Monday, December 24, 2012

President Mas' Inauguration Speech

You can watch the speech (in Catalan).

It wasn't actually my intention to translate it all or perfectly—it *is* Christmas Eve after all—so the beginning contains quotes here and there, and as the speech progressed, I started translating more and more, until the end, where I translated much more carefully, and much more completely.

This legislature was founded on a stable pact.

11.25: There have been many pacts in the last 30 years. This one is particularly new.

11:40: The pact came out of the elections with the highest turnout in the history of the present-day Generalitat, which legitimizes the results. And the pact is made between the two parties that received the best results, Convergència i Unió i Esquerra Republicana.

13:08: This happened in Germany, 10 years ago, slightly differently, since they joined to form a coalition government. But they joined together to work together for the country.

13:38: It also happened recently in Holland, where the first and second parties have joined together to form a government. They are better off than we are, but they also have to make budget cuts, etc.

14:06: So what am I saying? That this government and this legislature are borne of great legitimacy, of a pact between the two leading parties, with an ample majority of the voters of this country, but with an added legitimacy, since their platforms were very clear. People knew exactly what they were voting for.

14:59: Any pact can generate all kinds of reactions. Doubts, questions, and these are all legitimate. And contrasting opinions. That's normal.

We should be judged by our results, and by the field on which we'll play. And if you'll allow me a soccer metaphor, we think the field is ok, it's not flat where the ball rolls along and where you can make great plays to the cheers of the fans. This field is full of puddles and divots. All of us who like sports know that when the field is full of puddles and divots, it's hard to play well. You can play, when the field is full of puddles and divots, but it's difficult to play well. You can play, you have to play. You can win, you have to win. You can give a good show. But the field is full of puddles and divots. And that, like it or not, is the field we've got. So judge what is coming on the results. I'm not asking for any leeway in this respect, but it's still important to remember.

17:25: I believe that this pact is born with firm convictions about its objectives, and I hope with all my heart, and I believe that it will also be so that this pact will be calm in manner. That was clear the other day in the Parliament. Firm in objectives, calm in manner. Put more traditionally, Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo. And that's the way it should be. Keep the objectives of the country in mind, but act in a calm, and in the peaceful, negotiating manner that is in line with the democratic principles of our people, and which I believe are a part of our collective identity.

18:20: I also want to repeat that it is an open pact. It is a pact open to contributions, to new members, even to sharing the governance more widely. It's a pact that was born open, but which requires, of those who wish to join, things that are very obvious, like for example, to be mindful of the realities that we face, to have the will to change that reality in a positive way, one thing is to see the reality and another is to be resigned to it, and also it's important to note, especially given the electoral results, that those who would join us will defend the right of Catalonia to freely express the decision about its own future.

Later, its future may take various forms, and there may be diverging opinions, and there may be different ideas, but what we do ask, is that in order to collaborate fully in the governance of the country, that there be an explicit recognition of this right of Catalonia, like any other people of the world, to exercise its right to self-determination.

19:49: I'm telling you this pact is open, because the current situation is above and beyond any leadership, any government, any government coalition, any parliamentary pact, any relationship between political parties. It is a situation that is so complex that it requires the joint effort of the whole community. It requires the joint effort of a country. A country that I believe should act together as one, or as together as it can. I know that complete agreement is impossible, but as united as we can, in that which is essential, which is fundamental.

20:38: And what is essential and fundamental? Four things.

First, we must have democracy. We are in a hall, the “Saint George Hall” of the Palace of the Generalitat, that has a very long, ancient history. It is from this very hall, in this very palace, where the royal authority was controlled and compensated, and by the way, since the [Spanish] Minister of the Treasury is here with us today, it is from here where taxes were administered. Speaking of historic rights, the Generalitat de Catalonia began as an institution whose primary purpose was to collect taxes, which were then delivered to the king, but always with pacts and compensation, and "privileges" in the language of the era. Never imposed. There was not absolute monarchy, there was a pacted monarchy. It is from here that our spirit of peace and negotiation must come, this spirit of peace and dialog that Catalans have, and that we have attempted to exercise over the centuries. So, democracy, first and foremost.

22:00: Of course, democracy, like this very building, needs foundations and pillars. This Saint George Hall began as a church, the Saint George Chapel was too small for the legislators of the era and they had the idea later of creating this hall, first as a church. Indeed, you can see when you enter, some columns, which are very wide, because they were meant to hold up the weight of all of this. It was supposed to be a church. And I explain that to demonstrate that everything needs pillars. And foundations. Including democracy. It needs its architects. It needs its jurists. And the rule of law is a pillar of democracy. Above all, democracy. Everything else can be changed. Everything else can be adjusted to the events, to the will of the people, as long as they express themselves peacefully, and non-violently. But we must underscore again, this essential characteristic of democracy, that on the other hand, is the great strength of Catalonia for the coming years. We might not have other powers, other strengths, but this one, if we know how to express it, and express it in a majority fashion, this strength, we have to know how to express it and how to exercise it.

23:22: Second thing. Social cohesion. The country must stick together. I know it's very difficult. Because the political dynamics, the dynamics in the Parliament, often lead to confrontation. But the country must be united with respect to maintaining social cohesion. And this social cohesion, let's be clear, has possible fissures. If we express ourselves in terms of events that happened years ago in this country, there are threats of "aluminosis"* in our building of social cohesion. They weren't so obvious some years ago, but the harshness, magnitude, and length of this financial crisis, are provoking, to some extent, these fissures. We will have to create new budgets. And it's important that it be understood that in order to preserve social cohesion, there are people who have had to get used to receiving less than they received, and it's also important that there are people who bring more than they brought previously. The two things form part of the reality. A reality which we hope is temporary. That's not permanent. Both from the point of view of those who receive less, who can once again receive their share, and from the point of view of those who will have to bring more, from both of those two points of view, we hope we will return to normality. But now, that's where we are. It will be important to properly divide the sacrifices and maintain the treasure, which is very important, that is, the social cohesion of the country.

25:08: Third essential point. Economic recovery. And because we cannot count on great growth, the objective will have to be a change in the direction, that instead of heading downward, as we have, we'll be able to say that we are improving, and heading upward. This won't be in the very short term, there won't be a huge effect on employment when the direction changes, but it is fundamental to, as they say, hit bottom, and then begin to grow again, even if at the beginning, we do so slowly. Why do I say that? I say that because beyond the budget cuts, which have become very famous in common speech, there is a more brutal reality, which is our unemployment situation. It is even more grave. Because it is that they undermines expectations, undermines hope, and can even undermine families themselves. Therefore, economic recovery is absolutely essential, so that the country is as united as possible.

26:14: The fourth and last essential point with which the country must be as united as possible is that Catalonia can decide its own future. Changing the direction of history of a country, as we surely are about to do at this moment, changing the direction of a country is like turning a transatlantic ship, especially we're talking about the history of the country that is Catalonia. It is a long history, a very long history with very deep roots, indeed it's is a thousand year long history, it is not an improvised history, nor was it borne of a constitution, nor did it come from a statute. This all comes from way back.

Therefore, changing Catalonia's direction, as is happening right now, and indeed that a significant portion of the Catalan population is asking us to do, is like changing the direction of a transatlantic ship. You can't turn it on a dime. It's a maneuver that must be handled properly. It's important, therefore, for us all to have that very clear in our minds.

27:23: It's for that reason that I have spoken so often of "national transition". It's not a sudden change, it's not a sudden shift of the rudder, but instead the change in direction is a gradual transition. I think that this is well stipulated in the agreements that we have established in the current Catalan political situation. Agreements, that I insist, must have more participation than they have had up til now. Therefore, with an outstretched hand, I hope we can encourage more participation.

27:54: There may be people who may think that this new era of Catalan politics, that this change of direction in our history, if you'll allow me a maritime analogy, it's as if you jointly took the helm. Imagine two ships, which at the current trajectory, are headed for a collision. There's clearly a risk. And the idea is that the people in the ships, and the people driving the ships avoid a collision at all cost, because a collision isn't good for anyone. But remember that if nothing is done, if there was not a desire on the part of Catalan political spectrum to change directions, in that case, we would be adrift. And when you drift, the most likely outcome is to end up against the rocks.

28:53: Therefore, is there risk of collision? Of course. We have to make every effort to avoid one. Obviously. We must commit ourselves to avoiding a collision. But the rest? To do nothing, to be impassive, to look the other way from a comfortable position, etc etc., will set us adrift, and there is generally a very short distance from drifting to running aground on the rocks.

