Dialogue – it is never too late to turn to dialogue

It may seem that I am unquestioningly supportive of the Catalan Government’s recent actions – the referendum and the announcement of Independence after a long period of frustrated attempts to engage Madrid in talks.

But behind the scenes I am always reading and talking and listening and doing my best to understand what is happening now and why it has come to this.

You can’t really begin to understand the politics unless you start digging into some pretty unpleasant places where there are buried and half buried stories and emotions and histories.  Just go to Twitter and read comments about  Catalunya and Catalans and soon you are in vast chambers of grief and hurt and rage and sadness and fear.

(Can we start talking about Franco yet?)

A friend put a post on Facebook asking why Spain won’t talk to Catalunya and why do many Spanish dislike Catalans so much. Some of the answers made me have to switch off the computer and go outside for some fresh air. Just reading the answers made my heart start pounding and my brain go into electric overdrive.

People from Spain are often the ones to start calling names and swearing and making wild accusations. From my detached point of view I wonder why they want Catalunya to stay when so many appear to have no care or respect for Catalans or their culture. But history is more than facts in a text book – there are real stories and everyone needs to be heard – even though it is difficult to listen to those who can’t speak kindly or with empathy. It is clear there is a huge amount of buried feelings that when we begin to uncover them, burst forth in smelly gaseous putrid form.

But there is truth even in those places that we don’t want to look. And I think it is vital to seek out those who have a differing opinion on this issue. There are people who want Catalunya to remain part of Spain and there are Catalans who feel Catalan and Spanish – it is a fact that many families have parents or grandparents from outside Catalunya and so of course they have mixed and complicated loyalties.  Many people have found a leader in the person of Ada Colau who is the present mayor of Barcelona. She is a voice of reason and promotes a different view of how dialogue should lead the way, even if it takes a lot longer than the path we are now on. I don’t know a lot about her party or about her but here is a recent message she put out on Facebook which while it is not my view, is a fair and reasonable opinion expressed in a decent and honorable way.

Ada Colau  Mayor of Barcelona 27.10.17

“After talking about a train crash in the conditional or future tense for so long, it’s difficult to take on the fact that today it has happened.
A decade of PP carelessness with Catalonia has culminated with the adoption of article 155 by the Senate today.
Rajoy presented the motion to the applause of his party and to the shame of all of us who respect dignity and democracy.
Were they applauding his failure?
Those who have been incapable of proposing a single solution, incapable of listening or of governing for all, have enacted a coup against democracy today with the annihilation of Catalan self-government.
On the same track, in the other direction, the pro-independence parties are in their, smaller train with no breaks, advancing at a kamikazi pace (“now is the moment”, we’re in a hurry”), after their mistaken reading of the results of the Catalan elections. Their speed has been the result of partisan interests, a headlong dash which has been consumated today with a Declaration of Independence in the name of Catalonia that doesn’t have the support of a majority of Catalans.
We won’t tire of repeating it: it’s a mistake to renounce the 80% in favour of a negotiated referendum for the 48% in favour of independence.
Many of us have been warning of this danger for years and, over recent weeks, working in public and in private to avoid this collision. We’re a majority, in Catalonia and in Spain, who want a halt to the trains and for dialogue, common sense and an agreed solution to take hold.
There’s always time to turn to dialogue. Whatever happens, we won’t cease to demand it. But now our task is to defend Catalan institutions and to fight to maintain the social cohesion and prosperity of Barcelona and Catalonia. We’ll be with the people, struggling to make sure that their rights are not violated. Healing the wounds that all of this has caused and calling on people in the rest of the country to fight with us, because the democracy that is at risk today is theirs too. We will also continue to call on the Socialist Party to stop supporting those who have applauded Rajoy today, otherwise it will be impossible for them to be part of any credible or inspiring alternative.
I know where I’ll be: involved in the construction of new forms of self-government that give us more democracy, not less. That includes working to kick out the PP which, with its cruel applause today, has celebrated the pain of a people. But also, above all, I’ll be working to feminize politics so that empathy becomes an everyday practice that allows us to build broad consensuses through which diversity can become our greatest treasure.
Nor Article 155 nor Unilateral Declaration of Independence: not in my name.”

