best response is that you can give to this scenario that is bearing down on you at full speed. Speaking with many of you, I have seen that a fairly widespread strategy will be to resist the media tsunami, stand your ground on what is Podemos's raison d'être--social rights and exposing the issues that are buried in silence--while not getting too much into the Catalan question.

It's not up to me to make your decision for you or to give you advice. But I think that looking the other way and not actively engaging in the debate that will dominate the political landscape in the coming months would be a mistake of historical proportions. I sincerely believe that if all Podemos members do not take a clear and proactive position on the issue of these trials, Podemos will have been dealt its death blow. Put it another way: what is at stake in these trials against the Catalan independence leaders is our very existence. Effectively, this trial can ruin the lives of a handful of people whose political objectives we do not share. But if that happens, let no one doubt that Podemos will be finished forever. Let me explain.

In the early 1950s a trial against Ethel and Julius Rosenberg took place in the United States. The couple was accused of espionage and of revealing to the Soviet Union secrets about the manufacture of the atomic bomb. The Rosenberg were innocent, the trial was a set-up and they were both sentenced to death. There were demonstrations around the world, from Buenos Aires to Tokyo, from London to Moscow. World leaders of all kinds (including Pope Pius XII) asked for clemency. However, in spite of everything, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg died on June 19, 1953, electrocuted in the electric chair.

The trial has been studied for decades and for decades an explanation has been sought as to why the State did not back down on a sentence that was clearly unjust.

The answer was to be found not so much inside the courtroom as outside, in North American society at the beginning of the Cold War. The Rosenberg sentence was the starting point for manufactuting a political position that would dominate the United States during the following decades: the creation of "red terror", «the enemy within", "anti-American activities" and "the MacCarthyite witch hunt». Above all, this operation was carried out by pervading the population with a deep and unquestioning fear of any movement that might challenge the established order. A fear manufactured by politicians, judges, prosecutors, the media and politicians. A profound, uncontrollable and extremely effective fear, which in the years following allowed all kinds of political abuses and human rights violations to be committed against those who did not submit to "the official version". The Rosenberg case laid much of the foundation for this disaster.

And what does this have to do with Podemos and the trials of the independence leaders? In his book   I Accuse[vi], lawyer Benet Salellas explains that the North American left was largely not enough involved in the defense of the Rosenbergs. Some of its leaders considered that if in any way they were linked to "nuclear espionage" the movement could be very much affected. And that they could therefore protect the popular movements by staying on the sidelines. And so the progressive movement in its passivity lost a golden opportunity to fight the carefully constructed notion that being a dissident, a radical or a communist was the same thing as being a traitor or spy. This strategy of distancing not only didn’t produce results but it would open the door in the following years to the progressive movement paying a huge price, one that would bring it very close to total annihilation at the hands of the North American extreme right.

Podemos comrades:

The trial that is about to start began its journey thanks to a complaint made by Vox[vii].

The judge who started everything[viii] already had in his curriculum vitae cases of legal repression against anarchists, pro-independence activists and the indignado movement (15M).

The head of the General Council of the Judicial Power congratulated the judge for being a "patriot"[ix].

The first evidence against the independence leaders was collected through irregular summonses and inquiries done by the Civil Guard.

While investigating the case, Daniel Baena, the Civil Guard officer who was in charge, dedicated himself to insulting people, parties and organisations, exploding the principle of impartiality required for any fair trial.[x]

The legal guarantees of impartiality and independence have been exploded in the passage of the case to the Supreme Court.[xi]

The evidence presented by the prosecution has the same credibility as a program by Ana Rosa Quintana.[xii] For example, to incriminate [Òmnium Cultural president Jordi] Cuixart, images of sites and places he never visited are offered in evidence.

Do you remember the whatsapp of PP senator Ignacio Cosidó saying "we will control the Second Chamber from behind"[xiii]. Cosidó meant that control was assured thanks to the presence of judge Manuel Marchena. Well, the Second Chamber is the one that is trying the independence leaders and Manuel Marchena is its chief judge.

I could go on spelling out in detail the farce that this trial entails, but that is not the aim of this letter. The objective of this letter is to convey the conviction that if the Spanish left does not involve itself openly and decisively in this trial, its die is cast. After crushing the independence leaders, Vox will move on to you. In fact, they are already chasing journalists. «Patriotic» judges will not hesitate to get you in the sights of their "justice", controlled "from behind". The blowing up of the right to a fair, independent trial with legal guarantees that has been done in the case of the independence supporters will be used to wipe out any challenge posed by the left in any part of the State. That is what is at stake.

Given all this, it's time to be courageous. I am aware that, in the midst of the vast mystification that will come with the trials, you will have a very hard time. It will be uncomfortable, they will accuse you of lack of patriotism, of treachery, of being enemies of Spain, coup plotters, terrorists and whatever else is needed. But we either block their path  together or we all lose.

There are 500,000 of you. You are a huge social force and you have an enormous responsibility. That is why I ask you, in all humility, to get involved in the battle that is now starting. To inform yourself above and beyond the lies of the IBEX-controlled media, to really study the case, to look for reliable sources of information and, once all that is done, to pass on to others that part of reality that will be concealed under tons of lies orchestrated by those who have been ruling and robbing our country for 40 years. I know it’s hard, I know it can mean losing some votes and that you will not always be understood. But the alternative, as I say, is to disappear. And to do it by surrendering to the very powers that we came to fight.

A hug,

Albano


Footnotes

[i]       In the run-up to the December 21, 2017 Catalan elections, called by then prime minister Mariano Rajoy, Podemos Catalonia (Podem), with Fachin as its general secretary, declared that it was open to building a broad left ticket of candidates in favour of the Catalan right to self-determination, including the ERC, CUP and the Constituent Process. In reaction, the State leadership of Podemos imposed a binding consultation of the Catalonia membership, asking it to answer Yes or No to the question: «Do you support Podem standing in the December 21 elections in coalition with Catalunya en Comú and our sister political forces that support neither the [October 27] declaration of independence nor the application of article 155 [of the Spanish constitution, suspending Catalan self-rule], with the word Podem in the name of the coalition on the ballot paper?» The result of the consultation, in which 17,379 members  took part (about 60% of the «active membership»--people who had registered an internet vote at least once in the previous year) was 72% in favour, 28% against. Fachin then resigned as general secretary of Podem.

[ii]      The Madrid stock market index.

[iii]     The two Castiles are Castilla y León and Castilla-La Mancha

[iv]    The reference is to the Committes for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), which have a program of non-violent civil disobedience in support of the Catalan right to decide and Catalan independence.

[v]     Pablo Casado, Albert Rivera and Santiago Abiscal, respectively leaders of the People’s Party, Citizens and Vox.

[vi]    Former CUP MP and lawyer Benet Salellas’s book I Accuse—Defence in Political Trials is a valuable study of political defence in state trials where the verdict has already been decided by the powers-that-be, with examples drawn from the Dreyfus case down to Salellas’s own involvement in the defence of Montse Venturós, the CUP mayoress of Bergà (see here for some coverage of her case).

[vii]   The extreme right, neo-Francoist, ultra-unionist party Vox is the «popular prosecution» in the case of the Catalan political prisoners and has used this position to give itself profile as  the most patriotic, most reliable defender of Spanish state unity.

[viii]  The reference is to Juan Antonio Ramírez Sunyer, who before his death on November 4 was presiding judge in Barcelona’s Court 13. Ramírez Sunyer issued numerous search warrants that allowed the Civil Guard to raid government and company premises in search of material related to the October 1 referendum. This material forms the bulk of the prosecution’s grounds for charging the pro-independence leaders with «rebellion» and «sedition».

[ix]    The reference is to Carlos Lesmes, chief judge of the Supreme Court and head of the General Council of the Legal Power. Lesmes’s letter to Ramŕez Sunyer is here.

[x]     See here for some detail on Baena’s activity as a social network troll under the pseudonym of «Tácito».

[xi]    See the comments on this issue of Javier Pérez Royo, University of Sevilla professor of constitutional law, here.

[xii]   The presenter of the Program of Ana Rosa on Telecinco, a mixture of gossip and «investigative journalism», often directed at finding «dirt» on the Catalan independence movement.

[xiii]  See here for more detail on this scandal. Cosidó is the leader of the PP group in the Senate.


January 28

January 27


Background information on the upcoming trial of the Catalan political prisoners (contribution 5)

International observers? They can watch it on the telly!

Spain’s Prosecutor General has suggested that international observers should follow the trial of the Catalan political prisoners on TV(

Sebastià Alzamora.jpg

Mallorcan writer, Sebastià Alzamora
Mallorcan writer, Sebastià Alzamora

Ara, January 29

Spain’s Prosecutor General, María José Segarra, is adamant that she sees no need for international observers to be present at the trial against the Catalan leaders because, I quote, “it will be broadcast live on TV, so I doubt if we could be any more transparent”. And she added that “you could try to give international observers a higher profile, but there you are: live on TV”. And, like the Eurovision song contest, it’ll be free for everyone to watch, she might have quipped.

María José Segarra embodies one of the biggest disappointments of PM Sánchez’s administration. Not only for the Catalan leaders who will sit in the dock and are at the receiving end of her actions (or, rather, the lack thereof), but for anyone who welcomed her appointment —someone with a progressive profile— with a glimmer of hope that Spain’s justice system might find its way back to separation of powers. Following a string of predecessors whose sole purpose was to dance to the tune of the Spanish government at the time (the late José Manuel Maza springs to mind: he was the AG who fabricated the charges upon which Justice Llarena has feverishly built the case that will be tried soon), at first it seemed as if Segarra might work to bring Spain’s judiciary back to the straight and narrow, after becoming completely entangled in Spanish politics, drifting towards extreme nationalism and taking on an authoritarian mindset epitomised by the Partido Popular’s so-called “gag law”, a bill that hasn’t been repealed yet. Segarra’s appointment came when the all-out judicial onslaught against Catalan separatism —in particular, the case examined by Justice Llarena— had been heavily censured by courts of law in Belgium and Germany, so much so that Llarena had no choice but to withdraw the European arrest warrants he had issued himself, thus becoming the laughingstock of the international community. But that’s not the end of it. Cases such as the “wolf pack” gang rape and Valtònyc, the exiled rap singer, made the front pages of the top international newspapers, plunging Spain’s justice and, therefore, the reputation of the rule of law, to a level of international disrepute unprecedented in this period of so-called democratic rule.

Far from doing anything to amend the situation, Segarra has given in to the powerful nationalist and far right elements among the judiciary’s top brass, becoming a foot soldier at their command and that of Foreign Minister Josep Borrell. The latter has been pouring public funds into an international PR campaign to improve Spain’s image abroad, badly tarnished by Madrid’s appalling handling of the conflict with Catalonia (and not, as he claims, by Catalonia’s independence supporters). Nevertheless, Segarra’s outlandish suggestion that the international observers should follow the trial on TV, as if it were a football match, insults the intelligence of International Trial Watch (the platform that brings together and coordinates observers from Spain and elsewhere) and, once again, the intelligence of the general public at large.

Translation: Ara (slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau)


Week ending January 27 


January 26: National Call for the Republic's founding congress

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President Quim Torra at founding congress of the Crida Nacional ("National Call for the Republic")
President Quim Torra at founding congress of the Crida Nacional ("National Call for the Republic")

January 25


Background information on the upcoming trial of the Catalan political prisoners (contribution 4)

Spain’s Supreme Court before October 1 referendum trial: 'The right to vote in an unlawful consultation does not exist'

Court issues ruling that reduces sentence for Mas, Ortega and Rigau over November 9, 2014 consultation

9N defendents with Quim Torra and Pere Aragonès

President Quim Torra and vice president Pere Aragonès with Irene Rigau, Joana Ortega, Artur Mas and Francesc Homs. ANDREU DALMAU / EFE
President Quim Torra and vice president Pere Aragonès with Irene Rigau, Joana Ortega, Artur Mas and Francesc Homs.

Ara, January 24

Mariona Ferrer Fornells/Ruth Pérez Castro

Just a few days before the trial against Catalonia’s independence leaders kicks off, Spain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday released the details of ruling against Artur Mas, Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau over the November 9, 2014 consultation of Catalan public opinion on Catalan statehood. The court, which had previously found Francesc Homs guilty, took the opportunity to lay out the guidelines that could set the tone for the upcoming trial of the independence process, where two of the judges who tried the former Catalan president and his ministers will also be sitting on the bench.

In a 76-page long ruling, the court states that "the right to participate in a voting process does not exist when its illegality has been proclaimed by whose who interpret and guarantee fundamental rights." Of the November 9, 2014 consultation, it also states that "the exercise of fundamental rights has limits." "The right to vote in an unlawful consultation does not exist," it argues, pointing out that neither does "the right to participate in events of a public interest authorize an official vote to be held so that citizens can give their opinion as to whether a defendant is guilty or not, even if justice emanates from the people." The ruling was penned by Justice Antonio del Moral, who, along with Luciano Varela, is a member of the seven-judge court that will try the pro-independence leaders in the coming weeks.

The judges have thus addressed one of the aspects that will affect the defense, that of fundamental rights. The text also mentions another: the fact that calling a referendum or a consultation ceased to be a crime in 2005. The Supreme Court, which in this case was ruling on disobedience, affirms that it has the authority do so, even if the specific fact of convening a referendum is not a crime: "If the corresponding authority [in this case the Constitutional Court] bans such a vote, as it should, failure to with this instruction by its recipients will constitute disobedience." And it adds that "despite the fact that it prevents the public from participating in matters of public interest."

In addition, the judges describe as “almost bizarre" the notion that the verdict against Mas, Ortega and Rigau could contribute to making "some citizens feel inhibited" when it comes to participating in further consultations, or even "participating in public affairs." Therefore, the court considers "unfounded" the argument regarding citizen disenfranchisement alleged by Artur Mas and and his ministers, accentuated by the "fear that their legitimate representatives may be convicted."

The court justified the reduction of the disqualification penalty arguing that Mas, Ortega and Rigau have already endured the effects of the penalty without, officially, it having yet been applied. The fact that none of them could run in the elections, even though the ruling had not yet been confirmed, means that "the defendants are suffering an extra-judicial measure of similar content." Therefore, concluded the Supreme, the "de facto" period of disqualification began as of the first ruling. "We cannot ignore this," it states.

Translation: Ara


January 24

January 23


Background information on the upcoming trial of the Catalan political prisoners (contribution 3)

False dichotomy

The way in which the October 1 case has proceeded so far inevitably points to a guilty verdict

Javier Pérez Royo (Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Seville)

Ara, January 23

Last Sunday [Barcelona daily] La Vanguardia published a very lengthy piece about the defence strategies of the Catalan leaders who are to stand trial following the October 1 referendum on independence. The story underscored the alleged split between those who wish to foreground the “political” angle and the defence teams that will emphasise the “technical” aspects. On Monday, Madrid-based El País ran a shorter story insisting on this point: “Differences in defence strategies to set tone of October 1 trial”.

In my opinion, this is a false dichotomy. Needless to say, every defence will be “technical”. The opposite would be impossible. But not all of them will share the same reference framework —inevitably, of a political nature— without which nothing can be understood. There won’t be —there can’t be— “technical” versus “political” defences, only “technical” defences that will necessarily be “political”, too. And that is owing to strictly judicial reasons: without adding the “political” element, lodging an appeal on the grounds of unconstitutionality —which must precede an eventual appeal before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)— would become a nearly impossible uphill struggle.

In the process that led to the referendum of October 1 2017 —and during the weeks following the vote— it seems clear to me that some Catalan leaders engaged in unlawful actions. My impression is that we can all agree on that. The point of contention is what offence these actions constituted, specifically. Did the Public Prosecutor press charges in accordance with the law or was he, in fact, merely concealing political motives under the guise judicial proceedings? This is the crux of the matter. And the answer to this question will determine everything else.

In my view, it was the latter of the two. The decision by Spain’s Public Prosecutor, José Manuel Maza, to bring charges of rebellion [against the Catalan leaders] before Madrid’s National High Court [Audiencia Nacional] had no legal base, neither from a substantive nor from a procedural point of view. The defendants’ actions did not constitute a crime of rebellion —as confirmed by over one hundred criminal law professors from universities across Spain— and the National High Court, following a decision taken by all its members in an earlier case, could not be the default court to hear the matter, as established by law. Here lies the original sin, which has not been righted by bringing the entire case before the Supreme Court: it is not the ordinary, default court of law and there is no higher ranking court in Spain to which an appeal may be made after the verdict, thus preventing the defendants from exercising their right to do so. Not just one, but two basic rights have been infringed upon.

The erratic trajectory followed by the examining magistrate, Pablo Llarena, before European courts of law, is evidence that there were no legal grounds for pressing rebellion charges. Although the Higher Court of Schleswig-Holstein is the only one to have handed down a resolution on the European arrest warrant issued by the Spanish judge, Llarena’s eventual decision to withdraw the arrest warrant across Europe has granted the German court’s ruling general scope. It has proven, beyond all doubt, Justice Llarena’s inability to persuade any European judge that the defendants had committed a crime of rebellion.

This judicial category has allowed the adoption of the most extreme of all cautionary measures: pre-trial detention, which is difficult to argue convincingly from a legal standpoint. At the time of writing, Spain’s Constitutional Court is considering an appeal [against pre-trial detention] by Oriol Junqueras, based on the ECHR’s jurisprudence.

Is a “technical” defence at all possible, if it disregards these precedents? Can we reasonably expect the Supreme Court to review the characterisation of the defendants’ actions as a crime of rebellion on appeal, bearing in mind that this court has confirmed every single decision by the examining magistrate, which has led to the defendants spending a significant length of time in prison and has prevented some of them from being voted in as president of Catalonia in a manner which —to my mind— is openly unconstitutional and at odds with Catalonia’s Statute?

I would like to be wrong, but the way in which the October 1 case has proceeded so far inevitably points to a guilty verdict. The trial will be a farce, even though they will abide by all the legal proceedings while it is being held. But the verdict has already been written.

There is no river Jordan that can wash away the original sin. The legal counsels must point this out throughout the trial, as this will provide the best basis for appeal on the grounds of unconstitutionality and, if dismissed by the Constitutional Court, a further appeal to the ECHR.

Politics and law have gone hand in hand in the actions by the Prosecutor and the Supreme Court. They must do likewise in the defence of the indicted.

Translation: Ara (slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau)


The anti-Borrell (episode 1)

Occasional posts about the dirty deeds of Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell

Ferreres juliol 2018 Borrell-Primer ministre belga. Ara-Premium_2054204562_55437834_766x385.jpg

Belgian PM Michel refuses to accept Borrell's request that it provide legal aid for Judge Pablo Llarena, subject of a suit by Catalan exiles Carles Puigdemont and other ex-ministers
Belgian PM Charles Michel to Borrell: 'I'm sorry, the Belgian government can't influence judges. The legal system has been independent here since we threw out the Duke of Alba.' [reference to Spain's C17-C18 loss of the Spanish Netherlands]

Episode 1 (January 21-22)

The Borrell view...

(El Nacional, January 21)

Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell is continuing his international campaign to sell the Spanish government's narrative about the police repression of the 2017 Catalan independence referendum. This Monday, he brought up the vote as an example of "disinformation" in an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting. "We've given examples of cases like the famous thousand injured during the illegal referendum in Catalonia", the minister said in Brussels, saying that "only two were admitted to hospital".

One of the topics for debate today was an action plan to fight false information in the European election. Borrell told his counterparts that "the images spread those days on the police's violent attitude" were "false" and that "there was an enormous quantity of information" those days which came from servers "situated in Russian or Venezuelan territory".

The minister said that foreign interference and fake news is "of special importance" for Spain in its "internal problem" of Catalonia. "In the Catalonia conflict, disinformation has played a very important role", he told a press conference after the meeting.

According to Borrell, all the European states agree on the need to develop measures to protect this year's European election from outside interference and false information. He warned that "it's ever easier to hack human brains".

...and reality

Tweets by former Catalan health minister Toni Comín (January 22)

1. In this report it explains in all detail (all the detail allowed by data protection rules) how many people were attended to [on October 1], where, what the diagnosis was and how serious the injuries were.

2. If I were a doctor in the Catalan health system, I would want to know whether when minister Josep Borrell talks about "fake news" he's questioning the rigour of the professionals who diagnose the patients who arrive in their surgeries, which this report is based on.

3. If I were one of the more than 1000 people attended to by the health services during those days (1st to 4th October 2017), I would find it to be a grave lack of respect that a minister of the government of the state I belong to should put into doubt the injuries I suffered.

4. Finally, if I were a PSOE voter, I would ask myself why minister Josep Borrell is acting, as regards those injured and attended to on 1st October, in exactly the same way the senior PP officials have done from the start, October 2017. Is the PP his point of reference?

Translation: El Nacional


January 22:


Lest We Forget (post 1)

Eighty years later: the fall of Barcelona began a dark night of pillage and sadistic repression

Tropes franquistes entren Barcelona.jpg

January 26, 1939: Francoist troops enter Barcelona
January 26, 1939: Francoist troops enter Barcelona

Ester Vera (editor, Ara)

The shamelessness and insolence of the far right in Spain coincides with a broad wave of populism in the West that in some parts of Europe takes its inspiration directly from fascism. Certain commentators speak of a pendulum swing characterized by a return to exclusionary nationalism and reactionary values, but the situation in Spain is more akin to the zombie apocalypse of the Franco regime. This week will mark the eighth decade since Franco’s troops entered Barcelona, a prelude to the entire nation subsequently falling into the hands of the junta. Some of the ideas imposed by the victors were adopted by the collective consciousness and, unfortunately, they have survived to this day, like when people accuse the Catalan independence movement of having awoken the beast instead of wondering why it is still alive and kicking.

Sílvia Marimon has written a piece which appears in today’s edition of ARA on how the Franco regime systematically went about confiscating the assets of thousands of individuals who had either died, were imprisoned or had fled from the terror instigated by the winning side in 1939. Franco’s troops, who didn’t have the least intention of acting with magnanimity, carried out a bloodthirsty repression that included pillage, humiliation, torture, rape and the silencing and terrorizing of millions of individuals.

Marimon has obtained a folder containing documents entitled Account of Apartments Referred to the Housing Review Commission (1), which consists of a list of unoccupied houses drawn up with the help of pro-Franco residents in Barcelona. The document had been written before the city surrendered. The list, together with the Law of Political Responsibilities of February 9, 1939, allowed for the systematic plunder of property and assets belonging to Republicans, an occurrence which is still unfinished business for Spain, where so many families escaped with their lives in exchange for being forced into a life of humiliation and misery, terror and exile.

When Franco’s troops took Barcelona, it did not bring peace; instead, it led to a long, dark night which Spain has yet to fully illuminate with a modern, democratic political consensus. No restitution has occurred, whether material or ideological in nature, as shown by the resistance to changing the dictator’s final resting place.

In an interview with Manuel Aznar on December 31, 1938, Franco announced his plans for the defeated, whom he divided into "hardened criminals" who could never be reformed and those who had been deceived by their leaders and who had a chance to repent.

The prison and the labour camps would be for those responsible for minor crimes while the rest would face prison or exile. Repression was a drawn out affair, as Paul Preston reminds us in The Spanish Holocaust. Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth Century Spain (Harper Press). Preston quotes words spoken by Franco on May 19, 1939, the day on which he presided over a spectacular Victory Parade in Barcelona: "Let us not fool ourselves: the Jewish spirit that allowed the alliance of the great capital with Marxism, which knows all about pacts with the anti-Spanish revolution, cannot be excised in one day, and it lurks deep in many consciences". Thus, Franco approved of Germany’s anti-Semitic laws. Likewise, some months later, on December 31, 1939, he claimed that the expulsions [of Jews] ordered by the Catholic monarchs had shown the Nazis the way. In his speech he stated: "Now you will understand the reasons which have led different nations to fight and separate from their activities those races which are tainted by greed and self-interest, since their predominance in society leads to disturbance and jeopardizes the achievement of their historical destiny. Thanks to the grace of God and the insight of the Catholic monarchs, we freed ourselves from such a heavy burden many centuries ago, yet we must not remain indifferent to this new flowering of greedy, selfish spirits, so attached to their material possessions that they are more willing to sacrifice their own children than renounce their sordid interests".

On January 26, the arrival of Franco’s troops in Barcelona was preceded by a mass exodus. Only two days earlier, on January 24, the Republican government had fled to Girona. Eighty years later, Spain is a democratic country and a prosperous member of the European Union. Nevertheless, political discourse continues to pour out anger, hate and imagined grievances against cultural diversity. Incredibly, the frequent references to the Reconquista, together with accusations of "stealing money from Extremadura to give to Catalonia" are not due to ignorance of our past, but instead thanks to deep hatred and sectarianism.

It appears as if Spain experienced the Counter-Reformation without having ever been reformed, and only the Spanish people themselves can put an end to this state of affairs by opposing the return of the reactionaries that we are witnessing. By standing up for democracy and progress.

Translator’s note: (1) The original title in Spanish is: Relaciones de pisos remitido a la Comisión Revisora de Viviendas

Translation: Ara


Backgrounder

The data are clear: there is a broad consensus among Catalans

Statistical analysis done by Joe Brew for VilaWeb

January 11

All sides in the Catalonia crisis agree that Spain is facing a constitutional crisis. And though the proximal cause of that crisis is the collective disobedience of the Spanish government by Catalonia's citizenry in regards to the October 2017 self-determination referendum, the distal cause (ie, "the cause of the cause") of that disobedience is the perceived illegitimacy of the Constitution in Catalonia, and the broad desire for self-determination.

In other words, the "illegal" referendum organized by the Catalan government last October came about because the rulebook which prohibited that referendum (the Spanish Constitution) does not receive sufficient support to guarantee broad compliance in Catalonia. Support for the Spanish Constitution is low among Catalans, and support for Catalan self-determination is high.

How low? And how high? Let's see.

The questions

How much support is there for the 1978 Consitution in Spain and Catalonia?

How much support is there among Catalans and Spaniards for self-determination?

The data

We'll use the most recent data from the Barometer of Public Opinion from the Center of Opinion Studies (CEO, Catalonia) and the Center for Sociological Research (CIS, Spain).

The results

1. Satisfaction with the Constitution in Spain

Outside of Catalonia, the overall percentage of Spaniards who are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the Spanish Constitution is an absolute majority (51.8%). The unsatisfied minority (the sum of both "not satisfied" and "not at all satisfied") is only 23.4%. In other words, in Spain, the "satisfied" outnumber the "unsatisfied" by a margin of greater than 2 to 1.

Given this high degree of satisfaction, serious reforms are unlikely in the near future.

2. Dissatisfaction with the Constitution in Catalonia

If we look just at Catalonia, the opposite pattern emerges. Only 1.75% are "very satisfied" with the Constitution, less than one fourth the rate of high satisfaction in the rest of Spain. And the sum of the "very satisfied" and "satisfied" group rises to only 22.55%.

The percentage of Catalans who are not satisified with the Constitution is over twice that: 52.1%. 24.3% of Catalans are "not satisfied", and 27.8% are not at all satisfied.

3. Variation in satisfaction with the Constitution in other Autonomous Communities

Of the 17 CCAAs, Catalonia has the highest dissatisfaction rate, exceeding 50%. But there are two other CCAAs where dissatisfaction is greater than satisfaction: in the Basque Country, 41.6% are dissatisfied with the Constitution whereas only 32.9% are satisfied; and in Navarra, 39% are dissatisfied with the Constitution whereas 31.7% are satisfied.

4. Broad opposition to self-determination in Spain

In a national survey in October 2018, Spaniards were given 5 choices about their preferences for territorial organization: (i) a centralized state with no autonomy for the regions, (ii) a state with less autonomy than the current status quo, (iii) status quo, (iv) greater autonomy for the regions, (v) the possibility for regions to become independent.

A majority of non-Catalan Spaniards (76.4%) want to either keep the status quo (41.6%) or decrease the amount of autonomy given to the regions (34.8). A full 22.5% want a centralized state with no autonomy for the regions. Only 5% are in favor of granting self-determination to regions.

5. The consensus for self-determination in Catalonia

Only 19.1% of Catalans believe that Catalonia does not have a right to a self-determination referendum, whereas 68.4% believe that it does. Removing those who do not answer the question, 78.2% of Catalans believe that Catalonia has a right to a self-determination referendum.

Qualitative reflection

6. "Social fracture" and its causes

A common accusation of the political right in Catalonia is that the drive for self-determination has caused unprecedented "social fracture". But the supposed cause of this social fracture - self-determination - is supported by a large majority of Catalans, including many who are opposed to independence. Only 19% of Catalans believe that Catalonia does not have a right to self-determination. Even in the staunchly Spanish nationalist parties (C's and PPC) have sizable minorities who believe that Catalonia has a right to self-determination (35.4% and 20.8%, respectively).

On the other hand, in a hypothetical referendum on the Spanish Constitution, only 17.4% of Catalans say that they would vote "yes". Even if we remove the 25.6% which don't know or don't answer, the percentage who would vote "yes" would be only 23.4% ("no" would be 76.6%).

Conclusion: the broad consensus

Pedro Sánchez recently said that the Catalan crisis "is going to last for years" since a solution will require a "broad social majority which does not exist right now in Catalonia".

But the data are clear. Catalans already share a broad consensus: more than 3/4 are in favor of exercising the right to self-determination, and more than 3/4 are opposed to the Spanish Constitution which prevents them from exercising that right.

It is a strange that in many political sectors, the 78% consensus in favor of a self-determination referendum is considered "not enough", but the 23% consensus in favor of the Constitution is considered sufficient for the continued governance of Catalonia. It is also strange that mainstream Spanish political parties and politicians continue to treat the broad desire among Catalans for self-determination as a question of criminal law, rather than politics. As long as a broad majority of Catalans favor self-determination, they will continue to elect politicians who pursue it (within or outside of Spanish law). And as long as a broad majority of Catalans are opposed to the Spanish Constitution, they will continue to elect politicians who create laws outside of it.

A political solution to the Catalan crisis requires recognition of the following three truths:

  1. A broad consensus in favor of self-determination already exists among Catalans.

  2. The root cause of the current crisis is not a disagreement among Catalans, but rather the prohibition by Spain of Catalonia acting on that broad consensus.

  3. Governing a territory in which fewer than one quarter of the inhabitants approve of the "rules of the game" (the Constitution) is simply unsustainable, and will likely lead to further "illegal" policies voted and approved by Catalan leaders.

Mr. Sánchez is correct that the crisis will "last for years" if Spain is politically incapable of accepting an independence referendum in Catalonia. But a prolonged crisis is neither necessary nor inevitable. The consensus for the solution already exists among Catalans. Pretending that this consensus does not exist, or describing the political crisis as a "conflict between Catalans" reflects ignorance of reality... or a desire to twist it.

Acknowledgement: Thanks go to Joe Brew for making the English original of his analysis available to this blog.


Interview: Exiled Catalan health minister Tony Comín

Andreu Barnils (VilaWeb)

January 15

Toni Comín, former Catalan health minister and MP for the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) in the Catalan Parliament, is in exile in Leuven (Belgium), where he lives with his partner and daughter who has already begun speaking Flemish. He is involved in the Council for the Republic, and follows Catalan politics in detail, including the negotiations over the budget, the disputes among the pro-independence parties and the forthcoming municipal elections. VilaWeb spoke with Mr Comín over the phone and found him, as always, forceful, open-minded and very focussed on the present.

Would Toni Comín support the PSOE government budget?

I believe that you can’t vote in favor of the budget for the clear and obvious reason that Pedro Sánchez has not shown any change of attitude. The question is: does the PSOE government stand outside the Francoist mental framework or not? Does it stand outside the framework into which the parties of the right and the Supreme Court are locked? Does the PSOE grasp that legal persecution has to be stopped and does it understand that the solution for Catalonia is the same as for Scotland? We want the Spanish socialists to behave like David Cameron. Will they? If it turns out that we have before us a government that is unable—out of fear, electoral calculation, laziness or inertia—to break out of this Francoist mental framework it makes no sense for us to support its budget.

I don’t know if they have room to move. According to the Centre for Sociological Research (CIS), and as [poll analyst] Joe Brew recalled, in Spain a spectacular 20% of people want a state without regional autonomy, 12% want less autonomy and only 5% accept the right of the autonomous regions [states, in Australia and US, provinces in Canada] to independence. 40% want the status quo. This is data that does not include Catalonia. What margin does the PSOE government have?

The drama of Spanish politics is cultural. Since the Franco regime, and in the name of the anti-terrorist struggle [against Basque Homeland and Freedom], a pre-democratic idea of the unity of Spain has been upheld. And this is the deepest foundation of Spanish political culture: the unity of Spain is sacred, above and beyond civil and political rights. I hold the 1982 PSOE government of Felipe González responsible for what is happening today. There was an historical opportunity then and it was not grasped. They showed great irresponsibility. They missed the opportunity in the eighties to purge Francoism not only from the institutions but also from the political culture of the citizens of Spain.

And how do you see Catalan politics now from Leuven?

Within the independence movement there are people who still get too conditioned by the struggle for hegemony. That is a problem. My position on this has been very clear right from the start: now is not the time for the fight over hegemony. From October 27, 2017 [day of the declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament] this struggle should have been put on hold until further notice. What is needed now is strategic unity. But there are those who think that the little obstructions are still important because they weaken the rival team. Well, for me, the rest of the pro-independence supporters are not rivals. They are allies. I am on the list of ERC in the Parliament of Catalonia and my allies are called the People’s Unity List (CUP) and Together for Catalonia (JxCat). Having them as allies does not make me less of a supporter of the ERC. And working for the alliance with these sectors does not make me any less of an ERC MP. It does not make me a betrayer of anything.

What do you mean?

I didn’t believe it when I learned that in Catalonia there are people who believe that Comín has betrayed the ERC because he has a good relationship with other players, particularly with JxCat, particularly with Carles Puigdemont. At first I thought it was a joke. As far as I know, Puigdemont is not my enemy, he's my ally. On the other hand, there’s the issue of strategic unity. And when you analyse the political documents of the organisations and parties, they are closer than might seem.

For example?

No-one renounces unilateralism; everyone understands that the more of us there are, the better; everyone understands that we cannot stand still and must move forward; everyone understands that after the sentences [in the upcoming trial of the Catalan political prioners], something must be done. That is, the different strategies are closer than might seem. However, strategic unity requires concrete objectives. For example, to have the referendum on October 1 we were all on the same page: CUP, Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Òmnium Cultural, European Catalan Democratic Party (PDECat), ERC. So, if a proposal existed that was very, very, very obvious, we would already have strategic unity and things would be as plain as the nose on your face. This time around, however, there are quite a few ideas but none so unquestionable as to prevail by itself.

Let's talk about the Torra government. What score would you give it?

What I very much thank Presdent Torra for is being the person who most clearly and openly states that independence cannot be won through the institutions alone. And that it can only be won through the mobilisation of the citizens. And that citizen mobilisation has a very high cost for the people. And that the people should know that. And that the people then have to decide. Our obligation is not to tell people what to do, but, yes, explain the price of independence. The real price. Clearly and bluntly. And we haven’t had the courage to say that. President Torra is one of the clearest because he speaks of sacrifices. We have to tell people that if we want independence, there will be sacrifices. And if you do not want to make them, that’s your right, but there will be no independence. If people don’t want to make sacrifices, there won’t be any independence.

Unfortunately, in Spain independence won’t be won at the ballot box. Not in Spain. From what I was saying earlier. I want to thank President Torra very much for his courage in saying so. That’s the word, courage. Which is precisely why he gets criticism. That he’s a radical and is calling for God knows what. No. He says clearly what the price really is of the goal that people say they have. And then, let people consider that. We will not say what has to be done. But we have to be clear. Do you want independence? Well, this has a cost.

And as far as the Catalan government goes?

As regards the management of the Torra government, what I said would happen is happening. We have an effective government, yes. But let’s not generate expectations that can’t be fulfilled later. I put this in writing: once invested, the Government of the Generalitat would have a fundamentally defensive function. That is to say, to stop the other side from controlling it and dismantling the little autonomy that we have. But the government cannot meet the expectations of December 21 [the last Catalan elections]. By itself, the government, does not have enough strength.

Let’s move on to the Council for the Republic...

The Council for the Republic is an idea that, despite all the doubts, has ended up coming to fruition. The sceptics are sceptical in private, the enthusiasts, publically enthusiastic. This is because the Council maintains the mandate of October 1. The legitimacy and the political energy that were released on that day, if not institutionalised, would dissipate. If I might say so, the Council is three things in one. On the one hand, government-in-exile in waiting; then high command in waiting; and finally Diplocat [Catalan ministry of foreign affairs] in waiting. It's the three things at once.

What do you mean by «in waiting»?

I mean that if this country rises up after the sentence [against the political prisoners], it can’t be ruled out that the Spanish state will again react with an article 155 intervention [suspending Catalan self rule]. What will then be the place of residence of the will of the majority of citizens of Catalonia, its representative? The government imposed by Madrid or the Council for the Republic? The Council’s the high command, pardon the term, insofar as it’s the space that now best expresses the unity of independentism. The ERC is there, JxCat, Free People [CUP affiliate Poble Lliure], the ANC, Democrats, and we want to add more players. And it is the Diplocat-in-waiting because the foreign policy reach of the Government of the Generalitat is limited by Madrid. And by the Statute [of Catalan autonomy] itself. The Generalitat cannot go around the world doing high diplomacy in an open way. But the Council can. Now, however, we must do things as prosaic as preparing the Council’s regulations. Prepare an electoral system, because by next autumn at the latest we have to hold elections for the assembly of representatives. We also have to develop a technical infrastructure. We need staff and we need to create the Council administration. We are working on that. And we need to carry out some specific projects. Flagship projects, some of them important.

For example?

One that’s dull, but for me it's basic. We have to set up a think tank, because we lack a scientific basis on which to elaborate political strategy. That is, we need the observatory that tells us how support for the Catalan cause is evolving in the countries of Europe. We don’t have the data. In Italy, do 3% or 13% know of us? And how many support us? That means working with demographic institutes from different countries. And the other side is to speak with experts in international public law and political philosophy that have a consolidated position on the Catalan issue. And to make it clear that our claim is legitimate. And lawful. Here we have a battle. Because the problem that we have in the international arena is that they see October 1 clearly (they bashed you) but not so much October 27 (you took an unconstitutional path). We have to turn around the narrative of the unconstitutionality of October 27. And here we need political philosophy and experts in law, international and constitutional.

Would you like to stand in the May European elections?

What I would like to see for the European elections is a single list headed by [jailed ERC president] Oriol Junqueras. I’ve been saying it for many months. And so has [former ERC president] Josep Carod-Rovira and very many other people. And I think it makes sense that in this list you would have, first of all, the prisoners and those in exile. But keep in mind that we would probably not be able to collect the official confirmation of our candidacies. The central electoral board has already said that we would have to go to Madrid to pick that up.

Your friendship with [Barcelona fourth deputy mayor] Jaume Asens and your work at the health ministry make you one of the independence supporters with the closest relationship with the Commons [generic name given to the left force in Catalonia that supports a Catalan right to self-detemination but not necessarily indpendence]. How do you see them in Barcelona [where Barcelona en Comú runs the council]?

I would you ask them this question: Would Barcelona as the capital of a Catalan Republic help make a more or less egalitarian society? More! I don’t in the least underestimate the solidarity the Commons have shown towards the prisoners. Nor their condemnation of the repression. Nor that they broke with the Party of Catalan Socialists [former partners in the municipal government] over article 155. I don’t disregard any of that. But I see that sometimes they still discuss about the national axis--unionism, independence and those of us who want to be in between. That’s all legitimate. But since October 1 it’s no longer the game. Now it’s violence versus peace. On the axis of Francoism versus democracy, the peace versus violence axis, the Commons must be unambiguous, as the heirs of the United Socialist Party of Catalonia [PSUC, the former Catalan communist party] that they are. And maybe they are not entirely so. When they look out of the corner of their eye at the electoral frontier they share with Citizens, for example, in [working-class, mainly Castilian-speaking Barcelona neighbouhood] Nou Barris, I think they don’t realise that--perhaps without wanting to--they are putting the robbers and their victims on the same level. Haven’t we said that with Vox we can’t even walk to the corner? Well, neither with those who backed article 155.


Week ending January 20


This week's useful reading in English

VilaWeb

El Nacional

Ara


Background information on the upcoming trial of the Catalan political prisoners (contribution 2)

Josep Casurellas (Vilaweb)

‘It’s a clear violation of civil rights and something must be done. They can’t just sit back and do nothing in the face of such injustice’. These were Lluís Mestres’ thoughts in autumn 2017, leading him and a group of colleagues to take action following the imprisonment of political prisoners and the exile of a part of the Catalan government.

They decided to set up Associació Atenes [Athens Association] as a conscious decision to make a contribution to the legal fight against Spain’s crackdown. They paid particular attention to Spain’s judicial leadership, to the corrupt practices which had been going on for many years, culminating in the vindictive measures taken against independence supporters. The entity has acted discreetly in coordination with the individuals concerned and their defence teams, in order to help without getting in the way.

As a result of their efforts, they have lodged two legal complaints. The first was in reference to the report issued by GRECCO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body, which criticised Spain for the lack of judicial independence in the appointment of judges. The complaint was against all twenty members of Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary (GCJ) for having broken the rules concerning the appointment of judges, thus committing an ongoing administrative violation. They listed seven instances of the appointment of judges with ties to the Partido Popular (PP). The Associació subsequently added to the complaint following the appointment of Carmen Lamela to the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court (SC) and, an even more blatant case, the preferential treatment given to Sofía Marchena, the daughter of the president of the court which is to hear the case against the political prisoners.

The second complaint was made against the Constitutional Court and members of the Rajoy government for having violated Carles Puigdemont’s political rights and for preventing him from being voted president a year ago.

Having painstakingly combed through the actions and decisions of the Supreme Court judges throughout this eventful year of legal action against the independence movement, the Associació Atenes is clear as to the key points which discredit the prosecution’s case and some of the scandals which prove the Spanish judicial system does not operate in a normal manner. Lluís Mestres explains the situation in ten points.

1. A trial full of irregularities and lacking a legal basis
This is a trial that has no legal basis. Of course, they made an attempt to try to respect the proper legal safeguards as soon as the case reached the Supreme Court. However, right from the start it was a disaster. They violated the most basic rights due to any defence. You can’t inform someone who lives in Barcelona that the next day they have to be in Madrid and appear before the National Court when it’s a bank holiday, ​​giving them less than twenty-four hours to study the charges brought against them. This is a serious breach of protocol. But once the process was underway, although there were certain instances in which they didn’t follow the correct procedures to the letter, one can see that the Supreme made an attempt to adhere to the procedural guarantees so that no one could accuse them of ignoring them. But ultimately it’s window-dressing. The whole case is totally illegal, since they’re presiding over a case in the full knowledge that no crime has been committed. It’s that serious. I can’t believe a Supreme Court judge can say there’s evidence that a crime has been committed. No lawyer with a modicum of dignity would say that the case is based on actual crimes.

2. The Supreme’s strategy is to hear the case even though it does not fall within its jurisdiction
It appears as if the court feels there’s a national interest in them doing so. And they’ve invented a legal excuse by arguing that, since the events in question affect Spain as a whole, they will hear the case as they are highest-ranking court in the land: the Supreme Court. This is an argument seriously lacking a legal basis. Some of the defendants in this unique trial have only been charged with disobedience. And obviously the highest court in the land can’t hear a case of disobedience. So in order to ensure the outcome isn’t challenged, these defendants are being sent to the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (HCJC). But it’s basically a tactical move; the Supreme’s decision isn’t grounded on legal criteria, it’s due to strategic reasons and self-interest. They’re interested in being able to get the case over as quickly as possible and making the actual trial as short as possible. Sending a few of the defendants to the HCJC with the excuse of disobedience, the Supreme Court saves itself from putting them on trial, thus only needing to sit twelve individuals in the dock. It’s an opportunistic decision rather than a legal one. It’s a decision taken by someone who is making a political calculation. They are dealing with the case based on political criteria. Which is why the defendants and their defence teams feel justified in saying that it’s a political trial and that they must defend themselves politically. Legally speaking there is no case to answer since no crime has been committed. And to all this we have to add the fact that there’s a huge disadvantage in the Supreme’s rulings, in that there isn’t a higher judicial authority to whom one can appeal.

3. A speedy, no holds barred attempt to punish the independence movement
Even if the authority of the Supreme Court judges were completely isolated from the executive branch, they would still act in the exact same way. They don’t need to be influenced by anybody; they already act on their own initiative. There is no need for a phone call from Soraya [Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, the former Deputy PM of Spain] (who did in fact call several times). They already act autonomously with the intention of defending the State. This is their function. The composition of the court and its instructions are suited to what it does. And I’m convinced that at times there have been moments of strong disagreements between the government and the Spanish Supreme Court, especially now that the PSOE is in power. I think that the PSOE doesn’t want anything to do with this trial, or at least wants to prolong it as long as possible so it doesn’t take place before the upcoming local elections. However, the Supreme has chosen a path and it’s going to stick to it. Right now I don’t think the current administration has the same connection with the SC as Rajoy’s government, and there’s even certain disagreements. But the Supreme has its own way of working, and presently they’re convinced that they’re the guardians of the state.

4. The unorthodox appointment of Llarena as the investigating magistrate
When Llarena was appointed to the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court, there were twelve judges. When a judge is appointed to preside over a special case such as the 1-O trial, it is important to realise that certain judges can’t hear the case because they were part of the chamber which initially admitted the case; Likewise, those who are already involved in special trials or are members of another chamber are ruled out. In total, seven judges were unable to preside over the trial. This left five judges who were eligible. Trials are always assigned based on seniority; Llarena was the most junior member of the court, the last on the list. But, for a reason unknown to us, none of the four judges before Llarena took the case. And there’s no shadow of a doubt that Llarena was specifically chosen to hear the trial. But that doesn’t mean that we have definitive proof, because we’ve tried to gain access to the Supreme’s internal documents to find out how it was decided that Llarena was to hear the case rather than the other four, but they wouldn’t let us see it. They kept on referring us to the rules regarding the access to information, which we’re already well aware of. We don’t have access to the decision itself. We believe that Carlos Lesmes found him the easiest to control. If other judges like Colmenero or Del Moral were in charge, with their many years’ experience and with their own criteria and thanks to being more senior than Marchena or Lesmes, they wouldn’t be so easy to control. With Llarena, on the other hand, there’s a friendly relationship there, but also he’s easier to control. The idea behind having Llarena take the case was for everyone else to be in the background controlling the trial.

5. Marchena’s hand controlling everything
According to judges who know the inner workings of the Supreme, many decisions are made over a coffee. It’s hard to imagine an investigating judge of a special trial such as this one not discussing their decisions with their colleagues. I’m almost certain that Llarena talked about a lot of his decisions with his colleagues and that many decisions were taken over coffee, drinks or a cigar. And I understand that Llarena wanted to make sure that, in the event of any appeals, he could be sure that it would be handled with his typical firmness. Since everything happens in the same chamber, it’s easy to discuss everything with one’s colleagues. There are only twelve of them. Marchena couldn’t interfere, but I’m sure that Llarena didn’t take his decisions alone. Meanwhile, Marchena’s resignation to preside over the GCJ was a manoeuvre designed to keep him in control of the 1-O trial. The PP’s political strategy, revealed in the scandal over Cosidó’s [the PP’s spokesman in the Senate] leaked WhatsApp message, was clearly carefully thought out in order not to remove Marchena from the chamber. And this is one of the problems with the Supreme Court: if everything takes place in the same chamber, if everything is concentrated in the Second Chamber, it’s very difficult to separate the investigation from the actual trial, and I’m certain that Marchena and the other members of the court knew all about Llarena’s investigation and they’ve discussed it.

6. Ultra-conservative judges
Marchena has a tarnished reputation and his impartiality has been called into question. He’s had problems in the Supreme and his professional life that prove he’s directly affected by this case. Quite frankly, he ought to step aside. But, honestly, the chamber as a whole should say it’s unable to try this case and they ought to send it back to Catalonia. In fact, there shouldn’t have been a trial in the first place. And all the judges have a very similar profile in terms of their way of thinking and the attitude they will have during the trial. They’ll try to scrupulously respect the procedural norms, but the decision has already been taken. And it’s a collective decision. I can only imagine that the decision to do things in a particular way was taken by a small group of individuals. Every time the defence teams have lodged an appeal against the investigation which has been dealt with by the appeals court within the same chamber in the Supreme, it’s ended up taking a tougher line than the investigating judge. When we were convinced that the investigating judge, Pablo Llarena, had committed a series of irregularities or made statements that were out of line, the appeals court backed him up and defended him. The judges are all hard-line conservatives, some are ultra-conservative, highly influenced by the Opus Dei. As far as I can see, these people aren’t in the Supreme because they are the best jurists in the country, but because they have the closest affinity to those in power and they can be trusted to uphold the unity of the state.

7. A structure created and designed by Federico Trillo
The way to approach the judicial process, when it began in the fall of 2017, was shared by the whole of the Supreme Court, the public prosecutor and the Spanish government headed by Rajoy and Sáenz de Santamaría. They were all in agreement, following the manual written by Federico Trillo, the mastermind of the current judicial structure. The system for deciding judicial appointments and placing sympathetic individuals in the various chambers to hear special corruption cases or those involving politicians, as in the current case, is Trillo’s brainchild. When the PP decides there is a need to defend the state and put the judicial machinery in motion, the system runs as smooth as silk, everything is perfectly coordinated, having been prepared to act in situations exactly like this one. It’s obvious that politically the PP and the Supreme are in complete harmony. The whole thing went like clockwork. Thanks to the structure designed by minister Trillo, individuals with the conservative profile which they were looking for could be appointed to the highest positions within the Spanish justice system. The centre of power is located at the GCJ. Whoever controls it also controls the justice system. As a result, the key aspect was to change the way judges are appointed, replacing what, in principle, according to law, ought to be based on merit and experience. However, an analysis of those who have been appointed shows that it was less to do with merit and experience and more to do with their close ties to the PP.

