Friday, May 24, 2013

Three major Catalan political parties and ANC join forces in rally for independence

The ANC [Catalan National Assembly], Convergència, ERC, and the CUP joined forces in a rally in favor of independence in Sabadell

Josep Rull (CDC), Oriol Junqueras (ERC) and Quim Arrufat (CUP) defended independence with explanatory speeches aimed at convincing the undecided

by Oriol March in Sabadell, originally published on 23 May 2013 in

The Catalan National Assembly (ANC), CDC, ERC, and the CUP displayed pro-independence unity on Tuesday in a rally in Sabadell that was centered on explaining the reasons for an independent state to an audience of believers and from whom the speakers explicitly asked for support in broadening the majority in favor of independence. With the slogan, “2014: Let's make it possible”, the president of the ANC, Carme Forcadell, encouraged a joining of forces and criticized the oppressive attitude of the Spanish state.

Josep Rull, Organizational Secretary of the CDC, called for “asking for the moon”, using a phrase from poet Joan Maragall, and asked the pro-independence listeners to “appeal to people’s hearts” in order to convince them of the advantages of an independent state.

The president of ERC, Oriol Junqueras, called for “loving each other” as a way of achieving independence through the votes of the undecided. He specifically called on people who had been members of the PSUC, CCOO, and PSC in order to increase the numbers in favor of a “Yes” vote. “There is one thing that is more important than being pro-independence, and that is loving people,” stated Junqueras in his speech.

The member of parliament from the CUP, Quim Arrufat stated that Spain “builds walls and steals all that it can” and at the same time demanded that Catalonia “get rid of” the wall of “bankers, insults, and prejudices”. He also asked that people spread pro-independence feeling with “smiles”.

Dolors Camats, the national coordinator for ICV was slated to appear as well, but declined at the last minute because it was a purely pro-independence rally. Teresa Mira, also an eco-socialist, assured the crowd that ICV “is walking this path very slowly” but that it will serve as the “sweeper car” gathering stragglers in favor of a “Yes” vote.

Before Rull, Junqueras, Arrufat, and Forcadell took the stage, there were presentations by Montserrat Chacón (the ANC representative in Sabadell), Patrícia Gabancho (journalist and writer), Isona Passola (film producer), and Mercè Conesa, mayor of Sant Cugat and representative of the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI). That organization's president, Josep Maria Vila d'Abadal was not able to appear because of scheduling issues.

One of the most applauded speeches of the night came from actress Montserrat Carulla who opened with her traditional “I am Catalan, I am an actress, and I am in favor of independence” and who accused Franco of trying to dilute Catalonia with Spanish immigration during the years of his dictatorship.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Franco is not dead, by Ernest Folch

Originally published in El Periódico on May 23, 2013. Translated here with permission of the author.

by Ernest Folch

The now infamous decoration of the Blue Division by the Spanish delegate to the Catalan Government was not an oversight as some would have us believe, but rather a symptom of the deep metastasis that is affecting the entire system. Almost four decades after the Caudillo [Franco, Spain's dictator from 1939-1975] died peacefully in his bed, Spain continues to reveal this malaise through an inexhaustible supply of intact Francoist symbols: just take a look at the shameful Valley of the Fallen [Franco's mausoleum, recently awarded a 280,000€ grant for its preservation], the Avenue of the Generalíssimo [the supreme General, i.e., Franco] in Boadilla del Monte, the monument to Carrero Blanco [long time confidant of Franco] and so many other innumerable offensive structures that you all have right outside your very doors, right in 2013. Nevertheless, the most dangerous Francoism is not that which is used to name streets, but that which hides in the idiosyncracies of the Wert Education Reform Law, in the unitary fatherland that the newly resuscitated Aznar demands, in the rulings handed down by the so-called Constitutional Court or in the ante-democratic tv and radio talkshows in which those old reds and separatists from yester year continue to fight. Ah yes, but it's all perfectly legal, which is what Spain will tell you as it runs roughshod over morality.

