I’m Catalan, I love freedom

I'm Catalan I love freedom

Last week, on November the 11th, it was the anniversary of the end of World War I. That date changed Europe’s map forever and meant the birth of several European states linke Finland, Poland or Hungary.

On that day and under the motto “I’m Catalan I love freedom” a group of Catalans flew to Brussels to give every eurodeputy a copy of the book “10000 Catalans a Brusel.les” (10000 Catalans in Brussels). A photobook about the demonstration that happened in Brussels earlier this year where thousands of Catalans flew over to Brussels to say that we also want a state.

After giving the book they also had some things to say. First they played a video of Pau Casals’ speech in the UN and later Toni Strubell delivered an inspiring speech of which I have reproduced a fragment here:

“… Catalans are here today because they have always been present where the cause of Freedom has been an issue. They were amongst the first nations to oppose feudalism. They opposed absolute monarchy in the War of Spanish Succession. They were amonst the first to face Fascism in the mid-19 thirties. There were more Catalan victims at Auschwitz and Mauthausen than there were of many other European Union countries and it was a Catalan photographer, Francesc Boix, who made known to the world the horrors of the latter camp. Catalans have always seen humanitarian causes and their national freedom as one cause.

Last Monday, popular Catalan journalist Joan Barril wrote in his El Periódico column: “We are happy that the (Berlín) wall fell, but the Valle de los Caídos –the State tomb of Franco– still stands” with all its honours. “We are emoted by the heroic stories of fugitive German escaping from East Berlin” wrote Barril “but Spanish judges still fail to do justice to the Historic Memory. We love to proclaim our hate for Hitler, but in many Spanish cities there continue to be avenues bearing the name of Francisco Franco, a dictator who had no qualms about sending his troops to fight on the Russian front”. Some even have the doubtful distinction of having street names dedicated to military units that fought against the Allies in World War II.

Some may say this is accidental and anecdotic. They may point to a Law has just been passed, allegedly to correct this. But this is no accident. The Law they are referring to fails to make any real enforcement for democratic regeneration as was conducted in Germany, Argentina or South Africa once democracy returned. To start with, this Law does not annul, albeit symbolically, the death and prison penalties applied against hundreds of thousands of Republicans after the end of the Spanish Civil War. Incredible though it may seem to any democrat, the State Attorney in whose hands the decision to annul these laws was put, is actually the grandson of one of the most cruel Military Attorneys of Franco’s bloodiest reprisal period. Even more worrying is the fact that Spanish president Zapatero should have publicly stated that to annul these sentences would be tantamount to questioning the foundation on which Constitutional Spain is now built. Amongst the thousands of death sentences that are still in force – sixty-nine years later- is that of Catalan President Lluís Companys. For him and others, the afore-mentioned Law forsees that his “rehabilitation” must be based on the issue of a humiliating good conduct certificate for those presenting “exonerating proof” for their relatives. Can anyone imagine Angela Merkel stooping to such connivence with the heirs of Hitler and Mussolini in enacting the pseudo-rehabilitation of their German or Italian democratic opponents today? This is only possible in Spain where Franco’s granddaughter appears on TV chat shows and where negationism is not a crime but a regular media practice as has recently been reported by Alex Rietman on Holand’s Radio1.

No. This is no accident. This is the very stuff Spain’s democratic deficit is made of. The world should know that the only individual facing charges associated with the mass graves of Franco -the vast majority of which, including Valencia’s, with over 26,000 known victims, are still uninvestigated- is the one judge who took steps to enable their possible investigation. Europe should know this. Why is Spain so absolutely unable to overcome its authoritarian past? And why does Europe turn a blind eye to this in contrast with the recommendations of the Committee for Human Rights of the United Nations, which in October 2008 brought out a document urging Spain to do justice to Franco’s victims, denouncing the fact that a law of 1977 should have granted amnesty for all crimes committed during the Dictatorship? …”

Read Toni Strubell’s full article

Reagrupament accuses the PSOE of Catalonia of boycott to their political meetings

