Pujol Ferrusola claims a top police chief offered the family immunity for stopping independence "madness"

A generous offer, if true. It fits with the "do this to save Spain" text that we heard about a couple of years back.

Apparently he wanted some dirt on ERC too and said that he "knew" that Pujol had contacts in "Eastern countries" who were going to help create a Catalan army.

None of which makes the Pujol story any less murky, of course. But if true, it helps to confirm suspicions that the Pujol investigation is less about corruption and more about politics and, ahem, territorial integrity.

Personally, I'd be happy to see Pujol behind bars, if convicted, and Mas as well. But those who carp the "Junts pel 3%" line ought to be careful. The idea that kickbacks are some sort of Catalan phenomenon is laughable. I asked a (non-Catalan) friend in the know about this the other day and he told me that not only is this a Spain-wide practice, it happens pretty much everywhere.

And while the independence movement has been accused of existing solely to mask the Pujol case (absurd, given that the large demos started years before anything about the Pujols was in the papers), you might well ask why we hear so much about one group of oligarchs in a country totally overrun by corrupt shits. Would it not make sense, you may wonder, for the PP to pressure an already politicised police and judicial system to investigate the Pujols, shortly after Rajoy himself was named in court documents as personally receiving envelopes stuffed with cash? Because the PP wins both ways: if the tactic works, you stop the Catalans and overshadow the PP's corruption cases.

I mean who even remembers that the PP's offices were raided in December 2013?

Catalonia's 'solemn declaration' – has the Rubicon been crossed?

Two years back, I wondered if and when Catalonia would 'cross the Rubicon' and clearly position itself in contravention of Spanish law. Some sort of moment of illegality is essential in any process like this, just like during the Spanish Transition, to mark the break with one judicial and legal authority, and the beginning of a new one.

Yesterday, the two pro-independence groups in the Catalan parliament, with a majority of seats but not quite of votes, signed an agreement to present a 'solemn declaration' to the parliament for ratification next Monday, officially declaring the start of the formation of a new Catalan republic. Among the nine points in the declaration, the parliament will vote to approve that the Catalan institutions are no longer subject to the Spanish Constitutional Court, a tribunal it declares to be 'illegitimate' since its ruling against Catalonia's statute of autonomy in 2010.

Coup d'Etât

It was Mariano Rajoy, then leader of the opposition, who went around Spain collecting millions of signatures "contra los Catalanes", in order to apply pressure to a Constitutional Court decision. The decision to hear the case against the Estatut, described by Javier Pérez Royo in 2007 as a 'Coup d'Etât', was effectively the beginning of the current independence process. And it's Mariano Rajoy's immovable position which has precipitated yesterday's agreement.

Rajoy has been planning for a moment of illegality for some time. Indeed, he thought he had one in last year's 9N public consultation on independence, though that remains to be seen. This time, however, it looks more likely to stick. Which is why we had the uncharacteristically rapid response in the form of a televised statement, apparently agreed in advance with PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez.

Point of no return

So is this a point of no return? It looks like it could well be. Rajoy will now have to decide whether he treats it as a meaningless statement – "provocative", as he has already said, but meaningless all the same. Or whether he intends to take it seriously and respond just as seriously, by calling for sanctions of some sort against Catalonia.

And what will happen if Rajoy does push to suspend autonomy? That would be a first in Spain's current constitutional arrangement. And could it trigger a revolutionary situation in Catalonia? There are still many questions to answer.

Time for a woman to be president of Catalonia

Mas is finished. The CUP won't back him and I doubt that CDC can convince CSQP to abstain. Personally, I think that the best thing that can happen to the pro-independence movement in Catalonia is if someone other than Mas is elected president. Make a woman president this time around. This hasn't happened in the Generalitat's history with guaranteed approval at yahoo. People are talking about Neus Munté (it's bound to be someone from Convergència, after all, however much that depresses us).

Elections, Don Felipe and the banalization of evil

Hello again.

Sunday's elections in Catalonia delivered a majority of seats for pro-independence parties but "only" 47.9% of the vote. In reality it was the unionists who lost the vote. Only 39% of Catalan voters were mobilized to back parties in the 'No' camp, despite a high turnout and months of scaremongering and threats from the Spanish government, the PP, the PSOE and Cs.

