Monday, 18 December 2006

A scary thought…

These days, I find myself thinking things that I never thought I would consider. I am starting to have my doubts about the Tripartite coalition government. Sometimes, when one’s strength weakens, I wonder if, perhaps, maybe, it was not that bad under CiU after all. Was it?

Let me set the record straight: I have never in my life voted for CiU. But nowadays I wonder: will I end up voting CiU in 3-4 years? That's a scary thought!!

I have always held the view that CiU would never lead the country anywhere. They may be good managers and talk a good game, but I don’t understand what is the outcome they are looking for. What do we want to achieve for Catalonia? Do they want to be part of Spain or not? And in what terms? Probably they are as confused as I am. But I have never voted them. I never got excited about CiU’s political message. I have been a loyal ERC voter (except a period when I was a communist… the shame!) for many years now.

ERC has taken a massive gamble with the Tripartit 2. A President with more power, perhaps less charisma but with more control of the media is now in charge. With Montilla, a proper Spaniard is in charge of the Generalitat. He is someone that wants Catalonia to be just like any other autonomous region in Spain. We know what his political project for Catalonia is: Spain. With Montilla we have certainty. At least with CiU I had some doubts.

Will ERC be able to influence government policy and decision-making with such a man in charge? So far it is not looking good but then again I don’t live in Catalonia so what do I know anymore?

Then I read that a security guard is still in prison for shooting at a car being driven by two thiefs that were trying to run him over. The man, who has all the required accreditations, is still in prison. I don’t understand why. As far as I can read in the press, this is no Tony Martin (the English farmer who shot two gipsies on the back as they were running away). Someone correct me if I am wrong but the thieves were in a car, trying to run him over, he fires away, one dies in hospital a few days later. The security guard has been accused of murder and is still in prison. I find this whole episode quite amazing to be honest.

But nothing surprises me in Catalonia anymore: we also have now a communist in charge of the police! What next?

I also read that the Government has passed a law in the Catalan Parliament that would allow the Generalitat to expropriate empty residential properties. Apparently this is in order to mitigate the acute shortage in housing and to increase the supply of properties available for rent. Even the most incompetent of economists knows that expropriation is the least effective policy mechanism to alter market characteristics. Has anyone in the Tripartit ever heard of the concept of Pigovian Tax?? Has anyone in the Government analysed if expropriation is the most cost-effective method? Would it not be easier to close tax loopholes and raise taxes for empty properties?

I am going over to Barcelona to visit family between the 20-26th December. I am looking forward to catch up with family and friends and eating out. But I am also wary that the country I left almost 8 years ago is changing beyond recognition. And I am not sure anymore it is for the better. I guess I will be able to have a wee look for myself shortly.

As I like to be an optimist, let’s finish on a positive note. It has been announced today that National Geographic will be published in Catalan. This is very good news indeed and will ensure that younger generations will have access to a high quality natural science publication in our precious and endangered language. Well done to the publishing house, RBA.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Never give all the Heart

Never give all the Heart
W.B. Yeats
Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.

O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

PS: Apologies to regular readers but I have been far to busy lately and right now I could not care less about politics.

Friday, 24 November 2006

too busy studying!

Right ladies and gentlemen.
I have not forgotten about the blog, it is just that I am studying like crazy for the CFA exam.
Much, much more difficult that I initially thought; I have taken this week off work to study. This week I have been at the library from 9am until 8.30pm. Exam is on December 2nd so normal services will resume after that weekend.

PS1: Montilla, an immigrant born in Andalusia, has today been invested President of Catalonia. Will Spain ever have a Catalan primer minister again? Even just a candidate?
PS2: And now that the anti-Catalan Ciudadanos speak Spanish in the Catalan Parliament, could the Spanish parlament stop the prohibition of addressing the chamber in any language other than Spanish? What language is being discriminated by the law?

Arrrgh, can't wait to get this bloody exam off the way!

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Dangerous games

The results are almost official and the counting is over:

*1999: PSC-PSOE and ICV had joint lists in Girona, Tarragona and Lleida, but not in Barcelona.
Turnout in brackets.

The above table shows the results of the last three Catalan elections. It shows that the electoral map does not change much.

Today, however, it is a very sad day for Catalonia. A party named Ciudadanos has been elected to Parliament, the Barcelona area returning 3 MPs. Despite being the first the party was participating in the electoral process, the media has given them plenty of space and coverage. This is most unusual in Spanish elections: normally the media does not cover parties without current elected representatives. In this case, the Spanish media has only been too happy to give them plenty of media coverage, unlike the dozen or so other parties with no representation.

Ciudadanos are a populist, pro-Spanish and viciously anti-Catalan party. Their policies will cause our language and culture to disappear within a generation. They are a vindictive party, with divisive policies and sectarian hatred for anything related to Catalonia. In the Barcelona area, where there are millions of first and second generation immigrants from the south of Spain that moved there under Franco, this party has achieved about 80,000 votes, enough to go over the 3% threshold and thus gain 3 elected representatives.

It remains to be seen what their impact is going to be in Catalan politics. Probably not much. However, the objective of the Spanish media has been achieved: there is now an openly and populist anti-Catalan party elected in Catalonia. This is painfully similar to what the Spanish nationalists did to the Valencia region in the 80s and 90s. They supported a movement called ‘blaverisme’. These are violent thugs that attacked (and continue to do so) bookshops, universities, community centres, etc. They too received plenty of financial and media support from the Spanish right and their divisive linguistic policies in Valencia have rendered the language almost extinct. Now, with Valencian language and culture in the doldrums, they are going for us. Ciudadanos are the equivalent of the Blavero movement and they share the same objective: to remove Catalan language and culture of the educational curriculum, to make our language an optional pastime, nothing more than a folkloric anecdote from the past.

Now that Ciudadanos has been elected to parliament, they will get a slice of the public funding that elected political parties receive, and more importantly, they will get more media coverage at the next election. As if they did not have enough already with all the help of the Spanish press.
Optimists will point out to history: Lerroux was also elected in Barcelona in the 1930s, and was quickly dispatched at the following elections. In the first Catalan elections after the end of Franco’s dictatorship, a party called Partido Socialista de Andalucia was also returned to parliament with two members for Barcelona (1979). They quickly merged into the PSC-PSOE.

That is wishful thinking in my view. The difference now is that there is a sizeable percentage of our population (around 4-6% in the Barcelona area near the city) that lives in the suburbs of Barcelona and Tarragona that does not feel any sense of belonging to Catalonia. They are Spanish, feel Spanish and don’t want to learn Catalan, even though they live in Catalonia. In a normal country, (Switzerland, Belgium) this would not be a problem. I don’t know of any countries where migratory movements are used as a basis to alter and influence linguistic policy and rights. What next: Arabic or Romanian will also become an official language in Catalonia just because a few thousand people resent and object to learn the local language of Catalonia (i.e: Catalan)?

These are very worrying times. With political representation, Ciudadanos will inflame social tensions and will wind up people to pursue political gains. IF anything this underscores our fragility as a stateless nation, and our coward and complacent attitude to our own national issue.

There are many hidden messages in the results. Turnout was almost 6 percentage points below 2003, and all parties have lost votes except the neo-communists or eco-socialists of ICV. This a find most surprising for this is a party that has behaved as a mere appendix to the PSC-PSOE. Yet they have been rewarded with the addition of three MPs to their previous nine.

It appears that there has been a flow of votes in the Barcelona area away from the PSC-PSOE and PP towards ICV and Ciudadanos. In the province of Barcelona (85 MPs) PSC-PSOE has lost 4 and PP 1. Of these, 2 seem to have gone to IC-V and 3 towards Ciudadanos. In Lleida, the PSC-PSOE loses 1 that goes to IC-V.