Catalunya is an Independent Republic

The Parliament in Barcelona today declared the independence of Catalunya!

What happens now?

First, there is a lot of celebration all over Catalunya. People gathering in the streets in Barcelona, Lleida, Girona, Granollers!

Lots of talking on the internet, the TV and the Radio.  The mayoress of Barcelona isn’t too happy – she didn’t want Article 155 nor UDI. But she hasn’t really explained how change would happen in her plan.  More talking perhaps? Talking to those who refuse to talk back.

There is a lot of emotion – both from people who are celebrating and from those who are unhappy.

The government in Madrid has also approved the application of Article 155 to take over the government and practically everything else in Catalunya.

Scotland ‘respects the declaration of independence’

‘The UK will not recognise the Catalan parliament’s decision to declare independence from Spain ‘

Wiki has added Catalunya to the list of independent countries. It shows that it has a population of 7.5 million people and that its capital city is Barcelona

I feel proud of Scotland but I would like a full recognition not a politician’s careful response.

Not surprised by the UK government – they are sooking up up Spain of course in the hope of having some friends for Brexit

Yet again I am disappointed in the Labour party who stand back and are silent

I feel a great mixture of excitement and worry.

I really can’t understand why people are so against Catalunya being a free country. Obviously Spain wants their money but apart from that – won’t life in Madrid, Seville, Malaga etc carry on the same?  Won’t the daily life still be as it was yesterday?  For normal Spanish people it isn’t really going to affect their everyday lives. Obviously there are lots of things to sort out but why not try a new way?

If Scotland had voted for independence would my life here in Cornwall be much different?  If in some weird alternative world Cornwall became an independent Republic wouldn’t I still be Scottish? My life would remain fairly similar apart from any changes the new Cornish government might want to make.

I think the negative response is from elites who are horrified by the idea of people actually chosing their own destiny. Money, power, control…..

Anyway, for now, Catalunya is a new country and I welcome it and wish all its people well.

We had a celebration lunch in Mousehole and Zero wore his republican collar – bought especially for this day!

 

Will he declare Independence or not?

I knew it was a good idea to catch up yesterday.

Today there is a lot going on – it’s hard to keep up with it and harder still to understand. Of course we don’t know the background discussions and promises that are taking place behind closed doors.

Around 12.30 here in the UK we heard that Puigdemont was not going to announce the birth of the Republic but instead was going to dissolve the Catalan Parliament and call elections for early December.

Why?  Backroom deals?  Fear of the immediate difficulties that would arise if UDI was declared? Another attempt to slow things down to give time for negotiations?  The hope that calling elections would stop the proposal to invoke Article 155 and Spain take over Catalunya?

I went to Twitter and saw a lot of anger, feelings of betrayal, disappointment. Many people feeling that independence is the only solution now and that to step back from it now is a betrayal of all the people who have been fighting so long and so bravely.

Then there is the million euro question – would calling elections stop Rajoy and his government from invoking Article 155?

Another question came to mind – what if the Spanish government banned all the pro-independence parties from standing in a new election?  That could be fun – leaving only the choice between three right wing parties – PP, Ciutadans and the Socialists. (Are the Socialists right wing?  Think Tony Blair and quadruple it)

Now I see that Puigdemont is going to speak later this afternoon. He may not have yet dissolved Parliament and has not yet called for elections. He first needs a guarantee that doing so would put a stop to Article 155.

All this apparently came after talks with the Basque leader Iñigo Urkullu.  I wonder why he would prefer elections rather than immediate declaration of the Republic?  I had heard rumours that Rajoy was planning to take preemptive measures against the Basques as well – was he thinking that he needed to avoid this at all costs?

So many rumours and it’s important to get information from several places before believing it. Things moving fast and of course we are on the outside just trying to peep through a crack in the curtains to get an idea of what the hell is going on!

