Catalonia’s Decisive Week for Independence

On Tuesday, Catalan President Puigdemont “declared Catalonia’s independence,” but soon after suspended its effects in favor of dialogue with Spanish authorities. His decision came after numerous international actors suggested that mediation would only be possible if he halted independence as a sign of good faith.

Nevertheless, numerous members of parliament, who were informed about Puigdemont’s decision only 45 minutes before his intervention, expressed their disagreement and threatened to boycott his speech, as well as threatening to break the pro-independence absolute majority in Parliament. They stressed that they had agreed on a different declaration earlier in the day.

To address this alarming situation, President of Parliament Forcadell decided to suspend the plenary for 1 hour. While the disagreements remained, everyone present in the meeting finally accepted Puigdemont’s changes to the speech in order to maintain unity. Additionally, they agreed to hold a ceremony to sign an unofficial declaration of independence in another building after the plenary in order to give more solemnity to the day.

Tens of thousands of people who gathered around the parliament to celebrate the proclamation of the new Catalonian Republic ended up with mixed feelings. At first, when Puigdemont declared independence, they felt very excited, but this turned to disappointment when he suspended its legal effects without setting a deadline a few seconds later.

Most experts saw Puigdemont’s move as a wise one because it served to show the international community that Catalonia is seeking dialogue until the very end, which favours future international recognition of Catalonia as an independent country.

On Wednesday, Spanish PM Rajoy refused Puigdemont’s latest offer of dialogue and activated Article 155, which can be fully implemented a few days after Puigdemont responds to a mandatory request for information as to whether he has declared independence. He was given until Monday to respond; if it is in the affirmative, this period is extended until Thursday, with the option of altering the decision.

With Article 155, Rajoy can suspend Catalonia’s government, intervene in the education system and the police, and even call for an early election while installing technocrats from the central government to rule Catalonia for at least 3 months. In parallel, pro-independence parties and organizations may also be barred from participating in any eventual general election for at least 4 years.

Major pro-independence organizations are preparing a proportionate response to the implementation of the Article 155 and the possible arrest of Catalonia’s President and vice-president, which includes mass protests, and an indefinite general strike. The main idea would be to collapse the Spanish and European economies and eventually force an international intervention/mediation in Catalonia.

The response may be precipitated by Spain this Monday, because the leaders of the two major pro-independence organizations, Cuixart and Sanchez, have been summoned by the Spanish National Court to testify about “sedition charges” (punishable by up to 15 years in prison + a fine). According to some journalists with contacts in the Spanish government, the judges who are hearing these two cases have already made the decision to jail them in order to smash their respective organizations and thus spread fear across Catalonian society.

Against this possible outcome, Cuixart and Sanchez named their replacements on Saturday. In the meantime, pro-independence organizations and parties such as the ANC, Omnium, ERC, CUP, Democrates and several MP’s from the PDECAT have called on Puigdemont to lift the suspension of Catalonia’s declaration of independence and implement its legal effects as soon as next week. If possible before the Spanish implementation of Article 155.They believe there are no longer grounds for mediation or negotiations as equals with Spain, and that the only way to bring about international mediation/negotiations is by formally declaring independence first.

With this in mind, Puigdemont will have to make the most important decision of his life tomorrow morning. He must decide whether to go all-out to respect the will of the Catalonian people and face a prison sentence of up to 15 years or to surrender, refuse to declare independence, and thus comply with the Spanish government’s will.

Whatever Puigdemont’s decision may be in the coming hours, the worsening of the conflict between Catalonia and Spain appears to be inevitable, given that if he surrenders the independence process, millions of Catalans will then feel betrayed, resulting in the radicalization of many who would rise up against the Spanish government in order to defend the newly promised Catalonian Republic.

Perhaps the only thing that can stop this upcoming clash would be Spain’s acceptance of international mediation. Although, I must admit that I do not have much hope of that happening.

 

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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.