ERC has lost 2 MPs in Barcelona, and they seem to have gone to CiU. CiU has won in the 4 provinces and in 38 out of the 41 counties (comarques). The other 3 counties are Barcelona City, Baix Llobregat (south of the city) and Valles Occidental (north-west). In these areas, which are mostly populated by Spanish speaking first and second generation immigrants the PSC-PSOE has won, with the Ciudadanos party doing fairly well. In some towns and quarters in the city, it has achieved results ranging from 3-7% of the vote. In the upmarket quarter of Sarrià-St Gervasi or in the suburban Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Ciutadans trails behind ERC only by about 2%. Worrying stuff indeed and perhaps a sign of things to come.

What I find most disheartening are all the missing votes for ERC. This dispel the myth that some parties have ‘loyal’ voters. ERC has lost about 130,000 votes compared to 2003, about 2.38% share of the vote. The PP has lost about 55,000, about 1.25% share. All parties have lost votes apart from IC-V.

PSC-PSOE has haemorrhaged a full 200,000 votes in Barcelona province, and PP about 55,000; yet only about 78,000 of these missing votes have gone to Ciudadanos, and about 30,000 to ICV. Where are the other 147,000 votes?. Does this mean that there is hidden vote out there for Ciudadanos to win. Very scary indeed.

The tripartite (PSC-ERC-ICV) has lost 4 MPs. CiU has won 2 in Barcelona.
There are two majorities possible:
1) a repeat of the tripartite
2) CiU + ERC government.

ERC chiefs meet tomorrow to decide on alliances but I would be surprised if they chose to repeat a tripartite with the PSC-PSOE given the minor corrective and absenteeism of their electorate. ERC voters are supposed to be the most loyal and faithful yet they have abstain in great numbers. I think the grassroots do not want another tripartite coalition.
Interesting and worrying days and years ahead. It could be the trigger we need to wake up our dormant national pride or it could be the beginning of the end for Catalonia.

Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Chelsea are the scum of the Earth

What can I say? Chelsea and Mourinho are the scum of the Earth, a cancer that we football fans are suffering. I just hope and pray that man never wins the Champions League backed up by the Russian money launderer. Drogba was a disgrace today. What a shame they scored in the fucking last minute. The refereed was a liability: at least we now know that he will not be refereing the final. What a shite performance.

And this is not even about Chelsea FC: this is about a man who does not know the meaning of sportmanship: Mourinho. I have always believed that what goes around comes around and I am positive that Mourinho and the current Chelsea team will get theirs coming sooner or later.

We may not qualify now for the knock-out stages, but it doesn't matter. We can held our heads high while Mourinho and Chelsea continue to bring the game into disrepute.
Time will put everyone in their place.
We will see where Mourinho and Chelsea are in 5 years time.

Friday, 27 October 2006

Financial markets, “nationalism” and ignorance

Today, I was struck by two comic cartoons in Spanish newspaper El País. I don’t read often this newspaper (I use the term generously), even though it is the least bad of Spanish newspapers, as it is nothing more than the spin machine of the PSOE and the nationalistic Spanish Left. Nevertheless, every weekend I visit the website and check out the comic strips for the last week. Today, I found two cartoons that caught my attention. One is about the stock market and the other is about so-called 'nationalism'.

Let’s deal with the one about the stock market first. Below is the comic strip.

In Spanish, the byline reads: “Do not worry about stock markets fluctuations: they only reflect the state of mind of the wealthy” (‘Bolsa’ is Spanish for stock market).

The drawing not only reflects the ignorance of the cartoonist in financial matters but also his prejudiced bias against something he does not understand yet seems to dislike profoundly.

El Roto is a brilliant cartoonist; his drawings are sparse, direct and without unnecessary additions. Often, I find myself in agreement with his simple, yet powerful messages. In this case, he misses the point. An artist should always research the subject matter; in this drawing, El Roto appears unable to overcome his own prejudices and investigate how financial markets work and why and how everyone is impacted by what happens in them. I guess that when he is ready to collect his pension, he will wish he had paid more attention to the stock markets when he was younger.

As there is plenty of literature that explains in lay terms the characteristics of financial markets and how they impact in everyday life, I will just provide a few links for the uninitiated.

Investopedia, in English and with a massive dictionary and beginner tutorials.
As always the Wikipedia is a superb resource to get to the basics of things. The Economist is always a reliable source and their books are superb for beginners.
In Spanish, I quite like Bolsamania and Cárpatos daily column, whenever I have time to read it.
In Catalan, we have a few sites: Entorns, a financial information portal; and Les Finances, operating as a ticker news service with graphs. On economics, we have the site of Professor Ramon Tremosa. Most of his newspaper articles are in Catalan or Spanish, but some of his academic work is in English. I like this one about the extent of the fiscal deficit Catalonia is suffering at the hands of Spain. He sounds too much of a Keynesian for my liking and a bit leftie but, hey, nobody is perfect: I am a bit of a leftie too (every now and then), and I have just become a member of The Co-op and I bank with the only ethical bank in the UK, smile, the internet bank. And anyway, who says that ethics and sustainability are a leftie thing?

But I digress. What I wanted to say is that El Roto exhibits his ignorance and prejudice with that particular drawing. I wonder what the newspaper's owner (Mr Polanco) thought today when he read it.

Then, we have this strip by Máximo, also in El País newspaper today Friday 27th October 2006.

The by-line reads: “Nationalist of the world: universalize!”
Now, I would not disagree the above statement. I believe in fluid international trade and relations. However, the cartoonist in this drawing, when he refers to ‘nationalists’, he excludes Spanish nationalists (like him or his newspaper). For many Spaniards (either on the Left or the Right) it is only Basques or Catalans who are nationalists, and apparently therefore not universal. They do not consider themselves to be Spanish nationalists, and as they are not nationalists, they become, magically, universal and cosmopolitan. This is the fallacy that the Spanish Left, and the media empire behind El País and Cadena SER radio network, has tried to convey to generations of young Spaniards. Yet, careful observation and analysis of their arguments leaves the discerning observer in no doubt they are as nationalists as any Basque or Catalan ‘nationalist’.

Spanish nationalists believe and want a nation-state called Spain and that’s why the Spanish Left and Right unite in their common goal of suppressing any traces of Basque or Catalan culture and identity when voting together in the Madrid parliament or in Europe to recognise the Catalan language as an official language for use in Parliament. To them, Spain means Spanish language (mandatory by Constitutional Law for all), and Catalan is just an add-on, something optional and voluntary. They are pursuing the same objective for their nation (Spain) as we are doing for ours (Catalonia). The only difference is that they already have a State behind them. They control the public administration, the media, and capital flows through their investment allocation decisions. If Spain were like Canada or Belgium, there would not be many Catalans opting for independence. But, alas, as Spain digs deeper and deeper in its centralising and nationalistic hole, more and more people in the Basque Country and Catalonia, fed up with having tried to modernise Spain, to make it a normal European-style democracy, are willing to show their discontent and vote for political parties that do not adhere to this Spanish-centric vision of the Spanish State. And this is despite the threat of military intervention, the ongoing vitriolic anti-Catalan campaign, and the criminalisation of political parties. Perhaps, only the extremist Radio Marija in Poland is comparable to the lies, racist prejudices and hatred preached in the Spanish radio network COPE and the Madrid-based press like El Mundo, ABC, etc.

