The Week that Spain Lost Catalonia

The detention of 15 high-ranking officials and the suspension of the Catalan government, last week by the Spanish government, in order to halt the referendum on independence set for tomorrow appears to have united separatists, federalists, and a significant number of unionists in defense of the vote.

“I have always been opposed to this referendum, because I am a federalist. However, the latest Spanish aggressions against Catalonia in order to humiliate our people is intolerable. That’s the main reason why I have decided to vote, and I will vote “YES” because I do not want to belong to a dictatorship like Turkey any longer. I think that the creation of a new state would give us the chance to build a more fair country and society” said David, a Barcelona citizen.

My family and I have always voted for unionist parties. We like Spain and most of our friends are from Madrid. Nevertheless, the Spanish repression of the Catalans this week is unacceptable. The government has violated the international law and has restricted the freedom of expression in Catalonia. They have raided printing shops, newspapers offices, and forbidden Catalan editors from advertising the referendum. Last week, they suspended our government and detained a number of our democratically elected representatives. Until this week, I was not going to vote in the referendum because I have always been a unionist, but Spain does not give me any other option. I will go to vote “YES” because this is no longer a referendum on independence, it is all about “Democracy” VS “Dictatorship,” said Marta, a Barcelona businesswoman.

The Catalan government has had serious problems in mobilizing the “unionists” for this referendum until the past week. Most of them thought that they could defeat the Catalan President by promoting a boycott of the vote. However, the latest Spanish aggressions against Catalan institutions have changed the situation, and it appears now that the vast majority of unionists are willing to support the referendum, in order to preserve democracy. This could result in a historic turnout that cannot be ignored by the international community.

The constant attacks against Catalonia by the Spanish government have also united separatists, federalists, and several unionist political parties, which are now calling on the people for mass participation in the referendum. Additionally, they are planning a social/labor indefinite general strike starting on October 3rd, in order to collapse the Spanish economy, if Spain does not recognize the results of the vote.

Although the Catalan government has always been committed to carrying out the referendum, there has always been serious doubts about the validation of the results. However, it seems that the latest anti-democratic actions against Catalonia by Spain have already guaranteed the international recognition of the results, whatever they may be.

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Conflict Between Turkey and The Netherlands: The Winners and Losers.

On Saturday, just four days before the Dutch elections and one month before Turkey holds a crucial constitutional referendum (on expanding Turkish presidential powers), a new diplomatic dispute began between the Netherlands and Turkey.

Everything began when the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced he would visit Rotterdam to call on Turkish expatriates to vote favorably on the referendum. Right after this announcement, the Dutch authorities notified Cavusoglu that he was banned from entering the country, alleging that there was a risk to public order and security.

Despite the ban, Cavusoglu decided to take a plane to the Netherlands. In response, the Dutch government withdrew landing permission for him and his aides, forcing him to land in Germany. Once in Germany, the minister Cavusoglu said:

“This decision is a scandal and unacceptable in every way. It does not abide by diplomatic principles.”

“Listen Netherlands, you’ll jump once, you’ll jump twice, but my people will thwart your game,” he said. “You can cancel our foreign minister’s flight as much as you want, but let’s see how your flights will come to Turkey now.” “They don’t know diplomacy or politics. They are Nazi remnants. They are fascists,” said the Turkish President Erdogan.

After the minister’s incident, the Dutch government released a statement reaffirming its decision and expanding the ban to all Turkish ministers. However, Turkey’s family minister, Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya decided to evade the prohibition and went to Rotterdam from Germany by car. Once in Rotterdam, Fatma Betul attempted to enter the Turkish consulate, but due to her illegal status in the country, the Dutch authorities proceeded to detain her and later deported her to Germany.

“Netherlands is violating all international laws, conventions and human rights by not letting me enter Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam,” said Fatma Betul.

