Now that the Catalan Republic is getting closer

It’s been more than two years since I last wrote on this blog. After the November 2012 elections the process was in the hands of the politicians, President Mas won the elections with the promise of holding a referendum and the international media increased interest on the subject. Mission accomplished. I limited my contribution through CataloniaDirect to the occasional tweet when anything worth mentioning happened (which was not very often).

Still, now that we are getting close to the birth of the Catalan Republic I feel like writing about it again. Even if just occasionally.

The last couple of years I often refrained from writing because it would have involved invariably criticising Catalan politicians, the very people who would have to eventually leave their differences aside if this was to suceed. They drove me insane at times, other times I lost hope. Glad that is mostly in the past now.

However, from the last 3 years three days are worth mentioning.

Day 1 – September 11th 2013, the 400km Via Catalana (Catalan Way). 2 million people holding hands across the country on . I was lucky enough to be there taking pictures. I will never forget that afternoon.

Day 2 – September 11th 2014 The Big V (for Vote) demonstration in Barcelona. Involving again about 2 million people. I had my doubts, it was so ambitious that I was afraid people would be tired of doing these mass demonstrations. I was mistaken.

Day 3 – The November 9th 2014 Referendum

We all knew Spain would never agree to a referendum. Rajoy kept saying everyone stay calm, no referendum would take place in Catalonia. That was my biggest hope, if Rajoy said it wouldn’t happen that had to mean one way or another it would. Mas astutely manouvered, challenged Spain and went ahead and hosted the promised referendum on November 9th 2014 anyway. Catalonia’s was to take place shortly after Scotland’s. The comparison between the UK and Spain was stark. Threats, insults, legal prosecution but nothing we weren’t used to. Mas also managed to irate the other Catalan parties who wanted a more confrontational attitude but I guess when you make decisions you can’t make everyone happy.

Using the Generalitat’s civil servants was not a possibility because Spain threatened them with losing their jobs. So the week before the referendum the Generalitat publicly requested for 20000 volunteers. I immediately registered. All positions were filled within a few hours. My job would be to check the amount of votes cast in each of the 8 tables and call the central at the end of the day with the final results.

So I flew back from Germany, were I live at the moment, and spent a lovely weekend in Barcelona. On the day of the voting I woke up at 6am and checked the news just in case the Spanish Government had carried out their threats to send the Guardia Civil to close down the voting points. I know this may sound ridiculous, but read the Spanish news that week if you don’t believe me. In the end everything was quiet, only threats. Pictures of the Spanish police taking away ballot boxes would have looked really bad on the international press.

I got to the voting school in a part of the city I don’t know well. There was a couple of Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police, at the corner. They weren’t supposed to be inside the voting point because it was not a normal referendum but the Generalitat sent them anyway in case violent groups attempted to carry out the threats to disrupt the voting. I was relieved to see the Mossos there.

It was a glorious day. Thousands of people voting as if making a birthday wish, hoping for a better future with big smiles on their faces. At times it got hectic, crowds of people eager to vote and we had to make them wait in line for their turn to vote.

Since the referendum had not been agreed with Spain it was not legally binding. 2.3 million people voted in spite of the threats, the good weather and it not being binding. Almost two million voted Yes/Yes (yeah it was a double question, us Catalans are complicated like that). But nevertheless we know at least 2 million Catalans want independence, which out of about 5 million voters is a huge chunk. It also felt good to do a little disobedience against Spain.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the fact that every person in the organisation was a die hard pro independence activist, but also understandable since normally you’d think of better things to do on a sunny sunday than spend 14 hours at a voting point hosting a referendum under threat of a hostile State. But above being independentists we are democrats and the counting of the votes was meticulous and thorough.

In order to spare the volunteers from the wrath of Spain all names and records were deleted after the voting. In the end the only victims have been President Mas and Vicepresident Ortega and Education Minister Rigau who now face a criminal lawsuit for prevarication, disobedience and misuse of public funds. Yeah Spain was still Spain, someone had to be punished for voting.

An independentist Parliament to pilot the transition to the Catalan State

Yesterday’s election in Catalonia is a turning point for Catalan politics.

Coalition CiU has clearly won the election and ERC has become the left wing main Catalan party. Currently, the two main parties at the Catalan Parliament are independentist.