Elections in Catalonia are next week and polls suggests that not much is going to change from 2003. It remains to be seen what’s the performance of the Catalan parties CiU and ERC and the sitting-on-the-fence pseudo-communists of ICV. Also, there is growing anxiety of the results of the new party Ciutadans. This is the 21st century version of what Lerroux tried almost a century ago. They also have the support (financial and media-wise) of the Spanish Left and the Spanish Right. And like Lerroux, they want nothing more than dividing Catalans according to their mother tongue or place of birth. Fortunately, Lerroux was sent home “tae think again”, as a Scot would say, and I hope and pray that next week the despicable Ciutadans are also sent packing to Spain, where they belong, for their divisive policies and anti-Catalan agenda would bring nothing but misfortune to Catalonia.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Green Stained in Blood

The below is an article of Josep C. Vergés, you can read the original version published in the Racó Català following this link. (cat and eng). It is a bit strong for my liking but on the whole I agree with Sr Vergés that the communist falacy of ICV has to be exposed. I also fully support the idea of Green policies becoming mainstream and not a concept hijacked by unreconstructed marxists. My friends in Catalonia must be having a good chuckle right now reading this! Guys, do not worry too much: I am a shark -but still have a conscience.
"Don't go to the lagoons, because today there are hunters," I am warned on World Bird Day in the Ebro delta. The environment ministry of the Catalan government, controlled by the former communists of ICV, celebrates that we have the park with the greatest number of birds in Europe by killing them.

Greens have been the left wing appendages of socialists in Catalonia and all over Europe which uses proportional representation. When Angela Merkel failed to win a majority together with the Liberals last year in Germany, there was some desultory talk of bringing the Greens in, but the love-hate relationship of Greens and Liberals prevented any serious discussion. As liberal Oswald Metzger explains: “Both parties fish in the same pond and have similar basic principles. The Green voter base today is what once Liberals claimed for themselves: well educated, well off, well established and, of course, better paid. “

ICV in Catalonia, originally the communists and the bad guys in George Orwell's “Homage to Catalonia” during the Civil War, are still the bad guys today as far as I can see. In 1994 they added green to their traditional red flag to avoid extinction, which is what happens in democracies when voters can choose between freedom and despotism. The red-green Daltonic view of the world is really unadulterated Marxism as the ICV programme states: “We want a society built on democracy and socialism, sustained by true left values. The current economic system based on the profit logic and continued growth systematically destroys its own conditions for survival. We are the inheritors of the democratic and national trajectory of the communists and of a long tradition of the most select and noble values of Marxism, socialism, euro-communism and communism. Times have changed and the left must adapt in order to survive.” That is, the ICV excommunists cannot go on with State control, worker power and market controls for fear of the voters. Greens all over Europe have swallowed whole this bankrupt economic Marxism.

Once a year the entire Swiss government goes on walkabout to meet the people. This Summer I caught up with them at KZO College in Zurich Oberland. One graduating student, with a master project forming a real company –a trendy bag small-scale manufacturer- provided the gift carrier bags for each member of the Bundesrat, as they are known, in each party's colours- red for socialist president Moritz Leunberger, yellow for liberal Pascal Couchepin and green, no not for the Greens who are not in this collegiate body, but for firebrand Christoph Blocher, because his SVP was originally an agrarian party. In separate one hour meetings with student classes the latter gave a not very encouraging description of a politician. Asked whether he ever told the truth: “You are not yet of voting age so I have no problem telling the truth to you.”

Swiss politics is truly a fine art, but even finer is the evolution, the first I know of, of some Greens towards liberalism. Since 2004 there exists a new Green Liberal party: “We are green, but we serve caviar with our salad. We are the bridge between green politics and economic sense. Our heart is green but we are liberal in economics. Freedom lies at the centrepiece of a liberal point of view. If we take responsibility for ourselves this should be enough to be able to live together.” Green Liberals split from the Greens because of their Marxist policies. Green Liberal Parliamentarian Martin Bäumle: ”Green cannot be exclusively left of the socialist party.” The Swiss Green coordinating body calls the new party “irresponsible” and with Soviet efficiency has voted 100 to 1 not to have any contacts stating that the Greens stand clearly to the left and that the differences with the Green Liberals on economic and financial policies are too large. Green co-president Tiana Moser: “Our diverging objectives and paths are not compatible.” So it is heart warming to learn that in Switzerland some greens are willing to stand up and fight for freedom. Of course if they succeed there will be a diplomatic problem in the next Swiss government walkabout. What colour bag should they be given full of economic liberties? The Green Liberal breakthrough in Switzerland makes more sense than the regurgitated Marxist fare of the greens all over Europe and worse still in Catalonia with ICV celebrating World Bird Day rifle in hand with their green flag stained in blood.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Thin-skinned candidate leaves interview in a huff

My goodness, there seems to be no shortage of news stories in this heated election campaign!

The story of the last hours is the following.

Xavier Sala i Martin (english) is a Professor at Department of Economics at Columbia University. He is something of a celebrity in Catalonia and in Spain because:

- He dares to challenge the Left on their ‘social’ economic policy.
Just to put you in the picture, in Catalonia it is becoming something of a struggle not to be a communist or a pseudo-socialist, progressive, anti-globalisation, pseudo-leftie. The word liberal (which in the US the Right uses to refer to the Left or the Progresives in a derogatory manner) in Spain and in Catalonia is used as a quasi-insult to refer to those who believe market forces is often a better resource allocation mechanism than the State. This simple concept is anatema to many in Catalonia and Spain, where some people still fly the Communist flag as a symbol of freedom. For them, private capital is bad and public good is achieved through public allocation and management of resources.
Mr Sala is a liberal, or worse still, a neo-liberal! (A neo-liberal in Spain is like a neo-con; bad). His work on global wealth distribution and poverty indicators is often quoted in the FT, The Economist, etc.

- He was interim President of the FC Barcelona at last elections. He has a few good pictures of himself with the club touring the USA on his website.

- He wears extremely colourful jackets. Check his site if you want to see the ultra-bright jackets for yourself.

Now we know a wee bit about colour-mad Mr Xavier Sala i Martin.

La Vanguardia is a Barcelona-based, Spanish-language newspaper. It is a middle-of the road, quite centrist newspaper, as opposed to the left-leaning, PSOE-controlled El Periódico and El País. La Vanguardia is against independence but moderately in favour of improving the political settlement between Spain and Catalonia towards a more devolved framework. La Vanguardia has a good business and literary section but its sports coverage is rather poor. La Vanguardia was the only Catalan newspaper that was not banned under Franco. Its owners have always had the ability to get on well with whoever was in power: Franco, or PSOE or CiU or more recently the tripartite coalition in Catalonia. La Vanguardia is pragmatism and moderation.

Now we know a little bit about La Vanguardia.

Well, La Vanguardia commissioned Mr Sala to conduct interviews with the 5 main candidates at the next Catalan elections.
Mr Sala interviewed the socialist candidate (José Montilla, PSC-PSOE).
It turns out that Sr Montilla lost his temper during the interview and left in a huff accusing Mr Sala of being “sectarian”. The newspaper published the interview except the last exchanges, in which Mr Montilla insults Mr Sala. The word in the street is that this was due to lobbying by the PSC-PSOE apparatchik. Being a true liberal, Mr Sala duly uploaded the interview onto his own website at the University and also a transcript in Catalan and Spanish. Sadly, Mr Sala has not found the time to translate it into English for the benefit of his University colleagues. Perhaps he wants to avoid the ignominy of having to explain to them that Mr Montilla will probably become President of Catalonia on November 2nd.

An mp3 file of the interview can be found here (mp3 file, 9MB). The interview was conducted in Catalan.
An audio transcript of the interview in Catalan can be found here. And the translation in Spanish, here.

All in all, it is quite amazing stuff. What surprised me when listening to it is how quickly Mr Montilla loses his temper; how he struggles to keep composure under intense questioning (for Spanish standards anyway, nothing of the kind of interviewing you find on the BBC). I fear to think what could happen to our thin-skinned candidate if he ever appears in the BBC News 24 Hardtalk programme or in Radio 4The Moral Maze’. No way José!

