Live Blog: News and analysis on Catalonia's struggle for self-determination

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

Catalonia in Spain: Europe's key struggle for democracy

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

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


NOTE: This blog is taking a very well-earned holiday break until Monday, September 17. To keep up with news on the Catalan struggle for self-determination in English, go to these sources.

--Dick Nichols     


Week ending July 22

   

 


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

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

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

Puigdemont can’t be tried for rebellion in Spain

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: Vilaweb


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

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

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

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


            Week ending July 15


 

 


 

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Translation: Vilaweb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: El Nacional


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

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

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

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

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

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

         


        Week ending July 8



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

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

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



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

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


News (Laia Forès, Ara, July 6)

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

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

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

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

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

A job as a web designer

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

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

Precautionary measures

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

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

Translation: Ara


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

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


July 6: (Vilaweb)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Interview (Martí Estruch Axmacher, Vilaweb, July 5)

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

Irish Professor proposes a “Europe Cares” about Catalonia campaign

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

– What brings you to Catalonia this time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


Comment (Editorial, Ara, July 4)

Transfer and freedom

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

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

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

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

Translation: Ara


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

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

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

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


BBC documentary Crisis in Catalonia


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


              Week ending July 1 


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

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

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



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

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

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

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


News (Alex Gutiérrez, Ara, June 28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: Ara


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


News (Ara, June 26)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: Ara


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

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

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

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


       Week ending June 24



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: El Nacional


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

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

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

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


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

Ferreres, Ara, June 21


Analysis (Jordi Angusto, Ara, June 20)

The social cost of Catalonia’s fiscal deficit

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

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

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

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

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

On top of everything, low wages

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

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

Translation: Ara


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: Vilaweb


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

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

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

July 18: Òmnium Cultural to open office in Brussels.


              Week ending June 17


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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Quim Torra

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

Carles Puigdemont

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

Josep Bargalló

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

Mireia Boya

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

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

Gonzalo Boye

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

Lluís Llach

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

Ernesto Ekaizer

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

Betona Comín

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

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

Nuria

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

Mercedes

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

Mmoritz

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

Ramon Febrer

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

Translation: El Nacional


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

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

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

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

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

June 12: PDF iconTorra letter to European  PMs.pdf

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


Backgrounder (El Nacional, June 9)


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

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

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

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

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

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


                   Week ending June 10

         



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

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

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

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

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

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


Comment (Iolanda Fresnillo, Critic, May 18)

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

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

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

1. Tackle the exceptional nature of the repression

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

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

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

2. Build an inclusive Republic

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The temptation of the municipal elections

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

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

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

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

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

4. Guarantee the Constituent Process

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

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

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

5. Making the Republic without undue haste

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


             Week ending June 3

  


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

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

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

Messages from officials in jail and abroad

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

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

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

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

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

Torra pledges “construction of independent Republic”

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

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

Who are the new ministers?

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

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

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

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Ernest Maragall, former MEP takes Foreign Affairs

HOME AFFAIRS: Miquel Buch, new Home Affairs minister

EDUCATION: Josep Bargalló, back to Education after 15 years

HEALTH: Alba Vergés, Parliament speakership panel member

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

CULTURE: Laura Borràs, former Institute of Catalan Letters president

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

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

BUSINESS: Àngels Chacón, expert in international trade

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Comment (Vicenç Villatoro, Ara, June 1)

Splitting up families

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

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

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

Translation: Ara


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Opinion (Editorial, Ara, May 31)

Recovering self-government and starting a fresh chapter

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


News (Dani Cordero, Ara, May 29)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: Ara, amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Opinion (Esther Vera, Ara, May 28)

Like a wrecking ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnote

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

Translation: Ara, amended by Green Left Weekly European Bureau


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Week ending May 27

Free Catalan political prisoners logo
Free the political prisoners!

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

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

Madrid letter to mayors

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

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

Attack on a yellow-flooded beach

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

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

Towns regulating political symbols

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

Yellow ribbons on lapels, questioned?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Analysis (Ot Serra, Ara, May 25)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dissenting vote by the president

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

Bárcenas, a key figure

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

Sentence review hearing

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

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


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

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

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


Opinion (Vicenç Villatoro, Ara, May 22)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Why can article 155 be maintained?

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

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

The PSOE's change of course  

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

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

A "confrontation with the state"

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

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


Week ending May 20

Free Catalan political prisoners logo
Free the political prisoners!


Translation: El Nacional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: VilaWeb


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's the story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes

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

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

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


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

May 16: Catalan Republic Twitter site launched, here.

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

May 15: Sánchez:"Prime minister Rajoy has a duty to also meet with Pablo Iglesias and get him to change his mind on the right of self-determination and add him to the defence of the Constitution."

May 15: Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) agree a five-point joint strategic approach to new Catalan government: (1) Jointly agreed action "before any attempt at violating the constitutional order" (2) Rejection of any attempt to create parallel structures (3) Maintenance of Spanish state surveillance of the Catalan treasury (4) A united response by all supporters of the constitutional order before any threat to it (5)  “To make known abroad, especially in European institutions and society, that the xenophobic and supremacist writings of President Torra in no way represent the values and principles of Catalan society and are contrary to the European values defended by all European Union member states.”

May 15: Iceta (PSC): "I have the feeling that he [Torra] can't stand the Spanish. He puts up with Catalans who feel Spanish because he has no choice. Torra has been a fundamentalist conservative nationalist his whole career." Also: "He has books, attitudes and an admiration for the most recalcitrant sectors of nationalism. For a group called "Ourselves Alone" which was a detachment within Catalan State, but supremacist, separatist, ethnicist. You can choose whom you admire."

May 15: Torra: "Catalan is everyone who lives and works in Catalonia."

May 15: Torra, on Cataunya Radio: "We have to discover ourselves in the brotherhood of the Iberian peoples."


May 14: Reaction of far-right web daily Alerta Digital to news of Torra's likely investiture (below).

"The CUP decides to abstain and give the green light to the investiture of the psychopath Quim Torra, Carles Puigdemont's little Catalan rent boy."


May 14: Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise of Catalonia (Pimec) calls on Torra to "take all steps necessary to end article 155 intervention."

May 14: Small and medium business umbrella Cecot (Terrassa Shires Employers Confederation) calls for rapid formation of government.

May 14: Unionist business umbrella Entrepreneurs of Catalonia hopes that Torra's presidency will not provoke a further "flight" of companies.

May 14: Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and Catalan business umbrella Development of National Labour call for stable, law-abiding government.

May 14: European Socialist Party: "Sad about the election of #TorraPresident. His racist remarks are utterly disgusting and cast deep doubts about his fitness for the job."

May 14: (El Nacional) Catalan referendum in human rights report by Council of Europe

May 14: Carles Riera (CUP spokesperson): "We are on maximum alert. Each time your program becomes that of a Spanish regional administration ['autonomic'], understand that you are betraying the popular mandate of October 1."

May 14: Quim Torra invested as 131st president of the Catalan government (Generalitat). See our coverage here.


Week ending May 13

Free Catalan political prisoners logo
Free the political prisoners!


May 13: CUP Political Council decides to maintain abstention on the investiture of Quim Torra, guaranteeing that it will happen tomorrow, by 66 votes to 65 (only a relative majority is needed in the second session).

May 13: PSOE deputy federal secretary Adriana Lastra calls on Quim Torra to "lay aside the xenophobia and govern for all Catalans".


Opinion (Toni Soler, Ara, May 12)

The inevitable conflict

For an effective and republican Government capable of dialogue.  For a calm, fighting and competent Government

CITIZENS. We're heading towards conflict. Maybe there will be a Government, but we can't pretend that nothing has changed while there are people in jail and exile, and while self-rule is suspended. The 155 bloc--the PP, Citizens and the PSOE--is playing with fire, and some lucid minds inside this universe, people who love Spain, can see that and they fear it. If they continue to use Catalonia as an electoral firecracker, it means countdown to constitutional crisis. But since the PP is in a state of decomposition and the PSOE is in a coma, Albert Rivera's yelling easily predominates and drowns out any nuanced opinion. Citizens is the party of testosterone and "Go, get 'em"1. They are behaving like the National Front in France and the Serbs towards the new Balkan republics. It appears that in Spain this benefits them, which shows the depth of depression that Spain has reached; but in Catalonia their threatening and permanently irritated tone marks a ceiling and distances them from the country's centre of political gravity, which is more or less Spanish, but above all is deeply Catalan. Inés Arrimadas could have tried to win the moderate vote, but she preferred to be the Princess of Tabàrnia2, decorate Civil Guards, finger teachers and despise collective symbols, that is, hand them over to the supporters of Catalan sovereignty. Citizens' only motor force is the destruction of the Catalan national personality. That is, they will only get to power in Catalonia along the path of repression, as is now happening to the PP of [Spanish government delegate in Catalonia] Enric Millo.

DIALOGUE The good news is that Citizens will hardly be able to govern Catalonia. The bad news is that while Citizens have the strength they have, any attempt at internal dialogue seems doomed to failure. You can't talk to those who want you in jail. However, the truth is that there are other obstacles to dialogue. The identity crisis of the PSC, which only acts in function of what Citizens does, and the perpetual indefinition of the Commons are aggravated by the fact that the pro-sovereignty bloc has chosen a presidential candidate who only believes in dialogue within his own camp. Quim Torra, whom I would say is a good person and a cultured human being, also represents a romantic nationalism that can inspire the heartland but will hardly scrape together new votes for the republican cause. And that's apart from the fact that Torra has personally taken on the delegated and provisional character of his presidency, which indicates that--if the CUP so wishes--we will face another interim period, with more than one possible outcome in the autumn, when the trial of Catalan political prisoners takes place.

DISTRACTION Although Torra has talked about implementing the result of October 1, it would be good if everyone realised that at the moment there will be no Republic or pre-Republic. If the Catalan government was already clear on October 27 that it didn't have the tools to carry out effective acts of sovereignty, even less will it be able to do so now, after six months of 155. What there will be is conflict, not so much because of the strategy of the pro-independence parties as because the Spanish government has decided that repressing and locking up dissidents wins votes, while giving the Catalan people a voice, as on December 21, only brings grief; and that as long as this sad spectacle lasts, Spaniards will hang flags from their the balconies, as if they had heroically defeated a foreign enemy and will not pay attention to other problems of the State, which are many and very serious. General Primo de Rivera3 did the same thing in 1925. On that occasion, however, the Moroccans were the distraction.

Footnotes

1. "Go, get 'em" was the cry shouted by Spanish-patriotic ultras to Civil Guard vehicles as they left their barracks on the way to Catalonia to try to suppress the October 1 referendum.
2. Tabàrnia is a mythical entity concocted by the extreme end of unionism, made up of those two Catalan provinces (Tarragona plus Barcelona) where the unionist vote exceeded the pro-independence vote on December 21.
3. In 1925, the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera conducted a successful  joint invasion with the French of the Berber-speaking Rif region of northern Morocco. The Spanish were motivated by the desire to revenge their humiliating loss to the forces of rebel leader Abd el-Krim in the 1920 Rif War. More detail here.

May 12: Investiture vote: In favour 66 (JxCat, ERC); Against 65 (Citizens, PSC, CatECP, PP) 65; Abstentions 4 (CUP). The motion is lost because there is no absolute majority. Nex session is on Monday, May 14.

May 12: Puigdemont tells Turin daily La Stampa that Quim Torra will call early elections on October 27 if there is no progress in negotiations with the Spanish government.

May 12: Albert Rivera (Citizens): "Torra's speech reveals he will not abide by the Constitution. Article 155 cannot be suspended."

May 12: Points form Torra's investiture address here

May 12: Quim Torra delivers investiture address to Catalan parliament.

May 12: 88.54% of Democrats' members support the investing of Quim Torra.


The letters that we receive daily are our connection with reality. They are what gives us a breath of fresh air. We want to tell you that we read them all (every day we each receive around a hundred) and, even though we would like to be able to answer you, it is impossible for us. For that reason we take the opportunity here to thank you for the support and the warmth which you ensure reaches us, which gives us courage and helps us to stay strong.

In the absence of freedom we try to live with the maximum dignity possible.

Our daily routine is monotonous, the hours go by very slowly. In fact, there is no difference between one day and the next, and for that reason the news that we receive by mail is important. We thank the media that thinks of us: El Punt AvuiAraEl Nacional, VilaWeb, El Temps, local magazines and articles that you send us in your letters. In fact, we are only permitted three activities: reading (books that our families give us in the monthly package or classics from a small prison library) and writing, taking physical exercise (one hour three days per week, organized by a prisoner) and walking in the prison yard.

We maintain our hope as well as our confidence in you. We know that you will find a solution for this unjust situation.

Often, our suffering goes beyond the personal. We believe that the lives of our families have been deeply affected ― both of us have elderly mothers ― as well as the lives of our colleagues; but also the lives of a great many people in our country.

In this last week we have made statements to the judge and were clear in our convictions: the defence of the popular mandate from the Catalan elections of 2015, of the sovereignty of the Catalan Parliament, of ideological and political freedoms, and the freedom of expression. We believe that our right to a defence is harmed by the inability of our lawyers to take part in parallel legal processes that contribute to the general case, and that it is abusive that we have been placed in preventive detention, without any change in either the alleged offence we are accused of, or the conditions, for which the same judge decreed bail for us, just a few months earlier.

We are convinced that all of this is about democracy. For that reason we are grateful for the many shows of support which we know are taking place all around, from associations, entities, political groups and individuals. We ask you that you do not forget the political prisoners, that you do not forget those of us who are in prison and in exile, that you work to put an end to the implementation of article 155, to improve social cohesion and the lives of the people who live in Catalonia. Our dignity is the dignity of you all!

Thank you for always being there!

Carme Forcadell and Dolors Bassa

Carme Forcadell, speaker of the Catalan Parliament from 2015 until after the 2017 election, and Dolors Bassa, Catalan labour minister, are being held in the Spanish prison of Alcalá-Meco on remand, facing charges relating to the Catalan campaign for independence and the referendum held on October 1st, 2017.

Translation: El Nacional


May 11: Citizens. "A government elected with the vote of two fugitives from justice is a fraud."

May 11: Rapper Valtonyc loses Constitutional Court appeal against his three-and-a-half year prison sentence for glorification of terrorism and insulting the crown.

May 11: PP in Catalonia agains demands of the Constitutional Court that it suspend the right of Puigdemont and Comín to delegate their vote.

May 11: Inés Arrimades (Citizens) on Torra: "The most radical Puigdemont could find and the only one prepared to be a puppet."

May 11: José Luis Ábalos (PSOE): "Torra should be reprogrammed if he is to serve as Catalan president."

May 11: Iñigo Méndez de Vigo (Spanish government spokesperson): "If the law is disobeyed, we will act in exactly the same way."

May 11: Latest Centre of Opinion Studies (CEO) report released in Catalonia. English summary here. Polling predictions below (figures on grey background are the December 21 election results):

Main trends:

  • Pro-independence majority increases
  • CUP support nearly triples
  • CCP (CatECP) support increases
  • Citizens remains leading party

CEO poll, first four months, 2018

May 11: Joaquin Leguina (ex-PSOE premier of Community of Madrid) tells TV Antena 3 that Quim Torra is an "imbecile" and a "moron" and that the Spanish state's article 155 intervention into Catalonia should be maintained.


Background (Marta Escobar Martí, El Nacional, May 11)

New alarm (and anger) in the Madrid newspapers. Carles Puigdemont's proposal of Quim Torra as the new candidate for president of Catalonia hasn't satisfied them either. Today, they're full of criticism and disapproval towards the president's nominee.

So, despite being visibly satisfied it has proved impossible to invest Puigdemont, they give the new candidate a warning that the state will continue working for the law to be followed and, if that doesn't happen, it will continue acting as until now.

The most curious thing is that some of the newspapers even argue that Torra started the independence process, thanks to comments he made in 2014, pushing them to an even more resounding rejection of the candidate.

For all these reasons, they warn that it is unlikely, for the moment, that the PP government in Madrid will lift article 155 of the Spanish Constitution because, they say, everything suggests the situation in Catalonia will continue in the same vein.

La Razón, under the headline "a puppet for confrontation", attacks Puigdemont's decision as being "awful news for the future political and institutional stability of the Principality" and, moreover, despite him not being pursued by the justice system, they believe that the "choice shows the desire of Catalan separatism to maintain the confrontation with the state".

Using a handful of 2012 tweets from Torra, which included derogatory allusions to "the Spanish", the paper says that the candidacy "takes us to the worst examples of the fanaticism and radicalism of the independence movement, bordering on xenophobic obsession, which, unfortunately, have caused the painful social fracture in the region itself".

They believe, the "political role he will doubtless be called upon to play" will be one of "subordination to Puigdemont". Moreover, they suggest that it is "a provisional solution which can only hide the piratical intention of putting an end to the legislature when convenient for the personal interests of the fled leader" and urge readers to "not forget his black criminal outlook".

In fact, their front page opens with the headline "Puigdemont anoints 'puppet' Torra to repeat elections", but, at the same time, they argue that "Puigdemont aims, like anyone handling a puppet, to maintain the fiction of a government in exile which, moreover, and this is the most absurd, governs the fates of Catalonia".

But their frustration goes even further, criticising that his candidacy "means shutting the door on and scorning the offers of dialogue and collaboration from the [Spanish] prime minister, Mariano Rajoy" and, worse still, they even get into his "psychological profile".

At the end of the editorial, they do appear slightly relieved, due to the impossibility of investing Puigdemont. This shows, they say, that "the rule of law and respect for the constitutional order have returned to the region". They, however, warn that "the state will continue to safeguard the rights and interests of all Catalans. Of that we do have reasons to be sure".

El Español, which suggests that "Puigdemont is putting up a puppet so that Rajoy deceives himself", defines Torra as a "radical" who "believes that Catalonia has been a country occupied by the Spanish since 1714". They believe his election will mean that "the problem of independence is not only not going to fall away, but will doubtlessly earn a new, folkloric momentum".

But they go further still. They define the candidate as a "hand-picked choice of a banana-republic caudillo" and say that "the Catalan anomaly keeps growing unstoppably". For them, this is "another provocation which confirms the erroneous policy" of Mariano Rajoy's government. Caudillo, a word for "leader" normally used for strongmen, was the title the dictator Franco took for himself.

At this point, they turn to attacking the PP executive. "Puigdemont is showing his strength whilst Rajoy gives unequivocal signs of certain weakness" and "Rajoy's ability to deceive himself appears to have no limit".

At the end of the article, they link Torra with the start of the independence process for statements he made in 2014 when director of Born Cultural Centre. That year, he organised events to "commemorate and manipulate the tricentennial of 1714", which saw the fall of Barcelona and the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. He said that since that time, Catalans "have been living under occupation". "It was around this display, which pontificated on the Spanish invasion, that the current separatist process gestated".

They also side with Cs' leader, Albert Rivera, supporting him in his call for a harder line to be taken with Catalonia. Precisely for that reason, they say "it's more than probable that after this new nonsense he will increase if possible his pressure on the executive to continue and toughen up as necessary an [article] 155 which so far, it's obvious, hasn't achieved the aims it should have pursued".

Like the other two papers, El Mundo opens its front page with the nomination of Torra who, like the rest, they see as a "puppet for [Puigdemont] to continue with his rebellion" and "continue the duel", "aware that the continuation of the conflict with the state is the only trump card which is still saving him from irrelevance".

Describing Torra as a "separatist of certified fanaticism" and "Puigdemont's alter ego, as radical as him", they attack the legitimate president for "aiming with this choice to settle a puppet in the presidency of Catalonia, a figure who can be controlled at a distance, who meekly submits to the will of the unrepentant fugitive in Berlin".

With all these arguments under their arm, the paper says that Torra's candidacy "raises serious doubts about the advisability of lifting [article] 155; after a foreseeable government completely remote-controlled by Puigdemont, who yesterday passed on the mandate to implement the republic declared in October".

In another article, El Mundo defines Torra as the "most hooligan option" and, like La Razón, uses his 2012 tweets for further attacks against him.

For El País, which didn't dedicate either its whole front page nor editorial to the question, Torra, who has had a "meteoric political career" and "exquisite manners in person", warn that, despite this, he has "strong pro-independence convictions", which, as they see it, "turns him into almost a professional substitute; almost against his will".

In fact, they repeat this point on various occasions during their profile of the candidate: "those who know him talk about an educated personality, with a hint of something British about him, and that he knows how to listen, even though he's intransigent when it comes to his pro-independence convictions".

In another article, they say that "although Torra is part of Puigdemont's trusted inner circle, he will lead a group of ministers which he hasn't chosen".

ABC, for their part, call Torra a "front man" because, in their opinion, "the ex-president is resisting disappearing and has designated one of his faithful, a radical independence supporter", although they argue that "there's no doubt that political reality will end up cornering the ex-president". In fact, one of their greatest worries is "how many weeks or months it will take for that to happen".

Meanwhile, they also express lament that "with the will of the pro-independence parties hijacked by the stubbornness of the fugitive ex-president in not disappearing politically, the theoretical and apparent return to normality of political life which should be starting up is holding off".

In another article, they define him as the "real deal of the independence movement". None of the newspapers mentioned above liked the proposal, certain that "the disobedience is going to continue". It would be interesting to see what they would have said for some other candidate, as the same arguments go for almost any other JxCat deputy.

Translation: El Nacional


May 10: Carles Puigdemont announces that editor, and essayist Quim Torra will be JxCat's candidate for president.

May 10: Parents of children at El  Palau high school hold public meeting denouncing interference of courts and unionist politicians and call for the school to be left alone to work through any problems it may have (below).

El Palau high school parents meeting protesting against judicial and polictical interference

May 10: Five of the nine cases against the teachers of El Palau high school being investigated for "hate crime" for talking in class about the October 1 police attacks at their school are shelved.

May 10: Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena indicates that he is prepared to downgrade charge of rebellion against Puigdemont and other suspects in exile if this is needed to secure their extradition.

May 10: Amnesty Internationsal says that the Spanish interior ministry is blocking judicial inquiries into police behaviour on October 1.

May 10: Joan Tardà (ERC MP in Spanish congress): "Mr Rivera has become a fanatic. Every day that passes he sounds more like [Falange leader] José Antonio Primo de Rivera."

May 10: Albert Rivera (Citizens): "Even if a Catalan government is formed not enough has been done to allow the lifting of the article 155 intervention."


Opinion (Ferran Saez Matheu, Ara, May 10)

ETA's last attack

To compare moving prisoners closer to home to "the impunity" of terrorist acts is to hit rock bottom

On October 20, 2011, when ETA announced the definitive end of its "armed activity", the argumentative resources of the 1978 regime began to totter. From the perspective of the Spanish State —and it's important to remember that the Spanish State consists of three things, three: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—, the possibility of appealing to the exceptional situation created by the existence of that terrorist group lost its meaning. "In the absence of violence, anything can be discussed", went the famous mantra coined during the worst moments of the Spanish transition. Yeah, right. For the Catalan independence movement, the end of ETA was great news for two reasons. The first, shared with any morally decent person, had to do with the end of the barbarism of car bombs, kidnappings, and shots to the back of the head. The second, of course, referred to the aforementioned mantra: in a democracy, in the absence of violence anything can be discussed.

At that moment —October 2011— Catalonia’s independence process took off strongly. July saw an unexpectedly massive demonstration against the 2010 ruling on the Statue, followed by the most openly pro-independence Diada demonstration in September. The political effervescence in Catalonia was evident, and this did not exactly play in favor of the unionist camp, which was left disoriented. A party like UPyD, for example, ended up out of the game completely. Born out of the Basta Ya (Enough Already) platform, its dialectic vehemence, overacted by Rosa Díez, became merely strident cries, empty of content, that no longer interested anyone. As incredible as it may seem, the news of the cessation of ETA's terrorist actions was received almost with hostility. In some cases, this was predictable: certain private security companies with links to important PP office holders watched as their enormous business expectations vanished into thin air. In other cases, however, the reaction was more enigmatic.

Naturally, it wasn't about praising ETA because they stopped killing, but rather celebrating that thousands of people who lived permanently with their hearts in their throats now had the chance to live a safe life. To confuse these two things, which had nothing to do with each other, out of personal/political interest, showed the bald-faced manipulation that the Spanish government has made of the various terrorism victims associations, and also of the citizenry as a whole. But it doesn't end there. To compare moving prisoners closer to their homes to "the impunity" of terrorist acts is to hit rock bottom. As far as I know, nobody had suggested any massive release of prisoners or anything like it. A person with blood crimes, as I see it, must serve a full sentence; but this should not include punishing their families [with long journeys for visitation purposes].

A few days ago, when ETA was definitively dissolved, many PP leaders reacted in an even more disconcerting way than in 2011. It appeared as if the terrorist group had just committed its latest attack, the worst in its history. Neither Rajoy nor any member of his administration were under any obligation to congratulate them for putting an end to their wrongdoing. It's a long way, however, from that to showing a disappointed expression, clearly out of sorts. ETA represented an archaic thing that, in addition to having caused great suffering, distorted Spanish political life by legitimizing institutional anomalies —without any equivalent in Europe— such as the National Court. Article 24.2 of the Spanish Constitution states that "everyone has the right to the ordinary judge predetermined by law". The existence of the National Court (the old Franco-era Court of Public Order) clearly contradicts this point. ETA's indiscriminate violence, for example, could justify this exception. What about after it has ceased to exist? Will everything continue the same? Will we fabricate a threat just to maintain what justified it in its place?

Beyond the concrete question that we just discussed, the absurd refusal to recognize that ETA no longer exists has a lot to do with the need to transform a peaceful political process such as Catalonia’s into a violent rebellion. The old language associated with the "anni di piombo” [“years of lead”] allows for delirious transpositions of one thing for another to be carried out with cynical joy. ETA's last great attack —its own dissolution— has not caused any casualties, nor injuries, nor property damage, but it has shattered an established line of argument and called its language into question. In the increasingly strange "news programs" of TVE, the news of ETA's demise was presented almost as an event worthy of mourning, with bitter statements from the increasingly unified PP-PSOE-Ciudadanos bloc. My condolences.

Translation: Ara


May 9: Jean-Claude Juncker (president, European Commission) to Flemish parliament: "I would like to see dialogue" between Spanish and Catalan governments and urges for this to happen.

May 9: Ramon Tremosa (MEP for PDECat) says the Dalai Lama showed "great sensitivity" to the Catalan situation at a meeting of the European Parliament's Intergroup with Tibet in India.

May 9: Spanish government appeals amended Catalan presidential investiture legislation to the Constitutional Court, which suspends legislation while appeal is being heard.

May 9: Vox demands the arrest and charging of the majority of members of the Catalan parliament's speakership panel for allowing the parliament to change the law governing the investing of the president.

May 9: Albert Rivera (Citizens) demands that the Rajopy government appeal against the right to delegate their vote of Toni Comin and Carles Puigdemont.

May 9: European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker says he is disposed to meet with new president of Catalonia "if asked" and "depending on the topic to be discussed".

May 9: Carles Riera (CUP): "The decision of JxCat and ERC to give up on disobedience is a decision we don't share."


