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.
April 24: Catalan parliament speakership panel accepts the delegation of the vote of exiled health minister Toni Comín.
April 24: Rafael Hernando (PP spokespersion) declares he is totally in favour of the confiscation of yellow t-shirts at King's Cup final, to avoid "projects of a pro-independence, coup-promoting and Nazi character".
Background (Vilaweb, April 24)
FC Barcelona protests over confiscated yellow t-shirts at King's Cup final
Law association consider it a severe violation of fundamental rights
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.
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.
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”.
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
Week ending April 22
189 nights with political prisoners
April 22: Jailed Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras publishes this comment in today's Ara (in English).
April 22: 49.2% of those polled in April 2018 GESOP poll, published in today's El Periódico, believe Catalan political prisoners should remain in jail with 43.5% against. 83.2% of Catalans opposed to their imprisonment. Only 29.6% believe that the solution to the Catalan conflict lies in letting Spanish legal system continue with its case against the Catalan leaders.
April 22: Increase in Spanish support for a referendum in Catalonia (from 39.7% in a February 2017 GESOP poll to 46.9% in the March 2018 GESOP poll). Increase in support for a federal reform of the Spanish Constitution (47.6% for, 40% against). 78.7% of Catalans would support a Scottish-style referendum negotiated with the State.
April 22: GESOP poll reveals that 82.7% of those interviewed, including 47.7% of PP voters, think Spain needs a change of governing party. 78.6% (64.5% of PP voters) believe the Rajoy government should call new elections if it cannot get the 2018 budget passed.
April 22: Results of the latest GESOP poll. The main trends since June 2016 elections:
Parties of the all-Spanish right (PP and Citizens would be in a majority (over 176 seats in the 350-seat Congress);
Citizens overtakes corruption-stricken PP as the preferred party of the Spanish right;
Both PSOE and Unidos Podemos lose support;
ERC overtakes PDECat (formerly CDC) as the majority party of Catalan nationalism.
April 22: PSOE federal secretary addresses German SDP congress to explain that Catalan independence sentiment is not only a threat to Spain, but also to Europe.
We are academics working in the in the fields of law, human rights, politics, sociology, history and related subjects in 19 different countries.
Over the past two weeks we have seen a further escalation in the use of criminal charges and arrests continue to be used by Spain against its political opponents.
There can be no doubt that we are living the darkest days of Spanish democracy since 1978.
In addition to the four political prisoners and the high-profile detention of Carles Puigdemont, five more democratically elected politicians have been thrown in jail (Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa and Carme Forcadell). Seven others are in exile under threat of imprisonment. In addition to Clara Ponsati, a case that is familiar to your readers, those include Marta Rovira, Anna Gabriel, Toni Comin, Meritxell Serret and Lluis Puig.
Those in exile are being hounded by European Arrest Warrants issued under the auspices of the European Union. We write to demand their immediate release, and to demand immediate action from the European Union to stop this repression, which represents an indelible and permanent stain on European democracy.
Professor David Whyte, University of Liverpool, UK
Dr. Mònica Clua-Losada, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, US
Professor Noam Chomsky, MIT, US
Professor Saskia Sassen, Columbia University US
Professor James K Galbraith, University of Texas – Austin, US
Professor Fiona MacKay, University of Edinburgh Scotland
Professor Leo Panitch, York University, Toronto, Canada
Professor Neil Davidson, University of Glasgow, UK
Professor Greg Albo, York University, Toronto, Canada
Professor Patrick Bond, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Professor Akwugo Emejulu, University of Warwick, UK
Professor Imogen Tyler, University of Lancaster, UK
Professor Keith Ewing, King's College London, UK
Professor Nira Yuval-Davis, University of East London, UK
Professor Gilbert Achar, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK
Professor Armin Bernhard, Universitat de Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Professor Huw Beynon, Cardiff University, Wales
Professor Tithi Bhattacharya, Purdue University, US
Professor Andreas Bieler, University of Nottingham, UK
Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck, University of London, UK
Professor Rudolph Brauer, University of Bremen, Germany
Professor Mario Diani, University of Trento, Italy
Professor Simon Duncan, University of Bradford, UK
Professor Pablo Ghigliani, CONICET, Argentina
Professor Penny Green, Queen Mary University, London, UK
Professor David Howell, University of York, UK
Professor Ronnie Lippens, Keele University, UK
Professor Bart Maddens, Catholic University of Leuven, Flanders, Belgium
Professor Miguel Martínez Lucio, The University of Manchester, UK
Professor David McNally, York University, Toronto, Canada
Professor David Miller, University of Bath, UK
Professor Adam Morton, University of Sidney, Australia
Professor James L Newell, University of Salford, UK
Professor John Parkinson, University of Cranberra, Australia
Professor Scott Poynting, University of New South Wales, Australia
Professor Helen Richardson, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Professor JP Roos, University of Helsinki, Finland
Professor Sebastian Scheerer, University of Hamburg, Germany
Professor Phil Scraton, Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland
Professor Joe Sim, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
Professor Richard Sorg, Hamburg, Germany
Professor Paul Stewart, University of Strathclyde, Scotland
Professor Steve Tombs, The Open University, UK
Professor Tony Ward, Northumbria University, UK
Professor Andrew Watterson, University of Stirling, Scotland
Professor Peter Willetts, City University of London, UK
Dr Milica Antić Gaber, University of Ljubjana, Slovenia
Dr Alejandra Araiza Diaz, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo, Mexico
Pura Ariza, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Dr Dario Azzellini, Cornell University, US
Dr David Bailey, University of Birmingham, UK
Dr Oscar Berglund, University of Bristol, UK
Marc Bosch i Matas, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Dr Jonathan Burnett, Swansea University Wales
Grant Buttars, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Dr Queralt, Capsada-Munsech, University of Glasgow, Scotland
Dr Sevasti, Chatzopoulou, Roskilde University, Denmark
Dr Yulia Chistyakova, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
Dr Vickie Cooper, Open University, UK
Dr Adriano Cozzolino, University of Napoli L'Orientale, Italy
Dr Gareth Dale, Brunel University, UK
Dr Jill Daniels, University of East London, UK
Dr Judith Delheim, Zukunftskonvent, Germany
Dr Julia Downes, Open University, UK
Dr Phil Edwards, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Dr Wolfram Elsner, University of Bremen, Germany
Dr Karen Evans, University of Liverpool, UK
Dr Cristina Flesher Fominaya, Loughborough University, UK
Dr Robert González Garcia, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo, Mexico
Dr Sofia Gradin, King's College London, UK
Dr Alexia Grosjean, University of St Andrews, UK
Dr Bue Rübner Hansen, Aarhus University, Denmark
Mike Harrison, University of South Wales, Wales
Dr Emily Luise Hart, University of Liverpool, UK
Sabine Hattinger-Allende, University Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Dr Fiona Henderson Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland
Dr Marion Hersh, University of Glasgow, Scotland
Dr Michael Holmes, Liverpool Hope University, UK
Dr Laura Horn, Roskilde University, Denmark
Dr Feyzi Ismail, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK
Dr Sabine Israel, Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, Germany
Dr William Jackson, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
Dr Johannes Jäger, University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna, Austria
Dr Paul Jones, University of Liverpool, UK
Dr Mark Kaswan, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, US
Dr Stephanie Khoury University of Liverpool, UK
Dr Nicholas Kiersey, Ohio University, US
Dr Tor Krever, University of Warwick, UK
Dr Theocharis (Harris) Kromydas, University of Glasgow, Scotland
Dr Michael Mair, University of Liverpool, UK
Dr Paul McFadden, University of York, UK
Jo McNeill, University of Liverpool, and UCU UofL President, UK
Madelaine Moore, University of Kassel, Germany
Dr Carlo Morelli, University of Dundee, Scotland
Dr Jeffrey Murer, University of St Andrews, UK
Dr Féilim O hAdhmaill, University College Cork, Ireland
Christina Paine, UCU London Metropolitan University, UK
Dr Kirsteen Paton, University of Liverpool, UK
Dr Louise Purbrick, University of Brighton, UK
Dr Xavier Rubio-Campillo, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Dr Pollyanna Ruiz, University of Sussex, UK
Dr Thomas Sablowski, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Germany
Jordi-Sanchez Carrion, University of Liverpool, UK
Dr Jeffrey Stevenson Murer, University of St Andrews, Scotland
Dr Maka Suarez, Universidad de Cuenca & FLACSO-Ecuador, Ecuador
Dr Simon Toubeau, University of Nottingham, UK
Katie Tucker, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
Kristine Vanden Berghe, Université de Liège, Belgium
Jill Vickers, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Dr David Webber, Southampton Solent University, UK
Dr Niall Whelehan, University of Strathclyde, UK
Dr Angela Wigger, Radboud University, Netherlands
Dr Owen Worth, University of Limerick, Ireland
Doug Yearwood, Queen's University, Canada
Dr Yuliya Yurchenko, University of Greenwich, UK
April 20: Enric Millo (PP, Spanish government delegate to Catalonia) "The sacking of the Catalan government's director general of foreign affairs, Marina Borrell, and the director of the School of Public Administration, Agustí Colomines, is dues to "behaviour contrary to the general interest".
April 20: Web-based dailyPublicopublishes documents kept from Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena by the Guardia Civil that confirm that the Catalan government did not fund the October 1 referendum.
April 20: Citizens announces that it has asked former French PM Manuel Valls to be its candidate for mayor of Barcelona in the May 2019 municipal elections.
April 20:(Carles Puigdemont)Congratulations Israel on the 70th anniversary of your Independence. Your struggle against adversity and your spirit of self-sacrifice has gained our respect in Catalonia. (CUP Catalan Lands) We do not respect the way how Israel has occupied, violated and killed Palestinian people. We'll never accept any apartheid or colonialist State. It is a shame to congratulate this racist, zionist and killer State of Israel. It must be condemned and sanctioned.
Spanish secret service spying on Puigdemont in Berlin, according to Junge Welt
The Spanish secret service is spying on president Carles Puigdemont in Berlin, according to newspaper Junge Welt (in German), close to left-wing party Die Linke. "Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was clearly watched and shadowed on German soil. Detailed reports have been published in Spanish media about [his] daily routine", they write in an article entitled "Spies against Puigdemont".
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."
"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").
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."
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.
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.
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: 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: 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).
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.
Yes, prison had to play a part in our peaceful and democratic struggle
"Being in prison is never good, but an ordinary person, with a sense of justice, can endure it and come out stronger and more convinced. You have to lose your fear. You'll go through periods of discouragement and depression. It's possible, or even probable, that some days you'll cry from grief. But don't worry, it's completely normal."
I received these reflections, along with a list of ten tips, the first time I was called to testify last November. They came from Pepe Beúnza, the first political (not religious) conscientious objector to have ever been imprisoned in Spain.
Pepe Beúnza was sent to prison in 1971 and he remained there for over two years. He did it as a means of protest. Today nobody doubts that if thousands of objectors over the years collapsed the system, eventually bringing about the end of compulsory draft in Spain, it is largely due to his decision (and that of others) to go to prison. I will always feel indebted to him.
Pepe was a teacher in the Torre Marimon School, in Caldes de Montbui, where my father was the Principal and where, in fact, we lived. He introduced me to the world of pacifism and the defense of human rights. Under his mentorship, I became a conscientious objector myself and started on a path that I have never abandoned, in favor of peace, democracy, and freedom.
When I received his message, some of my colleagues in the Catalan government and I were considering how best to face the scenario, well aware that the Spanish government would take things to their final consequences. I don't believe that what we did can be considered a criminal act, and I am willing to stand by it whenever and wherever necessary. But it is largely due to Pepe that I didn't hesitate to make the decision. Yes, prison could and, in fact, had to play a part in our peaceful and democratic struggle.
Pepe Beúnza went to prison in order to expose the weaknesses of a State that had already begun to show signs of the fragility of a moribund regime. In the same way, our imprisonment must serve to shine a light on the weakness of a failed democratic project and a country with important legal, and especially political, shortcomings.
You were right, Pepe, things are not good here. It is sad and discouraging, living far from your family and friends, and every time that they have to travel more than 1,400 km to see you, it is very hard. But don't be sorry, our prison terms are exposing the direction that the judicial response to the Catalan question is taking, which is in no way that which a healthy democracy should take. On the contrary, this response undermines the very principles that underpin democracy, with the danger of bringing it to the brink of collapse.
This journey will be long and hard. Rebellion, sedition, coup d'état, violence, terrorism... we can feel how institutional impunity is expanding and how part of the media, police, and judicial system are protecting it. We also feel the loneliness, and how a significant part of society is still willing to stay silent and look the other way. But in these times we are also feeling solidarity, commitment, and empathy, and we have learned many things. Among these things are not to hide, not to renounce dialogue, and to instead condemn injustice, persevere, and overcome our difficulties.
On this road, prison must be an instrument to show everyone who believes in democracy that twisting the criminal code to repress political views is not acceptable, that political ideas cannot be fought by judicial coercion or the violation of rights and freedoms, and that avoiding politics and opting instead for repression will never solve anything.
When the people called to safeguard justice conclude that the ends justify any means, the responsibility to confront this oppression falls on all who believe in democracy. And, as Pepe taught me, my imprisonment, our imprisonment, must serve to encourage them to lose their fear of condemning what is wrong, and to never accept these excesses and the dangers that they entail.
April 17: ERC and PDECat MPs sing Grândola, Vila Morena (anthem of Portugal's1974 Carnation Revolution) at the end of speech to Spanish Congress by Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
April 17: Catalan provincial and regional heads of the Spanish prosecutor's office decide to proceed with all the investigations into the more than 700 mayors in Catalonia who made council premises available for the October 1 referendum.
April 17: Joaquim Gay de Montellà, president of Catalan big business umbrella Development of National Labour tells El Mundo that political impasse in Catalonia could produce a decade of economic stagnation.
April 17: Unionist umbrella Catalan Civil Society (SCC) to initiate European tour.
April 17: Appeals bench of the Supreme Court, in supporting judge Llarena's refusal to allow the investiture of Jordi Sànchez, also opens the door to changing the charge of rebellion against Carles Puigdemont to one of sedition in order to improve chances of his extradition.
April 17: Pepe Àlvarez, the UGT secretary-general for the Spanish state denies significant loss of members in Catalonia, and describes the participation of the organisation's Catalan federation in Sunday's demonstration as "reasonable", while denying the existence of political prisoners in the Spanish state.
April 17: French president Macron to European Parliament (without mentioning Catalonia by name): "Like it or not, the Constitution is not to be chopped up, sovereignty is not to be divided unless the people decide to do it." Reaction of ERC here.
April 17: Speakership panel of the Catalan parliament maintains Carles Puigdemont's right to delegate his vote. Citizens demands of the Spanish government that it challenge this decision in the Constitutional Court.
April 17: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent to visit Geneva to explain violation of rights involved in judge Llarena's refusal to allow Jordi Sànchez to be invested as president.
April 17: Today's edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung contains article arguing that it will be difficult for Spanish prosecutors to convince German judges that there has been a misuse of public moneys by Catalan leaders.
Jailed VP defends Catalan self-determination in court
Oriol Junqueras tells judge that organising referendum is no crime and “not a cent” of public money was used
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.
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.
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
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: 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
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."
Family members of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart reading the manifesto of the demonstration
Red Current: "Free all political prisoners; End political and social persecution; Out with Rajoy and the monarchy"
Banner: "Republic is Democracy and Progress: Autonomy [regional government within Spanish state] is Spanish Colony"
Behind the placards showing the exiles: "Republic is democracy and progress"
"Neither exile nor prison"
Flags of countries where Catalan exiles are not in jail (Germany, Belgium, Scotland, Switzerland)
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"
Raising a castle 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.
The demonstration, looking from Plaça d'Espanya down to the Three Chimneys (visible in the distance)
Map of the route of the demonstration, down Paralle Avenue from the Plaça d'Espanya to the Park of the Three Chimneys (2 kilometres)
Waiting for the demonstration to start
900 buses bringing demonstrators from all parts start to arrive in Barcelona
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: 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: 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.
Analysis (Mariona Ferrer i Fornells and Dani Sánchez Ugart, Ara, April 13)
Llarena refuses Sànchez permission to attend the plenary, admits it is to stop him being elected
Spain’s Supreme Court judge disregards the recommendation by the UN Human Rights Committee
The United Nations Human Rights Committee’s recommendation that Spain safeguards Jordi Sànchez’s political rights was not sufficient to change the ruling of the Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena. Once again, Llarena has refused Junts per Catalunya’s candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat, Jordi Sànchez –detained in Soto del Real prison since 16 October– permission to attend the investiture convened by the President of Parliament, Roger Torrent, tomorrow, in the Catalan Parliament. He has also been denied permission to participate via a video link. The judge does not repeat his claim that Sànchez poses a potential flight risk, instead insisting that there is a risk of him reoffending since, if he were President of the Generalitat, his mandate "could be oriented towards breaking the constitutional order”.
In other words, Llarena argues that Sànchez mustn’t be allowed to attend the investiture specifically to avoid the possibility of him being voted president, with the increased risk of reoffending that this might entail. The judge continues to develop his theory that the "attack on the constitutional order" is "currently underway" and has not been stopped by the legal proceedings, the triggering of Article 155 or with the December elections. Llarena quoted whole chunks of the 'White Paper on the National Transition of Catalonia' which alludes to the limits of Spain’s ability to restrict Catalonia’s right to decide and mentions the eventual intervention of foreign mediators or European agents. Thus, Llarena tries to show that the strategy of internationalisation being pursued by some of the political leaders under investigation supports his argument that the process has not ended.
The judge mentions other indications that Sànchez might reoffend, such as the "existence of a political context in which certain sectors still persist in explicitly declaring that the independence of Catalonia must be achieved immediately" and "that these sectors are part of a plan for secession that seeks to illegally impose a constituent term”. Regarding Sànchez's commitment to work within the constitutional framework, the judge considers that "it cannot be ruled out that Mr. Sánchez has redirected his criminal objective by integrating himself into a candidature that proclaims it will carry out the exact same plan of action for which he currently stands trial".
Referring to the UN resolution, Justice Llarena argues that it is not legally binding for the Spanish justice and he reproaches Sànchez’s defence for failing to translate the text into Spanish, as it was originally issued in English.
In a written request this Tuesday, Sànchez's lawyer, Jordi Pina, asked either for the presidential candidate to be released, that he be granted leave to attend the plenary session in person or for him to be allowed to participate via a video link. The latter proposal was not included in Pina’s earlier petition, which was filed so that Sànchez could attend the first plenary –which was also denied– on 12 March. At the time Llarena rejected the request due to a "risk of reoffending".
In the new petition, Sànchez’s defence team reminded Llarena of the UN Human Rights Committee’s resolution of 23 March, which urged the Spanish government to take precautionary measures to guarantee the MP’s political rights. After officially calling for a plenary session on Friday at 10 am, the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, also sent a letter to Llarena on Monday in which he reminded the judge that Sànchez’s political rights remain intact.
Parliament prepares a symbolic act for tomorrow
Llarena's decision means that Torrent must decide what to do during tomorrow’s plenary session. As stated in yesterday’s ARA, Parliament is preparing a symbolic act, and not an investiture debate, like the one which took place with the investiture of Jordi Turull when the Supreme Court judge refused permission for it to take place.
Both Junts per Catalunya and ERC were already convinced that Llarena wouldn’t let Sànchez attend and they now have to decide whether to activate plan D or first wait and observe the reactions to the Sànchez issue at the international level and if it is possible to reform the presidency law in order for Puigdemont to once again stand as a candidate [and be elected by proxy]. In an interview with Spain’s Cadena SER radio station this Thursday, Torrent called on international organisations to intervene if Llarena refused to allow Sanchez to attend the plenary session.
Jordi Sànchez will, therefore, remain in Soto del Real. In fact, three days ago Llarena called for the Junts per Catalunya MP to attend the Supreme Court next Monday, to inform him of the exact nature of the charges which he faces in what is technically known as the investigative statements. All 25 individuals who have been charged with rebellion by the Supreme Court have been summonsed between April 16 and 18. Despite being a mere formality, legal sources point out that all those who stand accused could once again have the chance to make a statement in court.
April 13: Read our analysis of the impact of the release of Carles Puigdemont on Spanish politics here.
April 13: Speakership panel of the Catalan parliament votes to launch law suit of perversion of the course of justice against Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena. Spanish attorney.general Rafael Català says that the decision "conceals a spirit of threat"
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — There are no membership fees, no roll calls, no official leaders and no headquarters. Attending the weekly meetings is optional.
They are loosely organized groups of neighborhood activists known as defense committees, and they have taken a key role in Catalonia's independence movement after its political leadership was jailed or fled the country.
Ever since Spain's crackdown on an unauthorized referendum on secession in October, hundreds of self-proclaimed Committees for the Defense of the Republic are waging a campaign of economic disruption, blocking roads and highways and temporarily seizing toll booths in defiance of the Spanish government.
Though the activists say they are non-violent, Spain sees their activities in a different light. A female activist was arrested this week on suspicion of terrorism while six other people were detained for public disturbances in connection with pro-independence protests in January.
The defense committees include people of all ages and walks of life. Josep, a 56-year-old economist who declined to give his last name for fear of being arrested, attended an assembly by the defense committee in his Barcelona neighborhood for the first time last week. He said he already belonged to two civil society groups campaigning for Catalan independence, but wanted to do more.
"Only good intentions, non-violent marches and yellow ribbons haven't been enough," he said, referring to the ribbons that many pro-independence activists wear in support of jailed Catalan leaders they regard as political prisoners.
The defense committees were created last year in around 60 towns across Catalonia. Originally named Committees for the Defense of the Referendum, their primary goal was to safeguard voting centers where the banned independence referendum was held on Oct. 1.
Today, members say there is a network of over 300 committees, also known as CDRs. Many have their own unique logos and separate profile pages on social media platforms, which they use to gather people to their protests.
Some rural CDRs have just four people, while others in Barcelona draw over 200 participants to their assemblies.
Protests also vary in style and size.
Last week in the town of Figueres, a protest organized by the local defense committee looked like a scene straight out of a horror movie. Dozens of participants wearing white masks stood in absolute silence for a half-hour at the local town square to call for the freedom of jailed separatists.
On Saturday in Barcelona other groups organized a 24-hour vigil in which over 200 people took turns walking in circles around a former penitentiary.
But amid heightened tensions in Catalonia, some defense committees engage in more impactful actions, like blocking highways and train stations.
"If you don't disturb the economy, no one will listen to you," said a 55-year-old female member of the CDR in Barcelona's Eixample neighborhood. She declined to give her name because she feared arrest.
The woman arrested Tuesday was initially investigated for rebellion and terrorism but Spain's National Court lowered the potential charges to public disturbances and released her, but barred her from leaving the country. She is suspected of being one of the network's leaders, which the activists deny, saying they have no leaders.
Spanish newspaper El Pais published what it says is an audio message by the woman in which she describes plans for a major workers' strike that never happened. The voice in the recording speaks vaguely of plans to paralyze Barcelona's port, disrupt communication lines and block train tracks, "but without violence."
The Spanish government views such actions as sabotage against the state. Interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido has described the CDRs as "organized cells capable of causing damage, disturbances and of breaking normality."
Still, some security experts say such violence should not be equated with terrorism.
"We could debate to a certain point if these actions can be considered violence. Not physical violence, but some form of violence," said Sonia Andolz a political scientist and lecturer on international conflicts and security at the University of Barcelona. But for it to be considered terrorism, it would mean "having a political organization that wants to cause terror in the civil population," she added, recalling Spain's history of deadly attacks by Basque separatists and recently by Islamic extremists.
In a separate investigation, six men believed to be members of the CDRs were arrested Tuesday by Catalan police, which are under direct control by Madrid under emergency rules imposed after separatist leaders defiantly proclaimed Catalonia independent last fall. The men were released after questioning and face public disorder offenses for their participation in tense protests outside the Catalan parliament in January.
Hundreds of people protested against the arrests in Barcelona on Tuesday, holding up signs saying "I am CDR." Mariano Alvarez, a 61-year-old Madrid native who has lived in Barcelona since 1984, said if Spanish authorities are trying to intimidate people like him from protesting in the streets, it may have the opposite effect.
"They cannot detain all of us," he said.
April 12: 44 Members of the European Parliament , from all groups except the People's Party of Europe, sign "Manifesto for Dialogue in Catalonia" demanding release of political prisoners, end of issuing of European arrest warrants for Catalan leaders in exile and the EU to facilitate negotiations between Catalonia and Spain (below). Signatories include Tanja Fajon, the vice president of the Socialists and Democrats in the European chamber, the former Slovenian foreign minister Ivo Vajgl and Barbara Spinelli, the daughter of one of the EU's founders. The signatories are from Slovenia, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Scotland, Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque country.
Manifesto for Dialogue in Catalonia
- Whereas on March 23rd, 5 Catalan MPs Jordi Turull, Carme Forcadell, Raül Romeva, Josep Rull and Dolors Bassa entered into pre-trial detention following the decision of the Spanish Supreme Court and a judiciary process was open on them on rebellion charges and supposedly misuse of funds. They risk between 15 and 25 years of prison;
- Whereas the 5 Catalan MPs are thus in prison before trial together with Quim Forn and Oriol Junqueras, also Catalan politicians and members of the Catalan Government who have been in pre-trial detention since November 2nd 2017. Also in pre-trial detention since October 16th are Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, leaders of two of the largest pro-independence organizations in Catalonia. All of them are charged with rebellion too, risking from 15 to 25 years in prison;
- Whereas President and MP Carles Puigdemont was arrested in Germany after a European arrest warrant was issued by Spain on March 23rd. Clara Ponsatí is in Scotland while MP Toni Comín, Lluís Puig and Meritxell Serret remain free in Belgium and will cooperate with the judiciary. MP Marta Rovira and CUP spokesperson Anna Gabriel are exiled to Switzerland;
- Whereas the rebellion they refer to is the 1st of October referendum where, according to Human Rights Watch, 893 people were injured by the Spanish police and 2.100.000 people voted. All of the above, with the exception of Marta Rovira, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, have been members of the Catalan Government during the events or President of the Catalan Parliament in the case of Carme Forcadell;
Whereas on the legal side:
- as established in Article 472 of the Criminal Code, peaceful and orderly demonstrations do not constitute a crime of rebellion, which always entails violence and is punished with a sentence of between fifteen and twenty-five years of jail. The fact that rebellion does not apply to the present case was confirmed by Mr. Diego López Garrido, one of the experts who were in charge of drafting the content of this article;
- calling, organising and holding a referendum is not a crime in Spain. The Spanish parliament expressly legalised the matter by means of the Organic Law 2/2005, which modified the Criminal Code in order to remove those articles (506 bis, 521 bis and 576 bis), which had previously considered this matter a crime;
- the Spanish Government confirmed on February 26th that no public funds were used to organise the 1st of October referendum;
- according to Spanish criminal law, it is possible to stay in pre-trial detention up to 4 years;
We, the signatories, call on:
- Spain’s judiciary to release the nine Catalan political prisoners;
- Germany’s judiciary not to extradite Carles Puigdemont as the possibility of a fair trial is remote;
- Belgium, UK and Switzerland not to extradite Ponsatí, Comín, Puig,Serret, Rovira and Gabriel for the same reason;
- EU institutions to mediate in the conflict between Catalonia and Spain to find a political solution in the frame of a dialogue without pre-conditions.