The GCJ appoints everyone from the president of the Supreme Court to the presidents of the provincial courts across Spain. The GCJ controls the whole system. If there’s a short-list for a specific position, it’s the GCJ who decides who will fill it by examining their merits and qualifications. But of course, seeing how the Second Chamber has had three vacancies, how they fill them, and who they appoint…

8. The Concepción Espejel scandal
Concepción Espejel’s is a classic case of political meddling in the appointment of senior officials to the Spanish judiciary. She was a member of the criminal chamber of the Spanish Court and when the first trial as part of the Gürtel case [one of the largest corruption scandals in recent Spanish history, involving senior members of the PP] came up, her colleagues informed her that she would be unable to take the case since she’s a close friend of María Dolores de Cospedal. As a result, she turned down the case before they could recuse her. But it occurred to the PP at that precise moment that the criminal chamber needed a president. They created the position and Concepción Espejel was duly appointed to fill it. As a result, she went from being a peer of judges who had informed her she was unfit to hear the case, to being their president and, therefore, to having control over the chamber. The PP sought this particular solution as a means of not losing control of the situation.

9. The Sofia Marchena scandal
Marchena studied to become a judge and she’s ended up being a prosecutor, when this isn’t possible, since they’re two distinct career paths and separation is essential. Her career began at a school where Gema Espinosa, Llarena’s wife, was the director. Marchena became ill and dropped out halfway through. When she came back she wasn’t able to apply for the position she wanted, so instead of starting all over, she was aided by someone in obtaining another position: quite simply, Gema Espinosa wrote a letter saying that Sofía Marchena had the skills and abilities required to sit the exam to become a prosecutor, a position which was still open. However, there were vacancies for thirty-five positions which had already been filled. Marchena wasn’t eligible based on her exam results. So they created a thirty-sixth position, changing the requirements so that Sofia Marchena’s results were good enough. In addition, we had to lodge a third complaint against the prosecutor, Luis Navajas, who is the one who challenges all our activities and does everything he’s supposed to do as a prosecutor in the Second Chamber.

10. The prosecutor Navajas scandal
In the case of Sofía Marchena, he responded that there was no reason to investigate it and finally stated that they had contacted the individual who was offered the thirty-sixth post as prosecutor and that they had turned it down. We have this in writing. It turns out that five hundred people had been preparing for years and they were more suited to the post than Sofía Marchena. And it just so happens that the person initially selected turned it down after receiving a phone call from the chief prosecutor. The prosecutor has the cheek to put this all in writing. It’s not his job to make any phone calls. Obviously, we filed a complaint against this prosecutor with anti-corruption. There are two possibilities: that whoever was assigned to the thirty-sixth post was tired, they didn’t want to be a prosecutor, they were a friend of Marchena and politely declined the post or they were paid to do so. Either way, corruption was involved.

Translation: Vilaweb


Background information on the upcoming trial of the Catalan political prisoners (contribution 1)

Ara: Editorial, January 16

In Spain holding an unauthorised referendum ceased to be an offence in 2005

PM Zapatero repealed Aznar’s 2003 criminal code amendment aimed at thwarting Ibarretxe’s referendum plans in the Basque Country

Faced with the challenge posed by the Basque president’s referendum plans, in 2003 PM José María Aznar’s government added a new offence to Spain’s criminal code: anyone calling an unauthorised referendum would risk a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years. At the time the PP enjoyed an outright majority in the Spanish parliament and the opposition’s protestations were to no avail, even though they all refused to lend the government their support. Only two years later, once José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had come to power, a fresh majority of lawmakers revoked the three articles from the criminal code. Back then the Partido Popular found itself all alone decrying the move and arguing that it only left the State a single defence strategy against a unilateral referendum: invoking Article 155 of the Constitution to impose direct rule.

So from a legal standpoint, holding a referendum outside the existing laws —as happened in Catalonia on November 9 2014 and again on October 1 2017— does not constitute a crime. At the very least, no charges can be pressed because —as we have seen— the State has other means to prevent the secession of a region. Therefore, if holding a referendum isn’t an offence, how come nine Catalan pro-independence leaders are being held in pre-trial detention? There is an easy explanation: since the Prosecutor and the examining magistrate could not invoke a specific article of the criminal code, they had to fabricate a narrative of violence to bring charges of rebellion and sedition against the Catalan leaders.

Had those articles not been repealed, today there would be no doubt that at least the Catalan ministers could be charged with holding an illegal referendum. But Spain’s lawmakers specifically decided not to characterise that as a crime in order not to criminalise an action that could be understood as a political statement that required precisely a political response. That is why they have had to build a farcical case, one where a peaceful demonstration is presented as a violent uprising, the Catalan police’s impeccable performance is a conspiracy and a political statement by the Catalan parliament —an inviolable institution— is construed as a criminal offence.

This will be one of the cornerstones of the defendants’ legal counsel in the trial against the October 1 vote which, undoubtedly, the European Court of Human Rights will very much bear in mind when the time comes to see the case. In the courtroom, political discourse —this will be essentially a political trial— will have to alternate with a solid legal defence that exposes the falsehoods on which the case has been built. It is at this crossroads where we expect to see the statements by the defence that will be made public next week.

The legal teams have been working for months to strike a balance between tearing the case apart and exposing Spain’s judicial shambles for all the world to see, as well as presenting Catalonia’s arguments. Specifically, they aim to expose the lack of judicial guarantees and the conditions which the defendants will endure throughout the trial: driven daily to court from their prison cell and with no time to confer with their lawyers. That is why the Supreme Court is now resorting to gestures, such as allowing the defendants to speak Catalan in court: what is at stake in this case is not just the prestige of Spain’s justice system, but of the State as a whole.

Translation: Ara


January 16: Spanish National Police information brigade on the rampage against Catalan independence supporters

The news: (El Nacional) Two Catalan town mayors arrested, released facing charges

                  (El Nacional) Arrested: Catalan president's nephew, El Nacional photojournalist, others

Celrà mayor leaves Girona pòlice HQ.jpg

Celrà mayor Dani Cornellà leaves Girona police headquarters on January 16
Celrà mayor Dani Cornellà leaves Girona police headquarters on January 16

Analysis:  (Roger Palà, Crític) The Information Brigade acts against the independence movement

rogerpala.jpg

Crític journalist Roger Palà
Crític journalist Roger Palà

January 16

The information brigade (BI) of the Spanish National Police (PNE) is behind the police operation that has culminated - for the moment - with the arrest of sixteen Catalan independence supporters accused of public disorder in blocking the tracks at the High Speed Train (AVE) station in Girona during the first anniversary of the October 1 referendum. Among the detainees, two mayors of the CUP and a photo-journalist. It is no anecdote that the BI has driven the operation: the BI's Barcelona province branch is a unit in the eye of the storm of many polemics for its actions, and it seems that it has now decided to go on the counterattack after being in the shadows for a while.

What is the BI and how does it work? On paper, this unit is responsible for collecting information of police interest in any field, and this also includes underground and infiltration work. In Spain, each police headquarters has an information unit (in the case of Barcelona it is in charge of all of Catalonia). Historically,  the BI has specialised in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, but also against all kinds of social and political movements (in police jargon, "radical groups") from the squatters (okupa) movement to the movement for independence. At bottom, in its DNA the present BI is largely the heir of the former Franco-era political and social brigade. It is part of what we could call the deep state: governments come and go, political colours change, but they are always there.

The BI has recently been recently updated. As Crític revealed [in a  November 28 article by Palà], it was this police unit that provided the on-the-ground coordination for the operation to stop voting at polling stations during the referendum on October 1, 2017. This is what is explained in a police report incorporated into the legal case that is investigating possible police abuses in Barcelona on October 1. A BI agent was also responsible for the aggression [last July 16] against photo-journalist Jordi Borràs, an action that has not been worth any kind of internal sanction (he has not even been shifted from his duties). The brigade, then, is in the eye of the storm.

The BI is a particularly hermetic unit and little is known about its operation. The Barcelona BI was well-known during the Nineties under the name of "VI group"--of infamous memory for many social movement activists. All this is portrayed in the book Chronicles of the VI and Other Samples from the Police Sewer, published 2006 by a journalist from [Barcelona neighbourhood] Gràcia then unknown to the general public, David Fernàndez [later a well-known CUP MP]. We will have to review all that is explained there: cases such as those of the Gràcia three, the arrests of Torá, the constant raids on the okupa movement during the nineties ... [web-based journal] Directe has informed about them in great depth.

The scope of yesterday's police operation, with journalists, mayors and activists detained, shows the time we are living in: a time of degradation of rights and freedoms and consolidation of a low-intensity democracy. A social context in which the police, in this case without protecting themselves with any arrest warrant, feel they can legitimately arrest elected office-holders early in the morning, or even set up an operation in the full light of day with agents all with faces covered  taking away a photo-journalist in a camouflaged car.

It cannot be allowed to become normal for police to arrest mayors, activists and critical journalists for no motive in the middle of the night. Because, as lawyer Benet Salellas, who has assumed the defense of the accused said: the arrests are completely out of proportion. Even if the detainees were responsible for the offenses they are alleged to have committed--which they deny--they are people with a known address, people entrenched in their social environment and people who at no time have had any intention of evading the operation of the legal system. They could simply have been cited to appear in court at a specific time and date to make a statement, as on so many other occasions. That the facts for which they were arrested were not serious is shown by the fact that they were released without even having to declare before the judge.

We need, then, to analyse yesterday's police operation in a political key: we are dealing with a scare tactic. And not only a scare tactic against independence supporters: deep down this was a warning to all those who want to exercise the right to demonstate. It is clear that the operation yesterday does not favor the interests of the PSOE government, which is looking to lower tension so as to encourage independent parties to vote for its budget and guarantee stability. The following question should then be asked: Does central government representative Teresa Cunillera exercise any kind of practical control over the BI agents operating out of her Barcelona "headquarters"? What account do these agents render to their police and political masters? The BI is a body of public servants that survives governments of all colours and ideologies and which is very difficult to control. To whom is it responsible? Who gives the orders? What is their agenda?


Statement by the People's Unity List (CUP)


Week ending January 13


This fortnight's useful reading in English

VilaWeb

El Nacional

Ara

Ferreres_the_back_door.jpg

"The Back Door" : In reference to November 17 whatsapp of PP Senate leader Ignacio Cosidó: "We control the Second Chamber [of the Suprme Court] from behind."

The New Yorker


Week ending December 31


24-12-18 Ferreres.jpg

Citizens fish: "You mean this one can be trusted?" PP fish: "Of course, it's one of us." (Ferreres, Ara, December 24)

Comment (El País): Why Vox really is a far-right party

Although its leader Santiago Abascal rejects the label, his ideology is based on populism, nationalism and an identity-based narrative


Week ending December 23



This week's useful reading in English

VilaWeb

El Nacional

Ara


Former Spanish PM Rajoy speaking through mask of present PM Sánchez: "We've come here to talk about what the people are interested in." (Ferreres, Ara, December 21)


1. Left pro-independence rally, Passeig de Gràcia 2. Demonstators outside cabinet meeting 3. Committee for the Defence of the Republic cuts roadway at Glòries (downtown Barcelona) 4. CDR roadblock cuts freeway near Girona 5. Police and CDR-led demonstration clash in Via Laietana (near building hosting the cabinet meeting)


Protests in Catalonia against Spanish cabinet visit: here’s what happened

At least 11 people were arrested and 46 injured despite heavy security measures

Catalan News

ACN | Barcelona
The Spanish cabinet's unprecedented meeting this Friday in Barcelona sparked protests across Catalonia amid heavy security measures. Pro-independence groups saw the meeting as a provocation and called on supporters to take to the streets. Some demonstrators clashed with police and at least 11 people have been arrested and 46 have been injured
 
Barcelona on partial lockdown
 
Several parts of the city center were on lockdown this Friday morning due to the cabinet meeting and the pro-independence protests. The Palau Llotja de Mar building, close to the Barcelona seafront, was the focal point for a large deployment of police officers.  
 
Protesters did not make it to the venue due to the cordons deployed from 5:30am onwards, but demonstrations were active nearby. The Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) pro-independence group gathered in central places like Via Laietana and cut key roads, such as the Diagonal avenue and the Passeig de Gràcia boulevard.
 
At least 11 arrested and 27 people injured  
 
Clashes between the Catalan police and demonstrators were reported after, according to law enforcement, as the cordon in Avinguda Paral·lel was charged.
 
Overall 11 people were arrested during the demonstrations in Barcelona and L’Ampolla, a town in south Catalonia. 
 
The Medical Emergency System (SEM) has attended to 51 people in relation to the protest, and 46 of them suffered contusions. Meanwhile, at least 28 police officers needed medical attention, according to official sources. 
 
Furthermore, a journalist was attacked while reporting a protest by the CDR. A masked man punched the reporter from the TV channel Intereconomia. The journalist defended that he was only “trying to do his job”. 
 
Road cuts 
 
Hundreds of people already started protesting on Friday early morning by cutting several roads. In a very much expected move, CDR pro-independence activists cut roads at around 6am such as the main highway in the country, the AP-7, in l'Ampolla, southern Catalonia. Other roads were also cut, including both Barcelona's ring roads. 
 
As road cuts were announced earlier in the week, many people decided to steer clear of Barcelona on Friday morning, with 53% fewer vehicles than normal entering the city's metro area between 6am and 8am.
 
Cabinet’s meeting 
 
The Spanish government described its controversial cabinet meeting in Barcelona as a "show of affection" towards Catalonia. Among the decisions adopted today by President Pedro Sánchez's Cabinet, there were several intended to send a positive message to Catalonia. 
 
For example, they approved a €112 million funding plan for major highways and roads in Catalonia, which Madrid says will help boost economic growth. The Spanish government also condemned the trial and execution of former Catalan President Lluís Companys and proclaimed “its recognition and the restitution of its dignity”.
 
However, another decision turn out to be a controversial one. The Spanish government will change the name of Barcelona-El Prat airport to Josep Tarradellas, Catalonia’s first president after the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. This move was criticized by the Catalan government who claims they were not asked about the change. 
 
Colau-Sanchez’s meeting 
 
Before the cabinet gathering, President Sánchez held a meeting with Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau. A former anti-eviction activist, Colau requested for Sánchez to make it so that municipalities can limit “abusive rents” to facilitate rental housing access. According to her, his government pledged, after their meeting, to include the measure in upcoming legislation.

December 20

Let's take over the streets, win democracy, and build the Republic!

Statement by People's Unity Lists (CUP) affiliate Poble Lliure on the occasion of the December 21 Spanish government cabinet meeting in Barcelona

On Friday 21, the Catalan people are called to stand up against repression, violations of democratic rights, fascism, insults and harassment by the Spanish right, and the apparatus of a corrupt, demophobic State with deep Francoist roots.

December 21 is the anniversary of the great victory of the Catalan independence movement in an election organised by the Spanish government, in the framework of the coup d’état that was the application of article 155, with suspension of Catalan autonomy, and police and
military occupation of our territory. After months of repression, the imprisonment and exile of our legitimate government and leaders of civil society, of persecutions of mayors and public employees, of threats and aggressions, on December 21, 2017 the Catalan people showed its will in favour of self-determination, as it had done in the referendum of October 1.

The defeat at the ballot box of the forces aligned to the Spanish regime a year ago, even with conditions favourable to their interest, led to the deep state and to the Francoist nomenclature that still controls much of the state apparatus to opt definitively for a scorched earth policy.

And so, a year later, the situation has only worsened, with a state that has kept a scale of repression, imprisonment and legal actions worthy of the Erdogan regime. Likewise, the sewers of this post-Franco state and the large Spanish media groups have intensified the campaign of insults, lies and criminalisation of the Catalan republican movement, in a clear drift that aims for our annihilation as a people.

This Friday 21, the Government of Spain is comes to plant its flag in an occupied land, and to humiliate an oppressed people that they want submissive and obedient ... It will not be like that!

On Friday, the Catalan people will decisively again resume the march to their freedom along the road that has brought it within reach: through mass popular mobilisation, civil resistance and active non-violence.

Neither the threats and siren songs regarding a false dialogue under the threat of imprisonment by the Spanish state, nor the opportunist and short-sighted attitude of some Catalan independence leaders will stop our firm decision to tear down the walls of this prison of peoples that the Bourbon monarchy and the regime of 1978 means.

On Friday begins a cycle of civil mobilisations and resistance in the perspective of denouncing the great farce of the trials that Spain wants to carry out against the Catalan people, violating the most basic democratic political rights. We will expose, once again and in the eyes of the whole world, the intrinsically fascist character of the Spanish regime inherited from Francoism and its state apparatus. Demonstrating, once again and definitively, that the only way to democracy for the Catalan people is self-determination and a free, independent and sovereign Republic.

Barcelona, December 20, 2018


December 19

Hunger strikers' letter to Theresa May



Backgrounder: TV3 journalist receives messages from Extremadura: 'Are you alright? Do you live in danger?'

El Nacional, Saturday, December 15, 2018

David Gorman
Nicolás Valle has been working for TV3 for nearly 30 years. Born in the province of Cáceres, the journalist developed his entire career in Catalonia. Viewers of ‘Telenotícies’ know him from his war chronicles from Bosnia, Kosovo, Algeria, the Sahara, Afghanistan or Ukraine

It is as a war correspondent that he made a name for himself in the world of journalism. And precisely this could be the reason why he is being asked about a hypothetical situation of civil confrontation in Catalonia. It seems like a bad joke, but it is not.

The journalist Arturo Puente also warns on his Twitter account of a media campaign organized by El País to convince the Spanish public opinion that a pre-war climate is emerging in Catalonia. They speak of “paramilitary bands” who want to “defend a republic that does not exist”. Puente himself explains that relatives and friends from all over the State are contacting him, afraid that Catalonia is on the brink of war.

“And since there are no paramilitary or Kale borroka commandos (urban guerilla groups made up of Basque nationalist youth) or persecuting you for being Spanish or anything like that, I flip when I talk to relatives and friends from outside, because they believe it as if they had seen it. In fact, they have “seen” it on TV and have read it in various newspapers.”

“My grandmother called me after seeing protests on TV believing that Cat(alonia) was literally on fire and that something could happen to me. I am panicked and in despair of the climate of antebellum opinion that is being generated in normal people. Doing it through the media is crazy. We are already paying for it.”

A criticism shared by Nicolás Valle: “Yesterday I received a whatsapp from Plasencia. If we are okay, if we are in danger.” As he explains it, it seems that there are sectors of society that truly believe that there is a civil confrontation in Catalonia.

“Yesterday I received a what’s app from Plasencia [in Extremadura]. Were we well, were we in danger. I told him that we are collecting food and fuel and that the “paramilitary militias” described by El País are creating safe-conduits to cross the city. I had to clarify that this was a joke.”

The reality is that there has been not been any type of violence in the streets of Catalonia, even if there are some sectors waiting in eager anticipation of this possibility. But in some media outlets it seems that the imposed motto is “a lie repeated a thousand times becomes a truth.”

Translation: Catalan News Monitor


Week ending December 16



Banner at Camp Nou match between Tottenham and Barcelona, December 11


Ara survey: Catalonia's really existing consensus

Support for a negotiated referendum and rejection of 155 enjoy very broad support

Jordi Muñoz, Political Commentator

Ines Arrimades, Citizens' leader in the Catalan parliament, demands the reintroduction of article 155 to end Catalan self-rule (Photo: TV3)

Ara, December 15

For a long time now Spanish centralism’s main strategy for curbing Catalan sovereignty has been to divide Catalan society. They have been trying it, are trying it and will continue to try it in all possible ways. And they have created a supporting narrative that talks of a Catalonia divided into two irreconcilable halves. Yet the «Ulsterisation» of Catalonia has never been an analysis of reality but a political program. In fact, Spanish nationalism’s main political program.

Unable to formulate an attractive and coherent proposal, Spanish centralism entrusts everything to its seige of Catalonia, which is what causes Catalan society’s division into two. That’s why [Spanish PSOE prime minister] Pedro Sánchez now thinks that all he has to do to shake off the problem is shift it into Catalonia. That’s also why Citizens has been adopting an increasingly extreme message and behaviour in the Parliament of Catalonia, in a downward spiral that so far shows no signs of ending. And it's what expains the regression in the positions of the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC), which not so long ago defended a legal and agreed referendum and is now flirting again with article 155.

Nonetheless, the independence movement has often had the bad idea of ​​collaborating with this strategy. For example, when it has exhibited some of the tics of the old identity-based nationalism that, once properly exaggerated and manipulated, Spanish nationalism took no time in converting into a throwing spear of its own. Or when it has tried to get the job done without sufficient support, or without being sufficiently sensitive to the experience of an important part of the country. In doing so, it has unduly increased social tension without this having helped it get closer to its goal. Quite the opposite. Fortunately, the majority of the movement for sovereignty today seems to have understood that getting out of the impasse means avoiding a repeat of these mistakes. The fact of the matter is that despite everything Catalan society resists being divided in half.

For a democratic solution

True, positions on independence are frozen and balanced evenly between supporters and opponents. But beyond that there is a broad and all-inclusive area of consensus that has not disappeared. It is the consensus on the right to decide and for a democratic solution. It is the negotiated referendum and rejection of 155 and recentralisation. It is, despite dissent about the best alternative, agreement that the status quo of the monarchy and the Constitution of 1978 does not offer Catalan society a satisfactory institutional framework. It is the area that rejects repression and the violation of civil and political rights.

It is, to a large extent, the sociopolitical area of We Are The 80%, the platform initiated by Òmnium Cultural. And it is what Ara’s opinion survey reflects, confirming previous data that were along the same lines. Now, the existence of this consensus in Catalan public opinion will not by itself be enough to unravel the situation, especially since as matters stand now it is very hard to give it political expression. The centrifugal dynamics of parliamentary competition and the influence of Spanish politics and media pose many difficulties. That’s because the common sense that prevails in Catalonia—that a political and democratic solution is needed, that the status quo is unsustainable and that repression is not a solution--is a minority, eccentric position in Spain. And parties at the Spanish state level always make politicies towards Catalonia with an eye on the rest of Spain, where the radicalisation of the right and the PSOE’s fear of carving out a separate position have been increasingly shrinking the space for finding solutions.

The big challenge now, then, is to make this social consensus operational politically. And that will not be easy.


Summary of December 16 Ara survey of Catalan public opinion

Vote on independence

Other questions

Note: the options in order are: unilateral separation; insisting on negotiation and political pressure to bring about a referendum; give up on the referendum and negotiate an expansion of Catalan self-government; leave matters as they are; withdraw the powers of the Catalan government and recentralise them in Madrid; don't know/no reply


 


Comment: Jordi Cuixart (Ara)

Human rights vs the snake’s egg

Democracy is about to be put on trial in Catalonia, with the far right and the State working as one, once more

December 12

“If because of ego you think that there's no need to fight, this decision of yours is empty: your own nature will force you to fight.”  Bhagavad Gita 18.59

Friday the head office of Òmnium Cultural (1) was the target of a new fascist attack when a display bearing the word “democracy” was destroyed. We are having a black and white flashback: Spain’s monarchy and politics are stuck in a time tunnel.

In contrast, today marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a reminder that rising against tyranny and oppression is a duty when basic rights are not protected by the state. Not only is civil disobedience legitimate, but it becomes a universal civic duty in the face of injustice and the global drift towards authoritarianism. The totalitarian procedure repeats itself under the umbrella of xenophobic populism, an adaptation of pure fascism that never went away. Fear-mongering and pointing fingers at a common enemy as the target of all the irrational hatred have always been useful tools for the conquest of power. The likes of Hannah Arendt, Viktor Frankl, Palmiro Togliatti, Neus Català, Amos Oz and Rob Riemen set an example that we can use as an antidote and historical memory. With the strength that stems from determination, Leone Ginzburg urged us to “show courage” shortly before being shot dead by a Nazi firing squad.

In the Spanish state, the continuity of the Franco regime is pervasive in the defence of the holy unity of the country through police and institutional violence, through the judicial persecution of dissidence and the violation of individual and collective rights and liberties. The electoral rise of the far right [Vox] is further proof of the charade that we call the Transition (2). By allowing the crimes of the Franco regime to go unpunished, we condemned ourselves to amnesia and to continue suffering their consequences. For this reason the Catalan Republic also becomes an exercise in democratic culture and radicalism.

Democracy is about to be put on trial in Catalonia, with the far right and the State working as one, once more, against anyone who dares to question the 1978 regime (3). The lawsuits filed by Vox provided the ideal electoral platform, hence the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the challenge we filed. Still, we will put in the dock the only EU member state that keeps nine political prisoners in jail, over ten people in exile and hundreds of people prosecuted for defending the right to self-determination.

For all that, we will turn our trial into an international denunciation in support of human rights. The EU keeps ignoring its own fundamental and foundational values, but calls such as those made by Amnesty International and the World Organisation Against Torture are evidence to the fact that the Spanish case will never remain an internal affair. European society cannot put up any longer with the institutional cynicism of recognising political prisoners in Russia (on Wednesday Oleg Senstov, the Ukrainian filmmaker imprisoned by Putin, will receive the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize to the defence of human rights), while flagrant violations of basic rights are permitted in Hungary, Poland and Spain.

As Benet Salellas wrote in his 'Jo acuso. La defensa en judicis polítics' [I Accuse. Defence in Political Trials], we cannot sit on the fence and believe that a political solution will crop up following a hypothetical favourable ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. Sixty years after the Declaration, our fate is bound to this bill of love and courage for which so many men and women gave their very best. This is our humble contribution: we do not wish to leave as free men but as honourable people. The democratic solution to the conflict is a collective cause where we stand for the human condition, its rights and liberties.

Today four good men have been on hunger strike for ten days. Next Sunday it will be one year and two months since we first held in pre-trial detention. But what goes around, comes around: no fear, no sadness, we foster hope and determination. Against the snake’s egg of fascism we know there are thousands of fighters all over the world willing to pursue a decent, shared future. This makes us both enormously happy and unshakeable. Always forward!

Jordi Cuixart is the president of Òmnium Cultural and has been held on remand since 16 October 2017
_________
Translator’s notes (Ara)

(1) Òmnium Cultural is a pro-independence grassroots platform that promotes Catalan culture and language. It has over 100,000 paid members.

(2) and (3) In Spain the Transition is the period immediately after Franco’s death when the country formally transitioned from a dictatorship to a parliamentary democracy. Those who are critical of the current political system often refer to it as the “1978 regime” because the current Spanish Constitution was approved in 1978.


This week's useful articles in English:

VilaWeb

Ara

El Nacional


Special report

Don’t dare ask Lieutenant-Colonel Baena about Tácito, his trolling Twitter alter-ego

Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Baena (second from the left) during the cybersecurity conference day at ESADE (Photo: Vilaweb)

Oriol Bäbler

November 22 : The card on the lecturers’ table says “Daniel Baena”, nothing else. A tall, short-haired man sits behind it. A zigzag vein makes its way down the side of his forehead. He’s wearing jeans and a tie. I guess in appearances at ESADE one can’t appear in uniform. The conference today is about cybersecurity and Daniel Baena, Lieutenant Colonel of the Civil Guard, has been invited as the head of the judicial police of Catalonia. No one has bothered to mention that the man who has signed-off the reports that feed the judicial cases against Catalan independence process had a trolling alter ego on Twitter Tàcito (Tacitus).

The lawman, in some ill-conceived moment of patriotistic heroism, opened a twitter account, and turned into a troll. In his sights were politicians, journalists and the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan Police). These references are in the past tense, not because Baena has changed his opinions – his ideological prejudices continue to taint reports on the independence process – but because Tacitus no longer exists. The account has been deactivated and pearls like this one have been lost: ‘Put the ballot box down on the floor. Slowly. Put your hands behind your head. No sudden movements.” Rather suspiciously, the Lieutenant Colonel has locked down his personal account, which can now only be seen with his permission. Cybersecurity, I suppose.

The moderator of the event, Mario Sol, co-director of the ESADE Masters in IT & IP, is charged with introducing the speakers to the auditorium. Baena is done last. Obviously, Tácito’s name isn’t mentioned at all. “Much decorated, the Lieutenant Colonel graduated in political science and has a master’s degree in security and resolution of civil, political and armed conflicts,” says Sol. The Lieutenant Colonel cracks a half smile, presumably finding the name of his master’s degree ironically humorous in the current political context.

As the conference goes on, in his first intervention, Baena compares the internet to the jungle and asserts that public institutions are poorly adapted in the area of ​​cybersecurity. “They are not sufficiently aware of what is at risk”, he says. At the table, the Lieutenant Colonel is a voice of authority, the voice of what is called the rule of law (the grey area of which goes wilfully ignored).

There are empty seats in the stalls, despite the free and generous breakfast. Between the backs of the seats there are lolling heads, shut eyes, and a good number of lit mobile phone screens. On one side of me, a man covers his face with one hand. He is not angry at the hypocrisy dancing about on the stage. Not ashamed. This is because he is asleep.  His accreditation hangs limply to one side, from his neck. On the lapel of the jacket he has a pin with the Spanish and Catalan flags. Had I had one, I would have offered a pillow, really.

Later in the debate, there a classic exchange between the moderator and the Lieutenant Colonel:

– Mario Sol: We’ve covered technological issues, of course, but we mustn’t forget that even in the digital era, human beings remain in charge of rewards and punishments. The necessary ‘repression’ of the bad guys … We must continue to pursue chase them down. That is why we have Lieutenant Colonel Baena, who will answer how a cyber attack can lead to criminal investigation and prosecution.
– Daniel Baena: Well, we don’t repress the bad guys, we redirect them, and put them at the disposition of the justice system, so that the system can do what it is meant to.

A beautiful answer, really. Too bad that if we apply it to other contexts, it coms completely undone in an instant. Remember this comes from the person who signs off the myriad police reports, many shown to be full of fantasy, which allow the “system to do what it is meant to”, and preventively imprison nine people.

After an hour of debate, the moderator opens up the discussion to questions from the audience. Up went my hand, but I get sidelined, and they move on.  I manage to flag the girl with the microphone and agree to go second. She is on the other side of the room. Thirty uncomfortable seconds go by as she approaches. Nobody says anything, but the speakers stare me down. I can hear the heels of her shoes – amplified by the microphone she is bringing me – clicking across the tiles. Tac, Tac, Tac, Tac … I have never liked microphones. I can finally ask about Tacitus. The girl gives me the microphone and this is what takes place:

Journalist [P.]: My question is for Mr. Baena in relation to information published by the newspaper Público, and it is to ask him why he managed a false account on Twitter with the name of Tacitus, criticizing and accusing politicians, journalists and the Mossos d’Esquadra? And if…
-Mario Sol [M. S.]: [cuts in] We have come to talk about cybersecurity …
-P.: Right, why …
-M.S.: Not of this type of …
-P.: Seriously! I think it’s very …
-M.S.: If you don’t mind, ask a question about the theme of …
-P.: I think it is quite relevant that a speaker at a conference on cybersecurity…
-M. S.: Maybe in another forum. Not in this one.
-P.: I do not know, I’d argue he’s discredited as a speaker if he manages fake accounts on Twitter and trolls politicians.
-M.S.: I understand but here we have come to learn and talk about cybersecurity …
-P.: Yes, and benefit from his experience, because it seems that he dominates both sides of the equation, security, and the converse…
-M.S.: Thank you very much.

You can listen to the audio here:

https://imatges.vilaweb.cat/nacional/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/ESADE-censura-un-periodista-de-VilaWeb.m4a

I stayed quiet, and stayed in my seat. This time Baena did not need to hide behind a fake twitter profile, he was being directly protected by the ESADE moderator. Questions go by and nobody alludes to the Tacitus affair. The Lieutenant Colonel maintains his frozen rictus sardonicus, as if he’s brought a special mask for a question that he expected sooner or later. Finally, Sol ends the debate and I realize that the man to my side has finally woken up.

At the exit, before I turned in my accreditation, I’m approached by two communications people from ESADE. Their perspective is stunning. They tell me it’s bad form to bring up a political question in a space for debate about cyber-security. Well they’ve told me! I should have stayed and taken my revenge at the catered lunch.

* A small reminder, the Civil Guard has not taken any measure against Daniel Baena since the disclosure of the Tacitus affair.

Original Link: https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/no-preguntin-per-tacito-al-tinent-coronel-baena/

Source: Vilaweb Translation: Catalan News Monitor


Comment: Ara editor Esther Vera

On paths and cliffs

Catalonia hasn’t flirted with violence and it is precisely its massive, peaceful nature that affords the pro-independence movement the credibility it enjoys today

Are we going to go the way of Slovenia, Scotland or Quebec? Or none of those three? How will Spain choose to act? Like Serbia, the UK or Canada? Catalonia’s path will likely be her own, unless the wealth of credibility amassed to date by the pro-independence movement is squandered, grassroots support declines and it is radicalised by the lack of unity and the prevailing political confusion.

The Catalan way has always been about demanding an internationally recognised referendum, rejecting violence and staging mass demonstrations that are exemplary and peaceful, not about fringe groups wearing hoodies who jeopardise the Catalan police force. Independence support in Catalonia has risen to 47.5 per cent in just a few years on its own merit —it has managed to build an alternative based on republican values— and on the mistakes of the other camp, whose scorn, violence and politically-biased judicial crackdown on the independence leadership have fuelled Catalonia’s grievances.

Catalonia hasn’t flirted with violence and it is precisely its massive, peaceful nature that affords the pro-independence movement the credibility it enjoys today in a context where the EU sets the standards of acceptability. We will not be Slovenia and our future cannot be “tragic”. President Quim Torra must make a lucid, courageous interpretation of how far the Catalan leadership managed to go on October 27 and the reasons for that. His interpretation must prioritise our nation’s overall interest and the dignity of Catalonia’s institutions over partisan self-interest.


Week ending December 9


Support the Catalan hunger strikers! Sign here!


December 9: This week's useful articles in English

El Nacional

December 5: Jordi Sànchez explains why he has decided to start hunger strike

In support of life and freedom

Ara

The decision to go on a hunger strike is not a course of action that is embarked upon lightly. Not because one needs special physical preparation, but because it requires a great deal of reflection to resolve the doubts it raises. Not only because of the effects on your body but, above all, for the strain it has on your family and friends, on the people who love you.

This explains why the decision to go on a hunger strike can only ever be a personal one, strictly personal. It is a supreme exercise in sovereignty. The decision to start a hunger strike can in no way be seen as more courageous than the decision not to start one. It must be understood from the beginning that this type of protest is not an attempt to appear before public opinion as the strongest, the bravest, the most daring of the lot. A hunger strike is not a demonstration of anything and much less a form of competition with anyone, not even with oneself.

Undoubtedly, it is an act of conscience and personal sovereignty, as Lluís Maria Xirinachs1 was fond of saying. But equally remarkable is the exercise in personal awareness and sovereignty that leads one not to start a hunger strike after reflecting on a host of factors which affect us all as individuals. I myself, at other times, have decided against taking this same course of action during personal circumstances which are different to those which I now find myself in.

It is certainly an extreme act of protest against a blatant case of injustice which has not been resolved and which has been going on for a long time. The strength of a hunger strike lies in the fact that it openly appeals to the feelings that each individual possesses, even those who commit injustices, and that it is closely tied to the values and principles of nonviolence.

More than any other nonviolent action, hunger strikes have the power to appeal to people’s consciences because they speak directly to their hearts. It is very difficult for a person who knows they are being spoken to directly by a hunger strike not to feel it.

Nonviolence directs its action straight to the hearts of those who commit injustice. And it does so with the conviction that sooner or later everyone may find themselves in the position to abandon injustice, and even to put an end to the violence which they have been hiding behind for so long. The basic principle of nonviolence is to treat one’s adversary, even one’s oppressor, as first and foremost a human being. With the same potential as we have to feel excitement, to feel compassion, to feel respect, to reject injustice and to feel for the suffering of others. It is not always easy, and nonviolence is not always capable of awakening people’s conscience or feelings. This is true. But neither is violence always capable of winning, though it is always capable of destroying, often causing irreparable damage.

In this case our hunger strike is a direct appeal to the twelve Constitutional Court judges. They are applying a decision that is causing us irreparable harm. By agreeing to see all our appeals while failing to rule on any of them, they are depriving us of our right to take our case to the European Court of Human Rights. A hunger strike is the last resort available to us to demand fair and just treatment. We have been waiting for over a year for some appeals to be heard, when we shouldn’t have waited more than 30 days. This is the time-limit, according to the legislation and the Constitutional Court’s own rulings, for resolving appeals on judicial decisions regarding prison on remand.

When one is in jail, it is not possible to carry out other nonviolent political actions to expose instances of grave injustice. If we had others, believe me, we would not have started a hunger strike. Because a hunger strike is not a fast. It is important that everyone understands the difference. Fasting is for a limited period and, aside from those who do it for health reasons or as part of their spiritual practice, it is usually performed as an act of solidarity and empathy towards others or to support just causes. A hunger strike, on the other hand, has no preset end-by date and is openly associated with a political protest or demand, with the intention of shaking people’s consciences.

Those who associate a hunger strike with the willing destruction of one's own body and of life itself are mistaken.If there is one thing that defines the tradition of nonviolence (of which Gandhi is a shining example), it is its devotion to and defence of life; of both your opponents and your own. No one wishes to live and to be free as much as those who are behind bars. We love life and freedom so much that we are taking extreme measures, going on a hunger strike, to denounce a truly unjust situation, since we are aware that the longer we are prevented from taking our case to the European Court of Human Rights, the longer the recovery of our freedom will be delayed. And life in prison can’t be called living. Even less so if one has been sent to prison unjustly.

Footnote

1. Lluís María Xirinachs was a pacifist priest, author, senator and leader of movements for Catalan sovereignty and independence, famous for his advocacy of non-violent civil disobedience and passive resistance, including hunger strikes. He conducted a one-man protest outside Barcelona's Model Prison in 1975 until all political prisoners of Francoism were released. Xirinachs was frequently jailed for his stands.

December 4: Two more Catalan political prisoners join hunger strike

Coverage in English

December 2: Results of the Andalusian regional election

See: Socialists lose ground in Andalusia, extreme right party takes 12 seats


Week ending December 2


The men Catalan political prisoners, pictured in Lledoners jail. From left to right: Jordi Sànchez (now on hunger strike), Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Turull (now on hunger strike), Joaquim Forn, Jordi Cuixart, Josep Rull and Raül Romeva. The two women political prisoners, Dolors Bassas and Carme Forcadell, are held in different prisons.

History repeats: Catalan president Lluís Companys (front, centre), pictured in jail with some of his ministers, in 1935

December 2: This week's useful articles in English

El Nacional

Vilaweb

Ara


Main results of the 2018 opinion study of the Institute of Political and Social Sciences of the Autonomous University of Barcelona

1. With respect to the Spanish state, Catalonia should be...

(Options are: a region of Spain; an Autonomous Community of Spain's [Catalonia's present status]; a State within a Federal Spain; an independent State


2. For and against independence

(Options are: an independent State; part of Spain; indifferent; don't know)


3. How would you vote in a referendum on independence?

(Options are: vote in favour; vote against; not vote; vote informal; don't know/no reply)


4. How do you want the independence process to end? How do you think it will end?

(Options are: with independence for Catalonia; with an agreement between Catalonia and Spain for more self-government; with the process being abandoned; don't know/no reply)


Analysis: A caretaker government up until the trial

Division is blocking any medium term project

Maiol Roger, political editor, Ara

November 25

"Effective government" was the expression used by Together for Catalonia (JxCat) and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) to justify the fact that, despite the promise of restoring [the Puigdemont government] on which they stood at the December 21 election, the new cabinet would not count on any of the ministers from its predecessor.  It was this mania--classic in the [independence] Process—for sticking an adjective in front of everything so that it doesn’t look like the same old stuff.  But in the case of the Quim Torra executive, not even the adjective works: at present this government has shown that it can’t be described as effective.

Obviously, in any analysis the exceptional nature of the situation must be stressed: with prisoners and exiles and the constant threat of a return to [a Spanish government takeover under article]155 any policy gets carried out as if treading on eggshells. However, the reality is that the main reason for the hold-up is the fratricidal fight between JxCat and ERC. Unity hangs by a thread and the likelihood of early elections, now being sniffed out for the New Year, locks the parties into pre-election mode and puts off all unessential debates sine die.

This explains why the budget doesn’t seem a priority and why the majority of the Parliament assumes that there won’t be one, for yet another year.[i]  Refusing to entertain the main demands of the Commons[ii] may be a negotiating strategy—offering the very least  at the outset so as not to give away too much in the end—but it is also proof that JxCat and ERC want to avoid opening a can of worms that in the past has taken the government to the point of being blown apart—that of taxes[iii]. Division over the issue is now much less--curiously, the main defect attributed to PDECat, ideological vagueness, now becomes a virtue that a part of JxCat boasts about—but the executive cannot allow the fratricidal fight to spread here as well. The card that was played to save the day in 2016, a meeting at the highest level between the President and the Minister of Economy, has already been played in this legislature over the divisions in Parliament[iv].

In this atmosphere, it is hard to see how matters can shift even the slightest and allow the creation of a joint medium-term project that goes beyond commonplaces. Another example: foreign policy. The department [for foreign relations] has been quick to reopen the delegations abroad [closed down under the article 155 intervention], but coordination with Brussels and the Council for the Republic remains a mystery. Why did Ernest Maragall, in his time as minister, not make a single visit to Carles Puigdemont? He himself explained it yesterday in his interview with Ara: "Because of the debate [between JxCat and ERC] I wasn’t able to visit Puigdemont in Waterloo with the freedom I would have wanted. We have been going through situations that seemed to counsel against it."[v]

This inaction is not just a sensation: it is backed up by the figures. Although there is the excuse that there was no government until the end of May, the arrival of ministers has not resulted in any frantic legislative activity: only seven bills are presently passing through parliament and none of the three measures adopted by the chamber this year came from the executive.

Certainly, it is not the first time that this has happened, but so far the deadlines of the Process hid everything: the 18 months towards independence, then the referendum and then the declaration of independence served to justify the concentration of all efforts on a single point. But now, apart from protesting against repression, there is no strategy and the horizon is undefined: the focus is on the coming trial of the prisoners, but beyond saying that "the citizens will react” there is no plan. And if they do react, what will happen? What is the point of repeating “October 1, October 1” if neither JxCat nor ERC have explained what they would have done differently then so as to avoid the situation being what it is now? The Government governs, but it looks like a caretaker administration. At least until the trial begins.

Footnotes

[i] The last Catalan budget was the 2016 budget of the Puigdemont government, adopted with the support of the People’s Unity List (CUP). This time the CUP has refused to even enter budget negotiations, on the grounds that the Torra government is not “unfolding the Republic” but acting as one more regional administration in the Spanish state. The 2016 budget will repeat until there is a new one, with any extra income being dedicated, under Spanish state financial norms, to paying off public debt.

[ii] The left alliance Catalonia Together-Podemos (CatECP) is commonly referred to as “the commons”. It supports the Catalan right to self-determination but not necessarily Independence. A majority of the commons also holds that the October 1, 2017 referendum was not a true consultation of Catalan opinion. Given the refusal of the CUP to negotiate over the 2018 budget, CatECP has become the government’s main negotiating partner.

[iii] For CatECP and its predecessor Catalonia, Indeed We Can (CSQEP), an increase in tax on higher incomes and on inheritances is a precondition for supporting any budget introduced by a pro-independence government. Within these governments ERC has been inclined to support such policies but PDECat, which rests on a base of wealthier and more conservative pro-independence opinion, has always opposed them. With PDECat MPs a minority within JxCat, the tax issue would become first of all a hot potato within that formation and then, potentially, for the governing coalition as a whole. At the time of writing the government is still refusing any increase in the overall tax burden, which explains why majority opinion in parliament is that negotiations with CatECP will fail and the budget will be prorogued, making early elections more likely.

[iv] The reference is to the conflict between JxCat and the ERC over whether MPs in jail and exile should agree to be represented by a substitute MP or continue to have their votes recorded through their caucus leader. JxCat’s refusal to accept substitution has led to its four JxCat MPs in detention and exili, including Puigdemont, not voting. For a detailed explanation of this episode see here.

[v] Maragall’s successor, Alfred Bosch, has since visited Puigdemont in Waterloo.


November 28: Responses to Borrell

November 28: Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell at a Complutense event: "All the US did was to kill a handful of Indians" Spain’s foreign minister declares that there is more political integration in the United States because everyone shares "the same language".


November 26: Basque left pro-independence coalition EH Bildu to propose to December 14 assembly that it run in next year's European elections on a platform with the Republican Left of Catalonia and the Galician Nationalist Bloc, with jailed ERC leader Oriol Junqueras as lead candidate.


Week ending November 25 (blog resumed November 22)


November 25: This week's useful articles in English

Vilaweb

El Nacional

Catalan News Monitor

Ara

November 22: Statement by 120 law lecturers in Spanish universities on the charges of rebellion and sedition being brought against the nine Catalan leaders in preventive detention

Now that the State Prosecutor-General's Office and the State Solicitor-General have presented their provisional conclusions in writing to the Supreme Court and the National High Court, we the undersigned lecturers in law in Spanish universities are compelled to express our legal opinion, given the historical importance for Spanish democracy of the criminal procedure under way [against the Catalan prisoners].

The Prosecutor considers that certain actions of members of the Mossos d'Esquadra [the Catalan police], the Catalan Parliament and Government and of the social leaders of the Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural give rise to the crime of rebellion under article 472 of the Penal Code. However, such a crime requires a violent and public uprising. It should be stressed in this regard that in our opinion it is an error to consider the events which took place on September 20 [mass peaceful protest outside the Catalan finance ministry] and on October 1, 2017 [the referendum carried out despite police and Civil Guard repression] as meeting the definition of violence as specified by article 472 of the Criminal Code.

Moreover, the interpretation made of the requirement of violence departs from the doctrine that the Constitutional Court laid down when analysing the crime of rebellion. According to the Constitutional Court's sentence 199 of 1987, which justified the extension to the offence of rebellion of the exceptional criminal and procedural measures provided for in Article 55.2 of the Constitution (dealing with the actions of armed gangs or terrorist elements), the parliamentary discussion of this concept established "an explicit equivalence between terrorism and rebellion as involving an attack on the democratic system and the substitution of the form of Government and State freely elected by the citizens. It is true that Article 55.2 does not expressly mention rebels, but only armed bands or terrorist elements (...) but, by definition, rebellion is carried out by a group that has as its purpose the illegitimate use of weapons of war or explosives with the goal of producing the destruction or overthrow of the constitutional order." And it concludes: "Therefore, the suspension of rights to which the constitutional provision refers is legitimately applicable to such rebels as fulfil the concept of armed band under Article 55.2."

Nor do we believe that the crime of sedition under article 544 of the Criminal Code applies in this case, because at no time has any evidence been produced that the accused induced, provoked or staged any riotous uprising so as to prevent compliance with the law--unless the interpretation is that it is enough to urge use of the right to demonstrate, that is, to exercise a basic right. And that without being able to attribute to the defendants that specific action as occurring beforehand, afterwards or in league with other parties, because in Criminal Law the principle of subjective responsibility  for the actions concerned applies, not that of objective liability.

With regard to the crime of rebellion under article 472, the Prosecutor-General's office maintains that from the beginning  the accused planned to use violence with the ultimate goal of achieving the independence of Catalonia and secession from the central State. How did they carry this out, it asks, and replies: through the riotous action of thousands of citizens, instigated by them and with the collaboration of the Mossos.

For the prosecution, therefore, the danger lies in inciting mobilisations, that is, it makes the exercise of basic rights a crime. Furthermore, we believe that the interpretation that has been made of the categories of rebellion and sedition opens the door to a trivialisation of preventive detention that is practically unheard of in a democracy and which recalls a sad past: that is why the 1995 legislator restricted it to cases involving material harm clearly greater than in the current case.

The result of an inappropriate recourse to preventive detention is what we now see: the demand for very long sentences whose concordance with the principle of proportionality (which should guide all legal interpretation of the law) is highly questionable. Only by very seriously violating the principles of criminal law can it be affirmed that the accused, in light of the facts attributed to them, were able to carry out this crime of rebellion or that of conspiracy to rebel (which requires agreement to carry out a rebellion with the same level of violence).

However, the only thing that the Prosecutor-General's office has so far demonstrated is that, with the  same goal in mind, all the mobilisations carried out only sought a referendum through peaceful and democratic means. In its persistent desire to uncover the existence of violence, the Prosecutor-General's office essentially focuses on the events that took place on September 20 and October 1 and 3. Moreover, it goes so far as to say that the fact that the use of violence was not planned from the beginning does not prevent us from considering that, after the events of those days, it was decided to continue with the calling of the referendum, accepting the risk of the committing of violent acts and other confrontations.

Well, neither the events of September 20, 2017 nor those of October 1 or 3, 2017 give rise to the violence required by article 472 of the Criminal Code. On the other hand, and inasmuch as the crime of sedition is concerned, it is worth remembering that it is being systematically resorted to (article 544) to repress and silence citizen movements that practice, in a peaceful way, the right of demonstration, assembly and protest.

In conclusion: we also cannot forget the no lesser question of the incompetence of the National High Court that initiated the process, corrupting all successive work. From a strictly legal perspective (and without entering into political considerations) we demand respect for the principle of criminal legality and the  investigation of everything that the Rule of Law, and that alone, authorises and obliges, because only within those margins can there be opportunity, fairness and Justice. The first step that should be taken is the release of the nine people who remain in preventive detention for non-existent crimes.

November 24: French Communist Party (PCF) votes at its 2018 congress to offer places on its list for the European elections to Catalan political prisoners.

November 22: The shire of Berguedà multiplies percentage of waste recycled from 29% to 70% by introducing a door-to-door collection system combined with fines for leaving rubbish in the street.

Document: Catalonia's law on a Guaranteed Minimum Income

See the Catalan Parliament's translation of this July 2017 law here


Week ending July 22

   


The defense team for the exiled and deposed former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont will take his case to the German Constitutional Court. This, following the decision of the German court to accept the official’s extradition on the grounds of misuse of public funds but to reject it on those of rebellion.

One of leading lawyers, Catalan Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, said in an interview with the Catalan public TV that “it might be a denial of the extradition in two steps.” He referred to a first step being the rejection of rebellion by theDefense expresses conviction that Germany ‘does not want to play any part in the criminalisation of a democratic behavior’ on Thursday, and the second one potentially by the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe rejecting the extradition also for misuse of funds.

In a previous statement, the German attorneys highlighted that the extradition to Spain was rejected on the grounds of rebellion and that the Schlewig-Holstein court did not go in depth about whether or not he committed the crime of misuse of public funds.

Puigdemont can’t be tried for rebellion in Spain

The German lawyers further expressed conviction that Germany “does not want to play any part” in the “criminalization of a democratic behavior.” They added that the arrest warrant has not been set in motion yet and that their client is complying with the court’s orders.

