Friday, October 30, 2009

More than 600,000 Catalans will be able to vote for Independence on December 13

So far, there are 115 towns participating

Six-hundred, twenty-three thousand Catalans, at least, will be able to vote in the referendum on Independence that will be held on December 13 in more than 100 towns in the Principat* (see a pdf of the list with the population of each). Everyone sixteen or older listed in the census of those towns will be eligible to vote, regardless of their nationality. It is believed that before the list is completed, in mid November, there will be many more town included.

In the last few days, important steps have been achieved in organizing the referendums, especially in Osona, where the executive director of Osona Decideix, Alfons López Tena has formally requested that there be international observers at the referendums and there is also a plan for the represented political parties to authorize voters. Each week, meanwhile, more towns approve motions in support of the referendums in their council meetings.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 30 October 2009 at 15:09h

Translation Notes

*Principat refers to the "Principat of Catalonia", and is comprised of the provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona.

Osona Decideix asks for international observers for the Referendums on Independence on December 13

López Tena delivers a letter to the European Commission, the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe], the Carter Center, the Secretary of the United Nations and the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] asking them to attend and supervise the process

Alfons López Tena, executive director of Osona Decideix, delivered a petition (pdf) today to the delegation of the European Commission in Barcelona about the intervention of five international organizations in the referendums on independence that will take place in Osona (video). In addition to the commission, the petition was also addressed to the OSCE , the Carter Center, the Electoral Assistance Division of the Secretary of the United Nations, and the joint Partnership on Electoral Assistance of the Commission and the UNDP.

Osona Decideix says in the letter that they have approved the regulations of the referendum based on the current electoral regulations and the criteria of the United Nations and the European Union. They point out that the entity is acting as an organ of electoral management because "the Spanish Constitution prohibits the government and the Parliament of Catalonia and the town governments from freely convoking referendums".

The group also underlines the fact that the private entities are "legally able to freely convoke and organize referendums". Osona Decideix will organize one despite the fact that "the Spanish government has demonstrated repeatedly its opposition to authorizing the convocation of a referendum on the independence of Catalonia."

The referendum in Osona on the independence of Catalonia has received the support of the council meetings in the towns of Vic, Manlleu, Taradell, Prats de Lluçanès, Sant Pere de Torelló, among many others, that represent, according to the group, more than 100,000 people.

López Tena also points out in the letter that other referendums on the independence of Catalonia are in preparation in other towns that have received the support of their local councils, as is the case of the towns of Sant Cugat, Manresa, Berga, Blanes, Cerdanyola del Vallès and Martorell, among others, that represent nearly 500,000 people.

Spanish National Court refuses to hear case about construction under Sagrada Família

The National Court of Spain refuses to hear a case asking that the construction of the high-speed rail next to the Sagrada Familia Church be halted • It sees no urgency in stopping it

The National Court of Spain refused the petition of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia to stop, as a precaution, the construction on the tunnel for the high-speed rail that will go under Mallorca Street. The court considers that there are no "imperatives of urgency" that would justify such a measure; the board, in contrast, warns that the pylons of the protective wall were being installed only 4 feet from the foundations of the temple, and not 6 feet as the project itself called for.

The director of the construction project explained to the court that there was a slight discrepancy between the axis of the tunnel with respect to the axis of Mallorca Street — that is, the axis that is equidistant from both sides. In this stretch, the distance between the edges varies from 67 to 85 centimeters (some 26 to 33 inches). Because of that, the protection wall is being built at a distance that varies from 1.95 m (76 3/4 inches) and 1.15m (45 inches) from the foundation of the Façana de la Glòria [Glory Façade, that is, the side of the church that faces Mallorca Street].

This is the third time that the National Court of Spain decides not to suspend the construction in the open legal case against the location of the high-speed rail.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 30 Oct 2009 at 17:07h

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Representatives of 100 towns establish a coordinator for the December 13th referendums

Those present at the meeting approved a series of national objectives and ratified a technical committee

One hundred local committees organized themselves today in the plenary council into a coordinating committee for a Referendum on Independence with the intention of convoking a referendum on December 13, even though it's possible that not all of them will be able to hold one. In today's meeting, that lasted more than three hours, a series of "national objectives" were approved, and an advisory committee was ratified that will coordinate the process of preparing the referendum in 100 of these towns, sometimes with the support of the local government, and sometimes without.

In the list of towns that foresee holding a referendum on December 13 are Berga, Borges Blanques, Tàrrega, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Santa Coloma de Farners, Solsona, Vic, Vilafranca del Penedès and Vilanova i la Geltrú.

