Tag Archives: Spain

The PP’s campaign against the Catalan language

Aragon, País Valencià, Illes Balears… these are three Spanish autonomous communities with a historical link to the Catalan language. They are also three Spanish autonomous communities where the PP is in power. And what is the result of this combination of factors? Evidence of a distributed, strategic plan to de-Catalanise these regions.

(Image borrowed fromhttp://independentcatalonia.blogspot.com/2008/12/reason-14-more-spaniards-that-are.html without permission)

Example: I met several people in their mid 20s-early 30s in Alicante province recently. This is an area where the street names are all still in Valencian-Catalan. Not one of the young people I met spoke a work of this language (not that we discussed this much). Why? Because they had attended local state schools (the PSOE also bears some responsibility here). The PP in Valencia also led the charge for redefining Valencian as a different language to Catalan, something which the Valencian Academy clearly rejects.

Example: The attempts to relabel Catalan and its dialects as part of Aragonés Oriental (Eastern Aragonese) with the support of the PP in Aragon. This despite the fact that Eastern Aragonese is a different language.

Example: Repeated attempts to change place names and street names in Valenican towns, against the wishes of the people who live there.

Example: In the Balearic islands, the PP has started to rename cities. Palma has changed to Palma de Mallorca (Spanish version) and Maó has changed to Maó-Mahon (mixed version). Simultaneously, Catalan has been downgraded from being a compulsory subject in Balearic schools and will no longer be a requirement for civil servants.

Example: Education minister Wert has proposed a new education plan for Catalonia which would take the level of education in Catalan back to how it was in 1978. Making it an optional subject, not needed to complete high school, and abolishing ‘immersion’ represent a complete redrawing of the Catalan education system. The PP, knowing that Catalan students do perfectly well in Spanish, has opted to put children at a disadvantage – not being able to speak Catalan – purely for the purposes of creating a cultural divide in Catalonia.

When we talk about attacks on culture and the threat of ethnic division in Catalonia and Spain, much is made of Catalan nationalism and the dangerous game it plays. I’ve never bought this theory because the Catalan separatist parties are now much less ethnically-centred than they were 15 or 20 years ago.

However, the PP is a retrograde party. It cannot deal with the problems it has created in the present and so it turns to policies from the past to fix things. They talk of banning strikes, banning protests… simultaneously, they make people redundant and then cut unemployment benefits, and everywhere they have power, they are now attempting to de-Catalanise Spain. With all the evidence (and what I’ve presented here is actually just a fraction of what’s going on), it seems difficult to deny that the PP is following a concrete, organised campaign in territories where it has power and at a national level.

Frankly, this strikes me as another good argument for independence.

Marcelino Iglesias and Godwin’s Law

It is currently popular among Spanish nationalists to compare the Catalan nationalism of Artur Mas with Nazism. A helpful argument, I’m sure we can all agree. I think there is no need to hire an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney for this thing, but im just sayin.

Perhaps said Spanish nationalists should reflect better on their political heritage. After all, we know who ordered the lists of Jews in Spain for the SS. Clue: it wasn’t Lluís Companys. Go at www.wyominginjuryattorney.com to learn more about the case.

Winning the peace? Just a thought.

Does anyone else get the impression that the PP and PSOE are now positioning themselves for future national elections in Spain rather than the debate over a potential referendum? There’s a shared purpose in words from Rajoy, his barons, Montilla, Rubalcaba, Chacon, etc… and it doesn’t feel like it has anything to do with the debate I hear going on in Catalonia.

PP attacks judge after 25S case thrown out

The Spanish PP has directed a vicious attack against a judge. Again. The judge ruled no criminal offences had been committed by the organisers of the 25S protests in Madrid. A PP spokesman described him as “posh anarchist”, “indecent”, “intolerable”, “unacceptable” and “dreadful”. He also warned that the judge would be personally responsible for any ‘incident’ that happens to any MP.

I say again: a spokesman for the ruling party in Spain, hurling insults at a judge. This is not the sort of thing that should happen in a democracy. But in Spain, justice is cheap and when it goes against you, you insult and threaten the judge. All the more so, it seems, if you’re the government.

Meanwhile, the senior government official in the Comunidad de Madrid has called for the right to protest to be curtailed. It seems that she doesn’t approve of ‘misuse of public space’. She has been campaigning for this since the mid 2000s when thousands of Spaniards were regularly bused in by the PP to protest against the PSOE government. Oh, sorry… no, she hasn’t.