After Fatima’s detention, a crowd of 1000 pro-Erdogan supporters who had gathered near the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam turned violent. Due to such violence, the police demanded them to dissolve the protest, but given their refusal, the police proceeded to disperse the protest. This happened when the protesters reacted even more violently by causing riots and damage to urban surroundings.

After the incident, the Dutch government said it considered the Turkish family minister undesirable and a “persona non grata.”

“We do not want the Dutch ambassador to Ankara to return from leave for some time,” said the goverment.

Geert Wilders, the right-wing candidate in the next Dutch elections, said: “to all Turks in the Netherlands: Go to Turkey and never come back!!”

On Sunday, a Turkish protester took down the Dutch flag flying over the consulate in Istanbul and replaced it with a Turkish flag. Footage of the incident showed a man on the roof shouting “Allahu Akbar” as the flag was replaced.

On Monday, the continued escalation of the conflict aroused suspicions about the real motive of the conflict, and why it had begun precisely when both countries face the most important election in decades.

Everything suggests that Turkish President Erdogan was looking for this confrontation. As previously mentioned, Turkey will soon hold a constitutional referendum, and the government is not sure about its results. In this context, a diplomatic conflict against the Netherlands will help Erdogan to mobilize his supporters and persuade his opponents to support him on the referendum.

In addition, the existing conflict has aroused nationalism among Turkish citizens. As a result, many of those who had concerns about giving Erdogan more power will now support him to keep the country united against foreign threats.

Erdogan is also using the existing nationalist arousal to brainwash Turkish citizens by suggesting that Western citizens are Nazis and anti-Muslims. This maneuver allows him to divert attention from his domestic authoritarian actions and constant violations of human rights.

Despite the fact that Erdogan already has a lot of power to make decisions, he knows that the approval of the constitutional changes is the last step to implement a full authoritarian system in Turkey.

On the other side, the conflict between the Netherlands and Turkey is also benefiting the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders. The Netherlands will hold general elections tomorrow, and as in Turkey, the escalation of the conflict has also awakened a nationalist feeling among its citizens. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Dutch citizens who did not initially support Wilders finally will.

Dutch citizens did not like to see a thousand Turks flying foreign flags and supporting a dictator in Rotterdam. They did not like to see the provocative behavior of Turk’s representatives ignoring the ban and entering the Netherlands.

Like in all conflicts, there are also losers in this story, and this time, they are the citizens from both countries, who under an enormous pressure, will have to decide their political future, and democracy which could soon be totally eliminated from both countries.

Wilders and Erdogan’s game has already started, and citizens will have to choose between democracy and dictatorship. Their decisions will also determine the future political world and the incitement of new conflicts. The die is cast. 

Organizing to Resist Threats to Our Rights

Ongoing political degradation and the rise of bigoted movements in western countries such as the U.S., France, and the Netherlands represent a real threat to our democracy. Its birthplace can be found in the U.S where President Trump has launched his personal crusade against immigration, women, LGBT, and human rights. 

In addition to that, Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands could soon both follow Trump’s steps as heads of their respective governments. Both have expressed their intent to target immigration and human rights if they win the next elections. They have aslo called on the international community to unite to create an international coalition to spread their ideas worldwide. Such a coalition could be catastrophic, since it would eliminate the rights that our ancestors achieved through decades of fighting.

As a result of all of this, there is clear evidence that, in the near future, bigotry will continue increasing to levels not seen in decades. It is in this context that we cannot wait any longer to unite and organize to resist these threats. For that reason, I suggest we start working to create a new inclusive organization to lead the resistance in western countries. It would fight back against any threat to our society regardless of political orientation.

In most cases, people tend to associate resistance against xenophobia with the Democrats in the U.S and Social Democrats in Europe. Both are supposed to be left organizations which defend the working and the middle class. However, their ties with the so-called establishment backed by previous administrations invalidate them from fighting xenophobic populism.

