Spain: The World Is Watching You

Erika Casajoana.

The Catalan drive for independence represents the European Union’s worst territorial crisis ever, within the continent (that is, excluding decolonization). Spain causes the Union such trouble because it is not a democracy by European standards. If it were, we Catalan pro-independence supporters would have obtained an agreed-upon referendum many years ago –and possibly lost it.

We have worked very hard for the world to pay attention to our case. We have denounced in Brussels scandals such as Operation Catalonia (by which the deep state was fabricating evidence to discredit Catalan pro-independence politicians); the political trials against Catalan officials after the popular consultation of November 9th, 2014; the criminal prosecution against the Catalan Parliament Speaker after a debate on independence; the continuous erosion of democratic standards and separation of powers by the Spanish government; the degradation of the Constitutional Court into a kangaroo court subservient to the Executive; and all the catalanophobia. It was very hard to get any traction abroad.

Even before the referendum on October 1st, the Spanish repression had already given us internationalization (and the triumph of the Yes). Even the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker may have been hedging his bet a bit on the Catalan question, when he hinted that the Commission would respect a vote for Catalan independence. Juncker owes his position to Spain’s government party Partido Popular and so far has taken the European Commission with him in unconditionally siding with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s heavy hand.

In the run-up to the referendum showdown, Rajoy’s partners and major western newspapers were stunned by the lack of any strategy in Madrid. They do not understand how the Catalan conflict is supposed to go away, let alone how Spain plans to get out of this escalation.

No, the Catalan case is not an “internal affair”. Off the record, European officials recognize that the Iberian crisis is a big deal (‘This is huge!’), and that Madrid violates European democratic standards. But nobody wants to be the first to say it.

For many years, European capitals have been aware of the many limitations of the democratic regime that was born in Spain after dictator Franco’s death in 1975. But before the Catalan uprising, Spain was considered an alright partner that didn’t cause too much trouble.

Now the government has brutally beaten its own peaceful citizens, and broken the democratic principles, civil rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by Spanish, European and international law. Rajoy acts desperately, invoking a sacred and unreformable Constitution while implementing a covert state of emergency without any guarantee. In the weeks prior to October 1st, we lost the fundamental rights of freedom of information, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and the inviolability of correspondence. With public prosecutors who pursue hundreds of mayors and try to take on competencies in public security, Spain barely even pretends to respect the democratic separation of powers.

Catalonia’s right to self-government, enshrined in article 2 of the Spanish Constitution, has been eliminated with a ministerial order by Spain’s Treasury. A ministerial order!

The international scandal can no longer be disguised. Major newspapers, including the Financial Times, Le Monde, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine -none of them friends of Catalan secession- criticize the Spanish government harshly. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch consider the use of force on October 1st “excessive” and “disproportionate”.

Sadly, so far, the European Commission stands firm by its Member State. But the political cost of turning a blind eye on Prime Minister Rajoy’s violations of human rights is mounting.

I am dissapointed but not surprised with the European Commission’s crude Realpolitik.

I would like to watch the videos of police repression of peaceful voters in Catalonia together with Commission’s number 2 Frans Timmermans, and ask him to deny again that this was disproportionate use of force.

On October 1st, 2017, I arrived with many others at a Barcelona school before 5 AM, to offer peaceful resistance to any attempt to seal it off and prevent voting. People had been sleeping at schools all over Catalonia since Friday.

We were among the lucky ones. We were not attacked. Less than 200 yards from us, a polling station was raided by Spanish anti-riot police: respectable ladies were hit (including our minister of Education) and a ballot box was confiscated. They only managed to pull out one.

The Spanish government is so revengeful and petty, that it targeted first the schools where President Carles Puigdemont, Speaker Carme Forcadell, and former President Artur Mas were supposed to vote. Their friends and neighbors are among the injured. These Catalan officials voted anyway thanks to an online universal census, valid everywhere. The assaults spared a major city, Badalona, which the ruling People’s Party hopes to recover in the next municipal election. This isn’t exactly the rule of law, is it?

The volunteers in our school kept up-to-date on police movements through social media, and also sent watchmen to nearby streets. We were ready to lock the gates on short notice. I felt a mix of fear and indignation throughout the day.

