What the Victory of the Spanish Trumpist, Ayuso (PP), in the Madrid Elections Means for Catalonia

The victory of the right-wing/far-right in the Madrid elections on Tuesday will push the Spanish government led by PSOE to show their true neoliberal and imperialist nature against the Catalan pro-independence movement in an attempt to win the next Spanish election in 2023, or a snap election before then. There are two immediate consequences for the pro-independence movement:

– Pardons for the Catalan Political Prisoners

The Spanish Supreme Court is expected to deliver its non-binding report on pardons to the Spanish government in the next few weeks. The government will have to make a final decision. Whether the Sánchez administration will be able to withstand the pressure from the Madrid right-wing and far-right still remains to be seen, but everything indicates that they will disregard it and keep the political prisoners in jail, a blow to part of the pro-independence movement, who supported his administration expecting some results in the resolution of the Catalan conflict. Sánchez would only be willing to grant the pardons if he could continue getting votes during the legislature and secure the support of pro-independence forces and other minor parties in the 2023 elections, which is unlikely.

Table for Dialogue

The so-called “Table for Dialogue” between the Catalan and Spanish governments to solve the Catalan issue has never existed. The results of the elections in Madrid are just a confirmation that it will never exist, at least not in the foreseeable future, since the Sánchez administration is expected to embrace right-wing policies in an attempt to win the 2023 election. This, however, is likely to open many people’s eyes in Catalonia, since many still believe an agreed solution is possible.

PM Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) and the conservative Pablo Casado (PP) have never really sought a solution for the Catalan conflict, and the position of Unidas Podemos, the only influential party in Spain supporting dialogue, has been weakened to the point that its leader, Pablo Iglesias, quit politics after the poor results of the left-wing in the Madrid elections.

Iglesias, former second deputy prime minister of the Spanish government, was one of the leaders more aware of the conflict. He positioned himself in favor of dialogue, visited the political prisoners, and kept sporadic communications with exiled former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

With the masks off after the Madrid elections, Catalans can see that they have wasted much of the last three years in pursuit of something that was really just an intentional fantasy of a few: an agreed solution to the current conflict.

ERC-Junts Summits at Lledoners Prison Don’t Serve to End the Deadlock Over the Formation of a New Government in Catalonia

On Tuesday and Saturday, ERC and Junts held summits at Lledoners prison in an attempt to end the deadlock over the formation of a new pro-independence government in Catalonia. The negotiations were led by the leaders of ERC and Junts, Oriol Junqueras and Jordi Sànchez respectively. Other negotiators, including Pere Aragonès (ERC), Josep Maria Jové (ERC), Elsa Artadi (Junts), and Josep Rius (Junts) also participated.

The summits, which lasted several hours each, saw progress in the structure of the future government and a commitment by both parties to avoid snap elections, though it didn’t serve to close any deal. The talks also saw strong disagreements on the coordination in Spain’s Congress and the strategic plan for independence, especially the role of the Council for the Republic, and the collegiate leadership of the pro-independence movement, which will have the task of creating a new roadmap for the implementation of the Catalan Republic.

ERC proposed the creation of three new ministries: Climate Action, Feminism and Universities and Research, and with a curator for the management of Next Generation funds. Both parties, who are seeking an equal distribution of ministries, issued a joint statement after the first meeting, in which they committed to continue working “to create a pro-independence government that responds to the electoral mandate of 52%.” However, ERC gave an ultimatum during the second meeting and opened the door to forming a minority government if a deal is not sealed soon. They have until May 26th to prevent snap elections.

The Catalan Council for the Republic Makes the New Digital Identity System Available for the Next Government of Catalonia

The new digital identity system launched by the Council for the Republic last week aims to be a tool for the next Catalan government to disconnect from the Spanish state. This is considered a state structure out of the reach of Spain where the new Catalan state should start to be built. Over 15,000 people have already joined the initiative.

The new ID has an identifying QR code that allows people to “join and access the services of companies from all over the Catalan Countries.” NGO’s, companies, unions and associations are currently negotiating their integration in the system that also aims to create “social cohesion, collective awareness and sovereign spaces that empower citizens.”

The success of the new identification system will be determined by the number of people and organizations that join and operate this new structure, which could replace the Spanish National ID in the future if there is ever a new attempt to create the Catalan republic.

The new ID will cost six euros for the digital format with a QR code and twelve for the physical card, which is made of bamboo, a biodegradable material.

Council for the Republic

The Catalan Council for the Republic is an institution that aims to “promote political, social, cultural and economic activities aimed at the establishment of an independent state in Catalonia in the form of a republic.” It currently has around 96,000 members and is growing every day. The only requirement to join the Council is to be at least 16 years old, to prove your identity, and to make a contribution of a minimum of 10 euros.

