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.

 

 

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Pro-independence Agreement on Puigdemont’s Investiture in the Coming Days

JxCat and ERC appear to be close to reaching a final agreement on Puigdemont’s investiture. Elsa Artadi, the JxCat spokeswoman who is leading the negotiations, said this morning, “The negotiations with ERC have progressed significantly. I think we will be able to reach and make public a final agreement on Pugdemont’s investiture tomorrow.”

During the weekend, representatives of ERC and JxCat met several times in Brussels and Barcelona, seeking to reach an agreement. While they agreed that Puigdemont is the only legitimate candidate (as demonstrated by the latest general election) to become president, they showed discrepancies on the legal procedure to make it possible without putting more pro-independence leaders in danger.

During the meeting, JxCat’s representatives said that they are willing to disobey Spanish Constitutional Court orders, considering that they have always been proved to be biased and antidemocratic against the Catalans. However, representatives of ERC said that the investiture of Puigdemont wouldn’t mean that more Catalan MPs would end up in prison.

According to sources present in the meetings, JxCat and ERC are negotiating the investiture of two presidents and the creation of two governments. The legitimate one would be based in Brussels and the second one (in Barcelona) would rule the country while implementing the Catalan Republic. This move could allow pro-independence parties to bypass Spanish justice while taking effective steps towards the independence of Catalonia.

The idea would be to use a pro-independence assembly (created in 2016) of local and Catalan-wide elected members to swear in Puigdemont as legitimate president in Brussels. At the same time, another person would be appointed to preside over the Catalan Parliament. According to sources, President Puigdemont would (symbolically) rule Catalonia from Brussels.

However, the CUP, a minor party which guarantees the pro-independence absolute majority in Parliament, opposes this option, believing that there must be only one president and a government willing to disobey Spain in order to effectively implement the Catalan Republic. They said that they won’t attend the investiture session, which would make the election of a president impossible, unless their conditions are met.

The second option on the table would be to reform the Regulation of the Catalan Parliament to bypass Spanish justice and swear in Puigdemont at a distance. However, Spanish officials have already announced that this move would be brought to the Spanish Constitutional Court, which would likely declare it unconstitutional. They added that this move would also mean that the members of the Catalan Parliament Bureau, who may approve it, would face legal liabilities.

The Spanish government and Catalan unionist parties reject a dual-presidency

The leader of the “Catalan Socialist Party,” Miquel Iceta, called on the Catalan pro-independence parties to stop “posturing” and said that the new Catalan government shouldn’t be formed by politicians who have pending judicial causes.

Ines Arrimadas (C’s) said, “I hope that JxCat and ERC officials are brave enough to tell Puigdemont that he won’t be president again.”

Albiol (PP) said, “I think it is a joke, this is more typical of a video game or virtual reality. In a serious scenario, it would be impossible to even consider this possibility, but we are in the country of fantasies.”

 

Spanish Constitutional Court Blocks Puigdemont’s Investiture as President

On Saturday, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled that Carles Puigdemont can only be sworn in as president in person and with a juridical authorization prior to appearance in court. This decision, which sets a dangerous precedent, comes after the Spanish government pressured the court to rule in its favor.

According to ex-members of the Constitutional Court and prestigious jurists, the Constitutional Court violated its own rules by adopting precautionary measures against Puigdemont and four members of his cabinet since the Court only had the power to decide whether or not to consider Rajoy’s cabinet’s appeal.

Most of the current judges which form the Spanish Constitutional Court were directly appointed by the two largest Spanish political parties, PP and PSOE, which shows the high degree of politicization in the Spanish judicial system.

The Spanish government made a surprise announcement on Tuesday that it would appeal against Puigdemont’s candidacy for president in the Constitutional Court. This came after Rajoy said there was no legal basis for such a move a few days before.

Vice-President Santamaría alleged that a fugitive couldn’t be nominated as president without previously appearing in front of a judge. She added that there was also an ongoing search and arrest warrant issued against Puigdemont.

The Spanish Council of State formed by former ministers and lawyers ruled on Thursday that Puigdemont’s candidacy for president couldn’t be suspended until there is a firm judicial sentence against him since he retains his rights as an elected MP.