Comparing with the 2010 results. Out of 135 the amount of pro independence seats has increased from 14 to 74. 87 seats support the referendum since left wing – ecologist Catalan party ICV continues to be undefined in their position about independence but support the referendum.

Some people see the decrease in CiU’s support as a disqualification of Mas’ turn towards independence but they overlook that there are more independentist parties and that Mas has paid the price of 2 years of budget cuts, deals with PP, cases of police brutality, etc.

Another key point is that during the campaign Duran, Unio’s leader, Convergencia’s partner, kept contradicting Mas on the coalition’s support to independence, raising concerns on some potential voters that may have preferred to vote ERC instead to secure the independentist vote.

The 69% turnout was an increase of 10.7% compared to 2010. The increase in Catalan vote has kept up with the increase in Spanish nationalist vote who may have abstained in previous Catalan elections.

From my point of view I think the current is one of the best scenarios since CiU will be forced to look for ERC’s support. ERC will not be able to justify austerity for long in front of their voters. Therefore, the independentist agenda may accelerate.

With the current funds drain from Spain there is no room to change the austerity policies in Catalonia so the fastest way to turn this around is to continue the transition towards the Catalan State. It won’t be easy and will require maturity, generosity, concessions and building large consensus but if done properly it will be the base for a very strong majority for the Catalan State. The popular mandate to the Parliament has been clear.

Now that independence support has been measured it needs to be translated into political change.

European Commission hints at the way to handle Catalonia’s independence

Catalan independentist association Reagrupament submitted back in April an ICE requesting the European Commission to create a procedure for the internal enlargement of the EU of which we already spoke about here. In reponse to this the European Commission replied that the way to handle this situation would have to be found within the rules of international law.

Again last week European Commission President José Manuel Durao Barroso replied, in response to eurodeputy Mara Bizzotto query on whether Catalan citizens would lose their European citizenship status should Catalonia declare independence (CA), that “the solution would have to be found within the frame of international law”.

This means that the EU will not create a special process for the internal enlargement and, according to international law, states resulting from a secession process will automatically inherit the treaties that the from the state they are seceding from. Amongst them the membership to the European Union.

It also is good news because for the first time a European Institution has openly discussed about Catalonia’s independence.

April the 10th, the popular referendum takes place in Barcelona

The organisation is ready, it has been going on for months already and the accumulated experience from the previous rounds has been a key factor for the success of this round. On sunday, the popular referendum for the independence of Catalonia, one of the most important events of this generation of Catalans, will take place in Barcelona. It all started in Arenys de Munt and now has spread, through successive rounds to 532 towns and villages in Catalonia involving more than 60000 volunteers. (Check out previous rounds here, here, here and here)

More than 10% of early votes have already been collected this time, which several hundred volunteers have organised. Several politicians, amongst others, former Catalan president Pujol and current president Mas have given their support and voted already for the independence of Catalonia. (If when I started this blog somebody had told me in 2011 I would be writing that last sentence I wouldn’t have believed them.)

The next step, according to the referendum organisers, should be for the Catalan Parliament to organise a full scale official referendum of independence with the proper resources and then in case of an affirmative result act accordingly and start the steps for the international recognition of Catalonia’s independence.

Since luckily I happen to be in Barcelona at the moment I am currently giving the local organisers in Sants, my area, a hand and I’ll be reporting live on sunday from this blog and on twitter from the local headquarters about what goes on. Keep checking this blog for updates.

Next week, on April the 13th, it will get interesting since a law proposal made by SI for a unilateral declaration of independence will be voted in the Catalan Parliament. The law will very likely not get through but the debate, especially the arguments of those who will vote against it or abstain, will be very interesting since most groups practice a calculated ambiguity in this matter and the voters have the right to know who is defending their rights.

I’ll leave you with a video advertisement for the Barcelona referendum with english subtitles:

Don’t Vote (No votis) – Catalan with English subs from Belisarius on Vimeo.

Former President Jordi Pujol votes for Catalonia’s independence

Former Catalan President Jordi Pujol has declared on the radio that he has already voted “Yes” by advance poll in the upcoming popular referendum for independence that will take place on April the 10th in Barcelona.

Jordi Pujol was the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya for more than two decades and his policies were always aimed to try to make Catalonia fit in Spain as he believed in a plurinational Spain. A couple of months ago he surprised everybody by saying that seeing the unfair treatment Catalonia receives from Spain, and seeing that after 30 years the situation seems to be getting even worse, he had no arguments left against independence and that it might be the only option for Catalonia’s survival.