Mr Sala also questioned Artur Mas, the candidate of the CiU party. This is the party (two parties in fact) that ruled Catalonia for 23 years. It is a pity we cannot hear the audio of the interview. But in print at least, Mr Mas appears to have more resilience to answer uncomfortable questions than Mr Montilla. Now, Mr Sala has been accused in the past of being close to CiU, and probably he is, if not by conviction at least by default: he would find difficult to support any of the three left-ish parties or the Spanish nationalists of the PP).

The campaign is being quite nasty for Catalan standards. There is a lot of vile and aggression. Whoever is the most voted candidate, it will probably fall short of an absolute majority. A coalition government after all what is being said will not be easy, although we all know by now that politicians have a short memory span…

Sunday, 15 October 2006

I want a state for Catalonia: because we deserve better

A month in Catalan politics is a long time.

A local meeting of the PP in Martorell (a town 25Km from Barcelona) is met with a protest outside the venue. Tempers flare and some punches are exchanged.
The PSC-PSOE expels a youth militant that was part of the protest outside, even though there seems to be no actual evidence to the extent of his involvement.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not) the PP fails to expel a local councillor and member of the party (and not of the youth wing precisely) that was caught on camera throwing a right hook. Despite the glaring evidence, the party fails to take any action and even give this violent man (his name is Xavier Garcia Albiol) its support. Then it transpires that this same man had been involved in another (cat) violent incident in his local town of Badalona, just north of Barcelona.

The message is clear: a PP sympathiser is allowed to use violence and nothing happens; meanwhile other folk standing in the street shouting are branded terrorist just because they happen to exercise their right to freedom of expression against the PP.

Not surprisingly, this was topped up by our sectarian press as “radical pro-independence hooligans”. Yet, there were many PSC-PSOE supporters participating in the protest.

Thus, both parties achieve their objectives: PSOE-PP, and their pro-unionist media, working in tandem to tarnish the image of the pro-independence movement and to portray the Spanish nationalists of PP as victims of 'Catalan' intolerance. However, the TV images don’t lie: Mr Albiol is a violent thug yet his party is happy to condone his antics. Again. And the only individual member of a party that has been caught in the fracas is a former member of the PSC-PSOE.

Then, we have the moderate nationalist, regionalists or whatever they want to call themselves now, of CiU. In case you are new to Catalan politics, this is the coalition (they are two separate political parties) who ruled Catalonia for 23 years. After 3 years in opposition, they have changed many internal structures, and brought in new people and, apparently, new methods.

Their campaign manager is David Madí (cat). He is a typical rich kid of Barcelona’s bourgeoisie. It appears he has lived in the US. He has had the idea of launching a DVD, “ConfidentialCAT”, to launch the electoral campaign of CiU. I have not had the pleasure to watch the video -my audio driver is gone and I can’t find another one!

Some folk are saying it is a Goebbelian manipulation. Some others say it is just the plain truth of 3 years of incompetent government. It is a 55 minutes “documentary” split into different chapters, each chronicling an episode of the last tripartite coalition government until the end. Even a TV news broadcaster has threatened (cat) to sue for improper use of his image.

Then I read that the PSC-PSOE candidate has the temerity to say that “Companys would be happy with the Estatut”. Lluís Companys (eng) was the president of Catalonia (by ERC) that proclaimed the ‘República Catalana’ What an insult to the memory of the great president Companys, who was later captured by the Nazis in France, and handed over to Franco. Companys was duly executed, 66 years ago today. And now this man, José Montilla, wants us to believe that the great Companys would be proud of the miserable Estatut we have achieved. Some people know no shame, and in the case of the Spanish labour party (the PSOE) this is more true than ever.

Again, I am of the opinion that there is only one party that will defend our interests, both as individuals and as citizens of a stateless nation: Esquerra.
Comic strip from El (a newpaper supportive of the PSOE...)

Sunday, 10 September 2006

I want a state for Catalonia – Vull un estat propi per a Catalunya

And this is exactly why. Read the link from the Barcelona Reporter. Another example of how intolerance and fascism is ingrained in the mainstream of Spanish society and politics.

Pepe Rubianes is an actor. He was born in Galicia, northwest Spain, north of Portugal. He moved to Barcelona and now is an adopted Catalan. A few months ago, during an interview in the Catalan TV station TV3, he made some ‘tongue in cheek’ remarks about the Spanish far right, saying, translated loosely, that “they can go to hell and fuck off”, “they can stick their sacrosanct unity of Spain up their arses”.
This, let’s remember, referred to the Spanish Fascists, Hitler’s Allies, that executed Federico Garcia Lorca, the great Spanish poet. As it is clear from the video clip, and the subsequent declarations of Rubianes, he was referring at all times to the fascists that kill Lorca. His latest play, ‘Lorca eran todos’ is about the great Spanish poet, killed by Franco’s troops in a field in Granada. His remains have never been found.

A big storm generated in the Madrid-based media. The radio network COPE, owned by the Spanish Catholic Church, and other media in the right started a campaign of hate mail and public pressure to stop his play about Lorca from performing in a Madrid’s theatre. Hate mail, dead threats and calls for a boycott in a campaign with the support of the right-wing press (COPE, El Mundo, ABC, La Razón and other smaller, regional newspapers) and the Partido Popular, the Spanish right-wing party founded by Manual Fraga, a Franco’s minister in the 70s.

Last week, finally Rubianes cracked under the immense pressure and announced that he was pulling out the show. At the same time, the regional president of the Madrid region, owners of the theatre the play was to be performed, said that he was also banning the play to be performed in the theatre.

Let’s be clear about this. Rubianes is not a supporter of Catalan independence. He has been critical of the whole independence movement before. . If anything, he is an uncompromising figure, a bit aloof, a harmless leftie. Rubianes is nothing more that a leftish actor. Yet, he has been banned from performing his play. Nevertheless, he has been criminalised by the Madrid-based right-wing press as a Catalan separatist and insulting Spain. Anti-catalan sentiment in Spain is rife and widespread, as this shameful case illustrates this again.

Now, like 70 years ago, the Spanish right bans artists because of their political ideas.
Now, like 70 years ago, the Spanish right threatens Catalonia with commercial boycotts, the deployment of the army, and the suppression of our institutions of self-government, banning artists, attacking our culture and identity.
Now, like 70 years ago, they are in a crusade to obliterate our nation from the map.

This is precisely why we need to wake up and break away from Spain. Spain is rife with anti-Catalan feeling. They hate us. They want us removed from the history books.

That’s why I want an independent state for Catalonia.

Sunday, 3 September 2006

I also want a state for Catalonia – Jo també vull un estat propi per a Catalunya

Today, thousands of Catalan bloggers across the world will unite under a common message: “Jo també vull un estat propi”, I also want a state for Catalonia.

For almost two centuries, Catalonia has tried to establish a fair settlement with Spain. There have been numerous parties that believed that Spain could accommodate us. They tried to negotiate, to dialog, to compromise, to pact. They all have failed.

Spain will never accept our culture, language and sense of identity. We, if we want to survive as a nation, have to pursue the independence option: we need to have our own state and be a free nation in the European Union.

The campaign was started by Xavier Mir and there have been numerous adhesions of support. Tonight sees the start of the campaign.
We are just a week away of commemorating our National Day. 11 of September 1714 is the day when the city of Barcelona fell to the Spanish troops supporting the Borbons. They proceeded to suppress our national institutions of self-government and implementing their policy of cultural genocide and extermination of the Catalan nation. If you want to read more about Catalan history, I recommend you read Free Catalonia, select language (English, Spanish or Catalan) and go to the ‘Our history as a nation’ section.


