There is no news about Catalunya now on the BBC.
It’s not that there is no news – oh no, there is a lot happening but it seems we are not to be told about it.
Luckily we have the benefit of the internet and the ability to read Catalan so I hope here to give you an update on what is happening now.
First thing to know is that tomorrow January 30th is an important date.
The Parliament will convene and vote in the President for Catalunya.
Carles Puigdemont is the President elect because he is the leader of the pro-independence group – Junts per Catalunya, ERC and CUP – and as that alliance won the majority of votes in the election of December 21st (called by M. Rajoy if you remember) that makes him the democratically elected President.
But first he needs to be sworn in. Therein lies a story.
We are now entering the bizarre world of Spanish politics. Note that I say Spanish, not Catalan, because although the Parliament is Catalan it is still under the legal jurisdiction of the Spanish government. Now more than ever since Spain applied Article 155 and took over/grabbed power.
Carles Puigdemont is in Belgium. Or is he? More of that later.
The Spanish want to arrest him on charges of sedition, rebellion and mismanagement of funds but have been thwarted since they couldn’t risk a trial in Brussels which they might lose. But if he appears on Catalan soil then they want to arrest him and put him in prison along with the other four prisoners.
(Reminder in case you have forgotten. Oriol Junqueres, leader of ERC, Quim Forn, Cabinet Minister, and Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, leaders of cultural organisations are all still in prison in Madrid. They have not been tried and are being held as political prisoners.
Using the courts as an arm of government has become the Spanish norm and this has resulted in a decree saying that Puigdemont cannot be invested when he is not in Parliament. This is normally allowed if the President elect cannot be present in person. In this situation, he is banned from coming and also banned from being sworn in by Skype.
So, and now we reach the importance of tomorrow, the big question is whether he will arrive in Parliament in person to adopt his office.
They seek him here, they seek him there, they seek that Puigdemont everywhere…
The Spanish have been searching cars at the borders, checking boots and putting on an armed show of strength to dare anyone who might like to give Puigdemont a lift to Barcelona.
Ports are being watched.
Police from the Guardia Civil were seen lifting manhole covers to check the drains – might Puigdemont swim in underground?
Airports obviously are under scrutiny but it’s not imaginable that he would just be able to board a flight and fly like any other normal politician.
There are cartoons showing him arriving as the back legs of a pantomime pony.
What about a parachute?
I wanted to suggest dressing as a nun and coming in on a coach from Lourdes.
I am joking here but the situation is serious and it is incredible how little the rest of Europe seems to care about this threat to democracy right under their eyes. They are turning away, closing their eyes, blocking their ears while humming the theme to Titanic.
Even Jeremy Corbyn who I have backed without question for the last two years seems to have switched off his inner compass which normally points directly at anything anti-democratic, Fascist, right wing, bullying, thuggish and oppressive.
Again and again the Catalans offer to talk, to discuss options, even to have a Spain-wide referendum but the answer is always the same. Threats and violence and intimidation and court orders followed by more of the same.
Tonight you can imagine that the Spanish establishment is on high alert. They don’t know what Puigdemont will do and nor do I. They have said he won’t be elected but surely they won’t have forgotten that Referendum on October 1st which they said ‘wouldn’t happen’. And it did!
Not all wars are about strength. Some are about brains.
I don’t know who my readers are. Nor what you want to know. Just a brief update or are you someone interested in the details of this fascinating process?
For those who want a bit more then read on….
- Puigdemont has also gone on the attack. His party, Junts per Catalunya wants the Spanish Counsel of Ministers to be investigated by the European Court of Human Rights for their attempts to prevent the investiture of the elected President. They believe the Spanish government is intimidating and robbing the public representatives of Catalunya with their decisions to stop the investiture at all costs.
- In all Catalan towns there are meetings and protests and demonstrations calling for the prisoners to be released and for the government to be returned to democracy. Small prisons have been erected in many town centres and people have spent time inside to show to the world that locking people up for their political beliefs is wrong.
Is the world watching? Some people are. There is a lot of support from Scotland and Ireland too. But politicians remain terrified to intervene.
- The ruling party in Spain is the PP and one of its minsters has threatened the President of Parliament Roger Torrent (not to be confused with the President of Catalunya. This one is more like the chair of the house) The PP spokesperson said “Torrent has two children. He knows what might happen if he continues to support Puigdemont”
Still no-one in the UK or Europe speaks out.
I am going to stop now. I don’t want to be like the ancient Mariner and to detain you too long with my tale of threats, violence, lies, manipulation, political cowardice and disdain for rights and democracy.
It’s sometimes quite hard to read about for me. Or to write. That’s why I have been so silent recently.
I have friends who are living through this terrible experience. For me the worse thing is not the behaviour of the Spanish government – you could say that is predictable. What drives me crazy is the silence of Europe.
Someone suggested to me that European leaders even support the Spanish repression of Catalunya because they want to see how far it is possible to go before people actually rise up and demand a return to democracy.
Could it be a nightmarish European experiment in oppression?
Tomorrow just please think about Catalunya and about the people who will be travelling to Barcelona to stand up for their rights, for democracy and for their country. If this can happen there, it can happen anywhere.