This week he made a speech called “Irrelevant or independent? Is there another solution?” along similar lines which was awaited with much expectation. Yesterday, in a radio program he again surprised everybody by saying that he had already voted for independence in the popular ballots.

Pujol’s support is a huge publicity boost for the popular referendums for independence that started in September 2009 in Arenys de Munt and have now taken place in approximately half of the Catalan municipalities (previous articles on this here and here). More than 60000 volunteers have participated in the organisation of these referendums since the start of the initiative. Taking into account Pujol’s impeccable democratic record his support only increases the importance of the event.

UN’s sentence on Kosovo clears the way for Catalonia’s independence

Today the UN’s International Court of Justice said Kosovo’s independence didn’t break any rules since there are no international laws that prohibits declarations of independence. This is very important for many stateless nations in the world, including Catalonia. The list of countries against Kosovo’s independence includes China, Serbia, Russia and Spain. Spain’s fear was that this ruling would create a precedent that stateless nations such as Euskal Herria (Basque Country) or Catalonia could use to accelerate their processes of independence.

This is excellent news and with very good timing since only two weeks ago Spain’s Constitutional Court sentenced that Catalonia has no right to organise referendums and therefore the possibility of a referendum of independence was shut leaving only the declaration of independence. Today’s sentence does indeed create a precedent in international law and clarifies that the international community would support Catalonia should we decide to follow the same path.

Catalan independentist association Reagrupament has been defending for years that this is the best choice for Catalonia and precisely this week a call to all Catalan independentists to unite to achieve this target was done by Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència, led by Laporta, López Tena and Bertran. Reagrupament have already showed their support and cooperation.

Congratulations to Kosovo!

Update on July 24th:

To clarify things you can download the full sentence here, in english. The precedent the sentence creates refers, in plural and in general to declarations of independence. Let’s read some of the articles:

80 “Thus, the scope of the principle of territorial integrity is confined to the spehere of relations between states” Meaning the principle of territorial integrity doesn’t apply if a secession comes from within a state.

81 “…no general prohibition against unilateral declarations of independence may be inferred…”

84 “For the reasons already given, the Court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence”

Now people can still argue Kosovo and Catalonia are different cases, which is true. But the above points of this sentence effectively are indeed applicable to any future declaration of independence.

Photo: AMWRanes

Laporta, López Tena and Bertran create a coalition for Catalonia’s independence

Things are moving fast in Catalonia. Today Joan Laporta, Uriel Bertran and Alfons López Tena have announced (video in Catalan) the creation of Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència urging all Catalan parties to form a coalition and commit to declare the independence of Catalonia should this coalition win the Catalan elections in November. Reagrupament have announced already that since this is the formula they’ve always defended they can count with them.

Back in 1906 a coalition called Solidaritat Catalana joined forces of all Catalan parties to fight Spanish centralism and regain self-government shares for Catalonia. Now this new Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència tries to follow the same steps but with the target to regain Catalonia’s independence and become a state within the European Union.

But let’s go back a couple of weeks to explain how events have developed to make it possible to reach this point.

A qualified board within the Catalan Parliament repeated a voting last tuesday about whether to give a go ahead to the Popular Initiative for a Referendum of Independence. The first voting a few weeks ago was affirmative. This time all Catalan parties unanimously voted against it. They argued that they took this decision because the Catalan Statute sentence from the Spanish Constitutional Court now bans the Catalan Parliament from organising referendums.

So, the people of Catalonia came out in force last week to call for independence, yet the elected parties first action after this was to contradict this wish, and indeed bring in measures against Catalan sovereignty and democracy. Independence is centering the political debate in Catalonia and parties are timidly modifying their speech to adapt it to the new independentist majority in Catalonia but their actions show they are unable to lead Catalonia in this issue and are paralysed and confused about what to do.

As a consequence of the rejection of the Popular Initiative, its promoters Alfons López Tena and Uriel Bertran, who also are two of the visible leaders and organisers of the popular referendums for independence, have resigned from their responsibilities from parties CiU and ERC, respectively and are working to make this coalition possible. They saw and understood that at the end of the day the current parties are completely unable to defend Catalonia and adapt their actions accordingly to the quickly changing reality and now that the way of the referendum is shut there’s only the way of the declaration of independence left.