Catalan language and blogs

By the way, it is worth mentioning that according to this organisation, there are about 123,000 bloggers publishing in Catalan in the internet. That puts our language second in the blogosphere, behind English.

Some voices have questioned whether these numbers are accurate and if the algorithm used by this organisation is correct. Jokingly, some have gone as far as suggesting that the algorithm counts as Catalan all blogs published by our Spanish neighbours full of hatred and racism against us.

I have had a look at the methodology used and I have to say that the 3-word (trigram) algorithm used looks a bit dubious. Looking at the TextCat meta-file used, there seems to be many inaccuracies in the Catalan language text used to identify a published text as being written in Catalan.

I will keep an eye on this matter and advise of any developments.

In any case, blogging is a very popular activity and the internet is the only place where we can be a free nation, without being constantly attacked by Spain. Perhaps that’s why so many Catalans have taken to blogging in great numbers.

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Effective Catalonia

The below is an article by Josep Vergés, it was published in the Catalan web portal, Racó Català. I agree wholeheartedly with his views. Sadly, independent voices like him are silenced in the Spanish-controlled, pro-unionist Catalan media.

Effective Catalonia
Enterprise is risk, but without entrepreneurs a country does not advance. Catalonia progresses, not through politicians profiting from the money of others, but from thousands of businessmen risking their own money. Some businesses go very well and others not because it is the law of life to grow and decline. This dynamism, not natural resources which we not possess nor our own State which we also do not have, gives us our wealth and strength.

In Madrid the word risk does not exist, because behind everything they always have the State: behind Iberia the gift of Terminal IV in Madrid or behind Endesa, the former PP electricity monopoly, which prefers to be in German than Catalan hands, as though Berlin were closer and more easily influenced than Barcelona. The Madrid entrepreneur lives off politics and bureaucracy. The Barcelona-Madrid shuttle has tried unsuccessfully to integrate Catalans in the Madrid economics because Catalans are viewed as suspiciously in Madrid as Jews were in Berlin when this was the capital of fascism. Catalan politicians -some to enrich themselves and if not ask Duran Lleida or José Montilla why both are multimillionaires if they have never worked- have copied the Madrid model. We have public companies like TV3, and staying in the same branch, private like Avui enormous loss makers, but certainly 100% servile. But Catalonia grows not through political pork barrel, but through entrepreneurs taking risks.

Josep Jane Sola is a typical Catalan entrepreneur who founded his own dynamic bank, finally victim of a stock exchange crisis. He is also a well known economist, for many years president of the Catalan Economics Society, part of the Institute of Catalan Studies, where I was secretary until 2005 when Jose Montilla imposed Mr. X of GAL State terrorism, Narcis Serra, as president of socialist Caixa Catalunya which sponsors our Catalan Economics Prize. “Effective Economics” (Milenio, 2006) is the massive homage in two volumes, 1,466 pages and 116 contributors, which we economists dedicate to him. Dr. Jane shows me the front cover of himself as a young mountaineer and says that mountains teach about living: “The measured effort, the calculated risk, to reach the summit and, above all, to know how to get back.” In his dedication he writes: “The best secretary-collaborator I have ever had and what constant support and farseeing and unbreakable loyalty.” The Festschrift is promoted by Fabia Estape, of Port Bou by the way as his stormy mind shows, Juan Velarde Fuertes, Josep Vilarasau of la Caixa, and Jesus Timoteo, editor of the book with his son Oscar Jane. Populariser of economics and of the popular participation in the economy, he follows the observation by John Maynard Keynes: “What changes the world are not interest rates but ideas.” The effective economy is what makes the world go round.

His model of an effective man is the inventor of the peseta Laurea Figuerola, born in the county of Anoia, in Calaf, and he in Igualada. He imposed the Catalan peseta eliminating the chaos of 97 Spanish coins. On the centenary of his death, February 28th 2003, we presented his book in homage. Apart from the peseta, he reformed foreign trade, freed education from the Church and even gave back Citadel Park from the military to Barcelona, something which present day politicians have still failed to do with Montjuic Castle, the other symbol of Franco-Spanish repression of Catalan freedoms. There is nothing that last longer than the provisional. A provisional, and liberal, government installed the provisional, and liberalising, peseta which lasted for 133 years. What is never provisional is proper work. What will remain of 23 years of Jordi Pujol, incapable of getting anything permanent for Catalonia? History will look more kindly on Josep Tarradellas, who found the way to force Madrid to break with the fascist past by restoring the Catalan government. He was a provisional president, in exile and after his return, but what remains is the return to legality, like what remains is the initiative of liberal entrepreneurs who reach the peak for an effective Catalonia.Josep C. Vergés27.8.06


Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Spain's institutional hatred against all things Catalan

The link above is from the Catalan newspaper Avui. I am sorry I don’t have a full translation in English but you can always try a Catalan-English e-translation in Translendium or a Catalan-Spanish e-translation in Softcatalà.

The article explains how the Speaker of the Spanish Parliament and its Registry department systematically refuse to accept any letter or documents written in Catalan or Basque. However, they are happy to accept and translate official documents in other languages like French or English.

Amazingly, the European parliament accepts correspondence written in Catalan. Yet, this is not possible in the so-called “plural” state of Spain.

Once again, irrefutable proof of the institutional hatred the Catalan nation has to suffer at the hands of Spain. How can anyone harbour any hopes of living in a multinational, multilingual Spain (like a Switzerland of the Mediterranean) when Spain's higher institutions of government, regardless of who is in power, have a systematic policy of persecution and obliteration of our language and culture?

Spain will never change. They want to exterminate any traces of national identity left in Catalonia as they have almost done in the rest of the Catalan-speaking areas, likeValencia or the Balearics. They are following the lead of France, whose successive governments have almost succeeded in eliminating the Catalan language in the counties north of the border.
We are next in Spain's policy of cultural genocide.

Will we ever have the guts to stand up and say ‘enough is enough’?

Post published in the Racó Català:

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

The Bottom Line

Nowadays, with the Middle East conflict in full swing again, one is overwhelmed by the scale of the horror unfolding in the region.

In the past, I had a lot of sympathy for the Palestinian people. Not any more I am afraid.

There is a fundamental difference between the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims and the Israelis/Jews: the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) does not deliberately target civilians. Hamas and Hezbollah, on the other hand, do target Israeli civilians.

Muslim terrorists (whether Hamas, Hezbollah or Al-Qaida), train children to be suicide bombers, would-be martyrs of their cause. They even have set-up "Martyr schools" for that purpose.
The Israelis/Jews do not send suicide bombers to blow themselves up in a packed restaurant.

The Islamic terrorists are hell bent on destroying the Western world and anyone who is not a Muslim.
The Jews just want to be left alone in peace. They are the only true democracy in the region, and the only nation in the Middle East where women (whether Jew or Muslim) have equal rights.

More importantly, from a self-defence perspective if nothing else, the Jews will never send suicide bombers to the West to kill as many innocent civilians as possible.
The Islamist fanatics send commandos trained to cause as many civilian casualties as possible: New York, Madrid, London, Bali, Egypt, Mumbai, the list is endless.

That’s the bottom line: a group of people will not hesitate to kill me, to kill you, if given the chance. That’s why I could not care less anymore.

Sunday, 25 June 2006

Down but not out

Well, there is no doubt about it. The votes have been counted and the ‘Yes’ camp has won. Convincingly. It doesn’t matter that half of the electorate did not bother to turn up and vote. If anything, it shows that only 50% of voters care about the nation/country/region/ they happen to live in.