Among the objectives of the plenary council is that of holding a referendum throughout the entire Principat* in the future, as long as the earlier local referendums have been successful. Uriel Bertran, member of the coordinating committee and representative for Esquerra, declared that "when this process moves forward, we will need to appeal to the international community to recognize a binding referendum for political independence". And he continued, "The level of participation on December 13 will be crucial in showing that we are prepared to exercise our right to self-government."

During the meeting, a set of guidelines was presented, based on the referendum in Arenys, on what needs to be done to hold the referendum on December 13, by 100 local organizing committees, 40 of which were present at the meeting.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 24 October 2009 at 21:44h

Organizing committees for independence referendums meet in Arenys de Munt

A hundred of the local committees in charge of organizing independence referendums will meet in Arenys de Munt today, invited by the referendum coordinator, who has also invited the sovereigntist entities and political parties that want to participate. The objective is to get organized with respect to future referendums, even though not all of the committees that will hold referendums on December 13 will be present today. That is the case of Osona Decideix [Osona Decides] and a few others.

Yesterday, the executive director of Osona Decideix, Alfons López Tena, submitted a petition (pdf) to five international organizations (see the video), among which are the European Commission, so that they could serve as international observers of the independence referendums.

The plenary council begins at 4 in the afternoon in the City Hall building in Arenys de Munt, and it is those that organized the first referendum on independence, from this municipality of the Maresme, that are in charge of conducting the meeting. According to the agenda, in the meeting, the "national referendum objectives" will be approved and the "national technical committee will be ratified that will advise and tend the organization process for the referendums" and there will be "a few talks on organization techniques". In addition, a national secretariat will also be established and, if the majority wishes, a national coordinator as well.

According to sources for the coordinating committee, the most important and necessary point is that of ratifying the technical subcommittees, and on those points the working groups will speak today: Josep Manel Ximenis will speak about organizing volunteers; Uriel Bertran on promoting participation; Lluís Pérez on logistics and infrastructure, and Anna Arqué, on communication.

At the end of the meeting, the plan is that the coordinating committee announce which municipalities will hold referendums on December 13.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 24 October 2009 at 06:00h

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Sagrada Família church asks the Spanish courts to halt construction on the high-speed rail train

They say the protection walls are being constructed one meter from the temple instead of two, as specified by Adif's project • They also denounce that the construction has begun before the security report has been completed

The Junta Constructora de la Sagrada Família [Board of the Sagrada Familia Church] has presented a request to the National Court of Spain that the construction on the walls of the future tunnel of the high-speed rail trains that pass underneath Mallorca Street be partially halted. The temple's architect, Jordi Bonet, explained that this wall can not be so close to the temple, and that this will "completely" change the calculations made up until now on the possible effects on the temple and that the construction must be immediately stopped "before it's too late".

The president of the board, Joan Rigol, explained that "constructing the pillars of the wall six feet away "was already risky, and constructing them four feet away is extremely worrisome."

This is the third suit that the Board has presented to the National Court against the construction. So far, the two earlier suits have been denied. They also consider that Adif is pursuing a policy of "fait accomplis" because it has begun the construction on the screen that has to protect the structure of the temple before the presentation of the technical security report.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 23 October 2009 at 18:15h

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rain and wind complicate traffic in and around Barcelona

All of Renfe's lines are running late; the coast lines are the worst

It's raining cats and dogs in a good part of the country and the wind is blowing hard. That's why the head of Civil Protection, the center for emergencies, and the head of emergencies have sounded the alarm. All the Renfe commuter trains around Barcelona are running late; those that are most affected are those that go on the coast. In addition, the metro [subway] in Barcelona is also having trouble. The trains on Line 1 are not stopping at Rambla Just Oliveras in the Fondo direction, nor at Trinitat Vella in the Hospital de Bellvitge direction; trains on Line 2 are only running between Universitat and Pep Ventura; Line 3 is not stopping at Paral.lel; the interchange between Lines 4 and 5 is closed, so you must transfer via the street.

In the Principat* they are continuing on alert for high winds, with gusts that can reach up to 126km/h (78mi/h), and there is also a weather alert for the rain, that may fall in a downpour and be accompanied by heavy winds.

The Generalitat in Valencia has also decreed a pre-emergency for the strong winds and foresees gusts of wind that may reach 90km/h (56mi/h).