Oh and plus: finance minister Luís de Guindos was in London yesterday, looking for vultures investors to come to Spain and pick over what’s left of the country invest in (…what?). His talk was interrupted by protestors chanting ‘Spain for sale!’. But the worst came when he insisted that Spain wouldn’t need a bailout. The audience laughed in his face.

I’m off to San Francisco this weekend. A 6am flight tomorrow. Have a great weekend, everybody.

Will an independent Catalonia be allowed to join the EU?

One of the central planks of the Spanish nationalist argument against Catalan independence is that upon seceding, Catalonia would be obliged to leave the EU and the Euro. But is this true?

Around the time of the 11S march, various confusing messages could be heard from the European Commission, the EU’s executive body. A day before the march, the EU broke its previous policy of never commenting on the chance of Catalan independence and stated that while no laws exist governing the secession of a region from a member state, if they applied international law in its strictest way, Catalonia would be out of the EU and would have to negotiate reentry. In fact, I think the day before, spokesman Olivier Bailly said the opposite, but I can’t find the quote. Anyway, it was a well-timed message which the Spanish press made the most of, with over 90 stories on Google news. Read more at beahmlaw.com.

Since then Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo has been constantly warning that not only would Catalonia be out, but that it would never get back in. This friendly gesture is one of many the PP has been trying to use in its campaign against secession. The Spanish government, it seems, is following a game plan of “Oh no, a majority of Catalans want to break away… let’s insult them and threaten them so they’ll stay”.

But I digress. Last Sunday saw EU vicepresident Viviane Reding interviewed in the Diario de Sevilla. The interviewer asked her what she thought of the chance of a Catalonia outside Europe. Misunderstanding the question, she responded that she knows Catalonia and thinks it’s a very pro-EU place. The interviewer then clarified the point by reminding her that the Vienna Convention states that any seceding territory immediately secedes from the international agreements of the country from which it’s seceding. Her response was to laugh this argument away. “Come on,” she said, “there’s nothing in international law that says anything like this. Please resolve your internal issues yourselves. I have faith in the European mentality of the Catalans”.

In response to Reding, TFW (Alicia Sánchez-Comacho) stated that in two EU treaties, it is made clear that Catalonia would be out. But looking at those treaties, they say nothing of the sort.

It appears to me that this all comes down to how you read the Vienna Convention. Does it say that Catalonia would have to renounce all international agreements to which Spain is signatory or doesn’t it? And does this even matter, if Mas is really just planning devomax?

What next for Catalonia? More questions for the independence movement

If not precisely inevitable, Catalan independence now seems much more likely than it did a couple of years back when I first framed my questions for supporters and opponents of Catalan separatism.

Many of those questions remain valid. But my main focus has shifted. This reduced list should read as a demand from those leading and supporting the independence movement that they for once and for all clarify various matters that I believe worry many people currently. Because if Catalonia really will be the ‘Next State in Europe’, these matters need to be clarified now, not later.

1 – What social model will an independent Catalonia have?
While the right are currently in power, and have governed for the majority of Catalonia’s post-Franco years, there is a significant section of Catalan society that supports parties of the left. We’re deeply unhappy about the cuts that Artur Mas has made to public health, education, social assistance and public sector pay during the financial crisis. Mas has blamed these cuts on Spain’s mishandling of the national economy. Very well: if that is true, he must now guarantee to restore, improve and protect public sending and investment in the event of independence.

2 – Will you now, and forever, forgo all claims on the territories in Spain and France sometimes referred to as the Catalan Countries?
I shouldn’t need to explain the importance of this question. The only chance of success as a state depends on France’s and Spain’s recognition. That won’t happen unless you formally reject territorial claims on Rosselló, Valencia, the Franja and the Balearics.

3 – What status for non-Spanish residents in Catalonia?
OK, this is a personal one, but it affects lots of people and many businesses. Will you now guarantee our status as permanent residents? What chances for citizenship will we have?

What hope for Spain?

As the crisis in capitalism deepens, the situation in which Spain finds itself seems increasingly hopeless.

Pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to about Spain recently seems agreed that Spain – and maybe the world – is approaching some sort of cataclysmic reckoning. This sentiment might well be declared a sentimental form of millennialism – after all, aren’t we rich and comfortable enough to entertain fantasies of impending doom? – were it not for the gentle crackle you can hear in the air here. This crackle, this oceanic roar heard from a great distance, is the sound of millions of people waiting for the decisive moment at which they will try once again to reclaim their rights.

