Spain guilty twice in one week by European Court of Human Rights

Last week Spain was found guilty (again) by the European Court of Human Rights for not investigating tortures inflicted by the Spanish Guardia Civil to Aritz Beristain, a Basque citizen arrested in 2002 for charges regarding Kale Borroka (street fighting).

In his report Beristain explained that “they put a bag around my head, which from time to time they squeezed to suffocate me, they hit me in the ribs […] and threatened me” Once incomunicated in Madrid Beristain explains that he was constantly hit in his testicles, ribs and head and some Guardia Civil members inserted an object in his anus. You can read the source here (in Catalan). Beristain was incomunicated for 5 days after which he showed the injuries that were never investigated by Spain.

And this week Spain was again found guilty regarding Arnaldo Otegi, the Basque independentist leader, who is currently in prison. Otegi said that the King of Spain was “responsible for the torturers” back in 2003 and for this was sentenced to one year in prison by the Spanish Supreme Court based on the grounds that Otegui’s words were “an obvious disrespect” to the Spanish King and the Monarchy “affecting his dignity” and therefore Otegui’s words cannot be “supported by the right of freedom of speech”. Just in case you didn’t know, the King of Spain according to the Spanish constitution is “inviolable and cannot be held accountable”.

In their ruling the Court of Human rights say that (link in Catalan) “the fact that the King is not accountable, according to the Constitution, cannot stop the debate about his institutional and symbolic responsibilities as the Head of State” and the Court also remarks (link in Catalan) that the special treatment received by the King does not abide to the spirit of the European Charter of Human Rights and basic freedoms.

Zapatero refuses, again, to publish Catalan wealth redistribution information

Mr Zapatero

Zapatero has refused today, again, for the Spanish government to publish the wealth redistribution information between the Spanish Autonomous Communities.

This type of information which in federal countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada or Belgium is completely public in Spain has only been published once in the last 35 years, in 2008, and was at the request of the Catalan parties.

The latest data available published by the Generalitat and the Spanish Governmenthere (PDF in catalan , but you don’t need to read catalan to see the numbers), shows that Catalonia suffers a fiscal plundering (the difference between taxes collected in Catalonia and investment returned by Spain) which in 2005 alone amounted to 9.8% of the Catalan GDP.

Another presentation by the Spanish Ministry of Finance (PDF in Spanish) shows how the Catalan Countries (Catalonia >9% , Valencian Country >6% and Balearic Islands >14% !! ) are the net tax contributors to the Spanish state.

Comparing the Catalan case (9.8%) to federal countries where the limit of wealth redistribution, limited by law, is much smaller like Germany (4%), Canada (2%), USA (2.5%) one can only imagine how this plundering or “wealth redistribution”, which in Spain is opaque and unlimited has been hurting the Catalan economy and welfare for the last 30 years.

This gets only worse since in the Catalan Government has inherited an awful debt situation, which amounts to about 30.000+ million euros, and while the new Catalan government is inflicting severe cuts to the Catalan welfare system (education, health care, etc) it is interesting to note that without the Spanish plundering, which amounts to approximately 22000 million euros for each of the last couple of years, there would not only be enough cash to pay the bills but it would be possible to increase public spending to alleviate the crisis situation.

The Spanish abolish Catalan language immersion in schools

Many of you live in countries all over the world, whether you are Catalan or not, can you imagine a foreign country pulling out a sentence that makes teaching in schools in your country’s own language illegal and that you will now have to also teach a foreign language? How would you call this situation? Colonisation. This is exactly what is happening right now in Catalonia, thanks to last summer’s sentence from the Spanish Constitutional Court about the Catalan Statute of Autonomy the first political consequences are arising.

As it was already predicted, and conveniently right after the Autonomous Catalan elections, so as not to stir the Catalan cocktail, the Spanish Supreme Court has passed a sentence that says that the Catalan immersion system that currently exists and that has so successfully contributed to keep the Catalan language alive has to be substituted for a mixed one with Spanish. The claim for schooling in Spanish is not even a minority one, it’s a residual one. The lawsuits against the immersion system represent a total of 3 families for the whole of Catalonia.