Snapshot (Xavier Bertral, Ara, May 9)

Badalona judge forces bride to remove a badge calling for freedom for political prisoners

The judge refused to conduct the ceremony until she complied. The couple plan to lodge an official complaint

Badalona judge forces bridegroom to remove a badge calling for freedom for political prisoners / XAVIER BERTRAL

A judge in the Catalan city of Badalona refused to proceed with a wedding ceremony unless the brideg removed from her jacket a badge calling for the release of political prisoners.

Nora, the woman in question, appeared this Tuesday on El Matí de Catalunya Ràdio, following a report in yesterday’s El Mundo newspaper. Nora was critical of the judge for making such a demand a condition for the wedding to go ahead. "As soon as I sat down with the witnesses, the judge announced that the service was for everyone and that it had to be neutral. So I told him that if he provided the service to everyone, then that included me too", she declared.

According to the bride, the judge gave her "no choice", despite the fact that she and the groom both noticed that "there was also a portrait of the Bourbon [King Felipe] on the wall", and that "we hadn’t made a fuss". According to the woman, the judge argued his case by stating that if the badge had belonged to an organisation with an opposing view, "such as the PP or Vox", he would also have asked her to remove it. Apparently, her claim that the badge did not represent a specific political party, but was instead an expression of freedom, failed to make the judge change his mind.

Nora declared that, eventually, having argued with the judge for a while, she decided to remove the jacket bearing the badge in order that the ceremony could go ahead. The couple has already contacted legal teams in order to file a complaint.

Translation: Ara


May 3: Tensions surface in PDECat between those wanting to bring the organisation closer to JxCat and the existing PDECat leadership, which occasionally asserts differences with the JxCat leadership around Carles Puigdemont.

May 3: Spanish authorities say they are investigating around 80 instances of possible "indoctrination" in Catalan schools.

May 3: After meeting with Carles Puigdemont in Berlin, ANC president Elisenda Paluzie states that "the commitment to the Catalan Republic cannot be renounced".

May 3: Catalan ombudsman Rafael Ribó meets with School Council of El Palau school with a view "to resolving internally and from a purely educational perspective" the conflict over the teachers being investigated by the Spanish prosecutir's office for potential "hate crime".

May 3: Information Council of Catalonia to investigate the Madrid newspaper El Mundo for its article naming the teachers under investigation for possible "hate crime".


Arra poster against Albert Rivera

"Wanted; Albert Rivera [leader of Citizens], for publicly fingering nine teachers and stirring up fascist hatred" (Poster of left-independentist youth group Arran]

May 3: The Spanish Tax Office embargoes €110,000 of funds in the accounts of both Òmnium Cultura and the Catalan National Assembly, ostensibly to meet damages incurred for violating data protection law.


'Spanish justice' (Ot Serra, Ara, May 3)

Lawyers sue Spain’s judiciary leadership over affinity for PP

A new legal association denounces "lack of impartiality"

A complaint for continued neglect of duty has been filed against Carlos Lesmes, the President of Spain’s General Council of Judicial Power (CGPJ) and 19 other senior members of the Spanish judiciary. The Associació Atenes de Juristes pels Drets Civils (Athens Association of Jurists for Civil Rights) has decided to lodge a criminal complaint against the judicial leadership for lack of impartiality and independence from the executive and legislative powers.

In an lengthy text, the plaintiffs state that there is a plot in the CGPJ to benefit the ruling Partido Popular and place sympathizing magistrates in key positions connected to the main court cases of corruption involving Mariano Rajoy's party. "Preserving separation of powers is a basic principle; this is about democracy", stressed Jordi Ferres, one of the movers behind the legal association created in March, in comments to ARA.

The complaint, written by Elpidio José Silva, a former judge that was disqualified over the instruction of the Blesa corruption case, is directed against Lesmes, members of the CGPJ —in the majority conservatives—, and National Court judges. A series of cases are listed in which different judges had maneuvered supposedly to gain control over judicial proceedings involving the PP. One of the names that has received much attention is Concepción Espejel, the former president of the second section of the National Court's criminal court division. The plaintiffs are accusing her of taking advantage of her office after taking over the presidency to modify the traditional system of rotations of judicial cases in order to ensure that they would fall to her. Thus, she managed to achieve control over proceedings in the Gürtel case and that of the PP's slush fund, according to the legal association. Espejel, however, in the face of recusals of the parties implicated in these proceedings, was set aside by her own colleagues because they doubted her impartiality. Nonetheless, at the end of last year the full session of the CGPJ, thanks to the votes of the conservative majority, promoted her to president of the criminal court, a higher position than she used to hold.

Another case brought up by the lawyers is the arrival of Enrique López López at the National Court's Appeals Court division. He is a judge who was also recused from the proceedings in the early stages of the Gürtel trial owing to his proximity to the PP, a charge supported by his participation in 68 events hosted by FAES (a PP foundation) and an article published in La Razón in 2011 in which he called for the PP to oust the PSOE from government. After his appointment to the appeals court, he had jurisdiction over any appeals that might result from the Gürtel case.

Beyond the string of examples to justify the alignment of judicial leadership with the PP, the promoters of the complaint warned that the CGPJ has not followed the recommendations of the Group of European States against Corruption and Organized Crime (GRECO), which in 2014 sounded the alert over the "politicization of the highest positions in the judiciary” in Spain. "Some [judges] have said that sometimes they knew beforehand that they would be appointed for a specific important post", stressed the group.

"The important thing is that the selection of magistrates is based on merit", said Ferres, who noted that the GRECO advised that appointments be made following "assessable objective criteria". Despite the initiative's slim chancesc of success, the complaint arrives at a time when relations between Lesmes and Rafael Catalá are strained following the Justice Minister's criticisms of one of the judges in the Manada case (1).
Footnote

(1) A group of young men who called themselves la Manada (“the Wolfpack”) have been recently found guilty of sexually abusing a young woman, but rape charges were dismissed by the court, which has outraged many in Spain. One of the three judges that saw the case failed to see any sexual misconduct at all in the group’s actions.

Translation: Ara


May 2: St James Square in central Barcelona fills in protest rally in solidarity with Catalan political prisoners in jail now for six months (below).

May 2 rally in support of Catalan political prisoners, St James Square, Barcelona

May 2: The Balearic Islands' teachers union STEI Intersindical, important in the 2014 "green tide" struggle to stop the regional PP government from downgrading the Balearic variant of Catalan as language of general instruction in the islands' schools, sends message of solidarity to the teachers of El Palau.

May 2: Demonstration in suport of the teachers of El Palau school (Sant Andreu de la Barca), being investigated for "hate crimes" (placard: I'm an El Palau teacher too!").

Demonstration in support of teachers of El Palau

May 2: In the face of the likely investiture of a presidential candidate other than Carels Puigdemont, the ANC will consult its memberships as to what stance to adopt (the ANC supports Puigdemont for president and some members would prefer to go to new elections rather than accept a substitute imposed by the interference of the Spanish state).


May 1: Barcelona's three May Day demonstrations

2018 Batcelona May Day, UGT and CCOO, led by banner against violence against women

Demonstration of majority trade unions (General Union of Workers and Workers Commissions), with lead banner against violence against women ("It's not abuse, it's rape")

2018 Barcelona May Day, anarcho-sindicalist General Confederation of Labour (CGT) demonstration

Demonstration of the anarco-sindicalist General Confederation Labour (CGT)

"Let's Arise!" May Day demonstration of the pro-independence Intersindical-CSC

Demonstration of the pro-independence Intersindical-CSC: "Let's arise for the Republic of social rights"


May 1: Social welfare and labour minister Dolors Bassa makes a call from prison for people to demonstrate on May Day in support of "political and social rights in Spain".


Backgrounder (Ara, May 1)

Graffitied threats sprayed on school walls against teachers probed by Public Prosecutor

The threats appeared the day after Madrid daily El Mundo published an exposé that was tweeted by Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera

Graffitied threats sprayed on school walls against teachers probed by Public Prosecutor / ACN

Graffitied threats sprayed on school walls against teachers probed by Public Prosecutor

El Palau is a secondary school in Sant Andreu de la Barca where nine teachers are currently being investigated by the Prosecutor’s office for allegedly “humiliating” the children of Spanish Guardia Civil officers the day after the referendum of October 1. Several children whose Guardia Civil parents are stationed in Sant Andreu attend El Palau. Last night someone spray-painted slurs on the school walls aimed at the nine teachers: “nazis”, “scum” and “separatists”.

The graffiti appeared the day after Madrid-based newspaper El Mundo revealed the names and photographs of the nine members of staff who are being investigated. Controversy over the exposé went up a notch when Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera tweeted the story and used it to slam Mariano Rajoy’s government for failing to discipline the nine teachers who are currently being investigated over alleged hate crimes.

Rivera’s post prompted many replies on social networks, accusing him of singling out teachers who —so far— have been found guilty of no crimes. Furthermore, some users criticised the Ciudadanos leader for doing with these teachers —whose actual names and pictures were printed in the newspaper article— the same as he had criticised in the past, when the homes of unionist leaders were spray-painted.

This morning Ciudadanos MP in Catalonia Lorena Roldán tried to play down the controversy and stated that the graffiti “shows that there is an obvious social divide in Catalonia and that is why we urge the pro-independence parties to form a government”. “It is necessary for society’s wounds to heal up and these incidents, which we have experienced ourselves in the past, should never happen”, she noted. Roldán censured the perpetrators of the graffiti, which “might constitute a hate crime and we decry that, regardless of who is responsible. That is why we urge the pro-independence parties to condemn these actions”.

Tomorrow, May 1, there will be a demonstration at noon in Sant Andreu’s town hall square to support the teachers who are being probed. Interestingly, local education affairs are managed by a Ciudadanos councillor in Sant Andreu de la Barca’s local government.

Translation: Ara


April 30: PDECat does deal with PSC in the town of Sant Martí Sarroca (Alt Penedès) to remove CUP mayor.

April 30: School Council of Catalonia denounces the "public lynching" of the nine teachers of El Palau public school who are being investigated for possible "hate crimes" for their comments to pupils after the October 1 referendum.

April 30: The 200 "Kilometres for Freedom" runners who have been jogging the 800 kilometres from Barcelona to Soto de Real jail outside Madrid finally arrive at their destination.


Week ending April 29

190 nights with political prisoners

190 nights with political prisoners



FC Barcelona has officially asked to the Spanish government and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) about the police action in the Cup final on Saturday in Madrid and the confiscation of yellow shirts, scarves and whistles from Barça fans. “Depending on the response we get, we will study the actions that we have to carry out” said spokesman Josep Vives in a radio interview.

Vives denied that the club was aware of the withdrawal of yellow elements at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium: ‘It’s absolutely false. We are fed up that kind of manipulation”.  “There were three meetings to prepare the match security. No one talked about not letting people in with a shirt of one colour or another because this is  a basic right of people”, Vives insisted.

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, vice president of the Spanish government, has denied that there had been a “political instruction” to remove shirts and yellow motifs before the match and said the decision was taken by the Spanish police.

Controversy

The fact that the police and security staff confiscated yellow t-shirts and scarves from FC Barcelona’s fans entering the Spanish Cup final Saturday night has not gone by without controversy. Drets, a Catalan association of law professionals, announced that they will study specific cases in which yellow t-shirts have been confiscated to report those who gave the orders.

The association said that “no law or penal code prohibits colours. To confiscate yellow t-shirts is a severe violation of fundamental rights”. In addition, they stated that confiscating independence flags also violates fundamental rights as a judge ruled in favor of allowing the flag at the Copa del Rey after authorities from the Autonomous Community of Madrid tried to ban the flag from the Cup final in the 2016-edition.

Law against violence applied

Days before the match, the Spanish home affairs minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, stated that whistling at the Spanish national anthem is violence referring to the law against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in sport. Previous to the match, Zoido also explained that they were “analyzing the matter and without a doubt there will be modifications to adapt the legislation to the current moment,” he said a week before the Cup final.

The Platform for the Defence of Free Expression (PDLI), a Spanish civil society group uniting journalists, lawyers, media houses, social movements and consumer advocates based in Madrid, said on Sunday that anti-violence laws should only be used “to avoid clear risks of violence” and that “the rest is censorship and limitation of political discourse and the right to disagree” referring to the confiscating of yellow t-shirts from Barça fans on Saturday. 

Other reactions

Catalan president Puigdemont asked “if a simple color is now an offence against the state, what is next?” And he added: “Spanish political police”. Member of the Spanish Parliament from the Catalan pro-independence party Esquerra, Gabriel Rufián, summarized the Cup saying “Barça wins titles. Spain loses rights.”

On the other hand, the spokesperson from Catalunya en Comú – Podem, expressed her concern on Twitter saying that “it begins with a tweet, a song. Next, ideas and it ends with a color.” Moreover, she added that it was actually “those who do not want to mix politics with sport” and finished saying: It is politics, it is authoritarianism.”

On the contrary, Catalonia’s main unionist party’s sposkeperson in Parliament, defended on Sunday that the police confiscated yellow t-shirts before the match, saying that they were “liable of provoking confrontations”.

Translation: Vilaweb


April 23: Operation Ballot Boxes, describing how the October 1 referendum was successfully carried out in the face of Spanish state police sabotage and violence, the non-fiction best-seller at Sant Jordi,

April 23: Former French PM Manuel Valls, asked by Citizens to stand as its candidate for mayor of Barcelona, awarded the first "Common Sense" (Seny) prize of unionist Catalan Civil Society.

April 23: PP leader and former mayor of Badalona Xavier García Albiol hands out roses in the town, provoking this protest from those present.

April 23: Professional clown and ERC councilor Jordi Pesarrodona found not guilty of a hate crime for wearing a red nose alongside a Civil Guard on October 1.

April 23: ERC asks that the speakership panel of the Catalan parliament accept that the vote of exiled health minister Toni Comín be able to be delegated, like that of Carles Puigdemont. If accepted--and not overturned by the Spanish Constitutional Court--ERC and JxCat will no longer need the support of the CUP to invest a president and form government, having a 66 to 65 majority over Citizens, the PSC, PP and CatECP.

April 23: Spanish prosecutor's office in Catalonia decides to launch proceedings against ten teachers at the El Palau high school in Sant Andreu de la Barca for allegedly having humiliated the sons and daughters of Civil Guards in front of their classmates after October 1.

April 23: Catalan PP leader Xavier García Albiol calls for Sant Jordi to replace September 11 as Catalonia's national day. Barcelona Council PP leader Alberto Fernández Díaz calls for the national anthem Els Segadors (The Reapers) to be replaced by the Hymn to the Senyera (the national flag).

April 23: Yellow roses accumulate inside and outside the Catalan government building in central Barcelona, in solidarity with imprisoned and exiled Catalan leaders.

April 23 (Sant Jordi): Spanish interior minister Zoido says that the decision to confiscate yellow t-shirts at the Barça-Seville King's Cup final did not come from him, but was "operational".


Declaration of Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom, ETA), April 20

With this declaration ETA, the Basque socialist revolutionary organization for national liberation, wishes to acknowledge the harm it has caused by its armed activity, and to express its commitment to overcome the consequences of the conflict once and for all, so that such events never happen again in the future.

Over the decades, there has been much suffering in our Country: people died, were wounded, tortured, kidnapped or had to leave into exile. There has been too much suffering. ETA acknowledges its direct responsibility for this harm and states that none of this should have ever taken place and it should have not continued as long as it has. The political and historical conflict should have been resolved in a democratic and just way a long time ago. Indeed, suffering was great in our Country before the birth of ETA and now, after ETA has ended its armed struggle, there continues to be pain and suffering. The generations after the bombing of Gernika inherited that violence and distress, and it is up to us to ensure future generations inherit a completely different future.

We are aware that we have caused great pain throughout this long period of armed struggle. We know much of this harm cannot be mended. We wish to express our respect to all the victims of ETA’s actions, in that they were harmed as a consequence of the conflict, whether they were killed, injured or harmed in any other way. We are truly sorry.

Whether through mistakes or as a consequence of mistaken decisions, ETA has also caused victims among people who had no direct part in the conflict, both in the Basque Country and elsewhere. We know that, due to the various requirements of the armed struggle, our activity has harmed a number of people who had no responsibility whatsoever in the conflict. We have caused grave harm, which cannot be put right. We ask the forgiveness of these people and their relatives. These words will not cure that harm, nor will they make their hurt lesser. We say this with respect, with no wish to cause any further grief.

We understand the fact that many people believe and express the idea that what we did was unacceptable and unjust; and we respect that, as nobody should be made to feel or say what they do not believe or feel. Much of what the State forces and their regional allies have done too, even though it was done under the guise of the law, was absolutely unjust for many Basque citizens and they do not deserve to be humiliated. Otherwise we would be led to understand that there has been harm done which was just and deserves praise. ETA’s attitude to this matter, however, is different: we wish none of this had ever happened. We wish freedom and peace had taken root in the Basque Country a long time ago.

Nobody can change the past. But to distort or to try to cover up parts of that past would be one of the worst legacies anyone could leave for the future. Let us all acknowledge our responsibilities and the harm we caused. Despite having different points of view and feelings we must all acknowledge and respect the suffering of others. This is exactly what ETA wishes to express.

Precisely, as we look to the future, one of the aims we must work towards in the Basque Country is reconciliation; and it is already happening, sincerely, on many levels, among the people. Reconciliation is necessary to bring out the truth in a constructive way, to cure wounds and to build guarantees for such suffering not to happen again in the future. It is possible to build peace and achieve freedom in the Basque Country by finding a political solution to the conflict. The flames of Gernika will die down for good.

In the Basque Country, 8 April 2018

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna

Translation: Gara


Week ending April 22

189 nights with political prisoners
189 nights with political prisoners


According to the newspaper, a clear example is El Mundo. "Readers of the Spanish daily paper, close to the government, could find out on Monday what address Puigdemont is living at, at what time he met with his family, where they ate at midday and who he met with later in the evening," they report. They then quote the details: "the text goes on to say 'he lives in Charlottenburg, in the former West Berlin, one of the capital's most bourgeois neighbourhoods'. Even the street and house number were mentioned - and how much it costs to stay in the hotel per night."

This comes a day after the legal services of the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, warned, in response to a question from MP Andrej Hunko (Die Linke), that if Spanish security services had spied on Puigdemont in Germany it would have been illegal. They made that clear in their report and warned that any such action could have legal consequences.

"Action by sovereign authorities without the consent from the German state entails several legal consequences: foreign secret service operations against the Federal Republic are punishable in accordance with § 99 of the Criminal Code. Spying on foreigners in the Federal Republic fulfils this criteria. The unauthorised collection of data can fulfil the criteria of a misdemeanour or felony according to the Federal Data Protection Act," the report says.

Hunko has presented a further question in the Parliament to clarify the situation. According to Junge Welt, this now puts the "focus" on whether there was cooperation between the BKA, Germany's federal criminal police office, and the CNI, Spain's intelligence agency.

Translation: El Nacional


April 19: Judge in Barcelona opens investigation into presumed spying by the Catalan police into the activities of unionist organisations.

April 19: The mayor of Geneva, Rémy Pagani, offers the city as mediator in the Spain-Catalonia conflict.

April 19: Citizens' leader Albert Rivera resigns from the UGT after its "support for the separatist coup".

April 19: Girona Council implements decision to change name of Constitution Square to First of October 2017 Square (below, councilors holding new plaque, which includes this saying of philosopher Xàvier Antich: "There's only one thing worse than forgetting. Not knowing that you've forgotten").

Girona renames Independence Square First of October 2017 SquareOctober 1st, 2017 Place plaque, replacing Constitution Place

April 19: In reply to a question from Bildu senator Jon Iñarritu, Spanish government admits to pressuring foreign states to sack honorary consuls in Barcelona suspected of sympathy with Catalan independence process.

April 19: Javier Lamban (PSOE premier of Aragón): "The archive of the Crown of Aragon [presently held in Barcelona] belongs to Spain."

April 19: (EuroActiv) Ex-French PM Manuel Valls: no separatist solution in Catalonia

April 19: (The Herald, Scotland) Scotland praised for standing 'completely apart' in its support for Catalonia


Opinion: Aleix Sarri Camargo (EuroNews, April 18)

Catalonia's crisis, Europe's wake up call

Aleix Sarri Camargo, assistant to PDECat MEP Ramón Tremosa

Nine Catalan politicians and social leaders (seven elected MEPs) are in pre-trial detention for up to six months. They have been accused of rebellion or sedition, and face between 15 and 30 years in jail. The so-called rebellion refers to the 1 October referendum, organised by Carles Puigdemont’s government, in which more than two million Catalans voted despite the violence of Spanish police that left 893 people injured and was condemned by Human Rights Watch, among others. A rebellion organised with ballot boxes is indeed a strange rebellion.

Incredible as it may sound, at this point Catalan political prisoners have spent more time in jail for organising a referendum than members of the paramilitary group GAL who, following orders from the Spanish interior ministry, tortured and killed in Euskadi during the eighties -- a clear case of double standards.

Many Spanish unionists tend to forget that, as established in Article 472 of the Criminal Code, peaceful and orderly demonstrations do not constitute a crime of rebellion. What’s more, calling, organizing and holding a referendum is not a crime in Spain after the relevant articles from the Criminal Code were removed in 2005. In fact, even declaring independence is not a crime according to Spain’s Criminal Code. The misuse of funds charges also sound fake, taking into account that this week Cristóbal Montoro, Spain’s finance minister, recognised that no public funds were used for the referendum.

The Spanish outrage at the so far unsuccessful attempt to extradite Carles Puigdemont for rebellion has been loud (for example a Spanish member of the European People’s Party said that “If the European arrest warrant doesn’t work, Schengen is useless”) and aggressive (with a prominent Spanish commentator calling a German federal minister “racist”). However, the hypocrisy of this outrage has also been brought to light, as not so long ago, many former high-ranking nazi officials were protected from extradition in Spain. In the latest turn of events, the Spanish Supreme Court has harshly criticised the German court deciding on Puigdemont's extradition case, a move that has not escaped the attention of German media.

The fact is that the interpretation of Spanish law has been systematically biased against the Catalan pro-independence movement. The latest blow to its credibility has been the rejection by Spanish judge Pablo Llarena to allow imprisoned MP Jordi Sànchez to exercise his political rights and be elected as president of the regional parliament, as even the UN had advised in its precautionary recommendations. Llarena keeps Catalan leaders in prison because, due to their political convictions, there is risk of “reoffending”.

The fundamental problem is that Spain's political transition, widely praised for decades, was deeply flawed. In the name of reconciliation, a big chunk of the Spanish deep state never faced reform, preserving its right-wing elites and practices inside the police, the military or the judiciary system. Contrarily to Germany, Francoism was whitewashed in Spain and the country’s past was never confronted.

In Spain, the Francisco Franco Foundation is legal, has received public subsidies and staunchly defends the dictatorship. Meanwhile, El Valle de los Caídos, the mausoleum where the dictator is buried together with Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, ideologue of Spanish fascism, is officially considered National Heritage of Spain and also receives public funds. There has never been a trial on the excesses of Francoism and one shall never forget that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular (People’s Party or PP) was founded by seven former ministers from Franco’s regime.

For months (and years), Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders have called for a negotiated political solution. However, not surprisingly, Rajoy has rejected around 20 times to negotiate on a possible Scottish-like referendum in Catalonia. A situation that may not change soon, as the unionist block (the PP, Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and Ciudadanos) has been solid in its rejection of political concessions. Moreover, Ciudadanos may win the next election thanks to its hard right stance on Catalonia.

One should not expect much from King Felipe VI either. In his 3 October speech, the King abandoned his stance as a neutral referee of political life, to become the leader of the Spanish authoritarian counter-reaction to the Catalan self-determination process and a wider repressive offensive that has received strong criticism from Amnesty International and the international press.

In Barcelona on Sunday, several hundred thousand demonstrators took part in an historic, peaceful rally to show their support for the release of the Catalan political prisoners. Moreover, 44 MEPs from 15 nations have already demanded the detainees be freed in order to have a dialogue without pre-conditions between Catalonia and Spain. However, without greater outside pressure, it does not seem realistic to find a political solution for Catalonia any time soon as the Spanish side is unwilling to take a seat at the table.

Meanwhile, authoritarianism is on the rise not only in Spain but all around the world. Authoritarian countries like Russia or China receive less criticism than ever, and Trump’s bombastic rhetoric and opportunistic foreign policy has undermined the democratic leadership of the United States. The defense of human rights is disappearing from the Western agenda while Tibetan, Uighur and even Hong Kong activists in China end up in prison for defending the use of their language in schools or a more democratic system.

This is why defending the right to self-determination, democracy and historical memory is unavoidable for Europe. European inaction on fundamental rights’ violations in Catalonia will ease the path for soft versions of authoritarianism to invade the whole European continent and compromise the idea of democracy as the best tool to solve political conflicts around the world. Catalonia’s crisis is Europe’s wake up call.

Aleix Sarri Camargo is an advisor to Ramon Tremosa, an MEP for pro-independence Catalan party The Catalan European Democratic Party (PDECat). He is also co-author of “Why the Euro Is Failing.”


April 18: Josep Maria Bartomeu (president, Barcelona FC, on Saturday's King's Cup final): "I would ask the fans to enjoy the game and to support the team peacefully and in a spirit of fair play [in English in original]. And that they respect all symbols of identity just as ours should be respected. When there is booing, this is not disrespect for a symbol but protest against what has happened in Catalonia in recent years." Reactions: "Absolute rejection" (PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez); "Serious mistake to use football politically" (PCS leader Miquel Iceta). Earlier Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido had said that booing and abuse at the game would be regarded as "violence".

April 18: (The Scotsman) Madrid urged to follow UK to break Catalan indyref deadlock

April 18: Ultra-right party Vox, whose leader is the "popular prosecution" in the case against the Catalan leaders, calls for the resignation of Montoro.

April 18: Exiled Catalan minister for culture Lluís Puig, attends meeting in the Brussels delegation of the Catalan government celebrating the centenary of the birth of Catalan novelist and poet, the left-independentist Manuel de Pedrolo. Although not officially invited he ends up addressing the meeting. The Spanish government is reported to be studying "reprisals" against the delegation for allowing Puig to speak.

April 18: Scottish unions call for the release of the Catalan political priosners and stress the role of the Catalan firefighters in preventing even more police violence on October 1.

April 18: Jordi Turull (jailed JxCat candidate for president, after declaring before judge Llarena): "Mr Llarena has locked me up in prison because my investiture was 'inappropriate'. Today I told him that my ideals are intact and that I will continue to defend them in a democratic and peaceful way."

April 18: PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez says on the Sixth channel that PSC MP Carles Castillo's visit to jailed Catalan leaders "was in a personal capacity".

April 18: Citizens announces that it will launch a law suit to prevent the Catalan parliament from pursuing a complaint of perverting the course of justice against judge Llarena (for his refusal to allow Jordi Sànchez to be invested).

April 18: Judge Pablo Llarena asks Spanish treasurer Cristóbal Montoro to provide evidence to justify his statement that "not a euro of public money" was spent on the October 1 referendum. Montoro's position effectively torpedoes the request for extradition of the exiled Catalan leaders on the grounds of misuse of public moneys.

April 18: Swiss parliament's foreign affairs committee says it will block the extradition of Marta Rovira (ERC general secretary) if this is sought "on purely political grounds".

