Catalonia in Spain: Europe's key struggle for democracy
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: 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.
Unless otherwise specified, translations are by the European Bureau of Green Left Weekly and Links, International Journal of Socialist Renewal.
Keeping up with Catalonia in English
Solidarity updates and resources
Solidarity fund of ANC and Òmnium Cultural
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
Catalonia's geographical and administrative divisions
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.
152 nights with political prisoners
Main events, March 12-18
March 18: Puigdemont speaks at International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva.
March 18: JxCat offers the CUP a mid-term motion of confidence in exchange for supporting investiture of JxCat-ERC government.
March 18: Catalan Civil Society demonstration in Barcelona attracts 7000, according to municipal police. Present: PSC, PP and PSC leaders and Manuel Valls.
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 17: (El Nacional) A second Finnish MP asks why Barcelona consul was sacked.
March 17: ANC election result. University of Barcelona economist Elisenda Paluzie wins highest support of 54 candidates competing for 25 nationally elected positions on the 77-seat ANC national secretariat. The other positions are elected regionally (50) and to represent Catalans overseas (2).
Comment: 7155 ANC members took part (19.51% of the membership roll), with Paluzie winning 5062 votes. She was followed by Joan Canadell, the co-founder of the Catalan Business Circle (3152 votes) and David Minoves, the president of the Escarré International Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Nations (CIEMEN), with 3026 votes.
Minoves came in first of the three candidates who have already declared that they will stand for ANC president, to be decided by the national secretariat next weekend. The others, ANC press chief Adrià Alsina (2788 votes) and Catalan Business Circle vice-president David Fernàndez (2796 votes) came in sixth and fifth respectively, after lawyer and historian Pep Cruanyes (2949 votes).
The result is being read as a defeat for the ANC "powers-that-be", because a co-founder of the ANC, Pere Pugès, sent out an informal "How To Vote" on which Alsina's name appeared, but not those of Paluzie, Minoves or Cruanyes. This attempt to indicate an "official ticket" seems to have backfired.
Paluzie won the ballot without actually pronouncing a position on the debate that is convulsing the entire pro-independence camp, mass movements and parties alike: does the movement, having won the October 1 referendum, have the strength to move directly to "unfolding the Republic", or does the independence camp have to procede more cautiously, winning more social support in an atmosphere of social division being deliberately fostered by the Spanish government, the unionist parties and the unionist movement Catalan Civil Society?
March 17: 8000 march in Barcelona in defence of the Catalan education model (below).
March 17: Mass protests against miserable pensions and insulting 0.25% rise across the Spanish state: Barcelona, Zaragoza, A Coruña, Bilbo (Bilbao), Gasteiz (Vitoria), Iruñea (Pamplona), Málaga, Sevilla, Valladolid, Santander, Cáceres and Alicante.
Madrid demonstration below.
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.
Comment (Vicenç Villatoro, Ara, March 16)
March 16: Humiliate and destroy
Immediately following Strasbourg’s slap in the face for the Spanish judicial system, and coinciding with the Spanish deputy PM’s extremely aggressive public statements, a police operation, more symbolic and headline-grabbing than practical in nature, took place in the offices of the presidency of the Catalan government and the headquarters of the cultural association Òmnium Cultural.
The message is clear: faced with what they call the "secessionist defiance", the Spanish state has objectives that it refuses to give up, not even due to international pressure —which so far has been weak— whatever the response from the pro-independence movement. The state believes this defiance offers the possibility of solving the Catalan problem once and for all. And such a solution obviously doesn’t involve persuasion, or even defeating it, in the strictest sense of the word. It involves destroying its roots.
This means humiliating it to start with. Secondly, dismantling or debasing what it considers to be the instruments of Catalanism: the Catalan police force, the public broadcasting corporation and the school system, but above all, the Catalan government itself as a self-governing institution, upon which everything else depends. And finally, politically deactivating –even if it means ruining their lives–-a whole generation of pro-independence political and social leaders.
The message is that it’s underway and that they have no intention of stopping. I don’t think they’ll get away with it, but a lot of people are bound to suffer in the meantime.
March 15: Demonstration called by CDRs outside Civil Guard HQ in Barcelona inner suburb, Gràcia (below).
March 15: Demonstration in St James Square against this morning's Civil Guard raids (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."
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
Comment (Liz Castro, El Món, March 14)
Let’s Save the Assembly!