April 12: Platform "On a Peaceful Footing" (En Peu De Pau) reads manifesto asserting the peaceful, non-violent character of the disobedience of the CDRs (below, in Barcelona).
April 12: Case against Tamara Carrasco, facing charges of "rebellion" and "terrorism", downgraded by judge to one of disturbing public order. Carrasco is released on condition of not leaving her municipality excepot for work reporting to local judiciary every week.
April 12: Supreme Court judge Llarena refuses to allow Jordi Sànchez to attend investiture session planned for tomorrow in Catalan parliament.
April 12: Fernando Martínez-Maillo (PP general coordinator): "The CDRs are very like the kale borroka."
ETA survivor: "Lifting toll barriers is like shooting someone dead?"
Robert Manrique, defender of victims of terrorism and himself a survivor of ETA's 1987 bombing of a Hipercor shopping centre in Barcelona, has expressed confusion over the accusation of terrorism against members of the Catalan Committees for Defence of the Republic (CDR). He asked whether lifting barriers on a toll road is similar to shooting someone dead.
"It seems a complete exaggeration to me, and a way of using terrorism to cover other things. I cannot come to understand that lifting toll barriers or blocking roads is equivalent to planting a bomb in a supermarket or killing someone with a shot to the back of the neck. It doesn't make sense. I've spoken with many victims these days and it blows our minds", he said in an interview with Basque station Radio Euskadi.
"Now,when farmers block a road to call for a subsidy will they also be accused of terrorism? Anyone who thinks differently as to what is supposed to be the official line, will they be accused of crimes," he asked.
Manrique said that he even knows there are survivors of real terrorist attacks and families of victims "who are members of the CDR".
He ended by quoting a sarcastic question put to him this morning by a fellow survivor of terrorism: "in which hospital are the wounded which the CDRs have supposedly caused?"
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:
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:
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."
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.
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.
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: 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.
The letter that I’ve sent to everyone in the European Parlament, after Germany’s regional Court decision. Saying that: “This Union is possible only if we can rely on each other and if we support each other when one of us is being attacked. That is what Europe means”. pic.twitter.com/ktJf2W2BtI
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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: 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: 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.
Franco: "German justice isn't what it was, Adolf" Hitler: "If it were up to me, you would already have Puigdemont in Montjuic Castle" [place of imprisonment and execution of Catalan president Lluís Companys, handed over to Franco by the Gestapo in 1940]
[Ferreres, Ara, April 7]
Spain’s justice system exposed for all the world to see
In Germany, accusing someone of a crime requires evidence rather than bending the Criminal Code
The Territorial Court of the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein has rejected "rebellion" as grounds to extradite Carles Puigdemont as there is no evidence of the violence that is required to sustain the accusation. Moreover, the court has released Puigdemont on bail while it considers whether to grant Spain’s extradition request for other crimes, such as misappropriation of public funds.
The German court’s decision undermines the foundation of the case which Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena has been building against the leaders of the Catalan independence process. This is based on the claim that violence occurred both during the demonstration outside Catalonia’s Ministry of Economy on 20 September and in the passive resistance by members of the public outside polling stations on the 1 October. The German judges did not need to deliberate for very long to conclude that no violence took place in either instance. It remains to be seen how Llarena and the prosecutor's office will react, but Spain’s loss of face on the international stage is, at any rate, undeniable.
It is still possible that Germany will end up extraditing Puigdemont for the crime of misappropriation of public funds, an outcome which the Spanish government would attempt to depict as a victory. Either way, they’ve lost. Those who accuse the Catalan leaders of staging a "coup", those who claim that what the Spanish justice system did would have happened in any country have been overruled and their arguments defeated. Is it simply that the German judges have also fallen victim to pro-independence propaganda? Where are those who said, just the other day when Puigdemont was arrested, that Germany was a reliable country? Now we can see they were right: Germany truly is a reliable country where accusing someone of a crime requires evidence rather than bending the Criminal Code.
Puigdemont may have to spend some time in a Spanish prison, but such precedents, and perhaps also those of the Belgian and British courts, are bound to make it hard for the Spanish Supreme Court to find the other defendants guilty of rebellion. It may well happen, but in the eyes of the world it would be interpreted more as an act of revenge than of justice. The Catalan pro-independence process has brought Spain to a historical crossroads: it must now decide if it wishes, once again, to isolate itself and to turn its back on the world.
Yesterday it chose to do just that. While the German and Belgian courts allowed the accused to walk free, National Court judge Carmen Lamela filed charges of sedition against the former head of the Catalan police, Josep Lluís Trapero, who —wait for it— also stands accused of belonging to a "criminal organisation", in an indictment that includes Superintendent Teresa Laplana as well as former Ministry of Interior officials Cèsar Puig and Pere Soler. And what crime did Trapero allegedly commit? He failed to use force against the members of the public who were protecting the ballot boxes on the 1 October.
The situation remains complicated, but we must be grateful to the European judges, who have seriously upset the Spanish State’s plans. Thank goodness.
April 6: UEFA opens proceedings against Barcelona FC for allowing fans to release yellow balloons during Wednesday's Barça-Roma Champions League game.
April 6: Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena studying the feasability of appealing the decision of the Schleswig-Holstein court before Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
April 6: Katarina Barley, the social-democrat German attorney-general, says that the decision of the Schleswig-Holstein court to release Carles Puigdemont and discard the charge of rebellion is "absolutely correct" and calls on the Spain-Catalonia conflict to be solved politically.
April 6: Carles Puigdemont leaves Neumünster jail and makes a brief statement: "I would like to thank everyone for your support and solidarity. I would like to thank all the workers in this centre for their professionalism and respect. I have also received solidarity from the inmates. My best wishes to them and their families. I ask for the immediate release of all the comrades who are still in Spanish jails. It is a disgrace for Europe that there are political prisoners in a European democracy. Our struggle is not only for self-determination but also for democracy and this struggle affects all European citizens. There are no excuses for Spanish authorities not starting a dialogue with Catalan leaders. We need a political solution."
April 6: Exiled Catalan health minister Toni Comin calls on CatECP to allow formation of Catalan government by having two of its MPs abstain on the investiture of Jordi Sànchez.
April 6: Media reaction to the release of Puigdemont
La Vanguardia: "Germany frees Puigdemont and rejects the charge of rebellion"
La Razon: "Germany complicates the trial of Puigdemont by not accusing him of rebellion"
El Periodico: "Germany knocks over the lawsuit for rebellion"
El País: "Germany denies rebellion and leaves Puigdemont free"
El Mundo: "German legal system stops Spain putting Puigdemont on trial for rebellion"
ABC: "European legal system feeds coup-making"
Arcadi Espada (El Mundo): "The decision of the Regional Court of Scheswig-Holstein is a Spanish catastrophe. An 1898 [loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines]. Confirmation of the umpteen patriotic wars that have been won by the baddies."
Hermann Tertsch (ABC): "The judges of Scheswig-Holstein have inflicted immense damage on European law and the European community of values."
Carlos Herrera (COPE radio): The German decision "humiliates Spanish magistrates who have also fought against criminal movements that are contagious in Europe:"
April 6: Reactions of political figures to the German court decision to release Carles Puigdemont on bail and discount the charge of rebellion against him.
Irene Montoro (Podemos spokesperson, Spanish parliament) says that decision demonstrates the failure of the Spanish government's strategy of using the courts for political ends and demands negotiations between the parties.
Carlos Carrizosa (Citizens' spokesperson, Catalan parliament): "The European extradition system has to be reformed."
Soraya Saenz de Santamaria: "We are a state characterised by respect for court decisions and this time we shall behave in the same way."
Raül Romeva (Catalan minister for foreign affairs, in Estremera jail presently awaiting trial): "The free and independent German legal system again confirms the evidence: we are a peaceful people. We have always said it, we have always shown it."
Miquel Iceta (leader, Party of Socialists of Catalonia) says that the decision of the German court is "very good", just as are the decisions of Spanish courts.
Josep Rull (Catalan minister for lands and sustainability, presently in Estremera jail awaiting trial): "Hugely happy! Thanks to everyone who has supported the cause of Catalonia!"
Xavier García Albiol (PP leader in Catalonia): "While respecting the decisions of the German legal system, I can only say that you need to live here, especially in the small and middle-sized municipalities, to understand what is really happening in Catalonia."
Rafael Català (Spanish attorney-general): "The decision confirms the independence of the law in Spain and Germany."
Xavier Domènech (parliamentary spokeperson, CatECP): "The German justice system's dismantling of every attempt to mount a general case of rebellion is good news. It leaves the performance of the Supreme Court and the PP and Citizens who have used the courts to pursue political ends in an unsustainable position."
Roger Torrent (Speaker, Catalan parliament): "Very good news, President Puigdemont. We've always said that there was never any violence. The charge of rebellion is totally without foundation. This political persecution on the basis of a completely false narrative has to stop."
Joan Tardà (ERC spokesperson, Spanish congress): "What a thumping they've just got!"
Carles Riera (CUP parliamentary spokesperson): "The release of Carles Puigdemont in Germany is a republican victory. Let's confirm it by investing him as president."
Catalan National Assembly (ANC): "The Spanish State discovers the separation of powers."
Andreu Van den Eynde (defence lawyer for Oriol Junqueras): "German justice system says that there was no violence. Curious that this coincides with the line of defence we've been pursuing."
For lack of images of violence, let’s fabricate some!
The attempt to criminalise the CDRs is crass, but it goes unpunished
In the short span of a few days we have been witness to two cases of flagrant fabrication of a news item by Spanish media where totally unrelated photographs were used to illustrate a story that sought to encourage a tougher crackdown on Catalonia by endorsing a narrative of violence that simply does not hold water.
Madrid daily La Razón printed an editorial decrying the alleged violence of the CDRs, Catalonia’s Committees for the Defence of the Republic. On their website, the piece came with a photo showing a violent assault by a group of fascist militants in Valencia city. The paper probably figured that they could get away with it because one of people in the picture wore a sports shirt with red and yellow stripes, even though it meant portraying the victim as the culprit.
Meanwhile OK Diario reported that a gas canister had exploded outside a car dealer in Barcelona city as the work of Catalan separatists, even though the business that was targeted denied any political motivation behind the attack. Their story was accompanied by a photograph of Deportivo Alavés football hooligans taken in Vitoria, in the Basque Country.
This is not just sloppy reporting. There are two explanations for this shambolic photographic mess: firstly, there is an obsessive need to believe their own narrative; secondly, they know they will get away with that kind of crass manipulation.
No football Cup final on Catalan TV
TV3, the Catalan public tv network, won’t be showing the Spanish football Cup final [which Barcelona FC fans are looking forward to]. The Catalan public broadcaster claims that it cannot afford the broadcasting rights. How does Madrid’s ABC report the story? It starts like this: “Amid a secessionist crisis in Catalonia, TV3 gets entangled in a fresh controversy”.
Well, didn’t you just hear that they are cash-strapped? None of the words by the general manager of “the region’s public TV network” —as they refer to TV3— suggest a political motivation. Nevertheless, ABC can’t help themselves and wrap up their item with this statement: “Even though football and politics are like chalk and cheese, many insist on mixing one with the other and this has become a commonplace occurrence in recent years”. Hey, ABC, guess who’s just tried to do precisely that, even though the actual facts do not add up?
April 5: Van Wymersch, spokeperson for the Brussels prosecutor's office, says that an investigation is under way into the placing by Spanish secret service agents of a GPS device that gave them the location of the car used by Carles Puigdemont.
April 5: Regional high court of Schleswig-Holstein rules that no case of rebellion, as claimed in the European arrest warrant issued by judge Pablo llarena, exists against Carles Puigdemont and releases him on €75,000 bail. The court still has to decide whether Puigdemont should be extradited on the ground of embezzlement of public funds.
April 5: Former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar, president of the think-tank the Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies (FAES), tells a FAES Valencia forum on "The Valencian Community and Catalan Nationalism" that "there can be no negotiation with independentism because it carried out a full-scale rebellion" and "has not been defeated".
April 5: JxCat formally proposes Jordi Sànchez as candidate for president of Catalan government.
April 5: Hervé Falciani, the French-Italian computer systems expert who released the names of 130,000 tax-evading account-holders with the Swiss branch of his employer HSBC and with other banks is released on bail in Madrid while the Swiss request for his extradition is heard by the National Court. Falciani cannot leave his municipality without police permission. The Spanish legal repsonse to the Swiss request for his extradition, made a year ago, came on March 19, the same day that Carles Puigdemont visited Geneva, where ERC leader Marta Rovira and CUP leader Anna Gabriel, charged by the Spanish Supreme Court with "rebellion", are presently in exile.
April 5: Catalan parliament establishes commission to investigate last August's terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils.
April 5: Òmnium Cultural launches its "Tomorrow It Could Be You" campaign, directed against the censureship and repression of freedom of expression being imposed from the Spanish State.
April 5 (from April 4): In the last debate between candidates for the leadership of Podemos (Podem) in Catalonia, Xavier Domènech is subject of a protest for his support to a demonstration called by Òmnium Cultural. Other candidates and members of the audience demand a greater distance by Podem from the independence movement, seen as exclusionary.
April 5: Citizens' motion in the Catalan parliament, calling on speaker Roger Torrent to propose an "investible" candidate for president lost by 94 votes against (JxCat, ERC, CatECP and PSC) and 40 in favour (Citizens, PP). Carles Puigdemont's vote is recognised by the parliament.
April 5: CDR of Barcelona district l'Eixample organises 24-hour walk around the city's now decommissioned Model Prison, scene of many horrors under the Franco dictatorship.
April 5: National Court judge Carmen Lamela charges Josep Lluís Trapero, the former head of the Catalan police sacked under article 155, with "sedition" and "criminal organisation".
Carles Puigdemont's letter to the JxCat parliamentary group
April 5, 2018
Dear colleagues and friends of the parliamentary group,
Today, I am held in Germany and am forced to address you by letter instead of via the usual meetings that we have in Brussels, where we can pass moments together that are very important for me. I miss being able to speak to you directly and I miss sharing your reflections, but I feel your warmth and your support.
As you know, on March 23 last the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations issued a number of precautionary rulings according to which the Spanish State has to guarantee MP Jordi Sànchez full exercise of his political rights. The decision is the result of the violation of his right to present himself in the investiture debate as candidate for election as president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, a right that he had, and has, given his status as MP in the Parliament of Catalonia.
This is not a minor or trivial ruling but one of supreme importance. The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, based in Geneva, is an organism that oversees compliance by States that are signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. All States that adhere to it, among them the Spanish State, are obliged to comply with the resolutions that the Human Rights Committee dictates. It goes without saying that the resolution that affects MP Jordi Sànchez was issued with extraordinary speed, no doubt due to the seriousness of the facts of the case and the irreversibility of the violation of his rights in the event that this process drags on excessively.
We have an unprecedented opportunity, which we must take advantage of legally and politically, for defending our cause at the international level. We must demand of the Spanish State that it fulfil the United Nations’ measures and preserve the rights of MP Jordi Sànchez as a candidate to the presidency of the Generalitat of Catalonia. So doing is an act of justice that repairs the damage caused by the powers of the Spanish State. So doing pressures the state to behave like the rest of the countries of Europe and respect the political rights of everybody, including those of the minorities it would like to silence. Since the Spanish State does not behave democratically of its own free will, let’s at the least make sure that it responds to those International bodies that it has an obligation to obey, in accordance with agreements signed.
In the event that the Spanish State chooses to ignore international law and the request of the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations and persists in its political and ideological persecution, this will once again demonstrate that it is capable of anything in order to alter the normal functioning of democracy in Catalonia. That, quite a real possibility, we must also take advantage of in defence of Catalonia’s political freedoms, adding to our cause a further violation of our country’s civil rights.
I take this opportunity to repeat our commitment to the formation of a government, to help strengthen us and to implement the mandate of the December 21 election.
In the hope that we can meet again very soon, I personally send you a big embrace,
Carles Puigdemont and Casamajó
President of the Generalitat of Catalonia
April 5: Jordi Turull withdraws as JxCat candidate for president of Catalonia, and Jordi Sànchez indicates that he is willing to again be candidate.
April 5: Xavier Domènech (leader, CatECP) on radio RAC 1: "In no sense are we in a situation of violence in Catalonia."
April 5: Carles Puigdemont demands in writing of the Spanish state that it comply with the United Nations demand that Jordi Sànchez be allowed to be invested as president by the Catalan parliament.
April 5: Aamer Anwar, Clara Ponsati's lawyer in the Edinburgh court considering the European arrest warrant demanding her return to Spain for trial on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds, says that there are "serious errors" in the document .
April 5: Spanish attorney-general Rafael Català hesitates before challenging the Catalan parliament's acceptance of Carles Puigdemont's vote ("compicated").
‘There are remnants of Francoist power in Spain even today’
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 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".
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
1. The Portuguese original contains the untranslatable coinages «democraduras» and «dictablandas»--so "harsh democracies" and "soft dictatorships"
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."
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 (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.
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).
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: JordiSànchez 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.
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."
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'."
In the middle of a Spanish National Radio (RNE) broadcast from Valladolid3in 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.
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.
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".
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.
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 29: Crowdfunding site for contributions to the legal costs of Carles Puigdemont and other exiled MPs set up here.
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.
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: 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: 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".
Comment (Martí Estruch Aximacher, Vilaweb, March 26)
Letter to a German friend
"In Germany, unlike Spain, the separation of powers is a given, so we must wait see and see what the judge decides"
You said I was exaggerating, when I told you that this time independence for Catalonia is for real and there’s no longer any going back, that it’s only a matter of time. You’re not the only one who told me so, of course. It’s been ten years since we had those chats in various parts of Berlin, always with a Weissbier on the table in front of us. The ruling on the 2010 Statute of Catalonia had not yet been handed down, but you could already see that thousands of Catalans had started to become disengaged from Madrid and that mentally they’d become independent. Their ID stated and continues to state that they are Spanish, but not only did they not feel it to be so, but they no longer acted like it were so.
A lot has happened since then. Catalan society has changed a great deal and its president spent last night in a German prison. It’s like what they say: sometimes more things happen in a decade than in a century. We’ve continued to talk when we’ve met again, in Germany and in Catalonia, or in the emails that we’ve sent each other. Catalonia’s independence movement is increasingly broader and more solid, with an ability to organize and resist that surprises all those who, like yourself, approach it with an open mind. You’re an international journalist, you travel constantly and —as you’ve told me on many occasions— currently no other country in the world has the same potential for social and political mobilization as Catalonia.
I also told you that, if we ended up where we are right now, it won’t be solely down to our successes. It’s true that increasingly people have made up their minds and on 1 October last year they showed this to be true by staging and supporting a referendum on independence in the face of a state that literally stopped at nothing to prevent it. Finally, unable to stop the referendum from going ahead through legal means and incapable of confiscating the ballot boxes and other logistical material, they decided to show the world their impotence in the form of frenzied attacks by the police against peaceful voters. The time for talking is over, only our strength remains. You were there, you saw it with your own eyes and told your readers about it.
It is equally true, however, that the pro-independence political parties haven’t always been aware of the historic challenge they face and all too often they have lost their way in inexplicable, unforgivable squabbles, endangering the entire project and testing the public’s patience. Nonetheless, the Spanish state has always appeared on cue with a prison sentence or actions which have served to ensure a few thousand more people are favourable to Catalan independence and to unite the political parties. Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has stated it publicly and politicians on all sides of the Bundestag have confirmed it to you: Rajoy’s strategy makes no sense and it’s clear that ‘the Catalan problem’ won’t be resolved by resorting to the courts and the police.
Now, suddenly, Catalonia is looking to Germany without really knowing what to expect. From the moment when the German police detained President Carles Puigdemont near the Danish border, 300 kilometres northwest of Berlin, Catalonia’s political temperature has risen by several degrees. Thousands of protesters took to the streets to call for freedom. They also shouted, “enough is enough”. This may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back; we shall see. This time the protests were no longer entirely peaceful, there were confrontations with the police and some scuffles, though minor in nature. I’ve often told you that the indirect message that the EU and its member states send to Catalonia is highly dangerous because people end up thinking that Catalonia has less chance of becoming independent than Kosovo.
Cries of “freedom for political prisoners” could also be heard at the Liceu, Barcelona’s renowned opera house, and the social networks were abuzz until the early hours of the morning. Puigdemont’s Flemish lawyer summed it all up: Spain has become a dictatorship since it imprisons people because of their political beliefs and for its use of international arrest warrants in a manner which has nothing to do with the rule of law. Renowned international journalists have openly declared themselves to be opposed to Puigdemont’s extradition. In Germany, unlike Spain, the separation of powers is a given. As a result, we must wait see and see what the judge decides.
When Puigdemont was arrested yesterday, many of us couldn’t help but think of the arrest of Lluís Companys in France by the Gestapo in 1940. The president of Catalonia was handed over to Franco’s regime and executed in Barcelona. I know you and I know you’ll think that it’s not possible to draw any parallels. Obviously, Germany is not Nazi Germany and Spain is not quite pro-Franco Spain, in spite of the fact that it has done little to distance itself from its past and the remains of the Franco era still linger. Perhaps this is the result of having chosen a transition rather than a clean break. Francisco Franco Foundation, Valle de los Caídos monument to the Franco regime and thousands buried in mass graves. As a German, you know exactly what I mean. We’ll see what decision Germany makes 78 years on. And while we read that in Neumünster the prisoners greeted Puigdemont with cries of “Freedom!”, many in Spain chose to celebrate his arrest.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
(Comment on the jailing yesterday of the Catalan leaders)
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.
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: EconomistElisenda 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.
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
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".
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: 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.
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."
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.
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 ofReus 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 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.
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.
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).
March 19: Puigdemont to visit Finland later this week.
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").
March 17: ANC election result. University of Barcelona economistElisenda 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).
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 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.
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.
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: 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 Schönberger: “Spain hasn’t been a democracy since October 27, 2017”
Bremen University professor and activist for Catalonia's rights speaks out
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.
March 14: Banner at Camp Nou, Barcelona v. Chelsea
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.
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.
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 been a strategic objective of the Spanish right since the 1990s. However, this split, despite the results of the December 21 election, will never crystallise because two sides don't fight if one doesn't want to and independence supporters, the vast majority of them, place more importance on social harmony than independence. It's one of the country's characteristics, more interested in business than conquest.
It should be noticed how certain authors who aim to give intellectual coverage to the a por ellos ("go get them") idea denounce the slogan "Catalonia, a single people" as the ideological basis of Catalan nationalism, when in fact it was the slogan that the PSUC1, an old Catalan communist party, presented as an alternative to the plans of the Catalan right. The Spanish nationalist political offensive needs "two peoples" in Catalonia and for that reason it puts emphasis on the language.
Weaker, more controllable and more incompetent
A divided Catalonia is weaker, more controllable and more incompetent and maybe to a greater extent than we had imagined, and precisely where we least expected. The most sordid side of the independence process is this antagonism built up by the parties and, above all, by leaders of the independence movement, which is now oozing out on all sides like pus, even as Madrid never stops its bombardments.
The president and vice-president didn't speak the day the Catalan republic was declared and it seems they have reasons to never speak again, as former minister Santi Vila says in a book2to which Sergi Sol has replied to to show the bad blood that is flowing3. As a result, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) and Esquerra Republicana (ERC) have needed almost three months to reach something like an agreement which, in the blink of an eye, the CUP has put paid to, just to liven up the disaster even more. It has done so with enough fuss to cause collateral damage in the relationship between Puigdemont and his faithful and his own PDECat, who also don't agree on who should be the president in Catalonia. And the fracturing of the pro-independence world seems likely to increase in the near future because, with more than a year to go to the municipal elections, there are already half a dozen parties and platforms getting ready to fight for the mayoralty of Barcelona, doubtlessly the best thing that can happen for the unionist Citizens to conquer the City Hall with little effort. The multifaceted pitched battle has even reached those entrusted with keeping the peace, ANC and Òmnium Cultural, who have opted for different paths, going it alone--as was seen on Sunday4--with different strategies and a determination to get into competition.
In summary, the repressive offensive against the Catalan independence movement, combined with such self-destructive activity by the pro-independence world, is making it difficult for Catalonia to soon have a government that is capable of stability even if a president does get invested. Rather, it raises fears of a cataclysm in the form of collective political suicide--the "big one".
March 13: Speakership panel of Catalan parliament asks its legal counsel for advice on how best to procede against Supreme Court judge Llarena's decision to bloc Jordi Sànchez from attending investiture session.
March 13: ERC urges JxCat to subsititute Jordi Sànchez as candidate for president with a another MP.
March 13: The Spanish Congress votes down a proposal from ERC to eliminate the crime of "offence to the Crown" from the criminal code. For: ERC, PDECat, PNB, Commitment, EH Bildu and Unidos Podemos. Against: PP, Citizens, PSOE. According to Citizens MP José Manuel Villegas, the aim of the ERC is "unlimited humiliation of Spain".
March 13: The European Court of Human Rights condemns the Spanish legal system for fining two Catalan demonstrators who burned a picture of the former king, Juan Carlos, at a protest in 2007. The court orders that the fines, of €2700 each--the price imposed by the Spanish National High Court for the protesters avoiding 15 months jail--be repaid along with €9000 each in compensation. The court unanimously rules that Spanish court decision violated article 10 of the European Human Rights Convention by interfering with freedom of expression, stating in its judgment that "an act of this kind has to be interpreted as a symbolic expression of dissatisfaction or protest". New York Times coverage here.
March 13: The Disciplinary Committee of the General Council of the Judicial Power fines a Barcelona judge €600 for referring in an email to Spanish security forces as "uniformed terrorists" for their action on October 1.
March 13: Basque parliament to demand the lifting of article 155 intervention in Catalonia (PNB and EH Bildu majority in favour).
March 13: ERC MP Ernest Maragall, interviewed by TV3, says he shares the CUP's position of disobedience towards the Spanish state, but says the key issue is "when, with whom, with what intensity and with what tactic. I share the verbs disobey and defy, but we have to decide that ourselves so as not to fall into the State's trap."
Would they have the courage to do the same to a candidate in the Spanish parliament?
Friday’s ruling by Supreme Court justice Pablo Llarena turning down Jordi Sànchez’s request to attend the Catalan parliament’s plenary session —where he was to be elected president of Catalonia— is a flagrant violation of the separation of powers in Spain. Up until this point, we had witnessed infringement of basic rights, unjustified abusive detention without bail and a pre-trial enquiry which constitutes, effectively, an all-out judicial persecution of the Catalan independence movement. Yesterday, though, the rule of law in Spain sank to a new low: a judge has taken the liberty to deny a Parliament the right to convene and hold a vote on the presidential candidate proposed by the Speaker of the House.