The resistance against bigoted movements must be broad and target xenophobic leaders, but also those who are acting indecorously by helping bigots such as Trump to win elections in their countries. For that reason, it is not possible to build an effective resistance, settled with old generations of unpopular Democrats (US) and Social Democrats (EU) leaders.

The alternative must come from those who have never represented any political party, instead, it should come through a new organization, which should represent all those minority groups who have been ignored in western countries for decades. It should come from below. Yet it is crucial that we know what this broad movement is for, as well as what it is against.

Under the existing context, a generation of true right defenders are leaving traditional political parties such as Democrats in the U.S., and Socialist Parties all across Europe. They are engaged in a process which causes divisions in their parties and finally, are forced to leave if they want to keep their convictions up. Unfortunately, after they leave their political parties, these brilliant minds feel betrayed and do not want to join any other project since they all seem very similar to each other.

Further, in just a few months, thousands of citizens from all over western countries have started to become interested in politics since they understand that it really impacts in their lives somehow. They are very energetic and want to protect their rights, but they have never participated in any political organization or movement, and they do not know how to do it.

For that reason, we need to start working to create a new inclusive organization to attract either, the millions of citizens from the working and middle classes who are interested in organizing a resistance, and those disenchanted brilliant minds who already left traditional political parties.

During the creation of this organization, there should be intense debate about who is allowed to take leadership positions. In my opinion, if this organization wants to repair the damage that has been caused by traditional political parties during decades, it should limit the participation of those who have ever had positions in other political parties or who have represented them. However, since this platform needs to be inclusive, I think it should discuss with them so we can learn how to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

As mentioned, there will soon be many challenges to confront, and unless we are ready, we will lose our freedoms. So let’s organize and resist these threats. Your contribution could determine the future of our global democracy and liberties. To that end, I am calling on you to share this as many times as you can with your contacts to begin an important discussion about the creation of such an organization.

If you are interested in this project contact me at: josepgoded@riseup.net

    

Will 2017 Be the Beginning of the End of The European Union?

Over the next few months, a sequence of events will determine the continued existence of the European Union. This year, both France and The Netherlands will hold crucial presidential elections. The rise of Alt-Right political parties in both countries such as the Front National (FN) led by Marine Le Pen in France and The Party for Freedom (PVV) led by Geert Wilders in the Netherlands could trigger the end of the European Union.

The first important test for the European Union will be on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, when the Netherlands will hold its presidential election. The anti-European Alt-Right candidate Geert Wilders has been leading all national election polls for several consecutive weeks. While his party currently holds 15 seats in the Dutch parliament, the latest poll now puts the PVV at 29– 33 seats, placing his party far ahead of the currently ruling Dutch Tories (VVD), who now consistently poll 23-27 seats. Wilders promised to hold a referendum on European Union  membership as the UK did if he wins the Dutch general election of 2017. He thinks that the European Union is obsolete and opposes all immigration policies.

“We want to be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy,” “As quickly as possible the Dutch need to get the opportunity to have their say about Dutch membership of the European Union,” Wilders said.

“It is time for a new start, relying on our own strength and sovereignty. Also in the Netherlands,” “If I become prime minister, there will be a referendum in the Netherlands on leaving the European Union as well. Let the Dutch people decide,” Wilders said.

Wilders’ plans to hold a referendum represent a real threat to the European Union, but it would not be the end of the project in any case. However, what most worries European leaders is Wilders’ intentions to violate human rights and international law on a regular basis whether the Netherlands remains part of the EU or not. So far, his statements indicate that he will not step back on his intentions to start his personal crusade against refugees and Muslims. It might open an identity crisis among the European Union members. Wilders has suggested numerous times that the Judeo-Christian culture is superior to other cultures from all over the world.

“Our Judeo-Christian culture is far superior to the Islamic one. I can give you a million reasons. But here is an important one. We have got humour and they don’t. There is no humour in Islam. .. Islam does not allow free speech because free speech shows how evil and wrong Islam is. And Islam does not allow humour because humour shows how foolish and ridiculous it is,” Wilders said.