The defense team led by attorney Wolfgang Schomburg detailed that rejecting extradition for rebellion means that the Spanish judiciary will no longer be able to try their client for said crime. They express that Puigdemont is being taken to court “only for having carried out a democratic referendum.”

Puigdemont:  “We’ll fight until the end, and we will win!”

For his part, Puigdemont reacted on his Twitter account. “We’ve struck down the main lie upheld by the State,” he wrote. “The German judiciary denies that the October 1 referendum was rebellion. Every minute that our colleagues spend in prison is a minute of shame and injustice. We’ll fight until the end, and we will win!” he tweeted.

The minister for presidency and Catalan government spokesperson, Elsa Artadi, also stated that Puigdemont’s defense will appeal the decision. Regards the deposed president’s alleged crime of misuse of public funds for the October 1 independence referendum, Artadi said: “We will continue fighting, because it’s clear that it didn’t exist.”

Translation: Vilaweb


July 16: Belgian government refuses the request of Spanish foreign minister Borrell to intervene in case brought against Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena by Catalan leaders in exile and requiring him to appear in a Belgian court.

July 16: Carles Puigdemont, Quim Torra and Jordi Sánchez launch National Call for the Republic, an attempt to regroup and expand the base of pro-independence forces.

July 16: José Luis Ábalos, Spanish infrastructure minister and PSOE organisational secratry, says that Sánchez government will not order prosecutor-general to stop investigating October 1 referendum.

July 16: Roger Torrent (speaker, Catalan parliament): "Does Pedro Sánchez want a frank dialogue or does he want to follow the theses of Mr Borrell?"


            Week ending July 15


 


 

July 15: Latest GESOP poll shows ERC as leading party in pro-independence camp, with CUP also gaining seats and JxCat losing. In unionist camp, PSC advances and Citizens retreats. Pro-independence forces retain their majority.

July 15: Spanish foreign minister Josep Borell delivers speech to Catalan Civil Society arguing that the right to self-determination doesn't effectively exist.


July 14: Òmnium Cultural video demanding release and return of Catalan political prisoners and exiles (below).

July 14: View of demonstration, which went from Plaça d'Espanya to the now-closed Model Prison (below).

July 14: (Below) Lead banner ("Neither jail nor exile, we wan't you home") of today's Barcelona demonstration in support of the imprisoned and exiled MPs and social movement leaders, estimated at between 120,000 (municipal police) and 200,000 (organisers).

July 13: Carmen Calvo,spokesperson of the PSOE government, announces that Spanish government will withdraw opposition to Catalan social legislation held up in the Constitutional Court by the appeals of the previous PP government.


The Eagle of Saint John is still flying over some spots in Catalonia. It was one of the top symbols of the Franco regime, alongside badges with the yoke and a set of arrows. Now 43 years after the Spanish dictator’s death, it can still be found on façades and public buildings in various spots throughout the country. The amount of Francoist symbols has been reduced over the years, but some still persist, including a monument in the Ebre river in Tortosa (picture).

The Catalan justice minister, Ester Capella, announced on Wednesday that her department will put forward an historical memory law that will make the removal of Francoist symbols from public spaces obligatory.” The new historical memory law will be a tool to heal wounds and finish with the mourning,” said Capella in Parliament.

The legislation will enable the Catalan government to withdraw Francoist symbols in streets and squares, annul awards and change names of streets paying tribute to people related to dictatorships or crimes against humanity. This, even if town halls oppose the decisions.

Translation: Vilaweb

Spanish foreign affairs minister, Josep Borrell, has instructed Spain's ambassador to Belgium, Cecilia Yuste, to ask the Belgium government to appear in the case in that country against Spanish judge Pablo Llarena and to defend the immunity of the Spanish judiciary and the judge summonsed.

Foreign ministry sources have told Europa Press that this follows a request made by the president of the Supreme Court and the General Council of the Judiciary, Carlos Lesmes.

Lesmes had written to Borrell and the justice minister, Dolores Delgado, asking them to carry out "the relevant actions to ensure the integrity of the state's actions". This follows president Carles Puigdemont and four former ministers now in exile presenting a civil lawsuit in Belgium against Pablo Llarena, the judge in the case against the Catalan independence movement.

Specifically, the judge asked them to, "in accordance with Belgian procedural practice", ask Belgium to appear in the case in its own courts in defence of "the immunity of the Spanish judiciary and the Supreme Court judge summonsed".

The Spanish government will respond to the request with a "note verbale", which is the normal method of communication for ambassadors with the governments of the countries they are accredited in.

For the moment, there is no plan for Borrell to directly discuss the subject with his Belgian counterpart, Didier Reynders. Both will be in Brussels tomorrow, however, for a two-day NATO summit.

Translation: El Nacional


July 9: ANC to ask members if they support single pro-independence tickets in next May's municipal elections.

July 9: Torra: "Now we have a government in Spain that recognises that we have a political conflict. We give great value to that recognition."

July 9: Sánchez and Torra agree to revive moribund bilateral commission between Spanish State and Catalonia to discuss outstanding issues. PSOE government also agrees to lift veto on Catalan social laws appealed to Constitutional Court by the PP,while continuing to deny any Catalan right to self-determination.

July 9: Spain's new prosecutor general rules out, for now, asking for any reduction in the charges brought and penalties being sought against Catalan politicians involved in October 1 referendum.

July 9: Fernando Martínez-Maíllo, PP coordinator-general, says nothing good for Spain will come from this morning's meeting between PM Pedro Sánchez and Catalan president Torra.

July 9: GESOP poll published in El Periódico says that, right now, only 21.5% think that Catalonia should "seek independence in order to build a new republic" while 62% believe it should "negotiate an improvement in self-government with the [Spanish] State", with 16.5% undecided (below).

         

        Week ending July 8



July 8: Catalan president Torra to take law suit against former Spanish Congress speaker and PSOE defence minister José Bono for saying in an interview on the Sexta channel that he, Torra, has "Nazi-like" positions.

July 8: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent denounces situation of Catalan political prisoners before the political commission of the Francophone Parliamentary Assembly in Quebec.

July 8: Ultra-rightists picket meeting dedicated to "the role of local government in the building of the country" of ERC MP Joan Tardà in the Valencian town of Barxeta.



July 7: Annual Canet Rock festival dedicated to Catalan political prisoners (below).

July 7: Ultra-right party Vox accuses the Tarragona Committee for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) of "beseiging" its summer school. Vox spokesperson Isabel Lázaro: "We shall continue the ideological struggle against coup-fomenting totalitarianism."


News (Laia Forès, Ara, July 6)

Valtonyc: “I trust Belgium’s justice system. I hope it will find I just wrote some songs”

Belgium’s examining magistrate grants parole to Valtonyc, the Majorcan rap singer who fled Spain after receiving a prison sentence for his song lyrics

On Thursday the rap singer appeared before the Belgian examining magistrate who had summoned him following a European Arrest Warrant issued by Spain’s Audiencia Nacional, a major crimes special court. The singer was released on parole while Belgium’s justice decides whether to grant his extradition to Spain, as requested by Spain six months ago.

After appearing in court, the rap singer allowed himself to be seen in public for the first time since his move to Belgium. At a press conference Valtonyc explained why he left Majorca and gave details of his new life in Ghent, the city in Flanders where he resides nowadays.

Josep Miquel Arenas (Valtonyc’s real name) stated that he “wasn’t hiding at all” but cooperated with Belgium’s justice as soon as he arrived in the country. He also stressed that he expects Belgium will dismiss the European Arrest Warrant issued against him. “In the case of the Catalan exiles, Belgium’s justice system has shown that it is fair and independent, on the side of rationality. I hope that [the Belgian judges] will understand that I just wrote some songs, that’s all. Just songs”, he said. “I have every faith in Belgium and Europe’s justice”, he emphasised.

A job as a web designer

Valtonyc explained that he is living in Ghent and doing IT and web design work, which he had studied for back in Majorca, and living a normal life: “By day three I’d got a job, a home and a mobile phone”. He also pointed out that people have been very kind to him and Belgians are surprised to hear that he was given a prison sentence over some song lyrics. “The lads here freak out when they hear that I’m a fugitive”.

During the press conference, the rap singer denounced “the erosion of democracy” in Spain. He decried that “in Spain there are people in jail for holding a referendum, which proves that mine is not an isolated case, an attack just on Valtonyc. We are not allowed to sing, we are not allowed to tweet nor vote as a people”. And he added that his crime is “to be left-wing, a communist and an independence supporter. Clearly none of that is legal in Spain”, he added.

Precautionary measures

After appearing in court, the artist was not remanded in custody but released on parole and he is free to travel about in Belgium while another judge determines whether to grant his extradition to Spain. Nevertheless, the court did order a number of precautionary measures, such as the prohibition to leave the country and the obligation to report any change of address.

The news was first posted on Twitter by lawyer Simon Bekaert, the son of Valtonyc’s attorney Paul Bekaert, who provided Carles Puigdemont with legal counsel when a European Arrest Warrant was issued against the Catalan president.

Translation: Ara


July 6: The joint president of the German Die Linke (The Left), Bernd Riexinger, condemns the situation of the Catalan jailed and exiled prisoners, adding that "at the very least, Catalonia should have more autonomy."

July 6: Catalan president Quim Torra visits women political prisoners Carme Forcadell and Dolors Bassas in Figueras jail.


July 6: (Vilaweb)

The Spanish government is to take a parliamentary pro-independence initiative to court for the first time since reaching power. The executive spokeswoman, Isabel Celaá, announced the move on Friday after the weekly cabinet meeting. This, not even a day after the Catalan Parliament passed a motion confirming its commitment towards a Catalan state.Just before Madrid announced that it will challenge the motion, the Catalan executive had said that should they take it to courts, the new Spanish government will not be “much different” from the previous one. The Socialists ousted the People’s Party from power last month after a vote of no confidence.

The reasons Celaá mentioned for challenging the motion include “defending the Spanish Constitution and the Catalan Statute of Autonomy.” Yet she believes this will not affect the meeting between Catalonia and Spain’s presidents, set for next Monday July 9. For her, the appeal announced to the Constitutional Court has a “juridical path,” while “the political one follows another path.”

The Catalan Socialist leader has also spoken about the upcoming presidents meeting. Miquel Iceta said that on Monday “there will be no agreement for a self-determination referendum.”

The Catalan president, Quim Torra, announced last week that he would lay such vote on the table, but Sánchez has already rejected it.

According to Iceta, if Torra focuses the meeting on self-determination, it will be difficult that an agreement is reached during the presidents’ meeting.

Yet he said it’s “good news” that the Catalan president has suggested holding another meeting in September with Pedro Sánchez, but this time in Barcelona.


July 6: ANC and Òmnium Cultural announce that this year's Diada demonstration, on Catalan National Day, September 11, will seek to occupy Barcelona's longest thoroughfare, the Diagonal.

July 6: President Torra meets with United Left coordinator Alberto Garzón. Garzón condemns the imprisonment of the Catalan politicians, says he shares republican and democratic values with Torra and that Catalonia would, if given the chance, vote to live in a federal, republican Spain.

July 6: ANC and Òmnium Cultural announce September 11 (Catalan National Day) theme ("Let's Build the Catalan Republic") and place (along Barcelona's Diagonal).


Interview (Martí Estruch Axmacher, Vilaweb, July 5)

Cathal MacSwiney Brugha: ‘Jailing Catalan pro-independence leaders is a stupid move by Madrid, a sign that they are losing’

Irish Professor proposes a “Europe Cares” about Catalonia campaign

Cathal MacSwiney Brugha is Emeritus and Adjunct Professor at the College of Business in the University College Dublin. He is also the President of the Analytics Society of Ireland. Through both his grandfathers he is closely linked to the history of Ireland. His paternal grandfather, Cathal Brugha, was the first chairman of the Irish parliament after having played a very important role in the Easter Rising. His maternal grandfather, Terence MacSwiney, was the mayor of Cork during the war of independence and was detained after having asked the British to return to their country. He started a hunger strike that became a big challenge to the British authorities. It took him to death with great international repercussions, and finally the British government agreed to sit at the negotiating table.

– What brings you to Catalonia this time?

– I see Catalonia as having won the argument, but now needs help to achieve its aims for self-determination.  I believe that can come from the people of Europe. I don’t expect it from the highest levels, the council of prime ministers, because they don’t see below their level in other countries. I see Europe as a family of families. If a big brother is bullying a little sister in the school playground, the cousins can come to her aid. We in Ireland are your cousins.  Add to that, we in Ireland like and admire the people of Catalonia very much.  So here we are. We want to promote the case that “Europe Cares”. We are not alone. Mikko Kärnä, the Finnish MP, also cares and supports you. So, we could look at spreading the campaign “Europe Cares” throughout Europe.

– What parallels can we find between the current situation in Catalonia and the Irish elections of December 1918?
– The parallels are significant and important. The Irish elections of December 1918 were a turning-point. No more could London claim that the Irish people endorsed British policy in Ireland. It exposed Britain as in Ireland for selfish reasons, in 1918 using young Irish men in a colonising war of competition between Britain and Germany. The support of the people of Catalonia for parties that promote Catalan self-determination gives great hope that change will not be postponed for long.

– Your grandfather Terence MacSwiney, Mayor of Cork, was held in prison for defending Irish independence and died after a hunger strike. Would you defend extreme measures of civil disobedience also today?
– In the years before MacSwiney’s hunger-strike many suffragette women in England used the hunger-strike to seek women’s rights.  Little was known about these brave ladies because the right-wing controlled the media. Force-feeding was used on them with great brutality. MacSwiney and his colleagues around the world used the international media to campaign for his case, and for Irish independence. This, and the fact that he was Mayor of Ireland’s second city, Cork, and that he was an elected member of the Dáil, our Parliament, meant that Britain was on the back foot, and afraid to force-feed him or treat him with brutality. MacSwiney won the publicity battle even in England. Their King George V supported the case to release MacSwiney.

– Could such measures help the independence movement in Catalonia then?
– Extreme measures of civil disobedience can be counter-productive. It can give Madrid the excuse to use more brutality.  Catalonia has now achieved the moral high ground. Madrid is looked upon as an uncivilised bully. You should pick your ground well. You should make sure that Madrid continues to be seen as uncivilised, and Catalonia as a proud, strong, mature, civilised people. MacSwiney’s most famous and influential quotation is: “It is not they who can inflict the most, but those who can suffer the most, who will conquer”.

– What do you feel when a century later some Catalan independence leaders are in prison or in exile?
– Jailing Catalan pro-independence leaders is a stupid move by Madrid, a sign that they are losing. It is very visible across Europe, and has alienated all decent people. People like Terence MacSwiney spent more time in prison than out of it.

– Are there any red lines that a modern democracy must respect or is territorial integrity a supreme value?
– The struggle is always about Power versus People, Rule versus Care, Place versus the People that live there.  The world is maturing, moving towards an era where the concerns of people will be much more dominant.  “Territorial integrity” will always have a value.  But the idea that it should have a “supreme value” will no longer hold, if that is used to justify doing wrong to people.

– What is the importance of solidarity in these situations?
– When there is bad behaviour, whether it is children in a playground, or countries acting like children, the sensible, mature, constructive, good ones must work together for peace and harmony. Solidarity is key. Bullies are always cowards. They only fight unequal battles. Solidarity always wins out against bullies.

– Would you expect the EU or its bigger states to seriously ask or even force the Spanish government to enter dialogue and negotiation with Catalonia?
– I expect it. I would like to see this happen. Unfortunately, the people who tend to enter politics in normal circumstances are the wrong people, the most unsuited to being in government. These are people who like to rule and tend not to care. Generally leaders at the highest level in politics in Europe will be the last people to help resolve your dispute with Spain. They see themselves at meetings with the Spanish Prime Minister, and will sympathise with his ‘internal difficulties’, may even see parallels with their own ‘internal difficulties’.

– The power of states has no limits?
– Ultimately a mature Europe will move to governance on four levels, European Union, States, Regions, and Local. The emergence of Regional Governance will mean that States will lose power.  We cannot expect States to release power. We need to appeal to people across the European Regions to support this move. They will respond. History is about bizarre accidents in conflict between powers. If history was different Catalonia would be a State. We cannot go back in history. States are losing importance. Regions are growing in importance. Catalonia is leading Europe in moving towards a mature society where people run their own affairs. The days of States dictating to regions are ending. Throughout the world, excessive State power is associated with stupid decisions and financial corruption.

– Can Catalonia learn some lesson from the Irish experience or are times and circumstances too different?
– Yes, Catalonia can learn from the Irish experience. Generally the people who write the history, and explain what is happening, come from the Right Wing. The story gets distorted, and the lessons are lost for other people. The Irish leaders were very spiritual, caring, intelligent people. The British leaders, that the Irish were up against, were power-hungry, intolerant, selfish bullies, in their political lives, and often in their personal lives, and many of them financially corrupt. I won’t name them here. But they are praised by the history of their own countries, because for short periods they served their states well. I don’t see the times and circumstances you face as very different. Catalonia has to keep focused, keep cool, act wisely, and not get pushed into the wrong kind of conflict that would push it off the high ground. Catalonia has not made mistakes. Catalonia has kept the support of its people. Catalonia is reasonable. The issue is how to get to the next step…

– If people stay united and resist Spanish repression, do you think we will see an independent Catalan Republic? What else does it need?
– The mistake is to think in terms of Europe as a collection of independent republics.  In the past, States had 100% of the power.  In the future, the European Union will have 25%, States 25%, Regions 25%, and Local 25%. The day of the Independent Republic is gone.  Madrid’s problem is that they don’t see this. Catalonia’s problem is that Madrid blames you for causing them to lose the feeling of power, power that was already gone. Even in a hundred years’ time the remnants of the right wing in Madrid will still blame Catalonia.  But most people, in Spain and in Europe, will thank you. The biggest challenge will be to keep your people united as you head towards a new situation.  You are moving fast in the right direction, but on a road that has yet to be built. You are building that road.

– Spain is not really interested in its construction…
– When we in Ireland were doing this a century ago Britain was the most powerful empire ever on planet Earth. The actions of a few people such as Terence MacSwiney made a small hole in the sail of the Great Ship Britannia. It is still losing power, and yet still holds onto its nonsense of greatness, and is now damaging its own future with Brexit. And it is still doing damage to Ireland. Brexit will ruin Northern Ireland. Brexit politicians don’t care about three regions, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Northern England, only about London having power. It is difficult for Catalonia.  But you must keep cool, keep intelligent. The key to the future is not Rule, but Care. Not Rule of Institutions, but Care of People.

– Thank you for your time. Any final message you want to send?
– The reason I am here is because I believe that Europe Cares about Catalonia.  Not necessarily the politicians at the highest level of European Union, or the States, but the people of Europe. Through Vilaweb, and through your friends throughout Europe, through Social Media, through young people especially, you can build this new road. Europe will thank you. Madrid may be sore for a long time. In the long run the people of Spain will be grateful to Catalonia.  I don’t need to explain why that will be, to your readers.

Transcription: Vilaweb, slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


July 5: Catalan attorney-General Ester Capella expresses support for the families of the Altsasu youth, condemned by the Spanish National High Court for aggression against Civil Guards.

July 5: Despite the warnings of the Catalan parliament's legal service the pro-independence majority reasserts its sovereignty and the social program it adopted in 2015 and 2016, later suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

July 5: JxCat and the ERC vote in favour of PSC motions proposing a "dialogure space" on all issues affecting Catalonia. PP attacks the PSC for wanting to find points of agreement with pro-independence forces.

July 5: The right to self-determination will be at the centre of the July 9 discussion between Torra and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez, says Torra.



July 4: President Quim Torra addresses demonstrators outside Lledoners prison after visiting Catalan men political prisoners (below).

July 4: Catalan parliament creates a commission to investigate the impact of the application of the Rajoy government's article 155 suspension of Catalan self-rule.

July 4: Six Catalan political prisoners (former speaker Carme Forcadell, former social welfare minister Dolors Bassa, former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, former foreign minister Raül Romeva, former ANC president and JxCat MP Jordi Sànchez and Òmnium Cultual president Jordi Cuixart) arrive in Catalan jails. They are visited by president Quim Torra, speaker Roger Torrent and various ministers and demonstrations organised by the ANC and Òmnium Cultural (below, with lead banner "We Shall Struggle Until You Are Free").

July 4:  Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau on Catalonia Radio: "We [Catalonia Together] are very clear that the state of autonomous regions [set up under the 1978 Spanish Constitution] is exhausted, and we have always defended a binding referendum even though we know that this is very difficult. We know that things get solved through dialogue. We have a serious institutional problem with the [Spanish] State, but a no lesser problem has been created in Catalonia, where there has been a very great polarisation, and it's the responsibility of all forces to recover broad-based consensuses. It's not the fastest nor the most epic path, but it's the only possible path." 


Comment (Editorial, Ara, July 4)

Transfer and freedom

It bears repeating: nothing will go back to normal until there are no political prisoners left

The transfer of the political prisoners, which is underway and at the moment involves six of the nine pro-independence prisoners —Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa, Jordi Sànchez, and Jordi Cuixart—, cannot be a bargaining chip. It is the bare minimum that can be hoped for from a Spanish government that says it wants to work to open up a new stage of dialogue. A dialogue that —this must be made clear up from the start— will not be truly effective until all of the political prisoners have been released. Until then it will not be possible to normalize anything. For one simple reason: there will be two million Catalan citizens that will feel that their rights, their votes, and their freedom have been attacked. We cannot forget the starting point of judicialization as a response to a problem of a political nature: pre-trial prison is abusive, as are the accusations of rebellion and sedition based on non-existent, concocted violence. The only violence that existed was by the Spanish police forces against peaceful citizens during the October 1st referendum. Neither the voters on that day nor the demonstrators at the September 20th protest outside the HQ of the Catalan Finance Ministry were violent at any time. This has been proven by the Mediapro documentary, which featured images and voices against the narrative presented by a justice system that has acted in a shockingly partisan way, in service to a State belief that the unity of Spain is an unchallengeable value.

That said, it is obvious that the transfer of the prisoners allows a certain detente, and especially a much-needed, humanitarian relief for the families. As a decision made by the Spanish ministry, bringing the prisoners closer to home undoubtedly represents a gesture of political intention. But it is not, nor can it carry with it any pretension of being a political solution: Pedro Sánchez’s government cannot expect a pat on the back from the pro-sovereignty camp. The underlying ignominy is too serious. The indignation too deep. Instead, it will probably be met by an avalanche of criticism from the Spanish political caste and media. It is in response to this most radical Spanish nationalism that the Moncloa must be brave. It is here where the political game must be played, where the decision must be defended on humanitarian, political, and justice-based grounds.

It is clear that, being closer to home, the Catalan political prisoners will be a little less vulnerable. Being far from home, in a hostile environment, in a deliberate state of social isolation, was part of the punitive abuse to which they have been subjected during the past several months. In Catalan prisons they will undoubtedly continue to be political prisoners —absurdly, or worse, vindictively— behind bars. But not only for their families, as we have said, but also for them and for all of those who are calling for their imperative release, this transfer represents a small victory that, nevertheless, we will not celebrate. Sánchez has made the first move, but there is still a long way to go.

Translation: Ara


July 3: PP and Citizens repeat their opposition to transfer of Catalan prisoners to Catalan jails.

July 3: Inés Arrimades (Citizens) calls for immediate suspension of Catalan MPs facing charges.

July 3: Barcelona Council July 2018 Municipal Barometer: "Barcelona Together Would Repeat Election Win"

July 3: Transfer of Catalan political prisoners to Catalan jails begins.


BBC documentary Crisis in Catalonia


July 2: Sánchez: "There are no deals with the pro-independence parties. We are simply carrying out regulations covering prisoners."

July 2: Inés Arrimades (Citizens' leader in Catalan parliament): "New payment from Sánchez to the separatists in exchange for putting him in the Moncloa [PM's residence] without facing an election. Incredible that the penitentiary supervision of those charged with rebellion is now in the hands of people who continue to threaten to break the law and carry out another coup."  [In Catalonia the prison system is run by the Catalan government, not the Spanish state.]

July 2: Pablo Iglesias on Catalan prisoners: "They should never have been in jail in the first place."

July 2: PDECat supports ANC proposal for "republican candidates" for May 2019 local government elections.

July 2: Catalan government delegate in Brussels, former agriculture minister Meritxell Serret, to ask for meetings with all leading EU representatives.

July 2: President-in-exile Puigdemont demands the resources that are due to him as an ex-president (office with three employees, office rent, official car with chauffeur and security detatchment).

July 2: Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, competing for the leadership of the PP, criticises the transfer of Catalan political prisoners to Catalan jails as a "payment to the independentists".


              Week ending July 1 


July 1: ANC proposes to organise primaries of republican forces for the May 2019 municipal elections.

July 1: ERC national conference approves political resolution by 511 to 5, with 19 abstentions.

July 1: Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell: "We will confront the untruths of the [independence] process."



June 29: ANC and Òmnium Cultural ask for donations to their fighting fund to help meet €2.1 million in bail imposed on 14 Catalan leaders facing charges.

June 29: Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena imposes on the 14 members of the previous Catalan government facing charges a collective bail of €2.1 million.

June 29: Catalan Ombudsman Rafael Ribó says that the suspension of Catalan MPs being prepared by Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena will violate their constational rights as elected representatives.

June 29: Campaign for PP general secretary to replace Mariano Rajoy turning into a contest over who can be harsher on Catalan pro-independence forces. Dolores de Cospedal (interviewed by OK Diario): "If the separatist parties pursue illegal goals and use illegal means they should be banned."


News (Alex Gutiérrez, Ara, June 28)

September 20: the cause against the Jordis falls apart thanks to the people’s cameras

A documentary proves the conciliatory role played by the two Catalan grassroots leaders

“We’re on friendly terms now and talking to each other”. Those were the words of ANC leader Jordi Sànchez speaking about Spain’s Guardia Civil in the late afternoon of September 20, 2017. It has been a testing day, with the search of the HQ of Catalonia’s Finance Ministry sometimes looking like a pretext to bait the demonstrators outside into starting a riot that would justify taking the crackdown up a notch. The Spanish authorities are edgy because the referendum on independence [which a Spanish court of law has ruled illegal] is just around the corner (October 1) and if they fail to avert it, it will be humiliating. Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart [the leaders of pro-independence grassroots groups Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural] have been busy all morning trying to mediate between the Spanish authorities and the thousands of protestors gathered on Rambla de Catalunya, outside the Catalan ministry’s HQ. However, the Guardia Civil have sabotaged every mediating effort they have made so far. “We’ve been lured into a goddamned trap!” Jordi Sànchez had complained hours earlier, hinting that the police operation underway had a hidden agenda. But the atmosphere is becoming less strained now and Sànchez even claims —presumably speaking metaphorically— that they might go off and have a cold one together. That was 279 days ago. Since then Sànchez has spent 253 nights in a prison cell in Soto del Real [near Madrid], together with Òmnium president Jordi Cuixart.

These are some of the scenes featured in 20-S, a Mediapro documentary that TV3 [the Catalan public broadcaster] will show on Thursday evening after the 9 o’clock news. A preview is scheduled this evening in Barcelona’s Aribau cinema. Written by Lluís Arcarazo and directed by Jaume Roures, the documentary provides a front row view of the events of September 20. That day Mediapro had sent out a camera crew to document everything that was going on at all times and, furthermore, they have since collected every bit of footage that the people who were rallying in the street have made available to them. There is no narrator: it is the pictures that tell the story of the day, including the half a dozen times when the two Jordis called on the protestors to remain calm and explicitly rejected any violence. This openly contradicts the cause led by judge Pablo Llarena that has landed both Jordis in prison.

Speaking for Público and ARA, Lluís Alcarazo explained that “the widespread use of cameras has allowed information to be democratised and the footage clearly shows that at no point were they aware of leading a rebellion of any sort”. Indeed, the footage shows that the Guardia Civil vehicles which the Jordis climbed on top of that evening —specifically, to call off the protest— had been used as an elevated platform of sorts by reporters and demonstrators alike. That was the footage —plus the odd minor incident later on— which Spain’s TV networks kept looping all the time.

The notion that a narrative has been construed is also apparent from the voice recordings of Catalan police boss Josep Lluís Trapero’s deposition before the Audiencia Nacional judge in Madrid, also featured in the documentary. The Catalan police chief can be heard stating that two Guardia Civil officers stayed by the front door of the ministry’s office at all times, which the prosecutor questions sarcastically, given the size of the crowd that had gathered outside the main entrance. However, the video recordings clearly show that, indeed, two Guardia Civil officers stood guard by the door at the very end of the corridor which the ANC and Òmnium leaders had managed to open up through the crowd in order to allow access into the building and out of it. Alcarazo admits that “we could have made a big deal of the tone of the questions posed to Trapero in court, which were uttered as if he was already on trial”.

The documentary also focuses on the “visit” paid to the CUP’s HQ by Spain’s Policía Nacional. It was a rather odd move when the Spanish police attempted to enter the headquarters [of the anti-capitalist pro-independence left party] without a warrant. When the CUP leaders asked them to produce one —and the police failed to do so—, two police units were staged for hours on end blocking the streets adjacent to the CUP’s building. This was a rather peculiar setup that left no escape route. Once again, according to eyewitness accounts featured on the documentary, it lends credence to the idea that it was a bait operation that sought to elicit a violent response which would have justified the extensive use of force. However, the alleged provocation was met with a peaceful resistance response by the CUP leadership in an atmosphere that you could even describe as festive. The pictures of Anna Gabriel, Eulàlia Reguant, Mireia Boya and Mireia Vehí dancing in the street was in stark contrast with the hostility displayed by the Spanish police officers in their navy blue uniforms.

The same applies to the now-famous firearms which were left unattended inside one of the Guardia Civil vehicles. First of all, there is no possible explanation for such gross negligence by the Spanish law enforcement officers. Once again, this fuels the notion that they sought to instigate a violent incident. Secondly, the documentary includes footage taken from a Catalan police helicopter which proves that, once it transpired that there were weapons inside the vehicle, they were watched at all times, with plainclothes Catalan police officers standing by, in case they were needed.

Alcarazo explains that “some of the pictures show tension, but we have found no footage of anyone throwing as much as a piece of wood. I was there myself and the only thing people chucked were carnations”. In fact, Jordi Sànchez can be seen holding a red carnation for a good portion of the day: it is a splotch of bright red that contrasts vividly with the pervasive grey of the state’s machinery whose cogs began to turn at full speed on that September 20.

Translation: Ara


June 28: Caldes de Malavella (Selva) inaugurates First of October 2017 Square to coincide with presence of Spanish royalty in Girona province.

June 28: Interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska says transfer of Catalan political prisoners to Catalan jails will be finalised in a number of days.

June 28: PP demands that European institutions not receive Meritxell Serret, new head of the Catalan delegation to the EU and exiled former agriculture minister.

June 28: Demonstrations for and against King Felipe outside an act of the Princess of Girona Foundation.

June 28: Carmen Calvo, the vice-president of the Spanish government, gives support to Spain's ambassador to the US and criticises the walk-out of the Catalan delegation, led by president Quim Torra.

June 28: Catalan foreign minister Ernest Maragall: "It's a disgrace that Catalan cannot be used in the European institutions."

June 28: Jaume Asens (fourth deputy mayor of Barcelona): "We would be deceiving ourselves if he expected too much from the Sánchez government."

June 28: President Torra asks if speech of ambassador Morenés, delivered from a written text, has support of Spanish government and foreign minister Borrell.


Catalan delegation at Smithsonian Folklife Festival walks out on hearing comments of Spanish ambassador to the US, Pedro Morenés, against president Quim Torra.


June 27: Citizens demands the immediate suspension of the MPs facing charges by Supreme Court judge Llarena, which would mean the loss of a pro-independence majority.

June 27: Torra, in the US for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (with Catalonia as a feature) denounces pressure from the Spanish embassy not to talk about the political situation between Catalonia and the Spanish state.

June 27: María José Segarra, the new PSOE-appointed prosecutor-general, says that there are no political prisoners in Spain.

June 27: Catalan president Quim Torra says he will raise issue of Scottish-style referendum with Pedro Sánchez at their July 9 meeting.

June 27: The appeals division of the Supreme Court rejects the appeal of Carles Puigdemont and the other Catalan leaders against their being charged by judge Pablo Llarena with rebellion, sedition and misapproriation of public moneys. This decision opens the way to their being suspended from the Catalan parliament under a section of the Spanish legal code designed to prevent "rebels" from being MPs.

June 27: PP spokesperson Rafael Hernando accuses Pablo Iglesias of "meeting up with fascists" because of his jail visit to Jordi Cuixart.

June 27: Iglesias on Òmnium Cultural president Jordi Cuixart (whom he visited in prison): "He is a moral authority in Catalonia--he should be known more in the rest of Spain."

June 27: Pablo Iglesias says on radio RAC1 that the ERC and PSOE should have tried harder to reach agreement on a joint motion (see June 26 entries for details).


June 26: Even Barcelona Fashion Week features designs (by Miriam Ponsa) in support of the Catalan political prisoners (below).


June 26: PP and Citizens' resolution in the Spanish Congress demands no political pressure to have Catalan prisoners shifted to Catalan jails, no use of Catalan government moneys for "independence purposes", the closure of "Catalan embassies", the withdrawal of "pro-independence images" from public space and condemanation of the "xenophobic" declarations of president Quim Torra. Lost because of PSOE opposition.

June 26: In the Spanish Congress, the PSOE, along with the PP and Citizens, votes down a resolution  calling for the establishment of "bilateral discussions without preconditions or abandonment of positions, with the goal of achieving a democratic resolution of the conflict existing between the Kingdom of Spain and Catalonia."  In favour were Unidos Podemos and the alliances in which it takes part (En Marea, En Comú Podem, A la Valenciana), ERC, PDECat, Compromís, PNV and EH Bildu. The PSOE proposed a text with "direct discussions" in place of "bilateral discussions" and "open" in place of "without preconditions or abandonment of positions".

June 26: CUP to propose to Catalan parliament that it re-affirm its sovereignty declaration of November 9, 2015. ERC to move amendment to declaration "given all that has happened since then."

June 26: PSC leader Miquel Iceta supports visit of Pablo Iglesias to jailed pro-independence leaders.

June 26: CatECP to propose all-party and social organisation commission to promote social harmony.

June 26: Cuixart thanks Iglesias for his visit and support.

June 26: Pablo Iglesias visits jailed Òmnium Cultural president Jordi Cuixart.

June 26: Former agriculture minister Meritxell Serret to be Catalan government representative in Brussels.


News (Ara, June 26)

Catalan government puts Spain's outstanding debt with Catalonia at €6 billion

VP Aragonès wants to "bring back to the table" the content of taxes annulled by Spain’s Constitutional Court

Pere Aragonès, Catalan Vice-president and Minister of Economy and Treasury, has put a figure of 6 billion euros on the cash "that should be on the table, if Spain wants to comply with all that the current financing system entails". In an interview with the CNA, the minister noted that payment of this amount "is the bare minimum", as it is a debt that comes from "unfulfilled" commitments.

As to negotiations with Spain, he said that "government-to-government work" would take priority across multilateral organs such as the Tax and Finance Policy Council, which up to now "has not been of much use". He also stated that: "We will not swap the political commitment from October 1st and all that goes with it for a little more income tax revenue ... we are beyond that stage".

On a different note, when asked about the possible recovery of taxes annulled by the Constitutional Court —such as the audiovisual fee or the tax on bank deposits— Aragonès stated that the objective is for "the content of taxes to be brought back to the table", and mentioned "different ways" of achieving this. The 6 billion euros stems from both “Catalonia’s specific powers, as well as the principle of institutional loyalty, which the Socialist Party itself approved with the Catalan Statute", he clarified.

Specifically, he referred to close to 800 million euros earmarked for Mossos d'Esquadra officers that have joined the force since 2010, 750 million euros for the third additional provision agreed upon for 2008, and almost 3 billion euros more related to this section of the Statute. In addition, there are 1.46 billion euros connected to contributions under the Law of Dependents.

After Pedro Sánchez pointed out that changes to the system cannot be completed until the next term, Aragonès said that the fact that there will be elections in several autonomous regions next year "poses difficulties" to the negotiations in this area. However, he warned that "all of these issues cannot take the place of the right to self-determination" for Catalonia. "This government was not created to negotiate a financing model. That would be like stepping into a time machine traveling back in time 15 years", he said.

In regards to the deficit, Aragonès is confident that Catalonia will meet the target of 0.4% in 2018, despite the fact that in March the deficit was already 0.34%. Aragonès argued that the first months of the year are not indicative of the year as a whole.

Aragonès, who has already ruled out drafting a budget for 2018, guaranteed that the accounts for 2019 will have higher expenditures than in 2017. The Vice-President said that from a technical point of view everything is in motion to approve the budget before the end of the year and that, if the deadline had to be put back, it would be because of political negotiations. He stated that they will begin to negotiate with the CUP, but have not closed the door on hypothetical support from Catalunya en Comú—Podemos "and, if necessary, from the PSC".

Translation: Ara


June 25: Torra: "We have to have another October 1 to effectively implement the Republic."

June 25: All Catalan parties with exception of PP and Citizens support the introduction of Whistle-blower legislation.

June 25: Unidos Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias meets with Catalan president Torra.

June 25: PSC leader Miquel Iceta in Brussels to talk to EU commisioners Muscovici and Mogherini.


       Week ending June 24


Catalonia came before the council for the first time with a speech by MEP Jordi Solé, who defended Catalonia's right to self-determination and denounced the "disproportionate and horrible" violence seen during last year's referendum and the existence of political prisoners in Spain. It returned this Tuesday, through lawyer Jordi Palou. In the name of the relatives of the prisoners and exiles, he denounced the actions of Spanish justice in the investigation of the circumstances surrounding the referendum.

It's not easy for Catalonia to have a voice at the UN, not being a state, but the pro-independence cause has a backer: the Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-tamoul (Bharathi CCFT). One of the small NGO's main aims is to defend the right to self-determination. It has shown sensitivity to the case of Catalonia, offering part of its speaking time before the Human Rights Council.

It did so despite the obstacles and pressure from Spain. In March, they had to avoid pressure from Spanish diplomats by hiding the speaker's name on the agenda to avoid it being vetoed. Spanish diplomats didn't know that the case of Catalonia would come up until Solé had started his speech. When they realised, the Spanish representatives in the room appeared angry and even asked for a turn to reply.

Speaking to El Nacional, one of the NGO's officials said that, following the first speech, the monitoring and pressure from Spain faced by the organisation increased. The source says that following Solé's comments, Spanish diplomats went to speak with them, saying that the case has nothing to do with the rights of the peoples the organisation defends, that they cannot be compared because "people aren't dying" in Catalonia. They also say they were interested as to who was behind the association and what links they have with Catalonia.

After Tuesday's speech, the official says, the pressure wasn't as strong and Spanish diplomats -who for the moment haven't been replaced since Mariano Rajoy's government fell- avoid showing their anger at the lawyer's speech, simply asking the NGO for a copy of his remarks. "This week or next they'll come to speak [to us]," they say. The NGO, however, says they're used to pressure from states and won't let it interfere with their work. Moreover, they say that if they face any further pressure, they'll "report it" to the relevant UN bodies.

"By bad luck, Catalonia has no presence here [at the UN], but we're prepared to give them the opportunity to speak," they say. They add that they could give them another such opportunity in the next regular session of the Human Rights Council, in September, and by organising other events. Bharathi CCFT's objective is "to give a voice to all people who suffer occupation" and, as such, "support the Catalan cause". A member of the organisation visited Catalonia on 1st October last year to watch the referendum.

The organisation started in 2014 to strengthen cultural exchange, cooperation and communication between France and the Tamil people in India, Sri Lanka and other countries. Among their objectives are the "promotion of human rights, non-violence and peaceful solution of conflicts" and the defence of the right to self-determination. This includes defending the specific cases of Western Sahara, Quebec and Catalonia.

Translation: El Nacional


June 21: Judge suspends Montsé Venturós, CUP mayoress of Berga (capital of Berguedà shire), from office for six months for refusing to remove estelada (independence flag) form town hall.

June 21: King Felipe refuses to meet with Ctalan president Torra on the grounds that he as king is an institutional, not a political, figure.

June 21: CUP and CatECP call jointly for the proportion of women in the Catalan parliament (49.9%) to be also reflected in the composition of its commissions and sub-committees.

June 21: Banner in support of the Catalan political prisoners removed from Badalona Town Hall by new PSC administration installed with support of PP and Citizens.


Warder: "If anything's not to your liking you only have to tell us."
Iñaki Urdangarin (jailed in an exclusive prison unit for influence-peddling through use of his connections with the Spanish court and his father-in-law King Juan Carlos): "Given the time I'm thinking of staying, it's not worth your touching anything."

Ferreres, Ara, June 21


Analysis (Jordi Angusto, Ara, June 20)

The social cost of Catalonia’s fiscal deficit

The lack of public spending in Catalonia, often offset by private investment, increases social costs

While during the 1980-2016 period Catalonia maintained its economic influence —always contributing around 19% of Spanish GDP— and its relative position in terms of GDP per capita —around 120% of the average— what is there to complain about? After all, isn't its fiscal deficit offset by the trade surplus that it has with respect to the rest of Spain, as is often argued?

Starting with this second question, it's helpful to once again explain that it is an inverse relationship: the existence of a fiscal deficit requires a trade surplus, since if someone produces for 100 and has 90 to spend and invest, it will have to sell abroad more than it buys. On the other hand, to have a trade surplus does not require a fiscal deficit, as we can see in the case of Germany, which has an enormous foreign trade surplus and no fiscal deficit with the rest of the world. Or Catalonia itself, which today obtains a good part of its surplus thanks to its transactions with the rest of the world. In any case, what a foreign surplus means is production that exceeds domestic demand: everything that isn't consumed or invested domestically is sold abroad. And this brings us to a second question.

Without a fiscal deficit, Catalonia’s internal demand could be greater —whether through more investments, which would favor economic growth, or with higher salaries and public spending, which would allow for greater social welfare. As to higher investments and its effects, we would need a counterfactual analysis to find out where we would be without a fiscal deficit ... though the spectacular growth of Madrid might give us a clue. As to the effects of higher public spending, we have enough data to calculate the high social cost caused by the under-financing of the Catalan administration.

We have, for example, the European regional Social Progress Index, which was published for the first time in 2016 by the European Commission. Catalonia, which by per capita GDP occupied the 68th position among 272 European regions, dropped to the 163rd position in terms of social progress —behind eleven Spanish autonomous regions, eight of which had lower GDP per capita! And given that the Social Progress Index is calculated from data related to education, health, housing, environment ... and up to fifty factors that in overwhelming majority depend of public financing, it is clear that the fiscal deficit is largely responsible for this low level of social progress in Catalonia, as it also is in the Balearic Islands. For the same reason, it's not surprising that regions which typically receive fiscal transfers have a higher level of social progress. The same is true of Navarre and the Basque Country, thanks to their unique financial status agreements, which have much higher social progress scores, as well as Madrid, where its supposed fiscal deficit is more than compensated for by the much higher investments received.

On top of everything, low wages

Indeed, the lack of public spending in Catalonia, very often offset by private investments, has increased social costs: private schools and healthcare, highway tolls .... At the same time, it is an obstacle to social cohesion, to the extent that insufficiently funded public services push a part of society towards private alternatives. In addition, the trade surplus caused by the fiscal deficit requires a competitiveness that leads to lower salaries than would normally correspond to our productivity. That is, not only do we have fewer resources available to redistribute, but pre-distribution is also worse, as measured in the percentage of salary with respect to GDP. We will expand on this question in the next article.

In short, despite the fact that Catalonia has maintained economic influence and per capita GDP in relative terms, the current regional model has meant lower potential growth, as is made clear by the contrast with the Madrid region and its concentration of investment and spectacular growth. In addition, and most importantly, it has led to an enormous social cost that has fueled, more so than any flag-waving, a longing for radical change. The fact that this model also doesn't help less developed regions to edge closer to those which are more developed (that is, in addition to being unjust, it is inefficient) should be sufficient reason to completely reconsider the model. This will not happen via the so often praised ordinality, which assumes that the transfers will continue to be permanent as long as the community with greater GDP ends up receiving less funds; rather, it will happen by its replacement with convergence plans and, thus, by temporary and potentially reversible transfers. That is, that donors and recipients could one day exchange roles, as has happened in countries like Germany with the case of Bavaria, a former recipient and now a contributor.

Translation: Ara


June 20: PSC, PP and Citizens motion of no-confidence in Dolors Sabater, mayoress of Badalona, carried. PSC leader Àlex Pastor, now mayor with two other PSC councilors to form government.

June 20: Civil Guard cites the coordinator of "Mossos [Catalan police force] for the Republic" to appear in court to face charges of "hate crimes".

June 20: Tweet of Quim Torra: "A question: if the king on October 3 made the speech he made on the authorisation of Mr Mariano Rajoy, why does Mr Pedro Sánchez today not authorise that he talk with the president of Catalonia? Do we want dialogue or not?"

June 20: Deans of the Bar Associations of Madrid and Barcelona call for Catalan political prisoners to be moved to Catalonia.

June 20: Antonio Viejo, the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court in Madrid, refuses to admit Belgian court request for judge Pablo Llarena to appear before it to answer charges of partiality brought by Catalan president-in-exile Carles Puigdemont and four ministers in exile (three in Belgium and one in Scotland)..

June 20: Former business minister Santi Vila, opponent of October 27 declaration of independence, resigns from PDECat.

June 20: Vidal Aragonès (CUP) on the rise of the extreme right, to Catalan parliament: "They've passed from protest actions to violent actions." Aragonès cites figures of 139 violent actions with 101 victims in the past three months.

June 20: Pere Aragonès (Vice-president and ERC), to Catalan parliament. "The right to self-determination can't be swapped for improvements in regional rail."

June 20: Last three Catalan presidents--Mas, Puigdemont and Torra--send jointly signed letter to King Philip asking him to apologise for his October 3 speech.

June 20: Quim Torra tells the Catalan parliament that the right to self-determination will be "the elephant in the room" when he talks with new Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez.

June 20: Catalan culture minister Laura Borras asks the Citizens' MPs, who are holding up copies of Don Quixote as a protest against a University of Barcelona student picket against a Catalan Civil Society seminar on Cervantes, if they have read it: "I hope you've read it. I´ve written five articles about it--it would do you good to read it." (below)


July 19: Let's Win Badalona Together, organisation of mayoress Dolors Sabater, re-elects her as its candidate for mayoress in May 2019 local government elections one day before PSC, PP and Citizens move motion of no-confidence in her.

July 19: CatECP calls on Catalan president Quim Torra to attend the opening of the Mediterranean games in Tarragona.

July 19: CUP calls on Catalan president Quim Torra not to attend the opening of the Mediterranean games in Tarragona.

July 19: ERC MP and refugee rights activist Ruben Wagensberg proposes the creation of a parliamentary study commission on the movement of migrants and refugees and their needs.

July 19: Catalan parliament's speakership panel to propose to parliament that it set up a civil and political rights' commission.


For thirty years Josef Lang (1954) was an MP for Switzerland’s Green Alternative Party, twenty-two of them as a representative in his canton and a further eight in the national parliament. Mr Lang is a prominent figure who held the office of vice president of the Green Alternative Party. Currently he is an activist against militarism who regards institutional politics from afar. He is a historian by trade and very interested in the Catalan question. So much so that he was one of the people who met Carles Puigdemont in Switzerland a few months ago. We interviewed him over the phone.

—Where does your interest in Catalonia stem from?
—In the 1980s I wrote a history dissertation on the Basques. And when you study the Basque case, you are also studying the national question in Spain, where the other big issue is Catalonia. Hence my knowledge of the matter. But there is one more reason.

—I am truly impressed by the Catalan movement, by its power and, therefore, its peaceful nature. And the fact that it did not make the same mistake as part of the Basque movement after Franco’s dictatorship: to continue their armed struggle. I think its peaceful nature is a powerful factor and a message to the whole world. The message is that you can be more effective when whole crowds rally without violence than when a small violent elite goes up in arms.

—Your own background is on the left and pacifism. And you’re a historian as well. Is the Catalan movement nationalistic?
—I don’t consider it nationalistic. The only relevant nationalism in the Spanish State is Spanish nationalism. The Catalan movement is, first and foremost, democratic. It is the people who wish to decide their own future and exercise their democratic rights. Secondly, it is a republican movement above all. So what is a republican movement doing within a monarchy? It is not like back in the 1930s. Back then, Catalonia declared a republic and Madrid followed suit only hours later. That’s not going to happen nowadays. So I think that it makes sense for a republican movement to wish to separate from a monarchy.

—You spoke to Carles Puigdemont in Switzerland a few months ago. How did your meeting go?
—We met on March 19 in a Bern hotel that used to be the city hall. He showed an interest in Swiss federalism and communalism apropos a future Catalan Republic. In fact, a Catalan Republic might adopt a centralist, federal or communalistic form. We also discussed direct democracy and how that fits into the draft Catalan constitution. I wanted to know his views on how things might evolve, but also what assurances we could have that the movement would remain peaceful. It was a very frank dialogue and ten minutes into the conversation we were already on first name terms. He was very approachable throughout. We were two people with political experience (his more substantial than mine and, especially, of a different kind) who were interested to know how a modern, 21st century democracy is organised. Two people who know the importance of pacifism, indeed, but who also understand that purely representative democracy cannot live up to the needs of the citizenry.

—Is your position on the Catalan issue shared by the majority in the Green group?
—Well, people sympathise with Catalonia but have doubts as to whether independence is the way to go. The generation under the age of 40 are influenced by the horrors of the war in the Balkans. For them words like “separation” and “self-determination” are a reminder of the Balkans horror. Besides, as this generation grew up in the 1990s, they experienced first hand the rise of right-wing nationalism in Switzerland. That also has an influence. In contrast, people over the age of 40 are more principled, they recall May 1968 and the solidarity against Franco’s regime. This generation understands the Catalan movement better than the younger age group. It is our job to explain to the young that Catalonia and what is going on there has nothing to do with the Balkans.