My daughter asked her father at home if Mom would be beaten. Catalan children now fear Spanish police the same way I did under Franco. Old times are back.

All over Catalonia, citizens stood defiantly for their rights. In many places, the police and paramilitary units left empty-handed. Peaceful resistance thwarted the government’s plans to abort the referendum: over 2,2 million votes were protected and counted, representing 42% of the census. Three million voters had been ID’d, representing over 56% turnout, but 770,000 votes were stolen by a violent and demophobic state. No wonder the Yes vote shot up exponentially to a whopping 90%!

A former international basketball player, Xavi Fernández, told the press that he was on the way to vote “No” when he was beaten up by paramilitary police in front of his polling station in Sant Julià de Ramis. He ended up voting “Yes”.

Catalonia managed to celebrate a referendum on self-determination under extreme repression. Voters kept flowing to the polls despite the awful images shown on television. We feel very proud that we succeeded in defending our democratic rights and dignity.

The Spanish political regime born in 1978 has run its course. It cannot handle the Catalan challenge and will not survive it.

Spanish authorities at the highest levels feel so angry and humiliated that they are capable of further and worse repression. They are inciting the masses against Catalonia on a daily basis. Even the King Felipe IV.

The next days and weeks will be crucial to gain and secure our freedom. If Catalonia does not manage to break away, we will be crushed.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said: “For the EU, it is much easier to grandstand and lecture on human rights in Cambodia than inside its territory”.

We now know that the European Union will not defend us.

About the author:

DSC_1823-495x324Erika Casajoana, public communications & public affairs consultant, based in Brussels. Member of Sobirania i Justícia. @ecasajoana

Catalonia vs Spain, a divorce announcement

Francesc Sànchez.

Time is moving very quickly and mentalities are not adapting at the same speed.

Only 30 years ago very few people in Europe knew about Catalonia. I remember a taxi journey from London to Heathrow during which I was speaking Catalan with a co-worker. The taxi driver, who couldn’t understand us, asked where we came from. On answering Catalonia, a long silence was the driver’s response. Realising that he was a little embarrassed not to know what Catalonia was, we added that the capital was Barcelona. The reaction was quick: Ah! Like Barca the football team?

Now 30 years have passed and almost everybody is aware of the situation in Catalonia without needing to mention Messi. Today, a lot of people in Europe are wondering why suddenly they have discovered that there is such a bitter divorce brewing between Catalonia and Spain.

The reasons why Catalonia has arrived at such a situation and is so committed to pursuing the process of independence are numerous and long-standing. We can summarise them as follows:

Historical reasons: The list of conflicts between Castile and Aragon starts with the dynastic union through the marriage between Isabel of Castile and Ferran of Aragon (1474). With that, it began the attempt to impose Castilian power over the Crown of Aragon’s (Aragon, Catalunya i Valencia) affairs using by sending viceroys from Madrid to Barcelona with the clear order to impose Castilian laws and customs.

Everything exploded with the war of Succession to the Spanish crown (1701) which provoked a European war between two dynasties, Bourbon (France and Castile) and Habsburg (Crown of Aragon and Austria). Catalonia hoped that by aligning herself with the member states of the Alliance (England, Netherlands, Portugal and Austria) and against France and Castile, her institutions would be better protected.

The conflict only ended in 1711 when an unexpected occurrence changed the course of events: Archduke Charles of Austria succeeded his brother Joseph I and inherited the Austrian throne, thus losing the support of England, where the Tory government distrusted the excessive power of the Habsburgs.

Then, without England’s support, Barcelona decided to continue the fight against France and Castile completely alone. This ended in disaster and in 1714 Barcelona was defeated. The Castilian army took Catalonia by ‘right of conquest’. Thus, the courts, laws, and universities were overridden and the Catalan language abolished from public administrations.

But the Catalan fight to restore our institutions has survived until today even under the yoke of strong dictatorships like Primo de Rivera’s (1923) and Franco’s (1936).