For its part, the government in the Balearics has decreed a IG1 level for wind and rain, which corresponds to orange alert in the meteorological centers. In these situations, the head of the emergency preparedness group recommends securing doors and window, disconnecting electric appliances, avoiding places where things might fall and above all else, to avoid going out unless necessary.

In Blanes (Selva), the storm has taken away another chunk of the boardwalk and made a hole 15 square meters in size.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 22 Oct 2009 at 15:46h

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Girona will hold a referendum for indpendence with the support of the city government

Girona is the first capital in the Principat* to decide to hold a referendum, thanks to the votes of CiU, ERC and ICV

The council meeting in Girona on November 10 will approve a motion in support of a referendum on independence. The referendum is being promoted by the civic committee Girona Decideix [Girona Decides], who introduced it this morning. In this way, Girona will be the first capital of the Principat de Catalunya to approve by council meeting the support of this initiative. CiU, ICV and ERC--who together have 13 council members--have already said they will support the motion.

The majority power, the PSC, has said that it won't declare its intentions until the vote. PSC and PP, who will vote against, only have 12 council members. The objective of the commission is to gather as many civic organizations and political groups in the city in order to hold the referendum at the beginning of 2010.

The referendum will not be held on December 13

Girona Decideix, which was organized by Òmnium Cultural, l'Ateneu d'Acció Cultural [Cultural Action Group] and el Casal Independentista El Forn ['The Bakery' Independentist Club], has made the first step, its introduction in public, in order to start gathering support to help organize the referendum. For now, the commission knows that the motion—which has not yet been written—will go up for a vote at the council meeting on November 10 and that the December 13th date to hold the independentist referendum is too tight a schedule. "We don't know yet which date we will choose", said Biel de Montserrat, the representative of Girona Decideix. "For now we want to invite other town organizations to join our proposal so that it has wide support," he said.

From the parties, the spokesperson for the CiU municipal group in Girona, Carles Puigdemont, has already announced that his group will support the motion and that it will be necessary to make an effort that it "come out right and has majority support". From ERC, the councilperson Miquel Poch also confirmed that his group will give the motion their "broad support". For its part, ICV, the number three group in the city government, Núria Terés has also said that her group's vote will be in favor because "it is a proposal that comes from the organizations and that, in addition, has a positive goal".

PSC avoids making a statement

PSC, the majority group in the city government with 10 council members, wants to wait to see the motion before making a statement. Their spokesperson, Joan Pluma, criticized the other parties for stating their support when they still don't have the actual text of the motion, and he said that "in politics, you have to be more rigorous". "We have to study what kind of support they're asking us for before we say we will vote for it," he said. The PP will vote against.

The government team is composed of PSC, ERC, and ICV. On this occasion, the alliance of Republicans and Ecologists with CiU, in the opposition, allows the motion to move forward. This combination of votes was also repeated in Setember of 2008 when ICV supported a motion presented by CiU and ERC for hanging an "estelada"* in an "important place in the city". It was the first time in 30 years that the PSC was unable to deny a motion.

The naming of the referendum in Girona will bring new issues since it will be called: "Citizen referendum for independence of the Catalan Nation". The objective of the promotor, Girona Decideix, is to give it a civic character and to be able to gather together the largest number of city entities possible. In particular, the title, "citizen referendum" aims to put the emphasis on who participates rather than on who originates it. As for the term, "Catalan Nation", the entity has used it with the objective of being able to include the entire country and not only the Principat of Catalunya.

Vilafranca also decides

In Vilafranca del Penedès, another organization has been created to encourage the City government to support a referendum on independence. The civic commission, "Vilafranca Decideix!" [Vilafranca Decides!] will present a motion in support of a popular referendum on independence in the next city council meeting, which will be held next Tuesday. In addition, they will also ask the Town to collaborate with the necessary resources, both material and economic, to hold the referendum. Presently, the commission is formed by 18 organizations, among which are ERC, CiU and CUP. Today, the civic group will organize the different work committees.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 21 October 2009, at 15:15h 

Translation Notes

*Principat refers to the "Principat de Catalunya", which is the current counties of Girona, Lleida, Tarragona and Barcelona, and does not include, for example, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, etc.

European Commission says it is Spain that must act against the Falange

Tremosa, Junqueras and Romeva and German and Italian MEPs* asked that the executive commission prohibit fascist imagery

The European Commission says it cannot illegalize the Falange nor prohibit demonstrations nor its fascist imagery, as it points out that individual states do have the power to do so. Ramon Tremosa, Oriol Junqueras i Raül Romeva asked and German and Italian MEPs complained that Spanish institutions allowed the Falange to demonstrate in Arenys de Munt and also asked that the exhibition of these images be prohibited.