April 18: ANC, Òmnium Cultural, the Platform for Catalan Sporting Selections and the legal platform Rights call on Barça supporters to "fill the stands with yellow t-shirts" in support of the political prisoners when the Spanish anthem is played at Saturday's King's Cup final against Seville (below).

Catalan entities call for yellow t-shirt protest at King's Cup (Spanish FA Cup)

April 18: Carles Riera (CUP parliamentary spokesperson): "Reality shows that the only way out is to move forward because otherwise there will be more repression and autonomy will be more limited, which means putting up with still more repression. However, every leap forward implies effort and sacrifices and we have to be able to take more of those on board. Making the Republic means investing Puigdemont as president, implementing the laws overturned by the State so as to implement left-wing policies and internationalising the conflict through a struggle against repression and and street mobilisations."

April 18: It is revealed that PSC MP Carles Castillo visited Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras on March 1. Castillo is the first and only PSC-PSOE MP to visit any of the Catalan prisoners.


In a court appearance on Monday, the jailed Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras defended Catalonia’s right to self-determination and told the judge that calling a referendum is no crime. Deposed vice president Oriol Junqueras made a 40-minute appearance in Spain’s Supreme Court, where he is charged with rebellion and misuse of public funds for his part in the push for independence.

Answering questions from his lawyer, Junqueras said the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party he heads has for decades stood for an independent Catalonia without it ever being questioned. What’s more, the vice president insisted that “not a cent” of public money had been used to organize the unilateral referendum on independence on October 1, and he condemned the “intolerable” hardline tactics used by Spanish riot police to prevent the vote from taking place.

While Junqueras pointed out that numerous attempts were made by Catalonia’s pro-independence executive to engage the state government in dialogue, he went on to stress the pacifist nature of his political activities. In fact, Junqueras denied that any violence had been committed by the independence movement and was not even considered “as possible” by the Catalan government.

The vice president was also critical of the legal process he is subject to, arguing that he should not be tried in the Spanish Supreme Court but rather in Catalonia’s High Court of Justice (TSJC). Junqueras also claimed that the legal proceedings against pro-independence leaders are an attempt to nullify a political movement and are thus an infringement of political rights.

Translation: Vilaweb


April 16: Carmen Calvo, PSOE secretary for equality, says that UGT and CCOO participation in yesterday's Barcelona demonstration is "not understandable".

April 16: Enric Millo (PP and Spanish government delegate in Catalonia) says that "in general" the CDR cannot be compared to the kale borroka but that some CDR are more inclined to violence than others.

April 16: Jordi Sànchez, appearing before judge Pablo Llarena, attacks him for not being impartial.

April 16: Javier Moroto (PP deputy secretary of sectoral policy) challenges Citizens to present leader Inés Arrimades as presidential candidate in Catalon parliament.

April 16: Day of definitive closure of Catalan diplomatic service DIPLOCAT, denounced by its workers as "unjust and arbitrary".


Document: Communiqué of employees' assembly of DIPLOCAT (April 16)

About DIPLOCAT's liquidation

The Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat) has come to an end today once its office has been closed and its workers have been dismissed.

The Spanish government has liquidated Diplocat based on the Royal decree 945/2017 of 27 October 2017 followed by the invoking of Article 155 from the Spanish constitution. However, the only argument of this Royal decree is that “it is necessary to suppress those unnecessary organisations in this context or those, which have been created in order to participate in the development of the secessionist process.” The decision of liquidating Diplocat was ratified by the Spanish government’s Council of Ministers on 15 December 2017. 
 
In light of this decision, it is important to bear in mind that all Diplocat’s actions fall within the scope of public diplomacy. It is important to make a distinction between this concept and that of regular diplomacy. While the latter refers to the relations between states, public diplomacy comprises actions taken by states and non-state actors, with the intent of establishing a dialogue with a foreign public. As such, the actions of Diplocat were not aimed at setting up relations with foreign governments, but rather at broadcasting the Catalan reality to individuals and entities abroad.
 
Diplocat’s employee assembly would like to make public the following points:
 
1. We do not agree with the fact that it is the government of the Spanish Popular Party (PP), a minority party in Catalonia, who establishes itself as judge to evaluate the necessity or utility of an organisation like Diplocat in Catalonia. It is for the government of Catalonia and the other 38 members of the council to decide if Catalonia should have an entity like Diplocat; which, on the other hand, has counterparts in several countries and regions of the world.
 
2. We disagree with the consideration that “the only purpose” of Diplocat is linked to the secessionist process. During the year 2017, just to provide an example, Diplocat has organised debates and seminars on municipal diplomacy and on integration policies of refugees. Furthermore, Diplocat has organised projects abroad related to green energy and about urban territory management. It has given support to the internationalisation of the tradition of Sant Jordi (Saint George) and to the publishing of a study on Catalan gipsies in France. It has, furthermore, continued awarding students with grants for international studies abroad and it has given the PIMEC-DIPLOCAT 2017 award to a big data analytics company, among other initiatives.  
 
3. We have to keep in mind that Diplocat is an organisation that from 2012 works with the aim of protecting Catalonia’s image and prestige and its institutions, entities and assets around the world. Moreover, the organisation derives from the Catalan Pro Europe Platform (Patronat Català Pro Europa, 1982) and from Catalonia World Platform (Patronat Catalunya Món, 2007), thus it is not created upon “secessionists purposes.”   
 
4. It is important to remember that activities aimed at explaining Catalonia’s situation abroad have often been organised upon the request of foreign universities or think tanks expressing their interest in Catalonia. We wish to point out that Diplocat, in these conferences, has laid out the wish of the majority of the Catalan citizens to have the right to decide, but Diplocat has never taking part regarding independence. This was, moreover, the specific order from Diplocat’s board. Diplocat has often invited people clearly opposed to the sovereign process. In the sessions organised in Spain all parties have always been invited to take part, giving rise to debates in which most of the participants were clearly opposed to secession.  
 
5. In the rest of our activities, including the international visitors program, we have followed the same criteria, which is guaranteeing the plurality of opinions giving voice to both people in favour of and opposed to the referendum and the independence of Catalonia. All the delegations visiting us have had the chance to meet with all the parties with parliamentary representation, as well as with diverse and plural entities from social society, from the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) to Catalan Civil Society (Societat Civil Catalana). The parties that now defend the invoking of Article 155 from the Spanish Constitution (Ciudadanos, PP, PSOE), and therefore the extinction of Diplocat, have participated in the organisation’s initiatives.
 
6. We wish to point out that it is this clear and determined commitment towards plurality and the opportunity to hear all points of view and being able to meet with all the involved parts that has led to public recognition of Diplocat. MPs and MEPs from the entire political spectrum and academics of international prestige are among the people who have recognized Diplocat’s work.  
 
7. We firmly believe that the Spanish government exceeds its functions, including the ones exceptionally given by the Article 155. Suppressing an organisation like Diplocat, a completely legal and legitimate public-private council of 39 members that represent the Catalan society in a broad and transversal way, infringes Article 2 of the self-same Spanish constitution. The Article 155 does not enable the Spanish state to dissolve autonomic bodies, as the actions taken have to be temporary and not definitive.  
 
8. It seems that what bothers the Spanish government is not Diplocat’s possible drift towards independence, which is not true and which would never have been accepted by the members of the council, but that Catalonia is on the table outside the expected circles controlled by the powers of the Spanish state, its foreign ministry and its embassies.  
 
9. We encourage Diplocat’s 39 members to publically express their opinion on the closing of the council and to show their rejection if, as well as the employee’s assembly who signs this communiqué, they believe that this is an unfair and arbitrary decision that goes against Catalonia’s interests and its civil society, who will be left without a tool for internationalization, which has proven to be useful and efficient.
 
10. We ask the future Government of Catalonia to create Diplocat again, or a similar entity, as it has proved to be a useful and efficient tool to present Catalonia’s values and potentials abroad.
 
Barcelona, 16 April 2018
Employee assembly of Diplocat

Members of Diplocat

Public institutions
 Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya)    Provincial Councils of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona and Aran Government (Conselh Generau d’Aran)  City Councils of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, Tarragona and Vielha e Mijaran  Catalan Association of Municipalities and Counties  Federation of Municipalities of Catalonia
Financial and entrepreneurial entities
 Catalan Federation of Savings Banks  General Council of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry, and Navigation  Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise of Catalonia (PIMEC)  Catalan Employers' Association (Foment del Treball Nacional)  AMEC Multi-sector Association of Businesses  FemCAT Private Entrepreneurs' Foundation  Confederation of Cooperatives of Catalonia  CCOO of Catalonia (trade union)  UGT of Catalonia (trade union)
Social and sports entities
 Federation of Third Sector Entities of Catalonia  FC Barcelona
Universities, business schools and academic institutions
 The universities of Catalonia  EADA Business School  Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (Barcelona GSE)  Barcelona Institute of International Studies (IBEI)


April 16: (Salvador Illa, PSC spokeperson): "With every day that passes it becomes clearer that the main obstacle to forming a government is called Carles Puigdemont."

April 16: Citizens leader Albert Rivera calls for an investigation by the control commission of the Catalan Corporations of Audiovisual Media (CCMA) into the prime time interview last night of Carles Puigdemont by public channel TV3. If the CCMA refuses, the investigations should be done by the Senate. Rivera compares TV3, whose interview with Puigdemont attracted a 30% audience share (one million), with the Franco-era NO-DO (News and Documentaries). Episodes of NO-DO were compulsorily projected in Spanish cinemas during the dictatorship.

April 16: PP spokeperson Fernando Martínez Maillo says that the support of the UGT and CCOO to yesterday's demonstration "brings no credit on the trade union centres".

April 16: Judge Carmen Lamela (National Court) informs the former leadership group of the Catalan police, Josep Lluís Trapero, Pere Soler i César Puig, that they have been charged with sedition and criminal organisation.

April 16: Javier Pacheco (president, CCOO): "The goal of the demonstration was to make an appeal to parts of society that have nothing to do with the independence movement to come out in respect for democracy and against the legalistic response of the state."

April 16: Elisenda Paluzie (ANC president, reflecting on the immense April 15 #"WeWantThemHome" demonstration) "It is positive that CCOO and the UGT demonstrate together with pro-independence forces in support of rights ...  We all made an effort [at reaching a compromise position], but in the face of repression there have to be as many of us as possible, even while we in the ANC will do other demonstrations that are clearly pro-independence."


Week ending April 15

176 nights with political prisoners

176 nights with political prisoners


April 15: Carles Puigdemont gives long interview to Catalan public TV channel 3. The main points are:

  • Repeat elections are desired by the Spanish state: "Our desire and our efforts are directed at avoiding that and being loyal to what was voted for on October 1 and December 21.
  • "The Spanish government wants a Catalan government on its knees, and we cannot give them that. The people would condemn us for it. We have time to arrive at a solution, and we won't need to exhaust it."
  • "We will have the candidate that the parliamentary regulation, the law of the presidency and the Constitution allows. No-one has yet justified why any of the 135 MPs can't be elected."
  • "Today there was an impressive demonstration in Barcelona, the people were there. The people also came to vote in the face of fear and threats. We can't lose sight of that. The people mobilise in such an admirable way that it gives you confidence in this country."

April 15: Main features of today's mass demonstration in Barcelona in support of Catalan political prisoners and exiles (#WeWantThemHome), with graphics.
The municipal police estimation of attendance was 315,000: the organisers' estimate was 750,000. The demonstration completely overflowed the two kilometres of Parallel Avenue to which it was supposed to be confined.

  • Family members of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart reading the manifesto of the demonstration

April 15 Barcelona demo: family members of "the Jordis" read demonstration declaration

  • Red Current: "Free all political prisoners; End political and social persecution; Out with Rajoy and the monarchy"

April 15 Barcelona demo: Red Current banner

  • Banner: "Republic is Democracy and Progress: Autonomy [regional government within Spanish state] is Spanish Colony"

April 15 Barcelona demo: Banner

  • Behind the placards showing the exiles: "Republic is democracy and progress"

April 15 Barcelona demo: 'Republic is Democracy and Progress'

  • "Neither exile nor prison"

April 15 Barcelona demo: 'Neither Exile Nor Prison'

  • Flags of countries where Catalan exiles are not in jail (Germany, Belgium, Scotland, Switzerland)

April 15 Barcelona demo: buses arriving: flags of countries where Catalan exiles are not in jail

  • Second row of banners

April 15 Barcelona demo: second row of banners

  • Lead banners of the demonstration: (left side) "For Rights and Fredoms--We Want You Home" (right side) "For Democracy and Social Harmony--We Want You Home"

April 15 Barcelona demo: lead banners

  • Raising a castle as the demonstration forms

April 15 Barcelona demo: raising human castles as the demonstration forms

  • The demonstration, seen from the Park of the Three Chimneys, looking back towards Plaça d'Espanya. The entire two kilometres of the demonstration was full and people could not move, with many leaving the march to watch from side streets, which also filled up.

April 15 Barcelona demo: looking back up Parallel Avenue from the Park of the Three Chimneys towards Plaça d'Espanya

  • The demonstration, looking from Plaça d'Espanya down to the Three Chimneys (visible in the distance)

April 15 Barcelona demo: looking down Parallel Avenue from Plaça d'Espanya

  • Map of the route of the demonstration, down Paralle Avenue from the Plaça d'Espanya to the Park of the Three Chimneys (2 kilometres)

April 15 Barcelona demo: route of demonstration

  • Waiting for the demonstration to start

April 15 Barcelona demo: waiting for demonstration to start

  • 900 buses bringing demonstrators from all parts start to arrive in Barcelona

April 15 barcelona demo: buses arriving


April 14: (El Nacional) Julio Anguita (former federal coordinator, United Left): "The judge has convinced me that Spain has political prisoners"

April 14: Carles Puigdemont on the 87th anniversary of the founding of the Second Spanish Republic (tweet in Spanish): "The best guarantee for achieving a Spanish Republic is to support the Catalan Republic. 77.9% of Catalans would remove the monarchy. There is no data for Spaniards since 2015. Because asking, questioning and voting are today acts of terrorism, rebellion and sedition."

April 14: Rajoy says his government is studying the possibility of charging the Catalan speakership panel with misuse of public funds for its law suit against Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarenas.


April 13: Spanish attorney-general Rafael Català calls the Catalan speakership's board lawsuit against Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena as "a threat and an attempt at coercion".

April 13: Catalan Civil Society and Citizens accuse of "indoctrination" a children's activity at the Sagrada Familia annual fair called "Climb aboard the train of the Republic!"

April 13: (Handelsblatt) Puigdemont affair may go to European Court of Justice

April 13: Appearing with Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Mariano Rajoy states that the lawsuit against Llarena represents embezzlement of public funds and does not rule out that German court will change its mind about the extradition of Puigdemont. He also attacks the internationalisation of the Catalan campaign for self-determination.

April 13: CatECP to support law suit against Llarena.

April 13: Spanish government spokeperson Iñigo Méndez de Vigo says that the Catalan parliament law suit against Llarena could represent misuse of public moneys.

April 13: PSC on Catalan parliament law suit against Llarena: "We're opposed to the use of parliament for party political ends."

April 13: Act in memory of the Republican victims of Francoism outside Catalan parliament. Present: JxCat, ERC, CUP, CatECP. Absent: PSC, Citizens, PP.

April 13: On the 87th anniversary of the founding of the Second Republic (April 14, 1931), the tricolour (red, yellow and maroon) Republican flag is flown from Sbadell town hall, along with the estelada, the Catalan independence flag.



April 11: (El Nacional) The "evidence" against the CDR member: a Google maps screenshot and a yellow whistle

April 11: Catalan government in exile expresses solidarity with CDRs.

April 11: JxCat, ERC and CUP register joint motion against criminalisation of the CDRs for debate in the Catalan parliament (below).


Document

Draft resolution against the criminalisation of the Defence Committees of the Republic (CDR)

Proposal for a resolution to condemn the criminalisation of the Defence Committees of the Republic (CDRs) by the Spanish state apparatus, to be processed by special urgency procedure in accordance with the provisions of article 107 of Parliament's Rules of Procedure. With the following text:

Explanatory statement

Through their official social networks the Defense Committees of the Republic of Catalonia have published the following statement, which we reproduce verbatim:

"In a week in which we CDRs have taken the lead in street protest, we have seen how the mass media of the regime has begun to spread lies so as to attack and criminalise us. This campaign, jointly orchestrated with the repressive forces of the Spanish state, aims to create a context in which, by targetting us for political persecution, repression towards us can be legitimised and legal persecution can be justified as well.

“The regime’s media and political parties do not hesitate to invent an alleged kale borroka that does not and will not exist. What really frightens them is the existence of a united, cheerful and combative people. What scares them is that we practice active pacificism as a method of social change; what scares them is that we have the ability to stop the country. They fear that every time we organise the more aware we will become of the power we have.

“They have the force of the law, the power of the press, the violence of the truncheon and all the economic resources. As for us, we have nothing but an inspiring project: the building of a better country, from the bottom up and for everyone. We also have each other, each and every one of us shoulder to shoulder, and we have that which most frightens them—the future.

“Because we in the CDRs are students, farmers, firefighters, unemployed, shopkeepers, waiters, receptionists, teachers, self-employed, carers, computer technicians, cooks, hairdressers, postal workers, industrial workers, retirees… we in the CDRs are the people and we are here to build the Republic.

“We therefore denounce the attempts at criminalisation--of the press, of the law and of all the powers-that-be of a repressive and fascist state. Fear has changed sides and we will continue in the street, achieving our goals through non-violent, committed action.

“They won’t have enough jails to hold a peaceful people set on struggle.”

For these reasons, the undersigned Parliamentary Groups present the following:

Draft resolution

First. The Parliament of Catalonia considers protest, mobilisations and the peaceful, non-violent resistance and civil disobedience typical of a mature democracy as absolutely legitimate forms of political action.

Second. The Parliament of Catalonia denounces and unambiguously opposes the operations used for the State against the Defense Committees of the Republic by the different police forces and judicial bodies, in repeated violation of the civil and political rights of citizens.

Third. · The Parliament of Catalonia condemns criminalisation of social protest, repression and institutional violence and stands in support of freedom of expression, ideological freedom and freedom to demonstrate, and of the popular will favouring the right to self-determination and the construction from below of a better country for everyone in the form of a Republic.

Carles Riera Albert (Representative, CUP)

Elsa Artadi I Vila (Spokesperson, JxCat)  

Sergi Sabrià I Benito (Spokesperson, ERC)


April 11: Steve Bannon, former far-right Trump advisor, to visit Spain on invitation of Spanish.chauvinist outfit Vox in order to "combat separatist propaganda outside Spain".

April 11: Vera Jourová, EU justice commissioner, states that the Schleswig-Holstein court "acted according to the rules" in its tretament of Carles Puigdemont.

April 11: PSOE federal secretary Pedro Sánchez sees no reason to apply anti-terrorist legislation against the CDRs.

April 11: Act of homage to Oriol Junqueras takes place in the Auonomous University of Barcelona's Faculty of Philosophy and Letters after being banned by the Department of Economics and Business.

April 11: Supreme Court prosecutor Javier Zaragoza, on the program Espejo Público: “What is happening in Catalonia with the CDRs is a similar situation to what happened in the Basque Country with groups of young people committing what they called low-intensity terrorism."

April 11: PSC secretary Miquel Iceta: "The actions of the CDRs are not terrorism."


Snapshot (Ara, April 11)

Tarragona woman questioned for hanging a banner against the police on her balcony and publishing it on the web

She has been charged with a hate crime and must appear in Tarragona Court 2 on Wednesday

A woman from Tarragona will be questioned in court for hanging a banner on her own balcony which read: “Police, go home". The woman took a photo of the façade of her building showing banner and posted it on social networks with the message "A thousand eyes are watching you, we will not let you hurt us".

She has posted a message on Twitter in which she explains: "On Wednesday April 11 at 10:00 a.m. I have to appear in Court Number 2. The police have reported me for a hate crime after hanging this banner and tweeting about it. I guess I’m lucky I don’t know how to rap”1. Messages of support for her have also appeared on the web, encouraging people to accompany her to court.

Footnote:

1. A number of hip-hop artists have recently been convicted in Spain for lyrics and/or Twitter posts that were deemed to be offensive.

Translation: Ara


April 10: Xavier Domènech easily wins the position of general secretary of Podemos Catalonia and his team wins 37 of the 44 places on the Regional Citizens Council [state executive, in Australian terms].

April 10: Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau: "The charge of terrorism against the CDRs is a piece of madness and an insult to the victims of terrorism."

April 10: Demonstrations across Catalonia against the arrest of CDR member Tamara Carrasco (below, St James Square, Barcelona).

April 10 Barcelona demonstration against arrest of CDR member

Protestors at April 10 demonstration against arrest of CDR member on charge of "terrorism"

April 10: European Commission spokeperson  Margaritis Schinas avoids answering journalists' questions as to whether the CDRs are responsible for "terrorism".

April 10: CUP continues to reject the candidature for president of Jordi Sànchez, saying that Carles Puigdemont is the only legitimate candidate.

April 10: Supreme Court bench rejects complaint, brought by a member of the Catalan police, against National Court judge Carmen Lamela for having sent Catalan ministers to prison.

April 10: Spanish prosecutor general's office extradites presumed smuggler to Germany with the comment that "in no way have the crimes in question been evaluated" and that this is "in loyalty to the spirit that has to prevail in the execution of European arrest warrants."

April 10: Civil Guard ends up arresting only one CDR member, Tamara Carrasco, facing charges of "terrorism" and rebellion. Nonetheless, the provisions of Spanish anti-terrorism law are not applied in her case and she is immediately able to see a lawyer.

April 10: JxCat, ERC, CUP and CatECP condemn arrests of CDR members. PP leader Xavier García Albiol finds the action "very gratifying".

April 10: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent on Catalan public channel TV3: "We have to be able to form a government, but not at any price."

April 10: Civil Guard arrest eight CDR members, accusing them of "rebellion" and "terrorism".

April 9: (Below) Letter of Esteban González Pons, PP Member of the European Parliament, in reaction to the release of Puigdemont by regional court of Schleswig-Holstein. Sent to all MEPs yesterday.

April 9: (El Nacional) German newspaper 'Bild' accuses Spanish journalist of promoting terrorism.

April 9: The dean of the School of Economy and Business in the Autonomous University of Barcelona prohibits an act in solidarity with Oriol Junqueras from being held in its premises.

April 9: PP to demand withdrawal of the Carles Puigdemont's right to delegate his vote to another MP in the Catalan parliament now that he is free to move in Gremany.

April 9: Meritxell Serret, agriculture minister exiled in Brussels who has surrendered her seat in the Catalan parliament, to head up ERC team for the structures of the republic in exile.

April 9: CUP affiliate Endavant states that "the right to self-determination cannot be small change in negotiations with the [Spanish] state."

April 9: Joan Herrera, former national coordinator for Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV), says on TV3 that the unilateral road to a referendum has not worked and that it is time to "abandon the trenches and stitch ourselves back together".

April 9: Education minister Clara Ponsati, in exile in Edinburgh, says that if judge Pablo Llarena rules  again--despite UN Human Rights Committee statement of concern--that Jordi Sànchez cannot be invested, Crales Puigdemont should return as candidate.

April 9: Felipe VI, in Barcelona for inauguration ceremony for new intake of judges, met by demonstration of CDR and students from the Higher School of Music (ESMUC), located in the same building where ceremony is taking place.


Comment (Esther Vera, Ara, April 9)

A hammer blow to Spain

Rajoy’s government now has more problems on its hands than it realises

The hammer blow delivered by Germany has provided an opportunity for all those involved in Catalonia’s independence process to rethink their position. The German court’s decision not to recognise the crime of rebellion, as part of President Carles Puigdemont’s extradition request, puts Spain in an awkward position in the eyes of its European neighbours. Spanish justice, at the hands of Judge Pablo Llarena, has made the wrong move against a true democracy where those in power do not wield their influence through the courts, nor through university rectors1 and sympathetic politicians. Spain’s loss of face concerns the ongoing cases in Germany, Belgium and also in Switzerland, where one would have to be truly naïve to believe the surprise decision to act on the European Arrest Warrant for Hervé Falciani is a mere coincidence. The Spanish police arrested Falciani when they needed someone extradited from Switzerland2.

Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein court decided to release the President of the Generalitat and it now needs to decide whether to extradite him for misappropriation of public funds. While the German Justice Minister covers her back by pre-emptively showing her support for judicial decisions, Madrid has threatened to take the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union. It’s a stand-off between Spain and Germany.

The court’s decision complicates Justice Llarena’s case, exposing its political bias. Meanwhile, Puigdemont, the ministers in Brussels, Marta Rovira and Anna Gabriel remain free; and Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez, Carme Forcadell, Josep Rull, Jordi Turull, Dolors Bassa, Joaquim Forn and Raül Romeva remain behind bars, hundreds of kilometres away from their families. The same day as the president’s extradition was thrown out of court, Major Josep Lluís Trapero, an exemplary public servant, as demonstrated on 17 August [the terrorist attacks on Barcelona and Cambrils and its aftermath], was charged with the sort of crimes you would expect from the Mafia or a terrorist organisation.

Politics

You don’t have to be brave to be a politician, but conducting politics takes bravery.
The German court’s decision means Spain can change its strategy, while those who favour independence, who up until now have been forced to improvise, can make long-term plans. However, recognizing new political circumstances calls for courage in assessing the situation.

To begin with, Spain’s justice will have to review the charges brought against the Catalan leaders and the PP government will have to decide whether its priority is winning the war against the Ciutadans party in the council elections next year or facing up to the inevitable normalisation and recognition of the independence movement as a key player in Catalan, Spanish and European politics. Rajoy’s government now has more problems on its hands than it realises and it would have us believe. Germany has no desire to have internal problems and Chancellor Merkel is unlikely to contradict her Justice Minister in order to appease Spain, her European partner. As for the PP, however, Spain’s Foreign Minister has slammed the German minister and the PP leader in Catalonia played down the court’s significance, accusing it of being "regional".

Spain’s bilateral relations with its European partners will become increasingly strained and its reputation affected by evidence of the politicization of justice, influence peddling and abuse of power. Spain can still boast of its economic growth in recent years, but this is tempered by warnings that its public pension system is unsustainable. The economic gains are overshadowed by its management of Catalonia and the problem continues to grow.

Internally, Rajoy has begun to see his potential successors showing their hand. He will have to choose between digging his heels in or engaging in politics and negotiating. Unfortunately, nothing makes one think he will choose the latter option.

Civic-mindedness

In the pro-independence camp, the court’s decision has boosted its collective morale. The humiliation of seeing the President of the Generalitat extradited has been delayed or perhaps vanished altogether. The strategy of appealing to help from abroad is taking shape and the internationalisation of the process is becoming a reality. Puigdemont’s insistence on calling for talks with Spain "with no red lines" and with "mutual respect", and his claim that "independence is not the only possible solution", ought to lower the risk that the boost of confidence gained this week might lead to deadlock. The struggle continues and Jordi Sànchez is the third candidate for the presidency since the election on 21 December. The Spanish government could play smart and accept the decision. But they won’t. Once they have shown their contempt for the political rights of the winning parliamentary majority following the elections, they will need to choose whether to go to the polls once again or initiate plan D.

The tools of those who favour independence continue to be a civic-minded spirit and democratic majorities.