Cultural and linguistic reasons. One of the strongest obsessions of the Madrid Government since 1714 has been the eradication of the Catalan language from society. ‘If Catalan doesn’t exist, neither will Catalans’. Since 1716 (Nova Planta Treaty) more than 400 bills have been enacted trying to abolish the Catalan language. Since it is impossible to list them all here, I have selected the most significant from the list:

  • 1773. Council of Castile: Publication of Catalan books prohibited throughout the territory.
  • 1857. Moyano’s law. Study of Castilian grammar made compulsory in Catalan public education .
  • 1952. Gov. of Barcelona. “Do you think we have won a war just to allow you to speak Catalan?”

Finally, I have saved the most fascist utterance of all for last. Mr. J.L. Wert – Spain’s Minister for Education- proposed 5 years ago in the Spanish Parliament: “We must use the schools system to make Catalan children become Spanish”. Nothing needs to be added to further explain Spain’s attempts to attack the Catalan language

Economic reasons. The area where the force of repression has been most noticeable is Catalonia’s finances. Upon starting its period of dominance (1714), the Madrid Government created a new tax, named Cadastre, which multiplied by the level of Catalan taxes by 7.3. Needless to say, this was imposed in manu militari fashion through seizure of goods and imprisonment.

The plundering still is going on. At the beginning of the 20th century, in spite of so many difficulties, Catalonia became the heart of Spanish industry but this didn’t stop the Government from taking money from Catalonia’s coffers.

Finally, since the new transition in 1978, Catalonia has suffered a constant yearly deficit of 8.4% of Catalan GDP. This has lasted for over 35 years.

Evidently, an annual solidarity bill of 16.000 million € (8.4% GDP) for Catalonia to support poorer regions of Spain is an unbearable burden for the future of Catalonia if we want to achieve the levels of technology and social welfare found in the most advanced European countries.

The State imposes deficits in autonomous regions and then blames them in front of Europe.

The Spanish arrogance. Madrid serves no purpose unless it functions as the capital and the centre of the state. It is the product of centralized political will. The rest of the country can only survive if it is in control.

Only given this context can we understand the blundering deployment of the high-speed (AVE) radial train network (centre Madrid), which largely carries no passengers at ruinous expense. At least they can boast of having the second largest worldwide high-speed train network after China. Their honour is saved, regardless of who foots the bill. Their excuse is that they did it to unite the Spanish nation.

Finally, the most appalling example of arrogance and lack of empathy (what is this about empathy?) is the shameful account of the annulment of the Catalan Autonomy Statute in 2006.

This Autonomy Statute was approved by the Catalan Parliament, the Spanish Parliament and Senate and approved on referendum by the people of Catalonia with a 76% YES vote and 49% voter participation.

But Spanish pride couldn’t accept the humiliation of having a region with its own prerogatives which differ from those of other Spanish regions. A smear campaign against the approved Statute began, using insults such a former socialist minister Mr. Guerra’s ‘I am very proud to get the Catalan Statute swept away’. The Statute was cut down, generating a wave of indignation which has led us to the current situation.

To resolve this dispute, the Central Government proposes that we change the Constitution. They are talking seriously but it’s a joke because Spanish society feels very comfortable with the Constitution and has no desire to change it. Certainly, every Spanish citizen feels that the Constitution is a tailor made dress.

Catalan people accepted the Constitution of 1978 (under military pressure) hoping that the dress would not became a corset. Now most Catalans feel severely restricted in an abusive and suffocating way.

But we don’t have enough democratic power to change the situation. Logically, Spanish society sees things in a different way: they don’t want to understand the hopes and problems of Catalanism. The sad conclusion of this scenario is that there are only two possible outcomes: resignation or rupture.

The Spanish Government has resisted by active and passive means any dialogue on the Catalan requirements: financing, language and jurisdiction. In fact, the Government insists on centralisation to a grotesque extreme.

It has become clear to the majority of Catalan people, after five years of huge demonstrations of a scale never seen in Europe (each with more than one million people), that the Government is not going to listen and the lack of empathy is such that only with our own independent state we will be able to enjoy free democracy. The decision is: Independence or decadence.

About the author:

francesc sanchezFrancesc Sànchez Benas, technical engineer and a member of Sobirania i Justícia.

