President Torra’s Conference

In a conference on Tuesday night, President Torra revealed his “roadmap” for the crucial upcoming months. He called on the Catalans to start “a march that begins tomorrow, and ends on the day of the sentences against the political prisoners.”

Torra said that he won’t accept any verdict that isn’t the absolution of all political prisoners. “We will not resign ourselves to unjust sentences that will only bring more pain and conflict.” He added that if the verdict isn’t absolution, he would make “important” decisions that he would share with the government and parliament. He also said that he’s not “afraid” of making crucial decisions.

President Torra focused on urging the Spanish government to negotiate a self-determination referendum without threats, violence, or without a dirty war.” He said that he will dialogue and listen to everyone, but that the starting point of any negotiation is the referendum which he won’t give up.

President Torra also called on launching a Constituent process where all the Catalans will discuss how the Catalan Republic should be. He also committed to implementing 14 social laws suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court in the past few years.

Torra said that the Council for the Republic led by former Puigdemont will be formed shortly in order to internationalize the Catalan cause at the next level. “Here no one has absconded from justice, we have had to find it abroad,” said the Catalan leader. “In no democracy should call a vote to be a crime, and this idea is stronger with the judicial rulings taken by German and Italian courts, and with the international treaties of Human Rights and Peoples.”

Finally, the President called on the Catalans to organize themselves via grassroots organizations in order to be prepared for the crucial upcoming months. He added that “the Republic won’t come from the government or any office, but from self-organized people able to resist the Spanish State.”

 

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Unionists and Spanish Media Launch a Campaign of Fake News about an Alleged “Aggression” to Criminalize Catalan Independentism

On Saturday, the unionist far right-wing party C’s (Ciutadans) together with other ultra organizations such as the Civil Catalan Society and the Spanish media, launched a large-scale disinformation campaign to criminalize Catalan independentism and generate violence across the country.

In the evening, C’s reported, without providing any type of evidence, that one of its members (a Russian nationalized Spaniard) had been attacked by an independentist who punched her face and shouted, “Go back to your country” because apparently, she was removing yellow ribbons (a symbol to call for the release of Catalan political prisoners) from the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona.

Minutes later, the Spanish media and C’s leaders spread news of the incident in social networks using fake images, including one of a woman who had undergone cosmetic surgery. The woman was sporting a large facial splint over her face and several bruises.

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Yellow ribbons: An independentist breaks a woman’s nose reported the Spanish newspaper “Crónica Global.”

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“That is how they have left Lidia for removing [yellow] ribbons. Her children were in front of her, but that has not prevented the aggression. TORRA GUILTY,” said Spanish journalist Yolanda Couceiro.

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“More information about the criminal who breaks the nose of a woman for removing yellow ribbons,” said the Union of Mossos (Catalan police) for the Constitution.

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“They have broken the nose of a woman in front of her children for removing yellow ribbons in Barcelona. Mr. Sánchez, there is no “normality” here. Defend millions of Catalans, who are being attacked by separatism and stop whitewashing those who break the coexistence in Catalonia,” said Inés Arrimadas, the President of C’s in Catalonia.

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“We are going to report to the Prosecutor’s Office the aggression for hate crime of the xenophobic separatist who broke Lidia’s nose in front of her children for removing yellow ribbons in Barcelona. Zero tolerance with nationalist totalitarianism,” said Albert rivera, the leader of C’s in Spain.

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“ATTENTION! The politics of hatred and the criminalization of the dissident of @QuimTorraiPla [President Torra] takes its first victim. Assaulted for removing yellow ribbons; She is in the hospital right now,” tweeted the far right-wing organization Civil Catalan Society (SCC). 

Almost in tandem, the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police) confirmed that there had been an attack made against a woman, a Russian nationalized Spaniard, but that it was for non-political reasons. They reported that the alleged attack occurred in the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona.

According to the unionist newspaper “La Vanguardia,” the attack occurred following a heated discussion between a Ciutat Vella resident who was walking his wheelchair-bound mother and a female member of the C’s. According to witnesses, the man would have shouted at the children of the victim, using profanity language, because they tore down the yellow ribbons and threw them to the ground while they were playing. He accused the three minors of littering the city. 

When the mother defended her children, the aggressor told for her to go back to her own country and punched her ithe nose. All this, without any political allusion to the yellow ribbons, political prisoners, or independentism.

At that moment, the victim’s husband intervened and grabbed the aggressor by the neck to separate them. Shortly after he attended to the woman and the children. Three Catalan police officers, who were in the area and who had been alerted about the events, appeared. They called an ambulance and identified the woman and the man.