Palau Sant Jordi

Reagrupament (link in catalan), the independentist political party, have denounced that PSOE of Catalonia (link in Spanish) have denied them the rental of the stadium for a public act on Sant Jordi’s day, the saint patron of Catalonia, next April. The Spanish party PSC currently holds the Barcelona city council. Apparently Reagrupament made a prebooking (link in catalan) for that date through a management company but after they filled the required forms and revealed it was Reagrupament that the booking was for they were denied the rental of the stadium without any feasible explanation. Reagrupament denounce that this is a constant problem every time they try to organise activities in a city or village controlled by the PSOE of Catalonia.

Reagrupament is a political party that has been recently formed which has only two points in their political program. Firstly, to make a unilateral declaration of independence of Catalonia from the Catalan Parliament once there’s an independentist majority of deputies and secondly to regenerate the Catalan political system to increase its credibility and accountability.

Since they are a new political party still have no representation in the parliament although in a very short time they have gained great popularity within the hundreds of thousands of Catalan independentist voters that had stopped voting since there’s currently no party in the Catalan Parliament that actively works towards the independence.

Reagrupament has gathered more than 3000 affiliates in less than 6 months gaining more than 1300 in the last month and a half quickly bringing it close to become the 3rd or 4th party with the most affiliates in Catalonia. Since there’s still almost one year until the next Catalan elections are held it is likely they will be a disruptive force that will bring the independence to the first page of the Catalan political agenda and therefore it is under constant attack by the Spanish parties and even Catalan parties that fear they’ll lose a great share of power to Reagrupament.

Their attempt to rent Palau Sant Jordi, which can host up to 24.000 people, shows how much growth the independentist party is expecting to gain in the next few months.

Catalonia will soon vote to ban bullfighting

Bullfighting
It seems that finally December the 15th might be the date chosen for the Catalan Parliament for the first round of voting for the law that will finally ban bullfighting in Catalonia. Citizens can request a law to be voted by the Parliament by popular demand by collecting signatures. In this case the Prou! (Catalan for Enough!) platform collected 180.000 signatures in Catalonia, three times more than required.

Bullfighting is considered the Spanish national sport and inherent part of their culture and even though in the beginning of the 20th century it was also popular in Catalonia since Franco promoted it as a symbol of fascist Spain most Catalans found it offensive and progressively lost interest in it. Catalonia has always been more progressive than Spain and therefore popular rejection to this cruel and violent show has been a fact for decades.

However, there are still two bullfighting rings in Barcelona, Las Arenas hasn’t hosted a “corrida” since 1990 and is currently being turned into a shopping center and La Monumental, which occasionally hosts shows attended mostly by drunk and disoriented tourists who believe they are in Spain and therefore attending a bullfighting show is what you do here.

For many this is also an identity struggle, the Spanish parties in the Catalan Parliament: PSOE of Catalonia, PP and Ciutadans have delayed the voting as much as they’ve been legally able to by presenting amendments (link in catalan). This shows how the Spanish parties in Catalonia even without any kind of popular support try to boycott this popular initiative as they know this voting will make more clear the differences between Catalonia and Spain to the international community.

Whereas ERC, ICV will vote for the ban as a block the Spanish PP and Ciutadans will vote against it. The two major parties, PSOE of Catalonia and CiU will allow their deputies freedom of voting according to their own beliefs but CiU’s votes might be enough to pass the law.

The second and final round of voting will probably be next spring or summer. Let’s hope that next year bullfighting in Catalonia will be a thing of the past.


Here’s a link to an article on the subject by Time magazine.

Facebook closes a catalanist group

20091113 - facebook els catalalans no som espanyols

The group “Els Catalans no som espanyols” (Catalans people aren’t spanish) was closed by Facebook as members of spanish facebook groups reported the catalanist group to Facebook admins as being offensive to them (Link in catalan).

This again shows how the antidemocratic behaviour is still deeply rooted in the Spanish society and how uncomfortable are the Spanish with freedom of speech. Luckily the group has been reopened and in a few days has regained 6500 members of the 16000 it had before closing.