—What would you compare it to, then?
—I am certain that the Catalan movement is a new thing. It’s hard to find anything to compare it with. As a social movement, it is new. In my view, you are the future of social movements for emancipation. Firstly, it is a movement that can regularly rally a large segment of society. When one or two million people take to the streets in a nation of 7.5 million, it is extraordinary. Secondly, it is structured very well: thousands of small bodies, groups, associations and organisations. A civil society in the best sense of the word. An organised citizenry. And, thirdly, it is a violence-free movement but with a great deal of imagination, as proven on October 1. In Catalonia’s I see the future of emancipation movements in Europe and beyond. Look at the US today, the whole movement against fire arms. There is a resemblance. Still, as a historian what first springs to mind is the 1989 Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic, and May 1968. In other words, massive rallies. Very powerful self-organisation, where there is no mighty central command, but it is the people who are in the driving seat. Very open to different internal trends. And, ultimately, peaceful. They are civil disobedience movements, in the best sense of the word.

—What about now? How do you see the new Spanish government led by PM Pedro Sánchez?
—First of all, it’s a good thing that the right-wing government has been unseated. Sánchez has been in office for a very short time and we can’t say much about him. Still, there are some positive things: direct rule has been lifted, Catalonia has regained its devolved powers and there is a chance that the prisoners might be moved to Catalonia. The downside is the new Foreign Minister, who is an anti-Catalanist, and the Interior Minister, who had a prominent role in the anti-terror effort [in the Basque Country]. There is no terrorism any more. To me those two are the drawbacks.

—What’s your take on Podemos, given that you are a member of Switzerland’s greens?
—If I lived in Madrid or Andalusia, I’d vote for them, obviously. They are straight talkers on social matters and are more sensitive towards national minorities than the PSOE. Therefore, they are a step in the right direction. But I fell that it is too apparent that Podemos was born in Madrid. I’m not sure if, deep down, they feel that the struggle of nations for self-determination —which is an unconditional right— is also their fight. I’ve criticised them for that, not for their words. For example, they were critical of direct rule and holding the Catalan leaders in pre-trial custody. They were critical but did not actively oppose it with a proper campaign, which was necessary. You must also bear in mind that Spanish nationalism has grown exponentially lately and they were afraid that some of their voters would be put off. But I am one of those who believe that principles are worth more than votes in politics. At the end of the day, I don’t think they would have lost very many over all that. Some opinion polls suggest that people are becoming more sympathetic towards the Catalan cause, even outside the Basque Country and Catalonia.

—What would you criticise the pro-independence camp for?
—I believe it was a mistake to take a step back once independence had been declared. Puigdemont himself has stated that he believed Madrid’s promises. Still, myself I would have taken a different path, not far from independence but a little more integrative towards the people who are afraid. Perhaps they could have started a constituent process which initially would not establish full independence. And so you embark on an open journey. Now, it is equally true that the Spanish government would not have accepted such a constituent process. But things would have been very different then and many who harbour doubts about independence have none about the Catalans’ right to initiate a constituent process. My strategy would have been a little different. As a matter of fact, I think it’s not too late for you to start such a process. Think about the people who are afraid. I told Carles Puigdemont: you should work harder to win over the segment of the population that is afraid of independence. Many of them are working class and they would like to know if social benefits in an independent or sovereign Catalonia would be better than in Spain.

—And what is your view on the EU’s position?
—I feel that the attitude of the EU and the European governments can’t be interpreted as fear of separatism. I don’t think so. Otherwise, the UK and Belgium ought to be very anti-Catalan because those states have a separatist threat within. But, in fact, it’s the opposite: Belgium and the UK are very sympathetic towards Catalonia. I believe there is a different reason. The EU is not afraid of separation, but of something else. They are afraid of a social movement that embodies the future of social movements in Europe. The homeless, the jobless, trade unions. Catalonia might be setting an example for all of them by proving that an organised citizenry can actually bring about change.

Translation: Vilaweb


July 18: Catalan government rejects ANC proposal for it to favour "pro-Republican" enterprises.

July 18: Antoni Castellà (Democrats): "If the Catalan government doesn't obey the mandate of October 1, don't count on us."

July 18: Catalan branches of majority trade union confederations CCOO and UGT call for release of political prisoners as starting point for negotiations with the Spanish government.

July 18: Òmnium Cultural to open office in Brussels.


              Week ending June 17


July 17: Second congress of CUP affiliate Poble Lliure calls for united lists of pro-independence candidates for the May 2019 local government elections.

July 17: Elisenda Paluzie (ANC president): "If there really were an offer from the state to achieve independence in an agreed way, our obligation would be to listen to it. But this offer will not arrive and so we have to continue on our way."


 

Do you have any friends left in Ciudadanos?
Yes. I have a thousand faults, but one virtue, and it is that I act with empathy. I try to earn everyone's friendship, even if they are very distant from my political ideology.

How did such a radical change take place in your ideological relationship with Cs in the period from 2015 to 2017?
I could give you a thousand examples at policy and identity level. I still have some emails from the current Ciudadanos leaders in which they said that, when we went to protests, it was necessary to go without any Spanish flags, or even regional ones. It was a party that wanted to show itself as being part of the citizenry. And that everyone could choose their own identity without imposing ideas, colours or flags.

What has Ciudadanos been converted into?
You can see. At the last meeting, blowing kisses to Marta Sánchez [who sang a new version of the Spanish national anthem]. They could not have found a bigger Spanish flag. Ciudadanos is practicing a rancid nationalism with a very dangerous discourse which is not open to debate. Let me explain: I stood for election for Cs with a programme that described the party as progressive, and now it is no longer that at all; it is not transversal either, it was liberal because it let individuals decide what they wanted to do... and, of all this, nothing remains either. They made a political shift and decided to go from calling themselves "social democrats" to "liberals", and now the most ultra-liberal and rancid part has triumphed.

And this also happened in the Valencian Community context?
Of course, when we committed ourselves to abolish the law on symbols of [cultural] identity there was already a divide in our vote. And also in positionings such as, for example, green issues, about closing nuclear power stations or not. From an initial doubt, they moved to a position of abstention and from there to a "no". A radical change; instead of the idea of "let's move away from...", what dominated was "this leaves us with...". And I do not like to waste energy sharing it with people with whom you clearly see you will not reach a goal together. I was invited to the wedding but I was the cousin who they did not want to invite. The definitive rupture occurred with the Spanish budget presented by Rajoy's PP government which was highly detrimental to the Valencian Community. We, all the parliamentary groups, signed a document rejecting the budget. It was at that moment when someone in the Cs leadership told me that this was a [pro-Valencian] "nationalist" act. And that's where the love affair ended.

They say that when you were a representative of Cs in the Valencian parliament, you flirted with the left-wing government.
That is the cheap discourse made by people who can't find an excuse. When Ciudadanos arrived in Valencia we said that it was necessary to change things. We did not want a PP that was corrupt to its very core, and so it did not matter if to get that we had to vote for initiatives with Podemos, the [left-wing] Compromís group, the Valencian Socialist Party (PSPV) or even with the PP. We voted for democratic regeneration with Podemos, for environmental questions with Compromís, and we stripped down a law on symbols of identity that seemed rancid: "If you ate paella, you were a good Valencian and if didn't, you weren't". Afterwards they forced us to change in such a way that we were more aligned with the right-wing parties than with those who wanted to change the ways of doing things.

Is it pensée unique - ideological conformism?
I see speeches by Cs leaders Arrimadas, Páramo or Villegas and they sound the same. If you step half a millimetre out of line, they fumigate you. I ask myself out loud: do all the members of a party share the same ideology a hundred percent? Isn't it possible to say "I don't like this", independently of the discipline of voting? The treatment of Catalonia, and its Mossos d'Esquadra police, or the great concern that they have discovered with Spanish security forces since October 1, is paradigmatic. My background is in the security forces and, what a coincidence, after October 1, the party became concerned with them. Beforehand, we weren't at all. That's it, they fill your belly with this stuff. And either I vomit, or I burst.

However, this narrative is making Cs more popular.
That's how they're going. There are people who have bought this powerful discourse, of being against something and digging trenches with the intention of insisting that "you are either in this trench or in the other one". There is no intermediate zone, and you can't reach agreements or pacts. If an alien landed in Plaza Colón in Madrid, it would automatically become an independence supporter, because of everything that is happening.

Is the independence movement in Catalonia favouring Ciudadanos?
There are facts that are irrefutable. Since Rajoy came to power, how many independence supporters and people uncomfortable with the evolution of the state have there been? There have to be bilateral relationships between an autonomous community and the central government. You don't have to be an expert to see that all that has gradually gone rotten. Catalan speaker Torrent was left waiting for Rajoy to receive him...

You have been active in Ciudadanos, so what's the party's proposal for Catalonia?
I don't know. What's happening, is everyone in Catalonia crazy? Guardiola, Eduard Punset, people with tremendous intellectual prestige... Criminalising half of the population of Catalonia, whatever they think, is an error. There are many Cs leaders in Catalonia who have done nothing more than pour petrol on the situation by making jokes on Twitter - such as those aimed at former minister Mundó for example [when he was jailed]. I know what prisons are like and they are not Paris Disneyland  They are places where you suffer severely and yet we have people who only encourage a polarisation, not the bringing closer together, of positions. Both Carolina Punset and I feel terrible that someone like Oriol Junqueras is in prison. Imagine what they will say in Ciudadanos if they get to hear this...

The four of you form the No Adscrits - the "Non-assigned" parliamentary group, together with two former PP deputies. Will the regional elections in 2019 bring your parliamentary group closer to extinction or will you listen to offers?
(Laughs) This is not like a private company where if they fire you or you lose interest in the project you contact your friends elsewhere in the sector. Yes, there have been contacts with other groups where we might fit in, but you have to think what you want to do. I could go back to my professional activity; but we will see.

Are you behind the  Valencian Civil Society platform that is being assembled to replicate the Catalan anti-independence civil group, Catalan Civil Society (SCC)?
No. Moreover, I have seen profiles that are at the polar opposite of my political ideology. I wish them luck, but I will not be there. I am more interested in think tanks on starting dialogue and generating ideas. I would sit down and talk with Elsa Artadi, for example.

Will Carolina Punset continue in Ciudadanos?
I think I know the answer but I can't say it. Many times I have asked her, "What are you doing there?" I believe that Ciudadanos is not a party that represents her; she would be better off with the Greens, but you'll have to ask her.

Going back to Ciudadanos again, what is their ideology?
I would pay you half my salary if you could tell me. If today we vote for something in the parliament and four months later in a party discussion, the opposite is agreed, and this causes people to complain. When I get into taxis I am always asked: are you right-wing or left-wing? Ciudadanos is not transversal.

You always talk about being able to adopt the initiatives of other parties. But what are your own ones?
There are videos on the internet of Albert Rivera in which he says that the party's economic policy will be made by the affiliates, "but we have [economist] Garicano". They can't just go changing the policy in response to what the opinion pollsters tell them. If it is in their interests, they take on the role of being the "house brand" for the PP because the polls show it favours them.

If there is anything I like about the Compomís group, and about the Valencian education minister Vicent Marzà, for example, it is that they do not go outside the ideology that they want to put into practice and work out how they will do it. And if afterwards their percentage of votes goes up, all the better. But in Ciudadanos they don't care about anything. Let them count the amount of people who have left them for this reason: the spokespeople for the provincial administrations of Alacant and Valencia, the Spanish MP for Castelló, Carolina Punset, as you know she isn't completely happy with Ciudadanos... and many affiliates who have left because they lost their motivation. All because of the change of course that nobody explained.

What has been your most important parliamentary contribution?
My attitude, which has made Ciudadanos uncomfortable, has for example been in favour of the starting of the new Valencian regional public television, À Punt. But here, in Valencia, it is always the same, if you "catalanise" you create conflict: because people say that in [Catalan public television] TV3, it's all about mafia and indoctrination. We put four conditions on giving support to the creation of À Punt: spending limits, representation on the Board, that it helps to develop Valencia territorially and that it invigorates the audiovisual sector. If these four conditions have been met, why are we now going to say no?

And another commitment has been for a Valencian regional police force. I know the Mossos d'Esquadra and know that they have served Catalonia exceptionally well. But there is a lack of knowledge. I have Mossos friends who are brilliant at their jobs. Anyone who knows [former Mossos chief] Josep Lluís Trapero cannot deny his professionalism. He has built that himself. He has taken apart organised gangs and won the respect of those who have worked with him. And now, they try to tell us that the Mossos are vandals. To raise doubts and suspicions about the Mossos is a very serious error.

Translation: El Nacional, slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


Spain's brand new foreign affairs minister, Josep Borrell (seen hear addressing last October 8 unionist rally in Barcelona alongside PP Catalan leader Xavier García Albiol), hasn't got his mandate off to the best start; this Sunday evening he said, in an interview on TV channel La Sexta, that Catalonia "is on the edge of a civil clash". According to the PSOE minister, there's "a lot tension" because it's "a serious moment in the history of Spain". This comment has caused him to receive a wave of criticism on social media from the front lines of Catalan politics.

Quim Torra

The Catalan president's response was concise: "it's incomparably irresponsible". During the interview on Sunday, Borrell mentioned the new president: "Quim Torra's narrative presents Catalonia as a colony occupied by the Spanish since 1714, and aims to play the Kosovo card".

Carles Puigdemont

The president in exile described Borrell as a "crime novel minister", going on to say: "the far-right lends him the ink to write the fictional narrative which justifies the current repression and that to come, to forge a climate of fear and confrontation which, much to his regret, doesn't exist in Catalonia".

Josep Bargalló

The Catalan education minister has also replied in an interview on Catalunya Ràdio: "Enough of saying drivel, of saying nonsense and of inventing stories".

Mireia Boya

The former CUP deputy goes further: "If Borrell says that we're close to civil confrontation it's because he wants it [to be true], to vindicate those who legitimise him and to continue with the impunity of the violent far-right. Let's look after ourselves".

She returned to the topic this morning: "One thing, inciting violence like Borrell does, how many years in preventive detention without trial is that? It's for some friends".

Gonzalo Boye

Boye, a lawyer representing some of the ministers in exile, wrote: "I thought they'd named him minister of foreign affairs and not of propaganda".

Lluís Llach

The former JxSí deputy, and a famous Catalan singer-songwriter, wrote: "Name of the film. 'A minister on the edge of a nervous breakdown'".

Ernesto Ekaizer

The journalist Ernesto Ekaizer brought up both the new interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, and the leader of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera: "If, as Borrell says, "Catalonia is on the edge of a civil clash", will interior minister Marlaska send reinforcements to prevent the "clash"? Is this a statement from the foreign minister or the interior minister?. NO. Statement by a pyromaniac. Borrell competing with Rivera."

Betona Comín

The sister of exiled former health minister, Toni Comín, posted: "Minister Borrell, now you have responsibilities in the Spanish government, you should be more aware of what that means. You have no shame making these statements!".

It's not just public figures and politicians who have criticised the foreign minister:

Nuria

Mr Miquel Iceta, Mr Pedro Sánchez, are you proud and in agreement with the drivel that Mr Borrell has published? This is the path you see to return the situation in Catalonia to normal? Doesn't it embarrass you?

Mercedes

Mr Borrell, don't lie or take us for idiots, we're not, loose lips sink ships and your words are recorded

Mmoritz

And I'd like Mr Borrell to stop spreading things that aren't true. They're very serious the statements he made yesterday. Living 600km away makes you lose track of reality.

Ramon Febrer

For the independence movement, Borrell will still be better than Rajoy. The favour they're doing the independence movement! Thanks Borrell.

Translation: El Nacional


June 12: ANC proposes that October 1 become a national holiday in Catalonia.

June 12: Former PSOE PM José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero: "The only way to solve the Catalan situation is to return to the situation before the PP's appeal against the 2006 Statute."

June 12: CUP demands that Catalan laws blocked by the Spanish Constitutional Court be adopted a second time by Catalan parliament.

June 12: Tweet of former education minister Clara Ponsati's defence lawyer Aamer Anwar.

At today’s hearing Lord Advocate’s team concede crime of rebellion cannot constitute ‘corruption’ in Extradition Framework and still to confirm alleged crime in Law of Scotland- we will also consider citing Rajoy’s ministers to court

June 12: PDF icon Torra letter to European  PMs.pdf

June 12: Catalan government decides to stop closure of DIPLOCAT decided under Spanish government's article 155 intervention.


Backgrounder (El Nacional, June 9)


June 11: The Catalan government offers to receive the refugee rescue ship Aquarius,presently in international waters after being refused access to Italian and Maltese ports. The Spanish government decides it should go to Valencia.

June 11: CatECP leader Xavier Domènech says in any constitutional reform the specificity of Catalonia and its right to self-determination would have to be recognised.

June 11: CatECP leader Xavier Domènech says his group is prepared to vote for next Catalan budget on various conditions.

June 11: Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau: "It's in Sánchez's hands as to whether the prisoners are moved to Catalan jails."

June 11: Jonqueras on Sánchez: "He can risk himself or settle for progressive posturing."

June 11: Minister for territories Meritxell Batet on Ponsati statement that "we were bluffing": "Proof of the huge irresponsibility of a government that was playing with society as a whole."


                   Week ending June 10

         



June 5: Inés Arrimades (Citizens) rejects new Statute for Catalonia.

June 5: Constitutional Court rejects Jordi Sànchez's appeal against Supreme Court judge Llarena's ruling preventing him from being invested as Catalan president.

June 5: Arran, left independentist youth organisation affiliated to the CUP, calls on pro-independence forces to surround TV3 in order to defend it from the far right on June 10.

June 5: Former Catalan minister Comín, Puig and Serret and former president Puigdemont announce that they will take a legal suit in Belgium against Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena for his "lack of impartiality".

June 5: Civil Guard report claims Puigdemont government diverted €3.26 million to fund the October 1 referendum.

June 5: Jose Luis Ábalos (PSOE organisational secretary): "Meeting Torra is not a matter of urgency."


Comment (Iolanda Fresnillo, Critic, May 18)

Five challenges the pro-independence left will have to confront, now that we have a government

With the investiture of Quim Torra as the 131st president of the Generalitat, Catalonia’s government, a new phase of the process has begun. Not the final or definitive one, simply a new phase. A phase full of uncertainties and glitches that are impossible to foresee — not just how the legislature will act and for how long, but also what will happen next week. The legal prosecutions still under way (and those that will probably ensue) and the likely sentencing of the political prisoners to jail terms; the constant threat of a new 155 and the expected prohibition by the Constitutional Court of such proposals as the initiation of the Constituent Process or the recovery of suspended laws; the foreseeable tension between the CUP and the Government within the pro-independence bloc, given the evident ideological distance between the president and the CUPistas; the influence, or the interference, that the Council of the Republic or President Puigdemont may exercise over Torra and the Generalitat government… these are some of the obstacles that will have to be overcome if the new president is not to be derailed.

Some of the challenges we confront in this new phase are of special relevance to the lefts that we have looked to during the sovereigntist process as offering the possibility of radical transformation, emancipation and popular empowerment. The first of those challenges will no doubt be to provide ourselves with spaces in which to construct future strategies that allow us to make reality what now appears as simply a “mantra”: to make a Republic. Right now, thinking of challenges, I will identify five that are, in my opinion, central.

1. Tackle the exceptional nature of the repression

Without a doubt, one of the central issues is how we tackle the climate of repression and deprivation of rights and freedoms that the Spanish state has imposed. The strategy of threats and fears deployed by the Spanish government means it has to make those threats effective and — independently of what the Criminal Code says — keep the political prisoners in prison. We will have to develop strategies gauged to the needs of the prisoners, those in exile and those under siege from the Spanish judicial authorities for having defended the Republic in the streets. The message in the hundreds of thousands of letters and visits and other demonstrations of support must be loud and clear: We have not forgotten you.

Jesús Rodríguez said a few days ago in Crític that October 1 has meant a transformation in the values and mentality of many Catalans, in that the experience of recent months has already helped to build “a society that is more critical, more willing to take risks, more open to new forms of understanding the economy and social relations.” This increased predisposition to risk will encounter a foreseeable rise in the incessant repression deployed by the Spanish state and accordingly a growing number of reprisals. Being attentive to this means building spaces and collective strategies to confront that repression, but also spaces that will help us maintain the predisposition to risk, and not to become entangled in the web of fear. It is only through collective action that we can avert the Spanish state’s attempt to paralyze this process of social empowerment. Thus it will be essential to protect spaces like the CDRs that cultivate this collectivity.

And finally, to confront the repression not only through the necessary solidarity actions but also through the construction of strategies of social disapproval. In this respect, to find a way around the lack of demonstrations of solidarity and indignation by a part of the Spanish, European and international left. The left, traditionally internationalist, will have to redouble efforts to explain to the outside world what is happening in Catalonia.

2. Build an inclusive Republic

Half a year ago we met with a group of left-wing activists from various political spaces and social movements with a proposal to promote the Republic from below and in a form that was not subordinate to the institutional agendas. We issued an appeal to meet, think about and organize ourselves around the theme “Contra la foscor, la llum: el millor del nou i el poder popular. Aixequem la República!” [“Against the darkness, light: the best of the new and the popular power. Stand up for the Republic!”] In this initial meeting, which took place on December 1, 2017, we stated: “The Republic we want is inclusive, democratic, egalitarian, feminist, antiracist and puts a dignified life for all at the center of any politics.”

The proposal of inclusive sovereigntism necessarily clashes frontally with identitarian nationalisms. Against the controversial tweets and articles of President Quim Torra, far from downplaying his words (which we view very seriously) we must reaffirm ourselves in the words that would have to accompany this construction of an inclusive Republic. Not to convince (being inclusive in order to broaden the bases of sovereignty), but because it is correct. Because, if it is not with everyone and for everyone — weaving, not unravelling — it is not our Republic.

An inclusive Republic is at the antipodes of a racist society that undervalues the 15% of the population composed of migrant individuals who, in today’s Catalonia (in the Spanish state and in the European Union) find their rights as citizens denied. An inclusive Republic cannot be built around an essentialist proposal of Catalan identity; instead, it must celebrate our diversity. Nor can it be a

“neoliberal Republic at the service of the new and old elites, or a new country with the old classes, injustices and privileges as usual. It cannot continue to be subordinate to the interests of capital, super-state structures and actors not chosen democratically and holding decisive powers over our lives. Nor can we allow ourselves to perpetuate a society in connivance with predatory exploitation of the territory, racism and male chauvinism,”

as we stated in the opening ceremony of Aixequem la República.

In this sense, as the independentist lefts, both within and without the Parliament, we have to develop a frontal opposition to the neoliberal policies that the new Catalan government may be tempted to implement, and to any attempt to impose an identitarian Catalanism. And we will have to build strategies that make no concession to the blackmail of those who will doubtless, faced with this opposition, put in question our commitment to the republican project.

3. The temptation of the municipal elections

No one can tell whether the new Government will still be intact by May of next year. But in any case the election date of May 2019, which applies to the municipal and European elections (and to the Balearic Islands, Valencia and other autonomous communities throughout the state), can become an important turning point.

The new municipalism that exploded with the May 2015 elections has highlighted the potential to build emancipatory realities and transformative processes from the local level. The experiences in the city councils led by new forces and left political coalitions in cities like Barcelona, Badalona or Sabadell, but also in smaller cities and towns, are showing us that at the local level it is possible to deploy quite strong strategies of social transformation. And even in some municipalities where the right governs, civil society and the leftist opposition find it easier to initiate transformative initiatives like municipal ownership of services, experiences of direct democracy, or policies of transparency (public hearings). These are processes of transformation and construction of spaces of popular sovereignty that follow rhythms and routes that differ from those in the country’s sovereigntist process. I think we have to maintain those different rhythms and routes.

For some time now we have seen how there is a desire among various pro-sovereignty political forces to put the independentist process at the center of the pre-campaigning for the next municipal elections. Proposals like those of Jordi Graupera to present an independentist candidacy for the Barcelona city council have and no doubt will continue to have their reflection in other municipalities. Personally, I think it is a strategic error to try to confine the transformative potential of municipalism within the independentist proposal.

The left must be conscious that the process of building a new country, an inclusive Republic, is a long process that involves a change in hegemonies, as well as transformations in the “macro” but also in the “micro.” Municipalism is a fertile terrain for those transformations, for the construction of sovereignties, that can be the basis for the construction of Sovereignty as a country. Food sovereignties, energy sovereignties, residential sovereignties, health sovereignties, cultural sovereignties, productive sovereignties, reproductive sovereignties, etc. that can develop in the municipal environment without awaiting the winning of full Sovereignty nationally. So I do not share the hypothesis of some that without an effective Catalan Republic there can be no advance in transformation at the level of municipal government. There is some latitude, and I think that making the exploitation of that latitude await the unlikely achievement of the Republic in the short term is a strategic error.

We have to promote the idea that municipal action is the basis on which to build a new model relationship with the territory and between the territories. And for that we must leave some room for this construction of sovereignties to break independently from the path, rhythm and road map taken by the national process. A strategy that is favourable to the view that sovereignties can emerge as well in municipal governments that are not pro-independence. It seems obvious to me that the coalition between the Commons, ERC and the CUP in cities like Barcelona can generate spaces of transformation that are much stronger than an independentist coalition with the PdeCat. Putting independentism at the center of the next municipal elections would radically break with this transformative potential.

4. Guarantee the Constituent Process

Quim Torra emphasized in his investiture speeches the proposal to move ahead with a Constituent Process that culminates in the drafting of a new Catalan constitution. In this respect, Carles Riera has warned that “a Constituent Process cannot be a workshop for bumper stickers.” How the Constituent Process develops and what it will end up being will have to be one of the lefts’ concerns, not only in the institutions (and this is not simply a concern of the CUP) but also in the social movements, including those that do not share the preference for independence. The potential for a change of hegemonies through a Constituent Process should not be disdained by anyone who is fighting for a transformation and for social, political and economic justice.

From the standpoint of the social movements and left political forces we cannot spoil the possibility of carrying out a Constituent Process that actually allows us to debate everything, to change everything. In this sense, the new republican, self-organized reality that has appeared since October 1 around the CDRs and other spaces with a local base, should form part of the matrix of the Constituent Process. A process that we want to be led from below by the people, distributed throughout the territory, in a non-exclusive way with the democratic guarantee of equality for everyone. This means that the “lobbies” represented by academic experts cannot take precedence over citizenship. And that no one can be excluded from citizenship. Immigrants (with or without papers) have to able to be part of the process, with voice and vote. Adults but also young people and children. No one can be excluded because of his or her origin, culture, religion, age, gender or political alignment. If we want to make a country for everyone, we have to look to everyone to make it.

The Constituent Process will no doubt also be the focus of the state’s repressive violence. Faced with this obvious risk, the self-organized people will be predisposed to defend the process, as we defended the ballot boxes on October 1. It is more than a defense of the institutional process as proposed by the Government or Parliament. We will have to be prepared to defend the underlying process, which enables us to advance in the construction of new material aspects, those that make the Republic possible. And we have to be conscious that for a process with these characteristics the worst partners are the over-hasty. We are looking to the future with broadmindedness and we are dealing with a Constituent Process with guarantees, which is another way of saying that we must take the necessary time.

5. Making the Republic without undue haste

For many of us, the Republic is not simply a legal form, the constitution of new borders. The Republic is not built law by law, but by making a reality of republican spaces and materialities. The Republic is not a state but a process of transformation that results in a new, and better, country. A long process that, once again, needs time in which to build the Republic carefully, for ourselves and for the territory. To form a WE that includes the convinced, but also those who are not, takes time. To deploy and reaffirm sovereignties takes time. To construct not only a new country but a better country in which full sovereignty is exercised, from below, takes a lot of time.

Let us give ourselves that time, with strategies that are far-sighted and with infinite patience, so that the process of building the Republic can effectively put life, care and social justice at the center. This is the biggest challenge we confront on the left if we do not want to deny the fact that making the Republic means generating a genuinely emancipative process and that the results will be a country of social justice. The overhasty may be able to ensure that the new country arrives earlier (although there is no guarantee of that), but it will not be the country that we want. Let us give ourselves not only enough space but also time to meet, think, organize and build — together — the Republic.

Spanish translation from Catalan: Àngels Varó Peral
English translation from Spanish: Richard Fidler

This article was first published in Catalan in the on-line publication Critic, from its section "Sentit Critic, opinió I anàlisi". English translation based on the Spanish translation published in Viento Sur.


June 4: Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez appoints Catalan unionist and Catalan Civil Society activist Josep Borrell as his minister of foreign affairs.

June 4: Poster for demonstration of 16 far-right organisations against Catalan public TV's Channel 3 (below)

"Enough with stirring up hatred. CLOSE DOWN CHANNEL 3. Spain Unites Us!!!"


June 4: José Manuel Villegas, Citizens' secretary-general, demands that the Sánchez government maintain the article 155 intervention in Catalonia.

June 4: Badalona mayoress Dolors Sabater calls on PSC not to accept votes of PP and Citizens in order to overturn her administration.

June 4: President Torra visits jailed Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull.

June 4: Pere Aragonès alongside poster of jailed former vice-president Oriol Junqueras (below, with counter of days in prison on top).

June 4: Pere Aragonès (vice-president): "The Sánchez government should instruct the prosecutor-general's office to drop the charges against the Catalan leaders."


             Week ending June 3

  


Direct rule in Catalonia is history after 219 days in force. This, as an automatic result of the new Catalan government’s inauguration taking place this Saturday morning. On October 27, the now ousted Spanish government implemented suspension of self-rule following the declaration of independence.

After some leaders being sent in prison, others in exile, a Catalan election and five months until a president was appointed, this Saturday a new term starts in Catalonia. But the exceptional circumstances were clear on Saturday with the symbolism in the inauguration, including a yellow ribbon set in the first row of the audience. Yellow has become the color to show solidarity with the leaders in jail and abroad.

But the symbolism and remembrance of the leaders in jail and abroad went further during the event, which was highly emotional. Relatives of some of those leaders read some letters addressed to the Catalan president, including the four ministers who were prevented from being reinstated in May. Some of these relatives were in tears during the event, as some of the newly elected ministers and audience.

Messages from officials in jail and abroad

“Road for an independent Catalonia is a noble, legitimate, democratic, peaceful cause. No prison or unfair judicial case will make me give up” said jailed and deposed Presidency minister Jordi Turull through his wife.

In a letter read by his sister, ousted Health head Toni Comín said from Brussels that he knew the Puigdemont cabinet could be subject to Spain’s repression. “When appointed, I had the feeling that that would not be just another government, as it had the mandate of the people for Catalonia to become an independent state.”

“We’ve been imprisoned for having defended legitimate ideas, for having respected the people’s mandate,” says jailed and deposed Territory minister Josep Rull through his wife.

“Restitution spirit has triumphed,” read Lluís Puig’s daughter. The deposed Culture minister is has been in Brussels for 7 months.

“I ask you to not forget us, I ask you to continue asking for our freedom,” said in a letter former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell from prison, through her husband.

Torra pledges “construction of independent Republic”

President Torra also made some remarks to the audience. “We assume the commitment to move forward towards the construction of an independent Republic” he said. Torra also claimed that cabinet will prioritize the road to independence, dialogue with Spain, restore laws suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court, and social and economic progress.

Torra’s speech came after the Catalan cabinet members took their oaths, which officially meant the lift of direct rule in the country.

Who are the new ministers?

The new government which took office this Saturday is formed of 13 ministers, including 6 women, making it the most egalitarian ever. Here’s the list of cabinet members who inaugurate this Saturday:

VICE PRESIDENCY AND ECONOMY: Pere Aragonès, the new Oriol Junqueras

PRESIDENCY AND SPOKESPERSON: Elsa Artadi, one of Puigdemont’s closest allies

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Ernest Maragall, former MEP takes Foreign Affairs

HOME AFFAIRS: Miquel Buch, new Home Affairs minister

EDUCATION: Josep Bargalló, back to Education after 15 years

HEALTH: Alba Vergés, Parliament speakership panel member

TERRITORY AND SUSTAINABILITY: Damià Calvet, big challenges in infraestructures ahead

CULTURE: Laura Borràs, former Institute of Catalan Letters president

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Ester Capella, a feminist lawyer to head Justice

LABOUR & SOCIAL AFFAIRS: Chakir El Homrani, a union leader

BUSINESS: Àngels Chacón, expert in international trade

GOVERNANCE AND DIGITAL POLICY: Jordi Puigneró, new minister of Governance and Digital Policy

AGRICULTURE: Teresa Jordà, from the Spanish Congress to the ministry of Agriculture

Translation: Vilaweb, slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


June 1: Rajoy government falls to PSOE no-confidence motion (180-169 with one abstention).

June 1: Carles Riera (CUP) to Torra: "Do not commit the betrayal of negotiating a new Statute,"

June 1: Catalan president Torra lodges complaint against Spanish prime minister Rajoy and his deputy Saenz de Santamaria for perverting the course of justice in not publishing names of Catalan ministers in jail and exile.

June 1: The council of Terrassa (Vallès Occidental), run by the PSC,adopts motion recognising the existence of political prisoners.


Comment (Vicenç Villatoro, Ara, June 1)

Splitting up families

The more one uses the word ‘law’, the more outrageous it becomes when one breaks it

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, continues to use the word 'law' when referring to Catalonia: enforcing the law, the rule of law, equality before the law... The more one uses the word ‘law’, the more outrageous it becomes when one breaks it. Equality before the law? The majority of those found guilty in the Gürtel case, facing stiff sentences, may well avoid prison for the time being, in some cases by paying bail, on humanitarian grounds: they have either elderly parents or relatively young children –a thirty year-old in one instance!– and it’s never a good idea to split up families ...

This generous humanitarian treatment hasn’t been extended to Catalan political prisoners, often with much tougher family circumstances, far from their homes and having not even stood trial. When it comes to accounting for this sudden generosity, representatives of the media who could hardly be called ‘anti-system’, have speculated, without appearing overly preoccupied, that it might be due to the fact that Bárcenas has threatened to rat on the PP if his wife ends up in jail, or due to shady changes to the judges involved in the trial. Equality before the law? During the Franco era, there was a joke (which also had a rather cruder version) about how the justice system worked: “protect the loyal, punish the disloyal... and leave the law for the indifferent”.

Translation: Ara


May 31: Catalan national anthem Els Segadors, sung at the Patum festival (below) in the presence of the relatives of the exiled and jailed Catalan leaders, here.

May 31: Sánchez (replying to Tardà): "There are no political prisoners in Spain."

May 31: Joan Tardà (lead ERC MP) in no-confidence motion debate: "Our Yes to Sánchez is a No to Rajoy".

May 31: Constitutional Court rules that only the autonomous communities' Statutes of Autonomy can limit powers of their regional parliaments, partially upholding a Catalan government appeal against a Spanish government overruling of a 2015 Catalan law on public administration.

May 31: This year's Patum festival, held in Berga (Berguedà) and listed as a World Cultural Heritage, has jailed Òmnium Cultural president Jordi Cuixart on its poster as expression of solidarity with jailed and exiled Catalan leaders.

May 31: Sánchez to Rajoy: "The country is paying the price of your suicidal strategy of confrontation between territories."

May 31: Rajoy to Sánchez in debate on no-confidence motion: "Will you support the right to self-determination as some parties are demanding? If you don't have that clear, we have a problem."

May 31: Business umbrella the Economy Circle proposes a new Catalan Statute of Autonomy, to be put to referendum in Catalonia.

May 31: The teachers and parents of El Palau high school present the resolution they wish the Catalan parliament to adopt against the charging of nine of their teachers for "hate crimes".

May 31: Debate on PSOE's motion of no-confidence in the Rajoy government begins.


Opinion (Editorial, Ara, May 31)

Recovering self-government and starting a fresh chapter

Catalan president Quim Torra signed a new decree on Tuesday appointing his cabinet ministers. Excluded from this new list were the names vetoed by the Spanish government which —thanks to the powers granted by direct rule— decided that prisoners and exiles could not be part of Torra’s administration and refused make them official by blocking the publication of their appointments in Catalonia’s official gazette.

With the addition of Alba Vergés in the Health Ministry, Laura Borràs in Culture, Damià Calvet in Territory, and Àngels Chacón in Business, and the shift of Elsa Artadi to the Department of the Presidency, Torra overcame all the legal obstacles to forming a government, and forced the lifting of direct rule and the abusive intervention of Catalan self-government via Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. It is a necessary step and a show of responsibility by the president, who had already exposed the Spanish government and now will be able to continue the legal battle in court while the new Catalan administration takes over and sets in gear new governmental actions after five months of paralysis and usurpation.

The recovery of self-government is a widely shared desire in Catalan society, which had been living under the sine die continuation of Article 155, a situation that threatened basic pillars of our nation such, as the school system, the police force, and public media outlets. Now will be the moment to take stock of the disaster and to rebuild the damaged structures. But, above all, it will be the moment to put the focus back on self-government, to show in a practical sense that it is very different to be governed from Madrid than from Barcelona. From this point of view, this government must also be exceptional in its technical and political abilities, because it will have to face an enormous challenge. The classic saying of socialist leader Rafael Campalans, "politics is pedagogy", will take on a special meaning under these circumstances. The presence of six women cabinet members out of 14, after the mere three initially named, is good news in light of this.

The formation of an effective government comes just hours before a debate on a no-confidence vote begins in Madrid to bring down the government of Mariano Rajoy, a vote that could make socialist Pedro Sánchez the next Spanish PM. If this change becomes reality, a new political climate will be a possibility. President Torra ably played the calendar in the face of this possibility: if Sánchez is president, he will have no excuse not to receive the Catalan leader in the Moncloa and start a fresh chapter. Once again, it is necessary to prove to the world that the rejection of dialogue does not come from the Catalan side of the conflict. The ball will now be in Spain's court.

Finally, the time has come for Catalan politics to adapt to reality, occupy all possible seats of power, and take advantage of the opportunities offered by both the Spanish legal train wreck in Europe and the new scenario that could open up within Spain. Politics requires an awareness of one's own strengths as well as the weaknesses of one’s opponent. And overestimating one thing or underestimating the other are usually a mistake.


May 30: Former French PM Manuel Valls distances himself from offer to be Citizens' lead candidate for mayor of Barcelona: "I love France above all else."

May 30:  Quim Torra, after meeting exiled ministers in Belgium: "The happiest day will be when we invest Carles Puigdemont as president."

May 30:  Quim Torra announces defamation action against former Spanish deputy prime minister Alfonso Guerra (PSOE) for calling him a Nazi.

May 30:  Spanish government delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, calls on Pedro Sánchez to withdraw a no-confidence motion that can only pass with the support of "the most Bolivarian left in Europe and populist secessionism."

May 30: Pep Guardiola (Manchester City trainer): "Nothing will be solved until the prisoners are back with their families".

May 30: Arnaldo Otegi (general coordinator, EH Bildu): "It would be an act of poetic justice if the Basques and Catalans threw out Rajoy."

May 30: Granollers, with a PSC mayor, passes a motion of support with the teachers of El Palau high school (unlike PSC-run l'Hospitalet de Lllobregat, where the school is located).

May 30: Carles Riera (CUP): The nomination of the new ministers "is the high point of capitulation before the Spanish state ... The real no-confidence motion is to build the Republic here."

May 30: Albert Rivera (Citizens): "When will we learn that the enemy is not the socialist, the liberal or the conservative but the separatist who wants to liquidate Spain."


News (Dani Cordero, Ara, May 29)

Economy Circle calls for a new Catalan Statute and regional funding system

The Barcelona-based lobby demands more “solidarity” from Nafarroa and the Basque Euskadi, plus a system where Spain’s regions are given a more prominent role

Today Barcelona’s Economy Circle released a statement calling for the end of Spain’s “worst crisis since the Constitution was approved in 1978” and demanding a reformed Catalan Statute that would be “recognised as constitutional law within the Spanish Constitution”. As well as granting Spain’s regional governments greater fiscal powers, the Circle espouses a new funding system that would require Nafarroa (Navarra) and Euskadi (the Basque Autonomous Community) to make a contribution to the interregional solidarity kitty. The Barcelona-based lobby released the statement ahead of its yearly conference, which will kick off in Sitges on Thursday afternoon.

The document, which was jointly approved by the Circle’s executive committee, strikes a balancing act between emphasising their “utmost respect for the rule of law” and urging “the political powers to find the appropriate lawful ways to channel the people’s legitimate aspirations and preferences”, as otherwise “the law tends to be flouted”. This is the formula with which they aim to warn both the secessionist parties and those who refuse to engage in talks.

The Circle’s note calls for granting Catalonia greater powers through a new Statute that would be “recognised as a true Catalan Constitution”. Firstly a pact would be needed between the Catalan political parties and later they would seek an agreement with the central government. The Economy Circle believes that at the root of the current crisis is the fact that the present Statute was not voted by the Catalan people after it was watered down by the Spanish Constitutional Court. “Catalonia is the only region whose most fundamental institutional law hasn’t been approved in a referendum”, they note.

The Círcle, currently chaired by Juan José Brugera, believes that with this new Statute “the share of powers between the Catalan and central administrations would be enshrined in the Constitution”, whereas the Catalan Statute “would address the region’s own home affairs”, such as language, education, culture and the management of self-government. This new Statute would have to be approved in a referendum.

The second aspect of the Circle’s proposal is a new funding deal. No reference is made to the possibility of granting Catalonia its own separate fiscal system. In fact, they propose a system that leans toward a standardisation across the regions, where Nafarroa and Euskadi would be expected to give up their privileges and make a greater contribution to the interregional solidarity fund. Likewise, the document proposes a reduction of the regional differences in the yearly public spending per capita.

However, the Circle does call for “greater powers to legislate, manage, collect and inspect” tax revenues by regional governments, which would share their “tax bases” with Spain’s central government. This way the regional administrations would receive their tax revenue upon being collected without having a long wait —as they do now— before the funds are funnelled through the system by the central government. As in the US, the proposal contemplates a dual taxation system (central and regional) for income tax, VAT and business tax.

Translation: Ara, amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


May 29: Citizens demands that article 155 remain in place despite nomination of cabinet without jailed or exiled ministers.

May 29: (El Nacional) Profile of final Torra ministry.

May 29: ANC criticises Torra's decision to withdraw names of four imprisoned and exiled ministers: "This is not the way to effective government."

May 29: Catalan president Quim Torra nominates substitute ministers for the four ministers in exile or in jail after receiving statement from Spanish government that it will not publish names of ministers in the official Catalan government bulletin while these remain on the list. At the same time Torra says that the Catalan government will take a case of perverting the course of justice against Mariano Rajoy.

May 29: CUP MP Natalia Sànchez calls on the PDECat and ERC not to support the PSOE no-confidence motion against Mariano Rajoy: "What will happen with 155? With the prisoners? With the pensions? Will anything change?"

May 29: Barcelona Council adopts a three point agreement after May 27 ultra-right demonstration outside Town Hall led to injury of council guard. (1) Condemnation of violence--unanimous (2) Investigation of source of the violence--unanimous (3) Maintain the yellow ribbon outside the Town Hall--all in favour except PP and Citizens. Deputy mayor Gerardo Pisarello: "It's not a party placard, but a symbol of rejection by a very important part of Barcelona residents of the unjustified imprisonment of people, of repression as a reaction to the Catalan conflict and of commitment to a negotiated solution to the Catalan conflict."

May 29: Opposition parties in the Catalan parliament demand a question time. Government parties refuse while ministers are unable to take up their positions because of Spanish government refusal to accept jailed and exiled nominees as ministers.

May 29: Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra, interviewed on SER radio: "The pro-independence movement worries me much more than what the PP has robbed ... If they take away a piece of this state, it's as if they removed a wheel from the car with which I've come to the studio. The only tool the left has with which to carry out a policy of equality is the state, and I am not prepared to allow them to take it from us, even less so because they do it because they feel superior to others."

May 29: Josep Borell, former PSOE minister and speaker of the European parliament: "Comparing Torra to Le Pen is unfair to Le Pen."

May 29: Diana Riba, partner of imprisoned former foreign minister Raül Romeva, demands the European parliament's support in securing the release of the prisoners and, in the meantime, their transfer to jails in Catalonia.

May 29: Exiled health minister Toni Comín gives up delegation of his vote in the Catalan parliament.

May 29: Xavier García Albiol on Quim Torra, on radio RAC 1: "I'm not in favour of comparing him with the Nazis, that's an atrocity."

May 29: Former French president François Hollande says that "the specificity of Catalonia has to be recognised", and calls for a political solution to the crisis.

May 29: Meeting in Strasbourg of MEPs with families of Catalan prisoners and exiles and of other victims of Spanish legal system (below).


Opinion (Esther Vera, Ara, May 28)

Like a wrecking ball

ERC and PDECat won’t pull their punches in speaking out against the PSOE’s complicity in Article 155, responsible for the political prisoners, but they will have to act with pragmatism

In forty-eight hours Spain’s political landscape has seen an unexpected twist in the plot. Last Wednesday finance minister Cristóbal Montoro managed to have his budget approved in parliament, thus giving Mariano Rajoy a breathing space until the 2020 general election. This was thanks to the votes of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNB), who did very well out of the 2017 talks by renegotiating the so-called Basque Quota (€1.7 billion). The Basque country is now guaranteed €540 million for two years and a medal for having arm-wrestled the Spanish government into accepting a 1.6% increase in state pensions for 2018. However, on Thursday, only twenty-four hours after the budget was approved and nine years after the first arrests ordered by Judge Baltasar Garzón, Madrid’s National High Court handed down a harsh ruling against the PP and its "effective system of institutional corruption". The court found Luis Bárcenas, a former PP treasurer, to be a key player in a system to "defraud the public treasury" and the mastermind behind the ruling party’s "B account" [as the PP’s slush fund is known]. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison with a €44 million fine. The verdict fell onto the Spanish political landscape —where everything had appeared settled— like a wrecking ball.

Citizens have gained in self-confidence thanks to their improved electoral chances. This has made them less self-conscious, exposing their obviously Spanish-nationalist frenzy while fading the image, which they had somehow managed to build in Spain, as liberal advocates of renewal. Blinded by the rapid gains made in rebuilding the most extreme form of Spanish nationalism thanks to the Catalan issue, [Citizens leader Albert] Rivera has focused on competing directly with the PP for votes. His ultimate goal is to replace the PP by winning over its voters and, if possible, those of nationalistically inflamed PSOE supporters, following the line of [former PSOE defence minister] José Bono. Rivera intends to emulate Adolfo Suárez, Spain’s young leader who arose from Franco’s Movimiento Nacional following the dictator’s death, but for now he has failed to show the same snake charming skills, capable of building a consensus for the mass hara-kiri of the old regime, as happened during the political Transition [from the Franco dictatorship].

The PP is wallowing in the mud of corruption and is still awaiting two potentially catastrophic court rulings. Rajoy has left the Catalan question in the hands of judges who are diligently going about the salvation of Spain. Meanwhile, Pedro Sánchez’s offer to lead the fight against corruption and building an alternative majority to Rajoy has left Citizens’ leadership high and dry, when they were already picturing themselves in the role of a tough opposition turned into natural governmental alternative favoured by the economic powers-that-be. However, the PSOE’s motion of no confidence in Rajoy has given it a boost just when Citizens had been entrusted with the Spanish flag, Marta Sánchez’s version of the Spanish national anthem1 and the unashamed support of Madrid’s media.

A visibly irritated Rajoy —and not only for having missed the Champions League final— has begun to manoeuvre to "restore the rules of the game" and avoid the "Frankenstein’s monster" of a government he fears will evict him from the Moncloa two years earlier than planned.

Turning the table means the script can be rewritten and the game restarted. However, the players must be ready to play and ensure that they aren’t liable to fold under public pressure and internal squabbles. For the time being, the PSOE, in contrast with the rhetoric it used a short time ago against president Torra, has announced that it will accept the votes of pro-independence Catalan parties in the Spanish parliament. ERC and the PDECat won’t pull their punches in speaking out against the PSOE’s complicity in Article 155, responsible for the political prisoners, but they will have to act with pragmatism and facilitate the fall of the PP, even if it is only to give politics a chance. They can’t ask for anything in return: the relief and a change in the cast of actors is sufficient reason for them to provide their support and any demand of a previous negotiation would boost those in favour of forcing an agreement with Citizens. The arrogance of the PP’s spokesman in calling Sánchez the "Judas" of Spanish politics for accepting the votes of the pro-independence parties is merely the first shout in yelling that will only grow louder.

The PNB appears to have suffered no problems in pulling off its master stroke. It will have benefitted from its parliamentary support for the Spanish budget and it will be able to help the PSOE in causing the PP to fall, arguing that it is acting against corruption. The question now is whether Sánchez will join forces with Citizens. Whatever happens, it wouldn’t be easy for a caretaker socialist government facing the general elections scheduled for 2020 or in the face of a snap election. Nonetheless, replacing the PP also has advantages for the democratic regeneration that would result and the basic message that no one can get away with corruption.

With regards to Catalonia, any small chance of dialogue will be impossible until Spain has a new government and after the elections, which are always accompanied by rhetoric and extreme propaganda. The game is on and there is no clear winner, but it is hard to imagine the fight against corruption failing to succeed, thus putting an end to Mariano Rajoy’s tenure when he least expected it.

Footnote

1. The Spanish national anthems has no words, but recently pop singer Marta Sánchez invented some and her version is getting an ecstatic reaction in Spanish-nationalist circles. She was a star performer in the May 20 launch of "Citizen Spain", Citizens new platform for stirring up Spanish patriotic sentiment against the "separatist challenge."

Translation: Ara, amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


May 28: Tweet of Quim Torra: "Mr Guerra, I am sending to you at PSOE headquarters a book I edited about a Catalan, teacher and anarchist, who suffered the horror of Mathausen [concentration camp]. I ask you to immediately withdraw this intolerable and despicable insult and to never again use it against me or any other democrat."

May 28: Former PSOE deputy prime minister Alfonso Guerra: "Quim Torra is a Nazi."

May 28: PSC leader Miquel Iceta says those like the PP who accuse PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez of negtiating support for his no-confidence motion in the Rajoy government with Catalan pro-independence parties of "moral baseness"

May 28: The CUP group in Barcelona Council demands that the council stop the extreme right from being able to demonstrate in the city.

May 28: Josep Lluís del Alcázar, spokesperson for the teachers of El Palau high school, says that they are "pained" by the defeat of the motion expressing solidarity with them in the PSC-run council of l'Hospitalet de Llobregat. The motion had already been adopted by other councils in the working-class and industrial Llobregat region.

May 28: Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau demands the release of the women political prisoners Dolors Bassa and Carme Forcadell after visiting them in the Alcalá-Meco jail.