The police reaffirmed that the aggression had nothing to do with any political reason, which contrasts with the version of C’s, the Spanish media, and the Catalan Civil Society, which rapidly launched a misinformation campaign to criminalize independentism by linking the incident with a fascist “angry” independentist who didn’t want a Spaniard to remove yellow ribbons.

On Sunday, the Catalan Public Television TV3 spoke to the alleged aggressor who said that the incident was a simple fight, and he also received a bite. He recognized that he insulted the woman and punched her in her face. But he claimed that it was not an aggression, but a physical confrontation, and said that he had reported the facts to the Catalan police. He also admitted that he reacted badly and that the discussion increased in tone and became a fight in which he had struck the woman in the face with force.

On Monday, the victim of the aggression recognized herself that the aggression was not for political reasons. And her husband admitted that her wife did not have her nose broken as the Spanish media, unionist parties, and other organizations reported during the weekend.

Even though it had been confirmed that the incident was not for political reasons, C’s continued carrying out its disinformation and confrontational campaign during the weekend in an attempt to criminalize Catalan independentism and depicting that Catalan society as broken. They also announced that they will hold a demonstration in Barcelona on Wednesday in support of the “victim” and against independentists, though the alleged aggressor wasn’t an independentist. Thus, Cs appears to be adopting Joseph Goebbels’ strategies of disinformation and lies:

“A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” — Joseph Goebbels 

Over the last year, the unionist far right-wing parties C’s, the PP, and other organizations such as the Catalan Civil Society have been attempting to divide Catalan society in order to avoid independence. They have launched confrontational campaigns and endorsed violent organized squads armed with knives, cutters, and sticks, which remove yellow ribbons from the streets, and occasionally enter private properties and attack peaceful independentists across Catalonia every night. Thus their goal appears to be clear: divide society by creating a social conflict close to a “civil war” to prevent any implementation of the Catalan Republic in the near future.

Whether they will succeed or not is still unclear, but what is certain is that if Catalan independentism is able to remain united and strictly peaceful as well as keep organizing massive permanent demonstrations in the next few months, an important number of unionists could join the cause, and the conditions for the implementation of the Catalan Republic could be met soon. 

 

PM Sánchez Assures the Public That he Wants to Find a Political Solution for the Catalan Crisis, but He Does Not Stop Contradicting Himself

At the press conference after the last meeting of the council of ministers prior to the summer holidays on Friday, Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez affirmed that “his administration won’t open more legal paths to tackle the Catalan crisis, but rather will look for dialogue.” He also called on the main opposition party, the PP, to be loyal to him on this issue, as he was with the Rajoy administration last year.

Despite offering dialogue, Sánchez said that he will not discard the possibility of invoking Article 155 (an article to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy, fire the whole government, implement a direct rule over the Parliament, and call for an early election) if pro-independence forces “violate” the Spanish Constitution “again,” which is a great contradiction given that an offer of dialogue should never be accompanied by threats.

Sánchez also said that this is a “time for change,” but did not specify any project for Catalonia. In this regard, he admitted that the Catalan crisis would not be solved “in a month, six months, or even in a year or two. 

Despite the high social support for an agreed referendum: 80% of the Catalans, Sánchez emphasized that the solution to the Catalan crisis will strictly come by a “vote;” nevertheless, he insisted that this vote will have to respect the current Spanish Constitution. He said that the Spanish government will make a proposal which represents 80% of Catalans, but didn’t specify which one. In the last few weeks, however, numerous representatives of the PSOE have been pointing out that the proposal will consist in a reform of the Catalan Autonomous charter. I hope to convince [the Catalan government] during the medium term,” he said. 

Sánchez also said that it is time of “building consensus.” He pointed out: “Dialogue and consensus are what I have offered to all the autonomous presidents. This is the spirit that has also been present in the celebration of eighteen multilateral meetings in eighteen months,” he said.

“We hope that there will be fruits throughout the semester, until the end of December, and that it will continue. There are instruments that can be used to find consensus. We have the strong will to continue to have dialogue that will improve the territorial cohesion of our country,” said the Spanish PM.

Those are quite ironic words considering that he supported the implementation of Article 155 under the Rajoy administration, which didn’t have even 30% of the support of the people.

Sánchez also said that he does not want to “open any more judicial channels,” although he has defended the implementation of article 155 of the Constitution. He even stressed that he had a “pedagogical” touch. Considering that there are political prisoners facing up to 30 years in prison for crimes that justice from other countries such as Germany believes to be nonexistent, this could be clearly considered an insult to Catalan society.

If, as he apparently affirms, PM Sánchez is really seeking sincere dialogue and a solution for the Catalan crisis, he should immediately release the political prisoners. How can a conflict be solved when most of the political leaders from one of the sides are jailed?