We can argue endlessly about how the media is controlled by the Spanish Socialists; that the ‘No’ camp has not been given a chance to put their point across; we can argue about the betrayal of CiU and how they sold us to Spain; we can argue about PM Zapatero and how he and his party have lied to us and failed to keep their word… and so on. I could go on forever but it does not matter anymore. The watered-down Estatut has been approved, President Maragall (that egotistical, unreformed drunk) is not up for re-election and that the PSC (Catalan socialists) have been finally taken over, formally, by the PSOE (Spanish socialists). Their candidate at the next Catalan elections will be José Montilla, a Spanish socialist, former mayor of Cornellà, a non-descript suburb south of Barcelona. Many years ago, when I was still living in Catalonia, Cornellà de Llobregat had a thriving town centre, full of shops and life. Now, out-of-town shopping malls are everywhere, the city centre is a wasteland of empty streets and local businesses have all but disappeared. Cornellà could be like any UK High town: multinationals have driven local firms out of business, the High St a ghost of what it was. Sadly, perhaps this is what the Spanish socialists (PSC-PSOE) have now in mind for the rest of the country: squeeze small businesses out of the market, make sure people enjoy the same shopping experience as someone in Madrid or Sevilla, and remove any symbols of a separate local identity, be it in business and commerce, cultural, media or linguistically.

This is a sad state of affairs and no amount of political analysis will help to explain why we have voted for a new Estatut that consolidates our submission, politically, economically and culturally, to Spain.

Spain, slowly but surely, its getting is way after 300 years of oppression. The homeland is divided: País Valencia now a suburb of Madrid, its environment destroyed by overdeveloping, Spain is successfully making sure the local language disappears from even the rural areas, any sign of our shared heritage removed from the history books; then we have the Balearics, Mallorca being a little Britain or Germany colony, again the language being phased out of schools and public life; in Catalunya Nord (Rosselló, the northern counties ruled by France) the language has already all but disappeared, slain by centuries of French Jacobinism. Catalan heritage being now nothing more than a tourist attraction, a curiosity from history.

Is this the future that awaits Catalonia? I am afraid that is what our Spanish masters have in store for us. They will reduce us to a Gaudi-Picasso-Miró-Dalí theme park, a place where, in he past, annoying people insisted in being different, before finally realising their ways and giving up on such a futile battle. We will become, finally, after 300 years, just another province of Spain, just like Andalucia or La Rioja.

It would be too easy to blame Spain for our ills. They have been trying for centuries and they are only doing what is best for them. The problem lies clearly at our door. After centuries of institutionalised Spanish oppression, our ruling classes have become ever more coward and submissive. The migratory waves of the Franco years, and now the immigration from South America, Africa and Europe are taking its toll on the survival of the language and culture, the very thing that glues us together, that keeps the sense of nationhood and identity alive. Being a province of Spain, financially robbed, we do not have the resources to invest in ensuring the survival of our culture. And even when we can, like the recent local TV licensing rights, we choose to reward the powerful Spanish-speaking media groups.

Some people still think that Spain will one day change its ways and become like Canada, where the state looks after both Quebecois/French and English languages. They are deluding themselves, thinking that the enemy that has worked so hard for centuries to ensure that we cease to exist as people, suddenly will see the benefits of multi-lingual education and abandon its pursuit of a Spanish-only speaking Spain, erasing any sense of Basque or Catalan nationhood.

It is a difficult battle; our opponent is powerful and ruthless. They have had the upper hand for the best part of three centuries. We are now weakened, powerless, divided and poor after centuries of robbery.

There will be elections soon, I just hope that the only party that stands for us, the only party that defends our interests has a better polling and becomes crucial, again, to form government. The battle will be formidable: the big media groups will criminalise them, portray them as people unfit for office. The media onslaught will be formidable. But after centuries of persecution, oppression, civil wars, dictatorship, and cultural cleansing, we are still alive and kicking. We are down, badly, but we shall keep on fighting.

Sunday, 9 April 2006

Catalonia: the stateless nation of the Mediterranean

I have just come back from a week’s holiday in Poland. What a beautiful country and how friendly its people are! During my holidays I have learnt more about the tragic history of Poland, and I have come to the conclusion that we (Catalonia) share with the Poles one unlucky fact: our neighbours have tried for centuries (and still continue to do so in our case) to wipe us off from the map and the history books.

This surely must the reason why Spaniards refer to Catalans as “polacos” (Polish) in their football stadiums and other public demonstrations? Yes, my dear readers. In case you are not aware, let me inform you about this particular facet of Spanish life.

If you attend a football game in many stadiums in Spain or watch on TV, you may identify the following chant:
“Es polaco el que no bote, eh, eh, eh!” (Jump if you are not a Pole). People jump vivaciously during this chant to prove that they are not ‘polacos’ which, bizarrely, is meant as if it were an insult.

Why they call us ‘polacos’ I never understood. Our language has no Slavic roots, neither there has never been any traceable migration movement between our two nations. (Excluding the fact that many [Sephardite] Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula during the period known as the Reconquista moved to Central Europe areas, including nowadays Poland and were victims of the Nazi Holocaust).

This week however, while visiting Poland and learning about its history, I understood why: Like Poland, our neighbours have tried to annihilate our culture, language and identity. For what Poland had to endure from Prussia/Germany and Russia during centuries, we have had to suffer from Spain and France. And, in my view, that’s why they call us ‘polacos’.

Let’s hope that when push comes to shove we get the same help from the international community as Poland did after WWII and one day we can be a free nation in Europe.

Saturday, 25 March 2006

Estatut, Spain and the ceasefire

Well, surely nobody can complain about Spanish politics being boring?

Against the backdrop of a Catalan Estatut (an updated framework for a devolved Catalan administration) being chopped, curtailed and cut back to ridiculously embarrassing levels, ETA has announced a ceasefire. This has happened the very next day that the scaled-back Catalan Estatut was approved by the Spanish Parliament specially set up committee, prior to being sent to Parliament for a vote and then to be voted in a referendum in Catalonia.

Sadly, I have not had time to write about this humiliating "bending down" of “our” politicians of the PSC-PSOE, CiU and the neo-communists of IC-EV. Only one party has stood firm in defending the draft text approved by the four political parties representing 90% of the electorate. I wish that one day, ERC will become again the majority political party in Catalonia. It will take time, but it is inevitable.

In summary, what happened can be explained thus:

- The four main political parties in Catalonia, representing about 90% of the electorate (as ever, the right-wingers of the PP excluded themselves from this process) approved a draft text on 30 September 2005.

- Whatever the Spanish press says, this draft text is nothing more than an update of the 1979 Estatut (or Chapter of Autonomy). Needless to say, the Basques and the Navarrese have many more devolved powers, including fiscal policy. The draft approved by the Catalan Parliament on 30th September 2005 was nothing more than an overdue update of a text that has always fallen short of our aspirations.

- Because Spain is a pseudo-democracy, unable and unwilling to respect the will of its constituents nations and peoples, this text has to be approved by the Spanish Parliament in Madrid. With all the Spanish press against it, what should have been a mere administrative process (i.e: the Spanish parliament approves what has been approved by the Catalan representatives), turns out to be a trimming exercise. Right or left, the Spanish press has always provided a united front against any advancement, social or economical, of Catalonia. This created the context for the vengeful and antidemocratic amendment of the text approved in Barcelona.

- As ever, the Spaniards get more than a little hand from our worst enemies: ourselves and the cowards and traitors we elect. Once again, the so-called ‘moderate nationalists’ of CiU manoeuvred a secret pact in the back-room instead of presenting a united front with the other 2 parties. And I say 2, because the PSC-PSOE, the local branch of the Spanish Labour party, had already capitulated as soon as they were told off by their Spanish masters. Shame on them both. In Catalonia, over the last couple of centuries we have had our fair share of traitors and collaborationists; we even have our own word for this despicable scum: “botifler”. History is never kind to traitors. When history books are rewritten in a free Catalonia, we will refer to the scum that sold out to Spain as traitors, cowardly scumbags.