So, it's essential that the country be united, that Catalonia can freely decide its own future, and it would be good in that respect, let me say, that the State to which we currently belong, the Spanish State, try not to keep Catalonia from exercising its right to self determination or to cage the will and freedom of expression of the Catalan people.

29:49: This is a country that has considered itself a nation for many centuries, that has always been open to negotiation, that has always behaved loyally, with a desire to collaborate. These will continue to be our defining characteristics, they are part of our collective identity, that these walls have been a witness to over many years, but we find ourselves obliged to demand, especially since all of us worked hard, struggled for, and consolidated the democracy, at this time, it should be democratic values that lead the way.

30:19: The last thing that I wanted to tell you. I believe that we are, all of us, not just the President, or the Generalitat, or the President of the Parliament, we are all protagonists of a unique moment in our history. A unique moment that will put us all to the test. It will test us all individually, each one of us, and it will test us collectively, as a country. A unique moment, as you will note, does not mean a placid moment. It doesn't mean an idyllic moment. And certainly not a rose-colored moment. A unique moment is none of that.

31:00: Unique means transcendent. It means it goes beyond our day-to-day. It goes beyond a legislature, and beyond, in many ways, an entire generation. A transcendent moment is that. I don't want to make is more solemn than it deserves, but I think it's good to note the transcendent moment that the country is going through, to underscore the unique moment that it is up to us, all together, to protagonize.

And let us all remember, in the history of countries and nations, big changes have almost always come against the current. If you take a look, you'll see that it's normally that way. Big changes have come at complicated moments in time, and almost always, against the current. Because it's been necessary to struggle against the established status quo, that must be turned around, from many points of view, and it's very difficult to turn around, because the easiest thing is to give in to inertia.

But a unique moment requires a different attitude. How do I face them myself, if you'll allow me a very small personal reference? How do I face this unique moment, in which I am made President of the Generalitat for the second time in my life, two years after the first investiture?

I face it with a complete commitment to overcome all of the difficulties that we will face in the future. I face it with an iron will to overcome the obstacles that we will find ahead, that we are sure to find. And in addition, I will face it, if you'll allow me, with words that were uttered in this very Saint George Hall, by someone who is no longer here, who was Josep Maria Ainaud de Lasarte, who in this very hall, upon receiving the Gold Medal of the Generalitat de Catalunya, stood up, despite his very precarious health, tremendously precarious, with a weak body but a great spiritual strength, that man stood up in front of the whole auditorium, and said something which I already quoted a few weeks ago, in the Catalan Parliament: "Have faith in Catalonia. Above all, have faith in Catalonia." And this faith in Catalonia, this great faith in Catalonia, well, there is nothing and no one who can take it away from us.

Thank you, and Merry Christmas to all.

*aluminosis was a structural problem in some buildings in Catalonia which caused them to break down and even fall apart.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Catalonia Independence Referendum news roundup December 20

Yesterday, December 19, President Mas (ERC) and Opposition leader Oriol Junqueras (ERC) signed a historic agreement to ensure the stability of the government, approve the budget, and hold a referendum on independence by 2014. It strangely was little reported on in the English-language international press yesterday, but today, there are several interesting articles. Here's a roundup.

Wall Street Journal: Catalonia Sets Independence Referendum
"Catalonia's nationalist leaders have said they would seek legal support in European Union or international law"

Financial Times: Catalonia referendum set for 2014 (free registration required)
"Mr Mas hailed the deal as a “call to hope” that would ensure a “future of freedom for Catalonia”. But he also warned of the political challenges ahead: “We will have many enemies, and many of them are very powerful and act without scruples.”

The American Interest: Spain on Track for Major Crisis in 2014, (also quoted in The Daily Beast) by Walter Russell Mead
"The fact that they are now uniting suggests that Catalonia is getting serious about independence."

Reuters: Catalan separatists push referendum, Madrid will try to block
"Spain signed that pact." [Ferran Requejo on UN agreement in force since 1976 that allows for self-determination]

New York Times: "Separatist Parties in Accord", by Raphael Minder
"The two main separatist parties in Catalonia signed an agreement on Wednesday to form a government, as well as allow the 7.5 million citizens of what is Spain’s most powerful economic region to vote in 2014 on whether to secede."

Russia Times (RT): Madrid threatens to block Barcelona’s ‘illegal’ independence bid [with video] [gotta love those scare quotes!]
"We aim to put the future of Catalonia in the hands of the citizens of Catalonia, and to do that we want to consult them democratically," said Junqueras."

AP (e.g. Montreal Gazette): Deputy PM says Spain has sufficient laws to halt planned Catalonian independence referendum

The Moment We've Been Waiting Centuries For

by Vicent Partal. Originally published in Vilaweb on 18 December 2012

The massive demonstration on September 11th has had direct and concrete results three months and one week later. The agreement signed between CiU and ERC means that the cry of the people on the streets that day in Barcelona has now been transformed into ACTION, with a capital A. And thanks to the agreement, the citizens of the Principality of Catalonia will vote on independence, in 2014, if nothing goes wrong. It is, therefore, a historic accord, that was difficult to construct and that will probably also be difficult to hold together. But I insist that above all other considerations, it is a historic accord: this agreement marks the end of the autonomous government and the immediate beginning of the possibility of becoming an independent Republic. Which is nothing to sneeze at.

It is also a historic accord because it underscores the fact that independence is the country's objective, and not the objective of one group or another. Clearly, CiU and President Mas are the ones who have committed themselves most. But it is very important that they have come to an agreement with the leader of the largest opposition party, Esquerra Republicana [Republican Left], despite obvious differences between the two. ERC has exercised historically remarkable discipline and responsibility that must be applauded and recognized for its enormous significance.

The citizens that voted on November 25th demanded that the independence process be spearheaded by multiple parties. CiU and ERC have been asked to bend themselves to the popular will and they have succeeded. Not only that, they have left the door open for other parties who accept the right to self-determination and for the community at large whose actions were instrumental in making this historic vote in 2014 possible. The creation of a Catalan Council for National Transition is a brilliant move; this group will surely be a key element for consolidating the civic unity that will help us become, we hope, a republic.

We are about to live two incredible years. We don't know, and we probably can't even imagine, the difficulties that we'll have to avoid. Of all types. Internal problems and external aggressions. Disagreements that will inevitably crop up here and there. Doubts about whether this person or that person is going to sabotage or undermine the process. Doubts about how far we can go and what we are able to swallow in the midst of a brutal financial crisis that has already been so damaging to the community. It won't be easy, that much is clear, and it will require a lot of generosity from all sides. But let me say that I am brimming with enthusiasm and I am convinced that this time, we will finally be on the winning side of history.

I have written it before, and I'll repeat it here this evening with much joy: it's up to us to win, or lose, if we do it wrong, but they can no longer defeat us. This is, therefore, the moment that we've been waiting centuries for.

CiU and ERC come to an agreement: Referendum in 2014

Originally published in Vilaweb on 18 December 2012

The possibility of postponing the date if both parties agree made the pact possible.

The governability accord between CiU and ERC has become a reality. Artur Mas (CiU) and Oriol Junqueras (ERC) have come to terms in a meeting at the Palace of the Generalitat. Artur Mas' investiture, for which Oriol Junqueras has once again pledged support, will take place Thursday and Friday, as was confirmed by the President of the Parliament, Núria De Gispert. The accord says that there will be a solemn declaration in the first session of the legislature with respect to the commitment to the right of self-determination; and it includes the commitment of CiU and ERC to hold a referendum on independence in 2014, with the possibility of postponing it if both parties agree.

On the referendum, Junqueras said that the accord guarantees the "necessary clauses for putting the future of Catalonia in the hands of its citizens". The commitment is to hold the referendum in 2014. But if CiU and ERC so agreed, it could be postponed.

Here is the document that lays out CiU and ERC's commitment to holding a referendum in 2014.

"There are still a few minor details that will surely be resolved on Wednesday morning," added Junqueras, who said he was very satisfied, since the accord also contained "changes in economic and social policy". And he added that a sample of this will to implement change is the announcement that the government-elect intends to apply a tax on bank deposits, just as the Republicans had requested.

Junqueras tweeted the news: "The challenges ahead are enormous. Today a new era begins: to get through the crisis and to hold a referendum on independence."

—Oriol Junqueras (@junqueras) 18 December 2012

Just before leaving the Palace, the ERC President shook hands with Francesc Homs, the government spokesperson-elect. Junqueras also confirmed that the investiture would take place at the end of this week.

Assessing the situation

CiU and ERC agree to work on consolidating a wide social majority that allows them to ensure the success of the referendum. That comes after it becomes clear that an important part of Catalanism—according to the agreement—had fully committed itself to transforming the state so that Catalonia could fit in better, but it has seen, and the "repeated negative replies" from Spain confirm, that this is a dead end.