Despite that most Catalans, including many pro-Spain supporters, are calling for their immediate release, PM Sánchez appears to be willing to keep them as hostages. Probably in order to win social support from the Spanish far-right, even if it means that the international community will end up comparing his administration with authoritarian regimes such as the Erdogan’s one in Turkey.

Sánchez’s “dialogue” has been clearly reduced to threats and impositions in a nice tone. Apparently, he has forgotten who made him President: pro-independence parties. Unless his rhetoric changes and accepts the negotiation of a self-determination referendum as well as the release of Catalan political prisoners, pro-independence parties will likely bring him down, as well as take unilateral steps for the implementation of the Catalan Republic this autumn. Thus, Sánchez has two options: to negotiate a self-determination referendum or aggravate the crisis by pushing the Catalan government to unilateralism. Which decision Sánchez will make is still uncertain, but he is running out of time.

Puigdemont will Return to Belgium on Saturday to Activate the Council of the Republic

Exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will return to Waterloo (Belgium) next Saturday to activate the Council of the Republic following the withdrawal of his European Arrest Warrant (EAW) by Spanish Supreme Judge Llarena.

The Council of the Republic will be “a government in exile” led by Puigdemont and also formed by the exiles Ponsatí, Serret, Comín, Puig, Gabriel, and Rovira. This government will have the mission to internationalize the Catalan cause, to find “ways” to implement the Catalan Republic, and to promote the constituent process in order to create the drafting of the future Republic.

The Council of the Republic is expected to be free to act in Belgium without the problems imposed by the police and Spanish justice. The Council should represent the country’s diversity, which is why it will also have the representation of local communities and associations.

The design envisaged in principle and that in the coming days will take control of the body is to be composed of two institutions: the Council of the Republic and the Assembly of Representatives. The Council of the Republic will be the government in exile. It will meet every week and will coordinate politically with the Catalan government presided over by President Torra.

With regard to the Assembly of Representatives, this will be equivalent to the parliament in exile, in charge of any other executive powers. The Assembly of Representatives will have the deputies of the independentist parties that now represent the majority of the Catalan parliament but will add representatives from the city councils and more institutions, with the intention of constituting a Catalan national institution with greater representation. Both the Council and the Assembly will generally meet in Brussels, but the possibility of meeting in Catalonia is not ruled out, which may cause new problems with Spanish institutions.

Formally, both institutions will be private, in order to avoid becoming trapped in the legal web that Spain wants to build. Politically, its public performance will be covered by the Catalan government, which will incorporate the decisions taken by the board to the extent that it is legally possible. The council, however, will escape the Spanish repression and will be able to take on tasks that could not be carried out otherwise, as in the case of Catalan delegations abroad. It is clear that the two bodies will continue to be banned by the Spanish government, but they can be activated from the free space in Brussels practically in the same format that they had used so far. In Brussels, the drafting of the Constitution of the Republic will also be piloted from an ample popular discussion movement that receives broad input.

The Spanish Supreme Court Is Expected to Withdraw Puigdemont’s Extradition Order

Spanish Supreme Court Judge Llarena is expected to withdraw the extradition order against exiled Catalan President Puigdemont in the next few days. On Thursday, the German court of Schleswig-Holstein decided to extradite Puigdemont for embezzlement, but not for rebellion, the charge sought by the Spanish Supreme Court.

This decision compromises Judge Llarena’s instruction against the ex-members of the Catalan government who held the referendum. 

Given that the acceptance of Puigdemont’s extradition would mean that he, “ex-leader” of the Catalan government, would be judged neither for rebellion nor for sedition, Judge Llarena has apparently decided to reject his extradition in order to be able to judge the rest of imprisoned Catalan leaders for rebellion without showing a lack of justice in Spain.

The image of President Puigdemont, “ex-leader” of the Catalan government, being judged for the minor crime of misusing public funds, with maximum penalties of up to 6 years in prison, while the rest of Catalan leaders, who played a minor role in the organization of the independence referendum, are judged for rebellion with penalties of up to 30 years in prison,would be controversial and would make evident the lack of justice and the non- existence of separation of powers in Spain.

Llarena already withdrew another extradition request for Puigdemont and three former ministers in Belgium last December. But he re-activated it after a few months, which caused outrage across European governments, which said that the judge was abusing the extradition request system.

Llarena may also take another unlikely path, taking the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). However, he appears not to be willing to take the risk of losing an appeal at a European court since it would show the lack of justice in Spain and would probably force him to release all Catalan political prisoners.

Requesting a preliminary ruling for the CJEU is a legal procedure, which enables courts of member states to question the interpretation or validity of an EU law.

If the Spanish Supreme Court requests the ruling, Puigdemont’s extradition would be frozen until it is resolved, which could take up to 16 months.