Yemen: The Forgotten Conflict

Since Yemen’s civil war began in 2015, the Saudi-led coalition has regularly conducted lethal air strikes throughout the country, killing thousands of innocent Yemenis. Further, Saudi Arabia has implemented a blockade of basic supplies against Yemen, including drinkable water, resulting in rampant cholera, leading to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition was initially created seeking to support the deposed President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, after the Houthi rebels had taken key positions all across the country, including the capital Sana’a and his Presidential palace, forcing him to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Since then, Saudi Arabia has justified its lethal attacks on civilians by accusing the Houthis, without any evidence, of being endorsed by its arch-enemies, Iran and Hezbollah.

According to the UN, the Saudi-led coalition regularly kills innocent people, including children. For example, a Saudi air strike killed 140 people and injured some 600 mourners at a funeral in Sana’a last October.

The United Nations’ World Health Organization has reported that the outbreak of cholera in Yemen caused by the Saudi blockade of drinking water has already infected more than 300,000 Yemenis; killed 1,500 people, 55% of them children.

The Red Cross has predicted that one out 45 people in Yemen will contract cholera. More than 600,000 people are expected to contract the disease before the end of the year. Some worrying reports show that a child dies in Yemen every 10 minutes from preventable causes like diarrhea, respiratory infections and malnutrition.

According to the UN, since March 2015, 3.2 million Yemenis have been displaced; 13,000 civilians have been casualties; 2 million children cannot attend schools;  and nearly 15 million people have no access to basic medical care. Out of 27 million people in Yemen, 20 million are starving, including 400,000 childrenand some 2.2 million are in need of urgent care.


“In the last two years, more children have died from preventable diseases than those killed in the violence. This is why vaccination campaigns are so crucial to save the lives of Yemen’s children and to secure their future,” said Dr. Meritxell Relaño, UNICEF Representative in Yemen.

Children are dying because the conflict is preventing them from getting the health care and nutrition they urgently need. Their immune systems are weak from months of hunger,” said Dr. Relaño.”

Saudi Arabia has also imposed a strict journalist embargo on Yemen, seeking to hide its acts of barbarism. It only grants sporadic access to the country to a few journalists from the mainstream Western media. On many occasions, they are indirectly endorsed by the Saudi-led coalition.

Despite the embargo, some independent journalists have risked their lives to enter the country covertly. They regularly show the Western world what the mainstream media refuses, the Saudi atrocities in Yemen.

The mainstream Western media regularly ignores the Yemeni conflict by ensuring that it is not attractive enough for the Western audience, which supposedly prefers those in Iraq and Syria because there are more parties involved.

Nothing is expected to change soon; the Saudi-led coalition will still commit atrocities across Yemen. The Houthis and the official Yemeni government will repress and kill thousands of innocent people, worsening the living conditions of innocent Yemenis. In addition, Al-Qaeda and ISIS are expected to increase their influence by taking key positions across Yemen, leading to a possible further American military intervention in the country.

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

    

Stephen Bannon: the Person Who Is Silently Changing the World

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, both the national and the international media have frequently focused on Trump’s plans to target immigration and dismantle the existing health-care and education systems. However, most of them have ignored the fact that the real author of these plans is not Trump, but his principal advisor, Stephen Bannon, who is a despicable and intelligent person, and refuses any sort of prominence to focus on his work without raising suspicions.

Bannon demonstrated his intelligence and influence during the last presidential election when he was the person most responsible (a campaign chief) for planning Trump’s campaign that eventually led his victory. Bannon was also the person who recommended that Trump use fierce rhetoric against immigration, the media, and the establishment. Without his presence there Trump would not have been elected President.

As if that were not enough, Bannon was recently selected by Trump to be on the National Security Council board. This group is responsible for advising President Trump regarding national security and foreign policy. Bannon’s presence there has raised increasing concerns among politicians and experts due to his lack of knowledge about security. Many think that he may try to mislead President Trump in order to achieve his personal goals. However, to better understand why experts and the international community have expresed concerns about Stephen Bannon, it is necessary to know his background.

Before working for Trump’s administration, Stephen Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC. An American news outlet linked to controversies and the mass fabrication of stories, intended to demonise gays, Muslims, immigrants and liberals. In addition, under Bannon’s leadership, the site has promoted racism, and anti-Muslim ideas, and it has been accused of white nationalism. Bannon once said:

“I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbours.“And that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.”