Outside of the Parliament we have Reagrupament. The political association led by Joan Carretero have managed to create a solid candidacy for the elections next November and they’ve made it clear that, unlike ERC, they won’t get in any Government unless its first target is the declaration of independence at the Catalan Parliament.

Finally, we have Joan Laporta, the former president of FC Barcelona who, right after finishing his duty at the club, has announced that he’s going to step into the political arena with a new independentist party, Democràcia Catalana. Rumours are that his candidacy will include a good number of relevant personalities and intellectuals linked to the independentist scene. Mr Laporta seems to have a good chance of making an excellent result given his openly declared independentism together with his achievements at having turned Barça into the most successful sports club in the world.

The big question is whether this new Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència will be able to create a solid coalition and lead Catalonia to freedom. The ingredients are indeed there. I don’t think that the current parties such as CiU and ERC will join this coalition since they’ve repeatedly made decisions in the opposite direction but even without them a very strong coalition able to destabilize the Catalan Parliament can be achieved. I personally am very happy that this has happened as I’ve always defended from here I think this is the best way to go for Catalonia.

Photo: Vilaweb

Related: Joan Laporta’s speech (with english subtitles) at Reagrupament’s meeting last March

Democràcia a l’espanyola

Tribunal Constitucional

Sembla ser que ara a Madrid no els acaba d’agradar això de la IP del referèndum dels Srs López Tena i Uriel Bertran. És interessant el concepte de democràcia i d’estat que tenen a Madrid.

D’estat perquè si pensessin que la Generalitat és estat (vull dir, part de l’estat espanyol) quin problema hi ha en que la Generalitat organitzi referèndums sobre assumptes que interessen als ciutadans? (perdó, vull dir consultes, que referèndum sona massa seriós i les decisions serioses es prenen sempre a Madrid). Per tant, ens deixen clar que l’estat està a Madrid i això que tenim aquí és un Parlament de fireta per a fer bonic i no molestar.

En quant a la democràcia, fins ara a Madrid ningú ha tingut cap problema en que es facin “consultes” sobre xorrades con la Diagonal. Això sí, quan s’ha aprovat discutir si fem o no un referèndum sobre un tema que no els agrada ara no els sembla bé. Què ingenu, i jo que pensava que això de la democràcia consistia en fer votar als ciutadans per a saber què volen. Deu ser la democràcia a l’espanyola.

Dintre de 6 mesos decidiran si presenten un recurs d’inconstitucionalitat i previsiblement el recurs seguirà el camí de l’estatutet. Potser dintre de 10 anys ens aclariran què ens deixen fer i què els irrita. Deixar passar 6 mesos és un bon negoci per als dependentistes. Les eleccions tot just hauran passat i de passada estalviarà a un possible guanyador Mas haver de fer un incòmode debat sobre la independència al Parlament.

Pensem doncs que, basant-nos en l’experiència, és pràcticament segur el recurs i per tant el debat sobre la independència no arribarà al Parlament la propera legislatura. A no ser que votem en conseqüència. L’única opció per a aquells que volem la llibertat per a Catalunya és votar aquelles formacions que es comprometin a declarar unilateralment la independència de Catalunya en cas d’obtenir majoria de diputats favorables a la independència.

Foto: Jaume d’Urgell

De què té por el Sr Mas?

2010-06-17 Artur Mas

L’Artur Mas ha fet recentment unes declaracions dient que per a ell el país no estava “madur” per a votar sobre la independència. Podem deixar que el líder del partit que, segons les enquestes, podria guanyar les eleccions al Parlament pensi d’aquesta manera i no passi res?

Per començar, dir que el país no és madur és un greu menyspreu cap al poble català i evidència un complexe d’inferioritat molt seriós. El poble català és perfectament madur com per a decidir el seu futur lliurement i democràtica ja que decideix cada dia sobre tot tipus d’afers.

En què es basa l’Artur Mas per a pensar que el poble català no vol decidir sobre la independència? És possible que tingui informes secrets que contradiuen tota evidència? Després que més de mig milió de catalans hagin votat als referèndums d’independència i que milers més ho facin demà. Després que totes les enquestes publicades per la UOC o inclús medis dependentistes com La Vanguardia i El Periódico que diuen que la majoria de catalans i catalanes són favorables a un estat propi i que la majoria dels votants de CiU també en són favorables.