A Remote Investiture and Delegation of Votes

The Constitutional Court ruled against the remote investiture of Puigdemont since the presidential candidate must be physically in the Parliament during the debate. The Court also prohibited Puigdemont and the four ministers of his cabinet, who are in exile in Belgium, to delegate their votes for the investiture session.

Warning against the Catalan Parliament Bureau

The Constitutional Court also called on the members of the Catalan Parliament’s Bureau to respect its resolution, pointing out that whoever disobeys it will face criminal charges.

Appeal to the European Court of Human Rights

A few hours after learning about the resolution of the Constitutional Court, the Catalan lawyer of Puigdemont Cuevillas said that he would probably take the Constitutional Court decision to the European Court of Human Rights. He said it was a political decision which violates his client’s rights.

Numerous representatives of JxCat said, “ We will not propose [for president] a candidate other than Puigdemont. Plan A is Puigdemont; Plan B Puigdemont.”

Puigdemont’s reaction

“Even the Constitutional Court rejected the legal fraud that the Spanish government was perpetuating. More than one person should rectify the situation and end the politics once and for all. And if they are unable to do so, they should consider stepping down and giving way,” he tweeted.

The Spanish government also reacted to the news by welcoming the fact that the judges do not allow an investiture at a distance, which Madrid brands as “fraudulent.”

The CUP party calls on Catalan parliament speaker Torrent to “disobey”

The CUP party urged the Catalan Parliament president to disobey yesterday’s Constitutional Court resolution against Puigdemont’s candidacy for president. It added that they will only be present in the investiture session if Puigdemont is the candidate. Otherwise, they will attempt to block the formation of a new government which could lead to new elections.

 

 

 

 

Catalonia Faces its most Important Democratic Elections

Tomorrow, Catalonia will hold crucial general elections in the form of a binding referendum on independence. Two antagonistic blocks will face off; the unionists and the independentists. The unionists who sacked all the members of the prior Catalan governmentjailed some of them, and imposed a direct rule over Catalonia, expect to win an absolute majority in order to “eradicate” the Catalan pro-independence movement. This may be accomplished by changing the educational system and exerting an absolute control over the Catalan police and public media agencies. On the other hand, the independentists, who unilaterally proclaimed the independence of Catalonia in the aftermath of the independence referendum held last October, also expect to get an absolute majority to restore the prior legitimate government and immediately implement the independence of Catalonia.

Given that the two blocks are irreconcilable, the results of these elections will have an enormous impact on people’s lives. And whatever the results may be, the tension mounted over the past few years will heighten to levels never seen before in a “democracy.”

According to the latest polls, the key to these elections will be the turnout. A turnout higher than 80% would benefit unionists parties since their voters tend to be demobilized. And a lower turnout could give independentists a clear absolute majority which would allow them to unilaterally take further actions towards the factual independence of Catalonia.

Most polls suggest that the turnout will be historical, around 85%. However, they obviate the fact that these elections will be held on a working day (Thursday) for the first time in Catalonia’s history. While some pundits believe that holding elections on a working day will encourage people to vote, others contend that there are tens of thousands of workers who aren’t living in their hometowns. And that the 4 hours work-permission to vote could be insufficient for most of them, which may lower the final turnout. All the doubts will be allayed in only one day, when the final results of the elections will be announced.

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Over a Million Protesters March in Barcelona to Call for the Release of Catalan Political Prisoners

On Saturday, over a million Catalans marched in Barcelona to call for the release of the Catalan political prisoners recently imprisoned by Spain. The demonstration was given the name of “National Day for Liberty,” aiming for the same level of attendance and international impact as the yearly celebrations for Catalonia’s September 11th National Day. The demonstration filled more than three kilometers (almost 2 miles) of one of the Catalan capital’s main thoroughfares. Almost a thousand buses loaded with independentists from across the country headed to the protest in Barcelona.