May 28: French Italian whistleblower Hervé Falciani says he believes any idea of a Swiss-Spanish "swap" of himself for exiled CUP and ERC leaders Anna Gabriel and Marta Rovira is inconceivable

May 28: Carina Mejías, spokesperson for Citizens on Barcelona Council, demands the removal of the yellow ribbon from the front of Barcelona Town Hall.


Week ending May 27

Free Catalan political prisoners logo
Free the political prisoners!

A senior MP of the main unionist party in the Catalan Parliament, Citizens (Cs), removed a yellow ribbon from the empty government seats in the chamber on Friday. The ribbons were placed there in solidarity with the pro-independence officials who are either in jail or abroad. This led to a sharp exchange of words with the Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, who suspended the plenary session. “I won’t allow this parliament to be a madhouse or a playground” he told the Citizens MP, Carlos Carrizosa. Some minutes later, the Catalan president, Quim Torra, tweeted that “the yellow ribbon now more than ever represents the Catalan government”.

On Monday, some twenty people in balaclavas stormed an installation in which yellow was the protagonist in order to vandalize it. And the Spanish government is also taking action to end this silent form of protest.

Madrid letter to mayors

Mariano Rajoy’s executive delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, has sent a letter to the nearly 1,000 Catalan mayors asking them to maintain “neutrality” in public spaces. In his message sent on Tuesday, he claims that mayors have the “obligation” to not allow such symbols. According to him, this has caused “a break in the co-existence” in some cases. Millo stated in his letter that in the past few months, some streets, squares and public buildings “are being occupied by these biased symbols”.

Indeed, yellow ribbons are visible drawn on pavements, monuments, traffic lights, fences, façades of libraries and schools… and even on the balconies of town halls and administration buildings, as well as in parliament, in the empty seats of MPs in prison or abroad. During the campaign ahead of the December 2017 Catalan election, the Spanish electoral board obliged local councils to remove yellow signs from public buildings.

Attack on a yellow-flooded beach

And now some beaches are becoming filled with the colour yellow. On Monday, an installation of yellow crosses, in solidarity with Catalan pro-independence leaders, in the sand in Canet de Mar, north of Barcelona, ended up becoming the focal point of a confrontation. A group of people with their faces concealed removed some of the crosses a few hours after they had been installed, and this led to a clash between the promoters of the symbols and the gang in balaclavas. The events sparked criticism from pro-independence parties, who branded the vandals’ moves as “fascist attacks.” To show its support for the installation, a nearby city, Mataró, will set up yellow crosses on its beach as well this Sunday.

In Barcelona, the presence of yellow signs has also led to anti-independence groups reacting and removing them. On May 7 at night, at least three such groups called for actions in the city to clear the colour yellow from the streets. Yet another “anti-fascist” march faced them shouting and chanting. The Catalan police made sure the confrontation did not escalate into violence.

Towns regulating political symbols

Yet the controversy has spread across the country. For instance, the hardliner pro-independence mayor of Arenys de Munt said that his town will be the first one to “fine whoever removes yellow ribbons.” On the contrary, the unionist Socialist local government in Castellbell i el Vilar intends for people to require permission before placing yellow ribbons in a public space.

Yellow ribbons on lapels, questioned?

While the Spanish government and some unionist and radical groups continue to try to eliminate any sign of support for the leaders imprisoned or in exile, there is a place where they will hardly be able to regulate yellow ribbons: on one’s person. A number of people these days wear the sign on their jackets, lapels, shirts, blouses and rucksacks, including a lot of Catalan administration officials and most of the MPs in Parliament.

Yet no one can rule out that this might change in the near future: reportedly some individuals have been barred to marry or testify in local courts wearing yellow ribbons. Recently, FCBarcelona fans also had yellow T-Shirts, ribbons and flags confiscated before entering the stadium where the Spanish Copa del Rey was held in Madrid.

As long as Catalan politicians continue behind bars or seeking refuge in other countries, this controversy is also likely to drag on.

Translation: Vilaweb, slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


May 27: Council police injured preventing far-right unionists from entering Barcelona Town Hall in a demonstration against "Hispanophobia" (below).

May 27: PSC leader José Zaragoza wrongly accuses Quim Torra of quoting French collaborationist leader Marechal Pétain in a tweet ("along his xenophobic line. Shame that he is the president"). Torra corrects him--his quote was from Catalan poet Màrius Torres--and Zaragoza has to apologise.

May 27: President Quim Torra publicly asked Lleida mayor Ángel Ros to "work to together for freedom of expression" and not criminalise yellow ribbons in public space.

May 27: Local CDR at Mataró (Maresme) sidesteps council ban on planting yellow crosses on the beach by laying yellows scarfs and towels in the form of crosses on the beach (below).


Analysis (Ot Serra, Ara, May 25)

PP, Ana Mato found guilty in Gürtel trial, Bárcenas slush fund proven, Rajoy's evidence not credible

The ruling party's former treasurer faces 33 years in prison and fines in excess of €44 million

Sentencing during the first stage of the Gürtel trial (1999-2005) has dealt a heavy blow to corruption in Spain’s Partido Popular (People's Party, PP). Spain's National High Court has found the party led by Mariano Rajoy guilty of actively benefiting from a conspiracy involving bribes and illegally awarding contracts, part of which was destined for the party’s finances by means of a slush fund. The PP used the money to finance its election campaigns in several towns in the Madrid area, such as Majadahonda and Pozuelo de Alarcón.

One of the stiffest sentences was handed down to the party’s former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, the poster boy of corruption within the PP, who has other charges pending, such as the 'B accounts' case [parallel accounts showing the real sources and destiny of PP funds]. Bárcenas was sentenced to 33 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of €44 million. His wife has also been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Bárcenas tried to excuse his wife from criminal responsibility for having concealed millions of euros in foreign bank accounts, in exchange for him accepting a stiffer sentence. However, the court refused to consider his request.

This is the first verdict in which the courts have confirmed the existence of illegal accounting by the PP, describing it as: "A financial and accounting structure which existed in parallel to the official one since at least 1989, in which entries were made informally, sometimes in the form of handwritten notes such as those belonging to Bárcenas, specifying the party’s income and expenses or, in other instances, amounts paid to specific members of the party".

The former Minister of Health, Ana Mato, has also been found guilty of having received illegal payments and will have to pay €28,467. Mato took numerous holidays and held parties, paid for with money from Gürtel head Francisco Correa’s business network. Correa, seen as the mastermind behind the graft network, has been sentenced to almost 52 years in prison. However, Correa and one of his two business partners, Pablo Crespo, sentenced to 37 years in prison, were both acquitted of the crime of illicit association. Meanwhile, Álvaro Pérez, known as 'The Moustache', who was only charged with bribery and tax evasion, has been acquitted and will not face jail. Pérez is involved in the Valencian wing of the Gürtel case, however. Correa’s ex-wife, Carmen Rodríguez, a former Majadahonda City Council’s chief of staff, has been sentenced to almost 15 years in prison.

The other defendants who have been found guilty include the former mayor of Majadahonda, Guillermo Ortega, with 38 years; the former Madrid councillor Alberto López Viejo, with 31 years, and the former mayor of Pozuelo, Jesús Sepúlveda, with 14 years. The penalties include 28 convictions for perverting the course of justice that entail being barred from holding public office for a total of 194 years. In total, of the 37 defendants, 29 were convicted, receiving more than 351 years in prison for crimes of unlawful association, defrauding a public administration, bribery, falsification of documents, embezzlement of public funds, perverting the course of justice, money laundering, tax evasion, influence peddling and unlawful appropriation. The illegal activities, for which Correa was paid €8.4 million, have been given a verdict seven and a half years after Judge Baltasar Garzón ordered the first arrests in 2009.

Dissenting vote by the president

The sentence records a dissenting vote by the President of the Court, Ángel Hurtado, who believes that the PP has not liability in this case. He considers that "it is necessary to assume the PP’s total lack of participation in and ignorance of the criminal acts" and feels that it has not been proved that the party was aware of the activities of its members in Majadahonda and Pozuelo de Alarcón. According to the judge, "Ortega and Sepúlveda kept their activities secret from the party, and it is even harder to see how the PP benefited from them", going on to say he believes the "real beneficiaries" are the two former mayors, who stood in the 2003 municipal elections.
The leaders of the PP make the same argument, when speaking on this issue, having always maintained that the PP knew nothing at the national level, including Mariano Rajoy, when he gave evidence before the National Court in San Fernando de Henares. The two judges whose views are in the majority question the "credibility" of the witnesses, including Rajoy’s, who denied all knowledge of the parallel bookkeeping. The PP has already released a statement announcing that it will appeal the sentence.

Bárcenas, a key figure

The judges described Correa's network as an "effective system of institutional corruption employing mechanisms for the manipulation of central, regional and local public procurement thanks to a close relationship with influential members of the PP who had the potential to influence the decision-making processes with regard to the awarding of contracts by certain public bodies". The sentencing statement goes on to say that certain companies enjoyed favourable treatment from the public administration in order to unlawfully obtain significant financial gain. A further illegal practice was the charging of commissions when another company placed a successful bid, with the resulting sums either disbursed by Correa himself or the public officials who participated in the procedure.
In passing sentence, the judges consider that Bárcenas was a key figure, "a veritable master of defrauding the Treasury". They conclude that the PP's former treasurer took the necessary steps to ensure that the contracts "would be won by the firm which he wished to favour". However, a significant part of Bárcenas’ sentence is due to having transferred his illegal earnings to Swiss bank accounts and for having siphoned off funds belonging to the PP, sums which the party refuses to lay claim to.

Sentence review hearing

The Prosecutor's Office of the National Court has already requested that a sentence review hearing be held according to Article 505 of the Criminal Code for sixteen of the individiuals who were sentenced. These include, Bárcenas and his wife, López Viejo, Sepúlveda and Ortega. The Public Prosecutor's Office is likely to ask for them to be held on remand until the sentences become final, since the defence may still appeal the ruling before the Supreme Court. Bárcenas is still embroiled in the B accounts case, meaning the Prosecutor's Office is more likely to ask for him to be held on remand.

Translation: Ara, slightly emended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


May 26: PSC mayor of Lelida, Angel Ros, orders yellow ribbons removed from public space.

May 26: Quim Torra: "Mr Pedro Sánchez will have us by his side in everything that is defence of citizen's political and civil rights. That means supporting the Catalan political prisoners and exiles."

May 26: PDECat decides to run in the May 2019 municipal elections under the banner of JxCat.


Opinion (Vicenç Villatoro, Ara, May 22)

President Torra is neither a fascist, nor a racist or a xenophobe 

1. Catalonia’s newly appointed president, Quim Torra, is neither a fascist, nor a racist or a xenophobe.
2. The old tweets of his which have been dug up were both imprudent and inappropriate.
3. Some of his other writings have been twisted and taken out of context, so that they convey the opposite of their intended meaning.
4. If we applied the same standards to Twitter posts and other writings by prominent political leaders who refer to themselves as constitutionalists, they could be called names like president Torra has, probably in an equally unfair manner.
5. Spanish nationalists have succeeded in using Torra’s inappropriate tweets for their own political ends, which has objectively damaged Catalonia’s pro-independence cause, mainly because they have fuelled a pre-existing prejudice.
6. This initial propaganda victory by Spanish nationalists might eventually backfire on them due to their tendency to blow things out of proportion. When a mistake on Twitter prompts a newspaper headline claiming that the PP, the PSOE and Ciudadanos wish to persuade Europe that Torra intends to exterminate Spaniards, the exaggeration is so gross that it becomes detrimental to those who endorse it.
And one last thing: using the sort of language that feels at home in the Balkans is not only a mistake, an exaggeration and a lie. It is, above all, irresponsible and immoral.

Translation: Ara
Note: See here for more comment on this issue.


May 25: PSC of Badalona decides on plebiscite of members on whether to oust left pro-sovereignty mayoralty of Dolors Sabater with support of PP and Citizens.

May 25: Catalan Ombudsman Rafael Ribó defends rights of citizens to display political insignia in public space.

May 25: Town council of Lleida, run by alliance of PSC and Citizens, votes down motion requiring it to investigate police violence on October 1.

May 25: CDR Audiovisual produces this video on police violence on October 1.

May 25: Podemos gives unconditional support to PSOE's motion of no-confidence in Rajoy government.

May 25: PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez tables a motion of no-confidence in the Rajoy government given the decision of the judges in the Gürtel case.

May 25: Barcelona Council adopts PSC resolution condeming "xenophobia" of president Quim Torra. Barcelona Together and mayoress Ada Colau vote in favour.

May 25: High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) rejects Citizens' petition as to illegality of investiture of Quim Torra.

May 25: Catalan government's legal advisory commission officially advises that the Spanish government is legally obliged to publish the names of the Catalan ministers appointed by president Torra.

May 25: Basque premier (lehendakari) Iñigo Urkullu: "I feel certain that article 155 will be lifted."

May 25: Compromise reached in Catalan parliament: yellow ribbon to be placed alongside president Quim Torra.

May 25: Tweet of Carles Puigdemont: "That a peaceful, civic, popular symbol irritates them, that the freedom of expression of those who don't think like them irritates them to the point of wanting it erradicated from public space...confirms the national-falangist turn they've taken. The new right is neither new nor right: it's ancient and extreme right."

May 25: President Quim Torra sits alone in front row (reserved for ministers) of Catalan parliament, as protest against Spanish government refusal to publish names of incoming ministers in Catalan government official bulletin (see below). Citizens' MP Carlos Carrizosa is on his feet complaining about presence of yellow ribbon on the opposition side of the parliament.


The decision followed discussions between the major Spanish political parties on Saturday, in response to president Torra's announcement of his new Catalan executive. Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy spoke with the leader of the Spanish Socialists (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, and the head of the Citizens (Cs) party, Albert Rivera, and the three decided to maintain the extraordinary constitutional powers granted under article 155.

The decision signifies a refusal to authorize the official publication of the ministerial nominations. This in turn means that the ministers in exile or in prison will not be able to become an effective part of the Catalan executive. Four of the thirteen ministers are affected by the decision of the Spanish government: the ministers for Presidency (Jordi Turull), Territory and Sustainability (Josep Rull), Culture (Lluís Puig) and Health (Toni Comín).

Why can article 155 be maintained?

The refusal of the Spanish government to publish the nomination of the ministers extends the validity of Madrid's direct rule over Catalonia, under article 155 of the Spanish constitution. The Rajoy government could attempt to justify this move based on the decision announced on 27th October last year, when article 155 was imposed, that the direct rule measures would continue until the new Catalan government emerging from last December's election took possession. 

For the new Catalan government to take possession and start functioning, the names of members of the government have to be published in the Catalan government's official gazette - and at present it is Rajoy who controls this publication. In this way, the Spanish prime minister has obtained a veto power over the appointments.

The PSOE's change of course  

The key element in understanding this measure is the common front of these three Spanish political parties - given that the PP's Spanish adminstration is a minority government - and especially the support of the PSOE, which had already offered its support to Rajoy to veto the nomination of the new Government.

In the last few days, the socialists have committed themselves to a harder line on Catalonia, close to that followed by the PP and Cs. This has been evident from proposals made by the PSOE leadership this last week, including a reform of the Spain's criminal code to adapt, after the fact, the legal definition of rebellion to the actions actually taken by the independence movement, as well as a plan to make obedience to the constitution compulsory.

A "confrontation with the state"

The secretary general of the Catalan branch of the PP, Santi Rodríguez, confirmed to Catalan radio station RAC1 that the Spanish government would not end the imposition of 155 following the decision of the new Catalan government, headed by president Quim Torra, to reinstate sacked ministers who are currently jailed or in exile.

"155 will remain in force until there is a Catalan government whose only objective is to govern Catalonia and govern for all Catalans", said Rodríguez, blaming the pro-independence forces for having caused the extension of 155: "When ministers are nominated who are in prison on remand or have fled justice, the real will is not to form a government but to maintain a confrontation with the state".


Week ending May 20

Free Catalan political prisoners logo
Free the political prisoners!


Translation: El Nacional

After twenty years of work in a private company and a couple of years in Switzerland, Quim Torra decided it was time for a change and returned to Catalonia to begin a new life. A lover of literature, journalism, and books, Torra left behind a life of PowerPoint presentations and high-level executive meetings in the insurance industry to focus on writing and to found a new publishing company, called A Contra Vent, which means against the wind in Catalan. That experience was recorded in the pages of Ganivetades suïsses, a voyage (return trip) to the heart of management and unbridled capitalism (Símbol).

Upon returning to Catalonia, Torra immersed himself in archives, correspondence, notebooks, diaries and pages of old newspapers in order to unearth key figures from the best years of Catalan journalism and make them known to everyone. This is how he became the leading expert in the life and works of Eugeni Xammar, a Catalan journalist who spent sixty years travelling the world. He wrote a biography of Xammar, also published by Símbol. Xammar will always be remembered for his commitment to Catalonia, as condensed into a single sentence: “When it comes to Catalonia, I never hold back.” And later on, in 2009, he won the Carles Rahola award for essayists with his work “Involuntary Voyage to an Impossible Catalonia”, about journalists Lluís Capdevila, Àngel Ferran, and Francesc Madrid, who had to go into exile when the Republic was defeated in 1939.

Quim Torra, born in December 1962 in Blanes, has combined his intense work in archives and libraries with an equally intense dedication to cultural and political activism in civic society. He also works constantly as a writer of articles for a number of magazines and newspapers, and as a publisher of dozens of books, under the A Contra Vent seal. His first position in a pro-sovereignty organization was as President of Sobirania i Justícia (Sovereignty and Justice), when in February of 2011 he took over for Agustí Bassols, who had died fifteen days earlier. Torra left the presidency of this organization in March 2014. It was also 2011 when he filed suit —later dismissed— with the European Court of Human Rights against the Spanish Constitutional Court’s ruling that watered down the Catalan Statute.

Quim Torra also took on institutional responsibilities in 2011. The Barcelona City Council named him Director of Promotion for the old town district in September. Nine months later, in June 2012, then-Mayor Xavier Trias named him Director of the Born Cultural Center. Torra put this “ground zero of 1714”, as he liked to call it, on the map, and made it a leading cultural and heritage site for the city. He was in charge of the Born CC until September 2015, when he left the position after the new administration of Ada Colau took office. He then took over the management of the Revista de Catalunya and, between July and November, was at the helm of Òmnium Cultural as interim president when Muriel Casals stepped down to join the Junts pel Sí slate for the September elections of that year.

It was a time of frenetic activity. The role of the pro-independence organizations was decisive in greasing the wheels of the parties that had taken the step of running together as a coalition. But it was also a time for strengthening synergies with the far left CUP. And Quim Torra was untiring in his pursuit of this task. He is a defender of unwavering loyalty to public mandates, and puts all his effort into demanding that these commitments be explained explicitly and clearly. Torra captained the Òmnium ship until December 2015, when Jordi Cuixart (today in jail) took over. A few months later, in March 2016, he was named director of Catalonia’s Centre d’Estudis de Temes Contemporanis (Study Center for Contemporary Issues), a body reporting to the Catalan administration. That same year he penned The Last 100 Meters, a book which describes the final steps towards the Republic, and a biographical portrait of deceased Òmnium leader Muriel Casals.

Quim Torra took another step forward in his civic and political trajectory when he agreed to occupy a leading position in the list for Junts per Catalunya in the December 21, 2017 elections. The publisher and lawyer fiercely defended the legitimacy of the President and the government that had been evicted from their offices by the application of Article 155 [Spanish direct rule]. In a letter to former Catalan minister Clara Ponsatí published in VilaWeb, Torra pointed out the formula for confronting the pounding from the State: “Moving quickly doesn’t mean running, merely advancing in a straight line and exercising the sovereignty of the Catalan people. Only in this way is it possible —will it be possible— to deal with the attacks from Madrid.”

In a recent interview (in March of this year), Torra explained the lesson that can be drawn from last October: “I had imagined that if ten went to prison, they would suffer, but if it was three thousand who were charged, we wouldn’t have been imprisoned. And what happened is that ten went to prison. This is the lesson of October, also. When a favorable time comes around again, we must be willing to have three thousand go to prison. And to face the consequences. I’ve believed this my entire life, and I still believe it. I will not deny that which I have always thought.”

His trajectory has led to him being a well-respected asset for all the families of the independence movement. He has a good relationship with representatives from ERC and the CUP. He has been one of the negotiators of the agreements that will allow this term to move forward. And he has demanded, at all times, loyalty to the mandate of October 1st to build an independent Republic of Catalonia. During the past few days, when President Puigdemont first approached him about the presidency, Quim Torra recalled the phrase from his beloved Xammar and didn’t hold back.

Translation: VilaWeb


May 17: Spanish prosecutor's office demands that Supreme Court dictate new arrest warrant against three ministers in exile in Belgium (see below "Brussels shuts the door" to understand background).

May 17: Appeals division of the Spanish Supreme Court reconfirms the preventive detention of five Catalan ministers.

May 17: Quim Torra sworn in as Catalan president, in the presence only of parliament speaker Roger Torrent and members of his family. He refuses to wear the medal of the president, indication that he regards Carles Puigdemont as still the legitimate president. Swears loyalty to the parliament and people of Catalonia without mentioning the Spanish monarchy or constitution.

May 17: Two CUP councilors accused on participating in November 8 road blocks released without charges.

May 17: Albert Rivera (Citizens) demands that article 155 intervention not be suspended but extended to cover TV3 and the Catalan police and that control over Catalan government finances be tightened.

May 17: PP demands that speakership panel withdraw Toni Comin's right to delegate his vote now that he is no longer legally required to stay in Belgium.

May 17: Toni Comín (Catalunya Radio): "The Supreme Court shamelessly abuses a criminal code of which it should be the guardian."

May 17: Pedro Sánchez demands that elected officials being sworn in in the Spanish state have to swear loyalty to the monarchy and the Spanish Constitution.


Analysis (Joan J. Queralt, El Nacional, May 17)

Brussels shuts the door--the Belgian refusal to extradite the exiled Catalan ministers explained

Joan J Queralt is professor of law at the University of Barcelona

Brussels shuts the door. To be more precise, Brussels public prosecutors have shut the door on delivering ministers Comín, Serret and Puig to Spanish justice.

In a filing in perfect Spanish, clear and didactic, far from the twisting baroque prose normal in Iberian law and which the Supreme Court cultivates with special zeal (as if there were a Nobel Prize for Legal Literature, often unintelligible), Brussels' prosecutors have argued before the competent court of the Kingdom of the Belgians that it cannot enforce the European Arrest Warrant issued by the Supreme Court investigating judge1.

The reason: it doesn't correspond with the relevant law. Or equivalently, and said with all the professional courtesy you want, the request from the legal body that sits in Madrid's Las Salesas neighbourhood doesn't match the legal requirements of a European Arrest Warrant.

It's not, in my opinion, as some have said with certain excess haste, about a technical error. We're facing a lack of procedural substance which, although it could have been corrected, hasn't been despite the requests for more details to that effect from the Belgian prosecutors. Prosecutors who, as often happens in comparative law, have a dependence on the government, a limited one, but a dependence in the end all the same.

What's happened for the relevant prosecutors to say they cannot support the Spanish request? Well, something very simple: the European Arrest Warrant, as has been stated more than enough by European justice--the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg--isn't an independent order but rather the execution of an arrest warrant which already exists in the country of origin. It's necessary, in short, to have issued a prior national arrest warrant and then issue, if necessary, a European Arrest Warrant as an extension.

Here's the story:

1) The judge2 of the National High Court (Audiencia Nacional) court of instruction nº 3 issued a European Arrest Warrant dated November 3, 2017 against, among others, those now in exile in Brussels, a warrant based on five charges. This warrant was withdrawn by the investigating judge of the Supreme Court on December 5. On March 23 just past, the pre-trial proceedings [in the Supreme Court] concluded with indictments and the European Arrest Warrant was reactivated, but now for only three charges. However, its factual underpinning is broader than the previous warrant and with changed legal particulars. In other words, what is issued is a new European Arrest Warrant.

2) Following case law from the ECJ, a European Arrest Warrant isn't an independent legal measure, but requires the prior existence of an arrest warrant in the requesting country, in legal terms an underlying order. In other words, as emphasised by the Belgian prosecutors, if there's no prior national arrest warrant, in this case Spanish, the European Arrest Warrant is based on nothing.

3) The Belgian prosecutors explained this absence to the Supreme Court investigating judge [Llarena], who notes, in short, that the facts and particulars are different to those established by the National High Court and that the new state of the matter is to be found in his indictment.

So far so good with the procedural chain. Given this, the Brussels prosecutors see no reason to proceed with the extradition, because no prior Spanish arrest warrant has been issued by the Supreme Court investigating judge.

Why did the investigating judge have to issue one? The reason is very simple: the arrest warrant (and subsequent European Arrest Warrant from the National High Court) was for five charges and some specific facts. Secondly, that European Arrest Warrant has been withdrawn. Thirdly, the Supreme Court indictment is for three charges: against two ministers for disobedience and misuse of public funds and against a third for misuse of public funds and rebellion; nothing to do with the facts, accusations and particulars brought by the National High Court.

Finally, the investigating judge of the Supreme Court responds to the Belgian court that the indictment is valid as an arrest warrant which, obviously, is neither true nor accepted by Brussels. Prosecutors from the capital of Europe conclude: "Given the absence of a corresponding national Spanish arrest warrant, the prosecution has asked the court to declare the three European Arrest Warrants irregular. (...) The delivery procedure has thus been declared unfounded."

Through ignorance or arrogance, Spanish justice has lost a decisive battle on the European front which, undoubtedly, will have repercussions for the extraditions pending in Scotland, Germany and Switzerland.

Moreover, an important event for the European project has taken place: the freedom of people subjected to a criminal procedure has to be guaranteed to the smallest detail, no ifs or buts. Without personal liberty in the face of the punitive power of the state, there's no public liberty. This is a lesson which the public powers have to learn and practice as if their lives depended on it. However, we have to ask ourselves why they haven't done so yet if we share, as Europeans, the same basic legal framework.

This basic legal framework doesn't allow for defects, nor exceptions, nor eccentricities like pursuing citizens for crimes which only exist in the mind of their pursuers. Pursuers, yes, equipped with power. However, it's doubtful that the pursuing powers will draw the clear democratic and legal consequences from today's events.

Brussels, once again, is Europe's Grand Place [of political and legal freedoms].

Footnotes

1. Pablo Llarena is the instructing judge in the Spanish Supreme Court.

2. Carmen Lamela, who was handling the case against the Catalan ministers before its was transferred to the Spanish Supreme Court and Llarena.

Translation: El Nacional, amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


May 16: (El Nacional) Quim Torra heads protest for seven-month anniversary of Jordis' imprisonment

May 16: Catalan Republic Twitter site launched, here.

May 16: Tonight's Barcelona rally demanding release of prisoners and return of exiles: "7 months without you. Neither prison nor exile, we want you home."

May 16: Spanish treasurer Cristóbal Montoro foresees ongoing oversight of the Catalan treasury as needed to prevent "illegal" funding of a Catalan diplomatic service of tax office.

May 16: PSOE's Pedro Sánchez announces that the party is working on a modification of the criminal code in order to express the carge of rebellion "in twenty-first century terms".

May 16: Belgian court rejects extradition of Com, Serret and Puig on grounds that the charges outlined in the European arrest warrant did not correspond to charges against them in Spanish courts. The Belgian prosecutor demanded that the arrest warrant not be complied with.


NEW PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE
"Hey! Now I'm the Good Kim. This here is the Bad Quim."

May 15: President of European Liberals (ALDE), Hans van Baalen to Torra: "Your rhetoric is racist and separatist".

May 15: Torra: "With Puigdemont, we've worked out the lines of action of the new executive."

May 15: Carlos Carrizosa (Citizens): "President Torra has already said that he won't abide by the law and that he wants to create unlawful institutions. So, given the evidence that he wants to continue with the coup d'etat begun by Puigdemont, Rajoy has to enforce abiding by the law."

May 15: Torra gives joint media conference with Carles Puigdemont in Berlin.

May 15: PSC: "Who's paying for Torra's trip to Berlin to see Puigdemont?"

May 15: Elisenda Alamany (CatECP): "Torra's leadership makes impossible any social majority in favour of change."

May 15: Sánchez:"Prime minister Rajoy has a duty to also meet with Pablo Iglesias and get him to change his mind on the right of self-determination and add him to the defence of the Constitution."

May 15: Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) agree a five-point joint strategic approach to new Catalan government: (1) Jointly agreed action "before any attempt at violating the constitutional order" (2) Rejection of any attempt to create parallel structures (3) Maintenance of Spanish state surveillance of the Catalan treasury (4) A united response by all supporters of the constitutional order before any threat to it (5)  “To make known abroad, especially in European institutions and society, that the xenophobic and supremacist writings of President Torra in no way represent the values and principles of Catalan society and are contrary to the European values defended by all European Union member states.”

May 15: Iceta (PSC): "I have the feeling that he [Torra] can't stand the Spanish. He puts up with Catalans who feel Spanish because he has no choice. Torra has been a fundamentalist conservative nationalist his whole career." Also: "He has books, attitudes and an admiration for the most recalcitrant sectors of nationalism. For a group called "Ourselves Alone" which was a detachment within Catalan State, but supremacist, separatist, ethnicist. You can choose whom you admire."

May 15: Torra: "Catalan is everyone who lives and works in Catalonia."

May 15: Torra, on Cataunya Radio: "We have to discover ourselves in the brotherhood of the Iberian peoples."


May 14: Reaction of far-right web daily Alerta Digital to news of Torra's likely investiture (below).

"The CUP decides to abstain and give the green light to the investiture of the psychopath Quim Torra, Carles Puigdemont's little Catalan rent boy."


May 14: Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise of Catalonia (Pimec) calls on Torra to "take all steps necessary to end article 155 intervention."

May 14: Small and medium business umbrella Cecot (Terrassa Shires Employers Confederation) calls for rapid formation of government.

May 14: Unionist business umbrella Entrepreneurs of Catalonia hopes that Torra's presidency will not provoke a further "flight" of companies.

May 14: Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and Catalan business umbrella Development of National Labour call for stable, law-abiding government.

May 14: European Socialist Party: "Sad about the election of #TorraPresident. His racist remarks are utterly disgusting and cast deep doubts about his fitness for the job."

May 14: (El Nacional) Catalan referendum in human rights report by Council of Europe

May 14: Carles Riera (CUP spokesperson): "We are on maximum alert. Each time your program becomes that of a Spanish regional administration ['autonomic'], understand that you are betraying the popular mandate of October 1."

May 14: Quim Torra invested as 131st president of the Catalan government (Generalitat). See our coverage here.


Week ending May 13

Free Catalan political prisoners logo
Free the political prisoners!


May 13: CUP Political Council decides to maintain abstention on the investiture of Quim Torra, guaranteeing that it will happen tomorrow, by 66 votes to 65 (only a relative majority is needed in the second session).

May 13: PSOE deputy federal secretary Adriana Lastra calls on Quim Torra to "lay aside the xenophobia and govern for all Catalans".


Opinion (Toni Soler, Ara, May 12)

The inevitable conflict

For an effective and republican Government capable of dialogue.  For a calm, fighting and competent Government

CITIZENS. We're heading towards conflict. Maybe there will be a Government, but we can't pretend that nothing has changed while there are people in jail and exile, and while self-rule is suspended. The 155 bloc--the PP, Citizens and the PSOE--is playing with fire, and some lucid minds inside this universe, people who love Spain, can see that and they fear it. If they continue to use Catalonia as an electoral firecracker, it means countdown to constitutional crisis. But since the PP is in a state of decomposition and the PSOE is in a coma, Albert Rivera's yelling easily predominates and drowns out any nuanced opinion. Citizens is the party of testosterone and "Go, get 'em"1. They are behaving like the National Front in France and the Serbs towards the new Balkan republics. It appears that in Spain this benefits them, which shows the depth of depression that Spain has reached; but in Catalonia their threatening and permanently irritated tone marks a ceiling and distances them from the country's centre of political gravity, which is more or less Spanish, but above all is deeply Catalan. Inés Arrimadas could have tried to win the moderate vote, but she preferred to be the Princess of Tabàrnia2, decorate Civil Guards, finger teachers and despise collective symbols, that is, hand them over to the supporters of Catalan sovereignty. Citizens' only motor force is the destruction of the Catalan national personality. That is, they will only get to power in Catalonia along the path of repression, as is now happening to the PP of [Spanish government delegate in Catalonia] Enric Millo.

DIALOGUE The good news is that Citizens will hardly be able to govern Catalonia. The bad news is that while Citizens have the strength they have, any attempt at internal dialogue seems doomed to failure. You can't talk to those who want you in jail. However, the truth is that there are other obstacles to dialogue. The identity crisis of the PSC, which only acts in function of what Citizens does, and the perpetual indefinition of the Commons are aggravated by the fact that the pro-sovereignty bloc has chosen a presidential candidate who only believes in dialogue within his own camp. Quim Torra, whom I would say is a good person and a cultured human being, also represents a romantic nationalism that can inspire the heartland but will hardly scrape together new votes for the republican cause. And that's apart from the fact that Torra has personally taken on the delegated and provisional character of his presidency, which indicates that--if the CUP so wishes--we will face another interim period, with more than one possible outcome in the autumn, when the trial of Catalan political prisoners takes place.

DISTRACTION Although Torra has talked about implementing the result of October 1, it would be good if everyone realised that at the moment there will be no Republic or pre-Republic. If the Catalan government was already clear on October 27 that it didn't have the tools to carry out effective acts of sovereignty, even less will it be able to do so now, after six months of 155. What there will be is conflict, not so much because of the strategy of the pro-independence parties as because the Spanish government has decided that repressing and locking up dissidents wins votes, while giving the Catalan people a voice, as on December 21, only brings grief; and that as long as this sad spectacle lasts, Spaniards will hang flags from their the balconies, as if they had heroically defeated a foreign enemy and will not pay attention to other problems of the State, which are many and very serious. General Primo de Rivera3 did the same thing in 1925. On that occasion, however, the Moroccans were the distraction.

Footnotes

1. "Go, get 'em" was the cry shouted by Spanish-patriotic ultras to Civil Guard vehicles as they left their barracks on the way to Catalonia to try to suppress the October 1 referendum.
2. Tabàrnia is a mythical entity concocted by the extreme end of unionism, made up of those two Catalan provinces (Tarragona plus Barcelona) where the unionist vote exceeded the pro-independence vote on December 21.
3. In 1925, the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera conducted a successful  joint invasion with the French of the Berber-speaking Rif region of northern Morocco. The Spanish were motivated by the desire to revenge their humiliating loss to the forces of rebel leader Abd el-Krim in the 1920 Rif War. More detail here.

May 12: Investiture vote: In favour 66 (JxCat, ERC); Against 65 (Citizens, PSC, CatECP, PP) 65; Abstentions 4 (CUP). The motion is lost because there is no absolute majority. Nex session is on Monday, May 14.

May 12: Puigdemont tells Turin daily La Stampa that Quim Torra will call early elections on October 27 if there is no progress in negotiations with the Spanish government.

May 12: Albert Rivera (Citizens): "Torra's speech reveals he will not abide by the Constitution. Article 155 cannot be suspended."

May 12: Points form Torra's investiture address here

May 12: Quim Torra delivers investiture address to Catalan parliament.

May 12: 88.54% of Democrats' members support the investing of Quim Torra.


The letters that we receive daily are our connection with reality. They are what gives us a breath of fresh air. We want to tell you that we read them all (every day we each receive around a hundred) and, even though we would like to be able to answer you, it is impossible for us. For that reason we take the opportunity here to thank you for the support and the warmth which you ensure reaches us, which gives us courage and helps us to stay strong.

In the absence of freedom we try to live with the maximum dignity possible.

Our daily routine is monotonous, the hours go by very slowly. In fact, there is no difference between one day and the next, and for that reason the news that we receive by mail is important. We thank the media that thinks of us: El Punt AvuiAraEl Nacional, VilaWeb, El Temps, local magazines and articles that you send us in your letters. In fact, we are only permitted three activities: reading (books that our families give us in the monthly package or classics from a small prison library) and writing, taking physical exercise (one hour three days per week, organized by a prisoner) and walking in the prison yard.

We maintain our hope as well as our confidence in you. We know that you will find a solution for this unjust situation.

Often, our suffering goes beyond the personal. We believe that the lives of our families have been deeply affected ― both of us have elderly mothers ― as well as the lives of our colleagues; but also the lives of a great many people in our country.

In this last week we have made statements to the judge and were clear in our convictions: the defence of the popular mandate from the Catalan elections of 2015, of the sovereignty of the Catalan Parliament, of ideological and political freedoms, and the freedom of expression. We believe that our right to a defence is harmed by the inability of our lawyers to take part in parallel legal processes that contribute to the general case, and that it is abusive that we have been placed in preventive detention, without any change in either the alleged offence we are accused of, or the conditions, for which the same judge decreed bail for us, just a few months earlier.

We are convinced that all of this is about democracy. For that reason we are grateful for the many shows of support which we know are taking place all around, from associations, entities, political groups and individuals. We ask you that you do not forget the political prisoners, that you do not forget those of us who are in prison and in exile, that you work to put an end to the implementation of article 155, to improve social cohesion and the lives of the people who live in Catalonia. Our dignity is the dignity of you all!

Thank you for always being there!

Carme Forcadell and Dolors Bassa

Carme Forcadell, speaker of the Catalan Parliament from 2015 until after the 2017 election, and Dolors Bassa, Catalan labour minister, are being held in the Spanish prison of Alcalá-Meco on remand, facing charges relating to the Catalan campaign for independence and the referendum held on October 1st, 2017.

Translation: El Nacional


May 11: Citizens. "A government elected with the vote of two fugitives from justice is a fraud."

May 11: Rapper Valtonyc loses Constitutional Court appeal against his three-and-a-half year prison sentence for glorification of terrorism and insulting the crown.

May 11: PP in Catalonia agains demands of the Constitutional Court that it suspend the right of Puigdemont and Comín to delegate their vote.

May 11: Inés Arrimades (Citizens) on Torra: "The most radical Puigdemont could find and the only one prepared to be a puppet."

May 11: José Luis Ábalos (PSOE): "Torra should be reprogrammed if he is to serve as Catalan president."

May 11: Iñigo Méndez de Vigo (Spanish government spokesperson): "If the law is disobeyed, we will act in exactly the same way."

May 11: Latest Centre of Opinion Studies (CEO) report released in Catalonia. English summary here. Polling predictions below (figures on grey background are the December 21 election results):

Main trends:

  • Pro-independence majority increases
  • CUP support nearly triples
  • CCP (CatECP) support increases
  • Citizens remains leading party

CEO poll, first four months, 2018

May 11: Joaquin Leguina (ex-PSOE premier of Community of Madrid) tells TV Antena 3 that Quim Torra is an "imbecile" and a "moron" and that the Spanish state's article 155 intervention into Catalonia should be maintained.


Background (Marta Escobar Martí, El Nacional, May 11)

New alarm (and anger) in the Madrid newspapers. Carles Puigdemont's proposal of Quim Torra as the new candidate for president of Catalonia hasn't satisfied them either. Today, they're full of criticism and disapproval towards the president's nominee.

So, despite being visibly satisfied it has proved impossible to invest Puigdemont, they give the new candidate a warning that the state will continue working for the law to be followed and, if that doesn't happen, it will continue acting as until now.

The most curious thing is that some of the newspapers even argue that Torra started the independence process, thanks to comments he made in 2014, pushing them to an even more resounding rejection of the candidate.

For all these reasons, they warn that it is unlikely, for the moment, that the PP government in Madrid will lift article 155 of the Spanish Constitution because, they say, everything suggests the situation in Catalonia will continue in the same vein.

La Razón, under the headline "a puppet for confrontation", attacks Puigdemont's decision as being "awful news for the future political and institutional stability of the Principality" and, moreover, despite him not being pursued by the justice system, they believe that the "choice shows the desire of Catalan separatism to maintain the confrontation with the state".

Using a handful of 2012 tweets from Torra, which included derogatory allusions to "the Spanish", the paper says that the candidacy "takes us to the worst examples of the fanaticism and radicalism of the independence movement, bordering on xenophobic obsession, which, unfortunately, have caused the painful social fracture in the region itself".

They believe, the "political role he will doubtless be called upon to play" will be one of "subordination to Puigdemont". Moreover, they suggest that it is "a provisional solution which can only hide the piratical intention of putting an end to the legislature when convenient for the personal interests of the fled leader" and urge readers to "not forget his black criminal outlook".

In fact, their front page opens with the headline "Puigdemont anoints 'puppet' Torra to repeat elections", but, at the same time, they argue that "Puigdemont aims, like anyone handling a puppet, to maintain the fiction of a government in exile which, moreover, and this is the most absurd, governs the fates of Catalonia".

But their frustration goes even further, criticising that his candidacy "means shutting the door on and scorning the offers of dialogue and collaboration from the [Spanish] prime minister, Mariano Rajoy" and, worse still, they even get into his "psychological profile".

At the end of the editorial, they do appear slightly relieved, due to the impossibility of investing Puigdemont. This shows, they say, that "the rule of law and respect for the constitutional order have returned to the region". They, however, warn that "the state will continue to safeguard the rights and interests of all Catalans. Of that we do have reasons to be sure".

El Español, which suggests that "Puigdemont is putting up a puppet so that Rajoy deceives himself", defines Torra as a "radical" who "believes that Catalonia has been a country occupied by the Spanish since 1714". They believe his election will mean that "the problem of independence is not only not going to fall away, but will doubtlessly earn a new, folkloric momentum".

But they go further still. They define the candidate as a "hand-picked choice of a banana-republic caudillo" and say that "the Catalan anomaly keeps growing unstoppably". For them, this is "another provocation which confirms the erroneous policy" of Mariano Rajoy's government. Caudillo, a word for "leader" normally used for strongmen, was the title the dictator Franco took for himself.

At this point, they turn to attacking the PP executive. "Puigdemont is showing his strength whilst Rajoy gives unequivocal signs of certain weakness" and "Rajoy's ability to deceive himself appears to have no limit".

At the end of the article, they link Torra with the start of the independence process for statements he made in 2014 when director of Born Cultural Centre. That year, he organised events to "commemorate and manipulate the tricentennial of 1714", which saw the fall of Barcelona and the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. He said that since that time, Catalans "have been living under occupation". "It was around this display, which pontificated on the Spanish invasion, that the current separatist process gestated".

They also side with Cs' leader, Albert Rivera, supporting him in his call for a harder line to be taken with Catalonia. Precisely for that reason, they say "it's more than probable that after this new nonsense he will increase if possible his pressure on the executive to continue and toughen up as necessary an [article] 155 which so far, it's obvious, hasn't achieved the aims it should have pursued".

Like the other two papers, El Mundo opens its front page with the nomination of Torra who, like the rest, they see as a "puppet for [Puigdemont] to continue with his rebellion" and "continue the duel", "aware that the continuation of the conflict with the state is the only trump card which is still saving him from irrelevance".

Describing Torra as a "separatist of certified fanaticism" and "Puigdemont's alter ego, as radical as him", they attack the legitimate president for "aiming with this choice to settle a puppet in the presidency of Catalonia, a figure who can be controlled at a distance, who meekly submits to the will of the unrepentant fugitive in Berlin".

With all these arguments under their arm, the paper says that Torra's candidacy "raises serious doubts about the advisability of lifting [article] 155; after a foreseeable government completely remote-controlled by Puigdemont, who yesterday passed on the mandate to implement the republic declared in October".

In another article, El Mundo defines Torra as the "most hooligan option" and, like La Razón, uses his 2012 tweets for further attacks against him.

For El País, which didn't dedicate either its whole front page nor editorial to the question, Torra, who has had a "meteoric political career" and "exquisite manners in person", warn that, despite this, he has "strong pro-independence convictions", which, as they see it, "turns him into almost a professional substitute; almost against his will".

In fact, they repeat this point on various occasions during their profile of the candidate: "those who know him talk about an educated personality, with a hint of something British about him, and that he knows how to listen, even though he's intransigent when it comes to his pro-independence convictions".

In another article, they say that "although Torra is part of Puigdemont's trusted inner circle, he will lead a group of ministers which he hasn't chosen".

ABC, for their part, call Torra a "front man" because, in their opinion, "the ex-president is resisting disappearing and has designated one of his faithful, a radical independence supporter", although they argue that "there's no doubt that political reality will end up cornering the ex-president". In fact, one of their greatest worries is "how many weeks or months it will take for that to happen".

Meanwhile, they also express lament that "with the will of the pro-independence parties hijacked by the stubbornness of the fugitive ex-president in not disappearing politically, the theoretical and apparent return to normality of political life which should be starting up is holding off".

In another article, they define him as the "real deal of the independence movement". None of the newspapers mentioned above liked the proposal, certain that "the disobedience is going to continue". It would be interesting to see what they would have said for some other candidate, as the same arguments go for almost any other JxCat deputy.

Translation: El Nacional


May 10: Carles Puigdemont announces that editor, and essayist Quim Torra will be JxCat's candidate for president.

May 10: Parents of children at El  Palau high school hold public meeting denouncing interference of courts and unionist politicians and call for the school to be left alone to work through any problems it may have (below).

El Palau high school parents meeting protesting against judicial and polictical interference

May 10: Five of the nine cases against the teachers of El Palau high school being investigated for "hate crime" for talking in class about the October 1 police attacks at their school are shelved.

May 10: Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena indicates that he is prepared to downgrade charge of rebellion against Puigdemont and other suspects in exile if this is needed to secure their extradition.

May 10: Amnesty Internationsal says that the Spanish interior ministry is blocking judicial inquiries into police behaviour on October 1.

May 10: Joan Tardà (ERC MP in Spanish congress): "Mr Rivera has become a fanatic. Every day that passes he sounds more like [Falange leader] José Antonio Primo de Rivera."

May 10: Albert Rivera (Citizens): "Even if a Catalan government is formed not enough has been done to allow the lifting of the article 155 intervention."


Opinion (Ferran Saez Matheu, Ara, May 10)

ETA's last attack

To compare moving prisoners closer to home to "the impunity" of terrorist acts is to hit rock bottom

On October 20, 2011, when ETA announced the definitive end of its "armed activity", the argumentative resources of the 1978 regime began to totter. From the perspective of the Spanish State —and it's important to remember that the Spanish State consists of three things, three: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—, the possibility of appealing to the exceptional situation created by the existence of that terrorist group lost its meaning. "In the absence of violence, anything can be discussed", went the famous mantra coined during the worst moments of the Spanish transition. Yeah, right. For the Catalan independence movement, the end of ETA was great news for two reasons. The first, shared with any morally decent person, had to do with the end of the barbarism of car bombs, kidnappings, and shots to the back of the head. The second, of course, referred to the aforementioned mantra: in a democracy, in the absence of violence anything can be discussed.

At that moment —October 2011— Catalonia’s independence process took off strongly. July saw an unexpectedly massive demonstration against the 2010 ruling on the Statue, followed by the most openly pro-independence Diada demonstration in September. The political effervescence in Catalonia was evident, and this did not exactly play in favor of the unionist camp, which was left disoriented. A party like UPyD, for example, ended up out of the game completely. Born out of the Basta Ya (Enough Already) platform, its dialectic vehemence, overacted by Rosa Díez, became merely strident cries, empty of content, that no longer interested anyone. As incredible as it may seem, the news of the cessation of ETA's terrorist actions was received almost with hostility. In some cases, this was predictable: certain private security companies with links to important PP office holders watched as their enormous business expectations vanished into thin air. In other cases, however, the reaction was more enigmatic.

Naturally, it wasn't about praising ETA because they stopped killing, but rather celebrating that thousands of people who lived permanently with their hearts in their throats now had the chance to live a safe life. To confuse these two things, which had nothing to do with each other, out of personal/political interest, showed the bald-faced manipulation that the Spanish government has made of the various terrorism victims associations, and also of the citizenry as a whole. But it doesn't end there. To compare moving prisoners closer to their homes to "the impunity" of terrorist acts is to hit rock bottom. As far as I know, nobody had suggested any massive release of prisoners or anything like it. A person with blood crimes, as I see it, must serve a full sentence; but this should not include punishing their families [with long journeys for visitation purposes].

A few days ago, when ETA was definitively dissolved, many PP leaders reacted in an even more disconcerting way than in 2011. It appeared as if the terrorist group had just committed its latest attack, the worst in its history. Neither Rajoy nor any member of his administration were under any obligation to congratulate them for putting an end to their wrongdoing. It's a long way, however, from that to showing a disappointed expression, clearly out of sorts. ETA represented an archaic thing that, in addition to having caused great suffering, distorted Spanish political life by legitimizing institutional anomalies —without any equivalent in Europe— such as the National Court. Article 24.2 of the Spanish Constitution states that "everyone has the right to the ordinary judge predetermined by law". The existence of the National Court (the old Franco-era Court of Public Order) clearly contradicts this point. ETA's indiscriminate violence, for example, could justify this exception. What about after it has ceased to exist? Will everything continue the same? Will we fabricate a threat just to maintain what justified it in its place?

Beyond the concrete question that we just discussed, the absurd refusal to recognize that ETA no longer exists has a lot to do with the need to transform a peaceful political process such as Catalonia’s into a violent rebellion. The old language associated with the "anni di piombo” [“years of lead”] allows for delirious transpositions of one thing for another to be carried out with cynical joy. ETA's last great attack —its own dissolution— has not caused any casualties, nor injuries, nor property damage, but it has shattered an established line of argument and called its language into question. In the increasingly strange "news programs" of TVE, the news of ETA's demise was presented almost as an event worthy of mourning, with bitter statements from the increasingly unified PP-PSOE-Ciudadanos bloc. My condolences.

Translation: Ara


May 9: Jean-Claude Juncker (president, European Commission) to Flemish parliament: "I would like to see dialogue" between Spanish and Catalan governments and urges for this to happen.

May 9: Ramon Tremosa (MEP for PDECat) says the Dalai Lama showed "great sensitivity" to the Catalan situation at a meeting of the European Parliament's Intergroup with Tibet in India.

May 9: Spanish government appeals amended Catalan presidential investiture legislation to the Constitutional Court, which suspends legislation while appeal is being heard.

May 9: Vox demands the arrest and charging of the majority of members of the Catalan parliament's speakership panel for allowing the parliament to change the law governing the investing of the president.