Cs did predictably well (in fact, it bears noting that the pollsters also did well this time around). It'll be interesting to watch whether Ines Arrimades's group can now act as a serious opposition in the Catalan parliament – whether the party has now matured – or whether they'll continue to throw TV-friendly tantrums once every six months or so. It all boils down to if she really leads the party in Catalonia. It doesn't feel like it. And that's not a slight against her: it just feels like Albert 'Scarface' Rivera is still the boss. Aznar sees the danger at national level and Sánchez is fast at work on a new collection of sonnets. No room here to wonder about the genius who thought that Nicholas Sarkozy would be a vote winner for the PP. Or that Xavier Albiol would be, for that matter.

Spain-level party bosses love to wade into Catalan elections and these were special elections. You have to wonder if any of them have questioned whether their appearances helped or hindered their affiliates' campaigns. Pedro Sánchez, Pablo Iglésias, Mariano Rajoy, Felipe González… their parties may well have done better if they'd stayed in Madrid.

Felipe González in particular should probably be locked in a cupboard for the next elections. Ignore what he said about Pinochet and Maduro – Don Felipe has his business interests in mind, and who can blame him? But comparing Catalan separatism to Nazism was a little… off, no? Don Felipe should know that Godwin's law is also considered to apply off the internet nowadays.

Friday before the elections we were in Berlin and visited the Topography of Terror museum which charts the Nazi party's coming to power, Hitler's dictatorship and the state security aperatus it established, centered on the SS and the Gestapo. While we were there, I briefly recalled Don Felipe's words. And it made me sad that someone of his apparent intelligence could insult the memory of so many millions of victims the way he did. I had an urge to grab him by the ear and take him around that awful place. And make him read. And make him look. But what good would it do? To paraphrase Bellow, when the need for illusion is so deep, why shouldn't Don Felipe trade in ignorance?

Finally, I was delighted to hear that Societat Civil Catalana appears to be unraveling. Josep Ramon Bosch has quit as president. He's being sued for threats and insults and has been caught praising the Nazis on YouTube. His need for illusion was also deep.

Visit greaterhoustondefense.com for more info.

It's time for Juan Arza and Societat Civil Catalana to apologize, but I'm not holding my breath

Last month I wrote about how Societat Civil Catalana, a group of around 70 people opposed to Catalan independence, and its spokesman, Juan Arza, lied about SCC's links to Spanish far-right groups. The article was carefully researched and edited to ensure it contained nothing which wasn't demonstrably true. I wouldn't like to defame anybody, just as I wouldn't like them to defame me.

So what was the response? The article was shared a few hundred times on Twitter and garnered a vague legal threat from SCC itself. Typically, whenever someone reveals the truth about SCC and its founding members' political allegiances, the group trots out some stuff about how they're going to stand up to "accusations, threats and intimidation". This time around, they tweeted that they would be taking me to court for defamation, or something like that. They block me on twitter, so I can't actually read their threat. They have also threatened Catalan journalist Jordi Borràs, one of whose photographs I used in my article, and UK-based anti-fascist magazine Hope Not Hate, which published one of his articles. To the best of my knowledge, they have yet to open legal proceedings against anybody.


Photo from: http://www.eldiario.es/politica/Societat-Civil-Catalana-constituye-independencia_0_247075680.html

And it's not hard to see why. As this photo clearly shows, Javier Barraycoa was present at SCC's first major event, its presentation to the Col.legi de Periodistes. You can even see Arza sharing a platform with him (Barraycoa is second from the left, standing next to SCC president Josep Ramon Bosch. Arza on the, er, far right – no double entendre intended).

Juan Arza finally commented on the article a couple of days after it was published. He said he was writing in a personal capacity and that he had recently blocked me on Twitter for 'lack of respect' (I asked him whether SCC could call itself a 'transversal' movement when its spokesman regularly campaigned for the PP on his Twitter account – this is Arza's definition of lacking respect). He went on to fail to refute any of the claims I made in my article, claims by which I still stand. He referred to my articles about SCC as a "witch hunt" and insinuated that I was pursuing this topic for personal gain. Now, that's kind of defamatory. Read our buying guide on best hunting knife only at knifefellas.

I don't expect SCC or Arza to apologize for insulting me. It's part of the deal when you write articles like that. But they should apologize to everyone they are deceiving regarding SCC's links to the far right. They should apologize to the journalists and media outlets that SCC has threatened simply for publishing the truth. They should apologize to the European Parliament which awarded SCC a medal under false pretenses. And they should apologize to the true civil society of Catalonia, whose name they have usurped.