The European Commission has not yet answered the MEPs - actually it has six weeks to do so, until November 3rd—but sources close to the Vice President and to the Commissioner of Justice, Liberty and Security, Jacques Barrot, reminded ACN that the "Charter of Fundamental Rights establishes that the European Union is founded on the indivisible and universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and the state of law". Brussels assures that "the Treaty of the European Union and of the membre communities, the European agreement for the protection of human rights and of fundamental liberties, the social charters adopted by the Union and by the Council of Europe, along with the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EC and of the European Court for Human Rights guarantee these values and principals.

But a spokesperson for Barrot said that the Commission does not have the power to prohibit the exhibition of fascist images and might have to respond to the European Parliament that "the power to act on the legality of parties or demonstrations lies in the hands of the member states". In their parliamentary question, presented on September 22, Tremosa, Junqueras and Romeva denounced the Falange for demonstrating in Arenys de Munt "exhibiting all sorts of fascist symbols, including flags, and singing the official hymn of the Franquist regime, 'Cara al sol'". "La Falange is the direct heir of the single party of the Franquist regime that provoked hundreds of thousands of deaths, disappearances, exiles, and political prisoners between 1936 and 1975 and currently defends the return of a national-syndicalist totalitarian state by way of violence" warned the representatives of CiU, ERC and ICV.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 21 October 2009, at 10:59h

Translation Notes

MEPs = Members of the European Parliament

Direct flights between Valencia and New York return May 29, 2010

The non-stop connection between the two cities ceased October 11

Delta Airlines announced today that it will restart the direct flight between the airports of Valencia and New York on May 29th of next year. On October 11, the airline contracted the last flight between the Manises airport and JFK, that had been connected without stops since June 4th. During that time, there had been 18,531 passengers on those flights, with an occupancy of 83%.

The nonstop service will operate four times a week and will use Boeing 757-200 ETOPS airplanes. For now, they have not specified which days or which price; this year the price was 378 euros round trip, not counting taxes.

Reservations for these flights may be made through any travel agency, on the airline's web page or by telephone (900 800 743)*.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 21 October 2009 at 12:40h

Translation Notes

You can find telephone numbers for Delta from all over the world on their web site.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Puigcercós culminates his proclamation as candidate by climbing Mt. Puigmal

He says that after the elections, Esquerra will only make pacts with those who want Catalonia to have its own state

The president of Esquerra and candidate for the elections of 2010, Joan Puigcercós, made it to the top of Mount Puigmal, the highest mountain in Ripoll County at 2,913 meters above sea level, in a symbolic gesture which he topped off with the proclamation of his candidacy. The expedition, made up of a hundred leaders, politicians, party members, family members and journalists, took about three hours from the Vall of Núria to get to the top of the mountain.

From the summit of Mt. Puigmal, at 2,913 meters, Puigcercós said that ERC will only make pacts with those who are willing to take "a step forward" toward the "construction of a Catalan State". A day after he situated the exercise of the right to decide on independence in the next legislature, he climbed Mt. Puigmal with his family and a hundred party members, some of them from the national executive. He climbed the summit as a "metaphor" for the effort that will be needed to achieve independence: "Everyone came make it to the top of Mt. Puigmal if they set themselves to do it. This country could be independent if we set ourselves to the task."

Upon reaching the summit of Mt. Puigmal, Puigcercós planted the starred Catalan flag at the top, and then photographs were taken of all those who wanted to accompany him in the gesture. Among the people with him were his wife and two sons, the leader of ERC in Barcelona, Jordi Portabella, the exvice-secretary general Eduard Lópex, the representatives, Pere Bosch and Pere Aragonés, the national spokesperson for Joventuts d'ERC (JERC), Gerard Coca, among others, and the Catalan mountainclimber Xavier Arias, expert in ascending the tallest mountains, including Mt. Everest. There were cries of "Free Catalonia" and they sang "Els Segadors"*. Puigcercós encouraged everyone to make a big effort to climb another mountain, that of independence. Not present, in contrast, were the General Secretary of the formation, Joan Ridao, nor anyone in the inner circle of the Vicepresident of the Government, Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira.

With the events of this weekend in Núria, Esquerra has completed the transfer of the candidacy to the presidency of the Generalitat. In April, Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira renounced his candidacy in favor of Joan Puigcercós; ten days ago it was reported that the president of the party had communicated to Carod that he would not be included in the lists, and yesterday Puigcercós was proclaimed the candidate by 94% of the national councilpeople and announced that the right to decide would be the "vital axis" of the party. He did so in a speech (pdf) in which Carod was present, just before his trip to New York to give a conference as councilor of the Vice-presidency.