Translation: Ara

Footnotes

1. This is a reference to the latest scandal involving the ruling PP, in which the President of the Madrid region has been accused of having falsely obtained an MA.
2. ERC leader Marta Rovira recently fled to Switzerland.

Week ending April 8

174 nights with political prisoners
174 nights with political prisoners


Main events, April 2-April 8


April 8: Oriol Junqueras sends message to Felipe González thanking him for his position.

April 8: Former Spanish prime minister Felipe González (PSOE), interviewed by Jordi Evole on the Sixth channel, says he would prefer that the Catalan leaders in jail ("not political prisoners", according to González) were released until convicted of a definite crime.


April 8: Voting intention trends, Spanish State: average of 12 pollsters

Poll average (March 2018) Voting Intentions


Comment (Victoria Prego, El Independiente, April 5)

A devastating blow against democratic Spain

The decision of the judges of the Regional Court of Schleswig-Holstein is a very harsh blow for the Spanish Supreme Court, for the Government and for all Spaniards who feel deeply that the challenge posed to the unity of Spain by the secessionists has undoubtedly been accompanied by violence of all kinds, including that exercised against all Catalan society opposed to independence.

The situation could not be more negative, not only in judicial but also in political terms. Because the tremendous thing is that, thanks to the decision of some German judges, the leader of the rebellion will not be able to be judged for this crime, and that will create a very striking difference of treatment with respect to the other defendants. For public opinion and, of course, above all for the independence movement, it will undoubtedly weaken the solidity of the legal argumentation of the Supreme Court's investigating judge Pablo Llarena. The prestige of our judges will be thrown into question even more sharply than it has already by the sector that defends that independent republic. But the political offensive will take on formidable sharpness because this decision of the German judges will be interpreted as something similar to an acquittal on the most serious principal issue: the attempt to overthrow the democratic constitutional State that continues to embrace us all.

From now on we can expect an authentic takeover of the streets and of the dominant narrative in Catalonia by the independentists and an even greater harassment than that it has habitually suffered of the population that has always defended the unity of Spain. Without any doubt, that is a very important victory for those who want to break up our country: it is an injection of morale of enormous magnitude. The "peaceful" resistance that we have been suffering for months is going to intensify and it will turn into greater harassment. On the other side, that of the defenders of the Constitution and the unity of Spain, what is going to intensify is the profound desolation that this blow has provoked.

The damage to the country and its future cannot be measured at the moment but it looks like becoming enormous. And belief in a Europe that supports our aspirations to belong to a club in which the freedoms and rights of its members are truly defended and the legal systems of each member nation are respected and supported--that belief is probably going to get weaker because this is not the first blow that Constitutional and democratic Spain has received from venerated Europe.When the European Court of Human Rights overturned the so-called Parot doctrine, it dealt an incomprehensible and unjustifiable blow to our country, which meant that not only ETA's greatest murderers went free long before their many crimes deserved, but also serial rapists, only to return to committing their crimes.

And now this. Many Spaniards are going to start turning their backs on that Europe that we had been waiting for, for so, so long. Desolation, bitterness, disenchantment, disappointment. There's little more that can be said today.


April 7: Madrid demonstration for right to decide. Banner reads: "Freedom for the political prisoners. Democracy! Republic(s)!

April 7 Madrid demonstration for right to decide


April 7: ANC states that while it understands the motives for proposing Jordi Sànchez as president, its candidate remains Carles Puigdemont.

April 7: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent says he will propose Jordi Sànchez for the position of president of Catalonia at the next parliamentary session.

April 7: Unnamed sources close to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy say that while he is PM "he will never negotiate with Puigdemont".

April 7: Spanish-centralist bikies bash up a group hanging yellow ribbons on a roadside fence in the town of Artés (Bagès).

April 7: The PP discards the possibility of challenging the recognition by the Catalan parliament of the vote of Carles Puigdemont.

April 7: Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis says that the comments of the German attorney-general on the Puigdemont case were "unfortunate".

April 7: In Berlin media conference Puigdemont calls for release of political prisoners, investiture of Jordi Sànchez and the beginning of negotiations between the Spanish government and a newly constituted Catalan government. Vilaweb account here.

April 7: PP Catalonia leader Xavier García Albiol says that the release of Puigdemont could undermine Spanish confidence in Europan institutions.


Isabel Pires (Bloco de Esquerda – Left Bloc) is one of the Portuguese representatives who have signed a manifesto demanding the release of Catalonia’s political prisoners. For the first time, representatives of the Socialist Party (currently in government) and right-wing parties, such as the Social Democratic Party (PSD), have taken action. Written in the strongest terms, the document says: "We won’t contain our indignation at this frenzy of vindictiveness masquerading as legality, and we add our voice to all those in Europe and the world who call for the immediate freeing of Carles Puigdemont and all Catalan political prisoners."

The manifesto (which can be read here in Portuguese) will be presented on Friday in the auditorium of the Assembly of the Republic, the national parliament. Just last week, the Portuguese parliament passed a resolution urging that the Catalan problem be resolved through political means. But it is this manifesto that underscores the issue of the prisoners and, as Pires explains, although the government has not yet taken a position, a growing number of voice in Portugal are demanding the release of the prisoners.

Why did you sign the manifesto?
Because we want to defend the freedom of those whom we believe to be political prisoners.

The event will be held in the auditorium of the Assembly of the Republic, the national parliament.
We wanted to do it in the Assembly of the Republic because we believed that it holds symbolic power. Not only because there are representatives from different parties among the signatories, but also because it sends the message that the government should take a clearer position. It is very significant to be able to use the Assembly of the Republic’s auditorium. Ultimately, it is also a way of taking a political stand of sorts.

Five political parties have signed the manifesto. How important is that? Have all parties signed?
All have signed except one, the most right-wing party, which has not signed [the Social Democratic Centre-People's Party. CDS-PP]. We had never before gotten an MP from the PSD, and now they have signed, too. And the PS representative is important, because the PS, as governing party, is split on this matter. We hope that more people connected to this group will end up taking a stand.

Who is the representative whose joining surprised you the most?
The PSD, a right-wing party, is very important. It was not at all clear that he would end up signing, because it is a party that has a close ties with the Spanish PP. And from this point of view, it is extraordinary.

And the President of the Republic [Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa], what position does he have?
He has never said.

And the prime minister [António Costa]?
The prime minister is holding on to the position that all this is an internal Spanish affair and that, therefore, a statement is not necessary. Last week the government’s Secretary of State expressed this position. For now they remain non-committal.

We spoke two months ago. What changes have there been since then, in Portugal, regarding the Catalan affair?
Although there has been no avalanche of pronouncements about the matter, I believe that, yes, there is a very substantial difference from two months ago. At the moment, unlike what happened after the referendum, there are more and more people, especially people who write opinion articles, academics, teachers, who are committing themselves publicly. The question of the political prisoners has more and more visibility. And this, from the point of view of Portuguese politics, is very important. Portugal experienced a long dictatorship and knows what political prisoners are. For Portuguese society, this idea is very powerful. In Portugal we do not accept that people should be imprisoned for political reasons, and we condemn this.

What pressure can Portugal apply on Spain?
Portugal, like other EU nations, must criticise what has been happening in Spain and the decisions that have been made. And say that the judicial power is being used to stage a political offensive. Therefore, I believe that European states must join together and make public statements rejecting the existence of political prisoners in Catalonia. The countries should address this question. It is not easy, but we will not stop pressuring until this position is reached.

Northern Europe is deciding again on southern Europe.
These things are typical of the EU: cyclically, Germany and France, the countries that rule, are still predominant. And in the case of Germany it is especially important because it can stop, in a way, this process.

Germany, Portugal and Spain. Three countries that lived the transition from a dictatorship to democracy in a very different way. What weight do you assign to the Spanish Transition in order to understand what is happening today?
A parallel with the Portuguese Revolution can be drawn. In Portugal we managed to get rid of the power structures of the dictatorship. In Spain, on the other hand, the transition was negotiated, and the same thing did not happen. In Spain there are still remnants of this Francoist power. And that is the main difference between the two countries: the democratic paths that they followed are different. For example, now Spain is using these laws [sedition and rebellion], which we do not have in Portugal.

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


April 4: Barcelona FC CDR members launch yellow balloons at Barça-Roma Champions League match in support of political prisoners. The match also takes place before a banner calling on the Italian authorities to release the refugee rescue vessel Open Arms.

April 4: 1000-strong demonstration in Girona in support of one CDR member charged with cutting the rail line at Girona station during the November 8 general strike.

April 4: AMI and the Catalan Association of Municipalities and Shires (ACM) prepared to join the broad front in defence of Catalonia's democratic rights being promoted by parliament speaker Roger Torrent.

April 4: Josep Maria Cervera, president of the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI) states that "the Puigdemont card has to be played right to the end".

April 4: Poster for April 7 Madrid demonstration demanding freedom for the Catalan political prisoners.

April 7 Madrid solidarity with Catalonia demonstration poster

April 4: Madrid government anounces that is studying a legal appeal to the Constitutional Court against the decision of the Catalan parliament's speakership panel to accept Carles Puigdemont's vote.

April 4: PP to present draft law on "multilingual education" to the Catalan parliament.

April 4: After weeks of silence, PSOE leader Pedro Sànchez states that "there is no freedom of expression in Catalonia", "socialists are suffering violence in Catalonia" and Catalan public channel "TV3 is not an example of plurality of information". He later meets with representatives of Catalan Civil Society to thanks them for "defending the values of all citizens" and "social harmony among the peoples of Spain".


Solidarity with Catalonia (Portugal)

Free the Catalan political prisoners!

Statement by signed by Portuguese Members of Parliament from the Left Bloc, Socialist Party, Social-Democratic Party, United Democratic Coalition (Communist Party and Greens) and People Animals Nature as well as numerous social movement activists and intellectuals. The full list of signatories and the Portuguese text can be found here. The statement will be launched on Friday, April 6 in the auditorium of the Portuguese parliament,

The president of the Generalitat [government] of Catalonia, exiled in Belgium five months ago, was arrested last Sunday in Germany in a controversial operation involving the Spanish and German secret services. He was returning from Finland, where he had gone on the invitation of its Parliament.

Carles Puigdemont was re-elected to the Catalan Parliament three months ago, in an election which, contrary to all the expectations of the Spanish government, reinforced a majority favorable to Catalonia’s independence, to the right of the region to decide its future and to the reinstatement of the President of the Generalitat.

In addition to Puigdemont, nine Catalan independence leaders have been pre-emptively detained without bail, eight of them being re-elected in December, including the former Speaker of the Catalan Parliament and the Vice-President of the Generalitat. Four of these prisoners have been held in custody for five months.

Proof of the punitive bent of the Spanish Supreme Court was its refusal to release one of these prisoners, Joaquim Forn, a member of the suspended Catalan government, whose defence lawyers had requested that he be able to await trial in freedom so as to treat tuberculosis he had contracted in jail. Judge Pablo Llarena, author of all these arrest warrants, refused this request on the pretext that the detainee could be treated in prison ...

The same judge has proceedings open so far against a total of 22 Catalan political leaders and activists, who are joined by more than a thousand mayors and school principals awaiting rulings on their collaboration in the organisation of the October 1 referendum. He has recently prevented another of the prisoners, the social movement leader Jordi Sànchez, from being able to defend before the Catalan Parliament his candidacy for the presidency of the Generalitat—without any court sentence having withdrawn his political rights. This was the opposite of what the Spanish justice system itself did in 1989, when an ETA prisoner was allowed out of jail to defend his candidacy as leader of the Basque regional government.

On Friday, March 23, the same day as the UN Human Rights Committee called on the Spanish State "as a matter of urgency” to "guarantee all the political rights of Jordi Sànchez" the new pro-independence presidential candidate, Jordi Turull, was arrested in Madrid on the eve of facing a second parliamentary vote.

In addition to Puigdemont, four other members of his government and two independence leaders are in exile in Belgium and Switzerland; the Spanish Government has issued a European arrest warrant against all of them. The last, on Friday, was the Republican leader Marta Rovira who left the country accompanied by her daughter so as not to be prevented from "giving her everything that I can give her", leaving Catalonia in "deep sadness" at having to part from"so many people that I love" and with whom "I shared so many struggles over so many years with a single goal: to change society, to make it more just."

Only authoritarian regimes--in the form of harsh democracies or soft dictatorships1-- have political prisoners. They alone detain politicians and social movement leaders who have been elected aslegitimate  representatives of the people and who have never used political violence to defend their ideals, accusing them of crimes of "rebellion" and "sedition" and thus interpreting as "violence" the exercise of the basic rights to demonstration and expression of opinion.

Spain's rulers can repeat until they are blue in the face the mantra that Spain is a "consolidated democracy", but their actions on the Catalan issue all point in the opposite direction. Many European rulers can turn a blind eye and pretend not to understand that—whatever they think of the right to self-determination of the Catalan people—democracy and human rights are what is at stake, in Catalonia and in Spain as a whole!

We, by contrast, won’t contain our indignation at this frenzy of vindictiveness masquerading as legality, and we add our voice to all those in Europe and the world who call for the immediate freeing of Carles Puigdemont and all Catalan political prisoners.  Let all political and legal practices that are incompatible with respect for the civil and political rights of Catalan citizens end once and for all and, as everyone has called for, let there be political negotiations over a political problem.

March 27, 2018

Footnote

1. The Portuguese original contains the untranslatable coinages «democraduras» and «dictablandas»--so "harsh democracies" and "soft dictatorships"


April 3: Die Linke MPs interview with Carles Puigdemont (in English)

April 3: Jaume Collboni, PSC leader in Barcelona Council, calls for the road blockades of the CDRs to be stopped.

April 3: PP calls on the Catalan parliament speakership panel to rescind its decision on recognising the vote of Carles Puigdemont. If not done the PP will lodge an appeal with the Constitutional Court. Citizens follows suit. The CUP values the decision "very positively".

April 3: Spanish interior ministry sacks Annabel Marcos, the principal of the Catalan police academy, after a report on the Spanish-centralist web-based paper El Español that she had transported ballot boxes in her car on October 1.

April 3: The general secretary of Citizens, José Manuel Villegas, says his party will call on the Spanish parliament to declare Catalan pro-independence organisations (the Catalan National Assembly, Òmnium Cultural and the Association of Municipalities for Independence) illegal.

April 3: The speakership panel of the Catalan parliament decides by four to three that the vote of Carles Puigdemont should be recognised by parliament.

April 3: Regional prosecutor of Schleswig-Holstein decides that Spain's extradition warrant for Carles Puigdemont should go to trial, and asks that the court decide that Puigdemont remain in jail in the interim.

April 3: Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau on Spanish TV program Espejo Público: "The vast majority of protests have been peaceful: it is not true that there has been street violence. Let's not create unnecessary alarm."

April 3: Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas (Puigdemont's defence lawyer): "We don't live in a democracy, we live in a partyocracy where the parties are in permanent competition. Judges shouldn't take that into account, but they are human and take into account the environment they live in." Also: "It's logical that I say there was no crime of rebellion, but all Spanish professors of law of all tendencies say it as well."

April 3: CDR of Barcelona FC asks members to bring yellow balloons to tomorrow's Champions League match against Rome, to be inflated and released 17 minutes and 14 seconds into the game to shouts of "independence and freedom".

April 3: Clara (CDR member interviewed on Catalonia Radio): "They are creating a narrative to criminalise us and we are preparing our legal response." Also: "There have been plants in the CDRs ever since October 1, and we are identifying those who have been infiltrated."


Comment (Javier Pérez Royo, Ara, April 3)

What can we expect from the European judge?

The decision—rather, the decisions—will be formally national, but de facto European: it is impossible for Europe to agree with Spain’s top judicial bodies in their definition of the crime of rebellion

From a formal viewpoint, there are four jurisdictional bodies from four European countries that need to rule on the European arrest warrant issued by Spanish judge Pablo Llarena. Each one is expected to issue a ruling on a single, individual case, except for the Belgian judge, who will do so on two cases. Therefore, we cannot speak of a single “European judge” who is expected to reach a decision, as the title of this article would suggest.

Nevertheless, while there isn’t a single European judge as such, I believe that de facto there is. Each and every one of the judges will decide on their own. But every one of them knows that the individual cases that they are expected to decide on are all linked by a common thread. And all of them realise that this affair has taken centre stage as far as Europe’s public opinion is concerned, as a browse through the papers will easily confirm. And it is not just Europe’s public opinion: recall the recent NYT editorial.

There are times when a decision by one nation’s jurisdictional body becomes a reference for the others. The case of the Canadian Supreme Court’s opinion on Quebec springs to mind. Even though it was not a ruling —it was not prompted by a court case, but by a formal enquiry from the federal government— and, therefore, it did not set a trial precedent, this opinion has become the single most influential piece of doctrine on what the right to self-determination is —and what it is not—, as well as on the conditions under which a secession referendum may be held within a democratic country.

The cases on which the German, Swiss, Belgian and Scottish judges must rule are formally separate and individual, but there is a shared link: what constitutes a crime of rebellion in a democratic European country well into the 21st century?

That is the question that must be answered by the four jurisdictional bodies of the four nations where the Catalan nationalist politicians are held and against whom the European warrant has been issued. And all four judges know that their answer will establish a European common denominator on the subject of rebellion crimes. Even if they do it in their own individual way, together they will decide what a crime of rebellion is and what it is not; what sort of “violence” is required for an event to be characterised as a crime of rebellion.

Make no mistake: the decision —rather, the decisions— will be formally national, but de facto European. Rather than four individual decisions, we will see four concurrent votes on a single decision. All of them will seek the European common denominator, something that can be objectively and reasonably justified in front of Europe’s public opinion.

At any rate, that European common denominator could never be the content of the brief or the warrant issued by Justice Llarena. On the subject of the crime of rebellion, all four judges will dismiss the arrest warrant. They will not allow the Catalan politicians to be tried for rebellion in Spain because it is impossible for the European judges to make that sort of collective decision. And they know that they cannot make contradictory decisions.

Spain’s Public Prosecutor, Audiencia Nacional and Supreme Court have been playing with fire and they will get their fingers burnt. It is impossible for Europe to agree with Spain’s top judicial bodies in their definition of the crime of rebellion in the case of the Catalan nationalist politicians. Some voices in media and academia have taken for granted that, following Carles Puigdemont’s arrest in Germany, the Catalan leader would be handed over to the Spanish authorities under the terms that Justice Llarena has laid out. It is not going to happen. All that Spain’s justice will achieve is to see its prestige in Europe eroded even further.


April 2: University of St Andrews' students turn out to demonstrate support for Clara Ponsati despite rotten weather.

April 2 (from March 29): Interviewed in the Diari de Girona, British writer John Carlin says that "[Supreme Court judge Pablo] Llarena is the one that should be locked up in jail".

April 2: Assembly of Workers in Defence of Catalan Institutions (ADIC) calls on European citizens and institutions to support Catalonia's democratic rights.

April 2: Xavier Domènech (CatECP) clarifies position on CDRs after complaints on social networks over his interview in yesterday's  La Vanguardia in which he said that he didn't support their actions that lead to violence: "Badly expressed on my part: no criminalisation of citizen protest."

April 2: Albert Rivera (Citizens) says that the CDRs are "separatist commandos".

April 2: PSOE federal secretary Pedro Sánchez (after total silence on Catalonia for weeks): "I am very worried about the violence in Catalonia."

April 2: PSC spokesperson Salvador Illa: "The insurrection of the CDRs could lead to civil confrontation in Catalonia."

April 2: Estremera prison official José Angel Hidalgo asked to explain to his superiors the reasons for this article in the web-based magazine CTXT, in which he criticises the jailing of Catalan politicians.

April 2: ERC spokeperson Sergi Sabrià says the PSC will have to break with article 155 if it wants to reach agreements with the ERC.

April 2: Javier Maroto (PP spokeperson: "The CDR recall the kale borroka" and "the Mossos d'Esquadra (the Catalan police] are not doing enough to stop disturbances."

April 2: Aitor Esteban (Basque Nationalist Party) says that the Catalan leaders "have to get their act together" and form a government, so as to enable the lifting of article 155.


Week ending April 1

166 nights with political prisoners

166 nights with political prisoners


Main events, March 26-April 1


April 1: (El Nacional) The Catalan case bursts onto the European stage (no more an internal matter)

April 1: (El Nacional) German think tank warns over consequences of extradition

April 1: On the Basque Day of the Land (Aberri Eguna), the left independentist forces (izquierda abertzale)--celebrating in Iruñea (Pamplona)--call for both Basque and Catalan independence from the repressive Spanish state. In Bilbo (Bilbao), Basque Nationalist Party (PNB) leaders reaffirm their refusal to support the Spanish state budget until article 155 intervention in Catalonia is lifted.

April 1: CDRs continue wave of actions, removing tollway barriers on three expressways (see below, for action on AP-7 near El Vendrell).

CDR removes toll gates on AP-7 expressway near El Vendrell

April 1: Two Die Linke (The Left) MPs, Diether Dehm and Zaklin Nastic, visit Puigdemont in Neumünster jail. They offer him a house in Germany in case he is released while awaiting trial and call on the German government not to side with its Spanish counterpart.

April 1: Puigdemont: "October 1 was the beginning of another epoch from which there is no turning back."

April 1: Former Catalan president Artur Mas advises against investing Carles Puigdemont as president, even though it would be totally legitimate,  because it would open others to legal reprisals: "It has to be seen whether that is worth the trouble ... or whether it is better to strengthen our forces and move forward."

April 1: Jordi Sànchez from prison: "Six months ago today the democracy, non-violent resistance, civil behaviour and determination of the people triumphed."

April 1: ERC leader Pere Aragonés restates the need for dialogue with the Spanish state.


Background (Ara, March 28)

Der Spiegel calls for asylum for Puigdemont

Most German newspapers oppose extradition of Catalan president

While the Territorial Court of Schleswig-Holstein decides whether or not to extradite Carles Puigdemont, a good deal of the German press is calling for the President to not be handed over to the Spanish authorities. In an editorial titled "Asylum for Puigdemont”, Jakob Augstein —an influential journalist and co-owner of Der Spiegel— calls for the Catalan leader to not be extradited. Augstein writes that "The detention of Puigdemont is an embarrassment. For Spain. For Europe. For Germany." And he also reminds readers about the arrest of another Catalan president, Lluís Companys: "The Germans already handed over one Catalan politician to the Spanish. Lluís Companys declared independence in 1934. He was arrested and tried. After the victory of the leftist forces he was freed, fought against Franco, escaped to France, and was captured there by the Gestapo and sent back to Spain. He was executed on October 15, 1940."

"Rebellion is a crime that requires the use of force under Spanish law, but violence has never been spoken of in Catalonia. At least not by the Catalan side. It was the Spanish police who attacked the Catalans last fall when they wanted to vote in a referendum", reflects Augstein. And he adds: "The Spanish are calling for the extradition of Puigdemont. Germany must reject this. A politician who uses peaceful means to fight for his objectives should not have to go to prison."

Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung has taken the same line as Der Spiegel and questions the fact that Puigdemont stands accused of rebellion. It also warns that under no circumstances can possible political motives behind a case be ignored. It argues that judges must turn down the extradition request because "it is not the instrument to resolve internal conflicts”.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine is much more neutral but does not take a position in favor of extradition. It describes the situation and stresses that the German government has always said that the Catalan conflict must be resolved "within the Spanish legal and constitutional order."

Translation: Ara


March 31: The state prosecutor of Schleswig-Holstein to decide by Tuesday, April 3 if Puigdemont has a case of extradition to answer to.

March 31: ANC plants 3000 yellow crosses on the beaches of Cadaqués, Port de la Selva (Alt Emporda) and Argelers (North Catalonia, in France) to remember political prisoners and exiles.

March 31: Puigdemont on his Twitter account. "So everyone is clear: I will not give in, I will not resign and I will not retreat in the face of the illegitimate behaviour of those who lost at the ballot box nor in the face of the arbitrary action of those who are prepared to pay the price of sacrificing the rule of law and justice for the 'unity of the fatherland'."


Comment (Suso de Toro1, el diario, March 28)

Puigdemont is our president too2

Galician author Suso de Toro

In the middle of a Spanish National Radio (RNE) broadcast from Valladolid3 in front of a live audience the presenter announces the news of President Puigdemont’s arrest by the German police at the request of the Spanish prosecutor, i.e., of the Spanish government.

Immediate reaction of the audience—applause. But surely not all the audience: some would have been people who instead of feeling jubilant would have been cringeing at news announcing something deplorable, a politician pursued by the police on the orders of the corrupt government of M. Rajoy4. It may even have been that some people who instinctively joined in the applause later felt ashamed.

Surely so, but what a sinister reaction from that audience, which could have been any audience that follows the RNE in many other cities of Spain. A reaction typical of volunteer jailers: the hatred implanted by Spanish politics and media towards the rulers of Catalonia and the more than two million who voted for them has degraded people and social life to a degree not known for forty years. And that corresponds to the image the Kingdom of Spain has re-acquired, of a repressive country where political differences are solved with police and prisons, a country from which dissidents either flee or end up in jail.

These are the striking results of an implacable plan drawn up from the very moment M. Rajoy arrived at the Moncloa5, transported there by all the  bank-owned media of the monarchy. They immediately "took over" Spanish public televison (TVE) and this was indicative of what they were going to do elsewhere. To apply their program of theft of social rights and looting of the state they needed to end freedom of expression--they already had the newspapers and television stations on side--and so they drafted the Gag Law6.

Over the years since then they have been administering successive but regular doses of Francoism, doses so small that they have gone almost unnoticed,  imperceptibly intoxicating us: as we swallowed they took away everything, the welfare state and freedom. We went along accepting what they did to others by identifying with the flag (the Borbon flag) and a hymn (the Borbon military march) and a "unity" that meant persecution (“Go, get ‘em!”7) of those who would not submit. We got a little more Francoist every day as we laughed at the Catalans who got bashed up for wanting freedom, made jokes about the prisoners8, turning ourselves every day a little bit more into the jailers of the free. They have been vaccinating us against freedom to the point that we are scandalised that there are people who want to vote about whatever they want to vote about. Here freedom is something quite forgotten or unknown.

However, brainwashing and police repression were not enough: they also needed the judges and so carried out a reform of the legal system that not only withdrew legal protection and rights from individuals but also transformed the legal system as a separate power into a repressive instrument of the executive power. In addition to unblushingly placing openly Francoist judges into positions of power—thus controlling the National Court (Audiencia Nacional9) and the Supreme Court—in 2015 they adopted the law reforming the operation of the Constitutional Court. That reform implied reform of the entire state, the cancellation in practice of the legislative branch. On the pretext of carrying out an express reform to prosecute the then-president of the Catalan government, they transformed the Constitutional Court  into a reactionary instrument with unfettered power to carry out its repressive function10.

The People’s Party (PP) of M. Rajoy, after its Spain-wide campaign of collection of signatures against the Statute "of the Catalans”, filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court and maneuvered so that the composition of that court would accord with their interests. Thus the judges appointed by the PP challenged a colleague, Pablo Pérez Tremps11. And so a court in agreement with the PP issued a ruling that was far more important than the offense and the damage it inflicted on the Catalans. In fact, that ruling not only expelled Catalanism12  from the consensus on which the Constitution had been built, but also represented, I believe, a real refounding of the judicial system born of the Transition13.