On the other hand, if Llarena doesn’t take any action, the extradition would take place in a few weeks, unless Puigdemont’s defense appeals the decision at the court of Schleswig-Holstein or at the German Constitutional Court.

Puigdemont’s lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, said they were planning to appeal at the German Constitutional Court. “It might be a denial of the extradition.”

PNV supports Spain’s Budget despite Promising the Contrary

On Wednesday, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) voted in favor of Spain’s State Budget despite promising its voters and the Catalans that it would never ever support it unless the Rajoy administration lifted the direct rule over Catalonia (Article 155). A PNV spokesman said, “The party made such a decision out of ‘responsibility.’ It will help improve the living conditions of the Basque people.”

In the past few months, we expressed our intention to reject Spain’s budget for 2018 if the direct rule over Catalonia (Article 155) remained in place, this was a matter of principles,” read an official statement by the party.

PNB representatives lead by Joseba Egibar recognized on Thursday that they had broken their promises over Catalonia, and the fact that they weren’t able to de-activate Spain’s direct rule over Catalonia (Article 155) because apparently they “miscalculated” their capacity of influence.

The PNV had been very critical of the Rajoy administration since he implemented a direct rule over Catalonia. However, yesterday’s decision to support Spain’s Budget by breaking its promises suggests that from the beginning, PNV’s real intentions were to take advantage of the existing political situation in Catalonia in order to negotiate a better funding for the Basque Country.

If the PNV had voted against the budget, the Rajoy administration would have lost the chamber, which might have forced a snap/quick election in the next few months.

The PNV had strong incentives to support Rajoy’s ‘corrupt’ government. The budget includes €570 million in investments destined for the Basque country. In a hypothetical new election, the opposition party C’s could have won the majority of seats in Parliament. C’s has been very critical of the high degree of financial autonomy in the Basque country and announced a few weeks ago that if it ever gets the presidency, it will break all the existing financial pacts between Spain and the Basque Country.

A spokesperson for the Basque government, Josu Erkoreka, also criticized Catalan President Torra for appointing jailed and exiled ministers, which in his personal opinion, has prevented the Spanish government from lifting the direct rule (Article 155) over Catalonia. “There is no doubt he was aware of the effect and consequences of his actions,” he said.

A wide range of political parties, including the pro-independence ones, the Spanish Podemos, and the Basque EH Bildu, have accused the PNV of breaking its promises with Catalan people and being responsible for “keeping” the PP, a corrupt party, in power.

On Thursday, Spain’s ruling PP’s party was fined 250k by the Spanish National Court for illegal funding in a case which involves accusations of kickbacks in exchange for giving contracts to a network of businesspeople bidding for venders.

Former PP treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, was sentenced to 33 years in prison and fined €44 million. The businessman and leader of the corruption plot, Francisco Correa, was sentenced to 51 years in jail. The Spanish National Court also sentenced the former PP member and businessman, Pablo Crespo, to 37 years behind bars. Twenty-six more people involved in the case were also sentenced to prison or fined.

PNV’s decision to support the Rajoy administration will definitely benefit them in the short term since they will be able to maintain a high degree of power in the Basque Country. Nevertheless, it may also backfire against them in the near future when they will need support from the Catalan administration, which feels betrayed.  They may also face problems in next elections, since most of their voters support Catalonia’s bid for independence and more importantly, democracy. It’s believed that the opposition Basque pro-independence party, EH Bildu, will get a high percentage of votes from ex-PNV voters since they have remained loyal to the Catalan people and their legitimate aspirations.

President Quim Torra

The new presidential candidate, Quim Torra (JxCat), is well-known for his fierce defense of the Catalan Republic. Ex-president of Òmnium Cultural, one of the major Catalan pro-independence organizations, Torra was chosen by President Puigdemont to lead a provisional government aimed at the construction of the Republic.

Quim Torra was born in Blanes, a small town on the north side of Barcelona, in 1962. He has a degree in law, was director of the Born Cultural Centre until 2015 and director of the Centre of Studies of Contemporary Topics of the Catalan government until last October.

Torra presented his MP candidacy for JxCat as an independent. He isn’t a member of any political party. He also formed part of the team which negotiated the government manifesto with CUP and ERC in advance of an expected investiture. His presidential candidacy comes after the Spanish Constitutional Court blocked the investiture of Puigdemont, the legitimate President of Catalonia, who then activated the plan “D,” the provisional investiture of Torra until he can be sworn in later by the legislature.

The expectation is that Torra will be elected as President of Catalonia in a second round on Monday after not achieving an absolute majority in the first round on Saturday after the CUP decided to keep its abstention in its political council held on Sunday.

Although unlikely, if the Spanish government or the Constitutional Court decides to block Torra’s investiture, there will be a new election in two months.