In the National Council, which met yesterday in Núria, all of the members of Esquerra in the Government were present, including Carod-Rovira, and also the president of Parliament, Ernest Benach. Puigcercós overwhelming victory, with 145 votes in favor, 9 blanks and none against, can be interpreted as a blessing from the National Council on the exclusion of Carod from the Republican lists.

Facing these leaders, and 600 additional people present, Puigcercós, already proclaimed the candidate, made a more solemn speech, remembering throughout the legacy of Presidents Francesc Macià and Lluís Companys. He said that he was taking on the electoral leadership of Esquerra with "honor, humility and responsibility" and with appreciation for those who have managed autonomy in the last thirty years, but with the conviction, he said, that it is necessary to begin a "new era" that sets "new horizons".

The right to decide, a "vital focal point of the party"

"We have placed the right to decide at the center of the political discourse," he declared. According to what he said, in the next legislature, "we Catalans have to be able to exercise the right to decide, to decide about our liberty and to decide about our independence. We have to be able to decide what we want to be, that is a democratic right. And it has to be an important focal point for us, next to social justice and a change in the economic paradigm."

Puigcercós, who claims that ERC is the "motor of change" for Catalonia, defended the historic social conquests driven by Republicans, and he defended politics as "the only valid instrument in democracy" because "the absence of politics is demagoguery"; politics as a tool "by those who defend its honor" to combat "corruption and the corrupted". "The right doesn't politics: it has the economic power, the media power, and other strategic powers" that "normal people will never have" he said. And he considered that ERC had been successful in keeping the defense of the economic accord and the criticisms of the fiscal deficit at the center of the political debate and that independentism has stayed pragmatic and non-extremist.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 18 Oct 2009 11:57h

Translation Notes

*"Els Segadors" is the Catalan National Anthem

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sant Jaume de Frontanyà will hold a referendum on independence

Today at noon, the plenary at Tremp will decide if they will hold a referendum •* continues to grow, with almost 11,000 signatures

The plenary of Sant Jaume de Frontanyà, the smallest town in Catalonia, has given its support to holding a referendum on independence. The proposal, brought forth by the mayor's office, was unanimously approved yesterday. The mayor, Ramon Vilalta, of ERC, will get in touch with to get support on how to hold the referendum, as there is no entity nor individual that can convoke it. Today at noon in Tremp, they will also decide whether to hold a referendum.

Now, the referendums on independence extend not only within our country, but also throughout Europe, especially because of a meeting held last week in Vienna. Taking advantage of the presence in that city of representatives of various Catalan communities in Europe, on Saturday they held the first-ever meeting on the role of the Catalan community abroad in the process of self-determination for Catalonia.

Catalans abroad don't depend on "party ties"

According to the organizing commission, Consulta 13-S*, there were more than 50 participants, from Andorra, Austria, The Basque Country, Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, and Switzerland. There was also a group of participants from Catalonia. In order to get first-hand information on the formalization of the referendums and on the evolution of the movement, the organizers of the referendum in Arenys de Munt, Josep Manel Ximenis and Jordi Bilbeny, were also invited.

The invitation said, among other things, "Maybe in a not-so-distant future it will be necessary for European public opinion to understand us in order to welcome us." And also, "The citizens that live and work in our respective adopted countries constitute the real lobby, that of the group of citizens who don't depend on party ties." And in closing, "We can prepare the terrain of public opinion in an independent fashion and explain the Catalan case from a realistic, honest, and open Catalan perspective."

Originally published in VilaWeb on 15/Oct/09 at 12:56h

Translation Notes

*Vullvotar means "I want to vote"

Joan Laporta calls people to rise against those who mistreat Catalonia

The president of Barça* participates in a torch march organized by Esquerra • 'We are a political colony,' declares Puigcercós • The Generalitat demands that the Supreme Court overturn the ruling against Companys

The president of F.C. Barcelona, Joan Laporta, has made a call to "rise up and face those who treat Catalonia with intransigence every day of the year." (audio) Laporta made the statement in a speech that he gave this morning at Montjuïc Castle, after participating in the torch march organized by Esquerra to give homage to Lluís Companys on the anniversary of his execution by firing squad. Also today, the Generalitat will ask the Spanish Supreme Court to revise Companys' sentence, so that it be nullified.