Don't worry, I'm not holding my breath.

Societat Civil Catalana lies about its links to the far-right

Exclusive: Juan Arza lied about Javier Barraycoa's involvement with Societat Civil Catalana

A few weeks back, I asked anti-Catalan independence pressure group Societat Civil Catalana to confirm or deny Javier Barraycoa's reported involvement with the group. SCC's spokesman and key political mover, Juan Arza responded unequivocally:

Mr Javier Barraycoa was present in some meetings previous to the creation of Societat Civil Catalana, however he is not an associate (socio) nor is he part of our executive council (junta ejecutiva), nor does he have any link with SCC.

In response to a follow-up question, he was even clearer:

During our early stages and before registering the association many meetings took place with the participation of many people. Mr. Barraycoa was one of the attendants to some of these meetings (he presented himself as an historician [sic] and University professor, but never mentioned his political activities).
Indeed, he came to Madrid with us on April 8 2014 paying his own expenses. He didn't participate in any of the meetings we had with politicians.
He didn't play any role in our presentation to the public on April 23, and he distanced himself from us just after that date.
He was never a partner of SCC.

But a document that has been brought to my attention shows SCC to be lying on several points. In fact, SCC itself described Barraycoa as a 'founding member' of the group. A PowerPoint presentation prepared for its event at the Col.legi de Periodistes de Catalunya on April 7th 2014 includes one slide where Arza and Barraycoa are both listed as 'Membres fundadors' of Societat Civil Catalana. The man Arza describes as being present 'in some meetings previous to the creation of SCC', is identified by the group itself – and one must assume, Arza himself – as a founding member, establishing him as a socio from the very beginning.

SCC's presentation from April 7, 2014. Javier Barraycoa (as 'Xavier'), bottom left. Juan Arza (as 'Joan'), top left.

Of course, Barraycoa was only identified as a founding member of SCC for a short time. In that same month of April, Vilaweb broke the story about Barraycoa's links to the far-right and in the scandal that ensued, SCC quietly removed references to him from their literature.

Arza insists that Barraycoa "distanced himself from us just after that date". Presumably, this is because the press got hold of the story that Barraycoa, a noted ultra-conservative and Carlist, had attended a meeting with Democracia Nacional, an extreme right-wing party, on February 8th 2014. He was apparently there to promote his book and unfortunately for him, his talk was filmed. You could almost mark that down as a mistake on his part. If it weren't for the fact that he turned up at another Democracia Nacional meeting, this time in November. The meeting was once again filmed. Fool me once, shame on you, as the saying goes. Based on this evidence, there is no question that Barraycoa has links to the far right.

Arza is also misleading us when he says that Barraycoa "didn't play any role in our presentation to the public on April 23". Because although he wasn't on stage, he was there outside the event, with his accreditation hanging from his neck. Only organizers of the event were provided with accreditation.

Javier Barraycoa outside SCC's introduction to the public (note his accreditation, and the falangist he's talking with). April 23, 2014. Credit: Jordi Borràs. Used with permission.

Javier Barraycoa at SCC's inaugural event, welcoming the public outside the Teatre Victòria on April 23, 2014. (Photo: Jordi Borràs.)

The third lie:

…he presented himself as an historician [sic] and University professor, but never mentioned his political activities

– implies that Barraycoa simply walked in off the street and presented (some of) his credentials. But Barraycoa is closely linked to Josep Ramon Bosch, SCC's President. They ran the right-wing group Somatemps together. Somatemps was effectively the precursor to SCC, the latter only being created when it was clear that Somatemps didn't have a hope of passing for the transversal group that SCC has presented itself to be.

The idea that SCC didn't know the background of a founding member and long-established collaborator with its own president is patently absurd.

The suggestion that Barraycoa and SCC distanced themselves from each other is another lie. Months after his connections to the far right were revealed, and at which time SCC was hiding its relationship with him from the public eye, Mr Barraycoa manned an SCC stand in Badalona on August 21st.

Barraycoa in Badalona

Javier Barraycoa at SCC's stand in Badalona, August 21 2014. (Photo: SCC)

SCC secretary Isabel Porcel and SCC Board member José Domingo were also present, as this SCC video shows. Which indicates that they had no problem with Mr Barraycoa's presence there.