Scandal: Over 50,000 Missing Vaccines Were Given to the Spanish Army

The Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, has admitted that over 50,000 missing vaccine doses from Pfizer and AstraZeneca were given to the Army: 36,100 AstraZeneca jabs and 19,500 Pfizer jabs. She had declined to give explanations publicly as to the exact number of doses, their destination, or why these vaccines did not appear in the official records for weeks.

The vaccination protocols are clear and the military personnel who have received the vaccine do not match the target population requirements: the use of the different Covid-19 vaccines is set by age groups, and the order in the vaccination schedule is based on priority groups.

The first to receive vaccines in the Spanish state were elderly people living in nursing homes along with medical and care home personnel. Only 3,340 military personnel matched those requirements out of over 50,000 doses given to them, so the Ministry of Defense and the Spanish government broke their own protocols at a time when the vaccination in nursing homes and those over 80 had not been completed yet.

It should be remembered that the Pfizer vaccine is specified as being exclusively for administration to health workers, the elderly people in nursing homes, those over 70 age and people with a high degree of dependency.

This controversy over the vaccine distribution is the second Covid scandal to puncture the Spanish Army and the Health Ministry.

Spain’s former chief of defense, Miguel Ángel Villarroya, was vaccinated against Covid-19 before it was his turn. Villarroya resigned. Nevertheless, the Minister of Defense, Robles appointed him as a member of the Royal and Military Order of Saint Hermenegild, of the Air Force, and assigned him to Washington.

The Council of Europe Denounces the “Retaliation and Intimidation” by Spain against Jordi Cuixart, a Catalan pro-Independence Human Rights Defender

The Council of Europe denounces the continued suffering of the Catalan political prisoner and President of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart. This was stated in a report written by the General Rapporteur of Human Rights Defenders of the Council of Europe, Alexandra Louis, after Jordi Cuixart’s situation was analyzed by the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Body, where his treatment was equated with that of other human rights defenders imprisoned in countries of dubious democratic quality such as Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The report states that “the trial against Cuixart was political in nature, and he should not have been tried by the Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction to try elected officials and not activists of civil society like him.” The rapporteur also pointed out that Cuixart is the president of “an association that promotes civil and cultural rights in Catalonia that was founded in 1961 under the Franco dictatorship.”

Louis also affirms that she will “continue to pay close attention to the work of the institutions of the Council of Europe.”

“I will also oversee the work of other international organizations on this issue and alert the committee and the Assembly to new cases of violations of the rights of human rights defenders and all new initiatives aimed at protecting them,” she stated.

Reprisals and intimidation

The rapporteur says that examples such as Cuixart’s show that “human rights defenders are still suffering reprisals and intimidation, and that their situation has not improved, but has even worsened in certain European member states,” comparing it with the situation in Turkey.

Arbitrary Judiciary

In 2018, the GRECO group (Group of State against Corruption of the Council of Europe) stated that Spain has a problem of judicial independence, and the human rights advisers of this body have also questioned the proportionality of the Judgment in Democracy.

International call for Cuixart’s release

Prestigious institutions and entities have called for the release of Jordi Cuixart. The list includes: Amnesty International, the World Organization Against Torture, Front Line Defenders, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the Association of European Democratic Lawyers, the International Commission of Jurists, and the International PEN, among others. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also questioned the allegations against Cuixart and his imprisonment, while calling for his release and for the Spanish government to open an investigation into his imprisonment. Still within the framework of the United Nations, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and three Special Rapporteurs, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on Minorities.

In addition, there have been many political, social, and cultural figures from around the world who have expressed support for Jordi Cuixart and called for his release. The manifesto made public at the beginning of the year stands out around fifty internationally known figures ask for amnesty for all those against whom the Spanish state retaliated. It was signed by Dilma Rousseff, Gerry Adams, Yoko Ono, Ai Wei Wei and five Nobel laureates: Shirin Ebadi, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Jody Williams, Mairead Corrigan, and Elfriede Jelinek.

PSOE Allies with Vox, PP and C’s to Refuse an Amnesty Debate and Against Repealing the Crime of Sedition and the Gag Law

On Tuesday, Spain’s Congress Bureau, with a majority of PSOE, PP and Vox, dismissed bringing to debate an amnesty bill law filed by Catalan pro-independence parties last week, which seeks the removal of any kind of criminal and administrative responsibility for all acts of political intent related to the democratic struggle for self-determination of Catalonia since January 1, 2013, which would grant a pardon to over 3,000 victims of reprisals. The motion will not even be debated in the lower house.