This is how the Spanish use their democracy to their advantage, political decisions enforced through the legal system, no debate, no physical violence, they are sophisticating their ways to achieve the same means.

The newly formed Catalan government (CiU), instead of the logical reaction that any real government would have against such an attack towards its country’s culture has just evaded the question and claimed that the Spanish Supreme Court cannot change laws, which is true, but that won’t change the fact that any minute now the Spanish Parliament could potentially pull a new law that will override the Catalan education law and enforce a new system. Will the Catalan government react firmly and refuse to obey?

The sad truth is that while Catalonia remains part of Spain as an Autonomous Community they can use their system to do this and much more. Catalans, after almost 300 years of occupation and two dictatorships in the last century aimed against them are demoralised and meek but the situation is grave. Slowly facts are exposing us to the reality, without a state there’s no way we’ll have the same rights as any other nation. And in the meantime the Spanish keep doing their centuries long work.

Reagrupament in London

Thank you everyone who joined us on monday. It was fantastic to see so many people so far away from home who are enthusiastic, came to the conference and later on joined the debate. I had a great time.

I was also delighted to meet Michael from Syniadau, an excellent blog about building an independent Wales. I wish all the best to the Welsh people and their country. I follow any advances in the national situation over there with a lot of interest.

The Catalan Government’s dire finances

These last few weeks if you live in Catalonia you might have seen everywhere around you posters reminding you that the Catalan Generalitat (Government) has issued around 2000 million euros worth of bonds which will yield 4.75% and that Catalans will be able to buy in chunks of 1000 euros, making an excellent opportunity for those with some savings to make a nice profit.

In reality, this shows the dire situation of the finances of the Generalitat. The Generalitat has been sending messages to the population that issuing these bonds is completely normal and that the Generalitat’s solvency is guaranteed, forgetting to mention that the Generalitat has a debt rating similar to Perú (link in Spanish), the worst of all the Spanish “Autonomous Communities”, and much worse than the Spanish one. Only then we realise how issuing the bonds to the general public just a few weeks before the Catalan elections and at such a high interest rate is a desperate move to guarantee the Generalitat’s immediate cash flow.

This happens just a few months after the Conseller Castells and President Montilla assured the Catalan opinion that the new financing agreement reached with Spain is the Generalitat’s best ever financing, forgetting to mention three facts:

  1. that the best financing we ever had was when we were independent until 1714, before the Spanish invasion and we managed all of our finances and taxes
  2. that Catalonia suffers a fiscal plundering of approximately 10% of its GDP, publicly recognised by the Spanish Government, which has published data up to 2005 (link in Catalan) and that there’s no other country in the world that suffers a comparable plundering. This plundering has currently been estimated to amount to 22000 million euros in 2009 and equates to approximately 3000 euros for each Catalan citizen.
  3. that Mariano Rajoy, the leader of Spain’s Partido Popular, the main opposition party, declared on tuesday that Spain will never allow Catalonia to manage their own taxes (and hence reduce the plundering to a bearable level) since Spain would instantly become non-viable (link in Catalan). Therefore implying that Spain’s viability depends on the sustained plundering of Catalonia’s resources.

So, to summarize. The Generalitat is forced to issue those bonds to get 2000 million euros while Catalonia is being plundered 22000 million euros every year by Spain and that the simplest solution to this would be to stop the fiscal plundering that Spain inflicts upon us by achieving independence. On the other hand, we know for a fact that while Catalonia remains in Spain this situation of fiscal plundering of 10% of our GDP is never going to be solved (or mitigated) and that the Generalitat acts purely as a colonial Government hiding the fact that the Generalitat’s finances are in a dire state (and hiding the easy solution to this).

And with the elections coming up in only a few weeks the voting alternatives to achieve independence drastically reduce our voting choices.

Photo: PS – Partit Socialdemòcrata d’Andorra

World record Lip Dub for the independence of Catalonia

As an interesting note, I really enjoyed the “Lip Dub for the independence” which has been certified by the World Records Academy as the World Record of people in a Lip Dub. It gathered 5771 people in Vic, Catalonia to raise awareness that Catalonia is a nation and that its survival is not assured without independence.