The Transition Scam

A few years ago—can you remember?—the story went around that the Transition was the only possible agreement that would lead to democracy. Now we know that that agreement was nothing more than a scam, a maneuver for avoiding justice and absolving those responsible. After apartheid was dismantled in South Africa, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up that was able to set the record straight and mete out justice, two basic premises necessary for a society to return to freedom. Spain chose the opposite path. It swept its sinister past under the carpet and humiliated the victims of the dictatorship with the worst possible punishment: oblivion. A fully orchestrated repertoire—in the form of movies, acclaimed books and outdated speeches—tried to convince us that the transition was nothing short of exemplary. But well into the 21st century, the wounds that they told us would heal over are not only open, but oozing and infected. One example of this is what happened just a few days ago in Spain's Congress. A harmless non-binding proposition that urged the declaration of July 18 as a day of condemnation of the Francoist dictatorship was defeated, with the votes of the PP of course, the party whose President of Honor was a Francoist who had been a member of the Council of Ministers in which the execution of innocent people was a regular occurrence and who died, in line with the spirit of the transition, with all his honors intact.

The result is that a malignant idea has now begun to take hold which insinuates that Franco's rule was in reality a benign dictatorship. Those who were imprisoned, tortured, or persecuted for their ideas are astonished to have to now experience a second, terrible sentence. Because what the descendants of the victors of the Civil war actually want is to keep winning until the end of time. Like Arias Navarro's announcement back on Nov 20, 1975, but reversed: “Spanish countrymen: Franco is not dead”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Catalan National Assembly's Plan B

(originally published in VilaWeb on May 22, 2013

What is the Plan B and how does one exercise the "right to petition"

The idea is that Catalans ask the Parliament to declare independence via the right of petition.

The Catalan National Assembly [Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC)] has launched a campaign to have Catalans ask their Parliament to exhaust all possible ways for holding a referendum on independence and—in the event that such a referendum is not authorized, or if the State does not accept the result—to unilaterally declare Catalonia’s independence. The initiative is based on the right of petition that is recognized by Catalan, Spanish, and international law and that permits citizens to ask any administration to act on matters that affect their interests or the interests of the the society as a whole for which they have established laws.

According to the President of the ANC, Carme Forcadell, the campaign’s goal is for the civil society to stand by the government and the Parliament and to force them to commit to the process of self-determination.

At the same time this morning as the Catalan Parliament was beginning to debate the Law of Referendums, the Catalan National Assembly introduced and launched a new tool that it designed to “help” and contribute so that the referendum can be carried out. The tool is the “Sign a vote for independence” campaign [Signa un vot per la independència], through which they hope to encourage Catalans to exercise their right to petition the Parliament. The petition in question is none other than to urge the Catalan Parliament to exhaust all the possible methods of holding a referendum up until May 31, 2014. In addition, it urges Catalan elected representatives—in the event this effort fails, either because the Spanish government refuses to authorize a referendum or because it will not accept the results of one—to unilaterally declare Catalonia's independence.

This last petition is addressed not only to the members of the Catalan Parliament, but also to the members and Senators of the Spanish Congress, and to mayors and selectpeople of Catalan municipalities. According to Agustí Carles, a member of the judiciary committee of the ANC, it was set up in this manner because there is also the possibility that the State might suspend the Catalan autonomous government, and in this case, the Parliament would not have the relevant jurisdiction though the legal representatives of the Catalan people would continue to be such.

The collection of signatures began on this very Wednesday and it was Forcadell herself who inaugurated the system during the presentation. Anyone 16 and older can sign—in person only—whether they be Catalan, Spanish, or some other nationality. The role of the ANC is only to serve as the collector of the signatures and to deliver all the petitions on the same day to the Parliament. According to those in charge of the campaign, they have not yet chosen the date to present the signatures because the tool would only be used in the event that the Law of Referendums does not move forward, or if the Spanish government refuses to accept the results of the referendum.

Carles explained that the right to petition is recognized by Catalan, Spanish, and international law. In the Catalan case, the Parliament has to process the petition through the petition committee and then give a response within three months of the receipt of same.

Forcadell remarked that, with this campaign, the ANC's goal is for the civil society to participate in the process of self-determination. The objective, according to what she explained, is that Catalans give support to the Government and the Parliament “who are already doing their job”, she declared. In addition, the tool can also be used to force the executive and legislative branches to commit to the celebration of a referendum since it specifies a particular date.

The campaign will be financed with the donations of the signers themselves, who will pay a symbolic fee of 1 euro upon signing. With those funds, a more international aspect of the campaign will be financed. Called “From Catalonia to the World” the initiative's goal is to develop a list of arguments that can be delivered to influential people all over the world who will help with the process. The people in charge of the campaign have explained that their goal is to spread knowledge about Catalonia “and its will to be independent” throughout the world, to give information about the demands for self-determination, and to "denounce the state of siege under which the State has Catalonia.”