"The memory of that assassination must make us speak clearly and stop making us afraid, and it should help us act accordingly all the rest of the year," declared Laporta, who asked himself what Companys would think if he could judge what Catalonia is doing currently. And, accompanied by the president of Esquerra, Joan Puigcercós, he remarked, "They often try to silence politicans by appealing to your wish for the common good. They've tried to silence me as well, many times." (audio) Laporta also remembered the former president of Barça, Josep Sunyol, who was also executed by the Franquist regime.

Catalonia, 'political colony'

For his part, Joan Puigcercós praised Companys and defended political discourse as the tool that permits going forward in a difficult moment. Puigcercós added that "social justice" and the liberty of Catalonia is "the same thing".

Puigcercós added that "it's all downhill from here", since "the most difficult part has passed". "That resurgent Spain that seemed like it was going to be a new power in Europe," he said, "is a model that is entering a situation of economic and political crisis, like the Spain that lost its colonies in Cuba and the Phillipines." According to Puigcercós, "there remain other colonies, like Catalonia, a political colony that hopes to emancipate itself."

Petition to nullify the sentence against Companys

The government of Catalonia will meet today in an extraordinary plenary to demand from the Spanish Supreme Court the revision of the sentence against Companys. "This has been a pending matter for the Catalan government, and it comes a bit late," said Josep Cruanyes, the spokesperson for the Commission for Dignity. It required the petition of a whole range of entities to pressure the government to ask for the nullification of the sentence.

Cruanyes has asked the Catalan Executive to, if the Spanish Supreme Court does not revise the sentence, continue to demand its nullification until it succeeds. For now, the Catalan government must approve an agreement that invites the Catalan attorney general to ask the Spanish Supreme Court to revise the sentence. This is because, with respect to revising sentences, the only ones who can intervene are the defendents, their relatives, or the attorney general. In accordance with the law of criminal justice, the body with the power to settle a suit for revision, and to declare, if that were the outcome, the nullification of the given sentence, is the Spanish Supreme Court.

"The Spanish government has not done its job"

"The Spanish Executive should get involved and work toward the revision of Companys' sentence," according to Cruanyes, who thinks that the Spanish government has not done its job. He also believes that, if the Spanish Supreme Court denies the revision of the sentence, it will be the responsibility of the Spanish Executive.

The Spanish government has not made any progress toward stopping the process against Companys, despite promises made by the Vice-president, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, five years ago at Montjuïc. When she heard about the initiative by the Catalan government, De la Vega only said that she "respected" it, but that it was the courts who have the "word on this decision, and not the Spanish government". Similarly, the previous Spanish Minister of Justice, Mariano Fernández Bermejo, when he was asked a year ago, how the Spanish Supreme Court would act in case of a suit of nullification of the sentence, answered that he couldn't know and noted that the decree of the development of the law of Historical Memory was still in the State Council.

The act of moral reparation of Companys

For now, Zapatero's government has limited itself to acts of moral reparation for Companys, as the president's granddaughter, Maria Lluïsa Gally and the Interior minister, Joan Saura, asked Bermejo for a year ago. In effect, Gally finally received, yesterday in Mexico, the document of moral reparation from the current Spanish Minister of Justice, Francisco Camaño. But the ex-president's granddaughter said that the document only has meaning if it serves to achieve the nullification of the summary judgment against Companys. The Minister of the Interior, Joan Saura, sees it similarly, and said, "The reparation of Company's memory is the first step in the nullification of the sentence that condemned him."

Lluís Companys is the only European president to be elected democratically and then executed by a fascist regime. His execution by firing squad was sentenced by the War Council of General Officials, held in Barcelona on October 14, 1940, which accused him of rebellion. A sentence which has never been annulled and that the government is now asking be revoked.

The first steps, a year ago

A year ago, Saura and Companys' granddaughter met with Bermejo to ask for an act of moral reparation for the president. Among the documents they gave him were a letter from Companys' granddaughter that says her grandfather was executed because he was "the maximum institutional representation of the Generalitat de Catalonia." This was the first step so that the Spanish Supreme Court could begin the paperwork necessary for the nulllification of the military sentence that was handed down without due process.

