Josep Borrell, a ‘radical’ anti-independentist, who once said that the Catalan pro-independence movement was a disease, has been appointed as new Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has nominated Josep Borrell as new Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs. Borrell, who was ex-minister in Spanish socialist governments and ex-President of the European Parliament, is a controversial figure characterized by his relentless offenses against Catalan pro-independence leaders. During a unionist demonstration organized by a far-right organization in Barcelona last December, Borrell said: 

It’s a good idea, this ‘stitching up wounds.’ They have to be stitched up. It’s true: this is a wounded society and it has to be cured. But, before closing the wounds, they have to be disinfected. Because, if they’re not disinfected, things rot. The social body has to be healed, so it has to be scrubbed well with disinfectant.”

Borrell resigned as president of the European University Institute in 2012 following accusations of conflicts of interests. In 1998, Borrell accompanied convicted politicians of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) to prison who were sentenced for organizing and taking part in (GAL), a state terrorism group that acted in the Basque Country during the 80’s and caused 27 deaths.

Pro-independence parties have criticized Borrell’s appointment and accused the new Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez of fueling the conflict in Catalonia. President Puigdemont went further and said in a Tweet that the Socialist party was attempting to divide Catalan society.  

The Catalan government has been calling to open a dialogue with Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez since he became President last week in order to find a solution for the continuing political conflict between Catalonia and Spain.

Despite the appointment of a radical anti-independentist as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Catalan administration has insisted on the need to start bilateral talks with Spain as soon as possible. However, behind the scenes, pro-independence leaders recognized that there are few chances of that happening. They believe that Sánchez will follow the same strategy that his predecessor ex-PM Rajoy used during his term in office: the judicialization and criminalization of the pro-independence movement.

Brief Biography

Born in 1947 in Pobla de Segur, Lleida, Borrell began in local politics before joining the PSOE party and eventually rising to ministerial level. He was the minister of Public Works, Transport, and the Environment during the third and fourth terms governments of Spanish PM Felipe González (PSOE). In 2004, he was elected head of the European Chamber where he served from 2004 to 2007. He joined the board of the Spanish multinational corporation Abengoa in 2019 and became chair of its international advisory board a year later.

Borrell has a doctorate in economic science from the Complutense University of Madrid, and he has studied at the French Institute of Petroleum in Paris and Stanford University in the US.

Advertisements

Jordi Sánchez Nominated as Presidential Candidate

On Monday, Catalan Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, nominated the jailed leader, Jordi Sànchez, as a presidential candidate. One day later, he also announced that the investiture session to swear Sànchez in will be held in  Parliament next Monday at 10 am.

The Spanish government warned that they won’t allow him to become president. However, the final decision will be made by the Spanish Supreme Court.

According to an important number of jurists, if Judge Llarena, who is leading the case against Catalan pro-independence leaders, does not allow Sànchez to be sworn in as President, he would be prevaricating. Thus, if Sànchez appeals that possible decision to higher courts, including the European ones and wins, the whole case against Catalan pro-independence leaders would be nullified. And all the Catalan political prisoners would have to be released immediately. 

Click here to continue reading…

Dual Government in Catalonia?

Pro-independence parties have restarted talks on the formation of an effective government in Catalonia. The negotiations broke down two weeks ago, following a wave of mutual reproaches and criticism. However, the announcement of the Spanish government that it will use its direct rule over Catalonia to eliminate Catalan as a vernacular language at schools has forced ERC and JxCat to understand each other and accelerate their negotiations.

A number of possible formulas to swear in Puigdemont as president are under discussion. The possibility of forming a dual government with some members in Brussels and others in Barcelona appears to be the most feasible one. In an interview with ACN (Catalan News Agency), Elsa Artadi (JxCat) said that her party and the ERC are preparing the necessary logistics to make it possible to govern from both places.

She also said that Puigdemont has to be sworn in even though the Spanish Constitutional Court and the Spanish government are determined to prevent it from happening. She explains that Puigdemont cannot be just a symbolic figure. For her candidacy, she has to “govern, be part of the executive power and have complete legitimacy.” Artadi added that Puigdemont should be the leader of the country, the one “setting the tone” of Catalonia’s politics.

The debate between the ERC and JxCat is developing on the assumption that part of the Catalan government will be in Brussels and the other in Barcelona. While Artadi said that Puigdemont should be able to return to Catalonia after being sworn in, the chances of that happening are remote since there aren’t sufficient guarantees that he wouldn’t be imprisoned.

Similarly, other sources from the negotiations admitted that they still have to find a formula to guarantee a normal pace of activity in the Parliament.

JxCat and ERC representatives announced yesterday that their negotiations have progressed significantly. However, they won’t announce any agreement at least until the end of next week or the following one. They said that they don’t want to prejudice the legal strategy of numerous members of JxCat and ERC, including its current leaders, who will have to appear in the Spanish Supreme Court for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public money over the next few days. They believe that the announcement of an agreement could cause their immediate imprisonment.

The major Catalan pro-independence organization, ANC, adds pressure on pro-independence parties

Last week, the ANC Executive Assembly decided to warn ERC and JxCat that if they did not reach an agreement soon on forming a government, respecting the mandate of the latest election, they will organize mass protests against them. It also encouraged the future Catalan government to disobey the Spanish government and the Spanish Constitutional Court because it is the only possible way to implement the Catalan Republic.