A statute that had been drafted and approved by the Catalan parliament, trimmed back, given a brush14, approved by the Spanish parliament and then approved in a referendum by the Catalan people was changed by the Constitutional Court. The Catalans are today governed by a legal text that is no such thing. The statute that the parliaments and they themselves approved was not accepted by the Constitutional Court, which replaced it with another text, the original reworked with cuts. I won’t go now into the fact that court took out its frustration by cutting out points recognised in other statutes15: once the cutting and polishing began it was back to zero.   It’s not just a question of the suspension of the judicial framework in which the Catalans have been left since then, but also of the establishment of two principles: the Constitutional Court can interpret and modify any statutory text and it is not parliaments, the legislature, that establishes the law but the Constitutional Court, which stands above it. Thus, the Kingdom of Spain is no longer a full parliamentary system as commonly understood. But these things, so serious that they seem incredible, are much better known to Professor Javier Pérez Royo16.

For years it has been hard for me to believe the things that I have been writing about here: we were just not prepared to imagine this Francoist degeneration of Spanish public life. However, as regards hatred of the Catalans, yes, I believe everything. Just as I believe that everything that has been happening for months now has been a plan executed implacably step by step: from the Constitutional Court sentence they have been cornering the Catalans, giving them no respite, no negotiation, no way out, taking them to where they now have them—against the wall in a prison state.

When President Tarradellas returned from exile17, bringing back the Generalitat, the Catalan republican institution of self-government, he did it on the promise of Adolfo Suarez and the previous king18  that it would get recognition and fit into the constitution that was about to be drafted. But Suarez was pushed aside by the King himself and the Army, Suárez's democratic cheque account was left without funds, and now the Generalitat and its legitimate president (since no other has yet been elected) is in exile detained by the German police at the request of the government of M. Rajoy.

Moreover, none of this could have happened without a PSOE committed to the state strategy carried out by M. Rajoy and Felipe VI.

I shall not go on, I only recall what we have been saying for some time, it is not a question of independent republic or a Spanish kingdom, but of democracy or not. And in Spain that "not" means Francoism. Puigdemont is the president of the Catalans, no matter how much it galls M. Rajoy and Felipe of Borbon, but he is a democrat and it is our duty to defend his freedom.

Footnotes

1. Galician writer Suso de Toro, a long-standing supporter of the Catalan right to self-determination, is the author of Another Idea of Spain and various novels. He won the National Prize for Narrative in 2013.

2. “Puigdemont, our president” is a chant that’s heard at any demonstration for Catalan rights against the repression of the Spanish state. Suso de Toro’s point is that he is the president of any Spanish democrat as well.

3. Capital of Valladolid province and seat of the regional government of Castilla y León.

4.  “M. Rajoy” was how the name of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy appeared in the payments column of the PP accounts of former treasurer Luís Bárcenas, presently on trial for corruption.

5. Spanish prime minister’s residence and official seat of the Spanish government. 

6. The Gag Law, whose official name is Law of Citizen Safety, has been in force since July 1, 2015. Its provisions cover 44 offences ranging from flashing laser beams at aircraft to organising unauthorised demonstration.

7. “Go get ‘em” (a por ellos) was the chant of Spanish-centralist demonstrators gathered outside Civil Guard barracks to send off Civil Guards going to Catalonia to stop the October 1 referendum.

8. For example, members of the Spanish National Police were recorded making offensive remarks about Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras on his being sent into detention.

9. The National Court descends from the Franco-era Court of Public Order . More detail here.

10. The Law governing the Constitucional Court was amended in October 2015 to give it powers to punish those judged to have disobeyed its rulings. The former president of the Catalan government mentioned is Artur Mas

11. Pablo Pérez Tremps, member of the “progressive sector” of the Spanish judiciary, is an expert in relations between the legal and constitutional branches of the Spanish justice system who was also a member of the Constitutional Court. During the appeal of the PP against the constitutionality of the Catalan Statute, his impartiality was questioned by lawyers for the PP case: their submission against his sitting on the case was carried six to five by at a full bench session of the Constitutional Court.

12. “Catalanism” is a broad concept that basically means recognition and affirmation of the value of Catalan society, language, culture and institutions. It can apply to supporters of independence as well as those seeking a different relation between Catalonia and the Spanish state.

13. That is, the transition from the Franco dictatorship.

14. The Statute as first adopted by the Catalan parliament was later “given a brush” (cepillado)—expression of PSOE leader and Spanish centralist Alfonso Guerra—by the Spanish parliament.

15. The Spanish solicitor-general idenified 85 articles in the Catalan Statute challenged by the PP that were already contained in other Statutes. Articles finally ruled unconstitutional by the court were already in operation in Andalusia and the Valencian Country.

16. As outlined in his book The Impossible Constitutional Reform. See various comment by Pérez Royo on this blog here, here and here.

17. In 1977, Josep Tarradellas, president of the Catalan government (Generalitat) in exile, returned to Spain where he negotiated with Spanish rpime minister Adolfo Suarez the re-establishment of the Generalitat as the legitimate government of Cataloonia.

18. King Juan Carlos, father of the present incumbent.


March 30: Report on yesterday's session in the Portuguese parliament (below: Left Bloc MPs wearing yellow ribbon of solidarity with Catalan political prisoners)

March 29 session, Portuguese parliament: Left Bloc MPs wearing the yellow ribbon in solidarity with Catalan political prisoners
A resolution moved by the Communist Party of Portugal (PCP) demanding a "political solution" to the national question in the Spanish state based on "respect for the will of its peoples and hence the Catalan people" is carried with the support of the Socialist Party (PS), Left Bloc, PCP, Greens and animal rights party. The Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Social Democratic Centre-People's Party (CDS-PP) vote against.

A second point in the PCP resolution condemning the "repressive measures" and "authoritarian turn of the Spanish authorities" is defeated when the SP vote against, but with 21 of its 86 MPs still supporting the motion and 8 abstaining.

A separate resolution by the Left Bloc condemning the Spanish state's "shows of violence" and expressing solidarity with the prisoners and exiles, and demanding their release and freedom to return is also defeated by the PS, PDS and CSD-PP bloc, even though 12 PS MPs abstain.

March 30: Trouble getting the story straight: the European arrest warrant issued by Supreme Court judge Llarena says that the Puigdemont government misappropriated €1.6 million in public funds to carry out referendu, while the Spanish government has conceded that no public moneys were spent on the referendum.

March 30: PDECat tables written question in Spanish parliament as to the legal basis of the tracking of Carles Puigdemont by 12 secret service agents.

March 30: Der Spiegel : German government will not overrule decision of the court of Schleswig-Holstein on whether or not to extradite Puigdemont.

March 30: JxCat: "Any other candidate for president than Carles Puigdemont will be provisional."

March 30: Wolfgang Schäuble, speaker of the Bundestag, says that the Puigdemont case "is by no means trivial".


Comment (Milan Kučan1, El Nacional, March 30)

The EU's silence on Catalonia

Milan Kučan
Spain's European arrest warrants, arrests, threats of drastic prison sentences and the extension of imprisonment for Catalonia's elected representatives all indicate that Spain has given up the possibility of tackling the Catalan crisis, which is eminently political, through political means. Spain has opted for violence and repression in the hope that it will succeed in preventing the Catalans from politically deciding their future. Their attempt to pass the complex political issue into the field of criminal law, unfortunately, necessarily leads to gross violations of political freedoms and interference with the dignity of the Catalans, who are also EU citizens.

As a result of the agreement on cooperation in criminal matters, now EU members have become an instrument of Spanish persecution of legitimate political considerations and their institutions. The crisis in Catalonia, with the arrest of the former President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont, thus reaches even more worrying dimensions. The EU's silence is therefore unclear. Fear of potential similar ambitions in different parts of Europe cannot be a reason for this blindfolding, let alone accepting undemocratic government practices.

Fear is not a good counsellor. The EU needs the reputation and faith of Europeans not to veer from its democratic foundations and values. That is why it is time for the EU's appeal to the Spanish government to resolve Catalonia's problem through dialogue and democratic, political means. After all, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which advocates the freedom of thought and expression, will be 70 years old this December.

Footnote

1. Milan Kučan was the first president of Slovenia (1991-2002)


March 29: Tweet of Gilles Simeoni, Executive President of the Council of Corsica: "Following the arrest of Carles Puigdemont, the Corsican Assembly votes, with obviously favorable opinion of the Executive Council of Corsica, a motion of support and solidarity with imprisoned Catalan leaders." The Council motion also demands the involvement of the EU in negotiations to address the conflict.

March 29: Organisers of the Barcelona World Race suspend the 2019 edition because of the "unstable political conjuncture".

March 29: Poster (below) for March 31 demonstration in Munich against deportation of Puigdemont, called jointly by ANC Munich and CDR Munich.

March 31 Munich demonstration against extradition of Puigdemont

March 29: Crowdfunding site for contributions to the legal costs of Carles Puigdemont and other exiled MPs set up here.

March 29: Article in Handelsblatt Global: "Why Germany Could Save Carles Puigdemont"

March 29: Survey by German daily Die Welt says 51% of those surveyed think Puigdemont should not be extradited, with 35% in favour and the rest undecided.

March 29: UK Guardian article says European powers-that-be still unmoved by conflict over arrest of Catalan MPs

March 29: Xavier Domènech (CatECP) repeats his proposal for a government made up of non-party progressives ("let the parties take a step backwards so that the country can take a step forwards").

March 29: Front cover, The National.

Front cover, The National, March 29, supporting Clara Ponsatí


March 28: Spanish daily El Mundo runs lead story based on Civil Guard report of alleged protester violence on October 1. Alleges that a protester kicked a defenceless Civil Guard in the back of the head in the town of Sant Esteve de les Roures. No town of this name exists in Catalonia...

March 28: Newly formed broad platform of union confederations and social movement organisations calls mass protest for Sunday, April 15, calling for release of political prisoners, lifting of article 155 intervention and social harmony between diferent communities living in Catalonia.

March 28: Ultra-right Spanish unionist party Vox, the "popular prosecution" [see explanation here] in the Supreme Court hearings against the Catalan leaders, demands that former premier Artur Mas and Neus Lloveras, the former president of the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI), be also charged with rebellion and embezzlement.

March 28: Over 50 Flemish MPs sign letter to Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy demanding that he open a dialogue with Catalan authorities.

March 28: Puigdemont's German defence lawyer says he will immediately appeal to the German Constitutional Court if the Catalan president is not released by local court considering the European arrest warrant against him.

March 28: Historian Josep Lluís Alay, travelling with Carles Puigdemont at the time of his arrest, himself arrested on return to Catalonia.

March 28: José Ángel Hidalgo, public servant with the Madrid prisons department, summoned to explain his interview on Catalan radio RAC1 in which he questioned why Catalan MPs were in prison.

March 28: 27 judges from 12 of the Spanish State's 17 autonomous communities (states) declare their solidarity with Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena. No judge from Catalonia signs the declaration.

March 28: Citizens MP to Catalan Ombudsman: "You are the Ombudsman of the independence process."

March 28: Der Spiegel calls for asylum for Puigdemont. See Ara's account (in English) here.

March 28: Catalan parliament adopts resolutions on: the rights of elected representatives to stand for elected office, specifically the right of Carles Puigdemont, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull to stand for the position of president; the release of jailed MPs and social movement leaders; the suspension of the article 155 intervention of the Spanish government in Catalonia; and the need for broad alliances as the basis for Catalonia's advance to self-determination. (Translated text of resolutions to come.)


March 28 session of Catalan Parliament: yellow ribbons mark seats of jailed and exiled MPs

March 28 session of Catalan Parliament, with yellow ribbons on seats of jailed and exiled MPs


March 28: Clara Ponsatí raises nearly £200,000 in less than a day through crowdfunding appeal for her legal expenses.

March 28: Catalan Ombudsman presents his report on October 1 to the Catalan parliament.

March 28: Four well-known writers denounce the detention of Catalan leaders in today's edition of Le Monde.

March 28: Clara Ponsatí released on bail in Edinburgh, and has to surrender passport.

March 28: Parliament approves the resolution of CatECP on the need to defend Catalonia's institutions and advance on the basis of broad social majorities.

March 28: A judge in Cornellà (outer Barcelona) charges eight senior Catalan police with sedition and refers the case to the National High Court (Audiencia Nacional).

March 28: Spanish National Police arrest at Barcelona airport the two Catalan police who were accompanying Puigdemont on his journey from Finland to Belgium.

March 28: Parliament rejects the resolution of PSC on "dialogue and reconciliation".

March 28: Enric Millo, delegate of the Spanish government in Catalonia, says that Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent is following the same course as his predecessor, Carme Forcadell (now in jail).

March 28: Elisenda Paluzie, the new president of the ANC, calls on parlament to invest Puigdemont as president.

March 28: Parlament rejects the resolution of Citizens demanding the resignation of Roger Torrent as speaker.

March 28: The New York Times publishes this editorial ("The Catalonia Dispute Ensnares Germany")

March 28: José Ángel Hidalgo, prison officer at Madrid's Estremera prison, on radio RAC1: "Junqueras and Forn are fine, they are receiving extraordinary treatment from the prison officers. But the question is, what are they doing here."

March 28: Education minister Clara Ponsatí presents herself at Edinburgh police headquarters, so as to answer to European arrest warrant issued by Spanish Supreme Court.

March 28: JxCat decides that if Suprme Court judge Pablo Llarena ignores the position of the UN in support of the right of parliamentarians to stand for any position they will present a fourth candidate for the position of president (after Puigdemont, Sànchez and Turull).

March 28: Spanish government spokesperson Iñigo Méndez de Vigo says after meeting of cabinet that "breaking the law is an issue of European importance".


March 27: The mayor of the industrial city of Granollers (Vallès Oriental), Josep Mayoral (PSC) has called on all mayors of the region to join the front for the defence of democracy proposed by speaker Roger Torrent in order to "win freedom for all persecuted persons" and end repression.

March 27: CDR Sants surrounds the main Barcelona railway station.


Ferreres, Ara, March 27

Zoido at work
Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido: "You sent the arrest warrant to Finland written in Spanish. This can't happen again! To Finland, in Finnish. To Belgium, in Belgian. To Switzerland, in Swiss.


March 27: CDR road closure campaign continues with police charges and arrests.

March 27: Scottish government formally complains to the Spanish ambassador to the UK about the issuing of the European Arrest Warrants against Puigdemont, Comin, Puig and Ponsatí.

March 27: Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, Puigdemont's lawyer, from Germany: "The president is firm, with courage and determination: he will not let down his ideals. He very much appreciates all the support he is getting and makes a call for the movement for sovereignty to stay united."

March 27: CCOO and UGT launch the platform Democracy and Social Harmony and call mass demonstration for April 15.

March 27: The majority of German dailies against extraditing Puigdemont.

March 27: Der Spiegel calls for political asylum to be granted to Puigdemont

March 27: Exiled minister for culture Lluís Puig on radio RAC1: "Creating a Spanish regional government on the assumption that our people will be released from prison is a lie. It would be to take a step backward and increase by many years the time in jail of those who are there. We need to recover the Catalan government, but not at any price. If we manage to defeat these extradition demands in some country we will be able to work there on everything we can't do in the Spain. The combination of the institutions, international actions and the civic and peaceful attitude of civil society have to get us out of this dead end."

March 27: CDRs initiative road blocks on highways across Catalonia.

March 27: Front cover of today's issue of the Scottish pro-independence daily, The National. Story here.

Today's issue of The National (Scotland)


Comment on likelihood of Puigdemont deportation to Spain (Javier Pérez Royo, Ara, March 27)

What can we expect from the German judge?

High treason and rebellion are similar in that they are both characterised by violence

In fact, the title should read "from the European Judge", since judges from four countries will have to rule on the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Judge Pablo Llarena [against the four Catalan MPs presently in exile]. But since all eyes are on Germany, I shall focus on the possible or probable response of the German judge.

As I am sure you found out on Sunday, if you weren’t already aware, the EAW allows for the immediate repatriation of the suspect by the judge of the country in which they have been detained. Said repatriation could be automatic, without the need for the German judge to analyse in the slightest the specific content of the EAW issued by Llarena.

This would have been the case if the offences of which Carles Puigdemont stands accused featured on the list of crimes for which this automatic repatriation is intended. However, rebellion [the main charge against president Carles Puigdemont] is not one of them. Consequently, the German judge is not only allowed to, but indeed obliged to, carry out an analysis of the facts surrounding the crimes of which Carles Puigdemont stands accused in order to find out whether or not they constitute the crime of rebellion.

This is the key to the question. As you may have learnt on Sunday, according to the German Criminal Code, there exists the crime of high treason, typified in terms that are not identical —but which some claim are comparable— to those of the crime of rebellion under the Spanish Criminal Code. From this point of view, assuming that the similarity stands, Puigdemont’s legal position before the German and the Belgian judges is different, as the crime of rebellion does not exist in Belgium’s Criminal Code.

The crime of rebellion in the Spanish Criminal Code is defined in a different way from the crime of high treason in the German Criminal Code. The closest offence to the German crime of high treason under Spanish law can be found in article 102.2 of the Spanish Constitution. This states that, "The President (of the government) shall be held criminally liable" if "the charge is of treason or any offence against the security of the State is committed".

However, let's imagine for a moment, no small thing, that there is a certain similarity between the German crime of high treason and the Spanish crime of rebellion. It does not necessarily follow from this that the German judge can proceed to accept the version of events as outlined in the EAW issued by Judge Llarena as constituting the crime of rebellion, however. The apparent similarity between the two merely allows the judge to agree to consider the EAW, but nothing more.

The German judge has the obligation to study the EAW and verify whether Carles Puigdemont's conduct can be classified as rebellion. And if it can be maintained in terms that confirm a certain degree of "similarity" between the German and Spanish criminal codes. In other words, if Carles Puigdemont’s conduct as described by Judge Pablo Llarena in the EAW constitutes an act of violence of the criminal kind both in terms of high treason and of rebellion.

High treason and rebellion are similar in that they are both characterised by violence. Without violence neither one nor the other exists. And not any form of violence, not the existence of violent incidents, but a violence planned from the initial moment of the uprising, in order to achieve the objectives outlined both in the German and Spanish Criminal Code. A ‘’violent uprising’’ is not the result of the juxtaposition of an adjective, and a noun, instead the two must be indivisibly linked from its inception to its completion. This indivisible pair is crucial when deciding what constitutes the crime according to the law.

This is the practically unanimous interpretation of violence under both Spanish and German law. For violence of a criminal nature to exist it must be physical violence, against people, not against property, and of an exceptional nature. Without these characteristics, violence or violent episodes may constitute a criminal offence, but not the crime of rebellion or high treason. This is what the German judge will have to confirm first and subsequently justify if he considers that he must accept the EAW issued by the Spanish judge.

My impression is that he will not be able to do so, since as Professor Francisco Javier Álvarez García explained yesterday in the Tribuna Abierta blog [Open Platform], "with the information on the table (found in the court’s resolutions) one cannot state that the Catalan politicians recently brought before the Supreme Court’s examining magistrate have committed a crime of rebellion".

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


March 26: Demonstrations in solidarity with Catalonia in Palma (Mallorca), Valencia and various cities in Galicia.

March 26: Jordi Sànchez calls for strict observance of principle of non-violence in demonstrations.

March 26: Parlament speaker Roger Torrent holds meetings with leaders of Micro, Small and Medium Business of Catalonia (PIMEC), the County Business Confederation of Terrassa (CECOT) and the Farmers Union. All three stress the need to form government.

March 26: Parlament speaker Roger Torrent holds meetings with leaders of majority union confederations UGT and CCOO. No specific measures agreed on beyond "creating a space for promoting social harmony". CCOO secretary general Javier Pacheco: "Abandoning the unilateral path is indispensable."

March 26: Jordi Turull from prison: "Isolate the provocateurs from demonstrations".

March 26: Jordi Sànchez states his willingness to stand for investiture as president on the basis of legal advice that, under the UN Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, he cannot be prevented from doing so.

March 26: Family members of jailed Catalan MPs meet with MEPs in European Parliament in Brussels.

March 26: Unionist organisation Catalan Civil Society (SCC) demands the resignation of Roger Torrent as speaker, because "in a democratic state it is inadmissable that an institutional representative deliver a speech supportive of a coup." [a reference to the October 1 referendum]

March 26: Spanish prosecutor's office in Catalonia demands protection for Supreme Court judge Llarena after he received a menacing tweet.

March 26: Catalan Ombudsman declares he will investigate behaviour of police at yesterday's protests against the detention of Carles Puigdemont and the five MPs taken into custody on March 23.

March 26: Workers in hospitals and Catalan Parliament stage protests in support of arrested Catalan leaders.

March 26: Albert Rivera (Citizens): "Nationalism is what we saw in the streets of Barcelona yesterday--hatred and confrontation."

March 26: College of Catalan Lawyers issues statement calling detention of MPs "disproportionate".

March 26: Five MPs detained on March 23 ask judge Llarena to allow them to vote in the Catalan parliament, as Llarena had already agreed for imprisoned JxCat leader Jordi Sànchez.

March 26: German government statement says that the case of Puigdemont will be solved "on the basis of Spanish law", and affirms that "Spain is a democratic state".

March 26: Puigdemont's first tweet from detention: "Now there must be no violence."

March 26: One thousand lawyers in Barcelona hold protest against the decisions of the Spanish Supreme Court.

March 26: Workers Commissions (CCOO) of Catalonia demand immediate release of political prisoners.

March 26: Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastic cancels visit to Barcelona.

March 26: Andoni Ortúzar, president of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), ends message to Puigdemont: "We're with you, president."


Week ending March 25

160 nights of political prisoners
160 nights with political prisoners


Main events, March 19-25


March 25: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent addresses Catalonia over TV3, calls for broad front for the defence of democratic rights in Catalonia. Citizens and PP criticise "partisan" use of public broadcaster. English version of Torent's speech here.

March 25: Demonstrations all over Catalonia (55,000 in Barcelona), protesting arrest of president Puigdemont and calling on German courts not to comply with European arrest warrant and hand him over to the Spanish legal system. Clashes with arrests and wounded in Barcelona. Graphics:

March 25: Sergi Perelló, leader of pro-independence union confederation  Intersindical-CSC, calls on workers opposed to repression of Spanish state to join Intersindical-CSC so as to make a general strike a success.

March 25: Demonstration in support of Puigdemont and calling on German authorities to deny extradition order (below).
Barcelona, March 25: demonstration in support of Puigdemont's release

March 25: German police arrest Carles Puigdemont after entering Germany from Denmark on his way back to Belgium. German court will consider extradition order tomorrow.


Opinion (Beatriz Talegón1, El Nacional, March 24)

The crack of March 23

(Comment on the jailing yesterday of the Catalan leaders)

Former PSOE youth leader Beatriz Talegón, supporter of a Catalan right to decide

Yesterday there was a creaking, it traveled from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar. Yesterday, yes, yesterday, Spain broke apart.

Like when you see an ice sheet breaking in the documentaries, yesterday that crack crack crack took place. And then everything was quiet. Like when there is snow, it absorbs the noise and the feeling is like a vacuum that is full ... strange.

Yesterday Spain was left without the rule of law. Crack!

And democracy was left completely naked. Wham!

Those who think they own Spain have tightened the rope so much that in the end they have exposed their own private parts.  Yesterday, directors of Spanish newspapers, twitterers, pedestrians on the streets of Madrid, neighbours, cousins, friends ... they all said "not in my name".

In Catalonia, for sure, they didn't notice. Because they were in shock watching Judge Llarena break the law and put in jail politicians accused of doing politics. But the shock also reached Spain.

My colleague Iu Forn2 explains it very well. Read him. Yesterday's low blow is unfortunately just  one more step, and although it may not seem so, evidence that proves the Republicans and also the supporters of independence right. Or did you think they would give us a Republic by asking for it nicely?

Now it is easier to explain to Spanish people that this was precisely what people supporting Catalan sovereignty, Basque sovereignty, Valencian sovereignty have been saying for a long time. Because of this way of administering justice, this enormous shortfall in democracy, this style of media lies, they want to leave it behind. It doesn't surprise me. I also want to become independent from this Spain.

Of course, that the right-wing inheritors of Franco's coup regime do this seems to me to be totally expected, even though I too am in shock and pain. But that the PSOE and Podemos can swallow this and are not leading massive demonstrations in a show of rejection of this government and of support for the Catalan people--that is heartbreaking.

I thought I saw them both fall yesterday inside the abyss that opened when Spain went crack.

Footnote

1. Former leader of the international of socialist youth, aligned with the social democracy, Beatriz Talegón was for a long time a dissident voice within the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). She has been a consistent supporter of the right to self-determination of the Catalans and other nations within the Spanish state.

2. Catalan commentator


March 24: Tarragona CDR organises roadblock with 1000 people of main north-south expressway in protest against jailing of Catalan MPs.

March 24: Abbott of Monteserrat issues a statement criticising the jailing of the Catalan parliamentarians.

March 24: Economist Elisenda Paluzie elected as president of ANC, replacing Jordi Sànchez.

March 24: Torrent tells meeting after parliamentary session that he will propose a broad anti-repression front at the enxt session.

March 24: Natàlia Sànchez (CUP): "We will fill the streets to empty the prisons."

March 24: Xavier Domènech (CatECPodem) calls on the pro-independence parties to form a government as soon as possible, and if they can't, to say so and alow a different majority to form.

March 24: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent suspends investiture session because Turull is absent in jail, but substitutes it with a session in which each party group can speak for 15 minutes on the political situation. The PP walks out.


Analysis (Dani Sánchez Ugart, Ara, March 24)

Spain: Supreme Court judge twists words to justify charges of rebellion against pro-independence leaders

Judge's convoluted semantics could lead to prison sentences of 10-30 years for the defendants

Barcelona demonstration against jailing of five Catalan leaders: "Republic Now"

Before sending five Catalan elected representatives back to prison, Pablo Llarena used his judicial statement on the charges against 25 politicians and leaders of pro-independence grassroots organizations to reconstruct an alleged legal narrative that goes back to 2012, with [former president] Artur Mas' victory in the Parliamentary elections, and attempts to present a "meticulous ideation" of a strategy of confrontation with the Spanish government.

Although most of the events described —from the creation of Catalonia’s Advisory Council for the National Transition, to the publication of the "White Book for the National Transition", to the approval of Parliamentary resolutions— were public and well-known, and were not contested at the time by Spain’s criminal justice system, according to Llarena's reasoning they were part of a perfectly crafted conspiracy and thus can be construed as crimes of rebellion, disobedience, and embezzlement. In 69 pages, the Supreme Court judge presents a meticulous account of each and every one of the main events in Catalan politics, with special attention to the events of September 20th outside the HQ of Catalonia’s Ministry of Economy—which the judge characterizes as violent in order to justify pressing rebellion charges—and to the October 1st referendum. But Llarena dedicates many pages to justifying the convoluted reasoning used to attribute this violence to the indicted. Justice Llarena admits that Supreme Court jurisprudence "characterises violence by its physical nature, by personal expression, and for its appropriateness". That is, that violence must be "of a physical nature", requires "the use of force", and must be exercised against "a person". It also must have "sufficient intensity to bend the will of those against whom it is directed".