May 9: Albert Rivera (Citizens) demands that the Rajopy government appeal against the right to delegate their vote of Toni Comin and Carles Puigdemont.

May 9: European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker says he is disposed to meet with new president of Catalonia "if asked" and "depending on the topic to be discussed".

May 9: Carles Riera (CUP): "The decision of JxCat and ERC to give up on disobedience is a decision we don't share."


Snapshot (Xavier Bertral, Ara, May 9)

Badalona judge forces bride to remove a badge calling for freedom for political prisoners

The judge refused to conduct the ceremony until she complied. The couple plan to lodge an official complaint

Badalona judge forces bridegroom to remove a badge calling for freedom for political prisoners / XAVIER BERTRAL

A judge in the Catalan city of Badalona refused to proceed with a wedding ceremony unless the brideg removed from her jacket a badge calling for the release of political prisoners.

Nora, the woman in question, appeared this Tuesday on El Matí de Catalunya Ràdio, following a report in yesterday’s El Mundo newspaper. Nora was critical of the judge for making such a demand a condition for the wedding to go ahead. "As soon as I sat down with the witnesses, the judge announced that the service was for everyone and that it had to be neutral. So I told him that if he provided the service to everyone, then that included me too", she declared.

According to the bride, the judge gave her "no choice", despite the fact that she and the groom both noticed that "there was also a portrait of the Bourbon [King Felipe] on the wall", and that "we hadn’t made a fuss". According to the woman, the judge argued his case by stating that if the badge had belonged to an organisation with an opposing view, "such as the PP or Vox", he would also have asked her to remove it. Apparently, her claim that the badge did not represent a specific political party, but was instead an expression of freedom, failed to make the judge change his mind.

Nora declared that, eventually, having argued with the judge for a while, she decided to remove the jacket bearing the badge in order that the ceremony could go ahead. The couple has already contacted legal teams in order to file a complaint.

Translation: Ara


May 3: Tensions surface in PDECat between those wanting to bring the organisation closer to JxCat and the existing PDECat leadership, which occasionally asserts differences with the JxCat leadership around Carles Puigdemont.

May 3: Spanish authorities say they are investigating around 80 instances of possible "indoctrination" in Catalan schools.

May 3: After meeting with Carles Puigdemont in Berlin, ANC president Elisenda Paluzie states that "the commitment to the Catalan Republic cannot be renounced".

May 3: Catalan ombudsman Rafael Ribó meets with School Council of El Palau school with a view "to resolving internally and from a purely educational perspective" the conflict over the teachers being investigated by the Spanish prosecutir's office for potential "hate crime".

May 3: Information Council of Catalonia to investigate the Madrid newspaper El Mundo for its article naming the teachers under investigation for possible "hate crime".


Arra poster against Albert Rivera

"Wanted; Albert Rivera [leader of Citizens], for publicly fingering nine teachers and stirring up fascist hatred" (Poster of left-independentist youth group Arran]

May 3: The Spanish Tax Office embargoes €110,000 of funds in the accounts of both Òmnium Cultura and the Catalan National Assembly, ostensibly to meet damages incurred for violating data protection law.


'Spanish justice' (Ot Serra, Ara, May 3)

Lawyers sue Spain’s judiciary leadership over affinity for PP

A new legal association denounces "lack of impartiality"

A complaint for continued neglect of duty has been filed against Carlos Lesmes, the President of Spain’s General Council of Judicial Power (CGPJ) and 19 other senior members of the Spanish judiciary. The Associació Atenes de Juristes pels Drets Civils (Athens Association of Jurists for Civil Rights) has decided to lodge a criminal complaint against the judicial leadership for lack of impartiality and independence from the executive and legislative powers.

In an lengthy text, the plaintiffs state that there is a plot in the CGPJ to benefit the ruling Partido Popular and place sympathizing magistrates in key positions connected to the main court cases of corruption involving Mariano Rajoy's party. "Preserving separation of powers is a basic principle; this is about democracy", stressed Jordi Ferres, one of the movers behind the legal association created in March, in comments to ARA.

The complaint, written by Elpidio José Silva, a former judge that was disqualified over the instruction of the Blesa corruption case, is directed against Lesmes, members of the CGPJ —in the majority conservatives—, and National Court judges. A series of cases are listed in which different judges had maneuvered supposedly to gain control over judicial proceedings involving the PP. One of the names that has received much attention is Concepción Espejel, the former president of the second section of the National Court's criminal court division. The plaintiffs are accusing her of taking advantage of her office after taking over the presidency to modify the traditional system of rotations of judicial cases in order to ensure that they would fall to her. Thus, she managed to achieve control over proceedings in the Gürtel case and that of the PP's slush fund, according to the legal association. Espejel, however, in the face of recusals of the parties implicated in these proceedings, was set aside by her own colleagues because they doubted her impartiality. Nonetheless, at the end of last year the full session of the CGPJ, thanks to the votes of the conservative majority, promoted her to president of the criminal court, a higher position than she used to hold.

Another case brought up by the lawyers is the arrival of Enrique López López at the National Court's Appeals Court division. He is a judge who was also recused from the proceedings in the early stages of the Gürtel trial owing to his proximity to the PP, a charge supported by his participation in 68 events hosted by FAES (a PP foundation) and an article published in La Razón in 2011 in which he called for the PP to oust the PSOE from government. After his appointment to the appeals court, he had jurisdiction over any appeals that might result from the Gürtel case.

Beyond the string of examples to justify the alignment of judicial leadership with the PP, the promoters of the complaint warned that the CGPJ has not followed the recommendations of the Group of European States against Corruption and Organized Crime (GRECO), which in 2014 sounded the alert over the "politicization of the highest positions in the judiciary” in Spain. "Some [judges] have said that sometimes they knew beforehand that they would be appointed for a specific important post", stressed the group.

"The important thing is that the selection of magistrates is based on merit", said Ferres, who noted that the GRECO advised that appointments be made following "assessable objective criteria". Despite the initiative's slim chancesc of success, the complaint arrives at a time when relations between Lesmes and Rafael Catalá are strained following the Justice Minister's criticisms of one of the judges in the Manada case (1).
Footnote

(1) A group of young men who called themselves la Manada (“the Wolfpack”) have been recently found guilty of sexually abusing a young woman, but rape charges were dismissed by the court, which has outraged many in Spain. One of the three judges that saw the case failed to see any sexual misconduct at all in the group’s actions.

Translation: Ara


May 2: St James Square in central Barcelona fills in protest rally in solidarity with Catalan political prisoners in jail now for six months (below).

May 2 rally in support of Catalan political prisoners, St James Square, Barcelona

May 2: The Balearic Islands' teachers union STEI Intersindical, important in the 2014 "green tide" struggle to stop the regional PP government from downgrading the Balearic variant of Catalan as language of general instruction in the islands' schools, sends message of solidarity to the teachers of El Palau.

May 2: Demonstration in suport of the teachers of El Palau school (Sant Andreu de la Barca), being investigated for "hate crimes" (placard: I'm an El Palau teacher too!").

Demonstration in support of teachers of El Palau

May 2: In the face of the likely investiture of a presidential candidate other than Carels Puigdemont, the ANC will consult its memberships as to what stance to adopt (the ANC supports Puigdemont for president and some members would prefer to go to new elections rather than accept a substitute imposed by the interference of the Spanish state).


May 1: Barcelona's three May Day demonstrations

2018 Batcelona May Day, UGT and CCOO, led by banner against violence against women

Demonstration of majority trade unions (General Union of Workers and Workers Commissions), with lead banner against violence against women ("It's not abuse, it's rape")

2018 Barcelona May Day, anarcho-sindicalist General Confederation of Labour (CGT) demonstration

Demonstration of the anarco-sindicalist General Confederation Labour (CGT)

"Let's Arise!" May Day demonstration of the pro-independence Intersindical-CSC

Demonstration of the pro-independence Intersindical-CSC: "Let's arise for the Republic of social rights"


May 1: Social welfare and labour minister Dolors Bassa makes a call from prison for people to demonstrate on May Day in support of "political and social rights in Spain".


Backgrounder (Ara, May 1)

Graffitied threats sprayed on school walls against teachers probed by Public Prosecutor

The threats appeared the day after Madrid daily El Mundo published an exposé that was tweeted by Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera

Graffitied threats sprayed on school walls against teachers probed by Public Prosecutor / ACN

Graffitied threats sprayed on school walls against teachers probed by Public Prosecutor

El Palau is a secondary school in Sant Andreu de la Barca where nine teachers are currently being investigated by the Prosecutor’s office for allegedly “humiliating” the children of Spanish Guardia Civil officers the day after the referendum of October 1. Several children whose Guardia Civil parents are stationed in Sant Andreu attend El Palau. Last night someone spray-painted slurs on the school walls aimed at the nine teachers: “nazis”, “scum” and “separatists”.

The graffiti appeared the day after Madrid-based newspaper El Mundo revealed the names and photographs of the nine members of staff who are being investigated. Controversy over the exposé went up a notch when Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera tweeted the story and used it to slam Mariano Rajoy’s government for failing to discipline the nine teachers who are currently being investigated over alleged hate crimes.

Rivera’s post prompted many replies on social networks, accusing him of singling out teachers who —so far— have been found guilty of no crimes. Furthermore, some users criticised the Ciudadanos leader for doing with these teachers —whose actual names and pictures were printed in the newspaper article— the same as he had criticised in the past, when the homes of unionist leaders were spray-painted.

This morning Ciudadanos MP in Catalonia Lorena Roldán tried to play down the controversy and stated that the graffiti “shows that there is an obvious social divide in Catalonia and that is why we urge the pro-independence parties to form a government”. “It is necessary for society’s wounds to heal up and these incidents, which we have experienced ourselves in the past, should never happen”, she noted. Roldán censured the perpetrators of the graffiti, which “might constitute a hate crime and we decry that, regardless of who is responsible. That is why we urge the pro-independence parties to condemn these actions”.

Tomorrow, May 1, there will be a demonstration at noon in Sant Andreu’s town hall square to support the teachers who are being probed. Interestingly, local education affairs are managed by a Ciudadanos councillor in Sant Andreu de la Barca’s local government.

Translation: Ara


April 30: PDECat does deal with PSC in the town of Sant Martí Sarroca (Alt Penedès) to remove CUP mayor.

April 30: School Council of Catalonia denounces the "public lynching" of the nine teachers of El Palau public school who are being investigated for possible "hate crimes" for their comments to pupils after the October 1 referendum.

April 30: The 200 "Kilometres for Freedom" runners who have been jogging the 800 kilometres from Barcelona to Soto de Real jail outside Madrid finally arrive at their destination.


Week ending April 29

190 nights with political prisoners

190 nights with political prisoners



FC Barcelona has officially asked to the Spanish government and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) about the police action in the Cup final on Saturday in Madrid and the confiscation of yellow shirts, scarves and whistles from Barça fans. “Depending on the response we get, we will study the actions that we have to carry out” said spokesman Josep Vives in a radio interview.

Vives denied that the club was aware of the withdrawal of yellow elements at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium: ‘It’s absolutely false. We are fed up that kind of manipulation”.  “There were three meetings to prepare the match security. No one talked about not letting people in with a shirt of one colour or another because this is  a basic right of people”, Vives insisted.

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, vice president of the Spanish government, has denied that there had been a “political instruction” to remove shirts and yellow motifs before the match and said the decision was taken by the Spanish police.

Controversy

The fact that the police and security staff confiscated yellow t-shirts and scarves from FC Barcelona’s fans entering the Spanish Cup final Saturday night has not gone by without controversy. Drets, a Catalan association of law professionals, announced that they will study specific cases in which yellow t-shirts have been confiscated to report those who gave the orders.

The association said that “no law or penal code prohibits colours. To confiscate yellow t-shirts is a severe violation of fundamental rights”. In addition, they stated that confiscating independence flags also violates fundamental rights as a judge ruled in favor of allowing the flag at the Copa del Rey after authorities from the Autonomous Community of Madrid tried to ban the flag from the Cup final in the 2016-edition.

Law against violence applied

Days before the match, the Spanish home affairs minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, stated that whistling at the Spanish national anthem is violence referring to the law against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in sport. Previous to the match, Zoido also explained that they were “analyzing the matter and without a doubt there will be modifications to adapt the legislation to the current moment,” he said a week before the Cup final.

The Platform for the Defence of Free Expression (PDLI), a Spanish civil society group uniting journalists, lawyers, media houses, social movements and consumer advocates based in Madrid, said on Sunday that anti-violence laws should only be used “to avoid clear risks of violence” and that “the rest is censorship and limitation of political discourse and the right to disagree” referring to the confiscating of yellow t-shirts from Barça fans on Saturday. 

Other reactions

Catalan president Puigdemont asked “if a simple color is now an offence against the state, what is next?” And he added: “Spanish political police”. Member of the Spanish Parliament from the Catalan pro-independence party Esquerra, Gabriel Rufián, summarized the Cup saying “Barça wins titles. Spain loses rights.”

On the other hand, the spokesperson from Catalunya en Comú – Podem, expressed her concern on Twitter saying that “it begins with a tweet, a song. Next, ideas and it ends with a color.” Moreover, she added that it was actually “those who do not want to mix politics with sport” and finished saying: It is politics, it is authoritarianism.”

On the contrary, Catalonia’s main unionist party’s sposkeperson in Parliament, defended on Sunday that the police confiscated yellow t-shirts before the match, saying that they were “liable of provoking confrontations”.

Translation: Vilaweb


April 23: Operation Ballot Boxes, describing how the October 1 referendum was successfully carried out in the face of Spanish state police sabotage and violence, the non-fiction best-seller at Sant Jordi,

April 23: Former French PM Manuel Valls, asked by Citizens to stand as its candidate for mayor of Barcelona, awarded the first "Common Sense" (Seny) prize of unionist Catalan Civil Society.

April 23: PP leader and former mayor of Badalona Xavier García Albiol hands out roses in the town, provoking this protest from those present.

April 23: Professional clown and ERC councilor Jordi Pesarrodona found not guilty of a hate crime for wearing a red nose alongside a Civil Guard on October 1.

April 23: ERC asks that the speakership panel of the Catalan parliament accept that the vote of exiled health minister Toni Comín be able to be delegated, like that of Carles Puigdemont. If accepted--and not overturned by the Spanish Constitutional Court--ERC and JxCat will no longer need the support of the CUP to invest a president and form government, having a 66 to 65 majority over Citizens, the PSC, PP and CatECP.

April 23: Spanish prosecutor's office in Catalonia decides to launch proceedings against ten teachers at the El Palau high school in Sant Andreu de la Barca for allegedly having humiliated the sons and daughters of Civil Guards in front of their classmates after October 1.

April 23: Catalan PP leader Xavier García Albiol calls for Sant Jordi to replace September 11 as Catalonia's national day. Barcelona Council PP leader Alberto Fernández Díaz calls for the national anthem Els Segadors (The Reapers) to be replaced by the Hymn to the Senyera (the national flag).

April 23: Yellow roses accumulate inside and outside the Catalan government building in central Barcelona, in solidarity with imprisoned and exiled Catalan leaders.

April 23 (Sant Jordi): Spanish interior minister Zoido says that the decision to confiscate yellow t-shirts at the Barça-Seville King's Cup final did not come from him, but was "operational".


Declaration of Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom, ETA), April 20

With this declaration ETA, the Basque socialist revolutionary organization for national liberation, wishes to acknowledge the harm it has caused by its armed activity, and to express its commitment to overcome the consequences of the conflict once and for all, so that such events never happen again in the future.

Over the decades, there has been much suffering in our Country: people died, were wounded, tortured, kidnapped or had to leave into exile. There has been too much suffering. ETA acknowledges its direct responsibility for this harm and states that none of this should have ever taken place and it should have not continued as long as it has. The political and historical conflict should have been resolved in a democratic and just way a long time ago. Indeed, suffering was great in our Country before the birth of ETA and now, after ETA has ended its armed struggle, there continues to be pain and suffering. The generations after the bombing of Gernika inherited that violence and distress, and it is up to us to ensure future generations inherit a completely different future.

We are aware that we have caused great pain throughout this long period of armed struggle. We know much of this harm cannot be mended. We wish to express our respect to all the victims of ETA’s actions, in that they were harmed as a consequence of the conflict, whether they were killed, injured or harmed in any other way. We are truly sorry.

Whether through mistakes or as a consequence of mistaken decisions, ETA has also caused victims among people who had no direct part in the conflict, both in the Basque Country and elsewhere. We know that, due to the various requirements of the armed struggle, our activity has harmed a number of people who had no responsibility whatsoever in the conflict. We have caused grave harm, which cannot be put right. We ask the forgiveness of these people and their relatives. These words will not cure that harm, nor will they make their hurt lesser. We say this with respect, with no wish to cause any further grief.

We understand the fact that many people believe and express the idea that what we did was unacceptable and unjust; and we respect that, as nobody should be made to feel or say what they do not believe or feel. Much of what the State forces and their regional allies have done too, even though it was done under the guise of the law, was absolutely unjust for many Basque citizens and they do not deserve to be humiliated. Otherwise we would be led to understand that there has been harm done which was just and deserves praise. ETA’s attitude to this matter, however, is different: we wish none of this had ever happened. We wish freedom and peace had taken root in the Basque Country a long time ago.

Nobody can change the past. But to distort or to try to cover up parts of that past would be one of the worst legacies anyone could leave for the future. Let us all acknowledge our responsibilities and the harm we caused. Despite having different points of view and feelings we must all acknowledge and respect the suffering of others. This is exactly what ETA wishes to express.

Precisely, as we look to the future, one of the aims we must work towards in the Basque Country is reconciliation; and it is already happening, sincerely, on many levels, among the people. Reconciliation is necessary to bring out the truth in a constructive way, to cure wounds and to build guarantees for such suffering not to happen again in the future. It is possible to build peace and achieve freedom in the Basque Country by finding a political solution to the conflict. The flames of Gernika will die down for good.

In the Basque Country, 8 April 2018

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna

Translation: Gara


Week ending April 22

189 nights with political prisoners
189 nights with political prisoners


According to the newspaper, a clear example is El Mundo. "Readers of the Spanish daily paper, close to the government, could find out on Monday what address Puigdemont is living at, at what time he met with his family, where they ate at midday and who he met with later in the evening," they report. They then quote the details: "the text goes on to say 'he lives in Charlottenburg, in the former West Berlin, one of the capital's most bourgeois neighbourhoods'. Even the street and house number were mentioned - and how much it costs to stay in the hotel per night."

This comes a day after the legal services of the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, warned, in response to a question from MP Andrej Hunko (Die Linke), that if Spanish security services had spied on Puigdemont in Germany it would have been illegal. They made that clear in their report and warned that any such action could have legal consequences.

"Action by sovereign authorities without the consent from the German state entails several legal consequences: foreign secret service operations against the Federal Republic are punishable in accordance with § 99 of the Criminal Code. Spying on foreigners in the Federal Republic fulfils this criteria. The unauthorised collection of data can fulfil the criteria of a misdemeanour or felony according to the Federal Data Protection Act," the report says.

Hunko has presented a further question in the Parliament to clarify the situation. According to Junge Welt, this now puts the "focus" on whether there was cooperation between the BKA, Germany's federal criminal police office, and the CNI, Spain's intelligence agency.

Translation: El Nacional


April 19: Judge in Barcelona opens investigation into presumed spying by the Catalan police into the activities of unionist organisations.

April 19: The mayor of Geneva, Rémy Pagani, offers the city as mediator in the Spain-Catalonia conflict.

April 19: Citizens' leader Albert Rivera resigns from the UGT after its "support for the separatist coup".

April 19: Girona Council implements decision to change name of Constitution Square to First of October 2017 Square (below, councilors holding new plaque, which includes this saying of philosopher Xàvier Antich: "There's only one thing worse than forgetting. Not knowing that you've forgotten").

Girona renames Independence Square First of October 2017 SquareOctober 1st, 2017 Place plaque, replacing Constitution Place

April 19: In reply to a question from Bildu senator Jon Iñarritu, Spanish government admits to pressuring foreign states to sack honorary consuls in Barcelona suspected of sympathy with Catalan independence process.

April 19: Javier Lamban (PSOE premier of Aragón): "The archive of the Crown of Aragon [presently held in Barcelona] belongs to Spain."

April 19: (EuroActiv) Ex-French PM Manuel Valls: no separatist solution in Catalonia

April 19: (The Herald, Scotland) Scotland praised for standing 'completely apart' in its support for Catalonia


Opinion: Aleix Sarri Camargo (EuroNews, April 18)

Catalonia's crisis, Europe's wake up call

Aleix Sarri Camargo, assistant to PDECat MEP Ramón Tremosa

Nine Catalan politicians and social leaders (seven elected MEPs) are in pre-trial detention for up to six months. They have been accused of rebellion or sedition, and face between 15 and 30 years in jail. The so-called rebellion refers to the 1 October referendum, organised by Carles Puigdemont’s government, in which more than two million Catalans voted despite the violence of Spanish police that left 893 people injured and was condemned by Human Rights Watch, among others. A rebellion organised with ballot boxes is indeed a strange rebellion.

Incredible as it may sound, at this point Catalan political prisoners have spent more time in jail for organising a referendum than members of the paramilitary group GAL who, following orders from the Spanish interior ministry, tortured and killed in Euskadi during the eighties -- a clear case of double standards.

Many Spanish unionists tend to forget that, as established in Article 472 of the Criminal Code, peaceful and orderly demonstrations do not constitute a crime of rebellion. What’s more, calling, organizing and holding a referendum is not a crime in Spain after the relevant articles from the Criminal Code were removed in 2005. In fact, even declaring independence is not a crime according to Spain’s Criminal Code. The misuse of funds charges also sound fake, taking into account that this week Cristóbal Montoro, Spain’s finance minister, recognised that no public funds were used for the referendum.

The Spanish outrage at the so far unsuccessful attempt to extradite Carles Puigdemont for rebellion has been loud (for example a Spanish member of the European People’s Party said that “If the European arrest warrant doesn’t work, Schengen is useless”) and aggressive (with a prominent Spanish commentator calling a German federal minister “racist”). However, the hypocrisy of this outrage has also been brought to light, as not so long ago, many former high-ranking nazi officials were protected from extradition in Spain. In the latest turn of events, the Spanish Supreme Court has harshly criticised the German court deciding on Puigdemont's extradition case, a move that has not escaped the attention of German media.

The fact is that the interpretation of Spanish law has been systematically biased against the Catalan pro-independence movement. The latest blow to its credibility has been the rejection by Spanish judge Pablo Llarena to allow imprisoned MP Jordi Sànchez to exercise his political rights and be elected as president of the regional parliament, as even the UN had advised in its precautionary recommendations. Llarena keeps Catalan leaders in prison because, due to their political convictions, there is risk of “reoffending”.

The fundamental problem is that Spain's political transition, widely praised for decades, was deeply flawed. In the name of reconciliation, a big chunk of the Spanish deep state never faced reform, preserving its right-wing elites and practices inside the police, the military or the judiciary system. Contrarily to Germany, Francoism was whitewashed in Spain and the country’s past was never confronted.

In Spain, the Francisco Franco Foundation is legal, has received public subsidies and staunchly defends the dictatorship. Meanwhile, El Valle de los Caídos, the mausoleum where the dictator is buried together with Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, ideologue of Spanish fascism, is officially considered National Heritage of Spain and also receives public funds. There has never been a trial on the excesses of Francoism and one shall never forget that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular (People’s Party or PP) was founded by seven former ministers from Franco’s regime.

For months (and years), Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders have called for a negotiated political solution. However, not surprisingly, Rajoy has rejected around 20 times to negotiate on a possible Scottish-like referendum in Catalonia. A situation that may not change soon, as the unionist block (the PP, Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and Ciudadanos) has been solid in its rejection of political concessions. Moreover, Ciudadanos may win the next election thanks to its hard right stance on Catalonia.

One should not expect much from King Felipe VI either. In his 3 October speech, the King abandoned his stance as a neutral referee of political life, to become the leader of the Spanish authoritarian counter-reaction to the Catalan self-determination process and a wider repressive offensive that has received strong criticism from Amnesty International and the international press.

In Barcelona on Sunday, several hundred thousand demonstrators took part in an historic, peaceful rally to show their support for the release of the Catalan political prisoners. Moreover, 44 MEPs from 15 nations have already demanded the detainees be freed in order to have a dialogue without pre-conditions between Catalonia and Spain. However, without greater outside pressure, it does not seem realistic to find a political solution for Catalonia any time soon as the Spanish side is unwilling to take a seat at the table.

Meanwhile, authoritarianism is on the rise not only in Spain but all around the world. Authoritarian countries like Russia or China receive less criticism than ever, and Trump’s bombastic rhetoric and opportunistic foreign policy has undermined the democratic leadership of the United States. The defense of human rights is disappearing from the Western agenda while Tibetan, Uighur and even Hong Kong activists in China end up in prison for defending the use of their language in schools or a more democratic system.

This is why defending the right to self-determination, democracy and historical memory is unavoidable for Europe. European inaction on fundamental rights’ violations in Catalonia will ease the path for soft versions of authoritarianism to invade the whole European continent and compromise the idea of democracy as the best tool to solve political conflicts around the world. Catalonia’s crisis is Europe’s wake up call.

Aleix Sarri Camargo is an advisor to Ramon Tremosa, an MEP for pro-independence Catalan party The Catalan European Democratic Party (PDECat). He is also co-author of “Why the Euro Is Failing.”


April 18: Josep Maria Bartomeu (president, Barcelona FC, on Saturday's King's Cup final): "I would ask the fans to enjoy the game and to support the team peacefully and in a spirit of fair play [in English in original]. And that they respect all symbols of identity just as ours should be respected. When there is booing, this is not disrespect for a symbol but protest against what has happened in Catalonia in recent years." Reactions: "Absolute rejection" (PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez); "Serious mistake to use football politically" (PCS leader Miquel Iceta). Earlier Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido had said that booing and abuse at the game would be regarded as "violence".

April 18: (The Scotsman) Madrid urged to follow UK to break Catalan indyref deadlock

April 18: Ultra-right party Vox, whose leader is the "popular prosecution" in the case against the Catalan leaders, calls for the resignation of Montoro.

April 18: Exiled Catalan minister for culture Lluís Puig, attends meeting in the Brussels delegation of the Catalan government celebrating the centenary of the birth of Catalan novelist and poet, the left-independentist Manuel de Pedrolo. Although not officially invited he ends up addressing the meeting. The Spanish government is reported to be studying "reprisals" against the delegation for allowing Puig to speak.

April 18: Scottish unions call for the release of the Catalan political priosners and stress the role of the Catalan firefighters in preventing even more police violence on October 1.

April 18: Jordi Turull (jailed JxCat candidate for president, after declaring before judge Llarena): "Mr Llarena has locked me up in prison because my investiture was 'inappropriate'. Today I told him that my ideals are intact and that I will continue to defend them in a democratic and peaceful way."

April 18: PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez says on the Sixth channel that PSC MP Carles Castillo's visit to jailed Catalan leaders "was in a personal capacity".

April 18: Citizens announces that it will launch a law suit to prevent the Catalan parliament from pursuing a complaint of perverting the course of justice against judge Llarena (for his refusal to allow Jordi Sànchez to be invested).

April 18: Judge Pablo Llarena asks Spanish treasurer Cristóbal Montoro to provide evidence to justify his statement that "not a euro of public money" was spent on the October 1 referendum. Montoro's position effectively torpedoes the request for extradition of the exiled Catalan leaders on the grounds of misuse of public moneys.

April 18: Swiss parliament's foreign affairs committee says it will block the extradition of Marta Rovira (ERC general secretary) if this is sought "on purely political grounds".

April 18: ANC, Òmnium Cultural, the Platform for Catalan Sporting Selections and the legal platform Rights call on Barça supporters to "fill the stands with yellow t-shirts" in support of the political prisoners when the Spanish anthem is played at Saturday's King's Cup final against Seville (below).

Catalan entities call for yellow t-shirt protest at King's Cup (Spanish FA Cup)

April 18: Carles Riera (CUP parliamentary spokesperson): "Reality shows that the only way out is to move forward because otherwise there will be more repression and autonomy will be more limited, which means putting up with still more repression. However, every leap forward implies effort and sacrifices and we have to be able to take more of those on board. Making the Republic means investing Puigdemont as president, implementing the laws overturned by the State so as to implement left-wing policies and internationalising the conflict through a struggle against repression and and street mobilisations."

April 18: It is revealed that PSC MP Carles Castillo visited Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras on March 1. Castillo is the first and only PSC-PSOE MP to visit any of the Catalan prisoners.


In a court appearance on Monday, the jailed Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras defended Catalonia’s right to self-determination and told the judge that calling a referendum is no crime. Deposed vice president Oriol Junqueras made a 40-minute appearance in Spain’s Supreme Court, where he is charged with rebellion and misuse of public funds for his part in the push for independence.

Answering questions from his lawyer, Junqueras said the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party he heads has for decades stood for an independent Catalonia without it ever being questioned. What’s more, the vice president insisted that “not a cent” of public money had been used to organize the unilateral referendum on independence on October 1, and he condemned the “intolerable” hardline tactics used by Spanish riot police to prevent the vote from taking place.

While Junqueras pointed out that numerous attempts were made by Catalonia’s pro-independence executive to engage the state government in dialogue, he went on to stress the pacifist nature of his political activities. In fact, Junqueras denied that any violence had been committed by the independence movement and was not even considered “as possible” by the Catalan government.

The vice president was also critical of the legal process he is subject to, arguing that he should not be tried in the Spanish Supreme Court but rather in Catalonia’s High Court of Justice (TSJC). Junqueras also claimed that the legal proceedings against pro-independence leaders are an attempt to nullify a political movement and are thus an infringement of political rights.

Translation: Vilaweb


April 16: Carmen Calvo, PSOE secretary for equality, says that UGT and CCOO participation in yesterday's Barcelona demonstration is "not understandable".

April 16: Enric Millo (PP and Spanish government delegate in Catalonia) says that "in general" the CDR cannot be compared to the kale borroka but that some CDR are more inclined to violence than others.

April 16: Jordi Sànchez, appearing before judge Pablo Llarena, attacks him for not being impartial.

April 16: Javier Moroto (PP deputy secretary of sectoral policy) challenges Citizens to present leader Inés Arrimades as presidential candidate in Catalon parliament.

April 16: Day of definitive closure of Catalan diplomatic service DIPLOCAT, denounced by its workers as "unjust and arbitrary".


Document: Communiqué of employees' assembly of DIPLOCAT (April 16)

About DIPLOCAT's liquidation

The Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat) has come to an end today once its office has been closed and its workers have been dismissed.

The Spanish government has liquidated Diplocat based on the Royal decree 945/2017 of 27 October 2017 followed by the invoking of Article 155 from the Spanish constitution. However, the only argument of this Royal decree is that “it is necessary to suppress those unnecessary organisations in this context or those, which have been created in order to participate in the development of the secessionist process.” The decision of liquidating Diplocat was ratified by the Spanish government’s Council of Ministers on 15 December 2017. 
 
In light of this decision, it is important to bear in mind that all Diplocat’s actions fall within the scope of public diplomacy. It is important to make a distinction between this concept and that of regular diplomacy. While the latter refers to the relations between states, public diplomacy comprises actions taken by states and non-state actors, with the intent of establishing a dialogue with a foreign public. As such, the actions of Diplocat were not aimed at setting up relations with foreign governments, but rather at broadcasting the Catalan reality to individuals and entities abroad.
 
Diplocat’s employee assembly would like to make public the following points:
 
1. We do not agree with the fact that it is the government of the Spanish Popular Party (PP), a minority party in Catalonia, who establishes itself as judge to evaluate the necessity or utility of an organisation like Diplocat in Catalonia. It is for the government of Catalonia and the other 38 members of the council to decide if Catalonia should have an entity like Diplocat; which, on the other hand, has counterparts in several countries and regions of the world.
 
2. We disagree with the consideration that “the only purpose” of Diplocat is linked to the secessionist process. During the year 2017, just to provide an example, Diplocat has organised debates and seminars on municipal diplomacy and on integration policies of refugees. Furthermore, Diplocat has organised projects abroad related to green energy and about urban territory management. It has given support to the internationalisation of the tradition of Sant Jordi (Saint George) and to the publishing of a study on Catalan gipsies in France. It has, furthermore, continued awarding students with grants for international studies abroad and it has given the PIMEC-DIPLOCAT 2017 award to a big data analytics company, among other initiatives.  
 
3. We have to keep in mind that Diplocat is an organisation that from 2012 works with the aim of protecting Catalonia’s image and prestige and its institutions, entities and assets around the world. Moreover, the organisation derives from the Catalan Pro Europe Platform (Patronat Català Pro Europa, 1982) and from Catalonia World Platform (Patronat Catalunya Món, 2007), thus it is not created upon “secessionists purposes.”   
 
4. It is important to remember that activities aimed at explaining Catalonia’s situation abroad have often been organised upon the request of foreign universities or think tanks expressing their interest in Catalonia. We wish to point out that Diplocat, in these conferences, has laid out the wish of the majority of the Catalan citizens to have the right to decide, but Diplocat has never taking part regarding independence. This was, moreover, the specific order from Diplocat’s board. Diplocat has often invited people clearly opposed to the sovereign process. In the sessions organised in Spain all parties have always been invited to take part, giving rise to debates in which most of the participants were clearly opposed to secession.  
 
5. In the rest of our activities, including the international visitors program, we have followed the same criteria, which is guaranteeing the plurality of opinions giving voice to both people in favour of and opposed to the referendum and the independence of Catalonia. All the delegations visiting us have had the chance to meet with all the parties with parliamentary representation, as well as with diverse and plural entities from social society, from the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) to Catalan Civil Society (Societat Civil Catalana). The parties that now defend the invoking of Article 155 from the Spanish Constitution (Ciudadanos, PP, PSOE), and therefore the extinction of Diplocat, have participated in the organisation’s initiatives.
 
6. We wish to point out that it is this clear and determined commitment towards plurality and the opportunity to hear all points of view and being able to meet with all the involved parts that has led to public recognition of Diplocat. MPs and MEPs from the entire political spectrum and academics of international prestige are among the people who have recognized Diplocat’s work.  
 
7. We firmly believe that the Spanish government exceeds its functions, including the ones exceptionally given by the Article 155. Suppressing an organisation like Diplocat, a completely legal and legitimate public-private council of 39 members that represent the Catalan society in a broad and transversal way, infringes Article 2 of the self-same Spanish constitution. The Article 155 does not enable the Spanish state to dissolve autonomic bodies, as the actions taken have to be temporary and not definitive.  
 
8. It seems that what bothers the Spanish government is not Diplocat’s possible drift towards independence, which is not true and which would never have been accepted by the members of the council, but that Catalonia is on the table outside the expected circles controlled by the powers of the Spanish state, its foreign ministry and its embassies.  
 
9. We encourage Diplocat’s 39 members to publically express their opinion on the closing of the council and to show their rejection if, as well as the employee’s assembly who signs this communiqué, they believe that this is an unfair and arbitrary decision that goes against Catalonia’s interests and its civil society, who will be left without a tool for internationalization, which has proven to be useful and efficient.
 
10. We ask the future Government of Catalonia to create Diplocat again, or a similar entity, as it has proved to be a useful and efficient tool to present Catalonia’s values and potentials abroad.
 
Barcelona, 16 April 2018
Employee assembly of Diplocat

Members of Diplocat

Public institutions
 Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya)    Provincial Councils of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona and Aran Government (Conselh Generau d’Aran)  City Councils of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, Tarragona and Vielha e Mijaran  Catalan Association of Municipalities and Counties  Federation of Municipalities of Catalonia
Financial and entrepreneurial entities
 Catalan Federation of Savings Banks  General Council of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry, and Navigation  Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise of Catalonia (PIMEC)  Catalan Employers' Association (Foment del Treball Nacional)  AMEC Multi-sector Association of Businesses  FemCAT Private Entrepreneurs' Foundation  Confederation of Cooperatives of Catalonia  CCOO of Catalonia (trade union)  UGT of Catalonia (trade union)
Social and sports entities
 Federation of Third Sector Entities of Catalonia  FC Barcelona
Universities, business schools and academic institutions
 The universities of Catalonia  EADA Business School  Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (Barcelona GSE)  Barcelona Institute of International Studies (IBEI)


April 16: (Salvador Illa, PSC spokeperson): "With every day that passes it becomes clearer that the main obstacle to forming a government is called Carles Puigdemont."

April 16: Citizens leader Albert Rivera calls for an investigation by the control commission of the Catalan Corporations of Audiovisual Media (CCMA) into the prime time interview last night of Carles Puigdemont by public channel TV3. If the CCMA refuses, the investigations should be done by the Senate. Rivera compares TV3, whose interview with Puigdemont attracted a 30% audience share (one million), with the Franco-era NO-DO (News and Documentaries). Episodes of NO-DO were compulsorily projected in Spanish cinemas during the dictatorship.

April 16: PP spokeperson Fernando Martínez Maillo says that the support of the UGT and CCOO to yesterday's demonstration "brings no credit on the trade union centres".

April 16: Judge Carmen Lamela (National Court) informs the former leadership group of the Catalan police, Josep Lluís Trapero, Pere Soler i César Puig, that they have been charged with sedition and criminal organisation.

April 16: Javier Pacheco (president, CCOO): "The goal of the demonstration was to make an appeal to parts of society that have nothing to do with the independence movement to come out in respect for democracy and against the legalistic response of the state."

April 16: Elisenda Paluzie (ANC president, reflecting on the immense April 15 #"WeWantThemHome" demonstration) "It is positive that CCOO and the UGT demonstrate together with pro-independence forces in support of rights ...  We all made an effort [at reaching a compromise position], but in the face of repression there have to be as many of us as possible, even while we in the ANC will do other demonstrations that are clearly pro-independence."


Week ending April 15

176 nights with political prisoners

176 nights with political prisoners


April 15: Carles Puigdemont gives long interview to Catalan public TV channel 3. The main points are:

  • Repeat elections are desired by the Spanish state: "Our desire and our efforts are directed at avoiding that and being loyal to what was voted for on October 1 and December 21.
  • "The Spanish government wants a Catalan government on its knees, and we cannot give them that. The people would condemn us for it. We have time to arrive at a solution, and we won't need to exhaust it."
  • "We will have the candidate that the parliamentary regulation, the law of the presidency and the Constitution allows. No-one has yet justified why any of the 135 MPs can't be elected."
  • "Today there was an impressive demonstration in Barcelona, the people were there. The people also came to vote in the face of fear and threats. We can't lose sight of that. The people mobilise in such an admirable way that it gives you confidence in this country."

April 15: Main features of today's mass demonstration in Barcelona in support of Catalan political prisoners and exiles (#WeWantThemHome), with graphics.
The municipal police estimation of attendance was 315,000: the organisers' estimate was 750,000. The demonstration completely overflowed the two kilometres of Parallel Avenue to which it was supposed to be confined.

  • Family members of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart reading the manifesto of the demonstration

April 15 Barcelona demo: family members of "the Jordis" read demonstration declaration

  • Red Current: "Free all political prisoners; End political and social persecution; Out with Rajoy and the monarchy"

April 15 Barcelona demo: Red Current banner

  • Banner: "Republic is Democracy and Progress: Autonomy [regional government within Spanish state] is Spanish Colony"

April 15 Barcelona demo: Banner

  • Behind the placards showing the exiles: "Republic is democracy and progress"

April 15 Barcelona demo: 'Republic is Democracy and Progress'

  • "Neither exile nor prison"

April 15 Barcelona demo: 'Neither Exile Nor Prison'

  • Flags of countries where Catalan exiles are not in jail (Germany, Belgium, Scotland, Switzerland)

April 15 Barcelona demo: buses arriving: flags of countries where Catalan exiles are not in jail

  • Second row of banners

April 15 Barcelona demo: second row of banners

  • Lead banners of the demonstration: (left side) "For Rights and Fredoms--We Want You Home" (right side) "For Democracy and Social Harmony--We Want You Home"

April 15 Barcelona demo: lead banners

  • Raising a castle as the demonstration forms

April 15 Barcelona demo: raising human castles as the demonstration forms

  • The demonstration, seen from the Park of the Three Chimneys, looking back towards Plaça d'Espanya. The entire two kilometres of the demonstration was full and people could not move, with many leaving the march to watch from side streets, which also filled up.

April 15 Barcelona demo: looking back up Parallel Avenue from the Park of the Three Chimneys towards Plaça d'Espanya

  • The demonstration, looking from Plaça d'Espanya down to the Three Chimneys (visible in the distance)

April 15 Barcelona demo: looking down Parallel Avenue from Plaça d'Espanya

  • Map of the route of the demonstration, down Paralle Avenue from the Plaça d'Espanya to the Park of the Three Chimneys (2 kilometres)

April 15 Barcelona demo: route of demonstration

  • Waiting for the demonstration to start

April 15 Barcelona demo: waiting for demonstration to start

  • 900 buses bringing demonstrators from all parts start to arrive in Barcelona

April 15 barcelona demo: buses arriving


April 14: (El Nacional) Julio Anguita (former federal coordinator, United Left): "The judge has convinced me that Spain has political prisoners"

April 14: Carles Puigdemont on the 87th anniversary of the founding of the Second Spanish Republic (tweet in Spanish): "The best guarantee for achieving a Spanish Republic is to support the Catalan Republic. 77.9% of Catalans would remove the monarchy. There is no data for Spaniards since 2015. Because asking, questioning and voting are today acts of terrorism, rebellion and sedition."

April 14: Rajoy says his government is studying the possibility of charging the Catalan speakership panel with misuse of public funds for its law suit against Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarenas.


April 13: Spanish attorney-general Rafael Català calls the Catalan speakership's board lawsuit against Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena as "a threat and an attempt at coercion".

April 13: Catalan Civil Society and Citizens accuse of "indoctrination" a children's activity at the Sagrada Familia annual fair called "Climb aboard the train of the Republic!"

April 13: (Handelsblatt) Puigdemont affair may go to European Court of Justice

April 13: Appearing with Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Mariano Rajoy states that the lawsuit against Llarena represents embezzlement of public funds and does not rule out that German court will change its mind about the extradition of Puigdemont. He also attacks the internationalisation of the Catalan campaign for self-determination.

April 13: CatECP to support law suit against Llarena.

April 13: Spanish government spokeperson Iñigo Méndez de Vigo says that the Catalan parliament law suit against Llarena could represent misuse of public moneys.

April 13: PSC on Catalan parliament law suit against Llarena: "We're opposed to the use of parliament for party political ends."

April 13: Act in memory of the Republican victims of Francoism outside Catalan parliament. Present: JxCat, ERC, CUP, CatECP. Absent: PSC, Citizens, PP.

April 13: On the 87th anniversary of the founding of the Second Republic (April 14, 1931), the tricolour (red, yellow and maroon) Republican flag is flown from Sbadell town hall, along with the estelada, the Catalan independence flag.



April 11: (El Nacional) The "evidence" against the CDR member: a Google maps screenshot and a yellow whistle

April 11: Catalan government in exile expresses solidarity with CDRs.

April 11: JxCat, ERC and CUP register joint motion against criminalisation of the CDRs for debate in the Catalan parliament (below).


Document

Draft resolution against the criminalisation of the Defence Committees of the Republic (CDR)

Proposal for a resolution to condemn the criminalisation of the Defence Committees of the Republic (CDRs) by the Spanish state apparatus, to be processed by special urgency procedure in accordance with the provisions of article 107 of Parliament's Rules of Procedure. With the following text:

Explanatory statement

Through their official social networks the Defense Committees of the Republic of Catalonia have published the following statement, which we reproduce verbatim:

"In a week in which we CDRs have taken the lead in street protest, we have seen how the mass media of the regime has begun to spread lies so as to attack and criminalise us. This campaign, jointly orchestrated with the repressive forces of the Spanish state, aims to create a context in which, by targetting us for political persecution, repression towards us can be legitimised and legal persecution can be justified as well.

“The regime’s media and political parties do not hesitate to invent an alleged kale borroka that does not and will not exist. What really frightens them is the existence of a united, cheerful and combative people. What scares them is that we practice active pacificism as a method of social change; what scares them is that we have the ability to stop the country. They fear that every time we organise the more aware we will become of the power we have.

“They have the force of the law, the power of the press, the violence of the truncheon and all the economic resources. As for us, we have nothing but an inspiring project: the building of a better country, from the bottom up and for everyone. We also have each other, each and every one of us shoulder to shoulder, and we have that which most frightens them—the future.

“Because we in the CDRs are students, farmers, firefighters, unemployed, shopkeepers, waiters, receptionists, teachers, self-employed, carers, computer technicians, cooks, hairdressers, postal workers, industrial workers, retirees… we in the CDRs are the people and we are here to build the Republic.

“We therefore denounce the attempts at criminalisation--of the press, of the law and of all the powers-that-be of a repressive and fascist state. Fear has changed sides and we will continue in the street, achieving our goals through non-violent, committed action.

“They won’t have enough jails to hold a peaceful people set on struggle.”

For these reasons, the undersigned Parliamentary Groups present the following:

Draft resolution

First. The Parliament of Catalonia considers protest, mobilisations and the peaceful, non-violent resistance and civil disobedience typical of a mature democracy as absolutely legitimate forms of political action.

Second. The Parliament of Catalonia denounces and unambiguously opposes the operations used for the State against the Defense Committees of the Republic by the different police forces and judicial bodies, in repeated violation of the civil and political rights of citizens.

Third. · The Parliament of Catalonia condemns criminalisation of social protest, repression and institutional violence and stands in support of freedom of expression, ideological freedom and freedom to demonstrate, and of the popular will favouring the right to self-determination and the construction from below of a better country for everyone in the form of a Republic.

Carles Riera Albert (Representative, CUP)

Elsa Artadi I Vila (Spokesperson, JxCat)  

Sergi Sabrià I Benito (Spokesperson, ERC)


April 11: Steve Bannon, former far-right Trump advisor, to visit Spain on invitation of Spanish.chauvinist outfit Vox in order to "combat separatist propaganda outside Spain".

April 11: Vera Jourová, EU justice commissioner, states that the Schleswig-Holstein court "acted according to the rules" in its tretament of Carles Puigdemont.

April 11: PSOE federal secretary Pedro Sánchez sees no reason to apply anti-terrorist legislation against the CDRs.

April 11: Act of homage to Oriol Junqueras takes place in the Auonomous University of Barcelona's Faculty of Philosophy and Letters after being banned by the Department of Economics and Business.

April 11: Supreme Court prosecutor Javier Zaragoza, on the program Espejo Público: “What is happening in Catalonia with the CDRs is a similar situation to what happened in the Basque Country with groups of young people committing what they called low-intensity terrorism."

April 11: PSC secretary Miquel Iceta: "The actions of the CDRs are not terrorism."


Snapshot (Ara, April 11)

Tarragona woman questioned for hanging a banner against the police on her balcony and publishing it on the web

She has been charged with a hate crime and must appear in Tarragona Court 2 on Wednesday

A woman from Tarragona will be questioned in court for hanging a banner on her own balcony which read: “Police, go home". The woman took a photo of the façade of her building showing banner and posted it on social networks with the message "A thousand eyes are watching you, we will not let you hurt us".

She has posted a message on Twitter in which she explains: "On Wednesday April 11 at 10:00 a.m. I have to appear in Court Number 2. The police have reported me for a hate crime after hanging this banner and tweeting about it. I guess I’m lucky I don’t know how to rap”1. Messages of support for her have also appeared on the web, encouraging people to accompany her to court.

Footnote:

1. A number of hip-hop artists have recently been convicted in Spain for lyrics and/or Twitter posts that were deemed to be offensive.

Translation: Ara


April 10: Xavier Domènech easily wins the position of general secretary of Podemos Catalonia and his team wins 37 of the 44 places on the Regional Citizens Council [state executive, in Australian terms].

April 10: Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau: "The charge of terrorism against the CDRs is a piece of madness and an insult to the victims of terrorism."

April 10: Demonstrations across Catalonia against the arrest of CDR member Tamara Carrasco (below, St James Square, Barcelona).

April 10 Barcelona demonstration against arrest of CDR member

Protestors at April 10 demonstration against arrest of CDR member on charge of "terrorism"

April 10: European Commission spokeperson  Margaritis Schinas avoids answering journalists' questions as to whether the CDRs are responsible for "terrorism".

April 10: CUP continues to reject the candidature for president of Jordi Sànchez, saying that Carles Puigdemont is the only legitimate candidate.

April 10: Supreme Court bench rejects complaint, brought by a member of the Catalan police, against National Court judge Carmen Lamela for having sent Catalan ministers to prison.

April 10: Spanish prosecutor general's office extradites presumed smuggler to Germany with the comment that "in no way have the crimes in question been evaluated" and that this is "in loyalty to the spirit that has to prevail in the execution of European arrest warrants."

April 10: Civil Guard ends up arresting only one CDR member, Tamara Carrasco, facing charges of "terrorism" and rebellion. Nonetheless, the provisions of Spanish anti-terrorism law are not applied in her case and she is immediately able to see a lawyer.

April 10: JxCat, ERC, CUP and CatECP condemn arrests of CDR members. PP leader Xavier García Albiol finds the action "very gratifying".

April 10: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent on Catalan public channel TV3: "We have to be able to form a government, but not at any price."

April 10: Civil Guard arrest eight CDR members, accusing them of "rebellion" and "terrorism".

April 9: (Below) Letter of Esteban González Pons, PP Member of the European Parliament, in reaction to the release of Puigdemont by regional court of Schleswig-Holstein. Sent to all MEPs yesterday.

April 9: (El Nacional) German newspaper 'Bild' accuses Spanish journalist of promoting terrorism.

April 9: The dean of the School of Economy and Business in the Autonomous University of Barcelona prohibits an act in solidarity with Oriol Junqueras from being held in its premises.

April 9: PP to demand withdrawal of the Carles Puigdemont's right to delegate his vote to another MP in the Catalan parliament now that he is free to move in Gremany.

April 9: Meritxell Serret, agriculture minister exiled in Brussels who has surrendered her seat in the Catalan parliament, to head up ERC team for the structures of the republic in exile.

April 9: CUP affiliate Endavant states that "the right to self-determination cannot be small change in negotiations with the [Spanish] state."

April 9: Joan Herrera, former national coordinator for Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV), says on TV3 that the unilateral road to a referendum has not worked and that it is time to "abandon the trenches and stitch ourselves back together".