Saturday, May 18, 2013

She is not the problem, by Eduard Voltas

Originally published in Nació Digital on 17 May 2013 by Eduard Voltas

Hello? The problem is not Llanos de Luna [Spain's representative to the Catalan government]. The celebration the other day at the Guardia Civil barracks in Sant Andreu de la Barca, when the Spanish representative awarded a certificate to the "Brotherhood of Combatants of the Blue Division" [volunteers from Franco's army who went to fight with Hitler] was an official commemoration, not a private party at the representative's home. Indeed, it was a celebration with a strict protocol, a protocol that had been thoroughly vetted and which was carefully organized down to the tiniest detail, as is always done in such cases, part of which stated that at a particular moment they would proceed to the awarding of the certificate, and that among the recipients of such recognition would be the aforementioned Brotherhood. Not only that, I would dare to swear that this scene has played out hundreds of times since 1977 in barracks all over Spain. Because Francoism wasn't defeated by the Transition, it was amnestied.

The renegade military. The torturing police. The judges of the Court of Public Order. The ministers and top leaders. Not a one was punished for their participation in Franco's criminal regime. Most of them, indeed, continued their work after democracy, and many prospered out in the open (Shall we make lists? It's not really necessary, is it?) The Falange was never prohibited. The Nazi salute and praising Franco's dictatorship are not included in any penal code. The avenues of the Generalísimo and the squares of the Fallen remain unchanged in the nomenclature. And the State awards financial grants to the Francisco Franco Foundation, year after year. In these circumstances, can someone explain to me why Llanos de Luna, her head of protocol, or the commander of the barracks in Sant Andreu de la Barca should find awarding a simple certificate to the Brotherhood of Combatants of the Blue Division at all strange? What was the Blue Division? One more piece of the regime to which in 1977 we awarded full amnesty. Are those fanatic volunteers who went to fight the communists with the Nazis any worse than the judge who condemned Puig Antich to execution and who if he wasn't too old would be still sitting on the bench to this day?

Maybe this was the price that had to be paid, and that's surely what they have told us up until now. But whatever the case, the democracy we have had is a structure constructed on top of a huge, immense, dark immorality. That is the problem, not Llanos de Luna. We would do well to keep that in mind.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

19 steps to Independence, according to Catalonia's National Transition Advisory Council

Originally published in VilaWeb, 16 May 2013

The Catalan government will receive the first report from the National Transition Advisory Council at the end of July with recommendations on how and when to hold the referendum on independence, and what question or questions should be formulated. This was the announcement made today by the president of the group, Carles Viver Pi-Sunyer, as he explained the task that the council will carry out over the next few months: they will write 19 reports, most of which outline the steps that need to be taken to move toward an independent Catalan State.

The first report will deal with how and when to convoke the referendum. Pi-Sunyer left open the possibility that there might be more than one question, that is, there might be two or even three, "in the form of a tree". "We will also the guarantees that the referendum should afford and the possible results and consequences that it will have. And what the reaction from the state may be," he explained. And in addition to the judicial analysis for holding a referendum, he also made it clear that they will examine "alternate, more political routes in order to be able to hold such a referendum".

The other 18 reports will be written, mostly by the end of the year, between October and December, while the remaining ones will be finished in the first trimester of 2014. They will be reports that analyze the fundamental decisions that will have to be taken assuming that the referendum will lead to the constitution of a new state. "We will help analyze the structures necessary in the event of a favorable result on the question of creating an independent state," said Pi-Sunyer, who did not close the door to the Council analyzing federal or confederal systems.

These are the 19 reports that the Council foresees creating:

1. The convocation of the referendum

2. The relationship of the new state with the EU. Will it be a member or not? If it si not, how will it be able to become one? What will happen with the Schengen Area and European Economic Space?

3. The relationship with the international community, from the United Nations to UNESCO, as well as all the other international organizations, including an analysis of what will happen with the treaties that Spain is a signer of.

4. The future relationship with the Spanish state. "The new state should have a very close relationship with the Spanish state," said Pi-Sunyer.

5. The succession of judicial regulations. "On Day 1 in the new state, we don't want to find ourselves with holes in the judicial system," observed Pi-Sunyer.

6. How to carry out the constituent process. A constitution will be necessary. "Perhaps one idea is that there would be a provisional constitution, and not try to create a Catalan Constitution from the start, the first week," says the Council president, who thinks such a document would have to cover fundamental rights, with references to the Statute of 2005, and that important decisions would have to be incorporated therein, like the question of dual nationality, or the status of the different languages.