Word-twisting

None of these conditions are given in the magistrate's text, where only the "capacity for intimidation" of the crowds that had gathered on September 20th is referred to as violence. He notes that Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart climbed on top of two Guardia Civil patrol cars, and describes in detail the situation of the police officers injured during the October 1st referendum (and assigns responsibility for this violence to those who gathered outside the polling stations).

Llarena's convoluted reasoning is semantic. As the facts don't fit the accepted definition, he establishes a difference between "violence" and "acting violently", which is "doing something in a violent manner, which does not present a typical content fully in agreement with acting with violence". This is a twisting of the dictionary that assumes that the adverb "violently" has a different content than the noun "violence". This, despite the fact that the official dictionary of the Spanish language defines "violently" as "in a violent way", without any additions or qualifications.

According to the judge, however, "acting violently" is outside the classic definition of violence that judges use, and allows it to be "projected onto material things". In his version of the events, Llarena justifies this alleged violence with the events of September 20th, in which "the crowd acted with massed force", "destroyed police vehicles, and attacked personal property", and goes further and states that their actions "restricted the ability to act as a consequence of the use of force", and compares it with "the taking of hostages by firing shots into the air".

The judge admits that the violence was not "planned from the beginning as an instrument for achieving independence", although he notes that investigation of this must continue. He notes that they "accepted the risk of a clearly representable violence" by encouraging people to demonstrate despite the deployment of police forces. That is, again, and as he has done in previous writings, Llarena lays the blame for the police violence on those who were its victims.

No mention of "Enfocats"

The document "Enfocats" (Focused) had become the main piece of evidence in the majority of briefs issued by Llarena up to now. The judge based his justification for the the defendants’ participation in the process of rebellion on the annotations found in this PowerPoint file in the home of Josep María Jové, [deputy president] Oriol Junqueras' deputy at the Ministry of Economy. The weakness of this evidence had been made evident by defense teams on various occasions. Llarena practically ignores it in this accusatory brief, and instead targets the "White Book" put together by the Advisory Council for the National Transition as the touchstone that initiated the independence process, and which describes the steps that followed, which he uses to justify charges of planned and coordinated action. The references to "Enfocats" now are down to three mentions in footnotes.

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


March 23: Moment in the Catalan National Theatre when the actors announce that they are cancelling tonight's performance because of the jailing of the Catalan leaders.

March 23: Images and video from tonight's demonstrations against the the jailing of the five Catalan leaders and in solidarity with ERC national secretary Marta Rovira, who has gone into exile.

Other images here

March 23: Tweet of Carles Puigdemont: "The day that the UN demands of Spain that it respect the rights of Jordi Sànchez, the judge sends five of our comrades to prison for their ideas and their commitment. The anti-democratic Spanish state is Europe's shame."

March 23: Judge Llarena issues international arrest warrants for Carles Puigdemont, Marta Rovira, Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret, Lluís Puig and Clara Ponsatí.

March 23: Jordi Turull demands via his lawyer that the investiture session set down for tomorrow be maintained despite his imprisonment.

March 23: Demonstrations all over Catalonia against jailing of leaders (Barcelona's central Diagonal filling up with protestors below).

"Obeying the mandate of the people is no crime"


March 23: Llarena sends all five Catalan leaders out on bail into indefinite detention. They are Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva, Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa and Carme Forcadell.

March 23: Supreme Court judge Llarena charges 13 outgoing Catalan leaders with "rebellion", carrying up to 30 years jail. They are: President Carles Puigdemont (in exile), vice-president Oriol Junqueras (in jail), minister of state and JxCat candidate for president Jordi Turull (out of jail on bail), foreign affairs minister Raül Romeva (out of jail on bail), health minister Toni Comín (in exile), infrastructure and tranport minister Josep Rull (out of jail on bail), social welfare minister Dolors Bassa (out of jail on bail), education minister Clara Ponsatí (in exile), interior minister Joaquin Forn (in jail), parliament speaker Carme Forcadell (out of jail on bail), Òmnium Cultual president Jordi Cuixart (in jail), former ANC president Jordi Sànchez (in jail) and ERC national secretary Marta Rovira (in exile).

March 23: ERC national secretary Marta Rovira informs the ERC membership that she will not appear before the Supreme Court today and is going into exile.

March 23: Joan Tardà, ERC lead MP in the Spanish parliament, calls on Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín to relinquish their seats and allow a republican majority not dependent on the CUP.


Jordi Turull's tweet before entering prison

March 23: Tweet of Jordi Turull on being sent back to prison by Judge Llarena

TRANSLATION

I have been jailed for having been loyal to the mandate of those who chose me as a representative of the people of Catalonia, to the President, to the Government and to Parliament.
Please dedicate all your energies to peacefully defending democracy and the dignity of Catalonia. I have total hope and confidence in the people of Catalonia. They have never failed and they will not do so now.
Blanca, Laura, Marta, parents, brothers and friends, don't suffer on my behalf. I'm fine because I'm convinced of what I'm doing, which is not a crime, and I have done harm to no-one.
I love you.
Long live democracy
Long live Catalonia


March 22: Catalan parlament fails to invest Turull as president (absolute majority needed). Vote: For 64 (JxCat, ERC) Against 65 (Citizens, PSC, PP, CatECP) Abstentions 4 (CUP) Unable to vote 2 (Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comin). El Nacional account here.

March 22: Civil Guard leaks its report to Supreme Court judge Llarena, attributing a central role to Jordi Turull in the preparation of the October 1 referendum.

March 22: CUP Political Council decides to continue to abstain on the investing of Jordi Turull as president.

March 22: Spanish PM Rajoy suspends trip to Angola because of developments in Catalonia.

March 22: Supreme Court judge Llarena maintains outgoing interior minister Joaquim Forn and Jordi Sànchez in prison.,

March 22: ERC and JxCat offer CUP a no-confidence motion in a month if its MPs vote in favour of investiture of Turull.

March 22: Citizens calls on Torrent to convene speakership panel to discussion calling off this afternoon's plenary.

March 22: Spanish attorney-general Rafael Català admits that investiture of Turull would be legal

March 22: Citizens demands that this afternon's investiture session be called off.

March 22:  Torrent: "It's not up to the Moncloa [Spanish PM's HQ] to decide the suitability of candidates, but up to the parliament."

March 22: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent: "We have called today's plenary session to defend the political rights of the MPs."


Comment (Sebastià Alzamora, Ara, March 22)

Llarena, the bar of justice

According to Catalan MP Joan Josep Nuet—who was included in the first group of Catalan politicians called to testify before the Supreme Court in the case against the independence process—Court judge Llarena welcomed them by saying: ”Relax, this is not the National Court". This came after the Spanish Supreme Court decided to take charge of the investigation of the case, and after judge Carmen Lamela, of the National Court, had remanded the two Jordis to provisional prison without bail (they are still behind bars, more than five months later). The only difference that comes to mind is that Lamela acted shamelessly as a judge whose decisions are biased by political instructions, while Llarena has tried to give his resolutions and judicial statements a technically more elaborate appearance. This, however has been completely undone by his most recent decisions: not allowing Jordi Sànchez to attend the investiture session for the presidency, and now citing Jordi Turull to appear, with the possibility of sending him to prison, just a few hours after the Speaker of the House, Roger Torrent, announced a third round of talks to propose him as a candidate for the presidency. The judge and all those who want to continue proclaiming the alleged independence of Spanish justice can dress it up with as many technicalities as they want, but the political persecution that lies behind these decisions is brazen and crass.
 
Llarena, however, insists on trying to conceal this third obstacle to the formation of a government in Catalonia within the overly muddy waters of the general case [against Catalan independence]. And so, in order that people not say that he is moving only against Turull, he has also called Carme Forcadell, Marta Rovira and three ex-ministers who, like Turull, have already suffered the ignominy of being political prisoners: Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa and Josep Rull. All of them could be sent, or returned, to jail following Friday's statement. No matter how you look at it, they can only be charged with crimes of opinion, the kind of offence that is only prosecuted (without ever calling it by name, of course) in authoritarian regimes. Like that which is being imposed in Spain, with the determined support, it must be said, of a large segment (probably a majority) of the Spanish people, the media, and the political parties with the highest representation in Madrid’s parliament.
 
Former Catalan Attorney General José María Mena claims that the imprisoned Catalan leaders are political prisoners. An ex-magistrate of the Supreme Court, José Antonio Martín Pallín, has denounced that the current situation reminds him of what he experienced during Franco's dictatorship. He also claims that Llarena is guilty of wilfully neglecting his duty, and warns that the whole case against the independence process could be invalid. Professor of Constitutional Law Javier Pérez Royo also sees neglect of duty, and insists that all Catalan citizens could file complaints against Llarena because he has also violated their rights. Because these are weighty opinions, Llarena —a keen judge—persists in proving them right. And thus the bar of Spanish justice and democracy has been precisely set.

Translation: Ara


March 21: Spokesperson for the Spanish government says that investiture of Turull is "doomed to failure" and that article 155 intervention will stay in place until an investiture of a candidate not facing legal proceedings takes place.

March 21: Parliament speaker Roger Torrent convenes investiture session for tomorrow, at 5pm, with Jordi Turull as candidate for president.

March 21: Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau visits Catalan political prisoners in Soto de Real and Estremera jails.

March 21: ERC leaves its members facing possible charges off its list of ministers in a new Catalan government.

March 21: Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena summons Catalan leaders out on bail--Carme Forcadell (ERC), Jordi Turull (JxCat), Raül Romeva (ERC), Josep Rull (JxCat), Dolors Bassa (ERC) and Marta Rovira ERC)--to appear before him on March 23 to hear how investigations are proceding against them and whether he will revoke their bail conditions and detain them again.

March 21: Puigdemont at Geneva conference on "Does independence still matter in 21st century Europe" defends the importance of creating new small states so as to advance towards a federal, less centralised, Europe, "borrowing from the Swiss model".

March 21: Judge in Reus magistrate's court number 2 orders the arrest of Reus CUP councilor Mariona Quadrada for refusing to attend court to be investigated on charges of "inciting hatred" towards Spanish police for their actions on October 1.

March 21: Jordi Pina (Lawyer of Jordi Sànchez): "I have the feeling that the prosecutor has the idea that the ANC and Òmnium are what's really responsible for the existence of pro-independence people in Catalonia."


Ferreres, Ara, March 22

At the Catalan Easter Show--knock over the candidate!
At a Catalan Easter Show--Knock over the candidate! Two down (Puigdemont and Sànchez), one to go (Turull)


March 20: Philosopher and journalist Jordi Graupera proposes that pro-independence parties agree to a primaries process that would enable them to present a single ticket against Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau and Barcelona Together in the 2019 municipal election.

March 20: Spanish state prosecutor proposes the release from jail of outgoing Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn on bail of €100,000.

March 20: Jordi Sànchez stands down as a Catalan MP, opening the way for another member of JxCat to be invested as president. The "Plan C" candidate is outgoing minister Jordi Turull, presently out of prison on bail.

March 20: The Constitutional Court rejects the PSC's request that the two-month countdown period for the election of a Catalan president start immediately (the parliamentary regulation says it starts on the day of the first failure to elect a president).

March 20: The Spanish state prosecutor calls on judge Pablo Llarena to order the withdrawal of the passports of the Catalan politicians in exile.

March 20: Alejandro Fernández, PP MP in the Catalan parliament, calls on the speaker Roger Torrent to withdraw an amendment to the parliamentary regulations that would allow investiture in absentia. He indicates that refusal will see the PP appeal the amendment to the Constitutional Court.

March 20: Dídac Ríos, appearing in Tarragona magistrate's court on the possible charge of illegally cloning the October 1 referendum web site, refuses to declare.


Debate: Which way forward (Esther Vera, Ara, March 18)

Esther Vera, editor of Ara

The right honourable presidency

According to the chronicle, it was at the 1359 General Court of Catalonia —convened in the city of Cèrbere— where Berenguer de Cruïlles, the first ever president of the Generalitat [the Catalan government], was elected. The date was December 19, 1359. Obviously, the institution and its objectives have evolved through the centuries, as has the profile of the men on whom the highest political office in Catalonia has been bestowed. The historical perspective draws a line of dignity with any rough edges smoothed over by the forgiving passage of time, which affords greatness to people and events. Distance is always kinder than closeness to details and imperfections.

Today, one hundred and thirty presidents and a thousand historical tribulations later, the Generalitat of Catalonia is being run from Madrid. That is the blunt truth. The project of creating a republic remains on the electoral horizon of the majority in parliament, but after the events of last October and the declaration of independence in the Catalan parliament, today Catalonia is not a republic and it has had its devolved powers taken away. A loose interpretation of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution has brought us direct rule, is keeping four leaders behind bars pending trial and the Catalan president in exile, while —day in and day out— the rule of law is bent for reasons of ideology and opinion. It is an unfair, abusive state of affairs, but the fact is that the Generalitat is represented by the Spanish government when their party —the Partido Popular— has the smallest number of seats in the Catalan chamber. Select areas within the Catalan administration have been brought to a standstill by Madrid, while the Catalan school system is under threat and government officials are being sacked for political reasons.

With a history that spans centuries —and four decades after the Generalitat was reinstated— it is urgent to regain the institution and restore its honourability. This is not a fanciful proposition, but the need to restore the political institution in accordance with the parliamentary majority arising from the elections in December last year. The goal ought to be the restoration of the legitimate institution, but at the moment there is a danger that the faces might be confused with the institution. The presidency of a nation cannot be made effective from Brussels or a prison cell, and an exercise in useful, constructive leadership is required. Resisting Madrid’s recentralisation efforts is something that must be done from the institutions, the only place where a democratic majority can be build through political action.

The independent spirit

“What the hell is going on? What are they keeping from us? What was the point of getting beaten on October 1 and why are we suffering reprisals? Was it all for nothing? What does electing an effective candidate mean? One that has been anointed by the Spanish government? Enough is enough! We must stand by the people’s will as expressed at the ballot box”. Those were the words of Jordi Pairó, a member of the board of the Catalan National Assembly, as he addressed the crowd gathered in Barcelona at the grassroots group’s rally on Sunday last week. Also present were several politicians who might be facing between seven and twenty-five years in jail. However, Pairó was not alone: “I took my chances and now I expect my representatives to follow suit”, stated a representative of the firefighters who support independence. Not only is this sort of talk unfair, but it is also futile. It can only be understood from a magical thinking viewpoint on politics or the self-deceit of a segment of the independence movement that refuses to face the facts and is always ready to shout “traitor”.

It is only through an independent spirit, self-criticism and by taking a long, hard look at the facts that we will be able to overcome the crisis in which Catalonia, its institutions and Catalan society find themselves today.

To fight against this age

This newspaper has dispatched a team to the Mediterranean Sea embedded with Catalan NGO Proactiva Open Arms. Yesterday over two hundred refugees disembarked in Sicily. Our reporters have witnessed the rescue of hundreds of people who flee poverty and war but go on to become the victims of our poor Europe, which intends to put them back on the Libyan gunboats that the EU paid for.

Dutch thinker Rob Riemen has written two essays in To Fight Against This Age which are an eye-opener and a warning against the dangers of populism and fascism. He argues that we should learn several lessons from history. First lesson: Primo Levy. Second lesson: Adorno. Third lesson: Winston Churchill: “We will have to build a United States of Europe, we will have to proclaim with determination that the spiritual idea of Europe will never die because we shall revive it”. Every one of us has a responsibility with the future. Every day fortress Europe will become older and pettier. The fear of others is spreading and denying the pressure of migrants whilst ignoring the EU’s solidarity quotas merely conceals the problem rather than solve it. The mercury is rising in the streets of Spain and other European countries. We need responsible political leaders who are prepared to make difficult decisions and speak the truth. Otherwise we will sink in the mud of populism.

Translation: Ara


March 19: Italian authorities impound the vessel of Catalan NGO Proactiva Open Arms, dedicated to rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean, on the grounds that its crew could face charges of "human trafficking". The head of Proactiva Open Arms is Oscar Camps, 2017 Catalan of the Year.

March 19: Former CUP MPs Mireia Boya and Anna Gabriel, facing possible charges of rebellion, ask that the Constitutional Court rule that any case involving them be heard by the Supreme Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) and not the Spanish Supreme Court.

March 19: Former Supreme Court prosecutor and judge José Antonio Martín Pallín to Geneva human rights seminar: "It would not be admissable in any European parliamentary system for a judge to prevent a parliamentarian from attending parliament."

March 19: Carles Puigdemont and Anna Gabriel (ex-CUP MP exiled in Switzerland) address seminar on human rights violations in Catalonia and Spain in UN building in Geneva (below).

Anna Gabriel (CUP) and Carles Puigdemont at Geneva human rights seminar

March 19: Puigdemont to visit Finland later this week.


Week ending March 18

152 nights with political prisoners
152 nights with political prisoners


Main events, March 12-18


March 18: Puigdemont speaks at International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva (video in French below, with machine translation into English subtiles available: click on "Settings" wheel). El Nacional account here.

March 18: JxCat offers the CUP a mid-term motion of confidence in exchange for supporting investiture of JxCat-ERC government.

March 18: Former French PM Manuel Valls, of Catalan family, tells Catalonia Radio that nationalism guarantees war: "If each region in Europe decided at the ballot box to break up states, neither Spain nor Italy would exist."

March 18: Catalan Civil  Society demonstration in Barcelona attracts 7000, according to municipal police. Present: PSC, PP and PSC leaders and  Manuel Valls (see below, with banner reading "Long Live the Unity of Spain").

Catalan Civil Society demonstration, Barcelona, 18-03-18: "For the Unity of Spain"

March 17: (El Nacional) A second Finnish MP asks why Barcelona consul was sacked.

March 17: ANC election result. University of Barcelona economist Elisenda Paluzie wins highest support of 54 candidates competing for 25 nationally elected positions on the 77-seat ANC national secretariat. The other positions are elected regionally (50) and to represent Catalans overseas (2).

Comment: 7155 ANC members took part (19.51% of the membership roll), with Paluzie winning 5062 votes. She was followed by Joan Canadell, the co-founder of the Catalan Business Circle (3152 votes) and David Minoves, the president of the Escarré International Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Nations (CIEMEN), with 3026 votes.

Minoves came in first of the three candidates who have already declared that they will stand for ANC president, to be decided by the national secretariat next weekend. The others, ANC press chief Adrià Alsina (2788 votes) and Catalan Business Circle vice-president David Fernàndez (2796 votes) came in sixth and fifth respectively, after lawyer and historian Pep Cruanyes (2949 votes).

The result is being read as a defeat for the ANC "powers-that-be", because a co-founder of the ANC, Pere Pugès, sent out an informal "How To Vote" on which Alsina's name appeared, but not those of Paluzie, Minoves or Cruanyes. This attempt to indicate an "official ticket" seems to have backfired.

Paluzie won the ballot without actually pronouncing a position on the debate that is convulsing the entire pro-independence camp, mass movements and parties alike: does the movement, having won the October 1 referendum, have the strength to move directly to "unfolding the Republic", or does the independence camp have to procede more cautiously, winning more social support in an atmosphere of social division being deliberately fostered by the Spanish government, the unionist parties and the unionist movement Catalan Civil Society?

March 17: 8000 march in Barcelona in defence of the Catalan education model (below).

Barcelona demonstration for Catalan education model, March 17

March 17: Mass protests against miserable pensions and insulting 0.25% rise across the Spanish state: Barcelona, Zaragoza, A Coruña, Bilbo (Bilbao), Gasteiz (Vitoria), Iruñea (Pamplona), Málaga, Sevilla, Valladolid, Santander, Cáceres and Alicante.
Madrid demonstration below.

Pensioner demonstration in Madrid, March 17


March 16: JxCat MPs not affilated to PDECat form the association Together for the Republic.

March 16: Federalist sector of Catalonia Together (CatEC) draws 300 to meeting in Barcelona, where the "indefinition" of the party's territorial proposal is criticised.

March 16: Basque parliament adopts resolution calling for the ending of the Spanish government's article 155 intervention in Catalonia, the release of the Catalan political prisoners and the return of the exiled MPs. In favour 57 (Basque Nationalist Party, EH Bildu, Elkarrekin Podemos), against 18 (PP, PSOE).

March 16: Demonstrations across Catalonia in support of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, in jail for five months. Puigdemont addresses Girona demonstration direct via videolink. Exiled MP Anna Gabriel and outgoing ministers Clara Ponsatí and Meritxell Serret send video messages from Switzerland, Scotland and Brussels.


(Below) First of October Square, Sant Julià de Ramis (Gironès). Over 20 Catalan municipalities have already renamed streets and squares to recall the heroic achievement of the October 1 referendum carried out against Spanish police agression.

First of October Square, St Juli de Ramis


March 16: Spanish government sacks Antoni Molons, Catalan Secretary of Information and Citizen Support, arrested yesterday by the Civil Guard.

March 16: Amnesty International demands the withdrawal of charges against the Jordis and their immediate release.


Comment (Vicenç Villatoro, Ara, March 16)

March 16: Humiliate and destroy

Immediately following Strasbourg’s slap in the face for the Spanish judicial system, and coinciding with the Spanish deputy PM’s extremely aggressive public statements, a police operation, more symbolic and headline-grabbing than practical in nature, took place in the offices of the presidency of the Catalan government and the headquarters of the cultural association Òmnium Cultural.

The message is clear: faced with what they call the "secessionist defiance", the Spanish state has objectives that it refuses to give up, not even due to international pressure —which so far has been weak— whatever the response from the pro-independence movement. The state believes this defiance offers the possibility of solving the Catalan problem once and for all. And such a solution obviously doesn’t involve persuasion, or even defeating it, in the strictest sense of the word. It involves destroying its roots.

This means humiliating it to start with. Secondly, dismantling or debasing what it considers to be the instruments of Catalanism: the Catalan police force, the public broadcasting corporation and the school system, but above all, the Catalan government itself as a self-governing institution, upon which everything else depends. And finally, politically deactivating –even if it means ruining their lives–-a whole generation of pro-independence political and social leaders.

The message is that it’s underway and that they have no intention of stopping. I don’t think they’ll get away with it, but a lot of people are bound to suffer in the meantime.


March 15: Demonstration called by CDRs outside Civil Guard HQ in Barcelona inner suburb, Gràcia (below).

March 15 demonstration outside Civil Guard HQ, Gràcia


March 15: Demonstration in St James Square against this morning's Civil Guard raids (below).

Barclona potest against Civil Guard raids (St James Square, 15-03-18)


March 15: Spanish Supreme Court confirms refusal to allow Oriol Junqueras and Jordi Sànchez to attend investiture session.

March 15: Spanish prosecutor-general's office asks Swiss authorities of possibility of a European arrest warrant working in case of impending visit to Switzerland of Carles Puigdemont and outgoing Catalan agriculture minister Meritxell Serret. Swiss reply that there is no legal basis for their arrest.

March 15: Civil Guard raids on headquarters of Òmnium Cultural and the headquarters of the Catalan government. Antoni Molons, Secretary of Information and Citizen Support, is arrested while email accounts of Òmnium Cultural are searched. Search warrant specifies that no protest can be called against the raid.

March 15: Vidal Aragonès (CUP MP), interviewed on La Xarxa: "We don't draw lines in the sand, we draw a general line. What are JxCat and the ERC going to do? Manage a regional government for four years? We won't have anything to do with that, we want to build the Republic."


Axel Schoenberger

Germans are less doubtful than Catalans. That was the beginning of a WhatsApp message that went viral a couple of weeks ago among independence supporters in Catalonia, and it included a number of opinions by professor Axel Schönberger. Indeed, he has no qualms about criticising the Spanish state and refer to it as a dictatorship. But who is this German linguist, a specialist in Latin and Romance languages, who has put his scientific endeavours on hold in order to further the Catalan cause? This interview will attempt to shed some light on the matter.

—Mr Schönberger, are you aware that the Catalan version of your article titled Die Wahl zwischen Freiheit und Knechtschaft’ (‘Choosing between Freedom and Slavery’) has gone viral on Catalonia’s social and mobile networks? Are you surprised?
—A little. At the end of the day, my article merely states what anyone in their right mind would say if they had followed the situation in Catalonia and been given the basic facts. Most Catalans shouldn’t be surprised by my words. If people show an interest, it is likely due to the shocking conspiracy of silence that exists in European politics on the subject of the Catalan nation and its legitimate right to self-determination. Since the main political leaders in Europe treat Catalans as if they were Spain’s slaves rather than EU citizens, I guess in Catalonia they must be grateful that a foreigner such as myself should say what Ms Merkel and Mr Macron —as well as Messrs Juncker, Tajani and Tusk— should have stated a long time ago, if they gave any credence to Article 2 of the EU Treaty and the European Convention of Human Rights.

—You are a linguist and a man of letters. How come you have decided to take a public stand and voice your support for the Catalan cause?
—Having seen the horrific news coming from Catalonia on October 1, that same day I decided to put my scientific endeavours temporarily on hold, get involved in the Catalan people’s legitimate cause and denounce the repeated violations of human rights by the Spanish state. At present, Catalonia is being subjected to an illegal dictatorship. In collusion with Spain’s Constitutional Court, as well as the National and the Supreme courts, the Spanish regime is staging the most devastating attack on Catalonia’s institutions and self-government since the Franco regime officially ended and, increasingly, against the use of the Catalan and Occitan languages.

—Does the difficult situation in Catalonia extend beyond its borders?
—Yes, what is going on in Catalonia concerns all EU citizens. The freedom of Catalans, which must be defended, is the freedom of all the EU citizens who are worthy and just. The other countries in the world cannot accept that a regime and its judicial system have violated the law, the European Convention on Human Rights —including the Treaty on EU—, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, therefore, international laws that countries are expected to abide by. I am totally convinced that what is at stake in Catalonia today is not only the struggle against demophobic oppression and the crypto-colonial exploitation of the Catalan people, but the very future of the European project and Europe’s fundamental values. If Messrs Juncker, Tajani and Tusk prevail, you can wave goodbye to the European ideal.

I like to call a spade a spade, and a crime a crime. Mariano Rajoy and his deputy, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, together with their accomplices in the Spanish government, senate and the highest courts of law, as well as the leaders of Ciudadanos and the socialist party are all responsible for major violations of Spanish and international laws. I hope that one day they will be held to account for their actions before an international court.

—How do you see the fact that there are political prisoners in an EU country?
—It is outrageous that in Spain there are honest politicians kept behind bars who, objectively, have not committed any crimes and have conducted themselves in a fair, peaceful manner following their political convictions. It is even more outrageous that they are being kept in prison so they may not defend their political views and exercise their civil rights. And it is truly shocking that the parliamentary immunity of democratically elected representatives has been disregarded. No matter how I look at it, I see the Spanish state spiralling down into a despicable abyss of violations of law and human rights. As a German, I can’t help but compare it to the early years of National Socialism.

—The Spanish police brutality on October 1 and the subsequent events, the crackdown, the attacks on free speech, the political prisoners … do you believe these damage Spain’s international prestige and might even put into question the quality of democracy in Spain?
—Your question assumes that Spain is a democracy. Spain has not been a democracy since October 27, 2017! By violating Spanish law and human rights, the Spanish regime deposed the democratically elected government of Catalonia and imposed a dictatorship on Catalonia, which is still in place today. The elections on December 21 last year, which were imposed by the Spanish PM in what constitutes an obvious violation of the corresponding Spanish organic law, returned a clear mandate to reinstate Carles Puigdemont as the 130th president of the Generalitat.