On February 25th, 50,000 members of the ANC will define its new road-map for the next two years. The one proposed by the direction includes the organization of permanent protests across Catalonia in order to defend the Catalan Republic. According to them, it is time for civil society to take part in the fight for independence, stressing that without mass protests and mass disobedience coming from society the Catalan Republic will never become a reality. It also added that the actions of political parties are limited due to judicial processes against their leaders and members. And finally, it encouraged other grassroots organizations to coordinate protests in order to build the Catalan Republic.

 

 

The Imprisonment of Two Catalonian pro-Independence Civil Rights Leaders and its Effects

On Monday of last week, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, the leaders of the two major Catalonian pro-independence civil organizations, were arbitrarily imprisoned by the Spanish National Court for sedition (punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment). The judge accused them of organizing violent demonstrations against the Spanish police on September 20th when numerous Catalonia’s high-ranking officials were detained after the police raided numerous Catalan government offices. Nonetheless, numerous videos contradict those claims, showing Cuixart and Sànchez calling on the peaceful protesters to dissolve the demonstrations of that day, while organizing a security cordon in order to allow the Spanish police to finish their tasks and leave the place in a safe manner.

Cuixart and Sànchez first learned of their arbitrary detention through the media a week before their testimony at the Spanish National Court. Numerous journalists reported Spanish high-ranking officials, prosecutors, and judges talking to each other about their imminent imprisonment during a unionist march in Barcelona downtown.

This manner of imposing “justice” on Catalonia’s civil rights leaders – similar to the one used by Erdogan in Turkey – demonstrates that the Spanish judicial system is politicized and controlled by the Spanish government, which uses it as a weapon to incarcerate its opponents in order to defend its own political interests.

Even though and in parallel, the Spanish government is fabricating an unrealistic story in an attempt to convince the international community that the Spanish judicial system is neutral – even though most members of the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court are elected by the two major political parties in parliament – and that Spain has never used force against the Catalonians – despite the fact that Spanish police injured some 1,000 during the October 1st referendum.

By doing so, the Spanish government appears to be attempting to hide the real reason behind Cuixart and Sànchez’s imprisonments which is, of course, their astonishing capacity to mobilize more than 100,000 people through social media accounts, wherever they want, within two or three hours.

If the Spanish government ever thought that by detaining civil rights leaders such as Cuixart and Sànchez, Catalonia’s pro-independence movement would be brought to its knees, it deeply lacks knowledge about Catalan society, when it comes to the active defense of civil rights and the self-government achieved by the prior generation through diverse fights against Franco’s dictatorship.

On the contrary, Cuixart and Sànchez’s detentions have broadened pro-independence social support, which has grown to numbers never seen before. In the aftermath of their imprisonment, some 200,000 people took to the streets to protest against this decision, and some other thousands across Spain joined pro-Catalonian organizations Omnium Cultural and Assemblea Nacional Catalana, which may soon be declared illegal according to government sources.

In a few hours, the Spanish government will invoke Article 155 to suspend the Catalonian government, dismiss the Catalan President and ministers, who were democratically elected by the people, in an attempt to install high-ranking officials from Madrid who will take control of the Catalan government, public media agencies, and the police in order to restore “the Spanish constitutional order” and call for a snap general election without international standards and with most pro-independence forces suspended.

Far from being afraid of being in prison for up to 15 years for sedition, Sànchez and Cuixart have delivered the following message through their lawyers from prison to all Catalonians:

We feel good and strong!We are ready and prepare to be in prison for a long time! The fact that since our imprisonment, things have developed very much in favor of the independence of Catalonia make us feel stronger! Please, don’t step back: go all out and proclaim the independence, and defend it, until the very end, but always peacefully! Remember, we are well and strong!(A few weeks before of their imprisonment, they both said that there were not enough prisons to jail all Catalans, and they are certainly right.)

On the eve of the Spanish full intervention of Catalonia’s government, Catalan society appears to be more unified than ever; the government, political prisoners, federalists, teachers, firefighters, journalists from public media agencies, doctors, policemen / women, civil servants, etc. appear to be willing to disobey any type of Spanish intervention order in an attempt to halt it. They are willing to take this action -aware that they could be imprisoned by Madrid authorities- in defense of the new Catalonian Republic, civil-rights, and the self-government achieved by the prior generation.

If Article 155 is finally implemented by the Spanish government in a few hours, Catalonia’s government, ministers, and thousands of people are expected to be arrested, mistreated, tortured, discriminated against, etc. for the upcoming months. Nonetheless, if Catalonians are able to keep unified as one, disobey any type of Spanish intervention order, and hold continuous mass protests in the streets in defense of their civil-rights and self-determination, sooner or later the international community will be forced to intervene in order to prevent harm (to Catalonia and its people).

As aforementioned, Spain can jail thousands of Catalonians, from journalists, to civil-rights organizers, to students, but it will…” but it will never be able to jail all Catalonians!So the high level of unity, the loss of fear, and the perseverance of the people will determine the success of Catalonia’s process of independence.

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.

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