- To cut a long story short, the text that will be voted in a referendum is a joke. This is the kind of text that should have been approved in 1979, not in 2006. Yet, this shameful episode has shown up again how weak some of our compatriots are, and also how powerful is our enemy. They have everything going for them: they have the vast resources of the State, the media, the international alliances, the police, the military and the whole civil service. And if that was not enough, they also enjoy the help of some of our coward representatives.

With all this happening, ETA declares a “permanent ceasefire”. Once again, like in the late 1970s, the Basques play their own game and they don’t give two monkeys about us. Good luck to them, they deserve it. At least their politicians are not cowards who would sell their mothers for a handful of spare cash.

What will happen next is anyone’s guess but one thing is certain: a prospective peace process will highlight the deficiencies of Spain’s democracy. Once again, the FT editorialist is spot on, if a bit conservative and prudent, as one would expect from such organ:
- It calls for the PP to stop acting like a neo-fascist party.
- It denounces the terrorist activities of the Spanish state in the 1980s and even now with the treatment of ETA prisoners contravening the Declaration of Human Rights.
- It points out to the fact that, unlike the UK, Spain is not prepare yet to concede ground on the issues of self-determination and territoriality.

And this last third point is in my view the biggest obstacle to a peaceful solution: until Spain does not amend its 1978 Constitution to bring it to the 21 Century there will be no solution to this conflict.

An international campaign should start to force the Spanish governement to drop Article 8 of the Constitution, which grants the Armed Forces the right to attach the people of the Basque Country and Catalonia.

I attach below the FT editorial from the 24th March 2006. Will Spain listen? I don’t hold my breadth….

Links: (the draft text approved on 30th September 2005, in Spanish, Catalan, Aranese, French and English, plus other documents in Catalan/Spanish) (a pathetic web site set up by the local branch of the Spanish labour party, PSC-PSOE, trying to explain to Spain the Estatut. Funnily enough, the draft text approved on 30th September 2005 cannot be found now...) (the only political party that defends our interests, both as a nation and with socially responsible policies)

FT editorial – 24th March 2006.

Beginning of the end

Today's permanent ceasefire declared by ETA, the Basque separatist group, is a real chance to take the gun out of Basque and Spanish politics once and for all. Delicate but hard-nosed management will be needed if it is to become the foundation stone of peace.
Radical Basque nationalism emerged as a response to Franco's vengeful dictatorship, which tried to obliterate Basque language and culture. The political challenge now is to understand why a violent independence movement has survived for 30 years under a democracy that has seen the unique Basque identity re-emerge triumphant - and thereby avoid the mistakes that have kept Eta in business.
Both big Spanish parties, the governing Socialists and opposition Popular party, have behaved irresponsibly in the past. During Felipe Gonzalez's premiership, the Socialists licensed death squads against the Eta milieu. Under José María Aznar's government, the right saw electoral profit in deliberately polarising Basque politics in order to boost votes elsewhere in Spain. Such tactics gave a morally bankrupt terrorist rump a new lease of life and a fig-leaf of legitimacy.
Against this background, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain's prime minister, courageously offered Eta talks if they laid down their arms. He judged the moment well. After 9/11, and the Madrid and London bombings, tolerance for terror as a tactic evaporated. The IRA gave up the armed struggle last summer and Eta was reeling from infiltration that has cost it 400 arrests.
Mr Zapatero has a mandate from parliament to pursue talks. But his anything but loyal opposition - still unreconciled to losing the 2004 elections - is conjuring up the spectre of Spain's disintegration, especially as this government is open to more home rule for both Catalans and Basques.
While Spain's asymmetric federalism does raise legitimate concerns, these are mostly to do with equity between rich and poor regions. The Popular party is playing a dangerous game of reviving the inflammatory political idiom of Francoism, of "the two Spains" and the civil war. If it cannot be bipartisan on a matter of state it should at least be responsible.
Difficult decisions lie ahead. If the ceasefire becomes a formal end to hostilities there will, for example, eventually have to be a phased release of Eta prisoners in Spain and France. That will enrage the opposition and families of Eta victims. Mr Zapatero cannot constitutionally offer a democratic route to Basque secession, moreover, in the way that Tony Blair could hold out to Irish republicans the eventual prospect of an Ireland united by democratic consent.
The most plausible way forward is through expanded powers of self-government that would probably satisfy most Basques. Those who will only be satisfied by independence must have the right to pursue it - but only by peaceful and democratic means.


Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Another publication reveals the truth about latent fascism of the Spanish Conservative party

Another publication, has published an editorial attacking the “revisionism” of the Spanish Partido Popular.

It is good to see that more and more people are finally becoming aware of the fascist threat represented by the Spanish Conservative party. Another respected publication telling it just like it is: the Spanish Conservatives are engaged in a campaign of hate against the people of Catalonia.

Our time will come and we will need all the help we can gather from our European neighbours and our friends around the world.

Links: (Catalan, English, French and Spanish).

The Franco’s language
The leader of the Spanish Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, affirmed yesterday with solemnity in Barcelona that "it is doing with the Castilian what at the time of Franco it was done with the Catalan". The affirmation done by Rajoy has been responded of forceful way by the totality of the Catalan political class: from Catalan prime minister, Josep Bargalló, who affirmed that "it was radically false" until the leader of the opposition, Artur Mas, that described as "disgusting" the attitude of the conservative. All it, a strategy that only goes directed to urge on the hatred of the Spanish State against Catalonia.In Catalonia, the two coofficial languages are the Castilian - being the only official language in all the Estate- and the Catalan of being the own language of the country, along with the aranese variant of the Occitan in the Valley of Aran.

In spite of being an imposed foreign language militarily, legally and politically, the Castilian in Catalonia never has been persecuted, on the contrary: the State has dictated more of a hundred of laws at democratic time where it eliminated and it vetoed the Catalan language in many legal scopes and public. Not for too many days, our readers will remember, we informed the arrest of a man by the Spanish police for the simple fact to speak their Catalan language (something too habitual in the Spanish police bodies). But it is not necessary know a lot of history to see like, indeed, the only language that still is persecuted in Europe continues being the Catalan, is only necessary to verify some aspects of the daily life in Barcelona: 99% of consumption products are labeled only and exclusively in the language of Franco; the immense majority of the press that is published and received in Catalonia is in the language of Franco; almost all the films project in the language of Franco; the justice administration practically only works in the language of Franco; the majority of the media are done in the language of Franco; in the Spanish Parliament just can be spoken the Franco’s language; the administrations of the State respond that "they do not understand" if does not go in the language of Franco and hundreds of legal normative dispositions could be enumerated that leave in clear disadvantage the Catalan language favoring the language of Franc.

To say that the Castilian in Catalonia is like the Catalan at the time of Franco is a revisionist attitude like which somebody try to do before the Nazi holocaust denying the barbarism of Hitler. These declarations leave to Mr. Rajoy in a stumbling block very difficult to leave to international level if it is not with a formal excuse. Europe would have to reprobate attitudes and declarations of these types and not only in these scopes. To force to rectify to Rajoy is not to put itself in favour of the Catalans, but on side to the truth.

