Cries of shame on EU neutrality are unfounded
While I was in Spain last week the Flemish nationalist politician and deputy prime minister of Belgium, Jan Jambon, along with the former Belgian prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, condemned Spain for its handling of the crisis, including the imprisonment of regional politicians. The leader of the biggest party in the Belgian government N-VA leader, Bart De Wever went much further, saying that Spain’s ruling People’s Party – which was founded by a former Franco minister – was a prisoner of its own history.
“You know where the past of the People’s Party is, and ever more its present, and it is Franco, it is repression, it is jailing people because of their opinion, it is the use of violence against its citizens.”
Those using Spain’s tactics as a stick to beat the EU need their intelligence examined. They are the same people who warned us the EU was turning itself into a monolithic authoritarian super-state. I bet they still cannot see the stupidity of their assertion.
Meanwhile, in Madrid
Thousands of Catalan supporters congregated in the centre of Madrid to show their solidarity with the Catalonian cause. Their presence went unnoticed or ignored in the UK resolutely right-wing press, as did other rallies in other cities on behalf of Catalonia.
Senior leaders of the elected Catalan administration faced the Madrid courts, Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras among them. They were denied bail. Their lawyers complained bitterly their clients had been held without food or water or access to a telephone. The lower courts like our own have no jury.
The system is a handy old Franco leftover. A magistrate makes a judgement based on prosecutor evidence, in this case the Spanish Constitution forbidding regions becoming independent unless they can garner no less than 60% of the Spanish population behind them, an impossible task to organise let alone fund.
No one expected the Spanish Inquisition
When that clause first appeared after Franco’s death there was angry debates. It was first mooted a much higher percentage. (Scotland’s first vote on devolution had an anti-democratic 40% hurdle.) Either way, it means when a region wants greater autonomy the dice are loaded against change of any sort. Worse, those leading the movement, merely advocating passive resistance, can be accused of sedition and jailed without trial.
Judge Carmen Lamela made a statement that carries credulity to the limits and beyond. He said there was “a high risk of another crime being committed [UDI] and Catalan leaders destroying evidence,” and so he would show no mercy.
Don’t mention Gibraltar
Judges used to be appointed or approved by Franco. Today some remain part of that legacy given their place by the faux ‘Peoples’ Party headed by the Mariano Rajoy, his administration a minority government, the same ready to blockade Gibraltar if he sees May’s administration too weak to resist.
As soon as Gibraltar voted to remain in the EU, left high and dry by British betrayal, Spain began hatching plans for its subordination to Spanish rule. We’ve had any number of statements to that effect by Spanish officials. Best not to sup with Rajoy’s neo-fascists.
All the regional leaders of Catalonia were called to testify in Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional court. Nine made the journey. The others, including Catalonia’s Beatle haircut President Carles Puigdemont had taken up residence in Brussels in order to orchestrate resistance to Spanish aggression, until ready to hand themselves over to the Belgian authorities, which they duly did. It is debatable whether the Belgian authorities will hand them over to a Spanish Government for whom they have so little respect. Moreover, Puigdemont, always one step ahead of the leaden-footed Rajoy, chose Brussels as a destination for the simple reason there he can get the best legal advice.
They all face charges of sedition, rebellion, and misuse of public funds, exactly the ‘crimes’ – I remind readers – the SNP are occasionally accused of committing by the wacky baccy guardians of UK Corrupt Unlimited. Only one Catalonian official was granted bail, 50,000 Euros, the Business Minister Santi Villa, a staunch independence speaker who contrived to resign before UDI was announced.
In the Supreme Court
In Madrid’s Supreme Court the judges there were hearing from the lawyers of Catalonian government Speaker, Carme Forcadell and five regional MPs who controlled the Parliament’s agenda. They were summoned on the same offences as those in the lower court. However, still in their jobs this was a barely disguised attempt to have them leave their posts and return to a replacement behind their desk.
In their case they avoided an immediate jail sentence and had their case postponed till later this month. If you want to whip up sympathy for the crime of voting there’s nothing better than creating martyrs out of the accused. In that, Rajoy and his Franco admirers are slow learners.
In the Spanish press television celebrities and political pundits suggested boycotting Catalonian goods to teach Catalonian upstarts a lesson before they were reminded many components are made in other parts of Spain. For example, corks for bottles of Cava, a Catalan speciality, come from Malaga. A boycott would cripple that thriving industry.
Less a united country, more a group of regions
It’s easy to forget that Spain is made up of a large number of regions, (see graphic below) and life in each carries on not in a perpetual state of revolutionary fervour, but in the daily grind of keeping the lynx from the door.
In Malaga where I spent four days there is a general mood of resignation, the feeling Catalonia will become independent, but above all, Spain has changed irrevocably. And they don’t trust Rajoy’s administration one bit. Nor do they put up resistance to the certainty of a Free Catalonia. They don’t call for the Guardia Civil to be sent in to bludgeon heads. They continue to serve their best interest – the tourist. In the region of Andalucía alone this summer saw over twenty-five million overnight stays.
Photographs of fascist saluting groups that appear in British newspapers and websites are exactly that, remnants of Franco’s Spain who feel the old ways are the best ways. Franco’s aging and new adherents have few outlets other than Rajoy’s party. Like our own, they step into the light only because the extreme views of our elected representatives give them encouragement.
Catalonia deserves support
As for Catalonia, it has lots in common with Scotland. (Much to the chagrin of Unionists who insist it has nothing to teach us.) It is a wealthy corner of Spain milked expertly by the Spanish authorities. Catalans pay about ten billion Euros more in taxes than they get back in government spending, a long-term point of contention in Catalonia’s relationship with Spain’s national government. They do, however, have their own autonomous television broadcasting company, one Rajoy is trying to invade or close down.
In many regions of Spain as many as 80% lack trust in their government and about four-in-ten consider democracy under attack. Like English, Welsh and Scots, Spanish people are profoundly unhappy about the state of their democracy.
Democracy on a shoogly peg
Overall, 74% say they are dissatisfied with the way democracy is working in their nation. They want to jettison the remnant’s of Franco’s system. Three-quarters want a system where citizens, not elected officials, vote directly on major national issues to decide what becomes law and what is a good way to govern their region.
British politicians who present us with a supposed unified Spain scorning a ‘breakaway’ Catalonia are deliberately misleading us or wilfully ignorant of the reality. The claim of thousands of companies leaving Catalonia, a claim repeated by dishonest British politicians – as were alleged would leave Scotland if we regained autonomy – is total hogwash. Companies are in Catalonia because that’s where their profits lie.
In time, the population will object to a large part of their taxes going to pay the running of Catalonia direct from the Spanish Senate. We see the same resentment manifested by sections of society against paying for the upkeep of Northern Ireland, including corrupt brown envelopes handed to the DUP in return for propping up a crass and inept Tory government in Westminster.
No matter how many Guardia Civil are sent in to curb enthusiasm for greater democracy there is no stopping the masses now. For every person thrown in jail another thousand stand behind them. For every government official removed from their post another ten can take their place. Spanish placemen are faced daily with an ocean of sullen rebellion.
And then there is the left-wing movement of Podemos to deal with.