April 9: Education minister Clara Ponsati, in exile in Edinburgh, says that if judge Pablo Llarena rules  again--despite UN Human Rights Committee statement of concern--that Jordi Sànchez cannot be invested, Crales Puigdemont should return as candidate.

April 9: Felipe VI, in Barcelona for inauguration ceremony for new intake of judges, met by demonstration of CDR and students from the Higher School of Music (ESMUC), located in the same building where ceremony is taking place.


Comment (Esther Vera, Ara, April 9)

A hammer blow to Spain

Rajoy’s government now has more problems on its hands than it realises

The hammer blow delivered by Germany has provided an opportunity for all those involved in Catalonia’s independence process to rethink their position. The German court’s decision not to recognise the crime of rebellion, as part of President Carles Puigdemont’s extradition request, puts Spain in an awkward position in the eyes of its European neighbours. Spanish justice, at the hands of Judge Pablo Llarena, has made the wrong move against a true democracy where those in power do not wield their influence through the courts, nor through university rectors1 and sympathetic politicians. Spain’s loss of face concerns the ongoing cases in Germany, Belgium and also in Switzerland, where one would have to be truly naïve to believe the surprise decision to act on the European Arrest Warrant for Hervé Falciani is a mere coincidence. The Spanish police arrested Falciani when they needed someone extradited from Switzerland2.

Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein court decided to release the President of the Generalitat and it now needs to decide whether to extradite him for misappropriation of public funds. While the German Justice Minister covers her back by pre-emptively showing her support for judicial decisions, Madrid has threatened to take the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union. It’s a stand-off between Spain and Germany.

The court’s decision complicates Justice Llarena’s case, exposing its political bias. Meanwhile, Puigdemont, the ministers in Brussels, Marta Rovira and Anna Gabriel remain free; and Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez, Carme Forcadell, Josep Rull, Jordi Turull, Dolors Bassa, Joaquim Forn and Raül Romeva remain behind bars, hundreds of kilometres away from their families. The same day as the president’s extradition was thrown out of court, Major Josep Lluís Trapero, an exemplary public servant, as demonstrated on 17 August [the terrorist attacks on Barcelona and Cambrils and its aftermath], was charged with the sort of crimes you would expect from the Mafia or a terrorist organisation.

Politics

You don’t have to be brave to be a politician, but conducting politics takes bravery.
The German court’s decision means Spain can change its strategy, while those who favour independence, who up until now have been forced to improvise, can make long-term plans. However, recognizing new political circumstances calls for courage in assessing the situation.

To begin with, Spain’s justice will have to review the charges brought against the Catalan leaders and the PP government will have to decide whether its priority is winning the war against the Ciutadans party in the council elections next year or facing up to the inevitable normalisation and recognition of the independence movement as a key player in Catalan, Spanish and European politics. Rajoy’s government now has more problems on its hands than it realises and it would have us believe. Germany has no desire to have internal problems and Chancellor Merkel is unlikely to contradict her Justice Minister in order to appease Spain, her European partner. As for the PP, however, Spain’s Foreign Minister has slammed the German minister and the PP leader in Catalonia played down the court’s significance, accusing it of being "regional".

Spain’s bilateral relations with its European partners will become increasingly strained and its reputation affected by evidence of the politicization of justice, influence peddling and abuse of power. Spain can still boast of its economic growth in recent years, but this is tempered by warnings that its public pension system is unsustainable. The economic gains are overshadowed by its management of Catalonia and the problem continues to grow.

Internally, Rajoy has begun to see his potential successors showing their hand. He will have to choose between digging his heels in or engaging in politics and negotiating. Unfortunately, nothing makes one think he will choose the latter option.

Civic-mindedness

In the pro-independence camp, the court’s decision has boosted its collective morale. The humiliation of seeing the President of the Generalitat extradited has been delayed or perhaps vanished altogether. The strategy of appealing to help from abroad is taking shape and the internationalisation of the process is becoming a reality. Puigdemont’s insistence on calling for talks with Spain "with no red lines" and with "mutual respect", and his claim that "independence is not the only possible solution", ought to lower the risk that the boost of confidence gained this week might lead to deadlock. The struggle continues and Jordi Sànchez is the third candidate for the presidency since the election on 21 December. The Spanish government could play smart and accept the decision. But they won’t. Once they have shown their contempt for the political rights of the winning parliamentary majority following the elections, they will need to choose whether to go to the polls once again or initiate plan D.

The tools of those who favour independence continue to be a civic-minded spirit and democratic majorities.

Translation: Ara

Footnotes

1. This is a reference to the latest scandal involving the ruling PP, in which the President of the Madrid region has been accused of having falsely obtained an MA.
2. ERC leader Marta Rovira recently fled to Switzerland.

Week ending April 8

174 nights with political prisoners
174 nights with political prisoners


Main events, April 2-April 8


April 8: Oriol Junqueras sends message to Felipe González thanking him for his position.

April 8: Former Spanish prime minister Felipe González (PSOE), interviewed by Jordi Evole on the Sixth channel, says he would prefer that the Catalan leaders in jail ("not political prisoners", according to González) were released until convicted of a definite crime.


April 8: Voting intention trends, Spanish State: average of 12 pollsters

Poll average (March 2018) Voting Intentions


Comment (Victoria Prego, El Independiente, April 5)

A devastating blow against democratic Spain

The decision of the judges of the Regional Court of Schleswig-Holstein is a very harsh blow for the Spanish Supreme Court, for the Government and for all Spaniards who feel deeply that the challenge posed to the unity of Spain by the secessionists has undoubtedly been accompanied by violence of all kinds, including that exercised against all Catalan society opposed to independence.

The situation could not be more negative, not only in judicial but also in political terms. Because the tremendous thing is that, thanks to the decision of some German judges, the leader of the rebellion will not be able to be judged for this crime, and that will create a very striking difference of treatment with respect to the other defendants. For public opinion and, of course, above all for the independence movement, it will undoubtedly weaken the solidity of the legal argumentation of the Supreme Court's investigating judge Pablo Llarena. The prestige of our judges will be thrown into question even more sharply than it has already by the sector that defends that independent republic. But the political offensive will take on formidable sharpness because this decision of the German judges will be interpreted as something similar to an acquittal on the most serious principal issue: the attempt to overthrow the democratic constitutional State that continues to embrace us all.

From now on we can expect an authentic takeover of the streets and of the dominant narrative in Catalonia by the independentists and an even greater harassment than that it has habitually suffered of the population that has always defended the unity of Spain. Without any doubt, that is a very important victory for those who want to break up our country: it is an injection of morale of enormous magnitude. The "peaceful" resistance that we have been suffering for months is going to intensify and it will turn into greater harassment. On the other side, that of the defenders of the Constitution and the unity of Spain, what is going to intensify is the profound desolation that this blow has provoked.

The damage to the country and its future cannot be measured at the moment but it looks like becoming enormous. And belief in a Europe that supports our aspirations to belong to a club in which the freedoms and rights of its members are truly defended and the legal systems of each member nation are respected and supported--that belief is probably going to get weaker because this is not the first blow that Constitutional and democratic Spain has received from venerated Europe.When the European Court of Human Rights overturned the so-called Parot doctrine, it dealt an incomprehensible and unjustifiable blow to our country, which meant that not only ETA's greatest murderers went free long before their many crimes deserved, but also serial rapists, only to return to committing their crimes.

And now this. Many Spaniards are going to start turning their backs on that Europe that we had been waiting for, for so, so long. Desolation, bitterness, disenchantment, disappointment. There's little more that can be said today.


April 7: Madrid demonstration for right to decide. Banner reads: "Freedom for the political prisoners. Democracy! Republic(s)!

April 7 Madrid demonstration for right to decide


April 7: ANC states that while it understands the motives for proposing Jordi Sànchez as president, its candidate remains Carles Puigdemont.

April 7: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent says he will propose Jordi Sànchez for the position of president of Catalonia at the next parliamentary session.

April 7: Unnamed sources close to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy say that while he is PM "he will never negotiate with Puigdemont".

April 7: Spanish-centralist bikies bash up a group hanging yellow ribbons on a roadside fence in the town of Artés (Bagès).

April 7: The PP discards the possibility of challenging the recognition by the Catalan parliament of the vote of Carles Puigdemont.

April 7: Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis says that the comments of the German attorney-general on the Puigdemont case were "unfortunate".

April 7: In Berlin media conference Puigdemont calls for release of political prisoners, investiture of Jordi Sànchez and the beginning of negotiations between the Spanish government and a newly constituted Catalan government. Vilaweb account here.

April 7: PP Catalonia leader Xavier García Albiol says that the release of Puigdemont could undermine Spanish confidence in Europan institutions.


Isabel Pires (Bloco de Esquerda – Left Bloc) is one of the Portuguese representatives who have signed a manifesto demanding the release of Catalonia’s political prisoners. For the first time, representatives of the Socialist Party (currently in government) and right-wing parties, such as the Social Democratic Party (PSD), have taken action. Written in the strongest terms, the document says: "We won’t contain our indignation at this frenzy of vindictiveness masquerading as legality, and we add our voice to all those in Europe and the world who call for the immediate freeing of Carles Puigdemont and all Catalan political prisoners."

The manifesto (which can be read here in Portuguese) will be presented on Friday in the auditorium of the Assembly of the Republic, the national parliament. Just last week, the Portuguese parliament passed a resolution urging that the Catalan problem be resolved through political means. But it is this manifesto that underscores the issue of the prisoners and, as Pires explains, although the government has not yet taken a position, a growing number of voice in Portugal are demanding the release of the prisoners.

Why did you sign the manifesto?
Because we want to defend the freedom of those whom we believe to be political prisoners.

The event will be held in the auditorium of the Assembly of the Republic, the national parliament.
We wanted to do it in the Assembly of the Republic because we believed that it holds symbolic power. Not only because there are representatives from different parties among the signatories, but also because it sends the message that the government should take a clearer position. It is very significant to be able to use the Assembly of the Republic’s auditorium. Ultimately, it is also a way of taking a political stand of sorts.

Five political parties have signed the manifesto. How important is that? Have all parties signed?
All have signed except one, the most right-wing party, which has not signed [the Social Democratic Centre-People's Party. CDS-PP]. We had never before gotten an MP from the PSD, and now they have signed, too. And the PS representative is important, because the PS, as governing party, is split on this matter. We hope that more people connected to this group will end up taking a stand.

Who is the representative whose joining surprised you the most?
The PSD, a right-wing party, is very important. It was not at all clear that he would end up signing, because it is a party that has a close ties with the Spanish PP. And from this point of view, it is extraordinary.

And the President of the Republic [Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa], what position does he have?
He has never said.

And the prime minister [António Costa]?
The prime minister is holding on to the position that all this is an internal Spanish affair and that, therefore, a statement is not necessary. Last week the government’s Secretary of State expressed this position. For now they remain non-committal.

We spoke two months ago. What changes have there been since then, in Portugal, regarding the Catalan affair?
Although there has been no avalanche of pronouncements about the matter, I believe that, yes, there is a very substantial difference from two months ago. At the moment, unlike what happened after the referendum, there are more and more people, especially people who write opinion articles, academics, teachers, who are committing themselves publicly. The question of the political prisoners has more and more visibility. And this, from the point of view of Portuguese politics, is very important. Portugal experienced a long dictatorship and knows what political prisoners are. For Portuguese society, this idea is very powerful. In Portugal we do not accept that people should be imprisoned for political reasons, and we condemn this.

What pressure can Portugal apply on Spain?
Portugal, like other EU nations, must criticise what has been happening in Spain and the decisions that have been made. And say that the judicial power is being used to stage a political offensive. Therefore, I believe that European states must join together and make public statements rejecting the existence of political prisoners in Catalonia. The countries should address this question. It is not easy, but we will not stop pressuring until this position is reached.

Northern Europe is deciding again on southern Europe.
These things are typical of the EU: cyclically, Germany and France, the countries that rule, are still predominant. And in the case of Germany it is especially important because it can stop, in a way, this process.

Germany, Portugal and Spain. Three countries that lived the transition from a dictatorship to democracy in a very different way. What weight do you assign to the Spanish Transition in order to understand what is happening today?
A parallel with the Portuguese Revolution can be drawn. In Portugal we managed to get rid of the power structures of the dictatorship. In Spain, on the other hand, the transition was negotiated, and the same thing did not happen. In Spain there are still remnants of this Francoist power. And that is the main difference between the two countries: the democratic paths that they followed are different. For example, now Spain is using these laws [sedition and rebellion], which we do not have in Portugal.

Translation: Vilaweb, slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


April 4: Barcelona FC CDR members launch yellow balloons at Barça-Roma Champions League match in support of political prisoners. The match also takes place before a banner calling on the Italian authorities to release the refugee rescue vessel Open Arms.

April 4: 1000-strong demonstration in Girona in support of one CDR member charged with cutting the rail line at Girona station during the November 8 general strike.

April 4: AMI and the Catalan Association of Municipalities and Shires (ACM) prepared to join the broad front in defence of Catalonia's democratic rights being promoted by parliament speaker Roger Torrent.

April 4: Josep Maria Cervera, president of the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI) states that "the Puigdemont card has to be played right to the end".

April 4: Poster for April 7 Madrid demonstration demanding freedom for the Catalan political prisoners.

April 7 Madrid solidarity with Catalonia demonstration poster

April 4: Madrid government anounces that is studying a legal appeal to the Constitutional Court against the decision of the Catalan parliament's speakership panel to accept Carles Puigdemont's vote.

April 4: PP to present draft law on "multilingual education" to the Catalan parliament.

April 4: After weeks of silence, PSOE leader Pedro Sànchez states that "there is no freedom of expression in Catalonia", "socialists are suffering violence in Catalonia" and Catalan public channel "TV3 is not an example of plurality of information". He later meets with representatives of Catalan Civil Society to thanks them for "defending the values of all citizens" and "social harmony among the peoples of Spain".


Solidarity with Catalonia (Portugal)

Free the Catalan political prisoners!

Statement by signed by Portuguese Members of Parliament from the Left Bloc, Socialist Party, Social-Democratic Party, United Democratic Coalition (Communist Party and Greens) and People Animals Nature as well as numerous social movement activists and intellectuals. The full list of signatories and the Portuguese text can be found here. The statement will be launched on Friday, April 6 in the auditorium of the Portuguese parliament,

The president of the Generalitat [government] of Catalonia, exiled in Belgium five months ago, was arrested last Sunday in Germany in a controversial operation involving the Spanish and German secret services. He was returning from Finland, where he had gone on the invitation of its Parliament.

Carles Puigdemont was re-elected to the Catalan Parliament three months ago, in an election which, contrary to all the expectations of the Spanish government, reinforced a majority favorable to Catalonia’s independence, to the right of the region to decide its future and to the reinstatement of the President of the Generalitat.

In addition to Puigdemont, nine Catalan independence leaders have been pre-emptively detained without bail, eight of them being re-elected in December, including the former Speaker of the Catalan Parliament and the Vice-President of the Generalitat. Four of these prisoners have been held in custody for five months.

Proof of the punitive bent of the Spanish Supreme Court was its refusal to release one of these prisoners, Joaquim Forn, a member of the suspended Catalan government, whose defence lawyers had requested that he be able to await trial in freedom so as to treat tuberculosis he had contracted in jail. Judge Pablo Llarena, author of all these arrest warrants, refused this request on the pretext that the detainee could be treated in prison ...

The same judge has proceedings open so far against a total of 22 Catalan political leaders and activists, who are joined by more than a thousand mayors and school principals awaiting rulings on their collaboration in the organisation of the October 1 referendum. He has recently prevented another of the prisoners, the social movement leader Jordi Sànchez, from being able to defend before the Catalan Parliament his candidacy for the presidency of the Generalitat—without any court sentence having withdrawn his political rights. This was the opposite of what the Spanish justice system itself did in 1989, when an ETA prisoner was allowed out of jail to defend his candidacy as leader of the Basque regional government.

On Friday, March 23, the same day as the UN Human Rights Committee called on the Spanish State "as a matter of urgency” to "guarantee all the political rights of Jordi Sànchez" the new pro-independence presidential candidate, Jordi Turull, was arrested in Madrid on the eve of facing a second parliamentary vote.

In addition to Puigdemont, four other members of his government and two independence leaders are in exile in Belgium and Switzerland; the Spanish Government has issued a European arrest warrant against all of them. The last, on Friday, was the Republican leader Marta Rovira who left the country accompanied by her daughter so as not to be prevented from "giving her everything that I can give her", leaving Catalonia in "deep sadness" at having to part from"so many people that I love" and with whom "I shared so many struggles over so many years with a single goal: to change society, to make it more just."

Only authoritarian regimes--in the form of harsh democracies or soft dictatorships1-- have political prisoners. They alone detain politicians and social movement leaders who have been elected aslegitimate  representatives of the people and who have never used political violence to defend their ideals, accusing them of crimes of "rebellion" and "sedition" and thus interpreting as "violence" the exercise of the basic rights to demonstration and expression of opinion.

Spain's rulers can repeat until they are blue in the face the mantra that Spain is a "consolidated democracy", but their actions on the Catalan issue all point in the opposite direction. Many European rulers can turn a blind eye and pretend not to understand that—whatever they think of the right to self-determination of the Catalan people—democracy and human rights are what is at stake, in Catalonia and in Spain as a whole!

We, by contrast, won’t contain our indignation at this frenzy of vindictiveness masquerading as legality, and we add our voice to all those in Europe and the world who call for the immediate freeing of Carles Puigdemont and all Catalan political prisoners.  Let all political and legal practices that are incompatible with respect for the civil and political rights of Catalan citizens end once and for all and, as everyone has called for, let there be political negotiations over a political problem.

March 27, 2018

Footnote

1. The Portuguese original contains the untranslatable coinages «democraduras» and «dictablandas»--so "harsh democracies" and "soft dictatorships"


April 3: Die Linke MPs interview with Carles Puigdemont (in English)

April 3: Jaume Collboni, PSC leader in Barcelona Council, calls for the road blockades of the CDRs to be stopped.

April 3: PP calls on the Catalan parliament speakership panel to rescind its decision on recognising the vote of Carles Puigdemont. If not done the PP will lodge an appeal with the Constitutional Court. Citizens follows suit. The CUP values the decision "very positively".

April 3: Spanish interior ministry sacks Annabel Marcos, the principal of the Catalan police academy, after a report on the Spanish-centralist web-based paper El Español that she had transported ballot boxes in her car on October 1.

April 3: The general secretary of Citizens, José Manuel Villegas, says his party will call on the Spanish parliament to declare Catalan pro-independence organisations (the Catalan National Assembly, Òmnium Cultural and the Association of Municipalities for Independence) illegal.

April 3: The speakership panel of the Catalan parliament decides by four to three that the vote of Carles Puigdemont should be recognised by parliament.

April 3: Regional prosecutor of Schleswig-Holstein decides that Spain's extradition warrant for Carles Puigdemont should go to trial, and asks that the court decide that Puigdemont remain in jail in the interim.

April 3: Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau on Spanish TV program Espejo Público: "The vast majority of protests have been peaceful: it is not true that there has been street violence. Let's not create unnecessary alarm."

April 3: Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas (Puigdemont's defence lawyer): "We don't live in a democracy, we live in a partyocracy where the parties are in permanent competition. Judges shouldn't take that into account, but they are human and take into account the environment they live in." Also: "It's logical that I say there was no crime of rebellion, but all Spanish professors of law of all tendencies say it as well."

April 3: CDR of Barcelona FC asks members to bring yellow balloons to tomorrow's Champions League match against Rome, to be inflated and released 17 minutes and 14 seconds into the game to shouts of "independence and freedom".

April 3: Clara (CDR member interviewed on Catalonia Radio): "They are creating a narrative to criminalise us and we are preparing our legal response." Also: "There have been plants in the CDRs ever since October 1, and we are identifying those who have been infiltrated."


Comment (Javier Pérez Royo, Ara, April 3)

What can we expect from the European judge?

The decision—rather, the decisions—will be formally national, but de facto European: it is impossible for Europe to agree with Spain’s top judicial bodies in their definition of the crime of rebellion

From a formal viewpoint, there are four jurisdictional bodies from four European countries that need to rule on the European arrest warrant issued by Spanish judge Pablo Llarena. Each one is expected to issue a ruling on a single, individual case, except for the Belgian judge, who will do so on two cases. Therefore, we cannot speak of a single “European judge” who is expected to reach a decision, as the title of this article would suggest.

Nevertheless, while there isn’t a single European judge as such, I believe that de facto there is. Each and every one of the judges will decide on their own. But every one of them knows that the individual cases that they are expected to decide on are all linked by a common thread. And all of them realise that this affair has taken centre stage as far as Europe’s public opinion is concerned, as a browse through the papers will easily confirm. And it is not just Europe’s public opinion: recall the recent NYT editorial.

There are times when a decision by one nation’s jurisdictional body becomes a reference for the others. The case of the Canadian Supreme Court’s opinion on Quebec springs to mind. Even though it was not a ruling —it was not prompted by a court case, but by a formal enquiry from the federal government— and, therefore, it did not set a trial precedent, this opinion has become the single most influential piece of doctrine on what the right to self-determination is —and what it is not—, as well as on the conditions under which a secession referendum may be held within a democratic country.

The cases on which the German, Swiss, Belgian and Scottish judges must rule are formally separate and individual, but there is a shared link: what constitutes a crime of rebellion in a democratic European country well into the 21st century?

That is the question that must be answered by the four jurisdictional bodies of the four nations where the Catalan nationalist politicians are held and against whom the European warrant has been issued. And all four judges know that their answer will establish a European common denominator on the subject of rebellion crimes. Even if they do it in their own individual way, together they will decide what a crime of rebellion is and what it is not; what sort of “violence” is required for an event to be characterised as a crime of rebellion.

Make no mistake: the decision —rather, the decisions— will be formally national, but de facto European. Rather than four individual decisions, we will see four concurrent votes on a single decision. All of them will seek the European common denominator, something that can be objectively and reasonably justified in front of Europe’s public opinion.

At any rate, that European common denominator could never be the content of the brief or the warrant issued by Justice Llarena. On the subject of the crime of rebellion, all four judges will dismiss the arrest warrant. They will not allow the Catalan politicians to be tried for rebellion in Spain because it is impossible for the European judges to make that sort of collective decision. And they know that they cannot make contradictory decisions.

Spain’s Public Prosecutor, Audiencia Nacional and Supreme Court have been playing with fire and they will get their fingers burnt. It is impossible for Europe to agree with Spain’s top judicial bodies in their definition of the crime of rebellion in the case of the Catalan nationalist politicians. Some voices in media and academia have taken for granted that, following Carles Puigdemont’s arrest in Germany, the Catalan leader would be handed over to the Spanish authorities under the terms that Justice Llarena has laid out. It is not going to happen. All that Spain’s justice will achieve is to see its prestige in Europe eroded even further.


April 2: University of St Andrews' students turn out to demonstrate support for Clara Ponsati despite rotten weather.

April 2 (from March 29): Interviewed in the Diari de Girona, British writer John Carlin says that "[Supreme Court judge Pablo] Llarena is the one that should be locked up in jail".

April 2: Assembly of Workers in Defence of Catalan Institutions (ADIC) calls on European citizens and institutions to support Catalonia's democratic rights.

April 2: Xavier Domènech (CatECP) clarifies position on CDRs after complaints on social networks over his interview in yesterday's  La Vanguardia in which he said that he didn't support their actions that lead to violence: "Badly expressed on my part: no criminalisation of citizen protest."

April 2: Albert Rivera (Citizens) says that the CDRs are "separatist commandos".

April 2: PSOE federal secretary Pedro Sánchez (after total silence on Catalonia for weeks): "I am very worried about the violence in Catalonia."

April 2: PSC spokesperson Salvador Illa: "The insurrection of the CDRs could lead to civil confrontation in Catalonia."

April 2: Estremera prison official José Angel Hidalgo asked to explain to his superiors the reasons for this article in the web-based magazine CTXT, in which he criticises the jailing of Catalan politicians.

April 2: ERC spokeperson Sergi Sabrià says the PSC will have to break with article 155 if it wants to reach agreements with the ERC.

April 2: Javier Maroto (PP spokeperson: "The CDR recall the kale borroka" and "the Mossos d'Esquadra (the Catalan police] are not doing enough to stop disturbances."

April 2: Aitor Esteban (Basque Nationalist Party) says that the Catalan leaders "have to get their act together" and form a government, so as to enable the lifting of article 155.


Week ending April 1

166 nights with political prisoners

166 nights with political prisoners


Main events, March 26-April 1


April 1: (El Nacional) The Catalan case bursts onto the European stage (no more an internal matter)

April 1: (El Nacional) German think tank warns over consequences of extradition

April 1: On the Basque Day of the Land (Aberri Eguna), the left independentist forces (izquierda abertzale)--celebrating in Iruñea (Pamplona)--call for both Basque and Catalan independence from the repressive Spanish state. In Bilbo (Bilbao), Basque Nationalist Party (PNB) leaders reaffirm their refusal to support the Spanish state budget until article 155 intervention in Catalonia is lifted.

April 1: CDRs continue wave of actions, removing tollway barriers on three expressways (see below, for action on AP-7 near El Vendrell).

CDR removes toll gates on AP-7 expressway near El Vendrell

April 1: Two Die Linke (The Left) MPs, Diether Dehm and Zaklin Nastic, visit Puigdemont in Neumünster jail. They offer him a house in Germany in case he is released while awaiting trial and call on the German government not to side with its Spanish counterpart.

April 1: Puigdemont: "October 1 was the beginning of another epoch from which there is no turning back."

April 1: Former Catalan president Artur Mas advises against investing Carles Puigdemont as president, even though it would be totally legitimate,  because it would open others to legal reprisals: "It has to be seen whether that is worth the trouble ... or whether it is better to strengthen our forces and move forward."

April 1: Jordi Sànchez from prison: "Six months ago today the democracy, non-violent resistance, civil behaviour and determination of the people triumphed."

April 1: ERC leader Pere Aragonés restates the need for dialogue with the Spanish state.


Background (Ara, March 28)

Der Spiegel calls for asylum for Puigdemont

Most German newspapers oppose extradition of Catalan president

While the Territorial Court of Schleswig-Holstein decides whether or not to extradite Carles Puigdemont, a good deal of the German press is calling for the President to not be handed over to the Spanish authorities. In an editorial titled "Asylum for Puigdemont”, Jakob Augstein —an influential journalist and co-owner of Der Spiegel— calls for the Catalan leader to not be extradited. Augstein writes that "The detention of Puigdemont is an embarrassment. For Spain. For Europe. For Germany." And he also reminds readers about the arrest of another Catalan president, Lluís Companys: "The Germans already handed over one Catalan politician to the Spanish. Lluís Companys declared independence in 1934. He was arrested and tried. After the victory of the leftist forces he was freed, fought against Franco, escaped to France, and was captured there by the Gestapo and sent back to Spain. He was executed on October 15, 1940."

"Rebellion is a crime that requires the use of force under Spanish law, but violence has never been spoken of in Catalonia. At least not by the Catalan side. It was the Spanish police who attacked the Catalans last fall when they wanted to vote in a referendum", reflects Augstein. And he adds: "The Spanish are calling for the extradition of Puigdemont. Germany must reject this. A politician who uses peaceful means to fight for his objectives should not have to go to prison."

Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung has taken the same line as Der Spiegel and questions the fact that Puigdemont stands accused of rebellion. It also warns that under no circumstances can possible political motives behind a case be ignored. It argues that judges must turn down the extradition request because "it is not the instrument to resolve internal conflicts”.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine is much more neutral but does not take a position in favor of extradition. It describes the situation and stresses that the German government has always said that the Catalan conflict must be resolved "within the Spanish legal and constitutional order."

Translation: Ara


March 31: The state prosecutor of Schleswig-Holstein to decide by Tuesday, April 3 if Puigdemont has a case of extradition to answer to.

March 31: ANC plants 3000 yellow crosses on the beaches of Cadaqués, Port de la Selva (Alt Emporda) and Argelers (North Catalonia, in France) to remember political prisoners and exiles.

March 31: Puigdemont on his Twitter account. "So everyone is clear: I will not give in, I will not resign and I will not retreat in the face of the illegitimate behaviour of those who lost at the ballot box nor in the face of the arbitrary action of those who are prepared to pay the price of sacrificing the rule of law and justice for the 'unity of the fatherland'."


Comment (Suso de Toro1, el diario, March 28)

Puigdemont is our president too2

Galician author Suso de Toro

In the middle of a Spanish National Radio (RNE) broadcast from Valladolid3 in front of a live audience the presenter announces the news of President Puigdemont’s arrest by the German police at the request of the Spanish prosecutor, i.e., of the Spanish government.

Immediate reaction of the audience—applause. But surely not all the audience: some would have been people who instead of feeling jubilant would have been cringeing at news announcing something deplorable, a politician pursued by the police on the orders of the corrupt government of M. Rajoy4. It may even have been that some people who instinctively joined in the applause later felt ashamed.

Surely so, but what a sinister reaction from that audience, which could have been any audience that follows the RNE in many other cities of Spain. A reaction typical of volunteer jailers: the hatred implanted by Spanish politics and media towards the rulers of Catalonia and the more than two million who voted for them has degraded people and social life to a degree not known for forty years. And that corresponds to the image the Kingdom of Spain has re-acquired, of a repressive country where political differences are solved with police and prisons, a country from which dissidents either flee or end up in jail.

These are the striking results of an implacable plan drawn up from the very moment M. Rajoy arrived at the Moncloa5, transported there by all the  bank-owned media of the monarchy. They immediately "took over" Spanish public televison (TVE) and this was indicative of what they were going to do elsewhere. To apply their program of theft of social rights and looting of the state they needed to end freedom of expression--they already had the newspapers and television stations on side--and so they drafted the Gag Law6.

Over the years since then they have been administering successive but regular doses of Francoism, doses so small that they have gone almost unnoticed,  imperceptibly intoxicating us: as we swallowed they took away everything, the welfare state and freedom. We went along accepting what they did to others by identifying with the flag (the Borbon flag) and a hymn (the Borbon military march) and a "unity" that meant persecution (“Go, get ‘em!”7) of those who would not submit. We got a little more Francoist every day as we laughed at the Catalans who got bashed up for wanting freedom, made jokes about the prisoners8, turning ourselves every day a little bit more into the jailers of the free. They have been vaccinating us against freedom to the point that we are scandalised that there are people who want to vote about whatever they want to vote about. Here freedom is something quite forgotten or unknown.

However, brainwashing and police repression were not enough: they also needed the judges and so carried out a reform of the legal system that not only withdrew legal protection and rights from individuals but also transformed the legal system as a separate power into a repressive instrument of the executive power. In addition to unblushingly placing openly Francoist judges into positions of power—thus controlling the National Court (Audiencia Nacional9) and the Supreme Court—in 2015 they adopted the law reforming the operation of the Constitutional Court. That reform implied reform of the entire state, the cancellation in practice of the legislative branch. On the pretext of carrying out an express reform to prosecute the then-president of the Catalan government, they transformed the Constitutional Court  into a reactionary instrument with unfettered power to carry out its repressive function10.

The People’s Party (PP) of M. Rajoy, after its Spain-wide campaign of collection of signatures against the Statute "of the Catalans”, filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court and maneuvered so that the composition of that court would accord with their interests. Thus the judges appointed by the PP challenged a colleague, Pablo Pérez Tremps11. And so a court in agreement with the PP issued a ruling that was far more important than the offense and the damage it inflicted on the Catalans. In fact, that ruling not only expelled Catalanism12  from the consensus on which the Constitution had been built, but also represented, I believe, a real refounding of the judicial system born of the Transition13.

A statute that had been drafted and approved by the Catalan parliament, trimmed back, given a brush14, approved by the Spanish parliament and then approved in a referendum by the Catalan people was changed by the Constitutional Court. The Catalans are today governed by a legal text that is no such thing. The statute that the parliaments and they themselves approved was not accepted by the Constitutional Court, which replaced it with another text, the original reworked with cuts. I won’t go now into the fact that court took out its frustration by cutting out points recognised in other statutes15: once the cutting and polishing began it was back to zero.   It’s not just a question of the suspension of the judicial framework in which the Catalans have been left since then, but also of the establishment of two principles: the Constitutional Court can interpret and modify any statutory text and it is not parliaments, the legislature, that establishes the law but the Constitutional Court, which stands above it. Thus, the Kingdom of Spain is no longer a full parliamentary system as commonly understood. But these things, so serious that they seem incredible, are much better known to Professor Javier Pérez Royo16.

For years it has been hard for me to believe the things that I have been writing about here: we were just not prepared to imagine this Francoist degeneration of Spanish public life. However, as regards hatred of the Catalans, yes, I believe everything. Just as I believe that everything that has been happening for months now has been a plan executed implacably step by step: from the Constitutional Court sentence they have been cornering the Catalans, giving them no respite, no negotiation, no way out, taking them to where they now have them—against the wall in a prison state.

When President Tarradellas returned from exile17, bringing back the Generalitat, the Catalan republican institution of self-government, he did it on the promise of Adolfo Suarez and the previous king18  that it would get recognition and fit into the constitution that was about to be drafted. But Suarez was pushed aside by the King himself and the Army, Suárez's democratic cheque account was left without funds, and now the Generalitat and its legitimate president (since no other has yet been elected) is in exile detained by the German police at the request of the government of M. Rajoy.

Moreover, none of this could have happened without a PSOE committed to the state strategy carried out by M. Rajoy and Felipe VI.

I shall not go on, I only recall what we have been saying for some time, it is not a question of independent republic or a Spanish kingdom, but of democracy or not. And in Spain that "not" means Francoism. Puigdemont is the president of the Catalans, no matter how much it galls M. Rajoy and Felipe of Borbon, but he is a democrat and it is our duty to defend his freedom.

Footnotes

1. Galician writer Suso de Toro, a long-standing supporter of the Catalan right to self-determination, is the author of Another Idea of Spain and various novels. He won the National Prize for Narrative in 2013.

2. “Puigdemont, our president” is a chant that’s heard at any demonstration for Catalan rights against the repression of the Spanish state. Suso de Toro’s point is that he is the president of any Spanish democrat as well.

3. Capital of Valladolid province and seat of the regional government of Castilla y León.

4.  “M. Rajoy” was how the name of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy appeared in the payments column of the PP accounts of former treasurer Luís Bárcenas, presently on trial for corruption.

5. Spanish prime minister’s residence and official seat of the Spanish government. 

6. The Gag Law, whose official name is Law of Citizen Safety, has been in force since July 1, 2015. Its provisions cover 44 offences ranging from flashing laser beams at aircraft to organising unauthorised demonstration.

7. “Go get ‘em” (a por ellos) was the chant of Spanish-centralist demonstrators gathered outside Civil Guard barracks to send off Civil Guards going to Catalonia to stop the October 1 referendum.

8. For example, members of the Spanish National Police were recorded making offensive remarks about Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras on his being sent into detention.

9. The National Court descends from the Franco-era Court of Public Order . More detail here.

10. The Law governing the Constitucional Court was amended in October 2015 to give it powers to punish those judged to have disobeyed its rulings. The former president of the Catalan government mentioned is Artur Mas

11. Pablo Pérez Tremps, member of the “progressive sector” of the Spanish judiciary, is an expert in relations between the legal and constitutional branches of the Spanish justice system who was also a member of the Constitutional Court. During the appeal of the PP against the constitutionality of the Catalan Statute, his impartiality was questioned by lawyers for the PP case: their submission against his sitting on the case was carried six to five by at a full bench session of the Constitutional Court.

12. “Catalanism” is a broad concept that basically means recognition and affirmation of the value of Catalan society, language, culture and institutions. It can apply to supporters of independence as well as those seeking a different relation between Catalonia and the Spanish state.

13. That is, the transition from the Franco dictatorship.

14. The Statute as first adopted by the Catalan parliament was later “given a brush” (cepillado)—expression of PSOE leader and Spanish centralist Alfonso Guerra—by the Spanish parliament.

15. The Spanish solicitor-general idenified 85 articles in the Catalan Statute challenged by the PP that were already contained in other Statutes. Articles finally ruled unconstitutional by the court were already in operation in Andalusia and the Valencian Country.

16. As outlined in his book The Impossible Constitutional Reform. See various comment by Pérez Royo on this blog here, here and here.

17. In 1977, Josep Tarradellas, president of the Catalan government (Generalitat) in exile, returned to Spain where he negotiated with Spanish rpime minister Adolfo Suarez the re-establishment of the Generalitat as the legitimate government of Cataloonia.

18. King Juan Carlos, father of the present incumbent.


March 30: Report on yesterday's session in the Portuguese parliament (below: Left Bloc MPs wearing yellow ribbon of solidarity with Catalan political prisoners)

March 29 session, Portuguese parliament: Left Bloc MPs wearing the yellow ribbon in solidarity with Catalan political prisoners
A resolution moved by the Communist Party of Portugal (PCP) demanding a "political solution" to the national question in the Spanish state based on "respect for the will of its peoples and hence the Catalan people" is carried with the support of the Socialist Party (PS), Left Bloc, PCP, Greens and animal rights party. The Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Social Democratic Centre-People's Party (CDS-PP) vote against.

A second point in the PCP resolution condemning the "repressive measures" and "authoritarian turn of the Spanish authorities" is defeated when the SP vote against, but with 21 of its 86 MPs still supporting the motion and 8 abstaining.

A separate resolution by the Left Bloc condemning the Spanish state's "shows of violence" and expressing solidarity with the prisoners and exiles, and demanding their release and freedom to return is also defeated by the PS, PDS and CSD-PP bloc, even though 12 PS MPs abstain.

March 30: Trouble getting the story straight: the European arrest warrant issued by Supreme Court judge Llarena says that the Puigdemont government misappropriated €1.6 million in public funds to carry out referendu, while the Spanish government has conceded that no public moneys were spent on the referendum.

March 30: PDECat tables written question in Spanish parliament as to the legal basis of the tracking of Carles Puigdemont by 12 secret service agents.

March 30: Der Spiegel : German government will not overrule decision of the court of Schleswig-Holstein on whether or not to extradite Puigdemont.

March 30: JxCat: "Any other candidate for president than Carles Puigdemont will be provisional."

March 30: Wolfgang Schäuble, speaker of the Bundestag, says that the Puigdemont case "is by no means trivial".


Comment (Milan Kučan1, El Nacional, March 30)

The EU's silence on Catalonia

Milan Kučan
Spain's European arrest warrants, arrests, threats of drastic prison sentences and the extension of imprisonment for Catalonia's elected representatives all indicate that Spain has given up the possibility of tackling the Catalan crisis, which is eminently political, through political means. Spain has opted for violence and repression in the hope that it will succeed in preventing the Catalans from politically deciding their future. Their attempt to pass the complex political issue into the field of criminal law, unfortunately, necessarily leads to gross violations of political freedoms and interference with the dignity of the Catalans, who are also EU citizens.

As a result of the agreement on cooperation in criminal matters, now EU members have become an instrument of Spanish persecution of legitimate political considerations and their institutions. The crisis in Catalonia, with the arrest of the former President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont, thus reaches even more worrying dimensions. The EU's silence is therefore unclear. Fear of potential similar ambitions in different parts of Europe cannot be a reason for this blindfolding, let alone accepting undemocratic government practices.

Fear is not a good counsellor. The EU needs the reputation and faith of Europeans not to veer from its democratic foundations and values. That is why it is time for the EU's appeal to the Spanish government to resolve Catalonia's problem through dialogue and democratic, political means. After all, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which advocates the freedom of thought and expression, will be 70 years old this December.

Footnote

1. Milan Kučan was the first president of Slovenia (1991-2002)


March 29: Tweet of Gilles Simeoni, Executive President of the Council of Corsica: "Following the arrest of Carles Puigdemont, the Corsican Assembly votes, with obviously favorable opinion of the Executive Council of Corsica, a motion of support and solidarity with imprisoned Catalan leaders." The Council motion also demands the involvement of the EU in negotiations to address the conflict.

March 29: Organisers of the Barcelona World Race suspend the 2019 edition because of the "unstable political conjuncture".

March 29: Poster (below) for March 31 demonstration in Munich against deportation of Puigdemont, called jointly by ANC Munich and CDR Munich.

March 31 Munich demonstration against extradition of Puigdemont

March 29: Crowdfunding site for contributions to the legal costs of Carles Puigdemont and other exiled MPs set up here.

March 29: Article in Handelsblatt Global: "Why Germany Could Save Carles Puigdemont"

March 29: Survey by German daily Die Welt says 51% of those surveyed think Puigdemont should not be extradited, with 35% in favour and the rest undecided.

March 29: UK Guardian article says European powers-that-be still unmoved by conflict over arrest of Catalan MPs

March 29: Xavier Domènech (CatECP) repeats his proposal for a government made up of non-party progressives ("let the parties take a step backwards so that the country can take a step forwards").

March 29: Front cover, The National.

Front cover, The National, March 29, supporting Clara Ponsatí


March 28: Spanish daily El Mundo runs lead story based on Civil Guard report of alleged protester violence on October 1. Alleges that a protester kicked a defenceless Civil Guard in the back of the head in the town of Sant Esteve de les Roures. No town of this name exists in Catalonia...

March 28: Newly formed broad platform of union confederations and social movement organisations calls mass protest for Sunday, April 15, calling for release of political prisoners, lifting of article 155 intervention and social harmony between diferent communities living in Catalonia.

March 28: Ultra-right Spanish unionist party Vox, the "popular prosecution" [see explanation here] in the Supreme Court hearings against the Catalan leaders, demands that former premier Artur Mas and Neus Lloveras, the former president of the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI), be also charged with rebellion and embezzlement.

March 28: Over 50 Flemish MPs sign letter to Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy demanding that he open a dialogue with Catalan authorities.

March 28: Puigdemont's German defence lawyer says he will immediately appeal to the German Constitutional Court if the Catalan president is not released by local court considering the European arrest warrant against him.

March 28: Historian Josep Lluís Alay, travelling with Carles Puigdemont at the time of his arrest, himself arrested on return to Catalonia.

March 28: José Ángel Hidalgo, public servant with the Madrid prisons department, summoned to explain his interview on Catalan radio RAC1 in which he questioned why Catalan MPs were in prison.

March 28: 27 judges from 12 of the Spanish State's 17 autonomous communities (states) declare their solidarity with Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena. No judge from Catalonia signs the declaration.

March 28: Citizens MP to Catalan Ombudsman: "You are the Ombudsman of the independence process."

March 28: Der Spiegel calls for asylum for Puigdemont. See Ara's account (in English) here.

March 28: Catalan parliament adopts resolutions on: the rights of elected representatives to stand for elected office, specifically the right of Carles Puigdemont, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull to stand for the position of president; the release of jailed MPs and social movement leaders; the suspension of the article 155 intervention of the Spanish government in Catalonia; and the need for broad alliances as the basis for Catalonia's advance to self-determination. (Translated text of resolutions to come.)


March 28 session of Catalan Parliament: yellow ribbons mark seats of jailed and exiled MPs

March 28 session of Catalan Parliament, with yellow ribbons on seats of jailed and exiled MPs


March 28: Clara Ponsatí raises nearly £200,000 in less than a day through crowdfunding appeal for her legal expenses.

March 28: Catalan Ombudsman presents his report on October 1 to the Catalan parliament.

March 28: Four well-known writers denounce the detention of Catalan leaders in today's edition of Le Monde.

March 28: Clara Ponsatí released on bail in Edinburgh, and has to surrender passport.

March 28: Parliament approves the resolution of CatECP on the need to defend Catalonia's institutions and advance on the basis of broad social majorities.

March 28: A judge in Cornellà (outer Barcelona) charges eight senior Catalan police with sedition and refers the case to the National High Court (Audiencia Nacional).

March 28: Spanish National Police arrest at Barcelona airport the two Catalan police who were accompanying Puigdemont on his journey from Finland to Belgium.

March 28: Parliament rejects the resolution of PSC on "dialogue and reconciliation".

March 28: Enric Millo, delegate of the Spanish government in Catalonia, says that Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent is following the same course as his predecessor, Carme Forcadell (now in jail).

March 28: Elisenda Paluzie, the new president of the ANC, calls on parlament to invest Puigdemont as president.

March 28: Parlament rejects the resolution of Citizens demanding the resignation of Roger Torrent as speaker.

March 28: The New York Times publishes this editorial ("The Catalonia Dispute Ensnares Germany")

March 28: José Ángel Hidalgo, prison officer at Madrid's Estremera prison, on radio RAC1: "Junqueras and Forn are fine, they are receiving extraordinary treatment from the prison officers. But the question is, what are they doing here."

March 28: Education minister Clara Ponsatí presents herself at Edinburgh police headquarters, so as to answer to European arrest warrant issued by Spanish Supreme Court.

March 28: JxCat decides that if Suprme Court judge Pablo Llarena ignores the position of the UN in support of the right of parliamentarians to stand for any position they will present a fourth candidate for the position of president (after Puigdemont, Sànchez and Turull).

March 28: Spanish government spokesperson Iñigo Méndez de Vigo says after meeting of cabinet that "breaking the law is an issue of European importance".


March 27: The mayor of the industrial city of Granollers (Vallès Oriental), Josep Mayoral (PSC) has called on all mayors of the region to join the front for the defence of democracy proposed by speaker Roger Torrent in order to "win freedom for all persecuted persons" and end repression.

March 27: CDR Sants surrounds the main Barcelona railway station.


Ferreres, Ara, March 27

Zoido at work
Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido: "You sent the arrest warrant to Finland written in Spanish. This can't happen again! To Finland, in Finnish. To Belgium, in Belgian. To Switzerland, in Swiss.


March 27: CDR road closure campaign continues with police charges and arrests.

March 27: Scottish government formally complains to the Spanish ambassador to the UK about the issuing of the European Arrest Warrants against Puigdemont, Comin, Puig and Ponsatí.

March 27: Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, Puigdemont's lawyer, from Germany: "The president is firm, with courage and determination: he will not let down his ideals. He very much appreciates all the support he is getting and makes a call for the movement for sovereignty to stay united."

March 27: CCOO and UGT launch the platform Democracy and Social Harmony and call mass demonstration for April 15.

March 27: The majority of German dailies against extraditing Puigdemont.

March 27: Der Spiegel calls for political asylum to be granted to Puigdemont

March 27: Exiled minister for culture Lluís Puig on radio RAC1: "Creating a Spanish regional government on the assumption that our people will be released from prison is a lie. It would be to take a step backward and increase by many years the time in jail of those who are there. We need to recover the Catalan government, but not at any price. If we manage to defeat these extradition demands in some country we will be able to work there on everything we can't do in the Spain. The combination of the institutions, international actions and the civic and peaceful attitude of civil society have to get us out of this dead end."

March 27: CDRs initiative road blocks on highways across Catalonia.

March 27: Front cover of today's issue of the Scottish pro-independence daily, The National. Story here.

Today's issue of The National (Scotland)


Comment on likelihood of Puigdemont deportation to Spain (Javier Pérez Royo, Ara, March 27)

What can we expect from the German judge?

High treason and rebellion are similar in that they are both characterised by violence

In fact, the title should read "from the European Judge", since judges from four countries will have to rule on the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Judge Pablo Llarena [against the four Catalan MPs presently in exile]. But since all eyes are on Germany, I shall focus on the possible or probable response of the German judge.

As I am sure you found out on Sunday, if you weren’t already aware, the EAW allows for the immediate repatriation of the suspect by the judge of the country in which they have been detained. Said repatriation could be automatic, without the need for the German judge to analyse in the slightest the specific content of the EAW issued by Llarena.

This would have been the case if the offences of which Carles Puigdemont stands accused featured on the list of crimes for which this automatic repatriation is intended. However, rebellion [the main charge against president Carles Puigdemont] is not one of them. Consequently, the German judge is not only allowed to, but indeed obliged to, carry out an analysis of the facts surrounding the crimes of which Carles Puigdemont stands accused in order to find out whether or not they constitute the crime of rebellion.

This is the key to the question. As you may have learnt on Sunday, according to the German Criminal Code, there exists the crime of high treason, typified in terms that are not identical —but which some claim are comparable— to those of the crime of rebellion under the Spanish Criminal Code. From this point of view, assuming that the similarity stands, Puigdemont’s legal position before the German and the Belgian judges is different, as the crime of rebellion does not exist in Belgium’s Criminal Code.

The crime of rebellion in the Spanish Criminal Code is defined in a different way from the crime of high treason in the German Criminal Code. The closest offence to the German crime of high treason under Spanish law can be found in article 102.2 of the Spanish Constitution. This states that, "The President (of the government) shall be held criminally liable" if "the charge is of treason or any offence against the security of the State is committed".

However, let's imagine for a moment, no small thing, that there is a certain similarity between the German crime of high treason and the Spanish crime of rebellion. It does not necessarily follow from this that the German judge can proceed to accept the version of events as outlined in the EAW issued by Judge Llarena as constituting the crime of rebellion, however. The apparent similarity between the two merely allows the judge to agree to consider the EAW, but nothing more.

The German judge has the obligation to study the EAW and verify whether Carles Puigdemont's conduct can be classified as rebellion. And if it can be maintained in terms that confirm a certain degree of "similarity" between the German and Spanish criminal codes. In other words, if Carles Puigdemont’s conduct as described by Judge Pablo Llarena in the EAW constitutes an act of violence of the criminal kind both in terms of high treason and of rebellion.

High treason and rebellion are similar in that they are both characterised by violence. Without violence neither one nor the other exists. And not any form of violence, not the existence of violent incidents, but a violence planned from the initial moment of the uprising, in order to achieve the objectives outlined both in the German and Spanish Criminal Code. A ‘’violent uprising’’ is not the result of the juxtaposition of an adjective, and a noun, instead the two must be indivisibly linked from its inception to its completion. This indivisible pair is crucial when deciding what constitutes the crime according to the law.

This is the practically unanimous interpretation of violence under both Spanish and German law. For violence of a criminal nature to exist it must be physical violence, against people, not against property, and of an exceptional nature. Without these characteristics, violence or violent episodes may constitute a criminal offence, but not the crime of rebellion or high treason. This is what the German judge will have to confirm first and subsequently justify if he considers that he must accept the EAW issued by the Spanish judge.

My impression is that he will not be able to do so, since as Professor Francisco Javier Álvarez García explained yesterday in the Tribuna Abierta blog [Open Platform], "with the information on the table (found in the court’s resolutions) one cannot state that the Catalan politicians recently brought before the Supreme Court’s examining magistrate have committed a crime of rebellion".