Like President Trump, Wilders also wants to stop immigration from Islamic countries.

“We want to stop all immigration from Islamic countries. We want to stimulate voluntary re-emigration to Islamic countries. We want to expel all criminals with dual citizenship and deprive them of their Dutch nationality. We want to de-islamize our nation. Dear Friends, there is a lot of work to do. We, the defenders of freedom and security, have an historic duty. Our generation has been entrusted with a huge task: To oppose Islam and keep the flame of liberty burning. I say it without exaggeration: the future of human civilisation depends on us. Now is a time when everyone in the West must do his duty. We are writing history here. So, let us do our duty. Let us stand with a happy heart and a strong spirit. Let us go forth with courage and save freedom,” said Wilders.

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A few months ago, Wilders was found guilty of inciting discrimination against Moroccans.

“The Netherlands have become a sick country.” “I am not a racist and neither are my voters. This sentence proves that you judges are completely out of touch. Support for the Party for Freedom is stronger than ever and keeps growing every day. The Dutch want their country back,” Wilders said.

“Today I was convicted in a political trial which, shortly before the elections, attempts to neutralise the leader of the largest and most popular opposition party. But they will not succeed, not even with this verdict, because I speak on behalf of millions of Dutch,” Wilders said.

The second and most important test for the European Union will be the 2017 French presidential election.The first round will be held on April 23. If no candidate wins a majority, a second round between the top two candidates will be held on May 7.Until a few days ago, François Fillon, the Republicans (LR) candidate was considered the favourite to win the two-round presidential election in April and May. However, his implication in a fake jobs scandal related to payments to his wife from MP funds has all but eliminated his chances of success. Marine Le Pen, the National front (FN) candidate is now, the favourite to win the first round of the election. A victory for her in the second round would represent a real threat to the EU. Le Pen wants to leave the European Union and it could never exist without France (one of the co-founders). She stated:

No, I think we need to renegotiate with the EU because I want to see French sovereignty restored in France, supported by a referendum.”

If I am voted in, I will announce that a referendum will be held in six months time. I will spend those six months going to the European Union and telling them: ‘I want the French people to regain at least their territorial sovereignty because I want to control the borders – they don’t belong to you.’”

“The EU is deeply harmful, it is an anti-democratic monster. I want to prevent it from becoming fatter, from continuing to breathe, from grabbing everything with its paws and from extending its tentacles into all areas of our legislation. In our glorious history, millions have died to ensure that our country remains free. Today, we are simply allowing our right to self-determination to be stolen from us,” Le Pen said.

Even if France remains in the EU, Le Pen would still represent a real threat to the EU. Like President Trump, Le Pen is also willing to violate international law to start her personal crusade against immigration, Muslims and Islam.This would violate all European values and human rights which could accelerate the disappearance of the EU. 

“The progressive Islamisation of our country and the increase in political-religious demands are calling into question the survival of our civilisation,”said Le Pen.

“For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it’s about occupation, then we could also talk about it (Muslim prayers in the streets), because that is occupation of territory,” she said at the gathering in Lyon.

“It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of districts in which religious laws apply. It’s an occupation,” Le Pen said.

“There are of course no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is nevertheless an occupation and it weighs heavily on local residents,” said Marine Le Pen

In conclusion, this year will be full of threats and challenges for global society.The potential disintegration of the European Union represents one of these, but no one knows how it will end. History is full of threats and challenge that are often happily resolved. The elections in The Netherlands and France will be all about choosing between tolerance or intolerance, war or peace, friendship or enemies, future or past…Their citizens will have an enormous advantage since they can see what Trump is doing in the U.S. and based on that they will make an important decision that will change the world for the better or worse. Whether the European Union changes or not, what’s most important is that citizens will have the last word. Whatever your decision will be….Remember to think critically…And stand up for human rights.

By Josep