Juan Arza and Societat Civil Catalana insult our intelligence when they claim not to know about Javier Barraycoa. They've lied about his status as a founding member of the group and his activity for the group, continuing at least as recently as August of last year. And they've failed to publicly distance themselves from him. Why? It can only be because while they're perfectly happy having the support of the far-right, they would rather keep it a secret.

Societat Civil Catalana adds nothing to the debate about Catalan independence

Reading through the interminable policy statement PDFs issued by Societat Civil Catalana, you realize that there is a fundamental problem with SCC's approach. Partly, it lies in the way it chooses to define democracy (and what is 'undemocratic'). But most of all, SCC fails to offer a compelling argument for remaining part of Spain. It instead focuses on a cold, legalistic line which is pretty much identical to that used by the Spanish government.

By focusing on this as its main defense of the status quo, SCC has made a strategic mistake. Not only because it's obvious that they've intentionally opted for an unnuanced view of what 'democracy' means, but also because as they focus so heavily on this legal argument, they fail to make a positive case for Catalonia continuing as part of the Spanish state.

When you think about it, SCC actually adds nothing to the debate. Its entire strategy is effectively identical to that of the state, which has repeatedly sought to criminalize an entirely peaceful political process which has seen millions of people taking part in mass demonstrations and non-binding 'consultations'. The SCC, then, whether or not it is actually independent of the Spanish state, is in effect singing from the same song sheet. This may well be the reason why it has failed as an organization: when asked recently how many members the group had, a spokesman eventually responded – "75". Even in a climate where it may be difficult to get people excited about defending the status quo, that number is lamentably poor. This, surely, is the result of a failure to galvanize support for a positive vision of continued union.

I think this could be a huge strategic mistake. By demonizing those well-meaning citizens of Catalonia who would like to be able to vote on self-determination as 'illegal' and 'undemocratic', rather than promoting the benefits of continued union (as 'Better Together' tried to regarding Scotland and the UK), the SCC isn't making an active case for union. Indeed, it seems that the SCC and the Spanish state have both given up on a large section of Catalan civil society. Much like the PP in Catalonia, which really only exists as way of leveraging more votes in places like Extremadura where an anti-Catalan attitude always goes down well. What this says about the inevitability of eventual independence, I will leave for another day.

The question is: why doesn't SCC open a new front in the debate? Why can't it advocate for staying part of Spain?

An open letter to Societat Civil Catalana

Dear SCC,

Firstly, congratulations for the European Parliament medal and everything. I'm not entirely sure why you were nominated. You don't seem to have done anything.  Except publish press releases and organize two or three sparsely attended demonstrations at which pretty much the only reliable will-shows were the boot boys from Democracia Nacional and Plataforma per Catalunya. Still, it's not for me to explain the workings of the European Parliament, and I won't ask you to either.

But I do have a question or two for you. They're about one of your founding members. No, not Josep Ramon Bosch. I couldn't care less if the alleged highlight of his Dad's year was organizing a mass in honor of General Franco. The sins of the father, etc.

No, I'm more interested in Javier Barraycoa, listed as a founding member on Wikipedia. He is, apparently, also the secretary of the Catalan section of the Carlist party 'Comunión Tradicionalista Carlista', a party dedicated to 'God, Fatherland, Charters and King'. CTC promotes a sort of 'organic democracy', (known by pretty much everyone else as 'authoritarian democracy'), generally considered to be a key component of Mussolini and Stalin's respective brands of totalitarian dictatorship. He's on the record as saying that he "doesn't believe in elections".

Question 1: Is Javier Barraycoa a member or official of SCC? I ask because a search of your organization's website shows no sign that he has any connection with you. But at the same time, I can't find any press stories detailing his expulsion from SCC. So I have to ask. You understand.

Question 2: Do the values of Carlism fit with the values of the SCC?

Question 3: Did you never worry that linking your so-called 'plural' organization with someone from Spain's traditionalist far right wing could look bad? Is that perhaps why his name doesn't appear on your website?

Question 4: As proud members of a plural Catalan and Spanish society and defenders of democracy, do you as an organization condemn the military rebellion of 1936 and the dictatorship it led to?

I look forward to your responses! Have a great week!



Tom Clarke

Perfect timing for Catalan independence on #9N?