It's for that reason that it is necessary to hold a referendum so that the people can freely and democratically decide their own future, and now we have "an opportunity that only presents itself once in many lifetimes". CiU and ERC note that various opportunities have come together: "the opportunity to construct a new country; the opportunity of the Catalan People to be the protagonist of its own story; the opportunity to put politics in the center of public debate; the opportunity to create a better society based on social justice and equality; the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment with democracy, with peace, and with Europe."

"Catalonia must have tools of state," continues the agreement, so that Catalonia can "develop its own nation building project to the widest degree". Both parties underscore that Catalonia could live much better off than currently if it had full access to the resources generated by its citizens and businesses and if it had the power to make decisions over what belongs to it and affects it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Catalonia's Two Top Parties Agree on Independence Referendum for 2014

Here is the official agreement for convoking a referendum*, agreed to and released on December 17, 2012 by CiU and ERC. You can find the original Catalan version here.

Annex 1: Process for convoking the referendum on the political future of Catalonia

Over the last 30 years, a large part of Catalan society has fully committed itself to transforming the Spanish state so that Catalonia could fit in well without having to renounce its legitimate national aspirations, its determination for self government, and its continuity as a nation. But Catalonia's attempts to fit into the Spanish state, thanks to Spain's consistent and reiterated negative responses are, today, a dead end. It is for that reason that CiU and ERC believe that Catalonia must begin a new era based on the right to self determination in order to guarantee social progress, economic development, a strengthening of the democratic process, and the promotion of our native culture and language.

To this end, CiU and ERC hereby manifest their explicit commitment and their political will to hold a referendum so that the People of Catalonia may democratically and freely decide their collective future.

Catalonia finds herself faced with an opportunity that only comes around once in many generations: the opportunity to construct a new country; the opportunity of the Catalan People to be the protagonist of its own story; the opportunity to put politics in the center of public debate; the opportunity to create a better society based on social justice and equality; the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment with democracy, with peace, and with Europe.

Like any other nation, Catalonia must have tools of state that let it develop its own nation building project to the widest degree. Catalonia can live much better than it does now. It could if it had at its disposition, on the one hand, all of the resources that we citizens and businesses of Catalonia generate, and on the other, the power to make the necessary decisions, the political power over all of that which belongs to us and which affects us.

For these reasons, CiU and ERC express their commitment that the Catalan People be able to declare via referendum, whether Catalonia should become a State within Europe, and to have at its disposition, in this way, the tools necessary to get through the economic crisis, to favor growth, and to guarantee the cohesion and well-being of Catalan society.

To that end, and in function of the described commitments, CiU and ERC agree:

1. To formulate a "Declaration of Sovereignty of the People of Catalonia" in the First Session of the 10th legislature [the current one just constituted on 17 Dec], that will have as its goal to establish the commitment of the Parliament with respect to exercising the right of self determination of the People of Catalonia.

2. To approve the Law of Referendums starting from the work begun in the previous legislature, taking into account any changes and amendments that are agreed upon. To this end, a commitment is made to to promote the start of the parliamentary process by the end of January 2013, at the latest.

3. To open negotiations and a dialog with the Spanish State with respect to exercising our right to self determination that includes the option of holding a referendum, as foreseen in Law 4/2010 of the Parliament of Catalonia, on popular consultations, via referendum. To this end, a commitment is made to formalize a petition during the first semester of 2013.

4. To create the Catalan Council on National Transition, as an organ of promotion, coordination, participation, and advisement to the Government of the Generalitat with respect to the events that form part of the referendum process and the national transition and with the objective of guaranteeing that they are well prepared and that they come to pass.

This council will be comprised of people of recognized prestige and/or with representatives of the various areas linked to the process of national transition and the preparation and celebration of the referendum.

The Council must favor the participation in the process of those economic, social, and cultural entities of our country, as well as political formations that are in favor of the right to self-determination and the holding of a referendum.

5. CiU and ERC are committed to working through all of the formal, legal, and institutional procedures up until December 31, 2013 so as to be ready, from that date forward, to hold a referendum, in agreement with the legal framework that supports it, within the following year, unless the socioeconomic and political context requires that it be delayed, in which case, the date will be agreed on by the two signing parties.

6. Hold a referendum so that the People of Catalonia can declare their intentions on whether Catalonia should become a State within the European framework.

CiU and ERC agree to work to consolidate a wide social majority that ensures the success of the referendum and of the national transition process.

*referendum: There are two words for referendum in Catalan: consulta and referèndum. There isn't a good translation of consulta (a consultation in English might refer to a Doctor's appointment but not to a political referendum) and so I have translated both words as referendum here. Note however, that Spanish law does not allow Catalonia to have a referendum on self-determination and it's not yet sure whether it will be allowed to hold a consulta which is basically the same thing. Time will tell.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

European Parliament approves European-wide unitary patent; Spain opts out for linguistic reasons (!)

Originally published on

Tremosa decries Spain's self-exclusion from the agreement and points out that 30% of the State's patents come from Catalonia

40 years after initiating negotiations, 25 Member states of the European Union have achieved the goal of coming to an agreement on creating a unitary European patent that would allow companies and individuals to patent a product in all (or almost all) of the countries in the EU in a uniform fashion. The European Parliament ratified the agreement by a wide margin, with a vote of 484 in favor to 164 against.

In addition to a huge reduction in the necessary bureaucracy, whoever wants to patent a product throughout the EU will see the costs notably reduced. The unitary European patent will reduce the cost by 80%. During the initial transition stage, the cost will fall to 2,380 euros. Once it's finalized, the cost of patenting a product throughout the EU will only be 680 euros.

This unitary European patent, therefore, is a huge step forward in the construction of the common market and will have important benefits for small and medium sized companies, universities, research centers, and citizen inventors.

Spain, however, has decided to exclude itself from the unitary European patent. according to State policy, followed both by Zapatero's PSOE party as well as Rajoy's PP, Spain has decided to stay out of the European unitary patent.

The reason is that Spanish is not considered an official working language, as are German, French, and English, as is normal in community institutions. Nevertheless, this fact would have no effect on citizens of the Spanish state since they would be allowed to present their patent applications written in Spanish. In addition, once these were recognized, they would be automatically translated to all of the EU languages.

Therefore, the Spanish state has refused to sign the agreement because of a linguistic formality, harming thousands of companies and entrepreneurs who base their potential growth on an increase of exports to the EU with value added products. And what is worse, in the vote today in the European Parliament, a large number of Spanish members from the PP and PSOE presented an amendment asking the European Parliament to refuse the creation of the European unitary patent and therefore kill it. They lost that vote 156 in favor to 511 against.

It's important to remember that 30% of the patents awarded in the Spanish State belong to Catalonia and therefore, Spain's self-exclusion greatly harms the interests of Catalan entrepreneurs.

There are also five videos of very short parliamentary speeches between Ramon Tremosa (Catalan MEP), Antonio Lopez-Istúriz White of the PP, and Antonio Masip Hidalgo of the Spain's Socialist Party. (The first two are in English, the remaining ones are in Spanish.)






Also see: European Patent Office welcomes historic agreement on unitary patent

For more information, please contact: Aleix Sarri i Camargo/ Assistant to Ramon Tremosa, +32 489053314 /

Monday, December 10, 2012

Twitter suspends pro-Catalan account: KeepCalmCat

Originally published in Vilaweb, on 10 December 2012

KeepCalmCat will create a new account if Twitter doesn't reestablish the old one

Organizers call for people to adopt the KeepCalmCat avatar for their own Twitter accounts

Yesterday evening, Twitter suspended the account with the lema "Keep Calm and Speak Catalan" created by Josep Maria Ganyet. It's hard to know exactly what the reason was, since Twitter almost never explains its motives. "At the best, they'll restore the account, and that'll be that," explained Ganyet, computer specialist and university professor on the radio station RAC1, who also said that if Twitter does not restore the account, he'll create a new one in a few days.

Ganyet hypothesized that the account had been closed because it had triggered Twitter's spam filters: "Twitter marks you as fraudulent almost automatically, and then it takes a few days for a real human to go and look at it." Yesterday, he said that Twitter's move might have been in response to some organized campaign to trash the initiative, deliberately and maliciously, and accuse it of being spam.

The reaction on social media was almost immediate, and the call went around to use the campaign's avatar—one of the most popular against the Wert law—for individuals' own accounts. "The level of support has been awesome, right from the moment that it was known that they had closed the account on us," says Ganyet, as demonstrated by the hundreds of Twitter and Facebook users who have adopted the logo for their profile image, and who have helped distribute the slogan, often accompanied by the hashtag #wertgonya [a play on words mixing the Spanish education minister's name, Wert, with the Catalan word for "shame", vergonya].