According to the definition in Wikipedia a Lip Dub is a video that combines people lip synching to a song that is afterwards edited with the original audio of the song.

This particular one is very sophisticated since it synced hundreds thousands of people on a single take performing, dancing and singing to a song by “Obrint Pas” and all I have to say is that it’s brilliant, enjoy it.

Video: Matthew Tree explains Catalonia to a group of North American students

Matthew Tree, an english writer who has lived in Catalonia for 26 years explained what is Catalonia to a group of North American students who study in Barcelona. If you want to better understand what is Catalonia and learn about it’s struggle for independence I don’t think many people would be able to explain it better (and in english) than Matthew Tree.

The initiative took place in Universitat Pompeu Fabra as part of the Emma Dialogues a collaboration with Col·lectiu Emma, a group of Catalan professionals who reply to articles written about Catalonia by the international press.

The video has been published by catalan newspaper Vilaweb and it can’t be embedded so you’ll have to click on the link to watch it. The video is fully in english.

Link to Matthew’s Tree conference “Catalonia: The future is another country”.

The Spanish Ombudsman appeals the Catalan Welcoming and Integration Law

One of the first consequences of the Catalan Statute sentence passed last month by the Spanish Constitutional Court. The Catalan Welcoming and Integration Law says that immigrants who arrive in Catalonia will be welcomed in Catalan to acomplish this the Generalitat (the Catalan Government) offers free Catalan courses. Now the Spanish Ombudsman is appealing this law to the Spanish Constitutional Court and wants this to change so that they are welcomed in Castilian-Spanish instead (link in Catalan). This makes no sense since the language in Catalonia is obviously Catalan, not Castilian.

Catalonia has seen its immigration rate increase from almost 0 to 10% of its population in the last decade. In any country this would be a problem that could potentially cause social unrest and lack of integration if not dealt with properly but in countries with a state this problem can more easily be dealt with since the government can enforce effectively that newcomers learn the local language. It is since Catalonia lacks a state that this becomes a problem.

Historically, the language in Catalonia has been the best integration tool and Catalonia has been able to survive because Catalans are an integrating culture where as long as you learn the language you will be adopted as a Catalan.

As an example of this there’s the success of the Catalan school language immersion policy of the last 30 years where the teaching language is Catalan. This has decisively contributed to creating a more integrated society with equal opportunities and to expand the use of Catalan to certain layers of society like the descendants of the waves of Spanish immigrants that had arrived in Catalonia during Franco’s dictatorship who due to the ban on Catalan were not able to learn it.

The reason behind this is that lately Spain is increasing their pressure against the stateless nations within the Spanish state such as Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galice.

By appealing this law it is intended that the immigrants who arrive in Catalonia learn Castilian-Spanish first. You can imagine the consequences of having an high amount of the population of your country that can’t speak the language and which are the intentions behind this move.

Now, the Ombudsman is supposed to defend the rights of the Spanish citizens. If they did believe that Catalan citizens are Spanish it would be their priority to preserve Catalan culture. However, it seems that the Spanish ombudsman only has the Castilian-Spanish interests in mind.

Therefore we must infer that to the Spanish Ombudsman Catalans are not Spanish.

Photo Oriol Lladó

Los Angeles Times: Spain’s economic troubles spur Catalonia’s separatists to take new tack

I recommend this excellent article on Catalonia recently published in Los Angeles Times written by Henry Chu.

It seems that international media are slowly realising that the best way to inform about the Catalan conflict is to get first hand information instead of the usual Spanish-biased point of view after just reading a bunch of newspapers published in Madrid. Serious newspapers can’t afford that lack of professionalism.

Let’s hope that slowly the international understanding of Catalonia’s struggle increases. It’ll definitely come in handy for all sides when the declaration of independence finally arrives.

Reporting from Barcelona, Spain — The economy is flailing, unemployment is sky-high and painful government cutbacks lie ahead. Now is the time, it would seem, for the people of Spain to pull together.

To Joan Puigcercos, it’s all the more reason to split up.

A resident of wealthy Catalonia here in the sunny northeastern corner of the country, Puigcercos blames Spain’s economic woes on the government in Madrid and what he sees as its irresponsible and discriminatory ways.

Read the full article at

Photo by Toniu