Translation: Ara (slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau)


March 26: Demonstrations in solidarity with Catalonia in Palma (Mallorca), Valencia and various cities in Galicia.

March 26: Jordi Sànchez calls for strict observance of principle of non-violence in demonstrations.

March 26: Parlament speaker Roger Torrent holds meetings with leaders of Micro, Small and Medium Business of Catalonia (PIMEC), the County Business Confederation of Terrassa (CECOT) and the Farmers Union. All three stress the need to form government.

March 26: Parlament speaker Roger Torrent holds meetings with leaders of majority union confederations UGT and CCOO. No specific measures agreed on beyond "creating a space for promoting social harmony". CCOO secretary general Javier Pacheco: "Abandoning the unilateral path is indispensable."

March 26: Jordi Turull from prison: "Isolate the provocateurs from demonstrations".

March 26: Jordi Sànchez states his willingness to stand for investiture as president on the basis of legal advice that, under the UN Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, he cannot be prevented from doing so.

March 26: Family members of jailed Catalan MPs meet with MEPs in European Parliament in Brussels.

March 26: Unionist organisation Catalan Civil Society (SCC) demands the resignation of Roger Torrent as speaker, because "in a democratic state it is inadmissable that an institutional representative deliver a speech supportive of a coup." [a reference to the October 1 referendum]

March 26: Spanish prosecutor's office in Catalonia demands protection for Supreme Court judge Llarena after he received a menacing tweet.

March 26: Catalan Ombudsman declares he will investigate behaviour of police at yesterday's protests against the detention of Carles Puigdemont and the five MPs taken into custody on March 23.

March 26: Workers in hospitals and Catalan Parliament stage protests in support of arrested Catalan leaders.

March 26: Albert Rivera (Citizens): "Nationalism is what we saw in the streets of Barcelona yesterday--hatred and confrontation."

March 26: College of Catalan Lawyers issues statement calling detention of MPs "disproportionate".

March 26: Five MPs detained on March 23 ask judge Llarena to allow them to vote in the Catalan parliament, as Llarena had already agreed for imprisoned JxCat leader Jordi Sànchez.

March 26: German government statement says that the case of Puigdemont will be solved "on the basis of Spanish law", and affirms that "Spain is a democratic state".

March 26: Puigdemont's first tweet from detention: "Now there must be no violence."

March 26: One thousand lawyers in Barcelona hold protest against the decisions of the Spanish Supreme Court.

March 26: Workers Commissions (CCOO) of Catalonia demand immediate release of political prisoners.

March 26: Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastic cancels visit to Barcelona.

March 26: Andoni Ortúzar, president of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), ends message to Puigdemont: "We're with you, president."


Week ending March 25

160 nights of political prisoners
160 nights with political prisoners


Main events, March 19-25


March 25: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent addresses Catalonia over TV3, calls for broad front for the defence of democratic rights in Catalonia. Citizens and PP criticise "partisan" use of public broadcaster. English version of Torent's speech here.

March 25: Demonstrations all over Catalonia (55,000 in Barcelona), protesting arrest of president Puigdemont and calling on German courts not to comply with European arrest warrant and hand him over to the Spanish legal system. Clashes with arrests and wounded in Barcelona. Graphics:

March 25: Sergi Perelló, leader of pro-independence union confederation  Intersindical-CSC, calls on workers opposed to repression of Spanish state to join Intersindical-CSC so as to make a general strike a success.

March 25: Demonstration in support of Puigdemont and calling on German authorities to deny extradition order (below).
Barcelona, March 25: demonstration in support of Puigdemont's release

March 25: German police arrest Carles Puigdemont after entering Germany from Denmark on his way back to Belgium. German court will consider extradition order tomorrow.


Opinion (Beatriz Talegón1, El Nacional, March 24)

The crack of March 23

(Comment on the jailing yesterday of the Catalan leaders)

Former PSOE youth leader Beatriz Talegón, supporter of a Catalan right to decide

Yesterday there was a creaking, it traveled from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar. Yesterday, yes, yesterday, Spain broke apart.

Like when you see an ice sheet breaking in the documentaries, yesterday that crack crack crack took place. And then everything was quiet. Like when there is snow, it absorbs the noise and the feeling is like a vacuum that is full ... strange.

Yesterday Spain was left without the rule of law. Crack!

And democracy was left completely naked. Wham!

Those who think they own Spain have tightened the rope so much that in the end they have exposed their own private parts.  Yesterday, directors of Spanish newspapers, twitterers, pedestrians on the streets of Madrid, neighbours, cousins, friends ... they all said "not in my name".

In Catalonia, for sure, they didn't notice. Because they were in shock watching Judge Llarena break the law and put in jail politicians accused of doing politics. But the shock also reached Spain.

My colleague Iu Forn2 explains it very well. Read him. Yesterday's low blow is unfortunately just  one more step, and although it may not seem so, evidence that proves the Republicans and also the supporters of independence right. Or did you think they would give us a Republic by asking for it nicely?

Now it is easier to explain to Spanish people that this was precisely what people supporting Catalan sovereignty, Basque sovereignty, Valencian sovereignty have been saying for a long time. Because of this way of administering justice, this enormous shortfall in democracy, this style of media lies, they want to leave it behind. It doesn't surprise me. I also want to become independent from this Spain.

Of course, that the right-wing inheritors of Franco's coup regime do this seems to me to be totally expected, even though I too am in shock and pain. But that the PSOE and Podemos can swallow this and are not leading massive demonstrations in a show of rejection of this government and of support for the Catalan people--that is heartbreaking.

I thought I saw them both fall yesterday inside the abyss that opened when Spain went crack.

Footnote

1. Former leader of the international of socialist youth, aligned with the social democracy, Beatriz Talegón was for a long time a dissident voice within the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). She has been a consistent supporter of the right to self-determination of the Catalans and other nations within the Spanish state.

2. Catalan commentator


March 24: Tarragona CDR organises roadblock with 1000 people of main north-south expressway in protest against jailing of Catalan MPs.

March 24: Abbott of Monteserrat issues a statement criticising the jailing of the Catalan parliamentarians.

March 24: Economist Elisenda Paluzie elected as president of ANC, replacing Jordi Sànchez.

March 24: Torrent tells meeting after parliamentary session that he will propose a broad anti-repression front at the enxt session.

March 24: Natàlia Sànchez (CUP): "We will fill the streets to empty the prisons."

March 24: Xavier Domènech (CatECPodem) calls on the pro-independence parties to form a government as soon as possible, and if they can't, to say so and alow a different majority to form.

March 24: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent suspends investiture session because Turull is absent in jail, but substitutes it with a session in which each party group can speak for 15 minutes on the political situation. The PP walks out.


Analysis (Dani Sánchez Ugart, Ara, March 24)

Spain: Supreme Court judge twists words to justify charges of rebellion against pro-independence leaders

Judge's convoluted semantics could lead to prison sentences of 10-30 years for the defendants

Barcelona demonstration against jailing of five Catalan leaders: "Republic Now"

Before sending five Catalan elected representatives back to prison, Pablo Llarena used his judicial statement on the charges against 25 politicians and leaders of pro-independence grassroots organizations to reconstruct an alleged legal narrative that goes back to 2012, with [former president] Artur Mas' victory in the Parliamentary elections, and attempts to present a "meticulous ideation" of a strategy of confrontation with the Spanish government.

Although most of the events described —from the creation of Catalonia’s Advisory Council for the National Transition, to the publication of the "White Book for the National Transition", to the approval of Parliamentary resolutions— were public and well-known, and were not contested at the time by Spain’s criminal justice system, according to Llarena's reasoning they were part of a perfectly crafted conspiracy and thus can be construed as crimes of rebellion, disobedience, and embezzlement. In 69 pages, the Supreme Court judge presents a meticulous account of each and every one of the main events in Catalan politics, with special attention to the events of September 20th outside the HQ of Catalonia’s Ministry of Economy—which the judge characterizes as violent in order to justify pressing rebellion charges—and to the October 1st referendum. But Llarena dedicates many pages to justifying the convoluted reasoning used to attribute this violence to the indicted. Justice Llarena admits that Supreme Court jurisprudence "characterises violence by its physical nature, by personal expression, and for its appropriateness". That is, that violence must be "of a physical nature", requires "the use of force", and must be exercised against "a person". It also must have "sufficient intensity to bend the will of those against whom it is directed".

Word-twisting

None of these conditions are given in the magistrate's text, where only the "capacity for intimidation" of the crowds that had gathered on September 20th is referred to as violence. He notes that Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart climbed on top of two Guardia Civil patrol cars, and describes in detail the situation of the police officers injured during the October 1st referendum (and assigns responsibility for this violence to those who gathered outside the polling stations).

Llarena's convoluted reasoning is semantic. As the facts don't fit the accepted definition, he establishes a difference between "violence" and "acting violently", which is "doing something in a violent manner, which does not present a typical content fully in agreement with acting with violence". This is a twisting of the dictionary that assumes that the adverb "violently" has a different content than the noun "violence". This, despite the fact that the official dictionary of the Spanish language defines "violently" as "in a violent way", without any additions or qualifications.

According to the judge, however, "acting violently" is outside the classic definition of violence that judges use, and allows it to be "projected onto material things". In his version of the events, Llarena justifies this alleged violence with the events of September 20th, in which "the crowd acted with massed force", "destroyed police vehicles, and attacked personal property", and goes further and states that their actions "restricted the ability to act as a consequence of the use of force", and compares it with "the taking of hostages by firing shots into the air".

The judge admits that the violence was not "planned from the beginning as an instrument for achieving independence", although he notes that investigation of this must continue. He notes that they "accepted the risk of a clearly representable violence" by encouraging people to demonstrate despite the deployment of police forces. That is, again, and as he has done in previous writings, Llarena lays the blame for the police violence on those who were its victims.

No mention of "Enfocats"

The document "Enfocats" (Focused) had become the main piece of evidence in the majority of briefs issued by Llarena up to now. The judge based his justification for the the defendants’ participation in the process of rebellion on the annotations found in this PowerPoint file in the home of Josep María Jové, [deputy president] Oriol Junqueras' deputy at the Ministry of Economy. The weakness of this evidence had been made evident by defense teams on various occasions. Llarena practically ignores it in this accusatory brief, and instead targets the "White Book" put together by the Advisory Council for the National Transition as the touchstone that initiated the independence process, and which describes the steps that followed, which he uses to justify charges of planned and coordinated action. The references to "Enfocats" now are down to three mentions in footnotes.

Translation: Ara, slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


March 23: Moment in the Catalan National Theatre when the actors announce that they are cancelling tonight's performance because of the jailing of the Catalan leaders.

March 23: Images and video from tonight's demonstrations against the the jailing of the five Catalan leaders and in solidarity with ERC national secretary Marta Rovira, who has gone into exile.

Other images here

March 23: Tweet of Carles Puigdemont: "The day that the UN demands of Spain that it respect the rights of Jordi Sànchez, the judge sends five of our comrades to prison for their ideas and their commitment. The anti-democratic Spanish state is Europe's shame."

March 23: Judge Llarena issues international arrest warrants for Carles Puigdemont, Marta Rovira, Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret, Lluís Puig and Clara Ponsatí.

March 23: Jordi Turull demands via his lawyer that the investiture session set down for tomorrow be maintained despite his imprisonment.

March 23: Demonstrations all over Catalonia against jailing of leaders (Barcelona's central Diagonal filling up with protestors below).

"Obeying the mandate of the people is no crime"


March 23: Llarena sends all five Catalan leaders out on bail into indefinite detention. They are Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva, Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa and Carme Forcadell.

March 23: Supreme Court judge Llarena charges 13 outgoing Catalan leaders with "rebellion", carrying up to 30 years jail. They are: President Carles Puigdemont (in exile), vice-president Oriol Junqueras (in jail), minister of state and JxCat candidate for president Jordi Turull (out of jail on bail), foreign affairs minister Raül Romeva (out of jail on bail), health minister Toni Comín (in exile), infrastructure and tranport minister Josep Rull (out of jail on bail), social welfare minister Dolors Bassa (out of jail on bail), education minister Clara Ponsatí (in exile), interior minister Joaquin Forn (in jail), parliament speaker Carme Forcadell (out of jail on bail), Òmnium Cultual president Jordi Cuixart (in jail), former ANC president Jordi Sànchez (in jail) and ERC national secretary Marta Rovira (in exile).

March 23: ERC national secretary Marta Rovira informs the ERC membership that she will not appear before the Supreme Court today and is going into exile.

March 23: Joan Tardà, ERC lead MP in the Spanish parliament, calls on Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín to relinquish their seats and allow a republican majority not dependent on the CUP.


Jordi Turull's tweet before entering prison

March 23: Tweet of Jordi Turull on being sent back to prison by Judge Llarena

TRANSLATION

I have been jailed for having been loyal to the mandate of those who chose me as a representative of the people of Catalonia, to the President, to the Government and to Parliament.
Please dedicate all your energies to peacefully defending democracy and the dignity of Catalonia. I have total hope and confidence in the people of Catalonia. They have never failed and they will not do so now.
Blanca, Laura, Marta, parents, brothers and friends, don't suffer on my behalf. I'm fine because I'm convinced of what I'm doing, which is not a crime, and I have done harm to no-one.
I love you.
Long live democracy
Long live Catalonia


March 22: Catalan parlament fails to invest Turull as president (absolute majority needed). Vote: For 64 (JxCat, ERC) Against 65 (Citizens, PSC, PP, CatECP) Abstentions 4 (CUP) Unable to vote 2 (Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comin). El Nacional account here.

March 22: Civil Guard leaks its report to Supreme Court judge Llarena, attributing a central role to Jordi Turull in the preparation of the October 1 referendum.

March 22: CUP Political Council decides to continue to abstain on the investing of Jordi Turull as president.

March 22: Spanish PM Rajoy suspends trip to Angola because of developments in Catalonia.

March 22: Supreme Court judge Llarena maintains outgoing interior minister Joaquim Forn and Jordi Sànchez in prison.,

March 22: ERC and JxCat offer CUP a no-confidence motion in a month if its MPs vote in favour of investiture of Turull.

March 22: Citizens calls on Torrent to convene speakership panel to discussion calling off this afternoon's plenary.

March 22: Spanish attorney-general Rafael Català admits that investiture of Turull would be legal

March 22: Citizens demands that this afternon's investiture session be called off.

March 22:  Torrent: "It's not up to the Moncloa [Spanish PM's HQ] to decide the suitability of candidates, but up to the parliament."

March 22: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent: "We have called today's plenary session to defend the political rights of the MPs."


Comment (Sebastià Alzamora, Ara, March 22)

Llarena, the bar of justice

According to Catalan MP Joan Josep Nuet—who was included in the first group of Catalan politicians called to testify before the Supreme Court in the case against the independence process—Court judge Llarena welcomed them by saying: ”Relax, this is not the National Court". This came after the Spanish Supreme Court decided to take charge of the investigation of the case, and after judge Carmen Lamela, of the National Court, had remanded the two Jordis to provisional prison without bail (they are still behind bars, more than five months later). The only difference that comes to mind is that Lamela acted shamelessly as a judge whose decisions are biased by political instructions, while Llarena has tried to give his resolutions and judicial statements a technically more elaborate appearance. This, however has been completely undone by his most recent decisions: not allowing Jordi Sànchez to attend the investiture session for the presidency, and now citing Jordi Turull to appear, with the possibility of sending him to prison, just a few hours after the Speaker of the House, Roger Torrent, announced a third round of talks to propose him as a candidate for the presidency. The judge and all those who want to continue proclaiming the alleged independence of Spanish justice can dress it up with as many technicalities as they want, but the political persecution that lies behind these decisions is brazen and crass.
 
Llarena, however, insists on trying to conceal this third obstacle to the formation of a government in Catalonia within the overly muddy waters of the general case [against Catalan independence]. And so, in order that people not say that he is moving only against Turull, he has also called Carme Forcadell, Marta Rovira and three ex-ministers who, like Turull, have already suffered the ignominy of being political prisoners: Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa and Josep Rull. All of them could be sent, or returned, to jail following Friday's statement. No matter how you look at it, they can only be charged with crimes of opinion, the kind of offence that is only prosecuted (without ever calling it by name, of course) in authoritarian regimes. Like that which is being imposed in Spain, with the determined support, it must be said, of a large segment (probably a majority) of the Spanish people, the media, and the political parties with the highest representation in Madrid’s parliament.
 
Former Catalan Attorney General José María Mena claims that the imprisoned Catalan leaders are political prisoners. An ex-magistrate of the Supreme Court, José Antonio Martín Pallín, has denounced that the current situation reminds him of what he experienced during Franco's dictatorship. He also claims that Llarena is guilty of wilfully neglecting his duty, and warns that the whole case against the independence process could be invalid. Professor of Constitutional Law Javier Pérez Royo also sees neglect of duty, and insists that all Catalan citizens could file complaints against Llarena because he has also violated their rights. Because these are weighty opinions, Llarena —a keen judge—persists in proving them right. And thus the bar of Spanish justice and democracy has been precisely set.

Translation: Ara


March 21: Spokesperson for the Spanish government says that investiture of Turull is "doomed to failure" and that article 155 intervention will stay in place until an investiture of a candidate not facing legal proceedings takes place.

March 21: Parliament speaker Roger Torrent convenes investiture session for tomorrow, at 5pm, with Jordi Turull as candidate for president.

March 21: Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau visits Catalan political prisoners in Soto de Real and Estremera jails.

March 21: ERC leaves its members facing possible charges off its list of ministers in a new Catalan government.

March 21: Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena summons Catalan leaders out on bail--Carme Forcadell (ERC), Jordi Turull (JxCat), Raül Romeva (ERC), Josep Rull (JxCat), Dolors Bassa (ERC) and Marta Rovira ERC)--to appear before him on March 23 to hear how investigations are proceding against them and whether he will revoke their bail conditions and detain them again.

March 21: Puigdemont at Geneva conference on "Does independence still matter in 21st century Europe" defends the importance of creating new small states so as to advance towards a federal, less centralised, Europe, "borrowing from the Swiss model".

March 21: Judge in Reus magistrate's court number 2 orders the arrest of Reus CUP councilor Mariona Quadrada for refusing to attend court to be investigated on charges of "inciting hatred" towards Spanish police for their actions on October 1.

March 21: Jordi Pina (Lawyer of Jordi Sànchez): "I have the feeling that the prosecutor has the idea that the ANC and Òmnium are what's really responsible for the existence of pro-independence people in Catalonia."


Ferreres, Ara, March 22

At the Catalan Easter Show--knock over the candidate!
At a Catalan Easter Show--Knock over the candidate! Two down (Puigdemont and Sànchez), one to go (Turull)


March 20: Philosopher and journalist Jordi Graupera proposes that pro-independence parties agree to a primaries process that would enable them to present a single ticket against Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau and Barcelona Together in the 2019 municipal election.

March 20: Spanish state prosecutor proposes the release from jail of outgoing Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn on bail of €100,000.

March 20: Jordi Sànchez stands down as a Catalan MP, opening the way for another member of JxCat to be invested as president. The "Plan C" candidate is outgoing minister Jordi Turull, presently out of prison on bail.

March 20: The Constitutional Court rejects the PSC's request that the two-month countdown period for the election of a Catalan president start immediately (the parliamentary regulation says it starts on the day of the first failure to elect a president).

March 20: The Spanish state prosecutor calls on judge Pablo Llarena to order the withdrawal of the passports of the Catalan politicians in exile.

March 20: Alejandro Fernández, PP MP in the Catalan parliament, calls on the speaker Roger Torrent to withdraw an amendment to the parliamentary regulations that would allow investiture in absentia. He indicates that refusal will see the PP appeal the amendment to the Constitutional Court.

March 20: Dídac Ríos, appearing in Tarragona magistrate's court on the possible charge of illegally cloning the October 1 referendum web site, refuses to declare.


Debate: Which way forward (Esther Vera, Ara, March 18)

Esther Vera, editor of Ara

The right honourable presidency

According to the chronicle, it was at the 1359 General Court of Catalonia —convened in the city of Cèrbere— where Berenguer de Cruïlles, the first ever president of the Generalitat [the Catalan government], was elected. The date was December 19, 1359. Obviously, the institution and its objectives have evolved through the centuries, as has the profile of the men on whom the highest political office in Catalonia has been bestowed. The historical perspective draws a line of dignity with any rough edges smoothed over by the forgiving passage of time, which affords greatness to people and events. Distance is always kinder than closeness to details and imperfections.

Today, one hundred and thirty presidents and a thousand historical tribulations later, the Generalitat of Catalonia is being run from Madrid. That is the blunt truth. The project of creating a republic remains on the electoral horizon of the majority in parliament, but after the events of last October and the declaration of independence in the Catalan parliament, today Catalonia is not a republic and it has had its devolved powers taken away. A loose interpretation of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution has brought us direct rule, is keeping four leaders behind bars pending trial and the Catalan president in exile, while —day in and day out— the rule of law is bent for reasons of ideology and opinion. It is an unfair, abusive state of affairs, but the fact is that the Generalitat is represented by the Spanish government when their party —the Partido Popular— has the smallest number of seats in the Catalan chamber. Select areas within the Catalan administration have been brought to a standstill by Madrid, while the Catalan school system is under threat and government officials are being sacked for political reasons.

With a history that spans centuries —and four decades after the Generalitat was reinstated— it is urgent to regain the institution and restore its honourability. This is not a fanciful proposition, but the need to restore the political institution in accordance with the parliamentary majority arising from the elections in December last year. The goal ought to be the restoration of the legitimate institution, but at the moment there is a danger that the faces might be confused with the institution. The presidency of a nation cannot be made effective from Brussels or a prison cell, and an exercise in useful, constructive leadership is required. Resisting Madrid’s recentralisation efforts is something that must be done from the institutions, the only place where a democratic majority can be build through political action.

The independent spirit

“What the hell is going on? What are they keeping from us? What was the point of getting beaten on October 1 and why are we suffering reprisals? Was it all for nothing? What does electing an effective candidate mean? One that has been anointed by the Spanish government? Enough is enough! We must stand by the people’s will as expressed at the ballot box”. Those were the words of Jordi Pairó, a member of the board of the Catalan National Assembly, as he addressed the crowd gathered in Barcelona at the grassroots group’s rally on Sunday last week. Also present were several politicians who might be facing between seven and twenty-five years in jail. However, Pairó was not alone: “I took my chances and now I expect my representatives to follow suit”, stated a representative of the firefighters who support independence. Not only is this sort of talk unfair, but it is also futile. It can only be understood from a magical thinking viewpoint on politics or the self-deceit of a segment of the independence movement that refuses to face the facts and is always ready to shout “traitor”.

It is only through an independent spirit, self-criticism and by taking a long, hard look at the facts that we will be able to overcome the crisis in which Catalonia, its institutions and Catalan society find themselves today.

To fight against this age

This newspaper has dispatched a team to the Mediterranean Sea embedded with Catalan NGO Proactiva Open Arms. Yesterday over two hundred refugees disembarked in Sicily. Our reporters have witnessed the rescue of hundreds of people who flee poverty and war but go on to become the victims of our poor Europe, which intends to put them back on the Libyan gunboats that the EU paid for.

Dutch thinker Rob Riemen has written two essays in To Fight Against This Age which are an eye-opener and a warning against the dangers of populism and fascism. He argues that we should learn several lessons from history. First lesson: Primo Levy. Second lesson: Adorno. Third lesson: Winston Churchill: “We will have to build a United States of Europe, we will have to proclaim with determination that the spiritual idea of Europe will never die because we shall revive it”. Every one of us has a responsibility with the future. Every day fortress Europe will become older and pettier. The fear of others is spreading and denying the pressure of migrants whilst ignoring the EU’s solidarity quotas merely conceals the problem rather than solve it. The mercury is rising in the streets of Spain and other European countries. We need responsible political leaders who are prepared to make difficult decisions and speak the truth. Otherwise we will sink in the mud of populism.

Translation: Ara


March 19: Italian authorities impound the vessel of Catalan NGO Proactiva Open Arms, dedicated to rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean, on the grounds that its crew could face charges of "human trafficking". The head of Proactiva Open Arms is Oscar Camps, 2017 Catalan of the Year.

March 19: Former CUP MPs Mireia Boya and Anna Gabriel, facing possible charges of rebellion, ask that the Constitutional Court rule that any case involving them be heard by the Supreme Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) and not the Spanish Supreme Court.

March 19: Former Supreme Court prosecutor and judge José Antonio Martín Pallín to Geneva human rights seminar: "It would not be admissable in any European parliamentary system for a judge to prevent a parliamentarian from attending parliament."

March 19: Carles Puigdemont and Anna Gabriel (ex-CUP MP exiled in Switzerland) address seminar on human rights violations in Catalonia and Spain in UN building in Geneva (below).

Anna Gabriel (CUP) and Carles Puigdemont at Geneva human rights seminar

March 19: Puigdemont to visit Finland later this week.


Week ending March 18

152 nights with political prisoners
152 nights with political prisoners


Main events, March 12-18


March 18: Puigdemont speaks at International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva (video in French below, with machine translation into English subtiles available: click on "Settings" wheel). El Nacional account here.

March 18: JxCat offers the CUP a mid-term motion of confidence in exchange for supporting investiture of JxCat-ERC government.

March 18: Former French PM Manuel Valls, of Catalan family, tells Catalonia Radio that nationalism guarantees war: "If each region in Europe decided at the ballot box to break up states, neither Spain nor Italy would exist."

March 18: Catalan Civil  Society demonstration in Barcelona attracts 7000, according to municipal police. Present: PSC, PP and PSC leaders and  Manuel Valls (see below, with banner reading "Long Live the Unity of Spain").

Catalan Civil Society demonstration, Barcelona, 18-03-18: "For the Unity of Spain"

March 17: (El Nacional) A second Finnish MP asks why Barcelona consul was sacked.

March 17: ANC election result. University of Barcelona economist Elisenda Paluzie wins highest support of 54 candidates competing for 25 nationally elected positions on the 77-seat ANC national secretariat. The other positions are elected regionally (50) and to represent Catalans overseas (2).

Comment: 7155 ANC members took part (19.51% of the membership roll), with Paluzie winning 5062 votes. She was followed by Joan Canadell, the co-founder of the Catalan Business Circle (3152 votes) and David Minoves, the president of the Escarré International Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Nations (CIEMEN), with 3026 votes.

Minoves came in first of the three candidates who have already declared that they will stand for ANC president, to be decided by the national secretariat next weekend. The others, ANC press chief Adrià Alsina (2788 votes) and Catalan Business Circle vice-president David Fernàndez (2796 votes) came in sixth and fifth respectively, after lawyer and historian Pep Cruanyes (2949 votes).

The result is being read as a defeat for the ANC "powers-that-be", because a co-founder of the ANC, Pere Pugès, sent out an informal "How To Vote" on which Alsina's name appeared, but not those of Paluzie, Minoves or Cruanyes. This attempt to indicate an "official ticket" seems to have backfired.

Paluzie won the ballot without actually pronouncing a position on the debate that is convulsing the entire pro-independence camp, mass movements and parties alike: does the movement, having won the October 1 referendum, have the strength to move directly to "unfolding the Republic", or does the independence camp have to procede more cautiously, winning more social support in an atmosphere of social division being deliberately fostered by the Spanish government, the unionist parties and the unionist movement Catalan Civil Society?

March 17: 8000 march in Barcelona in defence of the Catalan education model (below).

Barcelona demonstration for Catalan education model, March 17

March 17: Mass protests against miserable pensions and insulting 0.25% rise across the Spanish state: Barcelona, Zaragoza, A Coruña, Bilbo (Bilbao), Gasteiz (Vitoria), Iruñea (Pamplona), Málaga, Sevilla, Valladolid, Santander, Cáceres and Alicante.
Madrid demonstration below.

Pensioner demonstration in Madrid, March 17


March 16: JxCat MPs not affilated to PDECat form the association Together for the Republic.

March 16: Federalist sector of Catalonia Together (CatEC) draws 300 to meeting in Barcelona, where the "indefinition" of the party's territorial proposal is criticised.

March 16: Basque parliament adopts resolution calling for the ending of the Spanish government's article 155 intervention in Catalonia, the release of the Catalan political prisoners and the return of the exiled MPs. In favour 57 (Basque Nationalist Party, EH Bildu, Elkarrekin Podemos), against 18 (PP, PSOE).

March 16: Demonstrations across Catalonia in support of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, in jail for five months. Puigdemont addresses Girona demonstration direct via videolink. Exiled MP Anna Gabriel and outgoing ministers Clara Ponsatí and Meritxell Serret send video messages from Switzerland, Scotland and Brussels.


(Below) First of October Square, Sant Julià de Ramis (Gironès). Over 20 Catalan municipalities have already renamed streets and squares to recall the heroic achievement of the October 1 referendum carried out against Spanish police agression.

First of October Square, St Juli de Ramis


March 16: Spanish government sacks Antoni Molons, Catalan Secretary of Information and Citizen Support, arrested yesterday by the Civil Guard.

March 16: Amnesty International demands the withdrawal of charges against the Jordis and their immediate release.


Comment (Vicenç Villatoro, Ara, March 16)

March 16: Humiliate and destroy

Immediately following Strasbourg’s slap in the face for the Spanish judicial system, and coinciding with the Spanish deputy PM’s extremely aggressive public statements, a police operation, more symbolic and headline-grabbing than practical in nature, took place in the offices of the presidency of the Catalan government and the headquarters of the cultural association Òmnium Cultural.

The message is clear: faced with what they call the "secessionist defiance", the Spanish state has objectives that it refuses to give up, not even due to international pressure —which so far has been weak— whatever the response from the pro-independence movement. The state believes this defiance offers the possibility of solving the Catalan problem once and for all. And such a solution obviously doesn’t involve persuasion, or even defeating it, in the strictest sense of the word. It involves destroying its roots.

This means humiliating it to start with. Secondly, dismantling or debasing what it considers to be the instruments of Catalanism: the Catalan police force, the public broadcasting corporation and the school system, but above all, the Catalan government itself as a self-governing institution, upon which everything else depends. And finally, politically deactivating –even if it means ruining their lives–-a whole generation of pro-independence political and social leaders.

The message is that it’s underway and that they have no intention of stopping. I don’t think they’ll get away with it, but a lot of people are bound to suffer in the meantime.


March 15: Demonstration called by CDRs outside Civil Guard HQ in Barcelona inner suburb, Gràcia (below).

March 15 demonstration outside Civil Guard HQ, Gràcia


March 15: Demonstration in St James Square against this morning's Civil Guard raids (below).

Barclona potest against Civil Guard raids (St James Square, 15-03-18)


March 15: Spanish Supreme Court confirms refusal to allow Oriol Junqueras and Jordi Sànchez to attend investiture session.

March 15: Spanish prosecutor-general's office asks Swiss authorities of possibility of a European arrest warrant working in case of impending visit to Switzerland of Carles Puigdemont and outgoing Catalan agriculture minister Meritxell Serret. Swiss reply that there is no legal basis for their arrest.

March 15: Civil Guard raids on headquarters of Òmnium Cultural and the headquarters of the Catalan government. Antoni Molons, Secretary of Information and Citizen Support, is arrested while email accounts of Òmnium Cultural are searched. Search warrant specifies that no protest can be called against the raid.

March 15: Vidal Aragonès (CUP MP), interviewed on La Xarxa: "We don't draw lines in the sand, we draw a general line. What are JxCat and the ERC going to do? Manage a regional government for four years? We won't have anything to do with that, we want to build the Republic."


Axel Schoenberger

Germans are less doubtful than Catalans. That was the beginning of a WhatsApp message that went viral a couple of weeks ago among independence supporters in Catalonia, and it included a number of opinions by professor Axel Schönberger. Indeed, he has no qualms about criticising the Spanish state and refer to it as a dictatorship. But who is this German linguist, a specialist in Latin and Romance languages, who has put his scientific endeavours on hold in order to further the Catalan cause? This interview will attempt to shed some light on the matter.

—Mr Schönberger, are you aware that the Catalan version of your article titled Die Wahl zwischen Freiheit und Knechtschaft’ (‘Choosing between Freedom and Slavery’) has gone viral on Catalonia’s social and mobile networks? Are you surprised?
—A little. At the end of the day, my article merely states what anyone in their right mind would say if they had followed the situation in Catalonia and been given the basic facts. Most Catalans shouldn’t be surprised by my words. If people show an interest, it is likely due to the shocking conspiracy of silence that exists in European politics on the subject of the Catalan nation and its legitimate right to self-determination. Since the main political leaders in Europe treat Catalans as if they were Spain’s slaves rather than EU citizens, I guess in Catalonia they must be grateful that a foreigner such as myself should say what Ms Merkel and Mr Macron —as well as Messrs Juncker, Tajani and Tusk— should have stated a long time ago, if they gave any credence to Article 2 of the EU Treaty and the European Convention of Human Rights.

—You are a linguist and a man of letters. How come you have decided to take a public stand and voice your support for the Catalan cause?
—Having seen the horrific news coming from Catalonia on October 1, that same day I decided to put my scientific endeavours temporarily on hold, get involved in the Catalan people’s legitimate cause and denounce the repeated violations of human rights by the Spanish state. At present, Catalonia is being subjected to an illegal dictatorship. In collusion with Spain’s Constitutional Court, as well as the National and the Supreme courts, the Spanish regime is staging the most devastating attack on Catalonia’s institutions and self-government since the Franco regime officially ended and, increasingly, against the use of the Catalan and Occitan languages.

—Does the difficult situation in Catalonia extend beyond its borders?
—Yes, what is going on in Catalonia concerns all EU citizens. The freedom of Catalans, which must be defended, is the freedom of all the EU citizens who are worthy and just. The other countries in the world cannot accept that a regime and its judicial system have violated the law, the European Convention on Human Rights —including the Treaty on EU—, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, therefore, international laws that countries are expected to abide by. I am totally convinced that what is at stake in Catalonia today is not only the struggle against demophobic oppression and the crypto-colonial exploitation of the Catalan people, but the very future of the European project and Europe’s fundamental values. If Messrs Juncker, Tajani and Tusk prevail, you can wave goodbye to the European ideal.

I like to call a spade a spade, and a crime a crime. Mariano Rajoy and his deputy, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, together with their accomplices in the Spanish government, senate and the highest courts of law, as well as the leaders of Ciudadanos and the socialist party are all responsible for major violations of Spanish and international laws. I hope that one day they will be held to account for their actions before an international court.

—How do you see the fact that there are political prisoners in an EU country?
—It is outrageous that in Spain there are honest politicians kept behind bars who, objectively, have not committed any crimes and have conducted themselves in a fair, peaceful manner following their political convictions. It is even more outrageous that they are being kept in prison so they may not defend their political views and exercise their civil rights. And it is truly shocking that the parliamentary immunity of democratically elected representatives has been disregarded. No matter how I look at it, I see the Spanish state spiralling down into a despicable abyss of violations of law and human rights. As a German, I can’t help but compare it to the early years of National Socialism.

—The Spanish police brutality on October 1 and the subsequent events, the crackdown, the attacks on free speech, the political prisoners … do you believe these damage Spain’s international prestige and might even put into question the quality of democracy in Spain?
—Your question assumes that Spain is a democracy. Spain has not been a democracy since October 27, 2017! By violating Spanish law and human rights, the Spanish regime deposed the democratically elected government of Catalonia and imposed a dictatorship on Catalonia, which is still in place today. The elections on December 21 last year, which were imposed by the Spanish PM in what constitutes an obvious violation of the corresponding Spanish organic law, returned a clear mandate to reinstate Carles Puigdemont as the 130th president of the Generalitat.

The authoritarian, demophobic nature of the Spanish regime, which contravenes human rights, became apparent again when they prevented Carles Puigdemont from being elected president. Incidentally, he should have been granted parliamentary immunity. Therefore, Spain cannot be classed as a democracy. After the coup d’état on October 27, it has become a post-democratic system, which displays the traits of a dictatorship that disregards human rights in Catalonia.

—There is little international reaction however…
—What is going on in Spain is still unknown in many countries. However, it is only a matter of time before Spain’s reputation takes a blow within the international community. The current regime led by Mariano Rajoy and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, together with judges who bend the law, like Pablo Llarena and Carmen Lamela, soils Spain’s image, is hugely damaging and will soon cause Spanish people to be embarrassed about their nationality. Also, as with South Africa in the past, Spain may eventually face an international boycott which would harm its economy.

Furthermore, the brutal illegal actions of the Spanish regime against Catalonia and, in particular, the arrests of Catalan political leaders and the main representatives of civil society, together with the financial chokehold on honourable leaders such as Artur Mas mean that the Catalan people’s natural right to self-determination and to decide its political future freely are now backed by the right to remedial secession from Spain, as enshrined in international law.

—Are you worried by how events are unfolding in Catalonia? At some point you voiced your concern over the possibility that Spain might use its armed forces and we might find ourselves on the brink of a civil war.
—Yes. Prior to October 1, there were reports that unknown airplanes had mapped out potential military targets from the air all over Catalonia. In addition, in September Pizarro tanks and other heavy military assets were moved to Catalonia ahead of a possible intervention. The king of Spain, who is actually the commander in chief of the armed forces, showed himself to be an ally of the Partido Popular in his TV address on October 3. Spain’s defence minister mentioned a few times that, besides imposing direct rule, the Spanish army was also ready to “restore order” in Catalonia and defend Spain’s unity.

—Do you think they would be so rash as to use the army?
—Obviously the Madrid regime had contemplated using the army to crush any resistance by the Catalan people. Also, it was important to give the impression that the Spanish regime was willing to use military force against civilians, which is important in terms of psychological warfare. When you consider that Carles Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras, Marta Rovira and other Catalan politicians mentioned the matter and acted in such a way that the Spanish regime had no chance to send in their troops to shoot peaceful Catalan people, I believe I was not mistaken when I warned that the Spanish military might intervene to crush the Catalan revolution after October 1.

—You have spoken in favour of massive civil disobedience against the Spanish authorities and ignoring any orders from Spain’s courts of law, which you believe are illegitimate. Do you actually think that is the way to go?

—Yes. I can only see three possibilities. The first one is a situation of armed rebellion which would leave many dead and wounded, and would turn Spain into a crisis zone, like Palestine or Kurdistan. I hope that will never happen. So far the responsible, peaceful, exemplary, non-violent attitude of the defenders of Catalan sovereignty suggests that it won’t come to that. It is precisely that behaviour what makes the legal position of those who argue for Catalan independence unassailable. Take a look at the ruling handed down by the International Court of Law in the Hague on July 22, 2010 on the validity of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence (Accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo), which was issued at the request of the UN’s General Assembly. You can clearly conclude that Catalonia also has the right to proclaim independence unilaterally, if Spain refuses to engage in talks and Catalans aim to achieve their goals through peaceful means.

—And the second possibility?
—It’s the possibility that the sum of all possible and conceivable actions might lead to the Spanish state de facto losing its grip on Catalonia, while the Catalan Republic’s statehood structures are built abroad. An unjust state such as Spain deserves neither respect nor obedience. The Spanish regime has always refused flat out to engage in talks with the Catalan government whenever it has been invited to. Why should Catalans continue to abide by Spain’s rules and laws and remain oppressed, dominated and exploited? Spain infringes upon the basic rights of the Catalan people. It is legitimate to resist the illegal dictatorship that the Spanish state has imposed on Catalonia at every level and make it impossible for Spain to rule Catalonia. The international community will recognise whatever government is able to effectively rule in Catalonia. At present, it is still the Spanish regime.

At the same time, the Spanish economy must pay a price for the oppression in Catalonia by means of general strikes and boycotts at home and abroad. This should amount to at least ten times the revenue that Spain obtains from Catalonia. That’s when economic sense will prevail and Spain will be forced to end its opposition to Catalonia’s freedom. If that happens, I am certain that Spain will try to milk Valencia and the Balearics even more, and will question the financial autonomy of the Basque Country in order to make up for the lost revenue in Catalonia.

—What would the third option be?
—Finally, the third option is Catalonia’s unconditional surrender to Spain’s dictate. If Catalans wish to go down that path, they might fool themselves pretending to have regained control of their institutions and should behave in such a way that Spain never chokes them again by bringing back direct rule. This would put Catalans in a position of quasi-slavery and, ultimately, their language and culture would fade away due to Spain’s ever more aggressive assimilation policies. If they wish to go down that path, all they need to do is elect Ciudadanos leader Inés Arrimadas as their new president and vote PP leader Xavier García Albiol as her deputy. I am certain that both would prove to be most diligent at destroying the identity of the Catalan people and promote the Spanish language in order to replace Catalan and Occitan.

—You told me that you would not be travelling back to Catalonia until it is an independent republic. Are you not afraid that might take a very long time?
—I’m not. Mariano Rajoy, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Pablo Llarena and many other Spanish political leaders, prosecutors and judges are speeding up the Catalan independence process. Their repressive actions —which violate human rights— increase the number of people who sympathise with Catalonia’s independence bid. You also have objective facts: income per capita and welfare in general would improve in an independent Catalan republic; at last, infrastructures would be renovated and you would begin to build the welfare state that the Catalan parliament has started to promote but that Spain’s Constitutional Court is determined to destroy. And you would be able to bring in new policies to promote research and stimulate the economy, which are key for Catalonia in a fast-changing global economy. As a result, some of those who do not support independence yet will realise that secession offers a better future for Catalonia.

Many Catalans feel their dignity is wounded by the fact that the Spanish regime treats them like slaves who have no rights, fires rubber bullets at them when they go to the polls peacefully and sends them Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría to rule over them as a dictatrix. The Catalan people will never forget that! They will pursue their goal relentlessly and will eventually achieve it because it is right for them to do so and Spain’s bullying tactics do nothing but fuel the pro-independence movement. Therefore, I have every reason to feel confident that I will be able to travel to Catalonia soon and be happy to see how Catalans are building a new country in complete freedom and with dignity. I am certain that the new Catalan Republic will be either a model EU country or another Switzerland in an enviable geostrategic position. Soon enough, the Catalan Republic will become a leading nation internationally and I will be delighted to visit back once it is a free, sovereign country at last.

Translation: Vilaweb


Banner at Barcelona-Chelsea match, 14-03-18

March 14: Banner at Camp Nou, Barcelona v. Chelsea


Comment (Liz Castro, El Món, March 14)

Let’s Save the Assembly!
___________

NOTE: Liz Castro, born in California, has been a long-standing supporter of Catalan independence, and is the author of various books on the Catalan independence cause. She was the most-voted candidate in the 2015 election for the 77-member ANC Secretariat, but lost the election for president to Jordi Sànchez, by 54 votes to 20.
The present election for the ANC Secretariat has been marked by controversy, with 18 candidates, including for the position of president, initially being ruled out by the election commission. The best-known of these was journalist and former CUP lead MP Antonio Baños, ruled to have violated the ban on candidates speaking in public by appearing on a radio chat show (even though no discussion of his candidacy took place on the program in question).
The controversy over the exclusion of candidates meant that the election for the ANC secretariat had to be halted. Twelve of the candidates who had initially been excluded have since been readmitted to the list, but Baños is not one of them.
In a March 13 tweet, Agusti Alcoberro , the outgoing ANC vice-president (and acting president since the September 28 jailing of Jordi Sànchez) said: “If comrade Antonio Baños can’t be a candidate to the National Secretariat of the ANC we must be doing something  very badly.”
See here for the result of the election.
________________

What’s the Catalan National Assembly’s problem and how can it be solved? To start with, it suffers from the normal structural problems of any organisation that has acquired 40,000 members in four years. It has grown big and it has grown timid; in contrast to 2012, it now has a lot to lose. This can be seen in the growth of hierarchy in its central structure, an attempt to control the energy and enthusiasm of the rank and file. Try to do something in the ANC and they suffocate you with unproductive meetings and endless discussions.
 
That’s the normal part. The not-so-normal part is that to get something through these endless and inefficient meetings what counts is not the strength of any proposal, but the number of allies you have from various related groupings. I’m not talking so much about people of one party as against people of another, but rather a conflict between people with an across-the-board approach, who believe in the Assembly as the voice of a diverse people, and party people or simply ambitious people who want to use it as a tool or as a ladder.
 
There are many who say, and rightly so, that we have to reduce the influence of parties on the Assembly. The problem is how this is to be done and what it means. I always found it interesting that the people who harped on most about parties were precisely the ones who always voted along the lines of the same party. On the other hand, those who were openly associated with one party or another worked far more for the goals of the Assembly. We all have political preferences. Whoever is in a political grouping like the Assembly and doesn’t tell you about them, is simply concealing them. The important thing is not to throw out "the party people", but to be transparent about alliances and, above all, party obligations. Obviously, this has not been done.

The Assembly was supposed to be a mass-meeting based organisation, but when I was on the Secretariat it was not that at all. Partly because of the structure itself.  With 77 Secretariat members in a meeting, even if everyone intervened for only a minute-and-a-half you could be there for hours and get nowhere. This structure simply doesn’t work. Secretariat members are supposed to be representative of their territorial assemblies but what happens in reality is that they vote according to the previously established blocs, the members of which were chosen before the elections themselves. Look at what happened in the last two elections: in one region after another, the regional secretaries did not vote for the national positions according to the vote in their region, but rather according to negotiations over the carve-up of power.
 
How could the Assembly be improved? With a board of eleven people, one from each region, including from overseas. Let these eleven people really represent their regions, and not their personal or political preferences. Let the rank-and-file really get the say we deserve. Let there be a clear and decentralised political strategy where local assemblies can carry out initiatives without asking permission from the central structure. Let any successful candidate taking office in the Assembly have to give up being part of any political list. Let elections be done with transparency, and in a fair and equal way. It makes no sense to be able to campaign for weeks, and with all the means available, even for the position of president, only for there suddenly to be a week of abnormal silence not at all understood by the membership and governed by draconian rules that nobody understands and are impossible to fulfill. All run by a (usually biased) representation on the electoral commission formed by outgoing secretaries who have taken part in working out the nominations submitted.

Aha, and we’ve already seen that the same old faces, those who just have to continue calling the shots, begin to circulate their lists of candidates. Why does that work? Because they themselves created the absurd process of elections where people cannot campaign, nobody knows the candidates, and nobody knows who to vote for. A clear and open campaign would be much better, with all the cards on the table, where everyone, particularly the candidates themselves, could take part, not just the hands pulling the strings from behind the curtain.
 
What I’m most concerned about is that those who want to manipulate the elections are so like the Government of Spain: they don’t trust the voice of the people. They don’t trust their own people’s movement, they don’t trust democracy. They find it necessary to exclude candidates that don’t control, limit the renewal of the Secretariat, carry on without listening to the voice of their own people. How bad it all is! This movement, and this organisation in particular, has been inspiring and special for its commitment to democracy and its rank and file, and if we lose this we’ll  only be rebuilding the same shit from which we are fleeing.

I have always believed in the ANC’s rank and file. I have seen how people work, and I myself have worked without expecting any reward, political or otherwise. I know that the rank and file are the strength of this movement and that they are real and powerful. If I have not said anything so far, it is because I wanted to believe that the ANC could be renewed but I see that they won’t allow us that. ANC people, let’s rise up and take back our Assembly. Let’s not allow them to again take it from us. I think we should have a new annual general convention, remake the structure from top to bottom, streamline the organisation and clean it up. I personally do not want, nor do the statutes allow me, to stand for the Secretariat, but I am more than willing to continue working from below so that the Assembly can be set straight again, and so that the next October 101 (or whatever day it is is), we can be at the doors of Parliament demanding that political undertakings be fulfilled so as to recover the freedom of this country that we all love.

Footnote

1. October 10 last year was the day president Puigdemont proclaimed the independence of Catalonia on the basis of the October 1 referendum result, and then suspended the declaration to allow negotiations with the Spanish state to take place. He has since said that this was mistaken and that the independence declaration should have been maintained and that it would have been politically and legally defensible.


March 14: ANC launches proposal for 16th of each month to be a hunger strike in support of the Catalan political prisoners.

March 14: After meeting of JxCat MPs with Carles Puigdemont in Brussels, spokepserson Eduard Pujol announces that the formation will not advance a replacement candidate for Jordi Sànchez, but alsothat it  does not want to go to new elections ("let's close the door on that scenario").


March 14: Swiss foreign ministry's official statement regarding Carles Puigdemont's planned visit to address forum on human rights, announced today:

Carles Puigdemont in Switzerland: FDFA reaffirms its position on Catalonia

Bern, 14.03.2018 - The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has taken note of the visit of Spanish politician Carles Puigdemont to Switzerland. This is a private visit on the invitation of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH). Mr Puigdemont is scheduled to make several public appearances during his stay in Switzerland.
In this connection, Switzerland reiterates that the question of Catalonia is an internal matter for Spain and should be handled within the framework of the Spanish constitutional order. The Swiss and Spanish authorities are in contact.
Mr Puigdemont's stay in Switzerland is governed by Swiss law and the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. As a Spanish citizen, Mr Puigdemont is entitled to travel freely within the Schengen area. He is also at liberty to give political speeches with due respect for the Swiss legal system. 
The authorities may take measures in the event of any disruptions of public order.

March 14: Spanish Supreme Court decides to give parties to the appeal five days to supply it with their arguments in relation to Jordi Sànchez's appeal to its full bench against the ruling of judge Pablo Llarena preventing him from attending the March 10 investiture session of the Catalan parliament (later cancelled by speaker Roger Torrent),

March 14: Constitutional Court rules that the express procedure used to adopt the Law of Jurisdictional Transition in the Catalan Parliament on September 7 violated the rights of MPs opposed to the law.

March 14: Interview with Clara Ponsatí in The National (Scotland).


Comment (Jordi Barbeta, El Nacional, March 13)

Aznar was right: we're on the verge of 'the big one'

The day after the 2012 Catalan election, José María Aznar (Spanish prime minister 1996-2004) presented the first volume of his memoirs and, during his talk, said that "Catalonia's unity will break before Spain's". He didn't say that Spain would take charge of tearing Catalonia apart. What couldn't be foreseen, almost six years ago now, was that after all the hopes and dreams placed in the independence process, the movement would shatter into so many groups, factions, lobbies and parties who disagree to the extent that all that remains is the wait for what seismologists call "the big one", in other words, the great crack which turns everything upside down in order to start over again, fight, suffer and lose one more time.

The break-up Aznar was referring to was probably that of Catalan society splitting into unionists and separatists, which has bee