At the front of the demonstration, a banner held by family members of the Catalan political prisoners and the organizers read, “Freedom for political prisoners, we are the Republic.” Attendance exceeded the expectations of the organizers, which delayed the beginning of the protest by an hour. The march lasted for 3 hours before arriving at the intersection with Avenida Icària, where a stage had been set up for speeches. That was where members of the families of the Catalan political prisoners climbed onto the stage and, one by one, read aloud letters written by the Catalan leaders in prison. The letters read:

Minister Joaquim Forn said, “Now it isn’t the time for differences,” but the moment for unity. Peace, democracy, and freedom are the values which give strength to the people of Catalonia,” he added. Ministers Meritxell Borràs and Dolors Bassa, in a joint letter, gave their thanks for the “hundreds” of letters received daily at their prison, Alcalá-Meco: “our physical distance doesn’t prevent us from feeling you near.” Minister Josep Rull said, “They’re wrong if they believe that they can imprison the will of the people”. He argued that “we’re the legitimate government because the Catalans decided so through a powerful tool: the ballot box”.

For his part, Minister Carles Mundó said, “People can be imprisoned, but nobody can imprison ideas.” “Political problems can never be solved in the court of the justice system,” he added. The Foreign Minister, Raül Romeva addressed the people, asking them “to keep their hand outstretched and the will to dialogue, without falling to provocations.” Government spokesperson Jordi Turull said, “Our bodies are in prison, but our hearts and our commitment are with you” He also called for unity: “It’s with unity that we’ve made great strides”.

Vice-president Oriol Junqueras denounced the “complicity of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) with the Spanish government in the imprisonments of democratically elected leaders like himself and their explicit support for Spain’s intervention in Catalonia’s government, which has removed any type of self-rule in Catalonia and has also installed the Spanish vice-president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría as the Catalan president until the next elections are held.” He said that he and the other imprisoned ministers are the “scapegoats” of the Spanish state to frighten the independence movement.

The leaders of the two major Catalan grassroots organizations, Jordi Cuixart (ANC) and Jordi Sànchez (Òmnium), who were also imprisoned, sent messages to be read out by their family members to the million plus protesters gathered at Saturday’s demonstration.

Jordi Cuixart said, “great obstacles are for great spirits,” whilst Jordi Sànchez called on the Catalans to vote on the December 21st Catalan general elections. “Our strength is our unity, let nobody doubt that we will win.” The rally ended with messages sent by President Puigdemont and the members of his cabinet from Brussels.

 

Spain Jails 8 Democratically Elected Members of Catalonia’s Government for Peacefully Defending their Ideas

On Thursday, a judge from Spain’s National Court, Carmen Lamela, sent 8 members of the Catalan government to jail for rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds without any evidence. As expected, the attorney general had requested their immediate imprisonment without bail and the judge approved.

Carmen Lamela is the same judge who had already sent to prison the civil rights leaders, Cuixart and Sànchez, two weeks ago, for sedition.

In her order, Judge Lamela said that the imprisonment, pending trial of the 8 Catalan leaders was “appropriate, reasonable and proportional.” She based her decision on their flight risk, taking into account the “spending power of the accused which would allow them to abandon the territory”. She also mentioned that other ministers and Catalonia’s President Puigdemont had already abandoned the country to prevent a trial in Spain.

In fact, she describes the government of Catalonia as “an organized group of people, with the support of sovereigntist associations with the power and the ability to help them in their possible flight from justice”. Lamela also alleges there is a “high risk of reoffending and a high probability that the accused might alter or destroy evidence.”

In the meantime, Catalan President Puigdemont and four members of his government remain in Belgium. They say that they do not want to escape Spanish justice, but they repudiate that they would have a fair trial if they were to return to Spain. For that reason, their intention is to stay in Brussels until there are at minimum guarantees of a fair-trial or until Belgium extradites them.

Numerous lawyers and experts, including those who wrote the crimes of rebellion and sedition, said that none of the government officials could be accused of such crimes because there has not been any violence. Sedition and rebellion charges imply an insurrection that involves taking up arms in order to take control of a territory. The Catalan government has always called on the people to hold peaceful demonstrations. In seven years of mass protests, not a single incident has ever been registered.

Thousands of intellectuals from across the world have denounced the extreme politicization of the Spanish judicial system in which many judges are directly appointed by the political forces that win the elections, making it impossible to guarantee either neutrality or fair trials.

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.