Ganyet adapted the classic "Keep Calm and Carry On" slogan, created in 1939 by the British Ministry of Information as an attempt to keep up morale among the population while the Nazi troops were threatening invasion, in the build up to World War II. But the invasion never materialized and most of the millions of posters that had been printed were destroyed, having never been used. This video explains the history of the slogan.

Ganyet has also created a website where the logo can be downloaded in various sizes and formats, both for use as a profile image as well as a background image or for any other use. In just a few days, the campaign had garnered the support of more than 3,500 followers, whose objective is to donate a portion of the proceeds to defend Catalan schooling.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Catalan vote from abroad would have altered make up of Parliament

Originally published in Vilaweb, 6 December 2012

Difficulties in voting drastically lowered turnout - Under normal conditions, the results would have been different, in favor of CiU and ERC

The election returns from Catalans who reside outside of Catalonia would have changed the make up of the Parliament, with more seats in favor of sovereigntist parties, but the obstacles to voting resulted in a drastically lowered turnout, as a report written by the International Federation of Catalan Organizations explains.

According to this document, only 9,538 valid votes were counted. That figure, including the null votes, represents a turnout of 6.74% of the total of 156,976 Catalans who are registered to vote abroad. The turnout was higher than that of recent elections in the Basque Country and in Galicia, revealing the high interest that this election had engendered. It is a very low turnout, however, with respect to previous Catalan elections. For example, in 2008, there was 20% turnout.

The Federation believes that the new regulation has made it very difficult to vote from abroad and points out that there are entire communities, like that of most of the Catalans in the United States, who received no documentation regarding the elections and who were unable to vote.

This fact becomes even more relevant when the returns are analyzed. Both CiU and ERC have stronger results among foreign-residing voters—4 points more for CiU and 2 points more for ERC. In contrast, PSC, PP, and Ciutadans all had lower percentages. A high turnout, therefore, would have altered the distribution of seats in the parliament. According to the Federation's calculations, CiU would have won 4 more seats, at the expense of Ciutadans and PSC.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Catalan government rejects Spanish plan against language immersion

Originally published in Vilaweb, on 4 December 2012

The Catalan President, Artur Mas, has called for a summit meeting of political leaders from PSC, ICV-EUiA, and ERC, as well as the Education Council.

The Catalan Government [Generalitat] "will apply the Catalan Education Law and will defend the fundamental linguistic rights of our country, protected by the Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Constitution," declared government spokesperson Francesc Homs, who thereby rejected applying the new law proposed by Spanish Education Minister José Ignacio Wert, which would relegate Catalan to elective status.

Homs also announced that President Artur Mas had spoken with the political leaders of various parties that over the years have supported the policy of linguistic immersion and proposed a meeting that will take place next Wednesday in the Generalitat Palace, along with representatives of the Education Council. This meeting, he said, will underline "the significance of this offensive that focuses its sights against a system that has worked very well in this country for the last 30 years, a linguistic model for the schools that has allowed our students to excel in both Catalan and Spanish".

"The current political moment—referring to the constitution of the new government and the investiture of the Parliament—takes a back seat: now it's time to join together agains this PP offensive."

Rigau [Catalan Education Minister] on Wert [Spanish Education Minister]: "He makes it very clear that we must exercise our right to self-determination"

The Minister for Education, Irene Rigau, has roundly denounced a "document that was hidden until today" from the rest of the law aimed to improve the quality of education, initiated by the Spanish government. "This proposal is so harmful, that if the central government applies it, it will lead to the destruction of both our self-government and our culture," said Rigau this morning on radio station RAC-1. "I don't see myself as a member of a government that would apply this law."

"The people of Catalunya, the educators and the education sector think more and more autonomously with each passing day. This makes its very clear that we must exercise our right to self-determination," added Rigau.

"No minister has never gone this far before"

Wert's proposal specifies that while the Generalitat has not determined which subjects will be taught in Catalan and which in Spanish, that parents can bring their children to a private school, "on the basis of the language of instruction" and that the Catalan government must underwrite the cost. In addition, the draft of the law reform establishes that a "reasonable proportion" must be determined between Catalan and Spanish. Rigau exclaims, "No minister has ever gone this far before."

Rigau explained yesterday that the draft of the reform law for Education introduced by the Spanish government and received by the Catalan Department of Education yesterday represents a "significant change". She said that it is represents an "offensive against the Catalan language, which it relegates to residual status". The minister complained that "Catalan hasn't been this scorned by a Spanish ministerial text since 1978".

The principal change is that Catalan ceases to be a required subject and instead will be an elective, which would also result in fewer class hours, according to Rigau.

The draft divides subject matter into central, extra, and electives. There are five in the first category, which must make up 50% of the school day. There have to be at least 3 and at most 5 "extra" classes, which can take up to at most 50% of the day. The electives would be at most one subject, or perhaps two in those communities that have two languages.

Among the central class subjects are Spanish and literature, the first foreign language and mathematics; among the "extras" are physical education, music, technology, art, and culture. The third category, the electives, would contain Catalan, which would end up being the fourth language taught, after Spanish, and the first and second foreign languages.

Rigau explained that this change could allow a student to obtain his or her secondary degree without testing in Catalan, in the new tests that Wert wants to establish as required for passing each educational level, since students could take a test in any of the elective subjects, and not choose Catalan.

For Rigau, this is treating Catalan as a residual language and it breaks the current Catalan school model, which uses Catalan as the language of instruction.

"Reasonable proportion"

On the other hand, Rigau said that the text that they had received also establishes that the administrations in communities with two official languages [like Catalonia] would have to provide "equal" treatment choosing the language of instruction and allows some compensation for the less normalized language "but adds that such compensation must be in a reasonable proportion". For Rigau, it's clear that they are going for a 50% split, even though the draft does not make that clear.

The text also establishes that while the communities do not determine the percentages for the two languages, the parents can choose the language of instruction in which they want their children to be educated: "They can choose to school their children in private centers and the educational administration will have to underwrite the expenses," if they choose Spanish.

Another change in the draft is that to evaluate the ability to communicate in primary school, tests will be given in the student's "mother tongue".

Rigau said that there are more aspects that contradict the Catalan school model and the jurisdiction of the Catalan government, and that she had notified the Spanish Education Minister. But, yesterday she focused on the linguistic question, which she considers particularly serious.

"The minister sees political maneuvering"

Rigau insisted that the draft is nothing like what they were presented earlier and that had been used in earlier meetings and work sessions with the Spanish Ministry of Education. She said that this was a "hidden text" that was not revealed until after the Catalan elections, and she decried the "political maneuvering". The new document has "very clear intentions" that "are quite far from its original objectives". In her opinion, the Spanish government would rather destroy the Catalan education system, more than achieve the scholastic achievement goals set by Europe.

Today Rigau will report on the new text to the government and will communicate her full opposition in the meeting of all of the Education ministers that takes place today in Madrid. If they do not make any changes to it, she will consider bringing it to the courts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

President Mas and Opposition Leader Junqueras began to explore agreement on legislature

By Josep Casulleras Nualart. Originally published in Vilaweb on November 28, 2012

Oriol Junqueras, the president of ERC announces that ERC will not form part of the government, but instead has offered support on the investiture, budget, foreign affairs, and referendum on independence

The negotiation between CiU and ERC in order to get to an agreement that ensures the governability of the country as well as the celebration of an independence referendum during the next legislative session has begun. Today Artur Mas and Oriol Junqueras had lunch together at the Palau (Catalan government building) and in a cordial setting, they exchanged impressions: Mas wants the Republicans to form part of the government, and the president of the Republican Left has announced that they will not do so, but that they are committed to guaranteeing the government's stability in four key areas: the investiture of the president, the budget, foreign affairs, and the independence referendum.

The Republicans don't want to form part of the government but they have committed themselves to guaranteeing its stability from the outside. Junqueras says that he is convinced that he has correctly interpreted the will expressed at the polls, according to statements he made today to Catalunya Ràdio. In exchange, ERC wants assurances that the independence referendum will continue forward and that the budget cuts be softened.

The Republicans are aware of the fact that even if they don't form part of the government, if they want to offer stability to CiU's government, they will have to accept that some additional budget cuts will have to be made. Yesterday, government spokesperson Francesc Homs warned that similar budget cuts will be necessary in 2013 as there were in 2011 and 2012. But ERC aims to soften the austerity plan, and to implement changes in fiscal policy with measures like the reversal of the 1 euro per prescription drug plan, or the reinstatement of the inheritance tax on the highest brackets.