But the people still feel strong. They are prepared to resist. They are organised and are together. Politicians like to play cat and mouse but the people on the street and in the towns are focussed and strong.

What I like about Puigdemont is that he is a democrat and he is trying to do the best thing for Catalunya. He is willing to take on the ire of the people if he believes that stepping back is right. In the end he is human and he is taking advice. And I imagine that even now, at the 11th hour, he is focussed on doing his job as well as he can.

Right  now there is a massive demonstration of students and others outside the Generalitat in Plaça de Sant Jaume Barcelona. Anything from 9000 (police) to 50,000 (organisers).

Sitting here in quiet Lamorna with birdsong outside – I so wish I could be there too!

Catching up with the news from Catalunya

independence for Catalunya

There is so much happening that I don’t have time to write an individual post about each event.  We travelled back through France and are now in Cornwall – physically far from Catalunya but emotionally still very connected.

Here are some of the things that are coursing around in my brain

    • As we drove through France I put on a Joan Baez CD. There is a track Last Night I had the Strangest Dream and as it played I suddenly began to cry. The events of the last weeks – the vote, the police violence and the horrific videos showing attacks on unarmed people, and the refusal of EU leaders to speak out, all suddenly felt incredibly sad.

 

  • A teacher in Galicia is being investigated by the Guardia Civil after complaints from parents that s/he had led a class discussion on Catalunya.  We later saw students protesting outside the court in support of their teacher
  • Many companies including my bank Sabadell have moved their main offices to Spain to avoid problems should Independence be declared.  Now Seat – I am proud to say this is my brand of car – has let out a nasty little secret – that both the Spanish government and the King (!!!) had been on the phone putting pressure on them to leave too. Offering incentives of course. Seat have refused and will stay.
  • The more I watched videos of places where the police violently tried to stop the vote the more I realised that I was very lucky not to see any. I visited four places in the Emporda and actually there was a lot of police action in that area. It was just chance that Zero and I were not involved. Some places were small villages. Just like in my post about the voting – people were calmly and with determination protecting their communites and their ballot boxes. Until the Guardia Civil arrived. Someone suggested to me that places with Socialist majorities were not attacked but places with Independence parties in majority were targetted. No proof of this but it’s true that Granollers in spite of being a large town was left alone and its mayor is from the Socialist party.
  • Stories about the urns.

    What we would call ballot boxes. It is almost surreal. Hard to believe when you come from a country like the UK where many people can’t be bothered to vote at all.  The voting boxes were ordered from China. They were delivered to the part of France that Catalan people call Catalunya Nord (once part of Catalunya, a long story, for another time)  Then very shortly before the day of the referendum they were brought over – in private cars – little by little – by brave people.  Can you imagine this?  Feeling that you had to hide a voting box in your car and then in someone’s house?  Because it was illegal!!!!

  • Stories about the voting stations.

People I know, real people, slept overnight to protect the urns and the papers and the places. Others kept watch outside. There was a massive and well planned organisation to this referendum. Trust was important, and courage. It is so impressive.  And so sad that it had to be done like this.

  • Rajoy announced that he will be invoking Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to take over the Autonomy of Catalunya.

This hasn’t been done before.  So it’s still not really clear what will happen. But first he has to get the Senate to vote to go ahead. That is happening on Friday.  The plan seems to be to get rid of the democratically elected government and replace it with something else…..until more elections can be called.  They also plan to take over the police and the television and the radio.

  • Catalan firefighters have said no

More and more people are publicly stating that they are not having it.  . Today there was a press conference by TV3 and Catalan Radio saying they will not tolerate intervention. And the Catalan government is meeting tomorrow Thursday 26th October.  Will they declare independence finally?
Press statement from TV and Radio

  • It’s all big stuff. And it’s not just about Catalunya.