To quote Constitutional Law Professor Javier Pérez Royo: the powers of a Parliament are inviolable in a parliamentary democracy. The law sets out a single condition for someone to be elected president of Catalonia: they need to be an elected member of parliament whose voting rights are unrestricted. Obviously, Jordi Sànchez meets the legal requirements to be elected, even though he may be disqualified if he is found guilty by a court of law in a not-too-distant future. Claiming otherwise is akin to denying the principles of democratic legitimacy, parliamentary autonomy and, as we said above, separation of powers. Furthermore, it is a violation of the candidate’s right to stand and the active suffrage right of the Catalan voters who cast a ballot on December 21.
With his ruling, justice Llarena rises above the constitutional order and takes the liberty to advise the Catalan parliament’s Speaker to pick a fresh candidate from the Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) MPs because, in his opinion, Sànchez might actually be elected, unlike Juan Carlos Yoldi1.
What sort of democracy is this, where a parliament is not allowed to decide who it may elect as president? Would they have the courage to do the same to a candidate in the Spanish parliament, or is this just about crushing the democratic will of the Catalan people? Still, Llarena has gone even further and, following arguments similar to those spelled out in previous rulings, the Spanish judge is now suggesting that the mere existence of a pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament that has not renounced its goal —even if a profound strategic change is being discussed— is reason enough to keep Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Cuixart, Oriol Junqueras and Joaquim Forn behind bars.
In a way, Pablo Llarena aims to blame the two million Catalans who long for a Republic for the fate of their leaders. Therefore, he seeks to punish the general public at large.
Given this new judicial outrage, you would think that Spain’s democrats might offer some sort of response, but everything indicates that nobody except Podemos will lift a finger to denounce it. Hopefully, it will be the European Court of Human Rights that —sooner or later— will put the Spanish democracy to shame. Meanwhile, its degradation is further intensified by the most reactionary, vociferous elements within Spanish nationalism, who aim to outdo each other.
1. In the mid-1980s ETA prisoner Juan Carlos Yoldi was elected to the Basque parliament. A Spanish court of law ruled that he should be allowed to stand for president and address the chamber during the debate, which he did. However, Yoldi had no chance of securing a parliamentary majority and being voted in.
Translation: Ara, slightly amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau
March 12: Xavier Domènech, candidate for general secretary of Podemos Catalonia and leader of CatECP in the Catalan parliament, produces a list for the Citizens Council (Podemos's Catalan regional executive) that includes representatives of the three major trends in Podemos in the Spanish state--followers of Pablo Iglesias, Iñigo Errejón and Anticapitalists--as well as candidates from all main tickets that contested previous leadership election in Catalonia, plus new faces.
March 12: Girona Council reconfirms its ban on King Philip as persona non grata.
March 12: PSC issues a model motion to its councilors which demands that the political prisoners not be called such and that they be shifted to a jail in Catalonia. This in response to various PSC councilors, including Nuria Parlon, mayoress of Santa Colomer de Gramenet, supporting motions calling them political prisoners and demanding their release.
March 12: 70 to take part in ANC-organised hunger strike demanding the release of the political prisoners.
March 12: CatECP proposes to ERC and CUP that they propose a non-JxCat candidate for president in order to win CatECP support.
March 12: Barcelona court orders Barcelona Council to restore portrait of king to the council chamber.
March 11: Jordi Sànchez's defence team decides to withdraw appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in order to pursue appeal through the Spanish legal system first. Lodges appeal with the Supreme Court.
March 11: Two young gay men who were walking through Barcelona wearing the yellow ribbon of solidarity with the Catalan political prisoners denounce being bashed by a group of youths.
March 11: Xavier Domènech presents his candidacy as secretary general of Podemos Catalonia.
March 11: Jailed ERC leader Oriol Junqueras in interview in El Punt Avui demands that the CUP "be part of the solution and not of the problem".
March 11: PSC spokeperson Salvador Illa: "The personal egoism of Puigdemont and Comín has handed the CUP the key to the investiture."
The March 11 demonstration for "Republic Now", called by the Catalan National Assembly, draws 45,000 (municipal police figure) to Barcelona's portside Passeig de Colom. Speakers are heroes and heroines of the October 1 referendum, who all end their contribution with the phrase: "I put myself on the line, I ask our political representatives to do the same."
March 10: Catalan education minister Clara Ponsatí, exiled in Brussels, announces that she will return to her teaching position at Scotland's St Andrew's University and work to build support for Catalonia in the United Kingdom.
March 10: José Ignacio Llorens, PP MP for Lleida in the Spanish Congress, demands that Catalan firefighters who helped defend polling stations on October 1 formally apologise for their actions.
March 10: Òmnium Cultural AGM lays out a 2018 plan of work aimed at "favouring reconciliation" with sectors of Catalan society opposed to independence.
March 10: PSC leader Miquel Iceta says that the ECHR will reject Sànchez's appeal, and that the PSC will apply to the Constitutional Court for a ruling that the two-month countdown for investing another candidate for president begin immediately.
March 10: Ernest Urtasun (below), spokeperson of Initiative for Catalonia-Greens (ICV), component party of Catalonia Together, uses national conference address to call on pro-independence parties to form a government. He attacks the article 155 intervention and the "irresponsibility" of the October 27 unilateral declaration of indpendence.
March 9: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent postpones the investiture session set down for Monday.
March 9: Catalan Ombudsman Rafael Ribó states that the decision of judge Llarena violate the basics of the rule of law and the rights of the two million-plus voters who supported JxCat on December 21. He invites citizens to send him complaints, and indicates he will be appealing against the decision to the European Commission, Council of Europe and the United Nations.
March 9: Jordi Sànchez's lawyers announce that they will appeal judge Pablo Llarena's decision preventing him from attending the Catalan parliament for Monday's investiture session to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. The judge's written decision is conveyed to them at 1635, five minutes after the ECHR closed for the weekend.
March 9: The CUP maintains its position of abstention in the investiture, despite new proposals from JxCat and the ERC. Its Political Council will rediscuss the position on March 17, after meetings of its territorial assemblies.
March 9: English Football Association fines Pep Guardiola £20,000 for wearing yellow ribbon of solidarity with Catalan political prisoners.
March 9: Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena denies the request of the speaker of the Catalan parliament Roger Torrent for Jordi Sànchez to be released to attend investiture session set for Monday. The grounds are the risk of "reoffending" in crimes for which Sànchez is being investigated and has not yet been charged--sedition, rebellion and misuse of public moneys.
March 9: One day after the feminist general strike, an illegally taped private conversation by ERC leader Lluís Salvadó containing gross sexual references is leaked to the media.
March 9: Spanish government spokespersonMéndez de Vigo says that the article 155 intervention will allow the Spanish government to repay Catalan public servants the 20% of accumulated overtime pay still owed them from the wage cuts imposed during the economic crisis.
March 9: PP premier of Galicia, Alberto Nuñez-Feijóo, calls the Catalan independence process "a blow against European construction".
March 9: Barcelona mayoress (Catalonia Together) Ada Colau asserts in an interview with Catalonia Radio that the investiture of a Catalan president is not in the hands of her formation. "We said that we would not vote for the PDECat or Citizens. We do not support the policy of blocs and the citizens did not give us the support needed to win the elections. Those who presented themselves as a bloc are the ones who have to solve the problem. We will not vote for these two formations. We will not be accomplices to lining up one bloc against the other, but we will sit down to talk about action on measures that can be agreed. Catalonia needs a government to get out of 155 ... This is the responsibility of the pro-independence majority that won the elections. They are responsible for the unilateral declaration of independence. It is they who followed this course together and they who have to make a proposal for a way out."
March 9: Puigdemont in interview with El Punt Avui: "New elections would not be a drama even though it's not a priority anyone wants."
March 8: Debate on Catalonia in the Belgian parliament, with Christian Democrat Vincent Van Peterghem suggesting that Puigdemont had better return to Spain and New Flemish Alliance MP Peter Luykx demanding dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities. Foreign minister Didier Reynders says "we are monitoring the situation but without any interference from Belgium in the [Spanish] legal pocess or the political process of the Catalan parliament."
March 8: JxCat and ERC propose new basis for government agreement to the CUP, featuring a constitutional process within Catalonia to end in a popular consultation and a document.
March 8: Unprecedentedly massive demonstrations in Spanish State on International Women's Day. See Barcelona (below) and other coverage here.
March 8: Catalan parliament speaker Torrent officially requests Supreme Court judge Llorena that Sànchez be released to attend next Monday's investiture session.
March 8: Feminist road block near Terrassa in support of women's strike (below)
March 8: Spanish Supreme Court refuses to re-admit debarred Catalan judge Santi Vidal to the judiciary because of "lack of loyalty to the institutions of the State and the Constitution".
March 8: Womens' strike, rally, St James Square, Barcelona (below)
March 7: (Spanish Senate). Motion by Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) in favour of applicants for public service jobs knowing a minimum of the language of the region where they are applying is lost by 101 (PNV, PSOE, PDECat, EH Bildu, Unidos Podemos) to 150 (PP, Citizens, Union of the People of Navarra, Asturias Forum). Commitment, co-governing with the PSOE in the Valencian Country, abstains.)
March 7: Constitutional Court decides unanimously to reject Jordi Sànchez's appeal to be released from preventive detention. Leaves to Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena the decision as to whether he should be allowed to attend parliament on March 12 for his possible investiture as Catalan president.
March 7: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent addresses Circle of German-speaking Company Directors at Barcelona's spiffy Equestrian Circle. He is told by one attendant: "I would vote to send all you people to jail." The moderator apologises but insists that the Catalan government obey the law. See also (El Nacional) German business people, offended by Karl Jacobi's attitude.
Catalonia’s institutions in exile have already got down to work at the so-called House of the Republic in Waterloo
For the last ten days, any visitors that president Puigdemont used to meet in a Brussels hotel have been travelling to Waterloo instead. The famous house, which was supposed to become Puigdemont’s residence in Belgium, is located in Waterloo, a town within Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia. It is, indeed, the president’s new home. But it is also much more than that, as visitors soon realise, much to their surprise in some cases. The staff working there call it “the House of the Republic”. That is the first shock that visitors get on arrival.
Visitors in the last few days have included a string of Catalan mayors, reporters from several news outlets and countries, scientists, artists, members of parliament and no end of political representatives who watch with curiosity the new reality embodied by the Republican Council. At the end of last week, when Puigdemont announced that Jordi Sànchez was his candidate to become the new regional president back in Catalonia, he had stated that the time had come to start building in Belgium “the institutions of the Catalan Republic”, which was proclaimed on October 27. The first one such institution is its official seat. When visitors enter the premises, the initial surprise comes when they realise that it is not someone’s home, but a headquarters. As they travel from the entrance hall to the conference room on the first floor, they all notice people working behind a number desks, sometimes even the exiled ministers. You could refer to them as the first “civil servants” of the Catalan Republic, even though they are obviously not employed as such. Rather, they are staff on work contracts and they are putting together the projects which will give rise to the actual structure devised by Carles Puigdemont, his team and the members of his cabinet within six months after the declaration of independence, validated by the three pro-independence parties and the grassroots organisations back in Catalonia.
To enter the building, though, one first needs to get past the camera crews sent by the Spanish media who besiege it. Apparently, a good number of Spanish police officers and intelligence operatives have taken it upon themselves to get in the way of the House’s staff and gather any intelligence they can, not always by ordinary means.
A government in exile thanks to the Europe of liberties
The Catalan president has labelled this structure as “a government in exile”. But he has noted that it is not an exile in the traditional sense, thanks to the Europe of the liberties that has been built over the last decades. The six political leaders who reside abroad (Puigdemont, ministers Ponsatí, Serret, Comín and Puig, as well as CUP leader Anna Gabriel) are free citizens to all effects and purposes. Spain does not dare to demand that they be handed over because it realises that the request would be turned down as unbecoming of a democratic nation. The magnitude of the problem that Spain is facing became all too apparent when the European Arrest Warrant against the Catalan leaders was dropped. In the case of Anna Gabriel, who is exiled in Switzerland, the Spanish authorities have not even issued a warrant. Paradoxically, as a result of all that, any member of the Catalan government who remained in Spain is now behind bars (namely, vice president Junqueras and Joaquim Forn, the Minister of the Interior), whereas those who made use of their freedom to travel within Europe as EU nationals remain free and can build a government that will represent the legitimacy that stems from the Catalan elections and was interrupted by the coup d’état staged when direct rule was imposed by Madrid.
Therefore, in the so-called “free Brussels space” the incumbent president of the Generalitat and his government are ready to execute the structures —which they have devised and negotiated so far— without delay. The mission of the exiled government and parliament will be to keep the Spanish state on the ropes, legally and diplomatically, as well as try to lead the action of the pro-independence majority that cast their ballot in the referendum and the snap elections unlawfully called by Mariano Rajoy.
In an interview with The Guardian last Friday, Puigdemont said that the Republican Council was not a clandestine body and his cabinet preferred to work in a free space, without threats and fear, and that remaining in Belgium allowed them to act unencumbered by Spain’s police and justice system. He added that the Council should reflect Catalonia’s diversity and that is why “local communities and associations will be represented, too”. Puigdemont also repeated the motto that has been at the core of his thinking in the last months: “we must transition from the old notion of a government for the people to a government by the people”. That is why preparations in the Republican House have much to do with new technology and the example of Estonia. This Baltic republic has set up a virtual environment that would allow it to operate like an independent country in the event of a Russian invasion. It is a project that has been studied by the Generalitat for some time and will become a model for the Catalan government in exile.
In principle, the design that will be put into practice in the coming days involves setting up two institutions: the Republican Council and the Congress of Representatives. The former will be the government in exile and the political parties have agreed that it should consist of five members, two from Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra Republicana, plus one from the CUP. The Council is to meet weekly and liaise politically with the Generalitat government back in Barcelona, which will formally recognise the leading role of the Republican Council as the policy-setting body, assuming an agreement for a coalition government is reached by the pro-independence parties in Barcelona.
As for the Congress of Representatives, it will be the equivalent of a parliament in exile and, as is to be expected, it will be tasked with overseeing the executive branch. The Congress of Representatives will include MPs from the pro-independence majority in the Barcelona chamber who will be joined by representatives of local governments and other institutions, with a view to forming a highly-representative national body. The Congress and the Council will both meet in Brussels as a general rule, but the former might hold meetings in Catalonia, too, which would be another headache for the Spanish institutions.
Private bodies to avoid the Spanish state’s trap
Formally both institutions will be private in nature so as to avoid becoming entangled in the legal net that Spain is aiming to cast. Their public actions will be covered by the Generalitat itself, which will endorse the Council’s decisions to the extent that this is legally possible. However, the Council will elude Spain’s crackdown and take on tasks that would otherwise be impossible, such as re-opening Catalan representation offices abroad. Following Madrid’s direct rule, it is clear that the Spanish government will not lift the ban on those offices, but the free space in Brussels will be able to activate them nearly with the same format as they had until they were shut down by the Spanish authorities.
Brussels will also steer the drafting of the Constitution of the Republic based on a broad-based discussion at grassroots level, which will draw on experiences such as Iceland’s. Once again, being a private entity will allow the Catalan government in exile to take on jobs that the repression by Spain’s courts of law —under Rajoy’s orders— would otherwise make impossible.
On this point, the connection between the Republican Council, the regional government in Barcelona and the two million separatist voters will lead to the constant querying of Spain’s power in Catalonia. The Council and the Congress will encourage alternatives to allow the Catalan people, for instance, to avoid keeping their savings in banks that cooperate with the Spanish repression, which is nearly unavoidable at present. Likewise, they will foster an electronic form of democracy that, for example, will allow the Generalitat to hold online consultations outside of Spain’s legal framework. As a matter of fact, the concept goes beyond what has been traditionally known as electronic democracy and will enter the domain of “active” democracy based on the principles outlined by Puigdemont in his interview with The Guardian.
The exiled government, then, will also be privately funded and will be backed through a totally transparent fund open to the people’s participation. Anyone will be allowed to contribute to the coffers of these institutions, which do not expect to require a large number of staff. Their day-to-day affairs will be handled by the Generalitat in Barcelona and the government in exile will focus on any projects which the Spanish government might not allow the regional government to embark on, particularly from a legal standpoint and in terms of seeking support for the Catalan cause abroad.
A very hot potato for the EU, too
On the surface, the birth of the Catalan government in exile has been snubbed by the Spanish authorities, but the reaction and the violent attacks which it has elicited are indicative of Madrid’s serious concern on this matter.
In fact, over the last weeks the temperature of Madrid’s open conflicts with several EU partners has risen a notch. Spanish government sources have even hinted that they might go as far as breaking diplomatic relations with Belgium, an unprecedented threat. Spain’s Foreign Minister Dastis referred to Switzerland in the same terms as Anna Gabriel when she announced her decision to stay there. Finland’s consul to Barcelona saw his diplomatic credentials removed last week and his was the fourth on the list of incidents involving Barcelona-based consuls as a result of Spain’s feud with Catalonia. Except on this occasion the decision has been rebuffed by the entire consular body in Barcelona, as well as Finland’s embassy in Madrid. The matter has been debated in the Finnish parliament and its government is now expected to provide an explanation.
Spain’s rattled nerves reveal a growing realisation that the legal action undertaken against the Catalan government was a mistake that will have catastrophic consequences. It violates every principle of the separation of powers and the right to a fair trial. Besides, jailing members of a government and creating a new one in exile within the EU causes a major problem of definition in the EU itself. As it is, the European Union is already struggling to explain how come Hungary —and especially Poland— are implementing policies which infringe upon the most basic democratic principles and violate European laws. The situation is further compounded when that happens not just in the former eastern bloc, but in a western country, Spain, which behaves with the utmost contempt for the separation of powers and civil rights. When the EU gave Spain its consent to impose a no-holds-barred form of direct rule on Catalonia via Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, it allowed a regression of liberties not just in Catalonia but in Spain as a whole and the resulting scandals are increasingly harder to conceal. The whole world heard about Madrid’s ARCO exhibition banning a number of works about Catalonia’s political prisoners, as well as the prison sentences imposed on two musicians, Valtònyc and Pablo Hassel, for writing critical songs and posts on Twitter.
For the first time ever, last week president Puigdemont admitted that he had made a mistake on October 10 when he agreed to suspend the declaration of independence after Donald Tusk’s public request. The Catalan government expected the gesture to prompt a reaction in Europe to help to find a political solution for such an obvious constitutional problem in Spain. In fact, what happened was quite the opposite, although the Catalan government is quick to point out that there is more to Europe than the European Commission and emphasises the sympathy and support from countries like Belgium, Slovenia, Denmark, Ireland and Latvia, which has allowed the exiled government to realise that Europe and the space of freedom it has created are the solution to the political conflict, even if some of today’s political leaders in Europe are unable to appreciate that.
Therefore, taking every opportunity to show that Spain’s behaviour is entirely incompatible with Europe’s democratic standards is key to the exiled government’s strategy: to get to a point where the cost of justifying Spain’s totalitarian arbitrariness is no longer acceptable to Europe. And this can be more easily achieved from a house only sixteen kilometres from Brussels than from Barcelona, a city that is being subjected to constant, indiscriminate repression.
March 6: JxCat announces that it will lodge a formal legal complaint if Supreme Court judge Llarena rules against Jordi Sànchez attending the March 12 investiture session of the Catalan parliament.
March 6: Citizens demands that exiled MPs Puigdemont and Comin cease to receive their parliamentary salary.
March 6: National High Court (Audiencia Nacional) declares its investigation of former Catalan police chief Josep Lluís Trapero "complex", thereby allowing it to continue for up to 18 months (and any suspect placed in preventive detention liable to be kept in prison for that time).
March 5: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent nominates imprisoned former ANC president and JxCat number two Jordi Sànchez as president of the Catalan government. ERC reaches agreement with JxCat to support Sànchez as president.
March 5: Manchester City trainer Pep Guardiola accepts fine from the Football Association for wearing the yellow ribbon of solidarity with Catalan political prisoners. He does not apologise.
Villatoro: Unionists aren’t obliged to welcome Sànchez’s nomination, but have a moral obligation to accept it
Ciudadanos, the PP and the PSC wouldn’t want Jordi Sànchez to be the president of the Catalan government. They believe that choosing him makes no sense, that it’s a mistake, an inconvenient decision. They have every right to feel that way. Logically, therefore, if Sànchez’s nomination is presented to Parliament, they will vote against it. What wouldn’t be logical —and what they have no right to do— is to try and prevent those who support him from voting in his favour, which may well be the majority of MPs.
The unionists aren’t obliged to welcome Sànchez’s nomination. They have every right to criticize the decision and oppose it with their arguments. But in a democracy, they have a moral obligation to accept it, if he has the majority in his favour. To use subterfuge to prevent a member of the public with all their political rights intact, including the right to vote and to be elected, from being chosen if it is the majority will, flies in the face of democracy. It has already happened with President Puigdemont, with the excuse that he was abroad.
The unionists seem set to make the same serious mistake again, in an echo of what has been their original sin throughout this process: denying their opponents the right to vote for what they believe in. Everyone has the right to vote according to their convictions. What they don’t have the right to do is to deny us the possibility of voting according to our own convictions or to deny the value of our vote. Translation: Ara
Week ending March 4
139 nights with political prisoners
Photo of the week
March 4: On orders of Barcelona Council, this statue of slave-trader and "eminent citizen" Antonio Lopez was removed today while a popular festival took place in the surounding square. A former version of the statue, in bronze, was removed and melted down during the Second Republic (1931-39), to be replaced by this stone statue under the Franco dictatorship.
Main events, February 26-March 4
March 4: 15,000 Spanish unionists march in central Barcelona in support of "Tabarnia" (Tarragona plus Barcelona, a mythical construct of those municipalities where the vote for pro-independence parties fell short of 50% on December 21).
March 4: Vidal Aragonès (CUP MP): "Repeating elections is not the worst alternative." Aragonés also points out that a majority for the JxCat-ERC proposal can be achieved if the speakership panel recognises the votes of exiled MPs Puigdemont and Comín and that decision is supported by a majority of parliament.
The more it goes on the more toxic the investiture of whoever has to be the President of the autonomous community1of Catalonia becomes. With the result of the December 21 elections in hand everything seemed clear and more or less simple. The result of the October 1 referendum and the October 27 proclamation of the Republic had been ratified. Article 155 had been defeated. The citizens had shown that they knew how to withstand the pressure of the Spanish state and had decided that the illegitimately sacked government had to come back. It became clear that President Puigdemont had the votes needed to continue as president. It was also obvious that the three pro-independence parties had to agree to move forward together.
On December 21, at the polls, we citizens did the work we had to do. Just as we had done at the October 1 referendum. Now it was up to the politicians to play their part. But the reality is that two long months have passed since that day and not only is there no government, there is also a great deal of disquiet. On January 30, the inauguration of Puigdemont was ready and agreed to by all three parties, with a program that included starting the constituent process and the building from Brussels of republican institutions, for the Spanish state a scenario of struggle and confrontation. But the speaker of the parliament [Roger Torrent] decided to stop that investiture a few hours before it was due and from then on we have taken two steps back for every one forward.
At this point, it seems clear that the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) does not want to invest President Puigdemont. And since that has become clear, and given that without ERC no investiture is possible, Puigdemont has given way. He has done so making it understood that without Together for Catalonia (JxCat) there is no possible investiture either and has proposed that Jordi Sànchez2 be invested. ERC did not accept this at first, but then they did, but before that it was the People's Unity List (CUP) that said no, which once again made agreement impossible. Because without the CUP the thing can’t be done either.
The reaction of many people to this enormous mess has been disappointment and fatigue. I completely understand that. There are people who have reacted by openly speaking of traitors and similar things. I can’t and won’t share that response; it seems to me dangerous nonsense and an outlook that must be avoided. Finally, there are those who have invoked in an abstract way the need for unity, desirable and desired by all, but it is already clear this unity doesn’t exist and that no one can impose it by themselves. You can’t ask for unity if you only want it on your own terms. That’s not serious.
I think we shouldn’t get ourselves trapped in this game of fixed and limited choices. In this sense, I also have the impression that we can also lose ourselves in the fight over names. And that the battle for the presidency should not conceal the fundamental issue. I believe I understood that the CUP yesterday [March 3] did not reject Jordi Sànchez on the basis of personality or history, but because the program for his investiture and for the government that was to be formed would be one that actually accepts the article 155 intervention and limits its mental horizon to that of a regional government in the Spanish state. That, in any case, is reflected in the name of the candidate. Indeed, if the Spanish state does not want in any way that Puigdemont be president, accepting in the end that he cannot be invested is to accept that who is in charge is Spain and not the voters. Which is what the CUP does not want. And I honestly think that no-one can find that strange or incoherent. The question now is: what should and can be done?
It seems to me that yesterday’s decision by the CUP should give the opportunity to all three pro-independence parties to return to the situation before speaker Torrent stopped the inauguration of President Puigdemont. An agreement, signed and sealed, existed that since then has been unable to be reached by any other route or with any other combination. If the parties were in agreement and the speaker of the parliament stopped it, perhaps the best solution right now would be that Torrent accept the initial deal. Especially after having verified that choosing a different candidate does not solve the institutional deadlock.
And if this is not the case, then we will have to calmly take on board that that an agreement between all three groups is perhaps impossible, that it is just not feasible. And we shall then have to entertain the thought that there could be new elections, something that need not necessarily be bad. The people decided how they wanted this government to be, but if the politicians don’t know how to make it happen, the most reasonable road forward is to allow the people, once again, to lead the way. One of the problems, the big problem in fact, of representative democracy is that the parties, once they‘ve got the votes in the bag, do what they want without the voters having the right to correct them. And I have an intuition that the vote today would be different from the vote in December. Perhaps, therefore, the way to stop this unfortunate investiture spectacle is to go back to scratch, namely to the decision of the people, of each and every one of us.
Since October, many things have happened and we have seen politicians react in a variety of ways. But it’s been since December 21 that we have also seen the politicians react very differently, some of them in frankly surprising ways. It is obvious that the promises of the election campaign have not been fulfilled, and that is why a new vote might clarify the picture and would be a great help in facing the new political phase. If with the present configuration of the pro-independence bloc the way to form government can’t be found, let the people decide on another configuration. Or let them repeat the current one, which would send a strong message to the parties that they have to negotiate seriously. And in any case, let the people respond to the great background debate that is masked by the negotiations: do we need to move straight to building the republic or if it is necessary to first look to build whatever can be managed in the framework of regional government, accepting, therefore, the rules imposed by the coup d'etat? Because at the time of voting on December 21 nobody put this debate on the table and in the end it is more important and decisive than the names of presidents or the investiture process itself.
Two notes to finish on:
1) Whatever happens, I think it should not affect the formation of the Council of the Republic, an organism that is called upon to be more prominent in political terms than the government itself.
2) On Sunday, March 11, at the demonstration called by the ANC, all of us will have a clear opportunity to tell all three parties what we think and what we want.
1. "Autonomous community" is the official title for the regional governments in the Spanish state.
2. Former president of the Catalan National Congess (ANC), number two to Puigdemont on the JxCat ticket.
March 3: The CUP decides not to support the agreement for government between JxCat and the ERC, but to abstain on the vote. This leaves the JxCat and ERC proposal two votes short of a 66-65 majority over the unionist parties plus CatECP (which had said it will vote against the proposal for a government headed by Jordi Sànchez).