7. Catalonia's judicial system. Pi-Sunyer says, "How many judges will we have, and how many secretaries of justice? We must ensure that we can administer justice right away. What will we do with the cases that are in process in the Spanish judicial system? What will we do with decisions from those courts? We will need a governmental body with judicial power."

8. Report on internal and international security.

9. Sectorial administration, for example electoral administration.

10. Economic topics, like the tributary agency in the new state, tax collection, etc.

11. Definition of the Catalan Tributary Agency

12. The financial institutions, like the Central Bank, and the maintenance of the euro.

13. The agencies and regulatory organizations that we should have, some of which are required by the EU.

14. The distribution of assets and debts between the Catalan and Spanish Governments, including the public debt.

15. The effects of an independent state on the business relationship between Spain and Catalonia.

16. How the Catalan Social Security system will work.

17. How to ensure access to energy and hydraulic resources starting on Day 1 after independence.

18. How telecommunications resources will be defined and distributed.

19. The internationalization of the process.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Catalan President's response to Spanish Constitutional Court ruling

Originally published on Vilaweb on May 8, 2013

President Mas responds to the Constitutional Court: “The path chosen by the people will continue”

“We are now at the point we are because of the things that happened that time,” warned the President [perhaps referring to the previous Constitutional Court ruling against the Statute of Catalonia in June of 2010]

“This is the path that the people have decided on. We will continue on that path while the people want Catalonia to continue on that path. While the majority of the people of Catalonia, as large a majority as is possible, wishes to continue on this path, the obligation of the institutions is to proceed accordingly, to continue on the planned path.” This is how the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, responded, shortly after hearing that the Spanish Constitutional Court had provisionally suspended the Declaration of Sovereignty approved by the Catalan Parliament last January 23.

Mas found the appeal quite unusual. “But, not only that, it's highly worrying and profoundly disappointing. A parliament is the democratic expression of a people after an election. And the people decided on majorities in line with the right to decide and national transition. The parliament has to be able to make political pronouncements. We have not approved here any law or any unilateral declaration of independence. We have approved a political declaration that is based on the popular will as it was expressed at the ballot boxes. This questions the will expressed at the ballot boxes. I hope that the Constitutional Court will have enough wisdom when resolving the appeals presented by the Catalan institutions because we are in the territory of political declarations.”

He continues, “The appeal is a product of the obsession of the Spanish government to abort the majority will of the Catalan people. One thing is the Spanish Government and another thing is the Constitutional Court. The Spanish Government wants to abort the process, but the Constitutional Court is the arbiter and we demand equal treatment. The message expressed at the ballot boxes was sovereignty and the right to decide.”

“I hope that our position will be widely shared,” he added. “We demand respect for the democratic will expressed at the ballot boxes. We have already had a very negative experience of a statute that was voted on, went through the Constitutional Court, ended up whittled down, and which provoked reactions on the street that brought about an election. And that should be taken note of. The people of Catalonia will not accept that the popular will peacefully expressed be aborted. There is no violence and no totalitarianism here, no one has been attacked.”

And he finished up with, “We must continue on our path with the principles of radical democracy, and a peaceful and constructive attitude. For us, no matter what they do, we will not stop dialoguing. We want to follow this path in an open and constructive way, basing it on dialogue.”

Spain's Constitutional Court suspends Catalonia's Declaration of Sovereignty

Originally published in VilaWeb on May 8, 2013

The State's Attorney General appealed the Declaration considering it an “open challenge to the constitution with political and judicial ramifications”

The Spanish Constitutional Court has suspended the Declaration of Sovereignty approved by the Parliament of Catalonia last January 23, and has agreed to hear the appeal of the Spanish Government. It’s the first time in the history of the democracy of the Spanish State that it has suspended a parliamentary declaration.

The consequences of the decision are not yet clear, since it might also effect legislation based on the declaration, like for example, the creation of the National Transition Advisory Council.

Now the Constitutional Court has five months—beginning from March 8, when the appeal was presented—to completely analyze the matter and decide if it will declare the declaration unconstitutional.

The appeal of the attorney general emphasizes the fact that the Catalan people cannot be a sovereign political or judicial subject and that, in any case, the sovereignty to decide on a hypothetical secession resides in the whole of the Spanish people. According to the attorney general's appeal, the Declaration of Sovereignty approved by the Parliament is an “open challenge to the constitution” which “has political and judicial ramifications”. For the attorney general, that the Catalan people be defined as a “sovereign political and judicial subject” is “neither more nor less than an act of constituent power” which attributes the right to secession to the Catalan people.