Today, then, Mas and Junqueras inaugurated the negotiations, and put their cards on the table. And according to sources close to the conversation, they are preparing to delve deeper into the negotiations, with the participation of a team of economists who will be studying budget-related matters as well as a team of judicial experts who will analyze the steps necessary so that the people of Catalonia can be consulted on independence.

ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, Republican Left, and often referred to as the Republicans, but in the sense of Republic, not GOP) is the traditional centre-left independentist party in Catalonia. They won 21 seats (up from 10) in the Catalan Parliament on November 25th, and were the second most voted party. Their leader is Oriol Junqueras.

CiU (Convergència i Unió, Convergence and Union) is a centre-right coalition of CDC (social democrats) and UDC (Christian democrats), who won 50 seats in the Catalan Parliament, (down from 62) and thus are the most voted party. Their leader is Artur Mas, who will be the President of the new parliament.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Who won in Catalonia?

I drove down to New York yesterday to watch the Catalan election returns with more than 100 Catalan expats in the Socarrat paella bar. The croquetas were delicious, if a bit expensive.

The first reactions were incredulity, combined with sadness. As the night wore on, the results improved, and so did the mood. But it certainly wasn't the jubilant party that some (yes me!) had hoped for.

So what happened? And perhaps first, what were they voting for? The Catalan President Artur Mas had called early elections after three important events: the massively attended march for Catalan Independence on September 11th, the definitive "no" received from Spanish President Rajoy shortly thereafter to an improved financial deal for Catalonia, and the lingering effects of the "whittling away" of Catalonia's 2nd Statute of Autonomy, at the hands of the rightist, unionist PP, despite it having duly passed by referendum, in the Catalan Parliament, and even in the Spanish Parliament.

Mas didn't have to call elections. But, and this is very important, he knew that the international community (or Spain) would never accept a push for independence from a party that had run on a platform that didn't include independence. The fact that Mas called early elections, despite the risk, shows that he was putting the legitimacy of independence ahead of his party's security. This should not be overlooked. And although I was frustrated by Mas’ vocabulary—he steadfastly refused to use the word independence—I was impressed with the democracy reflected in his speeches, and for the clear awareness that there is no future for Catalonia within Spain, that Catalonia must have its own state.

But CiU is a complicated coalition. They have been the majority force in Catalonia almost since the transition to democracy, and many saw their recent conversion as politically motivated. They said derisively that Mas was following the people, riding the wave, which frankly, I'm not so sure is such a bad thing. However, the disastrous decision to show the president in a Moses-like pose on the campaign posters played right into the hands of those who claimed the new-found independentism was just a front to solidfy Mas' personal power.

At the same time, CiU's coalition refused to jettison the extremely divisive Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, who constantly and pointedly reminded anxious voters that he believed Catalonia didn't make sense without Spain, or Spain without Catalonia and that CiU's platform did not include the word "independence". Duran completely torpedoed Mas' credibility and should be held accountable for much of CiU's failure to convince voters of their desire for “their own state” or however they wanted to word it.

CiU paid dearly for these mistakes. From 62 seats, they fell to 50. (No poll had predicted such results, hence the incredulity. They need Nate Silver badly.) But 50 seats is still 2.5 times as many as the 2nd power, and more than all the unionist parties combined. All is not lost.

Let's talk about that second power: ERC, the “Republican Left”. Republican in the sense of a Catalan Republic, not Mitt Romney! This is the traditional independentist party, the same party that declared the Catalan Republic in 1931, and whose democratically elected president was handed over by Franco to the Nazis, who promptly executed him.

But it is also the ERC who lost huge amounts of credibility and political capital during the seven years that they put independence aside in an effort to advance a more leftist social program together with the Socialists and Greens. This so called "tripartit" or "threeparty" put Socialists in the Presidency of the Catalan Government (Generalitat) for the first time since the transition, and ERC bet on gaining prestige and experience in office, rather than furthering independence.

Unfortunately for them, the Catalan Socialists were wed (or chained, depending on how you look at it) to the very centralist Spanish Socialists, and the Greens have always been more interested in social policy than independence, stubbornly refusing to see how the latter determines the former. The terrible ruling of Spain's Constitutional Court, in which the new Catalan Statute of Autonomy was further destroyed, was evidence that ERC's bet had failed miserably, evidenced by their electoral results in 2006 and 2010.

So CiU returned to power in 2010 on a platform of fiscal discipline at home and fiscal pact with Madrid. They found the coffers empty and no one willing to take the blame, certainly not the Catalan Left coalition of Socialists, Greens and ERC. And then, thanks to pressure from the banking crisis and Brussels, the Spanish President began to turn the screws, refusing to deliver billions of dollars in funds already budgeted to Catalonia. CiU, whose economic policies are much closer to the Spanish President's PP party than to that of the Catalan left, may have been surprised to find that the PP had left them high and dry. CiU for many years has secured crumbs from the Spanish table thanks to its alliances with the PP. Now that the table was more bare, the PP turned its back on CiU, preferring to spend its decreasing funds elsewhere, for example in Andalusia and Galicia.

So CiU bet on the “fiscal pact”: a demand that Spain fix the desperately unfair system of taxation in which Catalonia transfers almost 9% of its GDP to fund toll-free rolls, high speed trains, and brand new hospitals and schools in Spain, while going without at home. (That 9%, or some 20 billion US dollars, are above and beyond what Catalans pay in taxes and get back in services and infrastructure.) At the same time, CiU pledged to clean up the fiscal situation, by implementing the budget cuts demanded by the central government. An almost impossible combination, which was not helped by the fact that any concessions that Spain's PP had extracted from Brussels were not shared with Catalonia, adding to CiU's frustration with its former partner.

The Greens and Socialists pounced, blaming CiU for unraveling the social safety net. I was particularly perplexed when at the end of 2011, and Spain had reneged on delivering already-budgeted funds to Catalonia, thus forcing CiU to delay payments and make further cuts, that the left's criticism was not to Spain but to CiU. In my opinion, they took political potshots instead of responsibility.

After the massive September 11th march, and Rajoy's definitive "no" to the fiscal pact, Mas chose sovereignty. He didn't have to, and I think deserves some credit for doing so. And Esquerra (ERC), to their credit, has been fair. While they have demanded improved social policy and more prioritized budget cuts, they have not attacked Mas personally. And they were rewarded in the polls, rising to 21 seats, and the second force in the Parliament. Much of their rise is thanks to Oriol Junqueras, their new leader, who is intelligent, focused, and willing to negotiate.

The rest of the results were for me, less hopeful, or more ambiguous. I expected the Catalan Socialists, who campaigned on the impossible platform of “federalism”—rejected even by their own Spanish Socialist partners, to fall farther than the 8 seats they lost (to 20). The Catalan wing of the People's Party, the same rightist party in power in Madrid gained one seat, and Ciutadans, a pro-unionist party gained six, thanks to its vicious fear campaign: they scurrilously claimed that an independent Catalonia would require people to Catalanize their names, that university degrees would no longer be recognized, and probably most damaging: that Catalonia would be "expelled" from Europe, as if that were even possible.

The Catalan Greens gained three, capitalizing on people's continued mistrust of CiU on independence, and especially over anger over budget cuts. And they blamed CiU for the police violence that occurred during the general strike on November 14, right in the middle of the electoral period. It frustrates me that they took no responsibility for their own role in financial woes, and that their attacks on Mas have been so personal and so virulent. The leader of the Greens, Joan Herrera, feels more opportunist to me than any other party leader.

And finally, a new party has emerged, and another has disappeared. The CUP, which is a grassroots, leftist and pro-independence movement (not party) won 3 seats, while Solidaritat, a purely pro-independence party, lost their three. I don't know the first group well enough to talk about them. I will miss Solidarity's focus and dedication, if not their sharp tongues.

In the end, I think that instead of focusing on CiU's decline, we should recognize independence's rise. In the previous parliament, there were 14 MP's who were on the record in favor of independence. In the new Parliament, there are 74, not counting an additional 20 or so MPs from the Greens and Socialists who are at least in favor of the right to self-determination. President Mas has said he will forge ahead with the referendum for Catalan independence, and Oriol Junqueras, has repeatedly said he would support Mas in such an endeavor. Junqueras' role will be crucial and complicated, as ERC and CiU are now wholly dependent on each other, for both independence and sound fiscal policy. The intelligence and attitude of both leaders gives me hope they will find a way on both issues.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Catalan News Roundup Nov 21 (including Guardian)

[This is an outrageous title, something akin to "feminists awaken domestic abusers"]
Financial Times: Separatists reawaken Spanish nationalism

No need for bond investors to panic yet

"Brussels is supporting warnings that EU membership would not be automatic, but it is hard to see Catalonia being excluded. Its economy is the same size as Greece, and kicking it out of the euro would be damaging."