March 3: PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez: "An unviable candidate like Puigdemont cannot be followed by another like Sànchez."
March 2: Rafael Ribó, the Catalan Ombudsman, leads Catalan human rights organisation in demanding a proper investigation of Spanish police action on October 1.
Now the investiture of the Catalan President is dependent on Spain’s Supreme Court
Javier Pérez Royo, Professor of Constitutional Law,
March 1, 2018
Ever since the results of the December 21st elections came out, it became apparent that the moment of truth would come with the investiture of the President of the Generalitat. The election of a president was already extremely complicated in the previous term, and a repetition of the elections was only avoided when Artur Mas stepped aside. This time, the operation is much more complicated, as now the investiture is not dependent on the position of one of the political forces, the CUP, but rather on Spain’s Supreme Court's intervention in the process, as confirmed recently by the Constitutional Court.
The pro-independence bloc, which won the elections in the parliamentary sense but not in the sense of a plebiscite --to use the terminology that they themselves put into circulation--, finds itself faced with the dilemma of either proposing a candidate that the Supreme Court will have no objection to or, rather, proposing one that not only is being investigated but is also subject to the most serious cautionary measure provided for in the legislation: unconditional provisional imprisonment.
The first option would have a certain advantage. It would immediately lift Madrid’s direct rule, it would restore the exercise of autonomy under the terms laid out in the Constitution and Statute of Autonomy, and the President of the Generalitat would be able to politically direct the autonomous community. It would be the option most consistent with the principle of legality. Nevertheless, it would also have the no-less certain disadvantage that the citizens would not be the ones who, through their voting rights, had chosen the president, but rather the Supreme Court that had decided the investiture, albeit negatively. From the perspective of democratic legitimacy, it is a much less coherent option. We would once again find ourselves faced with the tension between legality and legitimacy that has shadowed the entire course of the Catalan independence process. The Spanish government maintains that legitimacy and legality coincide in a democracy. The pro-independence movement believes that the right to autonomy cannot be exercised in accordance with a Statute that was not what the people approved in referendum, but rather that which was imposed by the State via the Constitutional Court as a result of an appeal by the PP. The exercise of the right to self-rule requires that the principal legislation, the Catalan Statute, be a law in which the people have had the final word. This is an unavoidable condition of the principle of democratic legitimacy. With the current Statute, this is not the case.
A complaint for neglect of duty
The response to this logic of democratic legitimacy is the proposal to name Jordi Sànchez* as candidate for president. It is about keeping alive the tension between legality and legitimacy, which will put the Supreme Court in a very awkward position. If the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, after a round of talks, proposes Jordi Sànchez as candidate, the Court cannot block him from attending Parliament to present his platform for governance and seeking the support of the chamber. Sànchez still has the right to passive suffrage, and this right cannot be ignored by the Court. In fact, Pablo Llarena would be committing a crime of wilful neglect of duty and Sànchez would be able to file a complaint against him.
If Sànchez is the candidate, he will be voted president and the presiding judge will then have to decide whether to keep a President of the Generalitat in provisional custody. In my view, if this were to happen, an appeal could immediately be lodged with the Constitutional Court, requesting a provisional suspension of the measure. And in the case that the high court did not agree to process the appeal, it is my understanding that he could turn to the European Court of Human Rights. And if Sànchez isn't kept in provisional custody, what about the other pro-independence politicians subject to this precautionary measure?
The judicialization of a problem as intrinsically political as that of the integration of Catalonia within Spain not only resolves nothing, but rather will make everything more difficult. To attempt to have a court of law resolve what it can never resolve will lead nowhere but to catastrophe.
*Jordi Sànchez is a political activist and President of the Catalan National Assembly. He is currently being held in prison without bail, accused by Spanish authorities of sedition for organising the September 20, 2017 protests and for preparations for the October 1st referendum
March 1: Reaction of Spanish prime minister's office: "After a month and a half Puigdemont realises that he will not be president of the Generalitat, something which would not have been possible without the determination of the [Spanish] government to use all means at its disposal to stop this mockery of prevailing law."
March 1: Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of investigations into the October 1 referendum has declared the case officially "complex", in this way extending the time for reaching a decision on possible charges from six months to 18 months. The Catalan political prisoners detained could therefore spend this extended time in prison before being charged.
March 1: Catalan parliament adopts resolution affirming the legitimacy of Carles Puigdemont as president and condemning the Spanish government's suspension of Catalan self-rule under article 155 of the Spanish Constitution (text and vote below). The resolution was discussed and voted despite filibustering attempts by Citizens to convince the chamber that it would be unconstitutional because of the amendments proposed by the CUP, some of which are incorporated in the final form of the resolution below..
1. Citizens (Cs) and the People's Party of Catalonia (PPC) regarded the whole resolution as unconstitutional, and did not take part in the vote. Citizens said it would launch a appeal against the resolution in the Spanish Constitutional Court.
2. PSC-Units is the electoral alliance between the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC) and United to Advance, formerly members of the defunct christian democrat Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC). PSC-Units did not vote on paragraph 6b of the resolution, regarding it as unconstitutional.
3. The 135-seat Catalan Parliament is made up as follows: Citizens 36, Together for Catalonia (JxCat) 34, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) 32. PSC-Units 17, Catalona Together-Podemos (CatECP) 8, People's Unity List (CUP) 4, PPC 4
The Parliament of Catalonia:
1. Reaffirms that it represents the people of Catalonia and is the expression of their will. (ORIGINAL TEXT) Approved: 76 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC, CatECP and CUP) and 17 against (PSC-Units). Cs and PPC did not vote
2a. Notes that the elections of December 21 returned a majority favorable to pro-independence forces, that is, to the political formations favouring government action for a Republic and the constitution of Catalonia as an independent state in the form of a Republic. (TEXT AMENDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH AMENDMENT 4 OF THE CUP) Approved: 68 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC and CUP) and 25 against (PSC-Units and CatECP) and 1 abstention (1 PPC deputy). Cs and three PPC deputies did not vote.
2b. Stresses that Members of Parliament enjoy the prerogatives of parliamentary inviolability and immunity which must guarantee, in turn, the free establishment of the will of the Chamber and the maintenance of the composition given it by the people's will. (TEXT AMENDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH AMENDMENT 4 OF THE CUP) Approved: 76 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC, CatECP and CUP) and 17 against (PSC-Units). Cs and PPC did not vote.
3. Manifests its absolute rejection of the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution agreed by the [October 27] Senate Plenary and the government of Spain, along with its effects on Catalan democratic institutions, which has violated the basic rights of the Catalans, restricted the sovereign powers of their legitimate institutions and dismissed their democratically elected representatives. It therefore demands an immediate end to its application. (ACCEPTANCE OF AMENDMENT 5 OF THE CUP) Approved: 77 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC, CatECP, CUP and 1 deputy of the PSC-Units) and 16 against (PSC-Units). Cs and PPC did not vote.
4a. Denounces the authoritarian and undemocratic evolution of Spain, evident from improprieties committed within the executive and judicial spheres, for example:
- The fact that the Minister of Justice in a flagrant violation of the separation of powers outlined with total certainty the future course of legal proceedings against persons under investigation, most specifically Members of Parliament, and anticipated the dates and content of the charges they would face;
- Pressure and interference from the Spanish executive against the Constitutional Court while in the midst of its process of deliberation on the admissibility of an appeal brought by the Spanish government itself against a resolution of the speaker of this Parliament. These pressures ended up being reflected in the final terms of the Constitutional Court's judgment in an action unprecedented in constitutional law;
- In legal rulings that keep four citizens in preventive detention. The legitimate and democratic ideological choices pointed to in these rulings are today represented by at least 70 deputies in this chamber.
- In impeding the members of this chamber from fully performing their rights and duties as elected members of this Parliament. (TEXT AMENDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH AMENDMENT 6 OF THE CUP) Approved: 76 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC, CatECP and CUP) and 17 against (PSC-Units). Cs i PPC did not vote.
4b. Denounces the widespread repression of the Spanish State against the Catalan Republican movement, which operates against Catalonia through the legal witchhunt1 that the powers of the state have initiated, violating the civil and political rights of the citizens and their legitimate representatives, with the consequence of jail, exile and all kinds of unjust and undemocratic criminal measures. (ACCEPTANCE OF AMENDMENT 7 OF THE CUP) Approved: 68 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC and CUP), 17 against (PSC-Units) and 8 abstentions (CatECP). Cs and PPC did not vote.
5. Denounces the illegal and illegitimate destitution of the President of Catalonia and his government, repository of the will of the people of Catalonia, through the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution and proclaims its will and determination to restore the institution of the Presidency of the Generalitat [Government] of Catalonia. (ORIGINAL TEXT) Approved: 68 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC and CUP), 25 against (PSC-Units and CatECP). Cs and PPC did not vote.
6. Notes that the Most Honourable President Carles Puigdemont i Casamajo:
- was elected by an absolute majority of the Parliament of Catalonia on January 10, 2016 and won a motion of confidence on September 29, 2016;
- Has achieved the support necessary, on the basis of the result of the elections of December 21, 2017 (which created a pro-independence majority in this chamber), to be the Parliament's legitimate candidate for the presidency of the Government in this legislature;
- Continues to enjoy a sufficient parliamentary majority, won at the ballot box and reconfirmed on December 21, for confidence in him as President to be ratified. Approved: 67 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC and CUP), 24 against (PSC-Units and CatECP). Cs and PPC did not vote.
6b. Demands an end to the interference of the government of the State in the lower level courts and the Constitutional Court, which seeks to prevent the realisation of this democratic will of the representatives of the people of Catalonia, as well as that which was legitimately expressed in the Referendum on Self-determination of Catalonia on October 1.
-Establishes that this Parliament and its Presidency immediately activates all the appropriate instruments and procedures needed to guarantee the unrestricted civil and political rights of all its elected representatives and to restore all of its Institutions, starting with its Presidency, as well as its powers to legislate and govern in support of the social, civil and political rights of all Catalans without exception, building a new, just, inclusive and solidarity-based country for everyone, such as via the restitution of the content of the laws and social and environmental decrees approved by this Chamber in the last parliamentary term and suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court. (TEXT AMENDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH AMENDMENTS 9 AND 10 OF THE CUP) Approved: 68 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC and CUP), 8 against (CatECP). Cs, PSC-Units and PPC did not vote.
This text is pending review and correction. The official text of the resolution approved will be the one that will be published in the Official Bulletin of the Parliament of Catalonia
Footnotes: 1. The phrase "legal witchhunt" is used here to translate Causa General, a reference to the massive and sustained crusade of legal persecution applied by the Franco dictatorship to its defeated opponents after the Spanish Civil War.
February 28: Xàvier Domènech, leader of Catalonia Together-Podemos in the Catalan parliament, to stand for the position of general secretary of Podemos Catalonia, left vacant after the previous leadership of Albano Dante Fachin lost a membership referendum, imposed by the leadership of Podemos in the Spanish State, on participation with Catalonia Together in an electoral alliance for the December 21 Catalan elections.
February 28: Catalan PP leader Xàvier García Albiol says that if Jordi Sànchez is elected Catalan president, the article 155 intervention should continue in a more draconian form.
February 28: Spanish attorney-general Rafael Català says that the Spanish government will appeal to the Copnstitutional Court any resolution of the Catalan parliament that it considers unconstitutional.
February 28: Català says yellow ribbons should be removed from public buildings in Catalonia: "There are no political prisoners no matter how much a few people insist otherwise and these symbols should not be on buildings that belong to everyone."
The Prague Collective, made up of law professors from Catalan universities, reports 9 violations
The Prague Collective, an association of law professors from Catalan universities, has filed a complaint with the Council of Europe signed by 650 jurists for violation of human rights. The complaint refers to events surrounding the October 1st referendum that, according to the experts, violate the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1950.
"Instead of choosing dialogue to solve a political conflict, Spain opted for political repression and the institution of criminal charges, which resulted in serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It pressed unsustainable charges of rebellion and sedition against the leaders of the two main civil organisations who had been mainly responsible for what was a peaceful and democratic process. It also prosecuted the Catalan President, the Catalan Vice- President and various Ministers of the Catalan Government. Some of those charged are in pre-trial detention, others have fled into exile. Spain has also de facto stripped Catalonia of its powers through the unconstitutional application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution.", said the report published by the jurists, which mentions a "breakdown of democratic values and rule of law in Spain".
In the 50 page report, the legal experts opine that "there is sufficient evidence for the Commissioner for Human Rights to begin an independent and full investigation into the possible violations of rights” and they list several areas in which they believe that these violations have occurred:
* Rights of freedom of expression and assembly
* Prohibition of “degrading treatment”
* Right to vote, to stand for election, and to not be discriminated against for political opinions
* Right to freedom
* Right to an independent and impartial court
* Principle of penal legality
* Right to due process with full guarantees
* Right to to a second trial in the penal framework
* Right to defence preparation
All of these rights are recognized and protected by the European Convention and its protocols.
The Council of Europe is an advisory body, which has already taken a position in favor of a negotiated solution to the conflict between Catalonia and Spain.
February 27: Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena "would be perverting the course of justice if he prevents Jordi Sànchez from being invested as president of Catalonia." (Spanish constitutionalist Javier Pérez Rojo)
February 27: The Council of Europe cites Xàvier García Albiol, PP leader in the Catalan parliament and former mayor of Badalona, as an example of racism and xenophobia in the Spanish state.
February 27: CUP spokeperson Carles Riera: "We are a long way from an agreement [with JxCat and the ERC]."For the CUP it is indispensable that the constituent process takes form here, in the territory of Catalonia. That everyone can take part in the debate about what country we want to create for the future. It has to be a binding process, that from this legislature must conclude with our proposal for a multi-referendum so as to open the way to the following phases."
February 27: Main points of agreement reached between JxCat and the ERC:
The Catalan parliament will vote recognition of Puigdemont as Catalonia’s legitimate president, reconfirm the October 27 declaration of independence--on the insistence of the CUP--and demand the lifting of article 155;
An Assembly of the Republic, made up of representatives of Catalan local government and civil society, will be set up in a “Free Space in Brussels”, along with an executive Council of the Republic, headed by Puigdemont; and
A government will be set up in Catalonia, with 14 ministries equally divided between JxCat and ERC. The candidate for president will be detained former ANC president Jordi Sànchez. If Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, responsible for Sànchez’s detention, does not allow him to leave jail for the investiture session, this ruling will be appealed all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. JxCat leader Jordi Turull would be candidate for president in the meantime.
February 27: Madrid daily La Razón reports that Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena will not allow elected JxCat MP Jordi Sánchez to leave jail if he is proposed as president of the incoming Catalan government.
Vicent Partal: "Above all, a monarchy is a spectacle. But yesterday King Felipe was unable to show that at all. Quite the opposite"
A monarchy is, above all, a spectacle. Its role —as with any other role within the public sphere— relies on appearances. That is why all monarchies always surround themselves with the sort of pomp that aims to elevate the monarch above the general public. Unless the monarch is seen by their subjects as different and superior, people begin to wonder what purpose he serves. And when people begin to ask themselves why they need a king, a monarchy is doomed. Nowadays there are only seventeen monarchies in the world, eighteen if you include the Catholic Pope, the only elected king in the world. At present the extinction of the monarchical institution only seems a matter of time. More so when the king is a controversial figure.
Yesterday King Felipe got the response he deserved from the Catalan public and the nation’s institutions. He had to enter Barcelona’s Palau de la Música [the chosen venue for the Mobile World Congress (MWC) gala dinner] without any pomp and almost incognito, with riot police occupying Via Laietana and struggling to contain the city’s noisy protest. In nearby roads, thousands of citizens endured blows and violence from the Catalan police, as well as provocations from royalists, all to ensure that the Spanish king would fully grasp the animosity that he elicits in Catalonia. Local authorities were absent from the gala dinner and most skipped the official reception, which humiliated him in front of the MWC's businesspeople and entrepreneurs. The Speaker of the Catalan parliament, the mayoress of Barcelona and the representatives of the Catalan government all declined the invitation to attend the event. The king had much to explain, particularly when the noisy protests and republican anthems were clearly audible from inside the Palau de la Música, a musical institution whose choir had voiced their discontent over the king’s presence and had publicly asked that he be denied access to the venue. At 9 pm tens of thousands of MWC participants across Barcelona heard the deafening banging of pots and pans. Earlier that day, they had been greeted at Barcelona airport by activists wearing yellow ribbons and holding banners [to raise awareness of the political situation in Catalonia].
All in all, the Bourbon king received the response that he deserved from Catalonia, a worthy nation that has proven to him that it will neither surrender nor bend the knee, a nation that remembers the king’s sickening call to violence on TV on October 3. That speech might actually cost him the crown which he inherited from his father, the successor chosen by General Franco.
Above all, a monarchy is a spectacle. But yesterday King Felipe was unable to show that off at all. Quite the opposite. In the street outside, it became apparent that now he can only visit Catalonia when protected by a massive display of violence. Once inside the Palau de la Música, he busied himself trying to conceal his irritation and displeasure at the noise coming from outside rather than trying to present himself to the world as the modern, democratic monarch that he pretends to be. Sitting opposite him, Speaker Roger Torrent wore a yellow ribbon on his lapel and didn’t even bother to applaud the king’s speech out of courtesy. Politically speaking, the king of Spain and the Spanish government were defeated and humiliated in a context that must be understood. When the Spanish authorities staged a coup against Catalonia on September 20 and imposed direct rule on October 28, few people thought that Catalans would hold their ground and counterattack to this extent.
Yesterday it became apparent that the republican movement is on the rise and has overcome the bewilderment that overwhelmed it after the Catalan government surrendered the administration when direct rule was imposed. Furthermore, it is equally obvious that Spain has a colossal problem. The last time that King Felipe had the courage to visit Catalonia was to take part in the march following the jihadist attacks in August. During the demonstration, he had to hear some comments that he was not used to hearing. Once again, yesterday he received a welcome that no monarch, including him, would ever wish to have. Not even the provocation staged by a tiny group of royalists saved the day. The scared, regional Catalonia which they were hoping to bring back through the use of force, violence, prison and exile has failed to replace the republican Catalonia and is nowhere to be seen. The coming weeks will see a new government in Catalonia, the institutional integration between the regional government and the republic, plus a demonstration on March 11 [called on February 25 by the Catalan National Assembly]. Things will likely take a further turn for the better and there will be new opportunities to finish off the job, one that only got halfway done in October. For now, though, you can smile again: King Felipe will not forget Sunday in Barcelona any time soon.
Translation: VilaWeb with some slight amendments by Green Left Weekly European Bureau
February 26: European Commission vice-president Frans Timmerman tells a conference in Louvain that "Catalonia is not an affair of the European Union while basic rights are not being violated."·
February 26: Albert Ginjaume, the honorary Finnish consul and president of the Barcelona consular corps whose sacking by Finland was forced by the Spanish government, tells Catalan public TV3 that the Spanish state is nervous of foreign governments being influenced any version of events in Catalonia different to its own: "If the [independence] Process has not been successful it is because it hasn't had support from outside Spain. Spain knows that and keeps a close eye on it. That's why they are afraid of any step by a consul that could influence any other consul, and they chop his or her head off."
Spain should stop hounding Catalan separatists and negotiate in the national interest
King Felipe of Spain will today visit an unhappy corner of his realm, the region of Catalonia. Having voted for unilateral independence in a referendum last October and again for a slight parliamentary majority in favour of separation in December, Catalonia still inhabits a political limbo. It is ruled without concession from Madrid and its ousted president, Carles Puigdemont, lives in exile in Belgium while other members of his former administration are behind bars.
Spain’s calculation is that Mr Puigdemont’s nerve will crack and that he will formally step down, allowing a regional Catalan government to take shape. It is gambling that the oxygen will be squeezed out of the separatist cause. Opinion polls suggest that might yet happen. Catalans are tired of the politicisation of everyday life and are nervous that investors will steer clear of their still-prosperous region. Reports indicate that some Catalan separatists may be ready to dump their leader.
The king considers that he has no choice but to defend the rule of law. He swore loyalty to the 1978 Spanish constitution which defines the “indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”. It was a constitution drawn up to address the wounds of the Spanish civil war and the decades of authoritarian misrule. King Felipe thus talks — and will talk again today — of the need to uphold the rule of law.
This is an uncontroversial statement of the royal mission. It is easy to see, too, that the Catalan arguments for a breakaway state are not necessarily in the interests of the region, let alone the broader prosperity of the Spanish nation. Yet the government of Mariano Rajoy has struck the wrong tone. Mr Puigdemont is being faced with a choice between exile and returning to face arrest. His career has thus been deemed to be over by Madrid.
To underline the point Spanish police have twice searched the private jet of Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City manager, in Barcelona airport, fearing that Mr Puigdemont may have been smuggled back to Catalonia. Spain does not gain in dignity or security by this absurd pantomime. And its narrow interpretation of the law does not address what is essentially a political problem — the limits and possibilities of autonomy within the contours of a centralised state.
The government’s imprisonment of pro-independence activists was plainly excessive, sending a grim message to civil society. The use of pre-trial detention has raised questions among civil rights organisations across Europe. The equation of the separatist debate with sedition is a challenge to freedom of expression. All these issues are also components of the “rule of law” which King Felipe considers so central to modern democratic Spain.
The king is popular in Spain and should use his visit to listen to the Catalans. The country has become so fixated on a potential break-up, from the Basqueland to Catalonia, that it has become the prime European Union blocker to other states seeking independence, such as Kosovo. Behaviour designed to demonstrate principle in fact betrays a lack of self-confidence.
Spain should allow Mr Puigdemont and other leaders to return and enter a dialogue with the Madrid government and the other autonomous regions of Spain. The narrow majority for independence in the regional parliament suggests that there will be no immediate surge of support for a breakaway state. Madrid should take the risk and learn to talk more about pluralism than sedition.
Week ending February 25
132 days with political prisoners
Image of the week
February 24: In the the central industrial city of Manresa (capital of Bages county), pro-independence left organisations--People's Unity List (CUP), Committee for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), Arran, Endavant, the Student Union of the Catalan Lands (SEPC) and Poble Lliure, plus the Catalan National Assembly (ANC)--replace the place name Spain Square with that of Republic Square. The CUP councilors on Manresa council will move that it approve the change at its next meeting.
February 25: Spanish government spokepeople claim that Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent and Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau are putting the Mobile World Congress at risk by refusing to attend the official inauguration.
It seems as if the leaders of Together for Catalonia (JxCat) and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) can’t flick the switch to realising that they are only partial ingredients of one single social movement that goes well beyond being a stew of logos. If they do not assume their responsibilities, they will inevitably go down in history as a gang of unfortunates who will have brought the country to the worst of all possible ruins—moral ruin.
It produces a lot of desolation in the citizens when, during full bombardment of Catalan institutions, the negotiations struggle in the pro-sovereignty camp is over control of those spheres of regional government that are most profitable from the patronage and propaganda points of view. That means that despite an in extremis agreement to avoid further elections any government based on mutual rivalry and mistrust will be an inefficient and ineffective tool for getting the country back on its feet.
This was already visible in the previous legislature when even the conversations among members of the same parliamentary group were recorded so as to serve as an electoral weapon against internal rivals2. One day it will be explained that the October 1 referendum came about as it did because those responsible for carrying it out were a secret group of citizens authorised by the president but not known to the cabinet.
Hostilities resumed the day after October 1, and it seems unbelievable that the lesson of October 27 has not been learned. Then everyone preferred to call elections and hold off on a declaration of independence that was insufficiently prepared and yet on both sides people were forced to do the opposite of what they wanted, only to end up paying the price of jail and exile.
In spite of the vain efforts of their leaders, neither JxCat nor ERC will again achieve anything of relevance without each other. Repeating elections would fragment the movement for sovereignty, deliver regional government to a coalition led by Citizens and leave the prisoners and exiles abandoned and without hope. This is so obvious that, before tossing each other into the abyss, the two groups will probably reach, or fake, a minimum agreement so as not to lose what little regional government power remains.
Unfortunately, however, the priority of the new government will be both administration and resistance. The circumstances are so difficult and the attacks are, and will be, so brutal that they will require the strongest and boldest Catalan government in history, and this will only be possible if it is based on the seamless unity of the pro-sovereignty movement as a whole.
In ideal conditions, i.e., in a political situation restored to normality, it would always be better if Catalan society could express itself in all its diversity: pro-sovereignty forces of the right or left, religious or lay, supporters of the tram or the Black Locomotive3 could defend their projects separately, looking for the majority support that would let them implement their ideology. However, the current political state of affairs has nothing ideal or normal about it: it is an emergency situation requiring the adoption of exceptional measures. What is at stake is not which group or party exercises hegemony within the pro-sovereignty bloc, but whether the pro-sovereignty bloc as a whole can continue to lead the country or be instead forced to yield to the movement for Spanish state sovereignty, made up by the parties that have supported the application of article 155.
From this point of view, supporters of sovereignty have no choice but to close ranks, forget the logos and row together in the same direction. Not only so as to run the Generalitat [Catalan government] but the town councils too. If they go united to the municipal elections next year, the pro-sovereignty forces will probably win Barcelona, the main capitals and the vast majority of municipalities: if they are divided, the pro-Spanish state majority is likely to control the main cities of the country. And the local media would then go back to publishing articles like that of Carles Sentís in 1939, headed Finis Cataloniae.
The political unity of ideologically diverse groups is always difficult and unstable, but the best times of self-government have been those led by broadly-based movements. What was the Republican Left of Macià, Companys, Lluhí and Tarradellas if not that4? Or Pujol’s Convergence2, a majority from Pedralbes to Martorell, from Tortosa to Puigcerdà?
JxCat, PDECat2 ERC, CUP5, the Catalan National Assembly, Òmnium Cultural ... these are component parts of a much less heterogeneous movement than the Democratic Party of the United States. That could be checked out if they were to carry out primaries and a convention. In a sovereign national conference of pro-sovereignty forces all would be, from the outset, republicans.
1. "The End of Catalonia" (Latin), title of an article on the arrival of the Francoist troops in Barcelona on January 26, 1939.
2. A reference to the internal culture of the parliamentary caucus of the ruling pro-independence Together for the Yes (JxSí) coalition, which brought together the right-nationalist Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC)--later relaunched as the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDECat)--ERC and non-aligned supporters of independence.
3. A reference to the current polemic in Barcelona on whether or not to join up the city's two separate tram networks with a line down the central Diagonal. The Black Locomotive is a Terrassa-based jazz band. The meaning of the reference is therefore something like "or whatever".
4. ERC was founded in 1931 and brought together Catalan State (of president-to-be Francesc Macià), the Catalan Republican Party of Macià's successor Lluís Companys and the Opinion group of Joan Lluhí. Josep Tarradellas, who was to become president of the Generalitat after its restoration in 1977, was general secretary of ERC at its founding.
February 24: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent and Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau will boycott inauguration of Mobile World Congress, held every year in Barcelona, because of the presence of Spanish king Felipe. They will not, however, boycott the congress dinner.