The authoritarian, demophobic nature of the Spanish regime, which contravenes human rights, became apparent again when they prevented Carles Puigdemont from being elected president. Incidentally, he should have been granted parliamentary immunity. Therefore, Spain cannot be classed as a democracy. After the coup d’état on October 27, it has become a post-democratic system, which displays the traits of a dictatorship that disregards human rights in Catalonia.

—There is little international reaction however…
—What is going on in Spain is still unknown in many countries. However, it is only a matter of time before Spain’s reputation takes a blow within the international community. The current regime led by Mariano Rajoy and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, together with judges who bend the law, like Pablo Llarena and Carmen Lamela, soils Spain’s image, is hugely damaging and will soon cause Spanish people to be embarrassed about their nationality. Also, as with South Africa in the past, Spain may eventually face an international boycott which would harm its economy.

Furthermore, the brutal illegal actions of the Spanish regime against Catalonia and, in particular, the arrests of Catalan political leaders and the main representatives of civil society, together with the financial chokehold on honourable leaders such as Artur Mas mean that the Catalan people’s natural right to self-determination and to decide its political future freely are now backed by the right to remedial secession from Spain, as enshrined in international law.

—Are you worried by how events are unfolding in Catalonia? At some point you voiced your concern over the possibility that Spain might use its armed forces and we might find ourselves on the brink of a civil war.
—Yes. Prior to October 1, there were reports that unknown airplanes had mapped out potential military targets from the air all over Catalonia. In addition, in September Pizarro tanks and other heavy military assets were moved to Catalonia ahead of a possible intervention. The king of Spain, who is actually the commander in chief of the armed forces, showed himself to be an ally of the Partido Popular in his TV address on October 3. Spain’s defence minister mentioned a few times that, besides imposing direct rule, the Spanish army was also ready to “restore order” in Catalonia and defend Spain’s unity.

—Do you think they would be so rash as to use the army?
—Obviously the Madrid regime had contemplated using the army to crush any resistance by the Catalan people. Also, it was important to give the impression that the Spanish regime was willing to use military force against civilians, which is important in terms of psychological warfare. When you consider that Carles Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras, Marta Rovira and other Catalan politicians mentioned the matter and acted in such a way that the Spanish regime had no chance to send in their troops to shoot peaceful Catalan people, I believe I was not mistaken when I warned that the Spanish military might intervene to crush the Catalan revolution after October 1.

—You have spoken in favour of massive civil disobedience against the Spanish authorities and ignoring any orders from Spain’s courts of law, which you believe are illegitimate. Do you actually think that is the way to go?

—Yes. I can only see three possibilities. The first one is a situation of armed rebellion which would leave many dead and wounded, and would turn Spain into a crisis zone, like Palestine or Kurdistan. I hope that will never happen. So far the responsible, peaceful, exemplary, non-violent attitude of the defenders of Catalan sovereignty suggests that it won’t come to that. It is precisely that behaviour what makes the legal position of those who argue for Catalan independence unassailable. Take a look at the ruling handed down by the International Court of Law in the Hague on July 22, 2010 on the validity of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence (Accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo), which was issued at the request of the UN’s General Assembly. You can clearly conclude that Catalonia also has the right to proclaim independence unilaterally, if Spain refuses to engage in talks and Catalans aim to achieve their goals through peaceful means.

—And the second possibility?
—It’s the possibility that the sum of all possible and conceivable actions might lead to the Spanish state de facto losing its grip on Catalonia, while the Catalan Republic’s statehood structures are built abroad. An unjust state such as Spain deserves neither respect nor obedience. The Spanish regime has always refused flat out to engage in talks with the Catalan government whenever it has been invited to. Why should Catalans continue to abide by Spain’s rules and laws and remain oppressed, dominated and exploited? Spain infringes upon the basic rights of the Catalan people. It is legitimate to resist the illegal dictatorship that the Spanish state has imposed on Catalonia at every level and make it impossible for Spain to rule Catalonia. The international community will recognise whatever government is able to effectively rule in Catalonia. At present, it is still the Spanish regime.

At the same time, the Spanish economy must pay a price for the oppression in Catalonia by means of general strikes and boycotts at home and abroad. This should amount to at least ten times the revenue that Spain obtains from Catalonia. That’s when economic sense will prevail and Spain will be forced to end its opposition to Catalonia’s freedom. If that happens, I am certain that Spain will try to milk Valencia and the Balearics even more, and will question the financial autonomy of the Basque Country in order to make up for the lost revenue in Catalonia.

—What would the third option be?
—Finally, the third option is Catalonia’s unconditional surrender to Spain’s dictate. If Catalans wish to go down that path, they might fool themselves pretending to have regained control of their institutions and should behave in such a way that Spain never chokes them again by bringing back direct rule. This would put Catalans in a position of quasi-slavery and, ultimately, their language and culture would fade away due to Spain’s ever more aggressive assimilation policies. If they wish to go down that path, all they need to do is elect Ciudadanos leader Inés Arrimadas as their new president and vote PP leader Xavier García Albiol as her deputy. I am certain that both would prove to be most diligent at destroying the identity of the Catalan people and promote the Spanish language in order to replace Catalan and Occitan.

—You told me that you would not be travelling back to Catalonia until it is an independent republic. Are you not afraid that might take a very long time?
—I’m not. Mariano Rajoy, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Pablo Llarena and many other Spanish political leaders, prosecutors and judges are speeding up the Catalan independence process. Their repressive actions —which violate human rights— increase the number of people who sympathise with Catalonia’s independence bid. You also have objective facts: income per capita and welfare in general would improve in an independent Catalan republic; at last, infrastructures would be renovated and you would begin to build the welfare state that the Catalan parliament has started to promote but that Spain’s Constitutional Court is determined to destroy. And you would be able to bring in new policies to promote research and stimulate the economy, which are key for Catalonia in a fast-changing global economy. As a result, some of those who do not support independence yet will realise that secession offers a better future for Catalonia.

Many Catalans feel their dignity is wounded by the fact that the Spanish regime treats them like slaves who have no rights, fires rubber bullets at them when they go to the polls peacefully and sends them Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría to rule over them as a dictatrix. The Catalan people will never forget that! They will pursue their goal relentlessly and will eventually achieve it because it is right for them to do so and Spain’s bullying tactics do nothing but fuel the pro-independence movement. Therefore, I have every reason to feel confident that I will be able to travel to Catalonia soon and be happy to see how Catalans are building a new country in complete freedom and with dignity. I am certain that the new Catalan Republic will be either a model EU country or another Switzerland in an enviable geostrategic position. Soon enough, the Catalan Republic will become a leading nation internationally and I will be delighted to visit back once it is a free, sovereign country at last.

Translation: Vilaweb


Banner at Barcelona-Chelsea match, 14-03-18

March 14: Banner at Camp Nou, Barcelona v. Chelsea


Comment (Liz Castro, El Món, March 14)

Let’s Save the Assembly!
___________

NOTE: Liz Castro, born in California, has been a long-standing supporter of Catalan independence, and is the author of various books on the Catalan independence cause. She was the most-voted candidate in the 2015 election for the 77-member ANC Secretariat, but lost the election for president to Jordi Sànchez, by 54 votes to 20.
The present election for the ANC Secretariat has been marked by controversy, with 18 candidates, including for the position of president, initially being ruled out by the election commission. The best-known of these was journalist and former CUP lead MP Antonio Baños, ruled to have violated the ban on candidates speaking in public by appearing on a radio chat show (even though no discussion of his candidacy took place on the program in question).
The controversy over the exclusion of candidates meant that the election for the ANC secretariat had to be halted. Twelve of the candidates who had initially been excluded have since been readmitted to the list, but Baños is not one of them.
In a March 13 tweet, Agusti Alcoberro , the outgoing ANC vice-president (and acting president since the September 28 jailing of Jordi Sànchez) said: “If comrade Antonio Baños can’t be a candidate to the National Secretariat of the ANC we must be doing something  very badly.”
See here for the result of the election.
________________

What’s the Catalan National Assembly’s problem and how can it be solved? To start with, it suffers from the normal structural problems of any organisation that has acquired 40,000 members in four years. It has grown big and it has grown timid; in contrast to 2012, it now has a lot to lose. This can be seen in the growth of hierarchy in its central structure, an attempt to control the energy and enthusiasm of the rank and file. Try to do something in the ANC and they suffocate you with unproductive meetings and endless discussions.
 
That’s the normal part. The not-so-normal part is that to get something through these endless and inefficient meetings what counts is not the strength of any proposal, but the number of allies you have from various related groupings. I’m not talking so much about people of one party as against people of another, but rather a conflict between people with an across-the-board approach, who believe in the Assembly as the voice of a diverse people, and party people or simply ambitious people who want to use it as a tool or as a ladder.
 
There are many who say, and rightly so, that we have to reduce the influence of parties on the Assembly. The problem is how this is to be done and what it means. I always found it interesting that the people who harped on most about parties were precisely the ones who always voted along the lines of the same party. On the other hand, those who were openly associated with one party or another worked far more for the goals of the Assembly. We all have political preferences. Whoever is in a political grouping like the Assembly and doesn’t tell you about them, is simply concealing them. The important thing is not to throw out "the party people", but to be transparent about alliances and, above all, party obligations. Obviously, this has not been done.

The Assembly was supposed to be a mass-meeting based organisation, but when I was on the Secretariat it was not that at all. Partly because of the structure itself.  With 77 Secretariat members in a meeting, even if everyone intervened for only a minute-and-a-half you could be there for hours and get nowhere. This structure simply doesn’t work. Secretariat members are supposed to be representative of their territorial assemblies but what happens in reality is that they vote according to the previously established blocs, the members of which were chosen before the elections themselves. Look at what happened in the last two elections: in one region after another, the regional secretaries did not vote for the national positions according to the vote in their region, but rather according to negotiations over the carve-up of power.
 
How could the Assembly be improved? With a board of eleven people, one from each region, including from overseas. Let these eleven people really represent their regions, and not their personal or political preferences. Let the rank-and-file really get the say we deserve. Let there be a clear and decentralised political strategy where local assemblies can carry out initiatives without asking permission from the central structure. Let any successful candidate taking office in the Assembly have to give up being part of any political list. Let elections be done with transparency, and in a fair and equal way. It makes no sense to be able to campaign for weeks, and with all the means available, even for the position of president, only for there suddenly to be a week of abnormal silence not at all understood by the membership and governed by draconian rules that nobody understands and are impossible to fulfill. All run by a (usually biased) representation on the electoral commission formed by outgoing secretaries who have taken part in working out the nominations submitted.

Aha, and we’ve already seen that the same old faces, those who just have to continue calling the shots, begin to circulate their lists of candidates. Why does that work? Because they themselves created the absurd process of elections where people cannot campaign, nobody knows the candidates, and nobody knows who to vote for. A clear and open campaign would be much better, with all the cards on the table, where everyone, particularly the candidates themselves, could take part, not just the hands pulling the strings from behind the curtain.
 
What I’m most concerned about is that those who want to manipulate the elections are so like the Government of Spain: they don’t trust the voice of the people. They don’t trust their own people’s movement, they don’t trust democracy. They find it necessary to exclude candidates that don’t control, limit the renewal of the Secretariat, carry on without listening to the voice of their own people. How bad it all is! This movement, and this organisation in particular, has been inspiring and special for its commitment to democracy and its rank and file, and if we lose this we’ll  only be rebuilding the same shit from which we are fleeing.

I have always believed in the ANC’s rank and file. I have seen how people work, and I myself have worked without expecting any reward, political or otherwise. I know that the rank and file are the strength of this movement and that they are real and powerful. If I have not said anything so far, it is because I wanted to believe that the ANC could be renewed but I see that they won’t allow us that. ANC people, let’s rise up and take back our Assembly. Let’s not allow them to again take it from us. I think we should have a new annual general convention, remake the structure from top to bottom, streamline the organisation and clean it up. I personally do not want, nor do the statutes allow me, to stand for the Secretariat, but I am more than willing to continue working from below so that the Assembly can be set straight again, and so that the next October 101 (or whatever day it is is), we can be at the doors of Parliament demanding that political undertakings be fulfilled so as to recover the freedom of this country that we all love.

Footnote

1. October 10 last year was the day president Puigdemont proclaimed the independence of Catalonia on the basis of the October 1 referendum result, and then suspended the declaration to allow negotiations with the Spanish state to take place. He has since said that this was mistaken and that the independence declaration should have been maintained and that it would have been politically and legally defensible.


March 14: ANC launches proposal for 16th of each month to be a hunger strike in support of the Catalan political prisoners.

March 14: After meeting of JxCat MPs with Carles Puigdemont in Brussels, spokepserson Eduard Pujol announces that the formation will not advance a replacement candidate for Jordi Sànchez, but alsothat it  does not want to go to new elections ("let's close the door on that scenario").


March 14: Swiss foreign ministry's official statement regarding Carles Puigdemont's planned visit to address forum on human rights, announced today:

Carles Puigdemont in Switzerland: FDFA reaffirms its position on Catalonia

Bern, 14.03.2018 - The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has taken note of the visit of Spanish politician Carles Puigdemont to Switzerland. This is a private visit on the invitation of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH). Mr Puigdemont is scheduled to make several public appearances during his stay in Switzerland.
In this connection, Switzerland reiterates that the question of Catalonia is an internal matter for Spain and should be handled within the framework of the Spanish constitutional order. The Swiss and Spanish authorities are in contact.
Mr Puigdemont's stay in Switzerland is governed by Swiss law and the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. As a Spanish citizen, Mr Puigdemont is entitled to travel freely within the Schengen area. He is also at liberty to give political speeches with due respect for the Swiss legal system. 
The authorities may take measures in the event of any disruptions of public order.

March 14: Spanish Supreme Court decides to give parties to the appeal five days to supply it with their arguments in relation to Jordi Sànchez's appeal to its full bench against the ruling of judge Pablo Llarena preventing him from attending the March 10 investiture session of the Catalan parliament (later cancelled by speaker Roger Torrent),

March 14: Constitutional Court rules that the express procedure used to adopt the Law of Jurisdictional Transition in the Catalan Parliament on September 7 violated the rights of MPs opposed to the law.

March 14: Interview with Clara Ponsatí in The National (Scotland).


Comment (Jordi Barbeta, El Nacional, March 13)

Aznar was right: we're on the verge of 'the big one'

The day after the 2012 Catalan election, José María Aznar (Spanish prime minister 1996-2004) presented the first volume of his memoirs and, during his talk, said that "Catalonia's unity will break before Spain's". He didn't say that Spain would take charge of tearing Catalonia apart. What couldn't be foreseen, almost six years ago now, was that after all the hopes and dreams placed in the independence process, the movement would shatter into so many groups, factions, lobbies and parties who disagree to the extent that all that remains is the wait for what seismologists call "the big one", in other words, the great crack which turns everything upside down in order to start over again, fight, suffer and lose one more time.

The break-up Aznar was referring to was probably that of Catalan society splitting into unionists and separatists, which has 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".

Footnotes:

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)

Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena

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.

Footnote:

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 days with Catalan political prisoners
147 nights with political prisoners


Main events, March 5-11


March 11: Outgoing education minister Clara Ponsatí addresses demonstration in London (below).

Ponsati addresses March 11 London demonstration

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."


March 11 ANC demonstration for "Republic Now"
The March 11 demonstration for "Republic Now", called by the Catalan National Assembly, draws 45,000 (municipal police figure) to Barcelona's portside Passeig de Colom. Speakers are heroes and heroines of the October 1 referendum, who all end their contribution with the phrase: "I put myself on the line, I ask our political representatives to do the same."


March 10: (El Nacional) Puigdemont moves to consolidate the JxCat group into a new political party

March 10: Catalan education minister Clara Ponsatí, exiled in Brussels, announces that she will return to her teaching position at Scotland's St Andrew's University and work to build support for Catalonia in the United Kingdom.

March 10: José Ignacio Llorens, PP MP for Lleida in the Spanish Congress, demands that Catalan firefighters who helped defend polling stations on October 1 formally apologise for their actions.

March 10: Òmnium Cultural AGM lays out a 2018 plan of work aimed at "favouring reconciliation" with sectors of Catalan society opposed to independence.

March 10: PSC leader Miquel Iceta says that the ECHR will reject Sànchez's appeal, and that the PSC will apply to the Constitutional Court for a ruling that the two-month countdown for investing another candidate for president begin immediately.

March 10: Ernest Urtasun (below), spokeperson of Initiative for Catalonia-Greens (ICV), component party of Catalonia Together, uses national conference address to call on pro-independence parties to form a government. He attacks the article 155 intervention and the "irresponsibility" of the October 27 unilateral declaration of indpendence. 

Ernest Urtasun addresses ICV National Conference


March 9: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent postpones the investiture session set down for Monday.

March 9: Catalan Ombudsman Rafael Ribó states that the decision of judge Llarena violate the basics of the rule of law and the rights of the two million-plus voters who supported JxCat on December 21. He invites citizens to send him complaints, and indicates he will be appealing against the decision to the European Commission, Council of Europe and the United Nations.

March 9: Jordi Sànchez's lawyers announce that they will appeal judge Pablo Llarena's decision preventing him from attending the Catalan parliament for Monday's investiture session to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. The judge's written decision is conveyed to them at 1635, five minutes after the ECHR closed for the weekend.

March 9: The CUP maintains its position of abstention in the investiture, despite new proposals from JxCat and the ERC. Its Political Council will rediscuss the position on March 17, after meetings of its territorial assemblies.

March 9: English Football Association fines Pep Guardiola £20,000 for wearing yellow ribbon of solidarity with Catalan political prisoners.

March 9: (The Guardian) Jordi Cuixart: "As a political prisoner in Spain, I appreciate Pep Guardiola’s support"

March 9: Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena denies the request of the speaker of the Catalan parliament Roger Torrent for Jordi Sànchez to be released to attend investiture session set for Monday. The grounds are the risk of "reoffending" in crimes for which Sànchez is being investigated and has not yet been charged--sedition, rebellion and misuse of public moneys.

March 9: One day after the feminist general strike, an illegally taped private conversation by ERC leader Lluís Salvadó containing gross sexual references is leaked to the media.

March 9: Spanish government spokesperson Méndez de Vigo says that the article 155 intervention will allow the Spanish government to repay Catalan public servants the 20% of accumulated overtime pay still owed them from the wage cuts imposed during the economic crisis.

March 9: PP premier of Galicia, Alberto Nuñez-Feijóo, calls the Catalan independence process "a blow against European construction".

March 9: Barcelona mayoress (Catalonia Together) Ada Colau asserts in an interview with Catalonia Radio that the investiture of a Catalan president is not in the hands of her formation. "We said that we would not vote for the PDECat or Citizens. We do not support the policy of blocs and the citizens did not give us the support needed to win the elections. Those who presented themselves as a bloc are the ones who have to solve the problem. We will not vote for these two formations. We will not be accomplices to lining up one bloc against the other, but we will sit down to talk about action on measures that can be agreed. Catalonia needs a government to get out of 155 ... This is the responsibility of the pro-independence majority that won the elections. They are responsible for the unilateral declaration of independence. It is they who followed this course together and they who have to make a proposal for a way out."

March 9: Puigdemont in interview with El Punt Avui: "New elections would not be a drama even though it's not a priority anyone wants."


Puigdemont's lawyer Ben Emmerson explains the international legal campaign to be mounted against the actions of the Spanish government in relation to Catalonia (starts at 9 minutes into video)


March 8: Debate on Catalonia in the Belgian parliament, with Christian Democrat Vincent Van Peterghem suggesting that Puigdemont had better return to Spain and New Flemish Alliance MP Peter Luykx demanding dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities. Foreign minister Didier Reynders says "we are monitoring the situation but without any interference from Belgium in the [Spanish] legal pocess or the political process of the Catalan parliament."

March 8: JxCat and ERC propose new basis for government agreement to the CUP, featuring a constitutional process within Catalonia to end in a popular consultation and a document.

March 8: Unprecedentedly massive demonstrations in Spanish State on International Women's Day. See Barcelona (below) and other coverage here.

IWD 2018, Barcelona

8 de març Vaga Feminista Barcelona

March 8: Catalan parliament speaker Torrent officially requests Supreme Court judge Llorena that Sànchez be released to attend next Monday's investiture session.

March 8: Feminist road block near Terrassa in support of women's strike (below)

March 8, Terrassa: feminist road block

March 8: Spanish Supreme Court refuses to re-admit debarred Catalan judge Santi Vidal to the judiciary because of "lack of loyalty to the institutions of the State and the Constitution".

March 8: Womens' strike, rally, St James Square, Barcelona (below)

IWD feminist strike rally, St James Square, Barcelona

March 7: (Spanish Senate). Motion by Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) in favour of applicants for public service jobs knowing a minimum of the language of the region where they are applying is lost by 101 (PNV, PSOE, PDECat, EH Bildu, Unidos Podemos) to 150 (PP, Citizens, Union of the People of Navarra, Asturias Forum). Commitment, co-governing with the PSOE in the Valencian Country, abstains.)

March 7: Constitutional Court decides unanimously to reject Jordi Sànchez's appeal to be released from preventive detention. Leaves to Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena the decision as to whether he should be allowed to attend parliament on March 12 for his possible investiture as Catalan president.

March 7: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent addresses Circle of German-speaking Company Directors at Barcelona's spiffy Equestrian Circle. He is told by one attendant: "I would vote to send all you people to jail." The moderator apologises but insists that the Catalan government obey the law. See also (El Nacional) German business people, offended by Karl Jacobi's attitude.

March 7: Museum of Lleida, from which the artworks of the Sixena (Aragon) monastery were removed and returned to Sixena in December, hosts the exhibition "Political Prisoners in the Spanish State", banned by the Madrid exhibition of contemporary art.

March 7: Carles Puigdemont to write book tentatively entitled "Catalonia: What is at stake for Europe?", to appear in various languages in September.

March 7: Spanish Ministry of Finance demands financial records of Catalan businesses suspected of being paid by the Catalan Ministry of Finance for the preparation of the October 1 referendum. Companies affected include media empire Mediapro and the newspaper Ara.  (El Nacional) Spanish Treasury investigating Catalan government grants to media and individuals

March 7: Members of Spanish ultra-patriotic organisation Vox begin campaign of tearing down place names referring to the Catalan Republic.


Background (Vilaweb, March 7)

The Catalan government in exile: what it will do and how it will operate

Catalonia’s institutions in exile have already got down to work at the so-called House of the Republic in Waterloo

For the last ten days, any visitors that president Puigdemont used to meet in a Brussels hotel have been travelling to Waterloo instead. The famous house, which was supposed to become Puigdemont’s residence in Belgium, is located in Waterloo, a town within Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia. It is, indeed, the president’s new home. But it is also much more than that, as visitors soon realise, much to their surprise in some cases. The staff working there call it “the House of the Republic”. That is the first shock that visitors get on arrival.

Visitors in the last few days have included a string of Catalan mayors, reporters from several news outlets and countries, scientists, artists, members of parliament and no end of political representatives who watch with curiosity the new reality embodied by the Republican Council. At the end of last week, when Puigdemont announced that Jordi Sànchez was his candidate to become the new regional president back in Catalonia, he had stated that the time had come to start building in Belgium “the institutions of the Catalan Republic”, which was proclaimed on October 27. The first one such institution is its official seat. When visitors enter the premises, the initial surprise comes when they realise that it is not someone’s home, but a headquarters. As they travel from the entrance hall to the conference room on the first floor, they all notice people working behind a number desks, sometimes even the exiled ministers. You could refer to them as the first “civil servants” of the Catalan Republic, even though they are obviously not employed as such. Rather, they are staff on work contracts and they are putting together the projects which will give rise to the actual structure devised by Carles Puigdemont, his team and the members of his cabinet within six months after the declaration of independence, validated by the three pro-independence parties and the grassroots organisations back in Catalonia.

To enter the building, though, one first needs to get past the camera crews sent by the Spanish media who besiege it. Apparently, a good number of Spanish police officers and intelligence operatives have taken it upon themselves to get in the way of the House’s staff and gather any intelligence they can, not always by ordinary means.

A government in exile thanks to the Europe of liberties

The Catalan president has labelled this structure as “a government in exile”. But he has noted that it is not an exile in the traditional sense, thanks to the Europe of the liberties that has been built over the last decades. The six political leaders who reside abroad (Puigdemont, ministers Ponsatí, Serret, Comín and Puig, as well as CUP leader Anna Gabriel) are free citizens to all effects and purposes. Spain does not dare to demand that they be handed over because it realises that the request would be turned down as unbecoming of a democratic nation. The magnitude of the problem that Spain is facing became all too apparent when the European Arrest Warrant against the Catalan leaders was dropped. In the case of Anna Gabriel, who is exiled in Switzerland, the Spanish authorities have not even issued a warrant. Paradoxically, as a result of all that, any member of the Catalan government who remained in Spain is now behind bars (namely, vice president Junqueras and Joaquim Forn, the Minister of the Interior), whereas those who made use of their freedom to travel within Europe as EU nationals remain free and can build a government that will represent the legitimacy that stems from the Catalan elections and was interrupted by the coup d’état staged when direct rule was imposed by Madrid.

Therefore, in the so-called “free Brussels space” the incumbent president of the Generalitat and his government are ready to execute the structures —which they have devised and negotiated so far— without delay. The mission of the exiled government and parliament will be to keep the Spanish state on the ropes, legally and diplomatically, as well as try to lead the action of the pro-independence majority that cast their ballot in the referendum and the snap elections unlawfully called by Mariano Rajoy.

In an interview with The Guardian last Friday, Puigdemont said that the Republican Council was not a clandestine body and his cabinet preferred to work in a free space, without threats and fear, and that remaining in Belgium allowed them to act unencumbered by Spain’s police and justice system. He added that the Council should reflect Catalonia’s diversity and that is why “local communities and associations will be represented, too”. Puigdemont also repeated the motto that has been at the core of his thinking in the last months: “we must transition from the old notion of a government for the people to a government by the people”. That is why preparations in the Republican House have much to do with new technology and the example of Estonia. This Baltic republic has set up a virtual environment that would allow it to operate like an independent country in the event of a Russian invasion. It is a project that has been studied by the Generalitat for some time and will become a model for the Catalan government in exile.

In principle, the design that will be put into practice in the coming days involves setting up two institutions: the Republican Council and the Congress of Representatives. The former will be the government in exile and the political parties have agreed that it should consist of five members, two from Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra Republicana, plus one from the CUP. The Council is to meet weekly and liaise politically with the Generalitat government back in Barcelona, which will formally recognise the leading role of the Republican Council as the policy-setting body, assuming an agreement for a coalition government is reached by the pro-independence parties in Barcelona.

As for the Congress of Representatives, it will be the equivalent of a parliament in exile and, as is to be expected, it will be tasked with overseeing the executive branch. The Congress of Representatives will include MPs from the pro-independence majority in the Barcelona chamber who will be joined by representatives of local governments and other institutions, with a view to forming a highly-representative national body. The Congress and the Council will both meet in Brussels as a general rule, but the former might hold meetings in Catalonia, too, which would be another headache for the Spanish institutions.