Immovable laws are surely no obstacle

BBC: Catalonia Profile

The Independent: Regional elections in Spain could mean independence for Catalonia

The Guardian: Pretty impressive monographic on Catalonia during week before elections

Catalonia tales: 'We agree on almost everything... just, um, not on this'

Catalonia tales: 'I can't see anything but a hypocritical interest in independence'

British expats unconvinced by Catalonian independence

Catalonia tales: 'I think we have waited long enough and it's time to move forward'

With Spain, Catalonia is doomed to failure

Catalan artistic vitality might not thrive in splendid isolation

[This next is a terribly slanted article, not bothering to interview the two large groups of small and medium business owners who are pro-independence.]
Catalonian companies fear for future if region splits from Spain

Catalonia independence: the views of foreigners who live there

Catalans celebrate their difference – up to a point

Immigration complicates Catalonia's separatist picture

The historic hurdles to Catalonia's independence

What Catalans love: human towers and a less exciting hokey cokey

Would Catalonia be better as an independent nation?

A Catalan history of Spain – interactive

Catalonia elections 2012: Madrid residents discuss independence - video

Catalonia tales: your views on the vote for independence

Catalonia's tax burden: 'If you put up with it, they keep taking your money'

If Catalonia wins independence, where will it end?

Catalonia's leader tries to ride secessionist wave

The case for Catalonia's independence

Catalonia is voting on its future in Spain – and Madrid is worried

Is there a lesson for Catalonia in the Czechoslovakian 'velvet divorce'?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Misquoting Gerard Piqué on Catalan Independence

The Catalan version can be found here.

I woke up this morning to the news (on Twitter) that Gerard Piqué, footballer/soccer player for Barça, thinks that independence will harm Catalonia. It didn't jive with what I know about the guy (admittedly not much) so I went investigating, and found that there was a lot more to what he said. I explain it all in this video.

I'll tell you the moral up front: be sure to go straight to the horse's mouth whenever you can, and pay special attention to who's telling the story.

I'd love to hear what you think.

And here is the English transcription of the part of the interview in which Piqué discusses his political views. It begins around minute 14:40 of the interview. You can find the original Catalan transcript on the Catalan version of this blog post.

Gerard Piqué: Well, I believe that independence, well, I don't want to go into a lot because I don't think, it's not something, but right now, it's clear that it's in the air, and that everyone, everyone is talking about it, right? Everyone gives their opinion, I think we should, I think we shouldn't. I think in the last few years it's grown a lot, there are a lot of people thinking about it, and more people believe in it. For me, sincerely, if I have to be sincere with you, at the beginning, what independence will do is make Catalonia weaker and it will make Spain weaker, separation, anything that separates makes the two lands in question weaker. From that point on, obviously I don't know how it would go. Nobody knows. Nobody has a crystal ball that will say, no, no, well, Catalonia will grow like crazy and Spain, on the other hand, well, without Catalonia which is one of its motors, well, it would suffer a lot. Nobody knows. And I also think, that there's a feeling that has grown a lot, that many Catalans feel, well, I don't know if the word is "abused" but they do feel like they are in disagreement with many of the decisions taken by the [Spanish] government. From there, well, everyone has their own...

Jordi Basté: But are you saying yes to the "right to decide"? So if Catalonia has the option of freely choosing if it wants or if it doesn't want, because we're talking about a game, playing a game of football, we're not saying if yes or if no, that anybody votes how they want

GP: They should vote how they want

JB: And from that point on, we'll see?

GP: And from that point, we'll see. Me, truthfully, no, now, it's what I think, I mean in the end if not, it would be going back to an era that, if people don't have the right to give their opinion or say what they feel, and man, it would be like going back to an earlier time that we're already done with. I think that evolution moves, we're going, we're looking forward. We shouldn't look backwards.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Liz Castro on Catalonia - Videos about Catalonia from an American point of view

Catalan version/Versió en català

Thanks so much to all who read my previous post about Sharif's video, and my musings on whether or not it was real, and whether it mattered if it was or not.

In the end, I decided to stop thinking about him, and instead be inspired by the success his video had in order to find new ways to explain to my fellow Americans what's going in Catalonia. (But I've added subtitles in English and Catalan, just click the little "cc", and choose the desired language to display them.)

The first video is an introduction to the project, explaining who I am and what I'm hoping to achieve. I purposely did it in a homegrown sort of way: I am not a journalist, but rather a computer book writer with a lot of experience in Catalonia. My opinions and observations are personal, though they're based on years of living and traveling in Catalonia. My hope is that by knowing who I am, you'll be able to judge my videos for yourself.

The second video has the same style that I'm hoping to use for future videos: I speak about a current issue happening in Catalonia—in this case, it's the premiere of the movie, Fènix 11*23—and I explain it to an American audience, but with more background and explanation than Americans usually get here.

I don't know if any Americans will be interested. I said before that it's not that we Americans don't care what's going on beyond our borders, it's just that we have enough to think about right here inside. But if you want to share my videos, well, maybe we'll catch their attention.

I am totally open to ideas for future videos and also to corrections to my Catalan, which I hope is understandable, but which I suspect may have more than a few mistakes. You can contact me through this blog, or via Twitter.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

If you know it already, don't tell

There is a translation of this article into Catalan on my Catalan blog.

If you've got small kids, you'll have had the experience where they're about to tell you a joke or riddle, but before they get to the punchline, they say, "If you know it already, don't tell." This is what came to mind as I watched the internets go crazy about a video created by a New Yorker, ostensibly new to Catalonia, on his experience at the massive march for Catalan independence on September 11th.

Indeed, I was one of the few people that SharifStandup sent his video to on Twitter (along with PauGasol, Xavier Sala i Martin (although with the wrong twitter address), Gerard Piqué, Josep Ma Mainat, Antoni Bassas, Gavin Mair, and Help Catalonia, kind of a curious group of people. When I first looked at Sharif's twitter account, he was following 13 people, and was followed by 3. I was the 4th.

Like many, many others, I was taken with the video. It is charming and fairly accurate, and it fulfills many a Catalan dream: being noticed by the rest of the world for who they are. Sharif mentions a list of Catalan icons, from La Moreneta (the black virgen of Catalonia's sacred Montserrat mountain, which has long been a friend to independentism) to the caganer (a defecating figurine typical of Catalan nativity scenes—really!).

Not only did I like it, I tweeted about it, in Catalan and English, and it quickly caught fire. By the evening around 6000 people had seen it, by the next day, the number had risen to 65,000. If you search for "sharifstandup", it is my tweet that is at the top of the list, since it was favorited and retweeted a bunch of times. SharifStandup is now followed by 1609 people.

Twitter _ Cerca - sharifstandup

So I feel kind of responsible. And worried. And curious. Before it went viral, I tweeted Sharif and asked him about it. His initial responses seemed authentic, but he offered no information about himself.

On Wednesday, I insisted a bit more, asking "Can you tell us who you are? You’ve gotten a huge reaction, and I’m hoping my helping wasn’t a mistake."

Twitter / lizcastro: @Sharifstandup Can you tell ...

That's when SharifStandup started following me. For now, I'll keep his DMs confidential, and just say that he doesn't want to identify himself, and that he says that he is what he portrays in the video.

Honestly, I'm not sure. I told my (young) daughter the whole story, and she said, "So he's upstaging you?" And I had to laugh. At first I denied it. I really am glad that he's telling Catalonia's story. But I'll admit to a bit of jealousy as well. I happened to notice that Eduard Voltas and Quim Monzó were following him, and they've never followed me!

But that's just silly. More important is the question of what is it about this guy, a young, smart, guy, and yes, a person of color, talking about Catalonia in English, that made these Catalans so happy? You have to read the comments on the video on Vimeo. There are almost 400 thank yous and other expressions of appreciation, most of them in English, but from Catalans, not Americans. He really touched their hearts.

The fact that he says he had no idea about Catalonia or its desire for independence before happening on the march is an essential part of the story. If you know already, don't tell. But he says he didn't know, that he figured it out. It also reminds me of the 15-M movement (Spain's Occupy movement), in which they specifically rejected the participation of politicians. If you know already, don't tell.

I have studied Catalonia for years. I have translated articles, published people's books, tweeted way too much, and I've never had 65,000 people look at what I've done on the same day. So my next thought is, maybe I'm doing it wrong... maybe I should be making videos? Maybe I should write more and study less? How can I learn from his success? Or is it that if I know already, I can't tell?