Interview with leading Spanish constitutionalist Javier Pérez Royo
Javier Pérez Royo (Sevilla, 1944) is a constitutional jurist and professor at the University of Seville, where he was vice-chancellor between 1988 and 1992. He graduated from the University of Tübingen and the Planck Institute of Comparative Law of Heidelberg. He explains his position on the conflict between the Spanish government and legal system and the Catalan pro-independence movement in this interview with NacióDigital, done after Pérez Royo took part in the XIII Conference of the Ernest Lluch Foundation on Democracy, Legality and Legitimacy.
Do you maintain that there has been no Constitution in Catalonia since 2010?
That’s exactly how it is. The  ruling of the Constitutional Court on the Statute1 destroys the Constitution as guarantor of territorial relations inasmuch as that rests on two pillars: the agreement between the parliament of Catalonia and the Spanish parliament and the referendum of the citizens of Catalonia on that agreement. The Constitutional Court ruling overrides the agreement and does not recognise the referendum. As of that moment, Catalonia is without a Constitution.
You are very critical of all the legal argumentation against the Catalan pro-sovereign leaders facing trial. Do you think judge [Pablo] Llarena is distorting reality?
What I think is that there is a pile of irregularities here. The crimes of rebellion and sedition imply a violent uprising and here this has not occurred. The movement involved is peaceful. It’s not just me saying this: the great majority of criminal law professionals think likewise. Next, the legal body that should have dealt with this case is not the one hearing it. The complaint against the members of the Catalan government should have been brought before the Provincial Court of Barcelona and then, in any case, there could have been an appeal to the Supreme Court. Going directly to the National High Court or the Supreme Court skips the Catalan phase and means violating the right to first and second instance. A criminal trial always implies the right to double instance.
It is clear there is no crime of rebellion.
There is no crime of rebellion. Now they’re looking for evidence. But if you are looking for evidence it’s clear there is no crime of rebellion. Afterwards one can investigate the plot that might have been behind it, something that they didn’t want to do with 23F, with Tejero’s coup2. But the offense has to have occurred. If Tejero had not entered the Congress pistol in hand there would have been no rebellion. That’s why they have to withdraw the European arrest warrant, because they can’t say to a Belgian or Danish judge that a rebellion has taken place.
Do you think that President Puigdemont did the right thing in going to Belgium?
Puigdemont is following a political strategy. The legal strategy is subordinate to the political. Whether it was good or bad is a matter for him, he has to make his own calculation. The same goes for Anna Gabriel in Switzerland. It is another step forward in the internationalisation of the conflict.
What do you think about the court investigation of the former head of the Mossos [Catalan police]?3
I know less about this particular case. What I do believe is that treating the independence process as a question of law is a monstrosity, a failure of politics. But I don’t have information about the investigation that is being carried out in Mr Trapero's case. In general, it seems to me to be a nonsense.
Will, paradoxically, the fate of the independence movement decide the fate of Spanish democracy?
Yes, because if there is no democracy in Catalonia, there isn’t any in Spain either.
At the moment, do you think that democracy is under suspension in Catalonia?
As things stand, yes. Also in Spain. Democracy in Spain is under de facto suspension. The Constitution is de facto suspended, as well as the normal operation of the Constitution. We have a [Spanish] legislature where neither laws nor budgets are passed4.
Do you trust in a reform of the Constitution?
Absolutely not. I can tell you, there will be no reform. Look, what we have here is that the principle of democratic legitimacy gets conditioned and put in a strait-jacket by the monarchical principle. But the principle of democratic legitimacy gets carried out in freedom, not in captivity.
So the monarchic principle keeps democracy in capitivity in Spain?
Yes, yes. Democracy is strait-jacketed by the monarchical principle. It sets conditions on it.
From a constitutional point of view, did King Philip VI exceed his brief with his speech [against the Catalan independence movement and government] on October 3?
Completely. I’ve already described it as an unmitigated disaster. It was a speech unbecoming the king of a parliamentary monarchy. He put article 1.3 of the Constitution before 1.2, the monarchy above the national sovereignty being in the hands of the Spanish people, from which the institutions of the State emanate. You can’t make a political speech like this. The Spanish monarchy is defined as a parliamentary, but it is not.
Is this one of the fundamental problems of the Spanish constitutional system?
It is. The monarchical principle intervenes where it shouldn’t.
Here we come to an issue you have written about very recently, that of corruption. Will the corruptions scandals be the end of the PP?
I think so. The PP will disappear. “PP” cannot be the eternal acronym of the Spanish right wing. I’ve been saying so for some time. It is an acronym for rottenness and the barrier that it is setting up between the PP and Spanish society will be its downfall. The days of collusion are over. Without the silence of Luis Bárcenas and Francisco Correa, Mariano Rajoy would not have remained prime minister.5
So his days as PM are now over?
Mr. Rajoy has stayed in office thanks to a criminal conspiracy. In January 2012, the Swiss courts made available to their Spanish counterpart the information it had about Bárcenas’s accounts in Switzerland. And it was Bárcenas's appeal against the legal decision [to hand this information over] that delayed the delivery of the documentation for two years. That delay allowed Rajoy to stay in power. If the Bárcenas papers had been delivered in January 2012, when Rajoy had been in government for only weeks, he would not have been able to hold out. But it’s all over now. Now we have Bigotes singing La Traviata6. The PP will not survive.
How can the rise of Citizens affect the evolution of the conflict?
Citizens can speed up the process of the PP’s fall.
But as regards the resolution of the conflict with Catalonia?
As far as Catalonia is concerned, Citizens started off worse than the PP7. Now, Citizens does not know what it is. It has used anti-Catalanism as a banner, and also launches attacks against the Basque Country. But if it came into the government, it would discover that the Basque Country exists, Catalonia exists, and have to face up to that. As for its ideological baggage, it doesn't look good. But Citizens remains an unknown. We know what the PP is and that it was very hard for it to achieve power following the UCD’s defeat.8The PP won the elections in 1996. Can the PP’s power be shifted to Citizens? Some of it maybe, but these handovers do not happen very quickly.
You studied at the German university of Tübingen and at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg, highly prestigious institutions. What did you learn there that is not yet known in Spain?
I got my training as a constitutionalist in Germany. I learned a lot. I think about the very rich content of that training. In the other branches of law, comparative law has only a relative weight, but in constitutionalism, comparative law is fundamental--we have to see what happens here in light of how other democracies work. For someone trained in Germany, it is clear that a democratic culture is lacking in Spain. I think that Spain is the country in Western Europe that came latest to democracy. Everything that is happening now is not an accident.
1. In 2010 the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled on an appeal by the PP against the constitutionality of the 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy, agreed to by both the Catalan and Spanish parliaments and endorsed by referendum in Catalonia. The PP appealed against 128 of the Statute's 223 articles. The court found 14 articles unconstitutional. Most importantly, it ruled that the Statute could not describe Catalonia as a nation.
2. On the February 23, 1981 (23F) Civil Guards under the leadership of Antonio Tejero occupied the Spanish congress as part of a failed military coup attempt. The full story of the attempt is still to emerge.
3. Major Josep Lluís Trapero, head of the Catalan police at the time of the Barcelona and Cambrils terrorist attacks in August 2017, is presently being investigated by the National High Court for his potential complicity in the October 1 referendum.
4. The Rajoy government has been unable to pass the 2017 Spanish budget because of the refusal of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) to honour a deal to support it while the article 155 intervention in Catalonia is still in place.
5. Luis Barcenas, former PP treasurer found to have a €43 million account in Switzerand. Francisco Correa, organiser of the Gürtel network for awarding busnesses public works contracts in exchange for payments to the PP.
6. Álvaro Pérez Alonso, known at "the moustache" (El Bigotes) is a Valencian businessman involved in the Gürtel case. He last week asked in court why the husband of defence minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal, had not been charged with any corruption offence, the "singing of La Traviata" referred to by Pérez Royo.
7. Citizens began life as a movement against Catalan being the language of instruction in the Catalan education system.
8. The Union of the Democratic Centre (UCD) was the party with which former Franco minister Adolfo Suárez won the 1977 general elections, the first after the end of the Franco dictatorship. Suárez repeated his success in the 1979 elections, but the party was effectively wiped out by the 1982 landslide victory of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). It took 14 years for the conservative side of Spanish politics to reconstitute a party (the PP) and win a national election (in 1996).
February 23: Snap protest by Committees in Defence of the Republic (CDR) in support of Catalan political prisoners leads to arrests of 14.
February 23: Former head of the Catalan police, Josep Lluís Trapero, appears before the National High Court (Audiencia Nacional) to answer as to his role leading up to the October 1 referendum and denies supporting the project. The Spanish state prosecutor demands that he be released on the payment of €50,000 in bail, but judge Carmen Lamela imposes no conditions on Trapero.
February 23: At the annual meeting of the College of Lawyers of Barcelona Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent says: "It is necessary to denounce the existence of political prisoners, accused of rebellion and sedition for non-existent crimes. More than 100 university professors of penal law in the [Spanish] State have pointed out the serious disproportion between these preventive measures and the error of attributing these crimes." Leading Catalan and Spanish legal figures, including the chief justice of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia, walk out in protest at Torrent's words. Video of moment here.
Thankfully, the Constitutional Court has struck down the so-called “Wert1 scholarships”, so baptised in reference to one of the worst--and that’s saying a lot—People’s Party (PP) ministers. In addition to being a very bad minister, Wert displayed bar-room manners that were hard to match—all that was missing was the toothpick in the open mouth. He is also a Spanish-patriotic fanatic, which, by contrast, doesn’t make him very much different from his other colleagues.
In his day, this head of education (!) pulled out of his sleeve the idea that if a family wanted to stop their progeny from learning Catalan, the Spanish government had no choice but to help out with all the means at its disposal. He therefore decreed that the family in question could send their son or daughter, with all expenses paid, to a good private school in Castilian (Spanish), where the ears of the child would not be subjected to the horrible sounds of the language of Ausiàs March2.
It was all about guaranteeing the alleged right of parents to stop their children from learning Catalan. Hardly surprisingly, it didn´t occur to them to apply this same right in relation to, for example, Spanish, English, mathematics or chemistry.
It doesn’t matter that education in Catalan has been working for decades and has given and continues to gives very valuable results socially. It doesn’t matter that children schooled in Catalan have better marks for Spanish than, for example, those in the Community of Madrid. It doesn´t matter that scientific research has shown the advantages of bilingualism for cognitive development. It doesn’t matter that Catalan is a vulnerable language--all Catalans speak Spanish, not all Catalans speak Catalan - needing definite protection.
The charm of Wert’s plan was that the bill from the Spanish-language private school would be paid neither by the family opposed to Catalan nor by the Spanish government, but by Catalan taxpayers as a whole. Six thousand euros per child. This aberration went ahead with the support of [Spanish prime minister Mariano] Rajoy—one more addition to the dung heap of offences that have led more than two million Catalans to conclude that it would be better for them if they had a state of their own.
The background to this mentality consists of a string of diverse and ancient beliefs that seem to me to explain the repeated, persistent and obsessive attacks on Catalan.
One of them is that Catalan is a second-rate tongue, a kind of patois, not “exactly” a language like the rest of “normal” languages. Another is that Catalan has a lot of bluff about it, that it is sustained artificially, if not—as is said by ignorant and/or malicious Spanish-patriotism--by imposition. The third belief states that the Catalans are essentially people to whom too many concessions have been made. From this colonialist perspective that befogs everything, the dominated are not only ungrateful but also insolent. And the fourth and last belief: it is understood that speaking Catalan may promote love of the country, of the people and of the culture on the part of those who are dominated. Our language would thus contain a subversive component, a virus, which can’t and shouldn’t be tolerated. Something, moreover, to be wiped out by whatever means.
If not now, later on. But however it can be done.
1. José Ignacio Wert was education minister in the Rajoy government from 2011 to 2015 and notorious for his 2012 statement that one of the purposes of his Basic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality, known as the Wert Law, was to "hispanicise Catalan students and make them as proud of being Spaniards as of being Catalans".
2. The Valencian Ausiàs March (1397-1459) was the leading poet of his day, His lyric verse, written in Catalan, also influenced poets writing in Castilian. The sarcastic phrase "horrible sounds of the language of Ausiàs March" would sound to Catalan readers like "horrible sounds of the language of Shakespeare".
February 22: Civil Guard searches, for the second time in five days, the private plane of Manchester City trainer Pep Guardiola at Barcelona's Prat airport, looking for Carles Puigdemont.
February 22: Pensioner demonstrations in 40 centres in the Spanish state against "pensions of misery" and the financial threats to the pensions system (see demonstration below in Bilbao).
February 22: In a tweet exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont highlights a selection of the right-wing Madrid media's descriptions of exiled CUP leader Anna Gabriel (examples; "fat", "flabby", "filthy", "sweaty", "needs desodorant", "full of fleas", "donkey", "scummy"). Puigdemont: "Journalistic sexism and intellectual destitution -- embodiment of fascistic decadence."
Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena has issued an arrest warrant for Anna Gabriel. He's done part of what VOX1 and the public prosecution had asked him for, but has stopped halfway between prudence and ridicule. Currently the arrest warrant is meaningless, because it only applies in Spanish territory and it's clear that Gabriel, who this Wednesday ignored a summons to the Supreme Court, as she had announced she would, has no plans to set foot back in Spain. She's in Geneva, working on her defence, and even she doesn't know when she'll be able to return. She's waiting for them close the case to do so. And it's clear that she's not going to take any risks.
Almost all the pro-independence leaders who have been charged and/or investigated and have testified to the Supreme Court have ended up in prison or having to post bail to avoid it. The only ones saved bail have been Mireia Boya, former CUP deputy, Neus Lloveras, former president of the Association of Municipalities for Independence; Marta Pascal, PDeCAT's general coordinator, and former president Artur Mas. Legal sources had already been suggesting that charging them didn't make sense because none of them played any role in preparing the referendum for 1st October last year.
In Gabriel's case, however, things are different. "They have it in for her," defence sources say. And as such they prepared a strategy which ended up bursting Spanish justice's bubble. Not without the public prosecutor's annoyance, who, in their request for Gabriel to be arrested and imprisoned, they criticise Llarena for letting her escape on 14th February, the day she was originally summonsed for. Her lawyer, Benet Salellas had asked for a postponement, giving Gabriel some leeway and more time and, at the same time, avoiding harming Boya's strategy, who was able to testify before Gabriel announced she was in Switzerland.
Llarena didn't want to make a fool of himself issuing an international arrest warrant and asking for extradition. But instead he's ended up doing so by activating an arrest warrant for a country that everyone knows Anna Gabriel doesn't plan to come to for months.
Gabriel is now in the same situation as president Carles Puigdemont and ministers Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig, who settled in Belgium after the declaration of independence. They can travel anywhere, except Spain. This was seen when Puigdemont went to Copenhagen, where, despite the public prosecution asking for a new European Arrest Warrant, Llarena backtracked.
The judge doesn't want European justice to leave the Spanish system in bad standing. That's why he withdrew the European Arrest Warrant when everything in Belgium seemed to be indicating that they wouldn't accept all parts of the extradition requests against Puigdemont and his fellow ministers.
This means Llarena has now backed down three times: revoking the extradition request sent to Belgium, not reactivating it when Puigdemont went to Copenhagen and now not asking for a new international arrest warrant in Switzerland for Anna Gabriel. A hat-trick.
The judge's idea is to end the investigation phase and clearly define the charges so that when he writes the order to start the trial he can then request extradition. This was meant to happen in April, but could be put back a whole year, if the case is declared to be "complex" as the public prosecutor asks, giving more time for the investigation.
Another year of investigation
Another year of tricky legal decisions for Llarena, who has hurt his relationship with the public prosecutors, who is under ever more pressure from the Spanish government and whom VOX, who have brought a private acusación popular action in the case, have put between a rock and a hard place by now asking him to call prime minister Mariano Rajoy to testify. All of this raises tensions even further and distances any possibility of negotiation.
Another year with four people in prison and six more in exile.
1. Vox is a right wing, Spanish-chauvinist political party, which has constituted itself as a popular prosecutor in the Supreme Court investigation of Catalan political and social movement leaders. Unlike the law in English-speaking countries, where criminal charges are brought only by a government prosecutor, Spanish law allows ordinary citizens and organisations to pursue criminal actions by filing criminal complaints.Their prosecution falls into two categories: if a victim files a complaint directly with an instructing or investigating judge, the victim becomes a party to the case during the investigation and trial phases, a status known as a private prosecution (acusación particular). Spanish law also allows people not directly connected to an alleged crime to take part in a case if they can prove public interest. Public interest groups and political parties often join these complaints as popular prosecutors (acusadores populares) as a way of dramatising their commitment to a political cause, with organisations both left and right taking advantage of the institution. In the case of VOX, the point is to demand an even tougher stance from Supreme Court judge Llarena against the Catalan enemies of the sancrosanct unity of Spain (see its web site featuring the antics of their lawyer here).
February 21: On the submission of José Alfredo Bea Gondar, the former mayor of O Grove (Pontevedra, Galicia), judge Alejandra Pontana orders the withdrawal from sale of all copies of the book Fariña, which deals with drug-trafficking and its relation to politics in Galicia.
February 21: The organisers of the Madrid Show (Ifema) order the withdrawal of an artwork of Santiago Sierra called "Political Prisoners in Contemporary Spain", showing pixellated portraits of the four Catalan political prisoners as well as other detainees, from their International Festival of Contemporary Art (ARCO). See Ara's commment on these two events and the jailing of rap artist Valtònyc here.
February 21: Spanish prosecutor-general asks Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena to issue an international arrest warrant for CUP leader Anna Gabriel, presently in Geneva. Llarena so far only issues order for Gabriel's arrest if she returns to Spain.
February 21: Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy welcomes delegates from the International Democratic Union, grouping together centre-right parties. He thanks them for their opposition to "illegal and unilateral separatism" and notes that no country in the world gave recognition to the October 1 referendum, an "affront to law and democracy".
CUP leader Anna Gabriel, during her interview by Swiss public television
When I think about Anna Gabriel, what comes to mind is my female friends from the elite school in Barcelona's Eixample district where I studied my batxillerat, the post-16 qualification in Catalonia. That school is now semi-private but in my day it was one of the most expensive, most prestigious and most patriotic in the city. My female friends all had their hair like Gabriel, in the abertzale style typical of left-wing female Basque nationalists. They wore long-sleeved t-shirts under short-sleeved ones with drawings and slogans printed on them and listened to groups who sang things like "era un hombre, ahora es poli" (He was a man, now's he's a cop).
Sometimes, these friends would argue with their cheeks lit up with passion and would call me old-fashioned because I didn't fully agree with their communist ideas. Sometimes they would invite me to their houses and make me wash the dishes to show they were liberated. I don't know if they've voted for CUP. Some friends of both genders who then wanted the revolution lost hope over the years and fell away from politics.
Gabriel studied in a state school and has always defended them. When she was 16 years old she started to be active in the Plataforma Antifeixista (Antifascist Platform) and in Agrupament Roques Albes, a youth club in her town. From that moment she hasn't reduced her ideals even a jot. Her paternal grandfather emigrated from Huelva, in Andalusia, to work a mine in Sallent; her mother was born to a family in the town which had first-hand experience of the great moment of libertarian communism in Spain.
In 1934, during revolts by mine workers in Súria and Sallent, one of Gabriel's great-grandfathers went into the town square and burnt all his money, convinced that the capitalist system was on the point of disappearing. Irene Polo, one of the first female Catalan journalists, reported on the revolt, giving an idea of the poverty, the exploitation and the idealism which marked the lives of some towns around Catalonia in the last century. When Gabriel was young and being looked after by her grandmother from Murcia whilst her mother worked, the journalist was a heroine who made waves among Sallent's youth.
Gabriel is a professor of Law at the Autonomous University of Barcelona with a degree in Social Education, but her family has seen poverty and cases of illiteracy, as well as political passion. The CUP deputy is the daughter of a tradition which was buried after the Spanish Civil War and which has re-emerged as the last layers of Francoism have broken with the imperfect transition to democracy.
Unlike some party colleagues, or some of those teenage friends, Gabriel's revolutionary spirit was learnt at home. Neither the t-shirts nor the ideas, nor that razor fringe which hardens her face, are a way to kill her parents, or to escape from some complex; they're an old family mandate. That gives her a consistency you can't learn or buy anywhere, and gives something beyond the fact she has forged her vocation from the ground up, which always gives for strength.
In 2002, Gabriel was part of CUP's founding core in Sallent. Between 2003 and 2007, she was a town councillor, as her mother had been in the times of PSUC, an old Catalan communist party, banned during the Franco era. In opposition, she fought with people from PSC and Convergència over the management of the mine's waste, which has a very important presence in the life of the town. She also learnt the extent to which fear of losing one's job influences political decisions and techniques.
In 2009 Gabriel resigned from CUP's national secretariat, despite being the candidate with the most votes, to "open a debate about internal democracy". Also at that time she renounced a job as a civil servant to not have to take time away from her dedication to the party and the town.
In 2013, after a decade in local politics, she went over to coordinating CUP's group in the Parliament. There she became familiar with how the Chamber works and saw from closer up how the game of politics is able to soften the convictions of the most committed characters, with all the media focus and pressures. For this work she had to put her academic career and her doctoral thesis to one side. But the sacrifice had its reward. In the 2015 election, Gabriel was put as the second name on CUP's electoral list behind Antonio Baños, who didn't take long resigning.
As leader of the parliamentary group, Gabriel immediately overwhelmed memories of the good legacies her predecessors had left to become the charismatic face of the CUP. The determination she showed to assert her party to prevent Artur Mas from becoming president again earned her many detractors, but set the bases for a prestige which, since that time, hasn't stopped growing. To the example of courage and coherence she has given from the beginning, in a country of politicians who can't withstand pressure, have to be added first-class, spontaneous, elegant and genuine oratory.
Respectful and learned in debates, Gabriel keeps her standards of the good manners appropriate of the most civilised capitalist societies much higher than many colleagues of her profession. This ability is important to maintain the leadership in a party like CUP, which has a great deliberative culture but which only gives in by conviction, never in the transactions which conventional parties make. It's also important in a political circus which tends to turn women into simple spokespeople of intransigent positions in the most adverse contexts.
I'm told that Gabriel has no personal ambitions, that she's never been above sweeping up in her town's community association. If I look at photographs of her, I see a classic woman of the country, with that maternal beauty of long-suffering and perfectionist Catalans, used to living without frills. I also see in her a politician with a strong wish for power in order to make changes, who has rid herself of the typical complexes of the country and who never makes a move which doesn't make sense for her path.
Without her Machiavellian toughness, the 1st October referendum wouldn't have been held. She was the first to talk about self-determination when other politicians were still speaking about the right to decide and nobody pushed Puigdemont more in promoting the referendum, when his Junts pel Sí needed CUP's support to pass its budget. It was to be predicted that the Spanish state would pursue her and it's also easy to foresee that she will defend herself like a lion, from her exile. Probably more forcefully and with more bad blood than Puigdemont. Rajoy has made himself a difficult enemy.
February 20: The Supreme Court confirms the sentence of three and a half years jail for the rap artist Valtònyc, found guilty of the crimes of glorification of terrorism and grave insults and slanders of the Spanish Crown.
February 20: The speakership panel of the Catalan parliament, on the basis of an agreement between JxCat and ERC, refers the changes in investiture legislation that would allow investiture of a president in absentia to the parliament's legal counsel.
February 20: Former Catalan premier Artur Mas and Neus Lloveras, former president of the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI), appear before Supreme Court judge Llarena, but are not detained or required to lodge bail.
February 20: CUP media conference explains the organisation's full support for the decision of former MP Anna Gabriel to stay in Switzerland, not appear before the Spanish Supreme Court and seek political asylum if the Spanish authorities issue a European arrest warrant demanding her extradition. CUP spokesperson Benet Salellas said that Gabriel would take part in the internationalisation of the campaign against the Spanish government and llegal system.
February 20: The Constitutional Court unanimously upholds the appeal of the Catalan government against the Basic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality (LOMCE, known as the Wert Law after the PP education minister who introduced it), because its most notorious provisions--such as requiring the Catalan government to pay €6000 to families wanting their children educated privately in Castilian (Spanish)--infringe the prerogatives of regional government in the area of education.
February 20: Anna Gabriel, former CUP MP and leader of major CUP affiliate Endavant, announces from Switzerland that she will not be appearing before the Spanish Supreme Court. She tells the Geneva-based daily Le Temps that "as I would not have a fair trial back in Spain, I have chosen a country where my rights can be protected."
Joaquim Forn is facing possible charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds
A deposed Catalan minister who has been in jail without trial for four months is spending his days reading in a freezing cell without heat or hot water.
Joaquim Forn, who was sacked as Interior Minister when Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy implemented direct rule after the October 1 independence referendum and subsequent declaration of independence, spelled out the details in a letter to his sister Marta and brother-in-law Alejandro Scherk.
Forn is facing possible charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds and, along with sacked vice president Oriol Junqueras, is being held in Madrid’s Estremera prison, despite resigning as a minister and an MP.
His family told The National: “He is fine although he has spent some days with no heat neither hot water in a very cold environment.
“He has lost some weight and reads a lot. But we are afraid this will be for long. The judge doesn’t want to jail anybody else although the general attorney thinks otherwise.
“We keep waiting for declarations and circumstances.”
The couple have also launched a campaign to unite people who believe in democracy and to publicise his plight.
IndependènciaNoÉsDelicte (Independence is not a Crime) is focused on social media and comprises video clips of people expressing their opinions about Spain’s handling of the Catalan crisis.
“Record a brief video of yourself where you express the main message of this campaign: ‘Supporting Catalan Independence is not a crime’ and post it to social media using the hashtag #IndependènciaNoÉsDelicte. Help us spread the word!” they told The National.
February 19: Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, investigating the October 1 referendum preparations, allows PDECat national coordinator Marta Pascal free without bail. By contrast, ERC general secretary Marta Rovira, who also appears before Llarena, will have to find bail of €60,000.
Backgrounder: Spain’s Ministry of Education's attempts to put an end to Catalonia’s successful model of schooling
July 2014 demonstration in support of the Catalan education system: "For a country for everyone, we choose the Catalan education system."
"Juan, we wont be writting you. We dunno how to in Catalan an it feals silley in Spanish. We'll call you an talk on the phone insted". This was the first and only letter from a mother schooled during the Franco regime to her son, who had left home to study on an Erasmus program. All Catalans know similar anecdotes about the difficulties that our language has had in acquiring the status of a normal language in a dysfunctional nation. We all know of anecdotes like that of a Valencian whose parents made an effort to speak to him in Spanish, and when he spoke up for his own language they asked him, surprised: "How far do you think Valencian will get you? Forty miles?" Obviously, the natural direction was inland, towards Madrid. That wasn't so long ago.
Many Catalans are also surrounded, in my case up to the neck, with Spanish-speaking parents and grandparents who learned the language out of love and respect for this nation, and who learned that Catalan, like education, were key instruments for cohesion, as well as individual and collective progress; that the knowledge of a language and the practice of bilingualism were opportunities for growth.
Thus, fighting for the recovery of the Catalan language, for its normalization, and understanding it as a cohesive element, we arrived together to the 21st Century.