Breitbart has published dozens of stories accusing U.S. Muslims of sympathising with terrorism.The site has also mocked LGBTQ people, feminists and women, and has also denied the existence of climate change, insisted that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin was an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood, and served as a propaganda arm for the Trump campaign.

Controversial BreitBart’s News Headlines:

‘The solution to online ‘harassment’ is simple: Women should log off’

http://www.breitbart.com/milo/2016/07/05/solution-online-harassment-simple-women-log-off/

‘Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew’

http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2016/05/15/bill-kristol-republican-spoiler-renegade-jew/

‘Trannies whine about hilarious Bruce Jenner billboard’

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/12/04/trannies-whine-hilarious-bruce-jenner-billboard/

‘Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy’

http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2015/12/08/birth-control-makes-women-unattractive-and-crazy/

‘Suck it up buttercups: Dangerous Faggot Tour returns to colleges in September’

http://www.breitbart.com/milo/2016/07/06/milo-yiannopoulos-dangerous-faggot-tour-returns-campuses-fall/

‘Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?’

http://www.breitbart.com/video/2016/02/19/would-you-rather-your-child-had-feminism-or-cancer/

‘Gay rights have made us dumber, it’s time to get back in the closet’

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/06/17/gay-rights-have-made-us-dumber-its-time-to-get-back-in-the-closet/ 

Bannon has also promoted anti-Semitic conspiracies about globalist cabal of bankers.“We call ourselves ‘the Fight Club.’ You don’t come to us for warm and fuzzy,” said Bannon.

Banon has also expressed his concerns that the United States and the: “Judeo-Christian West” are in a war against an expansionist Islamic ideology. Speaking about Breitbart, Bannon has said:

“We’re the platform for the alt-right.” According to NPR, “The views of the alt-right are widely seen as anti-Semitic and white supremacist.”

Aside from his work as the executive chairman of Breitbart, Bannon has had a disturbing past. He is considered a supremacist who advocates for Alt-Right organisations from all over the world. Probably the most worrying thing is that Bannon has never hidden his global fascist vision and, according to his inner circles, he still praises those who led fascism in European countries such as Germany or Italy during the WWII.

Bannon’s ties with European fascism go further. During UK referendum on the European Union in 2016, Bannon used Breitbart’s propaganda machinery to advocate for Brexit while simultaneously praising Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP (an anti-immigration political party) at the moment. However, his contact with emergent European Alt-Right political leaders did not finish there. Since the Brexit decision, Bannon has increased his contacts with other leaders such as Marine Le Pen (France) and Geert Wilders (the Netherlands), according to several European sources whose name cannot be revealed for security issues. Bannon and Marine Le Pen have met several times to discuss the potential creation of an international coalition to change the world if Le Pen wins the French elections.

Given that Le Pen has a good chance to win the French elections, she has become a global threat. Bannon, who is no longer the executive chairman at Breitbart’s news, has ordered them to initiate a propaganda campaign to weaken her opponents. In addition, Marine Le Pen has confirmed that she will imitate Trump’s Presidential campaign strategy. It is clear that Bannon is not limiting himself to setting up an authoritarian system in the U.S.; his vision goes [much] further. Apparently, he will not stop until such a system is created, or until his ideas and policies are spread worldwide.

A year ago, it was unthinkable that someone with Trump’s characteristics could be elected the president of the U.S., but Bannon‘s hidden efforts helped him get elected in the end. Bannon knew that there were millions of Americans disenchanted with the existing system, and he knew how to exploit it. He also knew that Sanders did not have much chance to win, which made Trump’s election possible.

While much of the American and the international media will continue to undervalue Bannon’s real influence, he will continue working quietly behind scenes, like a termite, slowly but unceasingly planning to plan his next move to achieve his life’s goal; a world governed by authoritarians united to spread fear, and to target, and persecute those who act and think differently.

By Josep.