Translation notes

*Barça is Futbol Club Barcelona, of which Joan Laporta is the current president.
**Esquerra is Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, or "Republican Left of Catalonia", an independentist party, of which Joan Puigcercós is the current president.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The town of Vic also gives its support to the independentist referendums

The Town of Vic approved a motion today in support of the city entities that are organizing a popular referendum on independence. The motion, with a generic and little defined text that pleased the organizers, was approved with the favorable votes of the groups that had jointly presented it (CiU, ERC and CUP) and ICV-EUiA. The Plataforma per Catalunya abstained while PSC, which governs jointly with CiU and ERC, voted against. Alfons López Tena and Uriel Beltran attended the vote.

In total, 10 members of the group Osona Decideix (Osona Decides) were present at the meeting. The group is in charge of coordinating the referendums that will be held in the Osona municipalities. Uriel Beltran said that Vic was joining the "wave" of Catalan towns that will hold referendums and pointed out the importance of the capital of Osona [Vic] which he said had a "long Catalanist tradition".

Josep Maria Vila d'Abadal (CiU), mayor of Vic, said that the approved motion is not a minimum but a "maximum", given that they were supporting an initiative of the private citizens of the town and that the motion had been able to be above partisanship. In this way, it becomes a recognition of the role of the public. The mayor of the Osona capital considers that the public has a right to be recognized and demands that when the referendum is held, that every citizen be able to vote freely.

The councilperson and spokesperson for CiU, Xavier Solà, was in charge of coordinating the approved text. He says that the motion supports ideas like the "democratic strengthening and involvment of society". Solà says that the motion was begun by three groups with "similar national objectives" although at "different speeds". The lieutenant mayor of Vic considers the motion to be just a "gesture" but that such gestures in politics and institutions are "very important".

From ERC, the selectperson Joan López defended the stance that it "was more important to have a minimal agreement than no agreement at all". For López, the process followed since the referendum in Arenys de Munt has put "everyone in their place". López says the State is "acting ridiculously," as it tries to "fit" a collection of autonomies that is "leaking out on all sides". López lamented that they always say it's "not time" for self-determination and he said that the process has begun and there's no going back.

The spokesperson for CUP, Laia Jurado, affirmed that with this motion, Vic could decide and that some citizens, who in other circumstances might not be motivated, could get more active. Jurado says that the referendums are a democratic act. From ICV-EUiA, Xavier Tornafoch says that they voted in favor of the motion in support of the "Vic entities" because he believes that the referendum must be a movement of private groups.

Arguments against, and abstentions
The second lieutenant mayor and spokesperson for PSC, Josep Burgaya, said that the strategy of holding popular referendums is "respectable but wrong" because they are trying to force independence on the rest of us. Burgaya criticized the process by saying that the referendums "cheapen" the issue and are a "pale resemblance" of a future decisive referendum at a higher level. For the PSC spokesperson, the motion and the referendums are creating false hopes and are forcing a "false dilemma" that the public doesn't really have.

The spokesperson for PxC, Josep Anglada said that the motion was "ambigous, decaffeinated and minimal" and that it wouldn't be useful for "absolutely anything". For Anglada, the motion is just another "pre-election party" to create a smokescreen that will hide other problems, like the economic crisis.

Originally published in VilaWeb 07/10/2009 - 19:46h

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Reagrupament Will Propose Unilateral Declaration of Independence

So said Carretero in the general assembly that is being held today to approve the board and the strategic plan, with sights on the 2010 elections. Carretero added that independence is within reach and he described the Estatut [Statute of Autonomy] as 'miserable'

In the general assembly of members of Reagrupament that begins today in Barcelona, Joan Carretero made his bet for a unilateral declaration of independence. Carretero added that independence is "the only decision that we don't need to ask permission to make' and that it is within Catalans' reach. He also said the estatut de Catalunya [Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy] was 'miserable'. Carretero has the numbers to be elected president. You can follow the assembly live.

In the assembly, the Strategic Plan will be approved, and the members of the board will be selected, who will choose the president. The president of F.C. Barcelona, Joan Laporta, in the end did not attend the assembly, even though he was invited. Laporta expressed his affinity with the group led by Carretero. Other familiar faces that have indeed attended the assembly are the writer Isabel-Clara Simó, journalist Miquel Calçada, sociologist Salvador Cardús and the legendary leader of ERC, Heribert Barrera.

Reagrupament's strategic foundations, with a look to the 2010 elections, are working for a democratic regeneration and the unilateral declaration of independence by Parliament. The declaration should be able to be proclaimed with a majority of members who support it in the Parliament, in fact Carretero has said that his objective is that Reagrupament win an absolute majority in the elections. If that didn't happen, he would not accept being a part of a coalition government and he would work during the legislative session for 'democratic regeneration'. This 'regeneration', which is another of the basic objectives in the plan, means that the terms and leadership positions would be limited, salaries would be made public, an electoral system with open lists would be established and public spending would be controlled.