NOTE: Liz Castro, born in California, has been a long-standing supporter of Catalan independence, and is the author of various books on the Catalan independence cause. She was the most-voted candidate in the 2015 election for the 77-member ANC Secretariat, but lost the election for president to Jordi Sànchez, by 54 votes to 20.
The present election for the ANC Secretariat has been marked by controversy, with 18 candidates, including for the position of president, initially being ruled out by the election commission. The best-known of these was journalist and former CUP lead MP Antonio Baños, ruled to have violated the ban on candidates speaking in public by appearing on a radio chat show (even though no discussion of his candidacy took place on the program in question).
The controversy over the exclusion of candidates meant that the election for the ANC secretariat had to be halted. Twelve of the candidates who had initially been excluded have since been readmitted to the list, but Baños is not one of them.
In a March 13 tweet, Agusti Alcoberro , the outgoing ANC vice-president (and acting president since the September 28 jailing of Jordi Sànchez) said: “If comrade Antonio Baños can’t be a candidate to the National Secretariat of the ANC we must be doing something very badly.”
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.
March 14: Interview with Clara Ponsatí in The National (Scotland).
Comment (Jordi Barbeta, El Nacional, March 13)
Aznar was right: we're on the verge of 'the big one'
The day after the 2012 Catalan election, José María Aznar (Spanish prime minister 1996-2004) presented the first volume of his memoirs and, during his talk, said that "Catalonia's unity will break before Spain's". He didn't say that Spain would take charge of tearing Catalonia apart. What couldn't be foreseen, almost six years ago now, was that after all the hopes and dreams placed in the independence process, the movement would shatter into so many groups, factions, lobbies and parties who disagree to the extent that all that remains is the wait for what seismologists call "the big one", in other words, the great crack which turns everything upside down in order to start over again, fight, suffer and lose one more time.
The break-up Aznar was referring to was probably that of Catalan society splitting into unionists and separatists, which has 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 book2 to 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".
1. United Socialist Party of Catalonia.
2. Of Heroes and Traitors: Catalonia's Dilemma, Caught Between Two Fires, just published in Catalan.
3. Sol's review of Vila's book is called "The Slug".
4. The March 11 demonstration was the first in years not called jointly by the two organisations, though Òmnium vice-president Marcel Mauri was prominent in the front row.
Translation: El Nacional amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau.
March 13: Outgoing education minister Clara Ponsatí speaks to BBC Scotland.
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."
March 13: Amnesty International denounces the use of the charge "glorification of terrorism" to restrict freedom of expression in the Spanish state.
Comment (Editorial, Ara, March 13)
Judge Llarena strikes down separation of powers
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: (El Nacional) University of Barcelona Law dean denounces Spanish Treasury "witch hunt"
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.
Week ending March 11
147 nights with political prisoners
Main events, March 5-11
March 11: Outgoing education minister Clara Ponsatí addresses demonstration in London (below).
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."
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.
March 5: (El Nacional) 'El Mundo' tells tales, trying to humiliate Catalan prisoner Jordi Sànchez
Comment (Vicenç Villatoro, Ara, March 2)
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.
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.
Comment (Viçent Partal, Vilaweb)
The more it goes on the more toxic the investiture of whoever has to be the President of the autonomous community1 of 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.
"Autonomous community" is the official title for the regional governments in the Spanish state.
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.
March 2: (Interview in the Guardian ) Puigdemont vows to lead Catalan government in exile.
March 2: ANC launches campaign for its March 11 demonstration calling for the incoming Catalan government to "build the Republic now" (poster below).
March 2: Puigdemont legal team, led by Ben Emmerson, launches campaign against Spanish government with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. See full text of complaint here.
March 2: (El Nacional) Spain asks Peru to explain its support for dismissed Finnish consul
March 2: Puigdemont explains his perspectives in this video in English.
Comment (Javier Pérez Royo)
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: Spanish deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria: "We will not allow the formation of parallel structures."
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: Carles Puigdemont announces that he is withdrawing his candidacy for president, and that his substitute will be Jordi Sànchez. Puigdemont will be the head of the Council of the Republic, based in Brussels.
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..
Catalan Parliament, March 1
Moved: Together for Catalonia
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
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: Four exiled Catalan ministers take part in Brussels demonstration demanding release of Catalan political prisoners.
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.
Comment (Vicent Partal, VilaWeb)
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."
February 26: In the wake of the Barcelona demonstrations against King Felipe's presence there for the Mobile World Congress, The Times writes editorial calling for negotiations between the Rajoy government and Catalonia (below).
