Saturday, 29 October 2005

The difference between democracy and imposition

If you are interested at all in Spanish/Catalan politics you will know about the new project of Estatut (the Catalan Charter of Autonomy) that regulates the devolved government of Catalonia.

The last Charter was approved by referendum in 1979 under extreme pressure from the military and the Spanish right. Thus, we find ourselves in a new century ill-equipped to compete in the global economy.

Over the last few months, the new government of Catalonia, made up of 3 left-ish parties, and the moderate nationalists of CiU (who were in power from 1980 until 2 years ago) have all agreed a new Charter. This broad coalition represents 90% of the electorate.

You would think that after such hardship (to get 4 out of 5 parties agree in such an important document) that the will of the elected representatives of Catalonia would be respected. Well, you would be wrong: remember we are talking Spanish politics here!

Why such a stooshie has been formed it is beyond me. After all, this new Charter brings or asks for nothing new, nothing not already available to the Basque Country or Navarre. Yet, we have had to suffer and put up with an incredible barrage of abuse, hate and calls for a boycott to Catalan products. It appears that Spain needs to suppress any sense of Catalan identity, however soft, to reaffirm itself. Dialog does not form part of the Spanish political vocabulary when it comes to Catalonia.

At the forefront of this crusade against Catalonia is, as ever, the Spanish right wing Partido Popular (Conservative Party) and its media allies. Most shocking of all, is that the radio network owned by the Catholic Church (and subsidised by Catholics from all over Spain via the income tax returns) is the leader player in this orgy of lies, hate and xenophobia. The Catalan Catholic Church seems powerless to act against the hardcore hierarchy based in Madrid. As a result, Catalans are voting with their feet and tax donations to the Catholic church are declining fast.

This is what I say to my Spanish friends: the Spanish parliament in Madrid better approve this Charter (a soft one) without any cutbacks before the pro-independence party (ERC) gains more seats in the Catalan Parliament and the Labour party (PSC-PSOE, an uneasy alliance of Spanish Socialists and Catalan federalists) disintegrates.

If you are interested in the Charter, you can find Spanish, Catalan and English language versions in the official site of the Catalan administration:

The PSC-PSOE (Labour) has set up this site, trying to explain to Spain what the fuss is about: (in Catalan and Spanish, including a superb FAQ and a priceless ‘What the fuss is about’ section)

Nonetheless, I am sceptical about any more attempts trying to ‘educate’ Spain about the different cultures and nations within its territory. Catalans have been trying for over 140 years and nothing has changed a bit –well, at least now people don’t get shot for speaking in Catalan and we even have a couple of newspapers and a broadcasting corporation…some progress being able to speak your language and not getting killed!

Sunday, 9 October 2005

Some things never change

Well, it has been over a year since my last posting and so much has happened: the right-wing government in Spain was kicked out at the elections in March 2004 (a few days after the train bombs in Madrid) after lying to the public and manipulating the public broadcaster corporation in a massive scale. They tried to blame ETA while they knew fully well it was not them.

There is now a labour government (centre-left) in Spain but some things never change. The right wing press continues to incite hate of all things Catalan and Basque; their behaviour would be classified as xenophobic, fascist and incitement to hatred in any other western democracy. The conservative party, now in opposition, still shows no remorse about their disgraceful behaviour in March 2004.
Catalanophobia in the Madrid-based press is rampant and shows no signs of diminishing. Some things never change.