The lawyers of Congress, politicized and with a conservative majority, already asked that the Bill not be admitted for processing on Monday, arguing that the proposal was partially unconstitutional because it did not propose an amnesty but a general pardon.

The dismissal of the bill did not come as a surprise to the pro-independence camp. The Spanish government led by PSOE has refused to keep dialogue with Catalonia on multiple occasions during the current legislature.

“PSOE don’t miss an opportunity to align themselves with PP and Vox by blocking this amnesty law,” Catalan government spokesperson Mertixell Borràs lamented on Tuesday.

The president of Unidas Podemos parliamentary group, Jaume Asens, told Catalunya Ràdio that it was “serious” that the Bureau wanted to “stand as a kind of censor which carries out prior control and usurps the functions of the Constitutional Court.”

The Spanish government says it is considering other alternatives, which have been rejected or deliberately postponed, such as granting presidential pardons to the nine politicians and high-profile activists political prisoners or a reform of the crime of sedition for which they were convicted. However, these proposals would only benefit the top leaders of the pro-independence movement, leaving over 3,000 lower-profile cases unresolved.

The civil society organization Òmnium Cultural has prepared a signature drive for April 10 in an attempt to send the bill back to the lower house.

Repeal of crime of sedition and gag law

On Tuesday, the Spanish Congress also rejected a bill proposed by the Catalan pro-independence party CUP to repeal the crime of sedition and the gag law. PSOE who had “defended” a reform of the crime of sedition and promised to repeal the gag law during the last presidential campaign, allied with conservatives and far-right PP, Vox and C’s to overturn CUP’s proposal and show how false their promises to its electorate had been.

Pro-independence parties reproached PSOE for the old promise to repeal the gag law and the fact that two and a half years after coming to power it has not been repealed yet, but “applied more than the former right-wing government of PP.”

Pro-independence activists also described it as “shameful” that the PSOE has not pursued the reform of the crime of sedition promised by the Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo.

Unidas Podemos showed support for the initiative, along with ERC, Junts and the BNG. The proposal of the anti-capitalists overlaps with the proposal of the PNV that was processed last fall calling only for a reform of the gag law, which was approved by PP in 2015.

Catalan Pro-Independence Parties Register an Amnesty Bill in the Spanish Congress

On Tuesday, the Catalan pro-independence parties ERC, Junts, CUP and PDECat registered a draft bill for an amnesty law in the Spanish Congress. This seeks the extinction of any kind of criminal and administrative responsibility for all acts of political intent related to the democratic struggle for self-determination of Catalonia since January 1, 2013, which would grant a pardon to over 3,000 victims of reprisals.

The proposal, which has to be debated in Congress, has no chance of passing. PP and Vox have already announced their refusal and the senior cabinet minister and PSOE organizational secretary José Luis Ábalos also confirmed that his party will oppose the amnesty law, thus closing the doors to a possible approval.

The position of Unidas Podemos, which is in a coalition government with PSOE, is still unknown. The group’s president in Congress, Jaume Asens, said that they will not vote against it. However, he has not clarified yet whether they will abstain or vote in favor, and has stated that it will depend on the wording of the text.

The Spanish government was considering other alternatives, which have been rejected or deliberated postponed, such as granting presidential pardons to the nine politicians and high-profile activists political prisoners or a reform of the crime of sedition for which they were convicted. However, these proposals would only benefit the top leaders of the pro-independence movement, leaving over 3,000 lower-profile cases unresolved.

The Vice-President of the Catalan civil society organization Òmnium Cultural, Marcel Mauri, said that the approval of the amnesty law by the Congress will “depend on the political will to resolve the Catalan conflict. It would be an “important step” that should make it possible to “turn the page,” he added.

Montse Bassa (ERC) warned that rejecting this amnesty law is “maintaining injustice and revenge” and “wanting to negotiate [while holding] hostages”.

Míriam Nogueras (Junts) stated that the Spanish government has not yet put any alternative on the table.

Mireia Vehí (CUP) recalled that, with the presentation of this bill, PSOE has the ball in its court.

The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) did not attend the event because approval of the amnesty law in Congress is not possible.

Spanish Government Dialogue and Reconciliation? Immunity of Catalan MEPs Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí Stripped and Seven of the Nine Political Prisoners Sent Back to Prison

On Tuesday, the European Parliament approved the removal of the immunity of Catalan MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí after a plenary session vote. The Spanish political parties PSOE, PP and Vox had requested this. The secret ballot was held on Monday, but the results were released on Tuesday morning.

The vote was not unanimous and some 80 MEPs from the Socialists, PP and Liberal groups broke the voting discipline imposed by PSOE and PP. That means that 42% of the MEPs didn’t vote in favour of the immunity waiver, which is an unprecedentedly high figure in such cases.