President Trump and the Freedom of the Press

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics…derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.”– Benjamin Franklin                     

Over the last two years, President Trump has maintained a brutal rhetoric full of hatred against the U.S. media. However, he had never crossed the red line until last Friday, when he decided to call the US media: “the real enemies of the American people.” This was rapidly perceived as an attempt to deepen the existing division and limit the freedom of the press in America. Despite the fact that President Trump had frequently attacked the media for years, it was the first time that he publicly used bellicose rhetoric to do so. The Republican Senator John McCain said in an interview:

“I hate the press. I hate you especially,” McCain told NBC journalist Chuck Todd, who laughed.”The fact is, we need you.” Without a free media, “I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time,”

“I’m very serious now, if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” he continued. “Without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

“When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press,” he said.”And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”John McCain was not the only senator to respond Trump’s statement.

On Saturday, Bernie Sanders said:

“According to Trump, if you want the truth, ignore everything except what he is saying. That’s what totalitarianism is all about.”

Aside from Bernie Sanders and John McCain, many other senators and millions of citizens have expressed their worries about what could be the first step to suppress the freedom of the press and the beginning of a drift towards authoritarianism in the U.S.The protection of the freedom of the press is one of the unique provisions in the Bill of Rights because it protects the freedom of an institution as well as that of individuals.Thomas Jefferson recognised that principle when he wrote to John Jay in 1786. Jefferson said:

“Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

About one year later, Jefferson made his most famous pronouncement on the subject of freedom of the press when he wrote these words to Edward Carrington:

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Over the course of history, many nations and political organisations have utilised Trump’s strategy to criminalise the media in order to deploy a press and propaganda censorship to manipulate the public. It allows authoritarian leaders to falsify information that citizens receive. In the absence of neutral and objective information, people are unable to dissent with the political party in charge. It is also extended to the systematic suppression of views that are contrary to those of the government in power.

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.”– Adolf Hitler

Freedom of the press is essential to guarantee a healthy democracy, even if we sometimes disagree with some of the media’s news stories. Instead, the crushing of unique ideas is always bad and usually generates a high level of intolerance in a country. Diversity and open-mindedness are effective tools to avoid totalitarianism and develop critical thinking in a society. People should also learn from past mistakes, and remember that it is so easy to create a new authoritarian government, and once it is created, it becomes almost impossible to reverse it again.

For now, no one can argue that President Trump is a dictator because there is still some counterbalance, but no one should deny the fact that he is taking steps in such a direction. Unless someone stops him from limiting the freedom of the press, he may soon use it to deploy an authoritarian system to gain power and increase his manipulative capacity to mislead citizens.

Numerous republican and democratic senators have shown their willingness to take further actions to protect the freedom of the press if needed. However, Trump already counts on the support of his loyal entourage led by Bannon and millions of citizens who blindly believe him. A good example of the blindness of Trump’s supporters happened a few days ago, when during one of his meetings, Trump fabricated a story in order to mislead the public. He suggested that there had been a terrorist attack in Sweden. Despite the fact that it was quickly refuted by the Swedish government, most of Trump’s supporters believed it and still think it was real. 

Over the last few months, Trump’s supporters have been radicalised. If it is not halted, they will soon be willing to defend President Trump (including using armed force) regardless of any circumstance. This could prevent senators to take further action (including impeachment) against the President if he ever decides to limit the freedom of the press, since they would fear harsh reaction and conflict. Due to these circumstances, Americans will now have the responsibility for leading the opposition to Trump’s actions of bigotry.

Obsolete political parties such as the Democratic party will be resigned to a second position without any influential power to change the existing situation. It is important to remember that at the end of the day, and despite performances, the Democratic Party tends to betray their own words, as well as the millions of citizens who thought they could change the system for the better by voting for them. So the question now is: what will happen? Will American citizens allow President Trump to deploy an authoritarian system, which could potentially abolish people’s rights? Will they allow the Democratic Party to be led by Clinton or her entourage to do so instead? Or will they take other sorts of actions this time to really protect their rights and pursue more freedom? Whatever the decision will be, the most important thing is that citizens will have the last word, whether they know it or not. Every day that Trump is in office and allowed to manipulate American citizens, is another day that the authoritarian regime moves closer.