Catalan as it is spoken and written today owes much to Pompeu Fabra, and for this reason this Sunday's paper will take a moment to pay homage to him, to play and learn with the figure of the engineer who did chemistry with words, to the point of leaving us a tidy, living language as an inheritance.
Catalan schools have accomplished much during the last few decades. The language immersion model has succeeded in giving children a proficiency in Spanish similar to students in the rest of Spain, while also mastering the Catalan language. The latter is a minority language in the reality of the world that surrounds us, despite the lies told about the alleged grievances suffered by Spanish.
That's why this week's alert level is at maximum. Spain’s Ministry of Education's attempts to put an end to Catalonia’s successful model of schooling by taking advantage of Article 155's intervention in home rule is an example of a disloyalty without limits that seeks to impose a political project of uniformity. In their political race to lure Spanish neo-nationalists, PP and Ciudadanos are more concerned with dismantling the school system than with guaranteeing quality and excellence. They are more concerned with mining anti-Catalan sentiment and teaching independence supporters a lesson than with reflecting on the quality of democracy in Spain, the stubborn diversity, and the risks to the economy and medium-term investments generated by instability and ineffectiveness in the management of public affairs.
This is how democracy dies
Two Harvard professors, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, argue in their book How Democracies Die that "history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes", and conclude that "the promise of history is that we might find the rhymes before it's too late". They argue that democracies don't usually succumb due to a catastrophic event, like a military coup d’état, but rather because of a gradual weakening of leading institutions, such as the judicial system or the press. From their thesis you can deduce that a country is only as strong as its institutions and that "democratic erosion can be practically imperceptible" to public opinion. The regime, they say, "doesn't cross any red lines towards dictatorship", and the social warning alarms never sound "because there is no specific moment at which we can speak of the suspension of the Constitution or the imposition of martial law".
Levitsky and Ziblatt warn that attempts to subvert democracy can be "legal", in the sense that they are approved by the legislature and accepted by the courts. They can even be disguised as efforts to improve democracy while the press looks on, besieged or censorsing itself. The book, recently published in the USA, is a response to many Americans' worries about the deterioration of the public sphere under the Trump presidency. But the reading sounds uncomfortably like current-day Spain.
In Catalonia it is urgent that we recover our institutions, which today are infiltrated by the Spanish administration. The mood of Catalonia’s public employees mostly swings between collaboration to avoid paralysis and outrage. Decisions are made by the Spanish government with the political criteria of a party that has only 4 representatives in the Catalan Parliament and is in direct electoral competition in Spain with Ciudadanos, a party that was born with the single objective of putting an end to language immersion and homogenizing Spain. The Spanish government has no intention of updating the Pact of the Transition, and if it did, it would be to wipe the slate clean and not to respect diversity. The longer it takes us to recover the Generalitat, the more irreversible the damage to home-rule will be.
An attack on the peaceful coexistence between languages, an attack on social cohesion
Editorial, Ara, February 18
Just under 40 per cent of the population in Catalonia claim to use Catalan on a regular basis. Despite the efforts made over three decades of democracy and self-rule to revive a language that had been banned and abused during the Franco regime, nowadays Catalan is not the common language in its own territory. In some areas it is clearly disadvantaged: mass media, employment, the justice system, cinema … There are only two fields where it is the priority, default language: Catalonia’s schools and its administration. These two areas have been moderately successful in making up for the existing negative bias and this has not been accomplished at the expense of Spanish, which is one of the two official languages in Catalonia and is spoken daily by over 50 per cent of the population. The Catalan administration uses the Spanish language to deal with any member of the public who makes that choice and, upon leaving school, all Catalan children have a mastery of Spanish that matches or exceeds the proficiency level attained by children across Spain. Furthermore, they also learn English as a third language, even if there is still much to be done in that regard.
Thanks to a broad-based social and political consensus, the Catalan school system was born at the end of the dictatorship as a space where both languages would coexist in harmony, with Catalan as the main language of instruction and Spanish as the second language. Unlike in the Basque Country, it was wisely decided that schoolchildren in Catalonia would not be grouped by language preference. Instead, the decision was made to build an inclusive school system in order to avoid a language rift or war. Furthermore, the system meant that, in adulthood, all Catalan people would know the language of Catalonia, which is not widely spoken in many metropolitan areas.
So, Catalonia’s school system was devised to contribute to social cohesion and offer equal opportunities, especially for migrants who had arrived from many Spanish regions and, in recent decades, from across the globe: everyone deserved a chance to learn Catalan in order to progress on a level playing field in the society that welcomed them. All that was achieved thanks to a joint national effort, as well as a good deal of flexibility and common sense in the way it was applied in practice. As a matter of fact, despite several attempts in recent years to break up this historic agreement, which is understood as a collective undertaking, school communities (teachers, parents and students) have stood up for it and reaped its benefits.
Therefore, Ciudadanos and the PP’s insistence to dilute Catalan language immersion in schools —a system that has been researched and praised internationally as exemplary— constitutes an outrageous attack on our peaceful coexistence and reveals a crass attempt to weaken the weaker language even further. If Catalan truly cannot be the language of instruction in Catalan schools, where can it? Without language immersion programmes at school, the future of the Catalan language is bleak. Furthermore, it is an abuse of democracy for a party that only obtained four seats in parliament in the last election to attack Catalan teaching on the back of a totally exceptional political context [with Madrid’s imposed direct rule].
Week ending February 18
125 days with political prisoners
Cartoon of the week
Manel Fontdevila, el.diario, February 9
Crowd: "Go get 'em, Go get 'em" [chant of Spanish-patriotic rightists sending off Civil Guard to Catalonia to stop the October 1 referendum]
Rajoy: "That's for sure: you haven't got a home; you haven't got a decent wage; you don't have many rights and freedoms; you don't have much of a health or education system, possibly you're not even going to have pensions...but...but..there's one thing you've definitely got; you've got Catalonia. It's YOURS, and they want to take it away from you. Are you going to allow it? NOOOOOO! YOU HAVE...CATALONIA!
In the last three years, the Spanish state has been condemned on 19 occasions for having breached the European Convention on Human Rights
By: Nicolas Tomás/Carlota Camps
Source:El Nacional, February 18
Igor Portu and Mattin Sarasola, the two ETA terrorists condemned for the 2006 attack on the T-4 terminal at Madrid-Barajas Airport, were arrested by Spain's Civil Guard on 6th June 2008 in Mondragon, in the Basque Country. The Spanish police officers, however, decided to carry out the arrest in their own way. Portu laid a complaint that, among other degrading actions he was subject to, the officers cuffed his hand behind his back until they reached the bank of a river, whereupon they proceeded to kick and punch him in the stomach and ribs; they then held his head under water several times. Portu's accomplice Sarasola had a gun placed to his head, which the officers threatened to use to do “the same as was done to M.Z." - a reference to Mikel Zabalza, murdered by the Civil Guard in 1985. The aggressions against the pair continued for the whole of their journey to Madrid and, also, during the time they were held in solitary confinement in prison, a jail measure that allows improper actions to easily go unpunished.
All of the above was endorsed by the latest condemnatory sentence given by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the Spanish state, made public last Tuesday. The evidence was also supported by the several medical reports that were made on the Basque pair. Portu needed medical assistance for 27 days; in the case of Sarasola, for 14 days. The Strasbourg court considered that the injuries were “sufficiently established” to be classified as “inhuman and degrading treatment”. Three of the seven judges issued a separate opinion, even harsher, saying that the term “torture” could be validly used in this case.
In 2010, a provincial court in the Basque Country sentenced four agents of the Civil Guard to prison for several “offences of severe torture” relating to this case. However, a year later, the Supreme Court absolved them. This is what opened the path to Strasbourg, where appeals can only be taken after having exhausted all the options within a state. And the ECHR has - once again - ruled against the Spanish state and in favour of those who brought the appeal.
In the last three years, the Spanish state has been condemned on 19 occasions by the Strasbourg court for having breached the European Convention on Human Rights: twice in 2015, twelve times in 2016 and five times last year. The rulings affect all sorts of areas, from failure to investigate complaints of torture through to the illegal and immediate repatriation of undocumented immigrants arriving in the country, and also including prohibition of politicians from holding office. The court still has 168 cases against the Spanish state pending a hearing.
The enormous dossier on torture
Torture is one of the areas that has led to the most condemnations of the Spanish state by the European court. Prior to the case of Sarasola and Portu, there had been nine European sentences against the Spanish authorities for torture and ill-treatment or for the failure to investigate complaints of torture (also punished by article 3 of the Convention). The first such case was in 2014, relating to the case of 15 pro-independence Catalans, who were arrested as part of "Operation Garzón", carried out just before the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
The persons arrested in that operation led by judge Baltasar Garzón - presumably targeting the Catalan group Terra Lliure - had denounced tortures to the Spanish judge, ranging from beatings through to the "bag over the head" and "dunking in a bathtub" methods. Even though Garzón repeatedly said that "of the persons who appeared before me, none made complaints of torture", the reality is very different. The journalist Sònia Bagudanch has published in the book Et presento el jutge Garzón (in Catalan, published by Editions Saldonar) the statements made by ten of those arrested, signed by the judge himself. And Strasbourg condemned him for not having investigated the claims.
The other cases are related to complaints by Basque and Navarrese citizens in the war against terrorism, except for the case of a Nigerian woman, arrested in Mallorca while working as a prostitute, who was then ill-treated in the street. The Basque and Navarrese cases were persons arrested and accused of terrorism-related crimes and held in prison under solitary confinement, who denounced that they had been tortured and ill-treated: Mikel San Argimiro (2012), Aritz Beristain (2011), Martxelo Otamendi (2012), Beatriz Etxebarria (2014), Oihan Ataun (2014), Patxi Arratibel (2015) and Xabier Beortegui (2016). Europe condemned Spain for its failure to investigate them. There have been seven of these cases since 2010 and a total of ten since Spain signed the European Convention on Human Rights.
As well, the United Nations' Committee against Torture has twice condemned the Spanish state, in 1992 and in 2005. And bodies like Amnesty International have made several warnings about the country's use of solitary confinement. The Basque Criminology Institute, in a study carried out at the request of the Basque government, was able to document more than 4,000 cases of torture in the Basque Country alone. The instances went way beyond presumed members of ETA.
The Atutxa case and its parallels
However, one of the most important setbacks for Spain in Strasbourg was when the ECHR ruled in favour of the ex-speaker of the Basque Parliament, Juan María Atutxa, and two members of that parliament's board, Gorka Knörr and Kontxi Bilbao. According to the European court, the three Basque politicians - banned from holding office for not having dissolved the parliamentary group Sozialista Abertzaleak after the illegalization of Batasuna for its links with ETA - did not receive a fair trial.
According to article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, anyone accused of a crime “is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal”. Atutxa and the other two members of the board, according to the ECHR, were deprived of the right to contest the accusations made against them, since they were condemned by the Spanish Supreme Court without any opportunity being given for the facts to be examined by a lower court. The state was required to pay a symbolic fine and to cover the court costs.
The fact that the ruling on the Atutxa case arrived last June, already in the midst of the judicial offensive against the Catalan independence process, led pro-independence groups to draw parallels with their own situation. The Catalan government itself asserted that the sentence supported their argument for going ahead with the process towards the referendum of 1st October, in spite of the complaints made against the Catalan parliamentary board and the Catalan government. At that time, however, neither the Jordis nor half of the Catalan government had yet been thrown into jail.
The Parot setback
The sentence against the retroactive application of the Parot doctrine was a major setback for the Spanish state and caused a great deal of controversy. From the year 2006 on, in Spain it had been possible for criminals convicted of multiple offences to be made to serve the whole of their sentences, since prison benefits that reduced the time to be served were applied on the cumulative total of prison time in their sentences, and not on the legal maximum of 30 years of prison. Before 2006, sentence reductions for good behaviour had been subtracted from the 30 year maximum.
In 2013, however, the ECHR ruled in favour of the ETA member Inés del Río in her appeal against this doctrine that had forced her to stay in prison. Del Río, imprisoned in 1987, should have been able to go free in July 2008, but the application of this doctrine - applied after her original sentencing - required her to remain behind bars until 2017, when her 30 year sentence would have been completed.
Lawyers for Del Río took the matter to Strasbourg and, finally, in 2013 the ECHR ruled in her favour, stating that the practice applied was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Parot doctrine had been applied to Del Río retroactively, since when she was condemned - in 1987- this doctrine did not exist. Because of that, Strasburg ruled that Spain had to free her immediately. It was already five years since she should have been released.
Del Río was not the only prisoner affected by this ruling. The repeal of the Parot doctrine opened the door for the liberation of sixty members of ETA.
Instant repatriations, Paulina Rubio...
These are not, however, the only blows against the Spanish state struck by the court in Strasbourg. The ECHR has ruled against Spain on multiple occasions, from declaring the illegality of instant repatriations of immigrants who cross from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Melilla, to the irritating ruling against the Spanish justice for having not protected the honour of Mexican singer Paulina Rubio. It was, indeed, European justice that forced Spanish banks to return billions of euros charged to millions of Spanish mortgage holders through illegal "floor rates" in their contracts; and it was also the Strasbourg court that condemned the state for giving special property registration privileges to the Catholic church.
Tortures, the Atutxa case, the controversial rejection of the Parot doctrine... Spain has been shown up on many occasions by the European courts, which have become the last hope in many cases when multiple appeals within the Spanish justice system have all led nowhere. In fact, this is also the path which the Catalan political prisoners want to take, having been jailed for over a hundred days as a result of the 1st October and the declaration of independence. In European justice, they see their last hope for freedom, for a way of avoiding long years of prison under accusations of rebellion and sedition.
NOTE: The decision of the ECHR in the case of Igor Portu and Mattin Sarasola, as well as the partially dissenting decision of the three judges who found evidence of Civil Guard torture, is available in French here.
Main events, February 11-18
February 18: PP and PSOE unite to defend exisiting gerrymandered Spanish electoral law against proposal for reform of Citizens and Podemos and its allies.
February 18: PSC leader Miquel Iceta at opening of new PSC HQ: "We will not allow our children to be divided by language or race."
February 17: Anna Gabriel, leader of the CUP and CUP affilate Endavant-OSAN, in Zurich preparing her defence before the Supreme Court. It is not clear whether Gabriel will return to Catalonia.
February 17: PSOE Federal Council rejects the PP government's proposed use of article 155 to change the Catalan educational model. However, three PSOE regional leaders--Javier Lambán of Aragon, Emiliano García-Page of Castilla-La Mancha and Guillermo Fernández Vara of Extremadura--speak in support of parents' right to decide what language their children will be educated in.
February 16: Demonstrations around Catalonia to protest the four months in prison of Oriol Junqueras, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart (Barcelona demonstration below).
February 16: Xavier Domènech, leader of Catalonia Together-Podem, proposes an immediate session of the Catalan parliament to vote rejection of the Spanish government's article 155 elimination of Catalan self-rule.
February 16: Pablo Echenique, Podemos secretary of organisation, says that the Spanish government is "deliberately throwing petrol" onto the Catalan conflict with its proposal to end the role of Catalan as the basic languge of instruction in Catalonia.
February 16: In the election for the 15-member National Secretariat of the People's Unity List (CUP), the 11 seats corresponding to tickets are divided six seats to five between lists centred, respectively, around Endavant--OSAN ("Forward--Socialist Organisation of National Liberation"), with 56.35% of the vote and Poble Lliure ("Free Land"), with 41,04% of the vote. Of the remaining four positions corresponding to individual candidates, three go to candidates more identified with Poble Lliure and one to a candidate seen as closer to Endavant-OSAN. The new CUP National Secretariat is therefore closely balanced between eight members at least leaning towards Poble Lliure and seven leaning towards Endavant--OSAN.
February 16: The bishops of Catalonia issue a statement supporting the people of Catalonia to democratically determine its relation to the Spanish state.
February 15: Spanish government announces that under its article 155 intervention in Catalonia, it will move to offer parents the choice of their children receiving all their education in Castilian (Spanish). [NOTE: The Catalan education system is based on having Catalan as the language of instruction for everyone, with Castilian as a compulsory subject.]
February 15: Citizens to move in Spanish parliament that "fugitives from justice" not be able to stand in elections.
A gesture like that of Mireia Boya has been needed for a long time. The former MP made a political defense of the people's mobilisations and proudly recognised that she also spent a few hours defending her school [polling station] on October 1. Not only that, she also denounced before [Supreme Court] judge Llarena the violence of the police forces of the State and made clear--to his face--that the entire operation of repression is a reprisal against a noble objective that has always been defended by peaceful and democratic methods. Boya left the Supreme Court just as much a supporter of independence as when she entered.
It is not easy to understand why this leader of the CUP is back home and, on the other hand, four other people have been in jail for over a hundred days. And it is not easy because the Spanish courts are simply a tool of repression, with that feature of arbitrary authoritarianism that makes them as fearsome as unpredictable. But one thing is certain: closing the prison on Mireia Boya would not have helped them, because she would not have reneged on her principles nor would the CUP have swapped its independence strategy for submissive acceptance of Spanish regionalism ["autonomism"], waiting for hypothetically better times before singing again.
The Boya option is a political defense that holds for political courts. She has called for coordination among all the defendants, to emphasise that this is a general legal case against a goal--independence--that is just as legitimate as any other. That is why the "Boya defence" is a good counterattack.
February 14: Jailed Catalan vice-president and ERC leader Oriol Junqueras launches an appeal to the Constitutional Court against his preventive detention by the Supreme Court.
February 14: Majority of Catalan parties (JxCat, ERC, CUP, PSC and CEC-Podem) criticise the Constitutional Court decision annuling the law granting preferential use to Occitan in the Vall d'Aran.
February 13: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent submits appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the provisional ruling of the Spanish Constitutional Court on the conditions Carles Puigdemont has to meet in order to be invested as president the legality of Puigdemont's investiture as president (see here for background). JxCat complain that this action was not agreed to by them. Three-hour meeting of JxCat parliamentary caucus produces criticism of Torrent's (ERC) action as jeopardising Puigdemont's political and legal defence.
February 13: In the Spanish parliament, Citizens proposes in a draft bill that ability to understand Catalan, Basque or Galician cease to be a requirement for Spanish public servants working in the territories where these languages are spoken. Even the PP expresses reservations. ANC International tweets: "This is the model of the Spanish nationalists of Ciudadanos: impose Spanish everywhere, make minority languages redundant and call it an 'end to discrimination'."
February 13: Girona Council votes to change the name of central "Constitution Square" to "October 1, 2017 Square".
February 12: The Constitutional Court annuls a 2010 Catalan law making Occitan the preferential language of official communication in the Vall d'Aran.
February 12: PSOE secretary for organisation José Luis Ábalos says that ERC "has a more realistic vision".
February 12: Catalonia Together-Podemos spokesperson Elisenda Alemany urges the ERC and the CUP to break with JxCat and present a left candidate for president.
February 12: ERC president Oriol Junqueras from jail rejects the formula of a government in exile ·because the State would never allow it to be effective."
February 12: Former CUP MP MIreia Boya, summoned to appear before Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena on February 14, says: "I don't believe there's any point renouncing your own ideology to avoid repression. I would prefer to stand up and I will make the case before the judge that on October 1 we won ... If I go to jail I'll only be coming out when we have the Republic."
February 12: Spanish deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria: "It's not possible. There cannot be a government in exile. I insist: there is not going to be a government in exile ... It is simple: [Puigdemont] is not going to be the president of the Generalitat."
All the feedback coming from Spain reinforces intransigence
Joan B. Culla, historian Ara, February 13
Let's imagine that you rise one morning feeling refreshed and rested and, after a shower that wakes you up completely, you reflect a little on the political situation in Catalonia. And you conclude that, following the collective heroism of the 21-D results, all that effort cannot be wasted in a legal-judicial dead-end. That, now that Spain's lack of democratic scruples has been verified, it is pointless to hit the same wall over and over again. That you can't agree with the perpetuation and the normalised acceptance of Madrid’s direct rule. That to insist on electing a President of the Generalitat [Catalan government] whom the Spanish powers will not allow to take office under any circumstance nor exercise the functions thereof shows a serious lack of realism. That it is irresponsible to dig your heels in when it may have criminal consequences and even carry a prison sentence for additional people besides those who are already being prosecuted and/or in jail ... in short, the priority is to have an operational president and government, put an end to direct rule and —as painful as it may sound— to regain Catalonia’s regional powers.
And then you turn on the radio or the television, or maybe you start reading a newspaper. And, depending on the day, you come across one of the rulings of Judge Pablo Llarena, who demands from Joaquim Forn and Jordi Sànchez an apostasy right out of the Spanish Inquisition, which turns them into political hostages kept in the clink until the independence movement surrenders unconditionally.
Or maybe you hear Spain’s deputy PM Sáenz de Santamaría urging ERC and JxCat to "sacrifice a Catalan", referring to Puigdemont. Or you find out about the PP's initiative to prohibit by law any pardon for those found guilty of rebellion or sedition, an ad personam measure with obvious intentions: to ensure that Catalan separatists rot in jail. Or maybe you hear that Spain’s Defense Minister, Dolores de Cospedal, is openly discussing the possibility of extending direct rule in order to silence TV3 and Catalunya Ràdio, once and for all. Or perhaps that day the news is about the State machinery's persecution of Jordi Perelló, a mechanic from Reus, for the nefarious crime of refusing to repair a Spanish Police officer's car. Or the charges pressed against Joan Pessarrodona, the councilor (and professional clown) from Sant Joan de Vilatorrada [who allegedly mocked a Spanish Guardia Civil].
It could also happen that the news of the day doesn't come from institutional sources, but from, let’s say, private ones. For example, that morning you might enjoy a soundbite from the archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, according to whom "the unity of Spain belongs to a moral order that is based on the truth", so that to break it "would mean violating the moral order", just like killing or stealing. Or maybe you find out about the encouraging initiative by a group of hoteliers in Murcia, who have invited hundreds of members of the Spanish police to a free weekend, in gratitude for "the extraordinary work" —the beating of defenseless people— that they carried out in Catalonia on October 1st against the "secessionist defiance", and in compensation for the "grievances suffered" in the course of such a patriotic task.
Finally, so as not to unnecessarily lengthen the list of media impacts you can enjoy with your breakfast, lunch or dinner, there are also recent statements by the chairman of Foment del Treball [the main Catalan business umbrella], Joaquim Gay de Montellà y Ferrer-Vidal, who seems to be trying to emulate some of his most sinister predecessors: Albert Rusiñol (the inventor of the hunger pact against troublesome workers) or those other business leaders who ran to lick the boots of General Miguel Primo de Rivera in September 1923. Mr. Gay de Montellà says that Foment would prefer "a unionist, or constitutionalist government, at this point." The votes democratically cast by the people [in the December elections], which point in the opposite direction, must be an unimportant detail to him.
Once you have learned of these statements, gestures, and threats, the sensible intentions you had when you left the shower begin to fade away. Faced with the avalanche of hostility, repression, hatred, and contempt for two million plus Catalans, pragmatism fades, realism weakens, and an impulse of wounded dignity drives you to put up an all-out, unwavering resistance. If the only way to respond to the grievances is to go headfirst towards a new collision with the State, then so be it, regardless of who falls, and regardless of cost.
On the issue of the president’s election, for the past few weeks the media have been speaking of the opposed positions within the independence movement: between realists, or pragmatists (ERC, part of the PDECat ...), and legitimists, or intransigents (JxCat, CUP ...). In fact, I have the impression that this duality, this tension between prudence and the need to fight to the bitter end, exists within the spirit of every supporter of independence, torn between a crude reading of the correlation of forces and an outraged rejection of humiliation, however costly it may be. And I note that all the feedback coming from Spain strengthens the position of the legitimists or intransigents. They must know why they are doing it.
A new political and intellectual generation are needed: the witch hunt won’t stop for a long time
Francesc Vilanova, Professor of Contemporary History, Autonomous University of Barcelona Ara, February 13
When Franco's Law of Political Responsibilities was being drafted, which was to take effect as of 9 February 1939, various bodies of the state organized by the perpetrators of the coup put forward amendments and made remarks which they asked to be taken into account. One of the most revealing in relation to the political justice (or, rather, political revenge by judicial means) that was being drafted by Ramón Serrano Suñer’s team, stated: "The Minister of Justice (Tomás Domínguez Arévalo, The Count of Rodezno, a traditionalist) also questions the name of the Law, since, according to him, it appears that "political views" are being punished, the "subjective ideas", when we ought only to find a means to repair the objective, the "damage done". However, if all subjective political views are considered legitimate and respectable, the rapporteur does not conceive of how a legitimate standpoint can cause any damage that requires reparation. The notion that "thoughts do not break the law" may be true in the political sense, as long as this is not exteriorized; but to argue that only the damage must be repaired —the inevitable harvest of sowing such pernicious ideas among the masses through propaganda or actions— without punishing the ideas in any way is akin to affirming that the effect must be sanctioned while leaving the cause unpunished, which constitutes an enormous inconsequence of the purest liberal kind".
This statement by the rapporteur of the Law was one of extraordinary brutality and an undisguised attack on the Francoist Minister of Justice for doubting the legislators’ totalitarian intent: the alleged crime and the thought that had generated it were both to be punished. Upon reading the texts in which the Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena continues to justify (if one can call it that) prison on remand for Catalan political and grassroots leaders, one is inevitably reminded of the rapporteur’s comments on the Law of Political Responsibilities. By substituting certain words in the above quote, it is clear that "pro-independence ideology" causes "damage"; as a consequence, in an attempt to seek out the intellectual and legal origins on which it is based, the Supreme Court judge declares that it is necessary to pursue and, most likely, to punish "the sowing" of pro-independence ideas and "the damage" which they cause. Pure Francoist legal orthodoxy.
We are faced with a (political and legal) witch-hunt equivalent to the McCarthy era persecutions in 1940s America. The enemy is no longer the Communists, but rather those who favour Catalan independence. An Un-Spanish Activities Committee has not been created because it is not necessary (and, perhaps, because they have not dared to go to such ridiculous lengths): the PP government unleashed the State Prosecutor's Office which in turn has dragged the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court along with it, to their obvious delight.
In such difficult circumstances, it seems to me that we have to assume, once and for all, that the path taken by the Spanish government (and, with it, the entire judicial apparatus) is irreversible. As the journalist José Antich neatly put it a few days ago, their ultimate goal is to annihilate an entire political generation and turn the clock back to zero. When the Deputy PM of the Spanish government bellowed in the streets that Mariano Rajoy had beheaded the independence movement, her only error was in naming who was responsible: Mr. Rajoy merely outsourced to the judicial apparatus the job of carrying out the persecution and a strictly political witch-hunt.
The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court’s political-judicial persecution will last for years, dragging away with it dozens of individuals. There will be those banned from holding public office (as also happened under the Law of Political Responsibilities), there will be fines (as also happened under the Law of Political Responsibilities), there will be prison sentences. It will have been made quite clear that "thoughts can break the law", since independence is a political project that wishes to be implemented, it is not just simply a theory with no desire to become a reality.
