Saturday, March 9, 2013

This week in Catalonia (1)

Last week in Barcelona, I met with @Kippelboy, aka Àlex Hinojo, Wikipedian extraordinaire, and collaborator to "What's up with Catalonia?". Between technology and Catalonia-related stuff, we have a lot in common. One of his strategies for dealing with information overflow really stuck with me. He said that he collects interesting articles and tweets throughout the week to see if what seems so urgent on one day really is worth talking about (or retweeting!) a few days later. This seemed like a great strategy and I thought I'd try it with an attempt at a weekly synthesis of the most important stories in Catalan news. Here's a first installment.

Three stories got the most play this week in the Catalan press and twittosphere: the vote of the Catalan socialists in the Spanish Congress, the firing of Catalonia's Attorney General, and the declarations of the Spanish socialist Rodríguez Ibarra comparing the Catalan President to Hitler and Mussolini.

On February 26, for the first time in their history, the Catalan Socialists (PSC) voted differently, and indeed against, the Spanish Socialists (PSOE). Not only that, but the vote was on whether Catalonia could hold a referendum on independence. It was frustrating to me that the PSC had to wait until they got to the Spanish Congress to vote in favor of such a thing, when they had just voted against sovereignty in the Catalan Parliament in January, but that doesn't completely minimize its significance. (And there were five PSC deputies who broke with party leadership and refused to vote against the declaration of sovereignty.) It should also be pointed out that Carme Chacón, the head of the PSC in the Spanish Congress didn't vote at all (and thus went against her party, the PSC's recommendation—while the PSC had gone against the PSOE recommendation, which is a big deal in Parliamentary politics, so they tell me, a lot different than a Democrat voting with the Republicans or vice-versa). Chacón has been locked in a power struggle for control of the PSOE leadership with Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba for some time, and alternately hides or flaunts her Catalan background depending on where she is campaigning.

But there's a lot more to it than that. The PSOE (the party of former Spanish president Felipe González) can't win a general Spanish election without winning Catalonia, and they can't win in Catalonia without the PSC. The PSC has declared itself in favor of holding a referendum on independence, but against independence itself. They say they favor a "federalist" system in Spain. Yet, there is almost no possibility of that actually happening. No Spanish party can afford to cede Catalonia any more power or financial resources without alienating the rest of the so-called autonomous regions. Advocating federalism is pie-in-the-sky politics at its most cynical. But it's clear that PSOE and PSC—both of which suffered huge losses in their most recent elections—have to figure out what they want, and how to articulate those goals to their dwindling followers.

The second topic of some importance was the firing of Martín Rodríguez Sol, Catalonia's "fiscal superior". I'll admit I'm not really clear on the whole structure of the judicial system between Spain and Catalonia, so I'm not sure just how to translate "fiscal superior" (feel free to help out in the comments). My understanding is that he was Catalonia's "Attorney General" and part of the Spanish judicial system.

Over the weekend (March 2-3), he had declared that it was "legitimate for Catalonia to try to consult its citizens on the political future of their country" even as he added that there was "currently no legal framework that would allow a referendum on independence".

Although he softened his remarks the next day, reiterating that there was no legal way for such a referendum to take place, and that he fully supported said framework, he was called to Madrid on Tuesday where he offered his resignation to Spain's Attorney General Eduardo Torres-Dulce, who accepted it.

The rationale given was that a judge cannot offer public opinions on legal matters; it decreases their judicial independence. Nevertheless, it escaped no one's notice that many other judges have expressed opinions in the past without quite so quick and decisive a resolution. (Listen, for example, to the discussion (in Catalan) on the Oracle radio program, on March 7.)

Catalonia's President Mas declared that Rodríguez Sol's firing was a "monumental scandal" and that "freedom is under siege" in Spain and that "the democracy is on faulty ground". "In a country where freedom was respected and democracy had strong foundations, these things couldn't happen, it would be a huge public scandal."

The final story I wanted to touch upon was the hullabaloo kicked up by former PSOE leader from Extremadura, Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra, who clearly has not studied Godwin's law, and who publicly compared President Mas to Hitler, Mussolini and the Spanish coup leader Tejero. Ibarra's contention is that Mas' leadership of the Catalan Parliament to disregard the Spanish Constitution in order to have a democratic vote on independence is somehow an "overthrow" of the Spanish government, just like Hitler's, Mussolini's or Tejero's. It's true that Ibarra has less and less political credibility, but the fact that not a single PSOE leader stood up to disavow his remarks is perhaps most telling.

So, that's a first attempt at a summary of Catalan news for this week (and a bit of the previous one since I was traveling). And I've already learned a lot. For starters, I need to grab URLs and references during the week as the news breaks. But let me know if you find it useful, and feel free to send me links and news stories that you think I should cover.

1 comment:

  1. Liz, crec que el teu resum és molt bo i aclaridor.No et puc ajudar a traduir a l'anglès el càrrec de fiscal superior, però en efecte es tracta d'un subordinat del fiscal general -un càrrec nomenat pel govern de Madrid, cal dir-ho-, un inferior en l'escala d'un cos molt jerarquitzat com és el dels fiscals. Potser ve a tomb recordar que un dels punts de l'Estatut de 2006 anul·lats pel Tribunal Constitucional era el de la creació d'un òrgan de govern del poder judicial propi de Catalunya (van caure íntegres 6 dels 14 articles anul·lats)