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.
Main events, February 19-25
Comment (Jordi Barbeta)
Jordi Barbeta (commentator for El Nacional, formerly Washington correspondent of La Vanguardia)
El Nacional, February 25
The difficulties the pro-sovereignty majority is having reaching an agreement over the presidential investiture and governance of Catalonia reveals that the groups that make it up still have as their priority winning the battle for hegemony over this political space. They also do not realise that the country long ago tuned out from their narrowly party-political battle.
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.
"The End of Catalonia" (Latin), title of an article on the arrival of the Francoist troops in Barcelona on January 26, 1939.
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.
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".
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.
The anti-capitalist People's Unity List.
Interview with leading Spanish constitutionalist Javier Pérez Royo
NacioDigital, February 23
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.8 The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Citizens began life as a movement against Catalan being the language of instruction in the Catalan education system.
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: (The Guardian) FA charges Pep Guardiola over Catalonia yellow ribbon.
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.
Marçal Sintes, El Món, February 21
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.
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".
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: (El Nacional) Update on state of negotiations over forming Catalan government.
February 22: Amnesty International's 2017-2018 annual report condemns Spanish police violence on October 1 and preventive jailing of Catalan politicians and social movement leaders.
February 22: Madrid mayoress Manuela Carmena boycotts the opening of ARCO in protest against the banning of artwork "Political Prisoners in Contemporary Spain". King Felipe and his wife Letizia attend.
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."
Gemma Liñán (El Nacional), February 21
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.
Translation: El Nacional
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: 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".
Enric Vila, El Nacional, February 20
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.
Translation: El Nacional
February 20: (El Nacional) The responsibilities President Puigdemont will have.
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."
Snapshot (The National, Scotland)
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.
Backgrounder: Spain’s Ministry of Education's attempts to put an end to Catalonia’s successful model of schooling
Esther Vera, Editor-in-chief, Ara, February 18
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: (Ara) Barcelona Council calls for transfer of political prisoners to Catalonia
February 15: (El Nacional) The victims of Spanish government intervention in Catalonia
February 15: (El Nacional) Indignation over Rajoy's intention to change language policy in Catalan schools.
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.
February 15: (El País) "With no Catalan government in sight, Madrid prepares for long-term control".
February 14: London School of Economics hosts debate "The Economic Dimensions of the Catalan Crisis", with five Spanish and Catalan economists (in English). See full video here.
February 14: Civil Guard aims to include Jaume Roures, head of the Mediapro empire, in the "strategic committee" of the October 1 referendum.
February 14: Mireia Boya greeted by enthusiastic supporters at Barcelona Sants station on her return from court appearance in Madrid.
Comment (Salvador Cot, El Mon)
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: Former CUP MP Mireia Boya is allowed to go free after declaring before judge Llarena of the Supreme Court. Tells media afterwards: "This is a political trial and we should treat it like that by defending our political convictions."
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.
Catalan National Assembly
February 8: (El Nacional) JuntsxCat and ERC's complicated path to a new government.
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: (El Nacional) Protests after Spain's deputy PM asks "is it so hard to sacrifice a Catalan?"
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 7: (El País) Basque ruling party wants to include “right to decide” in new regional charter
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.
You can download the English translation of the report here.
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.
Read on in ViaWeb here.
Contributions to the Catalan strategic debate 2
Clarifications about a technocratic government
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.
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."
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.
In the Spanish State legislatures last for four years.
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.
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.
The "Process" is shorthand for the Catalan independence process.
Date of the Catalan parliament's declaration of independence and the Spanish Senate's adoption of the article 155 intervention dismissing the Catalan government.
Galician historian, author of Transition: History of a Spanish Policy (1937-2017) (not available in English).
Italicised terms in English in original.
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”1 and 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 option3 to 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 omertà9 between 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.
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!".
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."
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).
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).
The September 27, 2015 Catalan "plebiscitary" elections saw pro-independence forces win a majority of seats with 47.8% of the vote.
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.
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.
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.
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]
Declaration of Òmnium Cultural
Source: website of Òmnium Cultural
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.
Barcelona, February 3, 2018
There is no alternative--Republic or barbarism!
Source: Web site of Poble Lliure
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
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.
"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.
"Democracy always wins" was an ERC slogan in the December 21 election campaign.
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".
In its December 22 communiqué entitled "And now, let's build the Republic!"
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!
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.
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.
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.
The reference is to the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, association promoting Catalan language and culture.
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.
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.