One must only keep in mind that the consequences of the Law of Political Responsibilities, especially the financial ones (the most important for the Francoist legislators) persisted for years. In the 1960s, twenty years after the law was repealed, there were still unfinished cases, economic sanctions in place and assets seized which were never returned.
In this undeclared state of emergency in which the Spanish government has placed us (with the tacit approval of the PSOE and Ciudadanos, a fact we shouldn’t forget), the political, legal and financial consequences will last for years. Therefore, whoever it falls to, must be told that new strategies, new deadlines and, probably, a new political and intellectual generation are all needed. The witch hunt has begun and it won’t stop for a long time to come.
Week ending February 11
120 nights with political prisoners
Photo of the week
Roger Torrent (with beard), speaker of the Catalan parliament, touching Spanish Republican flag carried out of Spain in 1939 by a Republican soldier who later passed it on to his son. This ceremony remembering the Republican retreat (the retirada) after the Francoist victory is held every year in the French (North Catalan) Pyrenean town of Prats de Molló.
February 10: ANC national secretariat issues following statement
Dignity, responsibility and democratic radicality
Saturday, February 10, 2018
The National Secretariat of the Catalan National Assembly, meeting in ordinary session in Igualada this Saturday, February 10, considers that we have entered a decisive phase on the road that should lead us to the effective independence of Catalonia. Now we must show that we are all willing to assume the responsibility and the legal consequences of confronting the people-fearing State.
We ask for a sense of responsibility from the politicians in their leadership towards independence and to assume the risks that this entails, at the same time as giving them the necessary support from civil society so that this goal can be reached.
We will respond in the courts to any abuse of power by the Spanish State and stand by anyone who takes similar action.
We will denounce inaction, and we prepare mobilisations to support courageous actions or to demand them. Thus, in case there is no agreement on the investiture, we shall call for an immediate mobilisation to demand the investiture of the president that we voted for and in favor of the Republic.
We call on the Catalan political forces to re-invest the legitimate president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, in the Parliament of Catalonia and effectively, without being subject to discredited Spanish courts whose law does not have any validity in the territory of Catalonia since the declaration of independence of October 27, 2017.
In addition, when President Puigdemont returns to Catalonia to embark on the challenge of leading the effective creation of the Catalan Republic, the Catalan National Assembly will be at his side and will defend our institutions and Government whatever the consequences.
February 8: Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy calls for a "normal investiture" of a Catalan premier: defence minister Dolores de Cospedal tells okdiario that if a new Catalan government cannot form, then Catalan public TV station TV3 ("an authentic disgrace" and "a political propaganda apparatus") should be closed down under the Spanish state's article 155 intervention into Catalan government. Spanish government spokesperson Iñigo Méndez de Vigo says Madrid won't accept any change to Catalan government regulations to allow investiture at a distance.
February 7: Catalan mechanic Jordi Perelló declares before the Courts of Reus. He is accused of a 'hate crime' because he refused to carry out repairs to vehicles of the Spanish police.
February 7: Professional clown Jordi Pesarradona, active in Clowns Without Borders and also ERC councilor in charge of culture on the council of Sant Joan de Vilatorrada, appears before judge who is to decide if he should answer to a charge of "disobedience" for his protest (below) against Civil Guard raids on Catalan government offices on September 20.
February 7: CUP sends to its assemblies a draft plan for a double investiture, (1) of Puigdemont in Brussels before a Council of the Republic made up of elected officials (mayors etc) and (2) of an executive president--not necessarily Puigdemont--in Barcelona.
February 6: Judge Pablo Llarena of the Spanish Supreme Court refuses to end the preventive detention of former ANC president and JxCat MP Jordi Sànchez, even though he has undertaken to abide by the Spanish Constitution. The decision of Llarena reads in part: "As has already happened with the rest of the those being investigated [for "rebellion" and "sedition"], the appellant maintains his pro-sovereignty ideology."
CUP releases English translation of the report The Minotaur of '78 (see below for details and link).
The Minotaur of '78 report
REPORT ON INSTITUTIONAL VIOLENCE BY THE SPANISH STATE AGAINST CATALONIA’S PROCESSOF SELF-DETERMINATION, 2015-2017
An initiative of the mayoral offices of Sabadell, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Argentona, Sant Martí Sarroca and Soriguera
The Minotaur of '78 is a report on the institutional violence of the Spanish state against the self-determination process of Catalonia, during the period 2015-2017. It was launched last December 2017 in Barcelona.
The report is an initiative of the local governments of Sabadell, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Argentona, Sant Martí Sarroca and Soriguera. It has also been presented at Geneva, at the Headquarters of the Human Rights Council, and at the World Organisation Against Torture.
This document intends to be a summary on the repression at different levels against the self-determination process of Catalonia. From the open cases against freedom of expression, police violence under a framework of protest, the lack of judicial independence and of the General Prosecutor.
This is how Spain is openly waging lawfare against Catalonia
Josep Casulleras Nualart
The intentions and methods employed by the Spanish state against the independence movement in Catalonia represent a clear case of what is known as lawfare. In other words, ‘legal war’, a term coined in America to refer to the use of the legal system as a political weapon. It is a form of asymmetric warfare, since it is employed by the side which has control over the legal system, even when it means bending, twisting and even breaking the law. In the words of the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáez de Santamaría, ‘Who made sure that ERC and JxCat were left leaderless by decapitating both parties? Mariano Rajoy and the PP’. A state-led operation with a sole purpose: the disqualification of a political adversary, the judicial persecution of the enemy, and a justification —by means of the law— for the violation of fundamental rights. ‘The law prevailed over peaceful coexistence’, declared Diego Pérez de los Cobos, head of the police operation on 1 October. A clear case of lawfare, of judicial war.
Andreu Mas-Colell, economist, former Catalan treasurer, joint author of Microeconomic Theory Ara, January 20
Note: This is the second in a series of translations of articles focussing on the way forward for Catalonia in the wake of the Spanish government's article 155 intervention in Catalan self-government and the December 21 election victory of the pro-independence parties.
In the article fifteen days ago1 I presented some considerations about a possible technocratic government. A lot of questions have been asked about what I meant. They made me think, and I would like to take advantage of today's article to spell out some clarifications.
The actual situation is tactically very complex and I personally lack many keys for analysing it, so I won't talk about it. I'll limit myself to formulating some premonitions that seem to me solidly based.
The first is that while there are people in prison, far from their families and awaiting trial (i.e. political prisoners), we won't have any normality or appearance of normality. There can be a quiet day, but anyone who thinks we can get used to living with this situation is fooling themselves.
For the second, try to imagine the situation in six months or maybe a year. How will we be? I see only two possibilities. One is that we continue with the article 155 intervention, probably without a government and with a systematic and destructive takeover of the administrative apparatus of the Generalitat [Catalan government] by the Spanish State. There are a range of scenarios that can lead to this situation, but I won't go into them. The other possibility is that there will be a government with the support of the pro-sovereignty majority in parliament, one that from the apparatus of administration battles, centimetre by centimetre, to maintain and protect its--that is, our--positions. Which possibility is to be preferred? It seems clear to me that it's the second. The events of the last quarter of 2017 have not seen the defeat to which the deputy Prime Minister of the Spanish government [Soraya Saenz de Santamaria] aspired. But they have not seen a victory for the pro-sovereignty side either. Let's say, if you want, that because of October 1 and, above all, the result of the elections, the situation can be interpreted as a draw that allows an orderly withdrawal towards defensible positions. The second possibility, that of a stable pro-sovereignty government that carries on in the trenches, is what in my opinion corresponds to a strategy of orderly withdrawal. Would it be worth it? Conduct the following mental exercise. Is it worth while having pro-sovereignty forces in charge of the outcomes of councils and provincial administrations?2 If you answer Yes, then the same answer must hold for the Generalitat, even though what they intend--and maybe might even achieve--is to reduce it to something similar to a provincial administration. But an administrative entity headed by managers, who in the best of cases are competent but have no ambition to be more than good managers, is not the same as an administrative entity headed by good managers who also carry within the heartbeat of the country.
After the phase which we are now entering, which could last an entire legislature3, another will come that should already be one of recovery. It is very likely that none of the members of the governments of resistance of the years to come will be the leaders of the recovery stage. And the reason is very simple. When I was treasurer, a Belgian friend asked me how I dealt with the relationship with Madrid. I replied: "The management side, well; the humiliation side, badly." And the humiliation I refer to wasn't only in the field of fiscal management. The humiliation that will now have to be endured will be intensely political. Don't think too long about it: the governments of the Generalitat in the stage that is now beginning--a stage of resistance to ensure that the country holds out--will very often have to grit their teeth. The spirit of revenge has been unleashed and provocation will be constant. Being a member of the government will hurt.
In these conditions I believe that our top leaders, and to be specific I mention Carles Puigdemont and Oriol Junqueras, should prefer not to be part of the government of resistance. The big politics will still have to be done by the parties and I don't want to see my leaders humiliated and in a constant state of contortion from one day to the next. I don't know if some Chinese thinker said it, but, if not, I will: in a war of position the generals lead from behind. Which does not mean, at all, that they should be invisible: but they can do the job, allow me the analogy, from a hill.
When I refer, then, to a technocratic government, I don't mean a government without a political profile, but essentially a government not presided over by the leaders of the parties, and yes, also one with a whiff of technical competence. It's a type of government that can be useful in exceptional circumstances, and ours are certainly that. In Italy they have had four in the last 25 years (Ciampi, 1993-94; Dini, 1995-96; Monti, 2011-13, and Gentiloni, currently in office since 2016) and, as my colleague Rosella Nicolini4, an enthusiast of the formula, tells me: they have done good service.
1. That article concluded: "Nothing is stopping the government that is to be formed, the presidency included, from having, so to speak, a technical character: that is to say, one that in no way prefigures the creation of an alternative leadership to the one in prison or in exile. Let no-one doubt: while they are there, they will be our leaders."
2. In the Spanish State, the provincial administrations (diputaciones) date back to the provincial sub-division of the state carried out in 1833. In present-day Spain, autonomous communities made up of more than one province have indirectly elected diputaciones for those provinces. There is an ongoing debate in the Spanish State as to whether the diputaciones are even needed for the purpose of efficient administration or aren't just a place to park party hacks.
3. In the Spanish State legislatures last for four years.
4. Rosella Nicolini is a professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona's Faculty of Economics and Business.
Contributions to the Catalan strategic debate 1
Stitching the country back together
The independence movement should put forward goals that can be shared and not insist on a maximum program
Josep Ramoneda, philosopher Ara, February 6
Note: This is the first of a series of translations of articles focussing on the way forward for Catalonia in the wake of the Spanish government's article 155 intervention in Catalan self-government and the December 21 election victory of the pro-independence parties.
1. CONSENSUS. I get a letter from [jailed Òmnium Cultural president] Jordi Cuixart, who wishes me a Happy New Year from Soto del Real prison, and I feel a catch in my throat. I still don't accept that people should be in jail who have done so much to avoid any descent into violence by a movement that for years has taken hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets without a single incident worthy of mention. Jordi points out some priorities that I fully share: "Broad agreements on national goals and stitching the county back together again from top to bottom (also emotionally). More Candel1 and more value given to shared struggles."
Effectively, politics has to get its feet back on the ground. It has to climb down to reality from a Process2 that has crashed because none of those driving it were able to slow down in time. The pressure of the emotional climate created during these years, the fear of the word "betrayal" and the inevitable petty squalours of the political kitchen (where, let's not forget, everyone has their slice of power) blocked the proper exercise of strategic thinking. Until, on October 273, the reality principle showed its claws: the proclamation of the Republic was a work of fiction and (to use an expression of Santos Julià4) "the dinosaur of the State was still there", unfazed and prepared to unleash whatever force was needed. And so the price of the great fantasy of a unilateral break from Spain got paid. The Spanish state couldn't allow it and the pro-sovereignty movement hadn't the strength to impose it. If it hadn't wanted to believe that the State would accept the decision of a majority (also not absolute) as to its own break-up, that Europe would side with Catalonia, that international discredit would sink Spain and that good would triumph (as sometimes happens in the movies), we wouldn't have suffered so much damage. And they wouldn't now be spending so much energy in a ritual of recovery of the sacked president, which at bottom is an exercise in mourning for the mistakes made.
2. PRIORITIES. Yes, I think mending the country is the first step anyone who wants to work out a long-term strategy should take. The incoming government must have a program aimed in this direction. There will always be a sector that believes, on the principle of sharpening contradictions, that it is more worth continuing the agitation and that the maintenance of article 155 is better than a government within a Spanish-regional framework. That's piling fiction on fiction. Just like the theory that an economic collapse would work in favor of independence: every percentage point of the GDP we take away brings us closer to our goal because it will end up forcing the Spanish government to give way--so I've heard it argued. Let us not deceive ourselves: if there is an economic collapse we'll all pay.
If it doesn't want to start losing support the independence movement has to move back from its periphery. It has to gain the ability to incorporate other sectors and, therefore, has to mark shared objectives and not mortgage everything on its maximum program, proven to be unattainable in the short run. The parties that have made up this bloc must recover their different profiles and policies and not abandon their own messages. It cannot be that they just keep silent about the things they don't agree on. And that they tip-toe past the changes and the fractures in society.
Three priorities. First, look for areas for a broad consensus on options that have given and must continue to give Catalonia its specificity and its image of reference. The innovation-medicine-culture-tourism formula always gets mentioned, but there's more. What would stop us from becoming a benchmark in how to deal with climate change and eco-system balances? In this sense, a second priority: Barcelona. The city as a natural site for bringing together shared spaces of endeavour and for confronting very current problems--from immigration to inequality--that demand treatment at the local level. Lacking as we are in political and economic hard power, Barcelona is a banner of that in which we can be strong, soft power, creativity and good living5. And that is why we need to think in metropolitan terms--the third great goal: that broad sectors of society don't feel excluded, that struggles against the abuses of power can be shared. And here the left has a big responsibility. Why is the PSC losing the Barcelona industrial and working-class belt? Why does it cost the Commons6 so much to penetrate there? Matters for the post-shock reconstruction agenda, topics that should find a space in a public debate that has become monothematic to the point of asphyxiation.
1. Francesc Candel (1925-2007) was a writer of Valencian origin who lived nearly all his life in Barcelona. He is famous for his depiction of the lives and struggles of those hundreds of thousands of families who like his own came to Catalonia in search of a better life from elsewhere in the Spanish State. His most famous work is The Other Catalans (not yet available in English). See here for more background.
2. The "Process" is shorthand for the Catalan independence process.
3. Date of the Catalan parliament's declaration of independence and the Spanish Senate's adoption of the article 155 intervention dismissing the Catalan government.
4. Galician historian, author of Transition: History of a Spanish Policy (1937-2017) (not available in English).
6. The reference is to the formations Barcelona en Comú (running Barcelona Council), En Comú Podem (the largest Catalan party in the Spanish parliament) and Catalunya en Comú-Podem (the alliance of left parties supporting a Catalan right to decide but not necesarily independence). These forces, which are aligned with Podemos at the level of the Spanish State, are usually referred to as "The Commons".
Ara editor Esther Vera interviews Ernest Maragall
Ara, February 4
NOTE: Ernest Maragall, education minister in the 2003-2010 "tripartite" government of the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC), the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Initiative for Catalonia-Greens (ICV), left the PSC in 2012 when it came out against the demands of the mass movement for Catalan independence and the Catalan right to decide.
He formed the New Catalan Left and in 2014 stood in the 2014 European elections with ERC on the ticket "The Left for the Right to Decide", winning a seat in the European parliament. In the December 21, 2017 Catalan election Maragall was elected on the ERC ticket.
As oldest member of the parliament, Maragall headed the "table of age" (the two youngest and the oldest MP), which conducts the election of the speakership panel for the incoming parliament. He also had to give the opening address of the parliamentary session, in his case an attack on the Spanish government's article 155 takeover of Catalan self-rule, denunciation of the imprisonment and exile of MPs and assertion of Catalonia's right to decide its relation to the Spanish State.
The basic translation is of Ara’s edited transcription of the original video of the interview, and was done by Catalan News Monitor. It has been further edited by Green Left Weekly and Links European Bureau, with some passages from the original video that were not transcribed by Ara also included.
Esther Vera: The other day, at the Parliament's opening session, presiding over the "table of age", you made a very political speech.
Ernest Maragall: Some said almost the opposite. I was criticised very harshly, apparently for not knowing how to grow old …
EV: What were they implying you were supposed to do?
EM: Shut up, I suppose. Observe, watch from the sidelines. I did exactly the opposite. Now is the time to exercise your freedom and not lose your commitment to the society to which you belong and to which you owe everything you have.
EV: In that speech, you said “a farewell to Spain”1and at the same time referred to difficulties being had in saying that farewell.
EM: Yes, I can explain that. The difficulty of saying farewell to Spain these days we can see cemented in the decisions of the State. But I try to avoid saying Spain [and prefer “the State”] because "Spain" is a term we should respect, and in some way or another seek to make our own.
EV: So the clash is with the State and the government?
EM: The bottom line of the conflict we are experiencing is that on the one side we have a State which is abusing its legitimate power and a society which is seeking to build an alternative democratic power. With its abuse of power, the State is destroying its own rule. Therefore, it is legitimising what we consider to be inapplicable, obsolete. It is the State which is destroying the Constitution and the law of criminal prosecution, the State which is abusing the criminal code. There is a significant majority of Catalan society that wants to build something more worthy and better than that. Something without the abuse of power and with respect for everyone.
EV: Did you ever think that after the Transition [from the Franco dictatorship] we would see Catalan politicians as political prisoners?
EM: Obviously not. A few years ago that was unthinkable. The whole undertaking up until now, since 2010, was based on the hypothesis of formulating a project for political emancipation. It demanded respect and proposed a new offer of understanding with Spain, which had already rejected the Statute of 20062. And the State has continued to reject it with increasing vehemence, to the point of becoming a machine for destroying democracy. But this should not make us forget that behind the State there is a citizenry and a society: there are democrats in Spain and Europe. We must make our democratic conviction tell.
EV: Has the independence movement underestimated the force of the State?
EM: We've recognised that. We had not calculated that the State could reach these extremes, to the point of using institutional violence and going so far as to wipe out the separation of powers. However, the most interesting thing is to work out how this apprenticeship we've been through can be turned into a source of success for our future strategy, for the next phase.
EV: You went from defending the unilateral option3to a change in strategy in record time…
EM: In point of fact the unilateral option didn’t exist. It wasn't a question of making a decision and then just acting on it. It consisted of making a decision with sufficient democratic support, and from there sitting down with the other party to discuss how we would concretise it institutionally, over what period of time, etc. We knew it [the holding of the October 1 referendum] was a critical turning point, but also that this decision had to be accompanied by a long, complex democratic process.
EV: So when the decision to implement the UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) was taken [on October 27], it was known it would not be effective?
EM: Its effect was meant to be that it would open the door to an institutional dialogue which acknowledged it. We have had sufficient evidence as to [Catalan society’s democratic aspirations] with November 94, September 275 and October 1, and now with the December 21 elections. But there is still a way to go to achieve a democratic validation of our aspirations. Both because of the balance of forces with the State and the lack of a recognised democratic majority we are not in a position to take decisions based on a simple parliamentary victory. This does not diminish the legitimacy of October 1 nor does it lead us to abandon the republican conviction of the majority.
EV: But it does show that at this point in time we have to start to think and act differently?
EM: It seems to me that the debate is no longer over whether we should take a unilateral decision or not, but over understanding what it means to challenge the State.
EV: And what does it mean?
EM: That it should be done intelligently, with the greatest ambition as to content and by putting forward the construction of the basic instruments of the Republic. Not simply by relying on the ability to challenge, mobilise and have direct confrontation with the institutions of the State. Of course, we may well have to do that, but let’s return to that in strength, with the right tools and instruments. On the basis of strengthening and expanding this social majority that we want to have. The recovery of our institutions is a priority objective. The cancellation of 155 is the same thing. At the same time, let’s start the construction of the Catalan state, work out the meaning of the Republic. At the same time let’s calculate the content and timing of our challenges to the State. We will get a sense of what is the right direction from our conception of democratic power, conceived of as challenge to the State’s clear abuse of power.
EV: On October 26, [2017, the day before the Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence], Puigdemont was called a "traitor" when it was suspected he might call elections. This same word, which is thrown around very loosely in Catalonia, is applied now to the ERC when it talks of a new strategy or of not investing Puigdemont as president without guarantees. What has changed?
EM: It is one of the mistakes we have to learn from. We need to know that diversity is indispensable, almost as much as unity. Unity also means accepting that everyone exercises their responsibilities based on their best convictions. But the acceptance of diversity shouldn’t mean forgetting the shared objective of advancing the Republic. I would eliminate the word "treachery" from the dictionary, at least when applied to these issues. In this case we are all in the same ship, following the same route, and what we have to do is build a ship that makes headway.
The differences between the three groups [ERC, JxCat and the CUP] have to be calmly admitted, but we have to know how to manage them so as not to lose an element which is much more important, the connection with Catalan society, which is what has got us to where we are today.
[It’s important to maintain] the "triangle"—the parties that form government, maintaining and correctly managing their parliamentary majority, the local councils, base organisations of the country, and the citizens—this triangle that guarantees that there are tools to carry out decisions, that there’s a project for the country to be built, that there are concrete policies to be implemented, all of which is done with society.
The CUP is proposing a Constituent Assembly: that seems good to me. But not only to draft a text, to define what we mean by justice, environment, energy, etc (there are a thousand such things which we have to start to have the courage to address), but also to expand the base of social support. It’s through this discussion, this debate, that we can arrive at the part of Catalan society that at the moment still distrusts, or simply doesn’t share, our project.
EV: We can agree that society is the motor force of change, but this society is also demanding clarity. Does Puigdemont have to be president of the Generalitat? Can he be president?
EM: Puigdemont has every right to want to be president of the Generalitat. We all want him to be president—that’s what the citizens have expressed. At this point it is obvious that there are certain difficult conditions which are part of the abuse of power being carried out by the Spanish State. The roles of Puigdemont, of Junqueras, of the Government, are subject to an obvious change, an intervention from the State. This is where we have to know how to make decisions, and where Puigdemont himself must end up finding his best role. We cannot do without the Puigdemont asset, not now, not ever. If we now find a way so that his investiture can be completed, fantastic. We are working on this and it’s why we’ve asked JxCat for their view of how it can be done. But his investiture cannot be, neither for them or for us, simply a gesture, or symbolic, it must mean the real concrete position, as head of the institution. With a functioning government, with a president that can constitute that government, a government that society knows and acknowledges. And this is work that can be done in the time that speaker Torrent’s decision6 has happily given us.
EV: What is the formula?
EM: I don’t think that a show of self-affirmation devoid of content is of interest to anyone. A nomination which is valid for a few hours and then ceases to be effective thereafter. And which implies many people have to become involved and assume responsibilities. How many prisoners is a non-president worth? How many more legal processes must we set in motion, knowing how the State acts. This takes us back to the issue of challenging the State intelligently. It seems to me that this is the worst sort of challenge we could offer the State.
EV: So, how many prisoners is a non-president worth?
EM: None. I do not want any more. I do not think that Puigdemont wants any, either. Surely neither JxCat nor ERC want it, nor the CUP. How do we best fight the abuse of power? By offering more victims? For the sake of a sublime, symbolic and heroic gesture without follow-up or the possibility of becoming a useful tool? Or do we go via another route, which we must learn how to find?
EV: You called it a “symbolic recognition”?
EM: Let’s let those who are negotiating get on with their work. Let Puigdemont himself describe it as he sees it. I say that from a position of absolute respect for his situation. We need him, absolutely. The concept of president Puigdemont cannot disappear. We have to remember that the recent elections have been held within the framework of article 155, which cannot erase the position of president.
EV: Is there a risk, given the President’s text messages [indicating demoralisation] which were seen this week, that his position has been weakened?
EM: That’s another reason why we must protect him, accompany him institutionally. That is why we need a government here, and a parliament. That Roger Torrent should now have to face criminal charges and that we would now have to accept the continuation of 155 would be the worst way to protect Puigdemont in his essential position in the international arena. There is an element of collective responsibility in knowing that Puigdemont is our leading representative, and we cannot allowed that to be impaired, humiliated or degraded in any way.
EV: Do you foresee a future in which we will have recovered our institutions?
EM: There is the legitimate argument by people who say that even once we have an investiture, this would not imply the disappearance of 155. However, there is in existence a formal decision by the Senate which says that 155 is to be lifted automatically at the moment there is a newly constituted Government. Are there risks of rising tensions even after this? of course! And we have to be prepared to deal with them.
However, the systematic abuse of power, repeated and multiplied, has to legitimise us and encourage all the democrats in this country, whatever their beliefs regarding the Republican project, to rise up. Silence begins to be a sign of unintended complicity. This is true for all Catalanists. It is not about putting oneself out there to defend the Republic, but of defending democracy. The same applies to all Spanish democrats. The action of the State is humiliating to them.
EV: To this criticism that you ask of Spanish democrats as to the deterioration of their own democracy, comes the response in the Catalan elections – a victory for Citizens.
EM: Well, I am not at all in agreement with the attitude of those who shouted down the Citizens’ leader [Inés Arrimades] as she left Parliament.It seems to me a serious mistake. We have to do the opposite. We are light years away from them in political positions: we know the risk that they represent for us as a country and society. But only from a basis of respect for the citizens who have chosen her party as their representatives can we move forward. I am sure that many who voted for Citizens are capable of feeling outraged at the abuse of power towards the Catalan institutions and towards individuals.
EV: What is your opinion of the role of the king in this crisis?
EM: The king has actually managed to make us stop regarding him even as a point of reference. At a certain time we might have thought that the king could have been a moderator, at least. The moment he became a hooligan [in English] in the abuse of power, he ceased to be a point of reference for all of us. He is telling me that he is not my king. He is denying me my citizenship.
EV: Have you visited the political prisoners?
EM: I have not been able to yet, in part because of the gratuitous additional cruelty by the State. In this land, we treat Catalan prisoners worse than any alleged delinquent but worse in any other situtations we have experienced, including during the conflict in the Basque Country.7 Fifteen days punishment for having conceded an interview.8 What are we talking about? What sort of state? What sort of legal system? What sort of prison regime? It’s out of control...
EV: Is a regression from democracy underway?
EM: The worst thing is that there is this complete correlation between the decisions of the government and the judiciary. This is not only a regression from democracy with regards to loss of quality of legal procedures, guarantees and basic rights, but also affects the whole of the establishment of Spain, beyond parties or institutions. I look forward to seeing this all come out, soon, in the European courts and in the United Nations. The big companies should know that accepting the abuse of power goes against their interests in the medium and long term. It is more than proven that there is a correlation between quality of life and quality of democracy. Absolutism has become the dominant culture in the State. They want to convince Europe that this is a conflict about identity, or an expression of lack of solidarity, and yet it seems to me that everything that is happening points in the opposite direction.
EV: The European states themselves are reluctant to see the conflict in those terms.
EM: There is omertà9between the European states that is currently applied to protect the interests of the Spanish state. At the same time, however, there is an awakening of European society, via political and cultural organisations, and think tanks [in English]. Anyone with a grain of independence or perspective contemplates or observes what’s happening here with a mixture of stupefaction and growing indignation.