The Parliament is preparing its defense 

The president of the Parliament, Núria de Gispert, announced that she has already ordered the legal services of the Catalan chamber to prepare the brief of the pleadings, which must be presented within twenty days. De Gispert qualified the decision as unusual, and noted that it doesn't make any “judicial sense” bringing a political declaration to the Constitutional Court. “We have never before had a proposed resolution, that has the meaning that it has, that comes from a political initiative, that is a political declaration; we have never before had a proposed resolution appealed before,” the president said. She has called for a meeting of the Board of Speakers on Thursday morning. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Budgets are not for the cynical, by Oriol Junqueras

by Oriol Junqueras, President of ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), originally published in El Periódico, on May 2, 2013

In the last few days, weeks and months, we have seen how stubbornly, once and again, political and media players have insistently demanded that the Catalan Government present its budget. Even some sectors within the Government's own party have participated in this discourse as if they didn't realize the actual significance of presenting and approving a budget that is wholly determined by the Spanish Government and that which obliges us to make cuts that are absolutely untenable.

The thing is, the only budget that could be presented now would be subect to the current deficit ceiling, the one that supposes bigger cuts to Catalonia than that which have been made in Greece or Portugal. It's not an exaggeration, it is that brutal. And those who would still ask that the budget be presented know perfectly well the devastating affects that such budget cuts would have on Catalan society. We're talking about 4.8 billion euros (3.8 billion in the best case scenario), a figure that is higher than the combined cuts of the last two years.

In addition, it's not that Catalonia has spent beyond its means, on the contrary. Our country generates 36 billion euros in tax revenues (without counting Social Security) but the Catalan Government only disposes of 19 billion for its budget. This is the true source of our problem. And so, while Greece will cut 11.5% in 2013, the Spanish Government will condemn Catalonia to cuts of 15%. Cutting 4.8 billion out of the budget is equivalent to closing the principal Catalan universities, the country's principal hospitals, laying off all the Mossos d'Esquadra [local police force], all of the fire fighters, closing TV3, Catalunya Ràdio, the entire Catalan Parliament... and even then, we would still have to cut 1 Billion euros more. I repeat: untenable.

And the PP [Partido Popular] and PSC [Partit Socialista de Catalunya], among others, know it full well. But even though they know it, they have continued to compulsively ask for the budget to be presented under these conditions. Why? Well, to cut to the chase, it's a partisan play, deaf to the plight of the people. For some, it's a question of blind subordination to the Spanish Government. For others, it's paradoxically the impatience to get behind the placard against the budget cuts. And such an attitude can only be qualified as cynical.

That's why it's so necessary to speak clearly, to make sure that people understand what is going on. The economic and social situation is dramatic and the Spanish Government does nothing more than make it worse with a deliberate policy of asphyxiating the Catalan treasury. Brussels determines the deficit ceiling for the Spanish State, but it is Madrid which, against the EU's recommendation, out of a debt limit of 4.5%, reserves for Catalonia only 0.7% (or 1.2% according to the latest estimate), despite the fact that it is the Government of Catalonia that is responsible for all of the cost of healthcare, education, and social services.

Actually, though, the deeper problem, the structural problem, is that the taxes that we Catalans pay don't stay in Catalonia. And we are obliged to fall into debt when, the truth is, we wouldn't have to go into debt if we didn't suffer the fiscal plunder and the flagrant and repeated breach of commitments of successive Spanish Governments. That is, we could accept a deficit ceiling of 0% if we collected and managed our own tax receipts. Or explained another way, no matter how much they raise the debt ceiling, if we don't control our own income, we will never escape the circle of debt and treasury tension of which we are prisoners.

When the latest data on the active workforce reveals that there are now more than 900,000 Catalans on unemployment, and that one out of every four people of working age has no job, accepting this budget would be incredibly irresponsible. With every passing day, Europe is more aware of the craziness of choking the Catalan economy, which generates one quarter of the fiscal income of the Spanish State. For that reason, we will continue to do what we need to do, with the conviction that each day there will be more people who understand why.

The country is at the brink. And faced with that, only two strategies make sense in the short term. One is that which is sold by those who are pressuring the Catalan Government to immediately execute Spanish Finance Minister Montoro's disastrous and devastating budget. A second option is to translate the pressure to the Spanish Government (which has exclusive and discretionary control over our resources) in order to demand fair fiscal and economic treatment for Catalonia. The dilemma is clear enough. We can be at the service of the needs of the Catalan people or we can play into the hands of the PP Government. We, at the very least, know what we need to do and no one will make us change course.