Alerta amb la termodinàmica de la política catalana

El primer principi de la termodinàmica diu que l’energia total d’un sistema es conserva.  Dit d’una altra manera i aplicat al sistema-Catalunya, per anar de l’estat 1 (dependent) a l’estat 2 (independent) l’energia o esforç que ens costarà serà el mateix, hi anem pel camí que hi anem. El científic i escriptor anglès Charles Percy Snow ho enunciava més entenedorament tot dient “Vostè no pot guanyar”, és a dir, no es pot obtenir quelcom a canvi de res. O com deien els nostres avis: “duros a quatre pessetes, no n’hi ha”, o “d’on no n’hi ha, no en pot rajar”.

En el procés que està vivint el nostre país cap a la recuperació de la independència, de vegades sembla talment que tots plegats, especialment els nostres líders, ens han assegurat que arribarem a l’estat 2 (independent) sense despentinar-nos, que amb el sistema veí (l’estat espanyol) no hi tindrem cap intercanvi energètic… perquè ho estem fent d’una manera tant escrupolosament democràtica que ni se n’adonaran o no hi podran fer res de res per impedir-ho.

Fins ara, en ocasions ha semblat que volíem defugir d’afrontar realment el repte. El defugíem plantejant manifestacions, processos participatius, eleccions, vies catalanes, eleccions plebiscitàries, llistes unitàries, llistes conjuntes…i arronsant-nos quan el tribunal constitucional espanyol o qualsevol altra instància del sistema veí ens amenaçava amb un intercanvi energètic desfavorable.

Vivim uns moments de renovat entusiasme nacional. Per tal d’assegurar  que aquest cop es compleixi l’objectiu plantejat d’arribar a l’estat 2 (independent) calen dues coses: unitat d’acció i fermesa:

1.- UNITAT D’ACCIÓ. Llista única, unitària o transversal, o bé llistes separades amb marca o estratègia comuna? Tant és! No us n’adoneu? No és el què, és el COM allò que importa! L’important és la unitat d’acció, que els votants veiem que la o les candidatures que es presenten van alhora, formen un equip, segueixen una estratègia comuna i obeeixen unes directrius úniques. Cal unitat en l’objectiu i claredat en l’acció. Els proposo que l’acció passi per arribar a la independència seguint el descrit a l’informe 10 del CATN. Aquestes directrius úniques, provinents d’un lideratge clar i per tots acceptat són una de les greus mancances del procés. Cal que els diferents petits líders acordin i acceptin un lideratge únic i una unitat d’acció que tots tinguem clara. Ara tot just s’albira un inici de liderat compartit. Cal concretar-lo, enfortir-lo i seguir-lo.

2.- FERMESA. Si s’aconsegueix la unitat d’acció caldrà esperar la reacció del sistema-estat espanyol. Ja ho va fer el passat 9N. Aleshores la nostra reacció no va ser prou ferma i per això estem ara parlant de plebiscitàries. Davant les previsibles impugnacions caldrà fermesa, caldrà fer un acte de sobirania i mantenir la convocatòria d’eleccions plebiscitàries amb el full de ruta també acordat i que, com diu l’informe 10 del CATN, estableix: eleccions plebiscitàries, victòria de l’independentisme, darrer intent de negociar la secessió amb l’estat espanyol i, si s’hi nega, proclamació immediata de la independència i nova convocatòria d’eleccions, ara ja, constituents amb les diferents opcions ideològiques per separat. Ara ja no es discutirà entre partidaris i contraris a la independència (ja serem un estat independent) sinó entre quines opcions ideològiques configuraran el nou parlament que elaborarà la constitució catalana. Cal exigir que tothom que es presenti com a independentista, accepti públicament que seguirà tot l’estipulat pel CATN i que arribarà fins a la independència.

En resum, cal configurar un lideratge clar que defineixi una unitat d’acció i cal una fermesa que prevegui els obstacles-impugnacions que vindran i no sarronsi. No s’arronsi. Molts ho estem esperant i no acceptaríem una nova manca de fermesa i d’acció. Acció i fermesa fins a aconseguir-ho. Donec perficiam. I aviat.

Sobre l’autor:    

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Ramon Munné, enginyer químic i membre de Sobirania i Justícia. @ramonmunne