EV: Within the pro-independence camp hasn’t there also been a degree of complicity, a lack of self-criticism?
EM: There has been excessive focus on independence itself. We are doing well to speak of a Republic more now, because that has more meaning, more dimensions. We are now partly paying the price for not have gone out and won over the country in all its dimensions, in all its expressions. This is a part of what we have to do now.
EV: So now we aren’t in a great hurry, we’re taking time to expand the social base?
EM: We are in a hurry and we have our work cut out. We can’t allow ourselves to get into confrontations which lead us to disaster. We must choose which challenges we take on, democratically, and as openly as possible and when appropriate, without losing the conviction or our concrete determination to improve our country, to share it, to offer this European perspective of ours. That will be the best way to win this 50% which we want. Let them see that we are not going against anyone.
1. The reference is to the famous poem "Ode to Spain" of Ernest Maragall’s grandfather, the Catalan poet Joan Maragall. The poem, an elegy for the Catalan youth who died in the Spanish-Cuban war of 1898, ends with the line "Farewell, Spain!".
2. The Catalan Statute of 2006, agreed between the Spanish and Catalan parliaments and backed by referendum in Catalonia, became the subject of a massive Spanish-patriotic campaign of rejection by the People’s Party, which appealed it to the Constitutional Court. In 2010 the court ruled that various sections of the Statute were unconstitutional, provoking a million-strong protest in Barcelona behind the banner "We Are a Nation. We Decide."
3. The term "unilateral option" refers to pressing ahead with the campaign for Catalan independence in the face of the refusal to negotiate of the Spanish state (that is, the failure of the "bilateral option" as in the case of the UK and Scotland).
4. On November 9, 2014, a "participatory process", a non-binding consultation of Catalan opinion on independence, was held. As a result, the Catalan premier of the day, Artur Mas, and various of his ministers were later found guilty of disobeying a legal injunction not to hold the consultation, and have been disqualified from holding public office and made personally responsible for meeting the costs of the consultation ( in Mas’s case an effective fine of €5.2 million).
5. The September 27, 2015 Catalan "plebiscitary" elections saw pro-independence forces win a majority of seats with 47.8% of the vote.
6. On January 30, Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent (ERC) suspended the session that was set down to elect Carles Puigdemont as president. See here for an account.
7. The reference is to the years of the military-terror campaign of Basque Homeland and Freedom (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, ETA) and the Spanish State repression it provoked.
8. On February 1, the prison management of Estremera jail punished ERC leader Oriol Junquera with 15 days reclusion for using one of his telephone calls to do an interview with Catalan radio RAC1.
9. The Mafia code of honour and of non-cooperation with legal authorities.
Week ending February 4
111 nights with political prisoners
February 4: JxCat and ERC negotiating teams meet in Brussels to try to work out agreed formula for investing government.
February 3: Statements on current state of Catalan independence process by Òmnium Cultural and Poble Lliure (see below).
February 2: Reflections on the present state of the independence movement by Arran (see below).
February 1: Judge Pablo Llarena of the Spanish Supreme Court refuses to end the preventive detention of Catalan interior minister Joaquin Forn, even though he has given up his position as JxCat MP and undertaken to abide by the Spanish Constitution.
January 31: Spanish channel Tele 5 reveals the content of text messages from President Carles Puigdemont to outgoing health minister Toni Comín.
January 30: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent (Republican Left of Catalonia, ERC) suspends the investiture session set down for that day.
Cartoon of the week
Manel Fontdevila, el diario, January 29
Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy (explaining to his deputy Soraya Saenz de Santamaria): "They sent it to us from the law courts. If necessary, we break the glass and he'll go banning everything on the run."
[cabinet reads "Legal Emergencies". Note on side says: "In case of unfavourable sentences ring": sticker]
Òmnium Cultural, the country's civic and cultural entity, with 56 years of history and nearly 100,000 members, wishes to point out that:
1) We are faced with an episode unprecedented in democracy, with cuts to freedoms and rights such as have never been suffered in a member state of the European Union;
2) The president of Òmnium, Jordi Cuixart, is in prison for exercising the right to demonstrate and for defending our collective and national rights;
3) The Spanish government is using all possible forms of repression: jailing of political dissent, exiling of the President and ministers, abolition of our self-government and our institutions and violations of the basic rights of both citizens and democratically elected officials. The application of article 155 of the [Spanish] Constitution is encroaching on our core competencies, putting at risk areas such as language, education and social cohesion ... the pillars and raison d'être of this organisation and the subject of broad consensus in our country.
4) Catalonia has become an international political issue since October 1, and, despite the repression of the State, on December 21 formations in support of the Republic were returned with an absolute majority although without surpassing the threshold of 50% of the vote. Elections that, together with October 1, represent the culmination of a period of more than seven years of unitary strategy by the pro-sovereignty movement in support of the right to decide;
5) The elections also alert us to the growing presence of formations with a populist message that threatens social cohesion and the broad consensus reached in our country;
6) Negotiations among the parties over the investiture, seriously conditioned by the threats of the Spanish government and the violation of the rights of MPs in prison or exile show that there are several different political strategies concerning the goals the pro-sovereignty movement has to pursue in coming years, provoking disconcerting episodes such as that experienced last Tuesday with the postponement of the investiture session.
In this context, Òmnium Cultural asks the pro-sovereignty parties:
1) For maximum unity and generosity in order to guarantee the investiture, the formation of a government and the restoration of our institutions as soon as possible.
2) To assume the responsibility given to them at the ballot box, to speak clearly to the citizens and explain with maximum transparency what strategy each one believes should be followed from now on. Catalan society has given sufficient proof of its maturity to be able to understand that in a complex political context and repression, political responses must also be complex and that there are no easy or quick solutions. In this sense, Òmnium is in a process of strategic reflection that aims to contribute to the necessary debate on the future that the pro-sovereignty movement must address.
3) Based on the legitimate strategies of each party, we ask that they work on the basis of their support for sovereignty to set minimum, broadly shared objectives for the country that allow more people to join the Republican project and advance its realisation.
We face a long journey, but it will be irreversible if the citizens so decide.
Let's not be scared by the strength of a State that is using all possible mechanisms to silence us, but at the same time let's conduct an exercise in self-criticism and sincerity among ourselves. We need calm, firm and widely shared solutions that respect the results expressed by the citizens at the polls on December 21.
Note: Poble Lliure ("Free People") is a major current within the People's Unity List (CUP), and an affiliate of Crida Constituent ("Constituent Call"), the umbrella of supporting organisations with which the CUP stood in the 2015 and 2017 Catalan elections. Its positions are often contrasted to those of Endavant--Organització Socialista d'Alliberament Nacional ("Forward--Socialist Organisation of National Liberation"), the other main organised trend within the CUP.
A republican strategy is needed, based on firmness, unity and mobilisation
In the wake of the Spanish state's slide into authoritarianism, its decision to liquidate democracy by means of repression and blackmail, as we have seen with the new summonses to appear before the Spanish Supreme Court in mid-February1, and of the spectacle, half-bewildering and half-pitiful, of non-investiture of the legitimate President Puigdemont, we in Poble Lliure wish to make clear that:
1. A part of the independence and republican movement appears to carry on without understanding the nature of the Spanish State, intrinsically oligarchic and authoritarian, and continues to fool itself with false slogans such as "shifting from one law to another"2 or "democracy always wins"3. A simple review of the history books shows that this is not the case and that, in fact, in the case of Spain it has almost never been that way. The Spanish state and the powers that make it up it will never allow the emancipation of the Catalan people, which would contradict its founding doctrine (of exclusionary, unitarian nationalism), nor will they try to stop the economic exploitation of our people, a fundamental source of their survival.
2. The Catalan Republic, as a political project of liberation allowing the building of a future of justice and freedom for our people and opening the door to democracy for the rest of the peoples oppressed by the Spanish State, will only be possible through struggle, through the democratic confrontation between an organised people and a state becoming more and more rotten with the passing of time. After its most recent and decisive defeat at the December 21 poll, the State's road map for Catalonia envisages only repression, humiliation and defeat.
3. Spain is on the verge of bankruptcy, kidnapped by a government that has plundered the country, with a corrupted judicial power exclusively at the service of the Executive and the extractive economic elites, and with a media establishment described by international press monitoring agencies as "the least credible in the Western world". It stirs up Catalophobia as a safety valve for popular discontent and at the same time as a means of guaranteeing the short-term economic survival of the regime.
4. Given the increase in the political persecution of the independence movement by the regime (this week demonstrated by the new summonses to the Spanish Supreme Court for the middle of February of prominent people from the broad republican political spectrum, to whom we give our full solidarity and support), we reaffirm that the State can only be stopped by firmness, unity and anti-repressive solidarity by the entire republican movement.
5. In this context, a strategy of withdrawal and return to Spanish-regional government is not only inadmissible but also impossible. Regional autonomy no longer exists, having been strangled economically, expropriated politically and liquidated by legal sentence. No one regards it as a serious option: neither Spanish centralism, determined to liquidate any points of difference standing in the way of its supremacist, exclusionary nationalism, nor the Catalan people, conscious that it has been a dead end since 2010.
6. The Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) and the Spanish finance ministry never tire of showing, day after day, that it is impossible to carry out policies promoting social justice from Spanish-regional institutions. The reformist narrative of the Commons4, also adopted by sectors of ERC, is a fallacy. The broadening of the social base of republicanism will not come about through renunciation and the distribution of crumbs, but through intensifying the democratic struggle in defense of our rights and freedoms, denouncing the oligarchic and parasitic nature of the Spanish state and linking the Republican fight to the social struggle.
7. Tha abandonment of resistance is not simply a betrayal of the millions of people mobilised for a project of liberation. It is, above all, a strategic stupidity. "The more we gave in and obeyed, the more they mistreated us", as Rosa Parks reminded us. The more the State sees that repression is having the desired effect, the less it will hesitate to use it in a systematic way. No Republican leader should forget that the Catalan people is not prepared to sit back at the back of the bus.
8. Therefore, the independence movement must equip itself with a strategy of breakthrough that envisages and anticipates the ups and downs intrinsic to the confrontation between our democratic Republican project and an authoritarian state that after its recent decisive defeat only contemplates repression and humiliation as its road map for Catalonia.
9. As we said last December5, this strategy must rest on three pillars:
Firmness in the face of the repression and the authoritarian evolution of the state, fascist attacks and the attempts of Spanish nationalism to destroy our institutions and the foundations of the cohesion of our people. Firmness in opposition to any attempt at regression, in order to advance the Republican project at the institutional, economic, social and international levels.
Unity in the defense of the Catalan Republic over and above partisan calculations and short-term opportunism. Unity to block the takeover of current institutions by Spanish fascism, unity to build an institutional structure free of the yoke of Spanish regionalism and to create the political, economic and social tools to make the Republic effective.
Mobilisation by an organised people to enforce their rights and defend the Republic. A reorganisation of the people's movement is needed that allows a turn from peaceful resistance and active civil disobedience to undertaking democratic confrontation with the State, its repressive apparatus and the economic powers that support it.
"The old world is dying and the new has yet to be born", but with firmness, unity and mobilisation the monsters shall not pass and we shall advance with firm step towards the Catalan Republic.6
National Secretariat of Poble Lliure
1. On February 1, Supreme Court judge Pablo Llorena ordered former CUP MPs Anna Gabriel and Mireia Boya, PDECat national coordinator Marta Pascal, ERC leader Marta Rovira , former Catalan president Artur Mas and former head of the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI), Neus Lloveras, to appear before him to explain their potential role in the organisation of the October 1 referendum.
2. "Shifting from one law to another", i.e. abandoning the Spanish legal system for a new Catalan legal system, was how many leaders of the Catalan independence movement saw the process of winning independence.
3. "Democracy always wins" was an ERC slogan in the December 21 election campaign.
4. The reference is to the formations Barcelona en Comú (running Barcelona Council), En Comú Podem (the largest Catalan party in the Spanish parliament) and Catalunya en Comú-Podem (the alliance of left parties supporting a Catalan right to decide but not necesarily independence). These forces, which are aligned with Podemos at the level of the Spanish State, are usually referred to as "The Commons".
5. In its December 22 communiqué entitled "And now, let's build the Republic!"
6. The reference is to this sentence from Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks (around 1930): "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."
Reflections on the present state of the independence movement in Catalonia
Source:Website of Arran, youth organisation of the Catalan Pro-Independence Left
Note: Arran ("To the brim" or "To the very top"), youth organisation of the pro-independence left, arose from the fusion in 2012 of two anti-capitalist pro-independence youth movements, Maulets and the CAJEI ("Coordinating Committee of Youth Assemblies of the Pro-Independence Left"). Other previously non-affiliated collectives of left pro-independence youth also joined the fusion. At its launch it claimed over 600 members in 60 branches in 36 of Catalonia's 42 shires. Arran is an affiliate of Crida Constituent ("Constituent Call"), the umbrella of organisations that ran in alliance with the anti-capitalist pro-independence People's Unity List (CUP) in the 2015 and 2017 Catalan elections.
Given the situation of impasse presently facing the independence movement, we in Arran, youth organisation of the pro-independence left, feel that it would be interesting to make a number of modest contributions in the areas of analysis and proposal that may allow the people's movement for independence as a whole to reflect on the steps it needs to take in the short and medium term.
It is essential as a Marxist organisation that our analysis of reality be based on its material existence and that we move away from analyses based on the moral and symbolic considerations that currently occupy much of the public debate and that can divert us from the real matters we want to address.
Where are we?
The Catalan Republic, despite being proclaimed on October 27, has not materialised because the Spanish-regional government of Catalonia was not ready for that task. On the contrary, the limited autonomy enjoyed by the Catalan institutions remains fully under Spanish government tutelage through article 155 [of the Spanish Copnstitution] and other control mechanisms. Supra-state agencies such as the European Union remain completely supportive of the actions of the government of the Spanish State and there is nothing that indicates that they will ever be favorable to our country's right of self-determination. Repression threatens more and more people and after imposed elections in which the independence side won with 47.5% (2,079,340 votes) the road we need to take to achieve our strategic goals seems uncertain. After a successful and massive cycle of mobilisations unleashed by the referendum on October 1--of which we can feel justly proud--the pathway of mobilisations that must come next seems quite unclear. At the same time, the material living conditions of the country's popular classes remain absolutely precarious.
On January 30, we witnessed another historic day of failure from the independence movement. As is known, the inauguration of Carles Puigdemont did not take place1, and the umpteenth exchange of finger-pointing got under way. In this sense, although we certainly regret the decision of ERC to subordinate its political action to Spanish legality, the decision of Carles Puigdemont not to return to Catalonia--and apparently to be a long way from so doing--can equally be criticised, particularly after he spent the entire election campaign saying he would come back. We know that we cannot ask anyone to go to jail, the fate that undoubtedly awaits Puigdemont on return to the Spanish state, but we must reproach him for lying during the election campaign.
By contrast, the only party that has been consistent in its positions has been the CUP, which, after openly accepting the contradiction that taking part in the illegitimate elections of December 21 represented, has remained firm in its commitment to representing the people's mandate that emerged in October, practicing disobedience on the institutional front and accepting the repression that this may entail.
In all this, we came back on Tuesday [January 30] to witnessing a new chapter in the battle between PDECat2 (part of the candidacy of Together for Catalonia) and ERC to try to make the other retreat and be able to be branded traitor. In the meantime, they cannot agree on a road map beyond symbolism, personality politics and epic "process"3 narrative.
Parallel to this spectacle, on Tuesday we also witnessed a new pro-independence mobilisation. A mobilisation that, although it probably did not have objectives as clear as on other occasions and was subordinate to the institution [parliament], at least showed for the umpteenth time the firmness and determination of the independence movement in the street. We consider it very positive because it was a big step forward in terms of using methods of disobedience and confrontation by a part of pro-independence activists, and because the big contradictions between the different forces mobilising independence sentiment in Catalonia became clear, allowing us to take steps forward in building a fighting pro-independence movement. The logic of demobilisation of the main players4 in the independence movement was once again overcome by the radicality and firmness of the Committees for the Defence of the Republic5.
Nonetheless, Tuesday's mobilisation also showed again that, as matters stand, the independence movement does not have the strength in the streets that it had at its October peak.
That reconfirmed what we have been experiencing over the past few months, namely that, at this point in time, the independence movement does not have the capacity to implement the Republic, and that it is on this goal that we have to focus our efforts. This state of affairs is not due to the fact that the movement did not reach 50% of the vote in elections that were imposed and where it had everything against it, but because of the fact that as things stand it is not strong enough--not at the institutional level (where there are doubts and lack of strategy) nor at the level of the street (it is not broad and inclusive enough, it lacks structure, and its mobilisations are not yet ready to take on the degree of confrontation needed against what the Spanish State will impose).
This should not make us fall into defeatism and pessimism, quite the reverse. It should help us confront the need to intensify our efforts to continue fighting for our objective, given that never before have we so shaken the foundations of the 1978 regime6.
Four priority challenges for the people's independence movement
1. Let's grow the people's independence movement
One of the main current priorities is to expand the movement for independence and this unavoidably means acknowledging that a part of the popular classes in Catalonia has a strong Spanish national identity. As a result, it is necessary to build an inclusive independence movement that is not based on identity but focusses on improving the material conditions of working and poor people and creates strong ties with struggles of a social character across the country. In this sense, the independence movement has to make itself attractive in those regions where it has been more difficult for it to grow, creating contact points in community networks, local protest movements, spaces for leisure activity and ultimately in all those spheres where identity-based barriers can be broken down.
2. Let's strengthen the foundations of mobilisation
Secondly, it is also essential to work at strengthening mobilisation and the structures of self-organisation that underpin it. Thus we must keep up mobilisation without generating frustration or discouragement, building safe areas of organisation where everyone can take part, thus generating processes of collective empowerment and continuing, above all, to extend practices of disobedience that will allow us to face the next onslaughts with the best possible instruments. At the same time, popular mobilisation needs to cease being subordinate to the logic and rhythms of the institutions and also to those agents within the independence movement that clearly act to demobilise when they see their hegemony being endangered. And, of course, it is necessary that mobilisation does not fall into the identity politics from which, as we have said, the independence movement must move away.
3. Let's stand for a solidarity-based, anti-repressive culture
The repression of the Spanish State has not stopped. On the contrary, it increasingly targets more and more pro-independence people and organisations. It is necessary to reinforce an anti-repressive culture that allows us to collectively confront all the repression originating from the struggle, turning solidarity into our best weapon. At the same time, however, it is necessary to make sure that the legal situation of people suffering repression doesn't harm the progress of the independence struggle: not doing so would be to admit that the State has right on its side and further legitimise the use of repression on its part.
4. Let's develop a strategy of our own
Finally, we must work to ensure that the people's independence movement draws up its own strategy, one capable of integrating all these elements. A long-term, autonomous strategy, based on mobilisation and people's power, that allows the addition and incorporation of new participants in the dynamics of organisation, of building structures of struggle and of confrontation with the Spanish State, and which allows the independence movement to prepare to take on the next contest with the State on better terms.
On the role of the institutions of regional government and the inauguration of the presidency of the Catalan government [Generalitat]
Given these premises, we believe that the relation of the people's independence movement to the institutions and parties must change: we believe that before demanding of the institutions that they bring the Republic into being it is necessary that the independence movement itself be strengthened in the street by taking up the challenges mentioned above. Only in this way can we truly guarantee the implementation of independence. And at the same time it is necessary to demand something basic and fundamental: that the parties tell the truth, give up their partisan interests and openly lay out their road map.
At the same time we believe that, now that the people's independence movement has accepted the contradiction of investing a president of a regional government, it is not necessary to stick to the figure of Carles Puigdemont, since he is not the only possible candidate for this position.
In the long-distance race to build up the forces that will allow the start of a revolutionary process such as today's independence struggle, much more will be needed than epic narrative, battles for legitimacy and surnames. The achievement of independent, socialist and feminist Catalan Countries will require huge doses of analysis, criticism and self-criticism, but above all--quoting revolutionary leader Vladimir Ilich Ulianov (Lenin)--revolution is not made, it is organised.
For independence, for socialism, for feminism, for the Catalan Countries!
Organisation is the key to victory!
1. On January 30, the Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent (Republican Left of Catalonia, ERC) suspended the investiture session set down for that day. See here for an account of the day and subsequent events.
2. The Catalan European Democratic Party (PDECat) is the successor party to the conservative-nationalist Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC), for thirty years the main ruling force in Catalonia and marked by various corruption scandals.
3. The "process" is shorthand for the Catalan independence process. It began with the July 10, 2010 million-strong Barcelona protest against the Spanish Constitutional Court's decision mutilating the 2006 Catalan statute of autonomy, agreed by the Spanish and Catalan parliaments and by referendum in Catalonia.
4. The reference is to the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, association promoting Catalan language and culture.
5. The Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) began life as Committees for the Defence of the Referendum, created to guarantee that the October 1 referendum took place in spìte of police repression.
6. Refers to the present Constitution of the Spanish State, adopted in 1978.
Spain: an authoritarian drift that will be hard to undo
In the comparative politics of Western states governed by the rule of law, Spain is a disgrace
Ferran Requejo (Professor of Political Science, Pompeu Fabra University)
Source and translation: Ara
If you haven’t already, I'd recommend you go and see Steven Spielberg's Pentagon Files. Apart from the gripping plot and first-rate acting (Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks), it tells a story which shows how important it is for the rule of law to possess two elements: 1) a justice system which is truly independent from the executive branch, especially its higher organs (the Supreme Court) and 2) a free press that does not hesitate to criticize and oppose government decisions despite the interests of pressure groups. Without these two elements the rule of law is empty rhetoric. Unfortunately, this is a current concern in Spain.
In addition to these two elements, which are part of the principle of the separation of powers, there are others which contribute to the correct functioning of the rule of law (which I have mentioned in other articles). However, given the current circumstances, I would be satisfied with just these two conditions being met. The Spanish case shows us, firstly, judges from the highest judicial circles (the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the General Council of the Judiciary) who are submissive to the executive branch and the political parties and, secondly, news outlets —especially the Madrid-based ones— who are also submissive to the central power.
Let us take a look at the judicial power. One of the prices to have been paid in the political transition of the 1970s and 1980s was the continuity of the judicial power of the Franco regime. In the 1980s, for example, a profound reform of the military was undertaken (led by Narcís Serra). However, nothing similar occurred to Spain’s judges, the structure and the organization of the judiciary. The practices of the Franco dictatorship continued virtually unaltered. The consequences are apparent more than forty years later.
There is ample evidence. Let's examine two recent issues related to the investiture of President Puigdemont.
1. The Supreme Court (SC). It is embarrassing to read judge Llarena’s "reasoned" decision (if one can call it that) not to issue an arrest warrant for the president when he flew to Copenhagen to give a talk: the order was not issued, it is said, in order not to play into Puigdemont's alleged strategy of wanting to be arrested and, therefore, provoke a situation whereby he would have the same rights (again, if one can call it that) as the elected MPs who are in prison. The decision is based on "political" criteria which are far removed from the supposed legal considerations involving a person who is subject to an arrest warrant in Spain (though only in Spain, since the same judge made a fool of themselves by having to withdraw the European Arrest Warrant when it became known that the Belgian judiciary would not authorise the president's extradition). It appears as if the SC judge wishes to act more as a spokesman for the Partido Popular than as a member of an impartial and independent judicial body.
2. The Constitutional Court (CC) has two issues on which it must rule: whether or not to accept the central government's appeal on Puigdemont’s candidacy to preside over the Catalan government, and the appeals filed by Podemos and the Parliament of Catalonia’s against the application of Article 155. These are two new litmus tests as to the court’s professionalism and independence.
For the moment, the court has only decided in an incidental and rather surreal way on aspects of the first appeal. The CC has delayed its decision as to whether it will agree to the appeal for 10 days, without making any declaration as to changes in the timetable of the investiture (!), a questionable decision in terms of procedural professionalism. In contrast, it has produced certain "precautionary measures" out of thin air, even though it is unclear whether the underlying matter will go ahead or not (!). More surrealism. In addition, the CC didn’t hesitate to pass the hot potato to the SC (judge Llarena) over the question of whether Puigdemont is allowed to attend the investiture session or not. In other words, the CC rules that a judge can decide on an MP’s suitability to be elected. On what law is such a claim based? It appears as if there is no such law. An MP who has been elected can’t be a candidate? In a liberal democracy a judge can never "give permission" for a candidate to stand in a parliament. It is another consequence of the separation of powers. Here one cannot enter into criminal matters, since no firm judicial ruling has been issued. Such a decision is typical of an authoritarian state. It is also inadmissible that, before Parliament has had a chance to decide whether to opt for a telematic or a proxy vote, the CC should rule that both are illegal. This is another violation of the separation of powers. Parliament is reduced to a provincial side-show. More authoritarianism.
The current CC seems more anxious to issue unanimous resolutions than to ensure it upholds the law. In terms of the comparative politics of Western states governed by the rule of law, Spain is a disgrace. It has power, but in such decisions, it is not a liberal-democratic power. The CC acts as an arbitrary referee. To the loss of prestige and delegitimization of the last twenty years must be added an authoritarian drift which will be hard to undo.
A question for the pro-independence parties: given the current state of affairs, what's best for Catalonia? Regain control over the autonomous institutions when they know they will continue to shrink, due both to the loss of control over their finances and the permanent threat of further applications of Article 155? Or instead maintain and increase the current tension at the internal and international level, without giving the image that they are accepting the state’s repressive measures? I know it is not an easy decision. Both answers have clear costs and uncertain benefits. And, once again, there is no third way.
The 21 December election results were clear. Are there institutional solutions? Yes. Will the Spanish state implement them? No. Catalonia is witnessing extraordinary events. Is not putting up a fight a rational decision, when one knows they will continue to be beaten (perhaps not as hard)? Dignity is also part of a country’s identity. Don’t forget to go and see the movie I mentioned at the beginning. It’s worth it. It is also good to compare it to what’s going on here.
This blog follows on two previous blogs on the Catalan struggle for self-determination, which provided detailed coverage of events in Catalonia from October 9 to November 3, 2017 (here) and from November 11, 2017 to January 19, 2018 (here). This blog focusses less on hour-by-hour updating of the Catalan political situation and more on providing for English-speakers information, interviews, comment and opinion not available elsewhere, translated from Catalan, Spanish and other sources. At the same time, it links to the increasing number of Catalan and Spanish news sources that now provide English-language material (see next section).
It is updated weekly or more frequently if needed.
Check this dossier on Spanish government and legal system repression against Catalonia, an initiative of the local governments of Sabadell, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Argentona, Sant Martí Sarroca and Soriguera. It has also been presented at Geneva, at the Headquarters of the Human Rights Council, and at the World Organisation Against Torture.
Check the web site of the UK parliament's All-Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia here.
The towns shown are the capitals of Catalonia's 42 counties or shires (comarques). The thin red and blue lines show the boundaries of the four Catalan provinces (also voting districts) in the Spanish state. The differently coloured areas show Catalonia's geographical regions.