De què té por? Que els votants de CiU contraris a la independència el deixin de votar? Que no el voten pas ara aquells que sí que en són favorables?

Necessitem líders que exerceixin com a tals. En moments de crisi calen persones que siguin capaces de liderar la transició entre dos projectes. No necessitem en Mas per fer de “gestor” de les engrunes que rebem d’Espanya.

Diu en Mas que “primer s’ha d’arreglar l’economia” i després pensarem en la independència. En aquest sentit la primera mesura ha de ser la d’alleujar allò que ens fa arrossegar, que ens frena. Una de les primeres coses a fer en aquest sentit és deixar de formar part d’un estat que ha dilapidat els diners catalans i europeus en projectes faraònics impossibles de rendibilitzar com l’AVE, que deliberadament menysprea les infrastructures a les àrees més productives com el corredor mediterrani per tal d’imposar la seva visió centralista, que ens aplica un dèficit fiscal insuportable i que s’està enfonsant ràpidament gràcies a la crisi.

Ara que finalment ha quedat palès que l’encaix a Espanya és del tot impossible, que no està preparada per a ni tan sols acceptar l’Estatutet, necessitem algú que catalitzi el desig d’avançar cap a la llibertat del nostre país, no algú que demani un impossible concert econòmic.

Per a mi el millor mètode per a assolir la independència és mitjançant la declaració unilateral al Parlament però ara que s’estan explorant altres vies, com la iniciativa popular d’en Tena, realment volem tenir al Parlament partits que s’autoanomenen catalans però que votarien en contra de fer el referèndum? Com es pot estar en contra de la llibertat del teu país? Això contradiu els mateixos estatuts de CiU que diuen clarament que el seu objectiu és el d’aconseguir el nivell màxim d’autogovern per a Catalunya.

Les paraules d’en Mas no són les d’un líder, són les paraules de la por. De què té por el Sr Mas?

A les properes eleccions l’objectiu dels catalans ha de ser el de crear una majoria al Parlament favorable a la independència. Tingue’m-ho en compte a l’hora de votar.

Foto: Xavier Trias

Sabadell and Barcelona, two very different ways to do a referendum

Sabadell Decideix

Sabadell organised last sunday their referendum of independence. With a population of 200.000 people, Sabadell has been to date the biggest city to organise a referendum and obviously poses an organisational challenge. The results, 92,78% “Yes” votes against 5,3% “No” votes. Overall, 22608 votes that make up for a 13,87% turnout.

If you think this is low keep reading. This voting used 800 volunteers and around 60000 euros budget that came from donations. I’d obviously like a bigger turnout but this follows the trend seen in bigger cities from previous experience and considering the circumstances (no budget, not official, no direct political consequences from this exercise, only volunteer work, media void) the figures are pretty good.

This time the media void has been more obvious than ever, not any remarkable mention from any of the unionist media and only after the voting was closed.

However, the usual turnout criticisms that always came from the unionists the day after the votings have not been seen. Why? There’s an explanation. A couple of weeks ago Barcelona’s Mayor Jordi Hereu organised a referendum about the refurbishing of Avinguda Diagonal, one of Barcelona’s main entrances. Attempting to turn Barcelona citizens into improvised expert urban planners the referendum had several hundred full time civil servants assigned to it and an estimated 3 million euros budget. When the referendum started it was discovered that it was fraught with reliability problems and even voting fraud (anyone could vote online for you as long as they knew your ID and date of birth).

Result, after the 1 week voting period only a 12,7% turnout and 80% of that vote went to the, intentionally non advertised, C option: to leave Avinguda Diagonal just as it is now. Interpreted as a clear punishment against Hereu’s frivolous “referendum”. Hereu’s political career is basically over.

Not that a referendum per se is a bad thing and in my opinion Avinguda Diagonal does need some changes but definitely Hereu’s way is not the way of doing things, as the citizens have let him know.

The positive consequence of all this is that unionists and especially the Catalan government, in the hands of Hereu’s party, can no longer criticise the referendum’s turnout since a handful of volunteers with barely no budget and a lot of enthusiasm have ridiculed Hereu’s 3 million euros referendum and nobody to date has managed to question or criticise the democratic validity of the popular referendums, with open countings and international observers.

Only two rounds left, the one on Cornellà on June the 20th and the final one next year in Barcelona.