Carles Móra, the mayor of Arenys de Munt, the little village were the independence referendum took place las september is one of the honorary admins of the group.

Joan Laporta, the president of Barça, the most famous catalan independentist

Joan_Laporta

Joan Laporta is the most famous catalan independentist. His position as president of Barça makes him without a doubt the catalan person with the greatest international projection.

Joan Carreteto, leader of Reagrupament, recently declared that “being the president of Barça is a thousand times more important position than the Catalan President” (link in catalan). Meaning that everyone in the world knows what Barça is but it is very difficult to explain abroad the exact description of the Generalitat which is currently nothing more than a Spanish regional institution. This didn’t sit well with the political establishment either. Admitting the truth always hurts.

While Spanish football club presidents don’t have any problem in reaffirming their Spanish nationalism those same people find it inappropiate that a person with the public display and responsibility of Joan Laporta declares himself openly Catalan independentist. Laporta been lately invited to several public acts related with the Catalan independence and everywhere he’s gathered great media attention. Like the protest on the Catalan National Day, september the 11th or the memorial to Lluís Companys, the Catalan President whom Franco had executed by firing squad after the Spanish Civil War.

Today he’s declared that “He’ll go into politics if Catalonia wants a leader, not a martyr” (link in Spanish) and that while he was very confident that he knew all there was to know to do an excellent job for Barça he’s not so sure about jumping into politics but he also has declared that Catalonia has gone backwards in the last few years and needs a change. Xavier Sala-i-Martín, one of the most important economists in the world and member of the Barça management, recently declared that “if Joan Laporta goes into politics he’ll do an excellent job”. (link in Catalan)

A recent poll has revealed that as of now approximately 12% of voters would give him their support (link in Catalan) even before he’s even said what he’s going to do. This hasn’t sit well with the Catalan political establishment since he would certainly be a disruptive force. There’s one certainty, whatever he does he’ll attract the media attention and he’ll keep supporting Catalonia’s independence.

Johan Cruyff, new coach for the Catalonia national football team

2009-11-09 - Johan_Cruyff

Johan Cruyff, the dutch football legend, has been presented as the new coach for the Catalonia national team.

Cruyff is reagarded as one of the greatest players of all time and was awarded European Footballer of The Year in 1971, 1973 and 1974. As a coach he led Barça into one of its most successful periods winning 4 consecutive spanish leagues between 1991 and 1994 and one european Champions League in 1992. The team that achieved those successes was named the Dream Team (link in Catalan).

Cruyff hasn’t coached since he left Barça 13 years ago in spite of having had several offers to do so and therefore his decision to coach for Catalonia is excellent news for Catalonia thanks to Cruyff’s international reputation.

Currently the Catalan and Basque national teams are banned from official competitions and forced to play only friendly matches in spite of having a greater support than the Spanish team. On the other hand, for instance, in Great Britain, there’s an absolute understanding that there must exist a national team for each of the countries that compose it: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

During his presentation he’s declared (link in Spanish) that “You can notice that the matches here with the flags, the anthem and a full stadium… are a party, that’s the way it has to be: a national party”

He says that he wants to create a team that will play against the best using the players from both Catalan first division teams, Barça and Espanyol as a base. Cruyff is not going to earn any money for his job and instead all the money he should have earned from the Catalan Football Federation will be destined to his foundation for social projects.

The Catalan national team is currently negotiating with other national teams to play a friendly match before Chirstmas.

Perpinyà on the 350 anniversary of the Treaty of the Pyrenees

Perpinyà, La Catalana

Today it’s the 350 anniversary of the Treaty of the Pyrenees (link in Catalan) and the French occupation of the Catalan northern territories. With this treaty France and Spain, after a succession war, split Catalonia in two by separating the northern counties of Rosselló and half of Cerdanya from the rest of the Catalan nation. The treaty specified that the Catalan institutions had to be respected but this wasn’t the case and France dissolved them. Over the centuries this has resulted in an impoverishment of the region which passed from being a rich manufacturing center to a rural area with 20% chronic unemployment thanks to the French efforts towards destroying its identity and converting Northern Catalonia into another French province.