It’s about people and their right to be heard and to be taken seriously. Also democracy – and peaceful resistance to governments which abuse their power.  It’s about the lengths the powerful will go to when they feel threatened. Corruption is very central to the Spanish PP government and they have found a wonderful way to distract us from that – let’s attack the Catalans.  It’s also about the EU and how weak they have been in their response. Or maybe they want a showdown – to keep the masses in their place.  Even the UK Labour party has been quiet – I wonder about that one!  And there is fascism to talk about – and secrets and lies.

To me it is one of those times when you need to chose your side – whatever you think about independence this is a very human struggle to be heard and to be respected and to be treated as equals.

Isn’t that what we all want and deserve?

What about the two Jordis? Who are they?

Several people have asked me about the imprisonment of two independence leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart. Otherwise known as the ‘Two Jordis’

(By the way Cuixart is pronounced ‘Kwee-shart’ – just to make reading his name a bit easier.)

They are in prison without bail while being investigated for the crime of sedition.

Sedition : incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority

If found guilty they could be imprisoned for up to 15 years.

On September 20th and 21st there were massive demonstrations in Barcelona as Spanish police carried out sweeping raids and arrested officials, in an attempt to stop the proposed referendum. Sanchez and Cuixart are accused of leading the protests of those nights.

The question now being asked is, are there now political prisoners once again in Spain?  Obviously the Spanish government and their supporters say they are not political prisoners but are accused of acting illegally. The Catalan government and many others say they are in prison because of their political beliefs and they are there without bail because for political reasons the Spanish government wants to send a strong signal to the Catalans to back down.

There is also the matter of the  questionable independence of the judge who sent them to jail.  For years there has been international concern that the Spanish judiciary is far too controlled by politicians. For a democracy to function well these two powerful arms of the state need to be independent of each other.

Cuixart and Sanchez are the presidents of two civic pro-independence societies –  Omnium Cultural and ANC.  They are powerful and influential lobbies within Catalunya.  ANC formed around 2009 and has over 40.000 members. It was the chief organiser of the massive independence rally on September 11th in 2011 when more than a million people peacefully lined the streets of Barcelona. Omnium dates back to 1961 when its main focus was the protection of the Catalan language during Franco’s times. Omnium is the biggest cultural and civic association in the whole of Catalunya.

So you see both these men are very important in the current situation and their imprisonment is a very deliberate attempt to weaken the independence movement.

But of course the opposite has happened. With their incarceration, awaiting a trial, there have been even more and bigger protests and people are outraged that this is the response of the Spanish government to the crisis. Rather than try to find fair and creative solutions, more and more heavy-handed suppressive measures are being used.

I can’t think of any similar huge democratic organisations in the UK which would have such widespread and heart felt support. Would ordinary people in the UK take pots and pans to their balconies every night to make a noisy cassolada protest?  Imagine ordinary people taking to the streets day after day in the!r hundreds of thousands to peacefully protest and to call for change!   Old and young, students,  rich, poor, people from all classes. It takes a lot to keep up a protest and to have your life disrupted on a long term basis.

It takes a huge desire to be heard, an inner strength and courage even when there are threats of police violence.  And when people like the two Jordis are sent to jail without bail, for who knows how long.  They are now starting their third night in a Madrid prison called Soto de Real.

Many of the posters that hang on balconies or are taped around lamp-posts are of faces – with a line across the mouth.

People are sick and tired of being silenced and not heard.

  • Pep Guardiola has dedicated the last match of Manchester City in the Champions League to The Jordis and said that it is like we are all there in prison with them
  • Meanwhile back in Catalunya, there is yet another deadline. Tomorrow Rajoy wants a reply from Puigdemont about the UDI or else!

 

 

 

 

A political prisoner is someone imprisoned because they have opposed or criticized the government responsible for their imprisonment.

The term is used by persons or groups challenging the legitimacy of the detention of a prisoner. Supporters of the term define a political prisoner as someone who is imprisoned for his or her participation in political activity. If a political offense was not the official reason for the prisoner’s detention, the term would imply that the detention was motivated by the prisoner’s politics.