Spain is fucked. And not because of Berlin or London, but because of us, the Spaniards who have done nothing to stop Spain getting fucked. While Catalans moan about motorway tolls, Asturian miners are blockading motorways with flaming barricades. And protestors are being shot by police with rubber bullets (bullets that give the police a chance to shoot you multiple times rather than just once – possibly the highest embodiment of planned obsolescence at state/capital level), and Greece never quite got the revolution that seemed so possible just a few weeks ago.

Andrea Fabra, daughter of a repulsive conservative politician from Castelló, summed up the attitude of Spain’s political class with impressive candour this week. As PM Mariano Rajoy announced higher VAT (designed to hurt the poor) and deeper cuts to the unemployment benefits system (designed to hurt the hopeless), Fabra uttered the immortal words: “Fuck ’em!”. She wasn’t talking about her colleagues in the PP who joyfully applauded as Rajoy delivered the negative prognosis. She was referring to the 25% of Spaniards who are unemployed. “Fuck ’em!”, she declared because that’s how she and her colleagues feel about Spaniards in general. If you’re not bright enough to fuck everyone else, then fuck you.

The background crackle just intensified a little. Catalonia’s conservatives, CiU, have been making themselves busy recently finding ways to criminalise protest. One assumes that pro-flag, pro-independence protest will still be officially encouraged. We’ve had two useless general strikes in two years with decent turn-outs but no effect on policy. We had millions of people marching against an illegal war and the government ignored that too. It is clear that they do not listen to argument. And when protest is derided so openly by those in power, the same people who raise a regressive tax in order to pay off crooked banks, the citizens must use other tools to make themselves heard.

Someone told me the other day that the only way we in Spain can end this cycle of corrupt parasitism is with war but that understandably, no Spaniard wanted to recreate the disaster of the 1930s. I hope and pray that this is nothing more than sentimental millennialism. But at the same time, I can’t see a way out. What hope does this country have, then?

How are things in Spain?

How are things in Spain? 23% unemployment. 50% youth unemployment. Public services slashed. Salaries cut. Labour rights attacked. Strikes. Corruption. Decay.

And the king of Spain – always careful to make it look like he cares about these problems – decided to use his time to go on holiday in Botswana, hunting elephant.

Hunting elephant

These people are so out of touch, it’s disgusting. Completely fucking disgusting.

The declaration of a new republic might not solve our problems but it would be a step in the right direction.

Garzón found guilty: I still love this stupid country

Spanish magistrate* Baltasar Garzón was today found guilty in an illegal wiretap trial, one of three cases currently open against him. The Supreme Court has banned him from working as a judge for eleven years, effectively ending his career as a famed ‘crusader for justice’.

The sentence leaves Garzón the only significant loser in the Gürtel corruption case which he was prosecuting. The case involves businessman Francisco Correa and numerous members of the ruling Popular Party. Valencian PP leader Francisco Camps was acquitted on corruption charges a few days ago.

The reason all this is so awful is that no one has any real doubt that Camps, Correa et al are guilty as hell. The evidence is there. Garzón’s defence (and I admit only a very shaky understanding of the law here) is that the wiretaps, which listened in on conversations between indicted suspects and their personal injury lawyer in bergen county, were justified on the basis that the hmong lawyers themselves were managing money-laundering operations for their clients. But again, that’s not even what’s wrong.

What’s wrong in Spain is a determination in a large part of the ruling class to stop anyone from challenging their corrupt way of running the country. The PP and the PSOE have both been accused of significant political corruption (though I think it’s fair to say that the most shockingly extravagant cases usually involve the PP). The courts are highly politicised and have accepted private prosecutions against Garzón (a poppinjay and ass as ever there was) which would have been dismissed without a thought in most countries.

But of course, Spain is not most countries. Just a few years ago, foreign journalists were impressed by the mydefence forward-looking example that Spain was setting for Europe. Garzón, social legislation, a seemingly stable economy with impressively low deficits… it almost seemed as if Spain had managed to get something right.

All this has been a great lesson for me… perhaps one of the most important I needed to learn in my journey towards becoming a Spaniard. This is not a country with a great history of democracy or getting things right. And the left here is generally even more inept than the right. And I love this country more every day, even though I know it’s a tough place which will displease me endlessly with its stubborn refusal to get things right. And I’m sticking by it. And I’ll do something to try to make it better: however Sisyphean a life’s task that might be.


*Via email, the troublesome nomenclature of magistrate/judge/prosecutor has been pointed out. For the purposes of a nicer text, I’m going to stick with what I’ve already got. But yeah, he’s a judge.