However, the bonds between the northern and southern Catalonia were strong and the culture has been preserved until nowadays. The biggest city of the area is Perpinyà, La Catalana. Which hosts USAP, one of the best rugby clubs in europe and champions of the 2009 french rugby league.

Today there’s a demonstration in Perpinyà (link in Catalan) and several other acts and cultural activities organized in favour of the Catalan culture and the unity of the Catalan nation. The demonstration slogans are “350 years of resistance” and “Let’s erase the Treaty of the Pyrenees”.

USAP rugby fans
USAP rugby fans

A high speed train will soon connect Perpinyà with downtown Barcelona making the commute a 45 minutes trip. The construction is expected to finish in two years therefore strengthening the bonds between the Northern and Southern Catalonia.

Spain will appeal each one of the 130 referendums of independence in Catalonia

Arenys' voting slips

In another display of Spain’s low democracy degree the Spanish attorney general has announced that they will appeal each and every one of the independence referendums (link in Spanish) scheduled to take place across Catalonia on December the 13th. This is another sample of the degree of hostility in Spain towards Catalonia and the low quality of their democracy, denying Catalan citizens the right to democratically decide.

Unfortunately for them the only effect this is going to have is give the event more publicity. Just like last September 13th in Arenys de Munt the referendums cannot be stopped since they are organized by www.referendumindependencia.cat (link in Catalan) private association with no involvement from the town councils.

So far more than 650000 catalans will have the right to vote in one of the referendums organized in one of the municipalities across Catalonia and a national referendum is being organized for next year. The votings will have the presence of international observers (link in Catalan) to give the event the required transparency and validity for the international community.

Arenys de Munt votes for independence of Catalonia

Arenys - Photo by Raul Roncero, some rights reservedSomething is moving in Catalonia. Arenys de Munt a little village with 6500 eligible voters in the Maresme comarca (the Catalan equivalent of a county), 40km to the north of Barcelona  succeeded in organizing a referendum of independence from Spain last month. An overwhelming 96% of the voters said “yes” for Catalonia to become an independent state in the European Union.

The story of this success started as a private initiative (legally binding referendums are under the exclusive control of the Spanish state and the right to self-determination is not allowed in Spain).   A lot of publicity was given by the fact that a judge unsuccessfully attempted to ban it but since it was not an initiative coming from the town council, (although supported by it) but from the citizens, and the voting was held outside official offices, it was perfectly legal.

This happened while at the same time the authorities defended the right of the Spanish fascists from Falange Española, former dictator Franco’s party, to hold a demonstration in the village on the day of the referendum. Let’s not forget that fascist parties are not banned in Spain. This gave the event loads of publicity but the impact was even bigger when the opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, forced the Spanish president, Zapatero to comment on the subject. Zapatero declared  “I don’t expect this to go viral”.

On September the 13th  the voting went on uneventfully and in a partyish atmosphere until the results were made public at the end of the day. Meanwhile, 50 Spanish fascists arrived to Arenys, did their demonstration closely watched by the police and were largely ignored except for the media, with more than one hundred reporters following the events. The local mayor Carles Móra said that “this is a triumph for democracy”.

Many Catalan politicians, observing the success tried to show their support once it was clear how important the event had been, although they had ignored it beforehand. It seems that the current Catalan politicians are unable to lead the Catalan society and so society spontaneously takes action.

International media, like the New York Times included the news in their following day editions.

Señor Zapatero was wrong, inspired by Arenys de Munt’s experience many Catalan municipalities have decided to organise a similar voting, this time simultaneously, on December the 13th. As of today at least 117 catalan villages and cities are preparing independence referendums next December with more municipalities being added to the list every day. There are already plans to organize  a national referendum next year. Political parties have been excluded from this since the organizers want to make it clear that this is a citizen initiative.