And who is the audience? ShafirStandup gave his monologue in English, and had Mireia Seguí (did he meet her at the march) add subtitles in Catalan. Given the overwhelming response from Catalans, those subtitles were key. My Catalan tweet was retweeted three times as much as my English one, and even the English one was retweeted almost exclusively by Catalans.

Is there any way to get Americans to pay attention to Catalonia? I'm not at all sure. I've tried a lot. And my experience is that it's pretty hard. Perhaps just because, like any other people, we Americans are overwhelmed with our own lives, and it's the rare person who will go out of their way to learn about what feels like a very local issue in a far away country. How many Catalans know who, for example, Elizabeth Warren is? How many have read up on her positions on various issues?

And what if it's a fake? And what would it mean to be a fake? What if he's from an advertising agency looking for followers? A Catalan political party looking to promote independence? A Spanish political party looking to make everyone look stupid once it's revealed? What if he's just reading a script? What if he lives in Catalonia? What if, what if?

If you read those comments, and the discussion on Twitter, you see that there are many with doubts. Some say it doesn't matter. If he makes those people happy, and if he gets people revved up about independence, is that a net gain, even if it turns out he's not what he says he is?

A trip to Barcelona on Vimeo

Others say it matters a lot. That if it's a lie, it'll make independentists look bad, and that lies and deception aren't good tools for convincing people of anything. I'll admit, I feel protective. If he turns out to be not what he says he is, I will hate having helped him, even unintentionally, make Catalans feel duped. I hope he's for real. And if he's not, that he doesn't do too much damage. Catalans are used to being betrayed, but it doesn't feel good.

Twitter / VioletaCamarasa: @jordipueyo @lizcastro ...

Mostly, I wonder what else SharifStandup can offer. He says wait for next Tuesday, that he will have another video about Catalonia. He even asked me what other books he should be reading. And I'll be happy to see what he says. And if he can offer some ideas about how to get people talking about Catalan independence, I'm totally willing to give him props for it, and learn something. And if he can get Americans to listen, well, chapeau, but that remains to be seen. But if he stops being a newcomer, will his videos have the same charm?

But, me? I want to listen to people who really know what they're talking about. I want to read columns by Vicent Partal. I want to listen to Xavier Graset's Oracle and hear Mònica Terribas' interviews. I want to read books by Germà Bel and Carles Boix and Xavier Sala i Martín. I want to go straight to the horses' mouths and listen to Artur Mas and Oriol Junqueras and Anna Simó and Eva Piquer and Toni Strubell, and sometimes even Joan Herrera and Pere Navarro, and well, even Alícia Sánchez Camacho.

And I really, really want to not be the only American who's reading and listening about Catalonia.

If you know, please speak up. Preferably in English, too.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Gran Wyoming: “Really, Catalonia is not Spain”

Originally published in Vilaweb, 24 October 2012

The popular Spanish presenter defends the right of Catalans to vote on independence in a binding referendum

TV presenter José Miguel Monzón Navarro, known as the "Gran Wyoming" [Great Wyoming], spoke out definitively on the independence of Catalonia. In an interview with the digital magazine Jot Down, he said, "If the Catalan people want self-determination, then I don't give a wit about the Constitution. They're not demanding independence unilaterally, they're asking to have a referendum to see what people think. Who is afraid of the truth? Because in that case, we'd have to talk about a country that is with us or one that is captive."

And he adds: "Because if we say the army should go in, as La Razón says, for example, we couldn't say that they're happy to be here. And so, the fact that they're holding a binding referendum... damn, that's not something you can ask in a democracy? It should be required, just to know what they think. Because if "No" wins, then that's the end of this whole mess. But it just seems ridiculous to me. You can do that in any country in the world. Except Spain.

In addition, he cites the case of Slovakia as "a case of secession without any trouble". "One group asks for independence and we give it to them, the others ask for it, and we send in the tanks. And they don't welcome them into the European Community, but instead say that they'll make it so they never get in. If we're talking logic and justice, we're talking about one thing, and if we're talking politics, we're talking quite another."

Catalonia is not Spain

In the interview, the Gran Wyoming talks about a program he was readying for Spanish TV Channel 2, called "The Week's Worst Program" and they canceled it because he wanted to invite Quim Monzó. The reason given was that Monzó had participated in the "Persones Humanes" program on [Catalan] TV3, in which there had been satire directed at the monarchy.

And he continues: “They give Quim Monzó the Catalan Letters Prize, he works on a TV show, he works on a radio show, and he writes in two major papers. And he is a public phenomenon while the right, the CiU, is in power. This is a guy who can say whatever he feels like. I bring him on one time, the first time in his life that he's ever been on Spanish TV, to a program on Channel 2, we're not even talking about prime time Channel 1, and they cancel the program. It's just that when we talk about Catalonia, we lie all the time. Really, Catalonia is not Spain.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Traducción al castellano del discurso del eurodiputado holandés Eppink reprendiendo a Vidal Quadras por sus amenazas en contra de Catalunya

Se puede ver la versión original en inglés en la página de Vilaweb y la transcripción del inglés y traducción al catalán aquí en NewsCatalonia. Esta traducción lo hizo amablemente Francisco Lozano. (Gracias!)

Sr. Presidente. Permítame en primer lugar felicitarle a usted, señor Barroso y al Sr. Van Rompuy por el Premio Nobel de la Paz. Por desgracia, no puedo felicitar al Sr. Vidal Quadras, Vicepresidente del Parlamento.

En Televisión Española, el sugirió enviar a la Guardia Civil a Cataluña para hacer frente a las manifestaciones por la independencia de Catalunya. Esta declaración fue una atrocidad. Dejad que los catalanes voten ellos mismos sobre su futuro. Mirad el primer ministro, David Cameron, en lo que respecta a la independencia escocesa. Cameron ha dicho: está bien, hagamos un referéndum en 2014. Esta es la manera de hacerlo, señoras y señores. Con democracia, no con el ejército.

Para explicar su punto de vista, el Sr. Vidal Quadras nos envió una carta y aún fue peor. Aquí está la carta. Al leerla, señor Presidente, tuve la impresión de que había sido redactada por el propio general Franco! En ella afirma que el independentismo catalán no es "ni pacífico ni democrático", pero ¿y él?

Así que, queridos ganadores del Premio Nobel de la Paz, ¿qué váis a hacer al respecto? Y usted, señor Schulz, ¿qué va a hacer al respecto? No creo que mucho, por lo visto.

Usted dijo, Sr. Schulz, "Oh, el señor Vidal Quadras expresó su opinión personal. No habló como vicepresidente". Pero él sí lo hizo. Él fue nombrado Vicepresidente y es Vicepresidente las 24 horas del día, los 7 días de la semana, ¿O no?

Por lo tanto, Sr. Presidente, por favor, no huya de la realidad. Exhorte a su presidente [sic] a pedir disculpas a esta casa, a pedir disculpas a los catalanes, y a que dimita. Él no se corresponde con la dignidad de su puesto. él no es merecedor del Premio Nobel de la Paz, y yo le diría: "Señor Vidal Quadras: Vergüenza"


[Schulz hace una pregunta, no en Inglés]

[Sr. Eppink continúa] Lo único que quiero aclarar es que no deseo interferir en los asuntos internos de España, pero desapruebo la declaración de un Vicepresidente de este Parlamento que sugiere enviar al ejército a una provincia. Poneros del lado de los votantes, no del ejército.

Todos conocemos la historia de la Guardia Civil, señor. Y usted la conoce mejor que yo. Así que por favor, paremos esto. Vamos a hablar de democracia y dejemos que los catalanes decidan. Gracias.

Dutch MEP berates Vidal Quadras for threats against Catalonia, calls EU to act

You can watch the video of the declaration on this page at Vilaweb, in English (Traducció al català, gràcies a Joan Pujolar)

Statement by Dutch Member of the European Parliament, Derk J. Eppink, Vice President of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group

Mr. President. Let me first congratulate you, Mr. Barroso and Mr. Van Rompuy for the Nobel Peace Prize. Unfortunately, I cannot congratulate Mr. Vidal Quadras, Vice President of this Parliament.

On Spanish Television, he suggested to send the Guardia Civil to Catalonia to deal with moves toward Catalonian independence. This remark was utterly appalling. Let the Catalonians themselves vote on their future. Look at Primer Minister David Cameron with regard to Scottish independence. Cameron says, OK, let's have a referendum, in 2014. That's the way to go about it, Ladies and Gentlemen. Not the army, but democracy.