– In the case of Puigdemont, 400 MEPs voted in favour of removing his immunity, 248 against and 45 representatives abstained.
– In the case of Toni Comí, 404 MEPs voted in favor of removing his immunity, 247 against and 42 representatives abstained.
– In the case of Clara Ponsatí, 404 MEPs voted in favor of removing her immunity, 247 against and 42 representatives abstained.

Spain seeks the extradition of the Catalan leaders for their role in the 2017 independence referendum – this is the third time the Supreme Court has attempted to have them handed over. Belgium, Germany, and Scotland rejected extradition requests before and Spain withdrew the EU arrest warrant on another occasion before it was denied.

Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí will keep their status as MEPs. They would lose their status only after extradition and conviction in a Spanish court. The extradition would have to be approved by a local court.

Belgian justice already denied the extradition request for exiled Catalan leader Lluís Puig, who didn’t have immunity, on the grounds that the Spanish Supreme Court was not competent to request his extradition.

Removal of the Open Prison Privileges for the Seven Male Political Prisoners

On Tuesday, a few hours after the European Parliament decided to remove the immunity of the exiled Catalan leaders and MEPs, a penitentiary court decided to remove the day-leave permits of the seven male pro-independence political prisoners, who will now have to stay in prison full-time.

They had been enjoying the “low security” prison category status since late January, allowing them to leave jail during the day, sleep in their cells at night, and go home on weekends, after over three years behind bars.

The other two female political prisoners persecuted for their role in the 2017 referendum, Carme Forcadell and Dolors Bassa, are still pending a final decision of another Catalan penitentiary court.

Punishment

The pro-independence movement has interpreted these moves as a punishment for getting historic results in the last Catalan elections, surpassing 50% of the popular vote for the first time, with 52%.

Spain’s Public Prosecutor Punishes the Pro-Independence Movement for Its Historic Results in the Last Elections

Earlier this week, the Spanish public prosecutor took to the Supreme Court a lower court’s decision to provisionally keep an open prison regime for the nine jailed Catalan leaders Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa, Jordi Cuixart, Oriol Junqueras, Josep Rull, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull, Jordi Sànchez and Joaquim Forn.

The nine political prisoners obtained the “low” prison category status in late January, allowing them to leave jail during the day, sleep in their cells at night, and go home on weekends, after over three years behind bars.

It’s the second time the Catalan leaders have seen their prison privileges taken before the Supreme Court. Their low category status was already revoked two months ago.

In this new appeal, the prosecutor is confident that the Supreme Court will overturn the penitentiary court judge’s decision and order the re-imprisonment of the political prisoners. The prosecutor considers the arguments presented by the judge of the penitentiary court in favor of the maintenance of their privileges to be “erroneous” and claims that they should not apply while serving a sentence for sedition. The Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority, has always accepted the prosecutor’s demands. There are no signs it will be any different this time either.

Punishment

The pro-independence movement has interpreted this move as a punishment for getting historic results in the last Catalan elections, surpassing 50% of the popular vote for the first time, with 52%.

It is also seen as interference in the ongoing negotiations between the pro-independence parties, ERC, Junts and CUP, for the formation of a new government in which CUP, an anti-capitalist party, could assume institutional responsibilities for the first time, something the Spanish establishment, the deep state and government are trying to prevent by any means.

Whether the Spanish government and the deep state will be able to prevent a pro-independence government in Catalonia is still to be seen, but in the meantime, with each act of interference, the pro-independence movement appears to be stronger.

A Few Reasons Why Young Protesters Have Been Demonstrating in Catalonia Over the Last Week

Freedom of Expression

The arbitrary imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasel for his song lyrics and tweets criticizing the monarchy and the police has motivated many youngsters to take to the streets. Where the international community and society see freedom of expression, the Spanish justice system sees “glorification of terrorism and slander.”

No Future Prospectsfor Young People

With 40% youth unemployment, the highest rate in the EU, young people see no future prospects. They don’t have access to the job market, and when they do the jobs are precarious, not letting them leave home and build a vital, independent life. This situation has been ongoing for a long time and the general sentiment is that the system has left them behind.

Cumulative Anger from Past Injustices

In the last few years, thousands of Catalans: rappers, activists, political leaders, etc., have been prosecuted, repressed, forced into exile or jailed, while reactionary forces and fascists have been able to spread hatred across society with absolute impunity.

Mistrust in Politics

The general perception of society is that their problems have never been solved through politics and that the current system is punishing them.

Police Brutality During the Protests

The way that the police dealt with the first few days of unrest was another motivation for protest. For example, one 19-year-old woman lost her eye to a police-fired foam bullet, and a group of peaceful protesters was kettled and were hit with batons.