Private bodies to avoid the Spanish state’s trap

Formally both institutions will be private in nature so as to avoid becoming entangled in the legal net that Spain is aiming to cast. Their public actions will be covered by the Generalitat itself, which will endorse the Council’s decisions to the extent that this is legally possible. However, the Council will elude Spain’s crackdown and take on tasks that would otherwise be impossible, such as re-opening Catalan representation offices abroad. Following Madrid’s direct rule, it is clear that the Spanish government will not lift the ban on those offices, but the free space in Brussels will be able to activate them nearly with the same format as they had until they were shut down by the Spanish authorities.

Brussels will also steer the drafting of the Constitution of the Republic based on a broad-based discussion at grassroots level, which will draw on experiences such as Iceland’s. Once again, being a private entity will allow the Catalan government in exile to take on jobs that the repression by Spain’s courts of law —under Rajoy’s orders— would otherwise make impossible.

On this point, the connection between the Republican Council, the regional government in Barcelona and the two million separatist voters will lead to the constant querying of Spain’s power in Catalonia. The Council and the Congress will encourage alternatives to allow the Catalan people, for instance, to avoid keeping their savings in banks that cooperate with the Spanish repression, which is nearly unavoidable at present. Likewise, they will foster an electronic form of democracy that, for example, will allow the Generalitat to hold online consultations outside of Spain’s legal framework. As a matter of fact, the concept goes beyond what has been traditionally known as electronic democracy and will enter the domain of “active” democracy based on the principles outlined by Puigdemont in his interview with The Guardian.

The exiled government, then, will also be privately funded and will be backed through a totally transparent fund open to the people’s participation. Anyone will be allowed to contribute to the coffers of these institutions, which do not expect to require a large number of staff. Their day-to-day affairs will be handled by the Generalitat in Barcelona and the government in exile will focus on any projects which the Spanish government might not allow the regional government to embark on, particularly from a legal standpoint and in terms of seeking support for the Catalan cause abroad.

A very hot potato for the EU, too

On the surface, the birth of the Catalan government in exile has been snubbed by the Spanish authorities, but the reaction and the violent attacks which it has elicited are indicative of Madrid’s serious concern on this matter.

In fact, over the last weeks the temperature of Madrid’s open conflicts with several EU partners has risen a notch. Spanish government sources have even hinted that they might go as far as breaking diplomatic relations with Belgium, an unprecedented threat. Spain’s Foreign Minister Dastis referred to Switzerland in the same terms as Anna Gabriel when she announced her decision to stay there. Finland’s consul to Barcelona saw his diplomatic credentials removed last week and his was the fourth on the list of incidents involving Barcelona-based consuls as a result of Spain’s feud with Catalonia. Except on this occasion the decision has been rebuffed by the entire consular body in Barcelona, as well as Finland’s embassy in Madrid. The matter has been debated in the Finnish parliament and its government is now expected to provide an explanation.

Spain’s rattled nerves reveal a growing realisation that the legal action undertaken against the Catalan government was a mistake that will have catastrophic consequences. It violates every principle of the separation of powers and the right to a fair trial. Besides, jailing members of a government and creating a new one in exile within the EU causes a major problem of definition in the EU itself. As it is, the European Union is already struggling to explain how come Hungary —and especially Poland— are implementing policies which infringe upon the most basic democratic principles and violate European laws. The situation is further compounded when that happens not just in the former eastern bloc, but in a western country, Spain, which behaves with the utmost contempt for the separation of powers and civil rights. When the EU gave Spain its consent to impose a  no-holds-barred form of direct rule on Catalonia via Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, it allowed a regression of liberties not just in Catalonia but in Spain as a whole and the resulting scandals are increasingly harder to conceal. The whole world heard about Madrid’s ARCO exhibition banning a number of works about Catalonia’s political prisoners, as well as the prison sentences imposed on two musicians, Valtònyc and Pablo Hassel, for writing critical songs and posts on Twitter.

For the first time ever, last week president Puigdemont admitted that he had made a mistake on October 10 when he agreed to suspend the declaration of independence after Donald Tusk’s public request. The Catalan government expected the gesture to prompt a reaction in Europe to help to find a political solution for such an obvious constitutional problem in Spain. In fact, what happened was quite the opposite, although the Catalan government is quick to point out that there is more to Europe than the European Commission and emphasises the sympathy and support from countries like Belgium, Slovenia, Denmark, Ireland and Latvia, which has allowed the exiled government to realise that Europe and the space of freedom it has created are the solution to the political conflict, even if some of today’s political leaders in Europe are unable to appreciate that.

Therefore, taking every opportunity to show that Spain’s behaviour is entirely incompatible with Europe’s democratic standards is key to the exiled government’s strategy: to get to a point where the cost of justifying Spain’s totalitarian arbitrariness is no longer acceptable to Europe. And this can be more easily achieved from a house only sixteen kilometres from Brussels than from Barcelona, a city that is being subjected to constant, indiscriminate repression.

Translation: Vilaweb


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)

Vote and let vote

Vicenç Villatoro
Villatoro: Unionists aren’t obliged to welcome Sànchez’s nomination, but have a moral obligation to accept it

Ciudadanos, the PP and the PSC wouldn’t want Jordi Sànchez to be the president of the Catalan government. They believe that choosing him makes no sense, that it’s a mistake, an inconvenient decision. They have every right to feel that way. Logically, therefore, if Sànchez’s nomination is presented to Parliament, they will vote against it. What wouldn’t be logical —and what they have no right to do— is to try and prevent those who support him from voting in his favour, which may well be the majority of MPs.

The unionists aren’t obliged to welcome Sànchez’s nomination. They have every right to criticize the decision and oppose it with their arguments. But in a democracy, they have a moral obligation to accept it, if he has the majority in his favour. To use subterfuge to prevent a member of the public with all their political rights intact, including the right to vote and to be elected, from being chosen if it is the majority will, flies in the face of democracy. It has already happened with President Puigdemont, with the excuse that he was abroad.

The unionists seem set to make the same serious mistake again, in an echo of what has been their original sin throughout this process: denying their opponents the right to vote for what they believe in. Everyone has the right to vote according to their convictions. What they don’t have the right to do is to deny us the possibility of voting according to our own convictions or to deny the value of our vote.
Translation: Ara


Week ending March 4

139 days with political prisoners
139 nights with political prisoners


Photo of the week

Statue of slave-trader Antonio Lopez removed from Barcelona square

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)

Stop this sad investiture spectacle

March 4

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.

Footnotes:

1. "Autonomous community" is the official title for the regional governments in the Spanish state.
2. Former president of the Catalan National Congess (ANC), number two to Puigdemont on the JxCat ticket.

March 3: The CUP decides not to support the agreement for government between JxCat and the ERC, but to abstain on the vote. This leaves the JxCat and ERC proposal two votes short of a 66-65 majority over the unionist parties plus CatECP (which had said it will vote against the proposal for a government headed by Jordi Sànchez). 

March 3: PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez: "An unviable candidate like Puigdemont cannot be followed by another like Sànchez."

March 2: Rafael Ribó, the Catalan Ombudsman, leads Catalan human rights organisation in demanding a proper investigation of Spanish police action on October 1.

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).

ANC March 11 "Republic Now!" demonstration poster

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)

The moment of truth

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

Translation: Ara


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

Text and vote on resolution on the restoration of Catalan institutions

Moved: Together for Catalonia

NOTES:
1. Citizens (Cs) and the People's Party of Catalonia (PPC) regarded the whole resolution as unconstitutional, and did not take part in the vote. Citizens said it would launch a appeal against the resolution in the Spanish Constitutional Court.
2. PSC-Units is the electoral alliance between the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC) and United to Advance, formerly members of the defunct christian democrat Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC). PSC-Units did not vote on paragraph 6b of the resolution, regarding it as unconstitutional.
3. The 135-seat Catalan Parliament is made up as follows: Citizens 36, Together for Catalonia (JxCat) 34, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) 32. PSC-Units 17, Catalona Together-Podemos (CatECP) 8, People's Unity List (CUP) 4, PPC 4

The Parliament of Catalonia:
1. Reaffirms that it represents the people of Catalonia and is the expression of their will. (ORIGINAL TEXT)
Approved: 76 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC, CatECP and CUP) and 17 against (PSC-Units). Cs and PPC did not vote

2a. Notes that the elections of December 21 returned a majority favorable to pro-independence forces, that is, to the political formations favouring government action for a Republic and the constitution of Catalonia as an independent state in the form of a Republic. (TEXT AMENDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH AMENDMENT 4 OF THE CUP)
Approved: 68 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC and CUP) and 25 against (PSC-Units and CatECP) and 1 abstention (1 PPC deputy). Cs and three PPC deputies did not vote.

2b. Stresses that Members of Parliament enjoy the prerogatives of parliamentary inviolability and immunity which must guarantee, in turn, the free establishment of the will of the Chamber and the maintenance of the composition given it by the people's will. (TEXT AMENDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH  AMENDMENT 4 OF THE CUP)
Approved: 76 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC, CatECP and CUP) and 17 against (PSC-Units). Cs and PPC did not vote.

3. Manifests its absolute rejection of the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution agreed by the [October 27] Senate Plenary and the government of Spain, along with its effects on Catalan democratic institutions, which has violated the basic rights of the Catalans, restricted the sovereign powers of their legitimate institutions and dismissed their democratically elected representatives. It therefore demands an immediate end to its application. (ACCEPTANCE OF AMENDMENT 5 OF THE CUP)
Approved: 77 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC, CatECP, CUP and 1 deputy of the PSC-Units) and 16 against (PSC-Units). Cs and PPC did not vote.

4a. Denounces the authoritarian and undemocratic  evolution of Spain, evident from improprieties committed within the executive and judicial spheres, for example:
- The fact that the Minister of Justice in a flagrant violation of the separation of powers outlined with total certainty the future course of legal proceedings against persons under investigation, most specifically Members of Parliament, and anticipated the dates and content of the charges they would face;
- Pressure and interference from the Spanish executive against the Constitutional Court while in the midst of its process of deliberation on the admissibility of an appeal brought by the Spanish government itself against a resolution of the speaker of this Parliament. These pressures ended up being reflected in the final terms of the Constitutional Court's judgment in an action unprecedented in constitutional law;
- In legal rulings that keep four citizens in preventive detention. The legitimate and democratic ideological choices pointed to in these rulings are today represented by at least 70 deputies in this chamber.
- In impeding the members of this chamber from fully performing their rights and duties as elected members of this Parliament. (TEXT AMENDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH AMENDMENT 6 OF THE CUP)
Approved: 76 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC, CatECP and CUP) and 17 against (PSC-Units). Cs i PPC did not vote.

4b. Denounces the widespread repression of the Spanish State against the Catalan Republican movement, which operates against Catalonia through the legal witchhunt1 that the powers of the state have initiated, violating the civil and political rights of the citizens and their legitimate representatives, with the consequence of jail, exile and all kinds of unjust and undemocratic criminal measures. (ACCEPTANCE OF AMENDMENT 7 OF THE CUP)
Approved: 68 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC and CUP), 17 against (PSC-Units) and 8 abstentions (CatECP). Cs and PPC did not vote.

5. Denounces the illegal and illegitimate destitution of the President of Catalonia and his government, repository of the will of the people of Catalonia, through the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution and proclaims its will and determination to restore the institution of the Presidency of the Generalitat [Government] of Catalonia. (ORIGINAL TEXT)
Approved: 68 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC and CUP), 25 against (PSC-Units and CatECP). Cs and PPC did not vote.

6. Notes that the Most Honourable President Carles Puigdemont i Casamajo:
- was elected by an absolute majority of the Parliament of Catalonia on January 10, 2016 and won a motion of confidence on September 29, 2016;
- Has achieved the support necessary, on the basis of the result of the elections of December 21, 2017 (which created a pro-independence majority in this chamber), to be the Parliament's legitimate candidate for the presidency of the Government in this legislature;
- Continues to enjoy a sufficient parliamentary majority, won at the ballot box and reconfirmed on December 21, for confidence in him as President to be ratified.
Approved:  67 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC and CUP), 24 against (PSC-Units and CatECP). Cs and PPC did not vote.

6b. Demands an end to the interference of the government of the State in the lower level courts and the Constitutional Court, which seeks to prevent the realisation of this democratic will of the representatives of the people of Catalonia, as well as that which was legitimately expressed in the Referendum on Self-determination of Catalonia on October 1.
-Establishes that this Parliament and its Presidency immediately activates all the appropriate instruments and procedures needed to guarantee the unrestricted civil and political rights of all its elected representatives and to restore all of its Institutions, starting with its Presidency, as well as its powers to legislate and govern in support of the social, civil and political rights of all Catalans without exception, building a new, just, inclusive and solidarity-based country for everyone, such as via the restitution of the content of the laws and social and environmental decrees approved by this Chamber in the last parliamentary term and suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court. (TEXT AMENDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH AMENDMENTS 9 AND 10 OF THE CUP)
Approved: 68 votes in favor (JxCat, ERC and CUP), 8 against (CatECP). Cs, PSC-Units and  PPC did not vote.

This text is pending review and correction. The official text of the resolution approved will be the one that will be published in the Official Bulletin of the Parliament of Catalonia

Footnotes:
1. The phrase "legal witchhunt" is used here to translate Causa General, a reference to the massive and sustained crusade of legal persecution applied by the Franco dictatorship to its defeated opponents after the Spanish Civil War.

February 28: 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."


Over 600 jurists denounce violation of human rights in Catalonia before Council of Europe

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.

Translation: Ara


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)

A king humiliated by a worthy nation

Vicent Partal
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).

Royalpolitik

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

From Spain Square...
...to "Republic Square"

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)

Unity of pro-sovereignty forces or finis Cataloniae1

Jordi Bordeta
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.

Footnotes

1. "The End of Catalonia" (Latin), title of an article on the arrival of the Francoist troops in Barcelona on January 26, 1939.
2. A reference to the internal culture of the parliamentary caucus of the ruling pro-independence Together for the Yes (JxSí) coalition, which brought together the right-nationalist Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC)--later relaunched as the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDECat)--ERC and non-aligned supporters of independence.
3. A reference to the current polemic in Barcelona on whether or not to join up the city's two separate tram networks with a line down the central Diagonal. The Black Locomotive is a Terrassa-based jazz band. The meaning of the reference is therefore something like "or whatever".
4. ERC was founded in 1931 and brought together Catalan State (of president-to-be Francesc Macià), the Catalan Republican Party of Macià's successor Lluís Companys and the Opinion group of Joan Lluhí. Josep Tarradellas, who was to become president of the Generalitat after its restoration in 1977, was general secretary of ERC at its founding.
5. The anti-capitalist People's Unity List.


Interview with leading Spanish constitutionalist Javier Pérez Royo

'Democracy in Spain is under de facto suspension'

NacioDigital, February 23

Javier Pérez Royo

Javier Pérez Royo (Sevilla, 1944) is a constitutional jurist and professor at the University of Seville, where he was vice-chancellor between 1988 and 1992. He graduated from the University of Tübingen and the Planck Institute of Comparative Law of Heidelberg. He explains his position on the conflict between the Spanish government and legal system and the Catalan pro-independence movement in this interview with NacióDigital, done after Pérez Royo took part in the XIII Conference of the Ernest Lluch Foundation on Democracy, Legality and Legitimacy.

Do you maintain that there has been no Constitution in Catalonia since 2010?

That’s exactly how it is. The [2010] 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.

Footnotes
1. In 2010 the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled on an appeal by the PP against the constitutionality of the 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy, agreed to by both the Catalan and Spanish parliaments and endorsed by referendum in Catalonia. The PP appealed against 128 of the Statute's 223 articles. The court found 14 articles unconstitutional. Most importantly, it ruled that the Statute could not describe Catalonia as a nation.
2. On the February 23, 1981 (23F) Civil Guards under the leadership of Antonio Tejero occupied the Spanish congress as part of a failed military coup attempt. The full story of the attempt is still to emerge.
3. Major Josep Lluís Trapero, head of the Catalan police at the time of the Barcelona and Cambrils terrorist attacks in August 2017, is presently being investigated by the National High Court for his potential complicity in the October 1 referendum.
4. The Rajoy government has been unable to pass the 2017 Spanish budget because of the refusal of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) to honour a deal to support it while the article 155 intervention in Catalonia is still in place.
5. Luis Barcenas, former PP treasurer found to have a €43 million account in Switzerand. Francisco Correa, organiser of the Gürtel network for awarding busnesses public works contracts in exchange for payments to the PP.
6. Álvaro Pérez Alonso, known at "the moustache" (El Bigotes) is a Valencian businessman involved in the Gürtel case. He last week asked in court why the husband of defence minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal, had not been charged with any corruption offence, the "singing of La Traviata"  referred to by Pérez Royo.
7. Citizens began life as a movement against Catalan being the language of instruction in the Catalan education system.
8. The Union of the Democratic Centre (UCD) was the party with which former Franco minister Adolfo Suárez won the 1977 general elections, the first after the end of the Franco dictatorship. Suárez repeated his success in the 1979 elections, but the party was effectively wiped out by the 1982 landslide victory of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). It took 14 years for the conservative side of Spanish politics to reconstitute a party (the PP) and win a national election (in 1996).

  • February 23: Snap protest by Committees in Defence of the Republic (CDR) in support of Catalan political prisoners leads to arrests of 14.

  • February 23: Former head of the Catalan police, Josep Lluís Trapero, appears before the National High Court (Audiencia Nacional) to answer as to his role leading up to the October 1 referendum and denies supporting the project. The Spanish state prosecutor demands that he be released on the payment of €50,000 in bail, but judge Carmen Lamela imposes no conditions on Trapero.

  • February 23: (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.


Comment

The right to stop children from learning … Catalan

Marçal Sintes
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.

Footnotes
1. José Ignacio Wert was education minister in the Rajoy government from 2011 to 2015 and notorious for his 2012 statement that one of the purposes of his Basic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality, known as the Wert Law, was to "hispanicise Catalan students and make them as proud of being Spaniards as of being Catalans".
2. The Valencian Ausiàs March (1397-1459) was the leading poet of his day, His lyric verse, written in Catalan, also influenced poets writing in Castilian. The sarcastic phrase "horrible sounds of the language of Ausiàs March" would sound to Catalan readers like "horrible sounds of the language of Shakespeare".

  • February 22: Civil Guard searches, for the second time in five days, the private plane of Manchester City trainer Pep Guardiola at Barcelona's Prat airport, looking for Carles Puigdemont.

  • February 22: Pensioner demonstrations in 40 centres in the Spanish state against "pensions of misery" and the financial threats to the pensions system (see demonstration below in Bilbao).

Pensioner demonstartion, Bilbao, February 22, 2018

  • 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."


Comment

The judge's decision on Anna Gabriel: prudent or absurd?

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.

Backtracking thrice

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

Footnotes

1. Vox is a right wing, Spanish-chauvinist political party, which has constituted itself as a popular prosecutor in the Supreme Court investigation of Catalan political and social movement leaders. Unlike the law in English-speaking countries, where criminal charges are brought only by a government prosecutor, Spanish law allows ordinary citizens and organisations to pursue criminal actions by filing criminal complaints.Their prosecution falls into two categories: if a victim files a complaint directly with an instructing or investigating judge, the victim becomes a party to the case during the investigation and trial phases, a status known as a private prosecution (acusación particular). Spanish law also allows people not directly connected to an alleged crime to take part in a case if they can prove public interest. Public interest groups and political parties often join these complaints as popular prosecutors (acusadores populares) as a way of dramatising their commitment to a political cause, with organisations both left and right taking advantage of the institution. In the case of VOX, the point is to demand an even tougher stance from Supreme Court judge Llarena against the Catalan enemies of the sancrosanct unity of Spain (see its web site featuring the antics of their lawyer here).

  • February 21: 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".


Snapshot

Anna Gabriel, heroine of the CUP

Enric Vila, El Nacional, February 20

CUP leader Anna Gabriel, interviewed by Swiss public television

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)

No heating in Catalan minister Joaquim Forn's prison cell

Greg Russell, February 20

Deposed Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn

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.

“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

Venomous tongue

Esther Vera, Editor-in-chief, Ara, February 18

July 2014 Barcelona demonstration in defence of Catalan education system
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.

Translation: Ara

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].

Translation: Ara


Week ending February 18

Catalan political prisoners, Four months in jail
125 days with political prisoners


Cartoon of the week

Manel Fontdevila, el.diario, February 9

16-02-2018 Cartoon of the Week

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!


Backgrounder

Strasbourg against Madrid: the red cards received by Spain from European justice

In the last three years, the Spanish state has been condemned on 19 occasions for having breached the European Convention on Human Rights

European Court of Human Right building, Strasbourg
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 Barcelona march in support of political prisoners

  • 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)

The 'Boya defence' is a good counterattack

Mireia Boya enters Supreme Court

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."


Comment

The tensions of a Catalan independence supporter

All the feedback coming from Spain reinforces intransigence

Joan B. Culla, professor of contemporary history at the Autonomous University of Barcelona
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.

Translation: Ara


Comment

A witch-hunt in Catalonia

A new political and intellectual generation are needed: the witch hunt won’t stop for a long time

Frances Vilanova, professor of contemporary history, Autonomous University of Barcelona

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.

Translation: Ara


Week ending February 11
120 days with political prisoners

120 nights with political prisoners


Photo of the week

Prats de Mollo (French Pyrenees): Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent touches Republican flag carried out of Spain by retreating Republican soldier after Francoist victory in 1939

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.


Main events

  • 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.

National Secretariat
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).


Essential reading

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.

Footnotes
1. That article concluded: "Nothing is stopping the government that is to be formed, the presidency included, from having, so to speak, a technical character: that is to say, one that in no way prefigures the creation of an alternative leadership to the one in prison or in exile. Let no-one doubt: while they are there, they will be our leaders."
2. In the Spanish State, the provincial administrations (diputaciones) date back to the provincial sub-division of the state carried out in 1833. In present-day Spain, autonomous communities made up of more than one province have indirectly elected diputaciones for those provinces. There is an ongoing debate in the Spanish State as to whether the diputaciones are even needed for the purpose of  efficient administration or aren't just a place to park party hacks.
3. In the Spanish State legislatures last for four years.
4. Rosella Nicolini is a professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona's Faculty of Economics and Business.

Contributions to the Catalan strategic debate 1

Stitching the country back together

The independence movement should put forward goals that can be shared and not insist on a maximum program


Josep Ramoneda, philosopher
Ara, February 6

Note: This is the first of  a series of translations of articles focussing on the way forward for Catalonia in the wake of the Spanish government's article 155 intervention in Catalan self-government and the December 21 election victory of the pro-independence parties.

1. CONSENSUS. I get a letter from [jailed Òmnium Cultural president] Jordi Cuixart, who wishes me a Happy New Year from Soto del Real prison, and I feel a catch in my throat. I still don't accept that people should be in jail who have done so much to avoid any descent into violence by a movement that for years has taken hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets without a single incident worthy of mention. Jordi points out some priorities that I fully share: "Broad agreements on national goals and stitching the county back together again from top to bottom (also emotionally). More Candel1 and more value given to shared struggles."

Effectively, politics has to get its feet back on the ground. It has to climb down to reality from a Process2 that has crashed because none of those driving it were able to slow down in time. The pressure of the emotional climate created during these years, the fear of the word "betrayal" and the inevitable petty squalours of the political kitchen (where, let's not forget, everyone has their slice of power) blocked the proper exercise of strategic thinking. Until, on October 273, the reality principle showed its claws: the proclamation of the Republic was a work of fiction and (to use an expression of Santos Julià4) "the dinosaur of the State was still there", unfazed and prepared to unleash whatever force was needed. And so the price of the great fantasy of a unilateral break from Spain got paid. The Spanish state couldn't allow it and the pro-sovereignty movement hadn't the strength to impose it. If it hadn't wanted to believe that the State would accept the decision of a majority (also not absolute) as to its own break-up, that Europe would side with Catalonia, that international discredit would sink Spain and that good would triumph (as sometimes happens in the movies), we wouldn't have suffered so much damage. And they wouldn't now be spending so much energy in a ritual of recovery of the sacked president, which at bottom is an exercise in mourning for the mistakes made.

2. PRIORITIES. Yes, I think mending the country is the first step anyone who wants to work out a long-term strategy should take. The incoming government must have a program aimed in this direction. There will always be a sector that believes, on the principle of sharpening contradictions, that it is more worth continuing the agitation and that the maintenance of article 155 is better than a government within a Spanish-regional framework. That's piling fiction on fiction. Just like the theory that an economic collapse would work in favor of independence: every percentage point of the GDP we take away brings us closer to our goal because it will end up forcing the Spanish government to give way--so I've heard it argued. Let us not deceive ourselves: if there is an economic collapse we'll all pay.

If it doesn't want to start losing support the independence movement has to move back from its periphery. It has to gain the ability to incorporate other sectors and, therefore, has to mark shared objectives and not mortgage everything on its maximum program, proven to be unattainable in the short run. The parties that have made up this bloc must recover their different profiles and policies and not abandon their own messages. It cannot be that they just keep silent about the things they don't agree on. And that they tip-toe past the changes and the fractures in society.

Three priorities. First, look for areas for a broad consensus on options that have given and must continue to give Catalonia its specificity and its image of reference. The innovation-medicine-culture-tourism formula always gets mentioned, but there's more. What would stop us from becoming a benchmark in how to deal with climate change and eco-system balances? In this sense, a second priority: Barcelona. The city as a natural site for bringing together shared spaces of endeavour and for confronting very current problems--from immigration to inequality--that demand treatment at the local level. Lacking as we are in political and economic hard power, Barcelona is a banner of that in which we can be strong, soft power, creativity and good living5. And that is why we need to think in metropolitan terms--the third great goal: that broad sectors of society don't feel excluded, that struggles against the abuses of power can be shared. And here the left has a big responsibility. Why is the PSC losing the Barcelona industrial and working-class belt? Why does it cost the Commons6 so much to penetrate there? Matters for the post-shock reconstruction agenda, topics that should find a space in a public debate that has become monothematic to the point of asphyxiation.

Footnotes

1. Francesc Candel (1925-2007) was a writer of Valencian origin who lived nearly all his life in Barcelona. He is famous for his depiction of the lives and struggles of those hundreds of thousands of families who like his own came to Catalonia in search of a better life from elsewhere in the Spanish State. His most famous work is The Other Catalans (not yet available in English). See here for more background.
2. The "Process" is shorthand for the Catalan independence process.
3. Date of the Catalan parliament's declaration of independence and the Spanish Senate's adoption of the article 155 intervention dismissing the Catalan government.
4. Galician historian, author of Transition: History of a Spanish Policy (1937-2017) (not available in English).
5. Italicised terms in English in original.
6. The reference is to the formations Barcelona en Comú (running Barcelona Council), En Comú Podem (the largest Catalan party in the Spanish parliament) and Catalunya en Comú-Podem (the alliance of left parties supporting a Catalan right to decide but not necesarily independence). These forces, which are aligned with Podemos at the level of the Spanish State, are usually referred to as "The Commons".

Ara editor Esther Vera interviews Ernest Maragall

Ara 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