After the approval of the strategic plan, the members will choose the board of Reagrupament, which will then meet to choose the president. It's probable that the leaders in this first board are, in addition to Carretero, Rut Carandell and Jaume Renyer, both former members of Esquerra.

In fact, within Reagrupament, there are both ex-members of Esquerra as well as people from Convergència and other parties and sovereigntist groups. After the congress, Reagrupament will hold primaries in order to decide on the lists that will be presented for the elections to Parliament.

Originally published in VilaWeb 3/Oct/09, 06:00h

Friday, October 2, 2009

Biketrial, A New Sport with an Official Catalan Team

It is the 19th sport with an internationally recognized Catalan team

The Biketrial Associació Catalana (Catalan Biketrial Association), founded earlier this year, was officially recognized by the Biketrial International Union (BIU) last August. Because of that fact, the Catalan Biketrial team will be able to compete in official events organized by the BIU, like the next World Championships that are to be held in the summer of 2010, where the Spanish team will also participate, represented by Biketrial Unión Española (BUE) [Spanish Biketrial Union]. Initially, Biketrial was called 'Trialsín' and was part of the International Cyclists Union (UCI). From 1992 on, however, it has had its own international federation, the BIU.

Biketrial is performed with a specially designed bicycle. As it is described on the Plataforma Proseleccions' web site, "It is an individual sport in which each rider must follow a trail, usually in a natural setting, in which there are a number of obstacle zones marked. Riders must try to pass these obstacles without touching their feet to the ground. The list of important Catalan riders is quite long as Catalonia has long been the birthplace of the best riders in the world."

Catalonia has one of the most important teams in the sport: Dani Comas has been the world champion six times, and Ot Pí and César Cañas have won 30 world titles between them, counting both Trialsín and Biketrial titles.

Originally published in Racó Català, 1/Oct/09 18:00h

The Catalans Dragons, 80 minutes from the Rugby League Final

The Catalans Dragons of Perpignan keep surprising their fans. In just four seasons in Europe's principal Rugby League, the Super League, they've just landed themselves in one of the semifinals, that will be played today (21.00) in England against the powerful Leeds team. The winner will go to the finals on October 10 in the mythical Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester. Kevin Walters' team gets to the semifinal after a very irregular season.

In the regular season, they ended up eighth, the last place that qualified them for a place in the play-offs for the final. In this second phase of the league, the Catalans surprised everyone with two clear victories over Wakefield and Huddersfield. Today they face Leeds, the fittest and most feared team of the season.

The other semifinal will be played Saturday between St. Helens and Wigan Warriors.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 2/Oct/09 at 06:00h

Thursday, October 1, 2009

[REC]2 opens the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia today

This year marks the 30th anniversary of 'Alien' and can be followed through VilaWeb Sitges

'[REC]2', by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, opens the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia today. The first part, REC1, was presented at Sitges as well in 2007. In addition, Malcolm McDowell, who played the part of Alex DeLarge in 'A Clockwork Orange' (1971), will receive the Grand Honorary Award. Among the films in the festival's Offical Section will be the Catalan 'Ingrid' by Eduard Cortès. The festival closes October 12.

The oldest Fantastic Film Festival in the world continues to offer a wide gamut of films, from 'Moon' (Duncan Jones), 'Grace' (Paul Solet), 'Kinatay' (Brillante Mendoza), 'Thirst' (Park Chan-wook), 'Yatterman' and 'Crows II' (Takashi Miike), 'Orphan' (Jaume Collet-Serra), 'The Countess' (Julie Delpy), and 'The Final Destination in 3D' (David R. Ellis).

Homage to 'Alien' and to the '80s

Homage will be paid this year to 'Alien' on its 30th anniversary and to several other movies from the '80s, with invited guests related to the most significant titles. This review of classics will include the North American film, 'The Shining', not released in our country, with extra scenes and terror, and 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', with the presence of John Saxon. Another new feature this year will be the retrospective, 'Els altres fantàstics' [The other fantastical movies], based on productions that support this genre that is otherwise not very common among Catalan moviemakers.

'The Road' by John Hillcoat, will close the festival

'The Road', with performances by Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smith-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce, is one of the most awaited films this season and will close this year's festival on October 12 (trailer). It has been well received at the festivals in Venice and Toronto, and is considered one of the best productions of the year.

Originally published in VilaWeb on 1/oct/09 at 06:00h