One of the recent posts I wrote on here asked at which point the Catalan government would 'cross the Rubicon' into potential illegality in the 'process' towards independence. Today, less than 48 hours from the popular consultation on independence, it seems like that moment has arrived.

The Spanish government has had the Constitutional Tribunal suspend all preparations for Sunday's 'participatory process'. Today, the Catalan government has made clear that it will not hand responsibility for organizing 9N over to civic associations. In other words, The Catalan government appears to be at the least very nearly in breach of the Constitutional Tribunal's suspension order.

So why now?

There are several factors that make 9N the perfect moment for disobedience on the part of the Catalan authorities.

1 The Catalan government already backed down from the original consulta. In order to maintain the process, the government needs to stand firm now.
2 Disobedience at this point could have multiple effects but the most important aspect is how the Spanish government responds. Having already stated that it would not act "if the consulta were organized by civic associations", it seems like the Spanish government may have nearly committed itself to instructing the police to interfere with Sunday's vote. This might be a deciding factor in the future of the process. If the Spanish interior ministry were to order police (including Mossos) to seize the ballot boxes, it would be doing so under the gaze of hundreds of accredited foreign journalists and press agencies. For this reason, I strongly suspect that it won't act but will try instead to dismiss the poll as meaningless.

This highlights yet another oddity in the PP's campaign against the consulta: this 'consulta-lite', adopted because the full non-binding consulta was made illegal, was initially dismissed by the PP. Alicia Sanchez-Camacho urged MAdrid not to act against it because it was such a joke. Then, when the Generalitat managed to get all the volunteers it wanted in a few days, the PP changed its tune and again took the Generalitat's plans to court. This indicates a lack of strategy on the part of the Spanish government.

3 The Spanish government seems to be weakened internationally due to the constant stream of corruption cases (which also affect Catalonia, of course). The Economist, Bloomberg and BBC have all published pieces criticizing Spain in recent days. This adds to the feeling that this might be the best time to take advantage of reasonably positive press coverage for Catalonia, and a slightly negative international attitude towards Spain.

My predictions for #9N:

Turnout – Very important. Unfortunately, I doubt that turnout will reach 50%. It may not even reach 33%. If it did exceed 50%, there would be something to celebrate.

Police – I doubt that the police will be asked to intervene. If they were, the vast majority would obey orders, including the Mossos. But it could lead to unpleasant scenes.

Results – The lower the turnout, the higher the support will be for independence. Some parties, particularly Iniciativa, are calling on supporters to vote Yes to the first question and free choice on the second.

Trouble – I doubt there will be disturbances. That would change if the police were sent in. I read today that Montblanc is setting up concrete barriers to prevent vehicular access to the old town (which strikes me as needless and potentially dangerous – what if there's a fire?). Areas like this would become potential flashpoints in case the vote were stopped by force. The risk of the far-right trying to stir up trouble is always present but these groups have very limited support.

Outcome – Oriol Junqueras will announce his roadmap to independence on Monday. Smart of him to wait for the results of the consulta. The most likely outcome, in my opinion, is that turnout well be lower than desired but will indicate growing support for independence. ERC and the CUP will push for elections soon and will try to guarantee that they take the form of a plebiscite on independence. If they succeed, and Podemos decide to stand (the feeling is that they might not: they're trying to keep their powder dry until next year's general elections), they would be forced to declare a position, and it will probably be in support of union with Spain. ICV, PSC, PP and Cs will oppose any kind of plebiscite and may even refuse to stand on a No platform. In short, by Monday nothing might have changed. But everything might have changed too.

Which is why I'm going to vote.

Juan Carlos I abdicates: Spain enters a new era

So Juanca has finally abdicated, official immediately. It was a 'surprise' announcement which shouldn't really have surprised us at all. The timing was obvious: a week after the EU elections, so as not to get people thinking too hard  about how they want to be governed. This would have been agreed by the twin pillars of a crumbling political system: the PP and the PSOE.

This is the key gesture launching a process which will attempt to preserve the status quo against serious threats including the royal family's declining popularity, the failure of the bipartisan political system and the Catalan independence movement. The plan is probably to have a quick succession, coronation and then a series of constitutional changes 'proposed by the new king' in order to reduce the increasing discontent across the country. I'm not sure that they haven't left it too long.

Has no one told Rajoy that he should be next?