I order to explain his remarks, Mr. Vidal Quadras sent us a letter and makes it even worse. And here's the letter. Reading it, Mr. President, I had the impression that it had been drafted by General Franco himself! He calls Catalan independence "neither peaceful nor democratic", but what about him?

So, dear winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, what are you going to do about that? And Mr. Schulz, what are you going to do about it? Not so much, so far.

Mr. Schulz, you said, "Oh, Mr. Vidal Quadras just expressed his private opinion. He did not speak as a Vice President." But he did it. He was announced as Vice President and he's Vice President 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, isn't he?

So, Mr. President, please don't run away from reality. Call upon your president [sic] to apologize to this house, to apologize to the Catalan people, and to resign. He does not reflect the dignity of his position. he is not worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, and I would say, “Señor Vidal Quadras: Vergüenza!”


[Mr Schulz asks a question, not in English]

[Mr. Eppink continues] The only point I want to make is that I'm not interfering in the internal affairs of Spain but I do not approve of a remark of a Vice President of this Parliament suggesting the army should be spent to a province. So, put it up to the voters, and not to the army.

We know the history of the Guardia Civil, señor. You know it better than I do. So please stop about it. Let's talk about democracy and let the Catalonians decide themselves. Thank you.

Traducció al català, gràcies a Joan Pujolar:

MPE Holandès censura Vidal Quadras per amenaces a Catalunya, crida la UE a actuar

Podeu mirar el vídeo de la declaració en aquesta pàgina de Vilaweb, en anglès amb subtítols en català.

Declaració de Membre holandès del Parlament Europeu, Derk J. Eppink, Vice-president del Grup de Conservadors i Reformistes Europeus

Dr. President. Permeti’m d’antuvi felicitar-lo, al Sr. Barroso i al Sr. Van Rompuy, pel Premi Nobel de la Pau. Dissortadament, no puc felicitar el Sr. Vidal Quadras, Vice-president d’aquest parlament.

A la Televisió Espanyola, ell suggerí d’enviar la Guàrdia Civil a Catalunya per tal de contrarestar el moviment cap a la independència de Catalunya. Aquest comentari va ser del tot desgraciat. Deixem que els propis catalans votin el seu futur. Mireu el Primer Ministre David Cameron en relació a la independència d’Escòcia. Cameron diu “OK, fem un referèndum, el 2014.” Aquesta és la manera, senyores i senyors. No l’exèrcit, sinó la democràcia.

Per tal d’explicar els seu comentaris, el Sr. Vidal Quadras ens va enviar una carta que encara ho empitjora. I aquí tinc la carta. Llegint-la, Sr. President, em feia la impressió que l’havia escrita el mateix General Franco! Diu que la independència de Catalunya “no és ni pacífica ni democràctica”; però i ell què?

Per tant, estimats guanyadors del Premi Nobel de la Pau, què fareu davant d’això? I Sr. Schulz, què farà vostè davant d’això? Fins ara, no ha fet gaire res.

Sr. Schulz, vostè va dir “Oh, el Sr. Vidal Quadras només va expressar la seva opinió privada. No actuava com a Vice-president.” Però sí que ho va fer. Va ser presentat com a Vice-president i és Vice-president 24 hores al dia, 7 dies a la setmana, no és així?

Per tant, Sr. President, no fugi de la realitat, si us plau. Exigeixi al seu president [sic] que es disculpi davant d’aquesta cambra, que es disculpi davant del poble català, i que dimiteixi. Ell no està a l’alçada de la dignitat del seu càrrec. No és mereixedor del Premi Nobel de la Pau, i vull dir el següent: “Señor Vidal Quadras: Vergüenza!”


[El Sr. Schulz fa una pregunta, no en anglès]

[El Sr. Eppink segueix] L’única qüestió que vull aclarir és que no estic interferint en els afers interns d’Espanya; però que no aprovo el comentari d’un Vice-president d’aquest parlament que suggereix que s’hauria d’enviar l’exèrcit a una regió. Això es planteja als votants, no a l’exèrcit.

Coneixem la història de la Guardia Civil, señor. Vostè la coneix millor que jo. Per tant deixi estar aquest tema. Parlem de democràcia i deixem que els Catalans decideixin. Gràcies.

Monday, October 22, 2012

MEPs ask EU to stop Spanish threats of military force against Catalonia—or lose right to vote

Article originally published in Vilaweb on 22 October 2012. The letter itself was kindly and expertly translated by Jodi Neufeld.

CiU, PSC, ERC and ICV send a letter to the Vice President of the European Commission, Vivane Reding, so she can make a ruling

Spain could lose the rights that it has as a member state of the European Union, including the right to vote in the council, if the military threats against Catalonia continue and the Spanish government doesn't stop them. That is what Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty says, according to MEP's Raül Romeva i Rueda (ICV-EUiA), Maria Badia i Cuchet (PSC), Ramon Tremosa (CiU), and Ana Miranda (representing ERC) who wrote a personal letter to Vivane Reding, Vice President of the European Commission.

They want her to declare her position on the record on the possibility that during the Catalan process any branch of the military will decide to use force against the people of Catalonia.

In the letter, the members of the European Parliament say:

Brussels, October 22, 2012

Dear Mrs. Reding,
Vice President of the European Commission
Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

We are writing to you to convey our strong concern regarding a series of threats to use military force against the Catalan population. As you know, this past 11th of September, 1.5 million people marched under the slogan “Catalonia, a state in the European Union” and since that moment, the right to self-determination of Catalonia has been part of the public debate in Catalonia, Spain, and internationally.

It is alarming that this debate has been manipulated by different sectors and at unacceptable levels, where the use of military violence appears as a threat against the Catalan people. Many have pointed out that in the case of secession of part of the Spanish State, according to Article 8 of the Constitution, the armed forces “have a mission to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain, to defend its territorial integrity and constitutional order.”

Even more concerning is that relevant public figures or those with positions in the military hierarchy use these arguments to publicly threaten and to advocate violence. Three people deserve to be named in this letter: Colonel Alamán; the Vice President of the European Parliament, Alejo Vidal Quadras; and the President of the Spanish Military Association, Colonel Leopoldo Muñoz Sánchez. These people, in various interviews and statements, interpreted said Article 8 as an open door for violent action by the Spanish Armed Forces in that case that Catalonia democratically decides to hold a referendum. All three of them called for the central government to start preparing for a possible military intervention, and Mr. Muñoz Sánchez suggested suspending not only the Catalan institutions of self-government but also the exercise of constitutional rights of the citizens of Catalonia and bringing it under a regime of government or military authority.

Paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) includes a list of principles on which the Union is founded: “principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.” Under the veil of these principles, public statements inciting the use of military violence against citizens of the European Union are unacceptable.

This type of threats effectively limit Catalan and Spanish democracy, as well as the rights to freedom of expression and demonstration of the people who live in Catalonia. In these circumstances, it is the European Union that should proactively intervene to guarantee that the resolution of the Catalan conflict will be peaceful and democratic.
The European Union is one of the places in the world that best protects democracy and fundamental rights, thanks especially to the national jurisdictional systems and, in particular, the Constitutional Courts. However, when the Courts of one state do not guarantee the subordination of the military to civilian authority, it is essential that the European Union intervene.

Furthermore, the European Union has just received the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize and specifies in the TEU, Article 2 and 3, that peace is one of its goals. It is therefore crucial for the European Commission, as the institution that oversees the Treaties of the Union, to make a public statement demanding the withdrawal from the public debate of any military threat or use of armed force as a means of resolving this political conflict, especially taking into account that no representative of the Spanish Government has publicly disqualified any of these bellicose statements, even though some of those who have spoken are active military personnel.

We bring to your attention that Article 7 of the TEU establishes a procedure for monitoring and recommendations, which can result in the suspension of a State’s voting rights in the Council, which should be used if there exists “a clear risk of serious violation and serious, persistent violation of common values.” We therefore ask you to evaluate the real risks of a possible military intervention in Catalonia and the tone used by members of the Spanish Popular Party and the Government of Spain. The European Commission should be capable of determining when to open a procedure according to Article 7 against the Spanish State if it does not respond democratically to the citizens’ demands.

Regardless of the state model that each person has, it is inconceivable that arguments typical of the Fascist times and war manifest themselves openly today. For the sake of democracy and peace in Europe, as members of the European Parliament, we ask that you call for an end to the use of threats of armed force as a resolution to political conflict inside the European Union.

Thank you very much.


Raül Romeva i Rueda (Eurodiputado Verdes/ALE)
Maria Badia i Cuchet (Eurodiputada S&D)
Ramon Tremosa (Eurodiputado ALDE)
Ana Miranda (Eurodiputada Verdes/ALE)