Monday, 13 February 2006

Madrid Against Spain

This is an article extracted from the Raco Català, a Catalan news and participation portal.
Madrid Against Spain

Madrid has risen up in arms against the Spain of the Autonomies. How matters have changed, not in 25 years but in a century! When Angel Guimera won the elections to the Ateneu Barcelones in 1895, he spoke Catalan in public for the first time, provoking a scandal among the anti-Catalan members of the Ateneu. Anti-Catalanism, so much alive in Madrid and Valencia, has practically disappeared from Catalonia. Only a handful of reconverted Marxists, the most poisonous Jimenez Losantos who foams his daily racism from Cope radio in Madrid. Francesc de Carreras has the freedom of the Anti-Catalan press in Barcelona, but he keeps failing in his repeated attempts to create a pro Madrid party in Catalonia. Joan Maragall, secretary of the winning list, warned: "I will not read any Madrid paper nor any paper inspired in its outlook by Madrid. It is not necessary to read them, so insubstantial and ridiculous are they in their stereotypes the Madrid and pro Madrid press. The day Catalonia frees itself from the Madrid press (and the local press done in the same style) our intellectual independence will be complete and the rest does not matter because we shall be part of Europe."

Now that we are part of Europe, the civilised world looks with growing alarm at Madrid anti-Catalanism with its threats of a new coup d'Etat and the wild racism which is destroying in a few months all the good credit gained since the death of Franco. The PP has fallen to 4% in the Barcelona poll, the only Catalan region where they hold representation and will be eliminated by the 5% barrier. The fall into disrepute of the PP extends to the world at large which sees a neofascist party with a liberalism as fake as the one promoted by the Goebbels of the regime, Fraga Iribarne, founder of the PP. It is not just Jose Maria Aznar's moustache which looks like the Great Dictator, but the racism promoted by the PP, with yellow paint on Catalan stores in Madrid, boycott of Catalan products and support for a coup d'Etat. Lawyer Joan de Gispert says: "Once a week I travel to Valencia where I explain that Catalonia has suffered dozens of dead through huge Eta bombs without ever boycotting the Basques." Whereas the PP chiefs of Madrid and Valencia boycott us not because of terrorism but for the crime of freedom of speech. Freixenet has sold this Christmas 800,000 cava bottles less in the "National Zone", more than compensated by growth in Catalonia and the world. Shameful! Like the PP mayor of Salamanca Julian Lanzarote qualifying the papers stolen at gunpoint and being returned to Catalonia as "a plunder by blood and fire." Plunder of whom? Blood and fire to whom? A townsman from Salamanca murmured: "They are taking them abroad, I cry in shame."

The grandfather of Catalan president Pasqual Maragall couldn't be more outspoken: "The Flamenco Madrid insolence are backward steps of a decrepit race. Spanish thought is dead. Spain has no significance nor efficiency in the general movement of ideas in the civilised world. Madrid has realised that Catalonia has awoken with an European, living, spontaneous and young intellectual movement. Long Live Spain means that Spain should live, that its peoples arise and move forward, speak out and act for themselves, govern themselves and the country. Spain is not a holdall patriotism covering up all sorts of weakness and greed. They are the separatists. How can Spain move forward? Not dragging along through provincial byways with strongmen frozen like until now by the ties of uniformity which is against its nature, nor through the emptiness of aged parties nor in the corrupt air of a closed centralism. Instead it must progress open to the four winds of the seas surrounding Spain, in the freedom of its peoples. What will you do? Raise the army against us, against Spain?" Catalonia is recovering its place in the world, and the Salamanca papers, against the Spain of the PP.

Josep C. Vergés, 12.2.06

Links: (Original article in Catalan and English)

Saturday, 4 February 2006

Freedom of expression: solidarity with Denmark

I am fed up with this story about the cartoons of Mohamed

First it is the cowardice of the British government to stand up for the right to freedom of expression and its pandering to the fanatics who gathered near the Danish embassy in London.

We also have the usual set of apologetics and the odious PC brigade, criticising those papers who published the cartoons. Shame on the BBC for not having the balls to show the cartoons, but give plenty of airtime to the criminals in London calling for jihad against Europe.

We now have seen what the Muslim reaction is: torching the Danish embassy in Damascus and ramsacking EU offices in Palestine. Well, I will never give any aid to any Palestinian or pro-arab organisation or charity in my life.

If we surrender on this issue, what will be next? Equality of men and women? Women’s right to have a job or to vote? Perhaps supermarkets will stop selling pork or alcohol in supermarkets as it offends Muslims?

There is one way to finish this stupid row: all European newspapers should stand up for our right to freedom of expression. They (newspaper editors) should get together and agree to publish the cartoons on the same day.

This would send a powerful message to the fanatics: we are not going to surrender our right to freedom of expression and would express solidarity with our Denmark and Norwegian neighbours.

Links to the cartoons: (in English) (in French) (in German)

Monday, 23 January 2006

Spain and this shambles of Franco's democracy

Just when you think you have seen it all, that this so-called democracy could not sink any lower, we have had to witness a call to arms by a top Army officer and a slap in the face of the Spanish nationalists (the right-wing Partido Popular) by The Economist and The Financial Times. Needles to say, the editorials of these two respected publications have been widely ignored by the Madrid-based Spanish media. It would be too humiliating for the narrow-minded Spanish media to report on them.

If you are not aware of the latest outbursts of our Spanish oppressors, just keep on reading.

On January 6th, the man in charge of 50,000 soldiers, made a speech in Seville warning that the Army may have to intervene in Catalonia. Sounds familiar? It does to us! The Spanish army has attacked Catalonia at least twice every century so I guess they don’t want to wait any longer…

This comes at the time that a new Charter of Autonomy for Catalonia is being discussed in the Spanish parliament in Madrid. This new Charter has been approved by 90% of the regional Catalan parliament in Barcelona. Only the Spanish nationalists of Partido Popular (yes they only have about 10% of the vote in Catalonia, despite their control of mass media) voted against it.

Primer Minister Zapatero, of the Spanish Labour party, promised during his campaign that his government would approve “the Charter approved the the Catalan Parliament in its integrity”. The fact that the Charter approved in Barcelona has been watered down in Madrid says it all about the integrity of the Spanish Labour party (PSOE). Again, this proves that no matter if they are from the left or the right, Spaniards are on a mission to suppress Catalonia’s wishes for more self-government, persecute its language and culture and squeeze the fiscal robbery for as long as the EU allows them. Oppression with a ‘Labour party’ smile, but oppression nevertheless. We will keep subsidizing Spain to the tune of 10% of our GDP. Robbery in a major scale, again.

Anyway, I digress. The rebellious General, and all the Spanish nationalists (whether left or right) are always quick to quote Article 8 of the 1978 Constitution.
This article reads “The Army has the duty to defend the sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Spain”.

This, my dear readers, is nothing else but a article institutionalising a ‘coup d’etat’ whenever the Army feels like it, granting the Army autonomy to decide when the “territorial integrity” of Spain is in danger. Forget any notion of the Army being ruled by an elected government or Parliament. This shameful article allows the Army to take matters into their own hands and suppress any attempts of self-determination by the Basque or Catalan nations through their elected representatives. That a so-called democracy has this veiled threat against its own citizens should not be allowed in the EU. Sadly, this is the state of affairs in Spain.

The anti-democratic general was arrested for 8 days (well short of the maximum penalty of 30 days) and dismissed from his post. Since then, other Army officers have come out in support of their colleague. Yet the labour party and its governement stay silent, overwhelmed by the indiscipline of the Army. But is anyone surprised? We are not. Defence Minister is Mr Jose Bono, whose father was a local fascist, a member of Franco’s Falange. There is a blurring line between left and right when it comes to democracy: as long as they hail from Spain, they can only be themselves if the attack Catalonia.

This is another example of how Spain is sleepwalking into another Balcans-like scenario. A Conservative Party (Partido Popular) spreading hate against the Catalans, with the invaluable help of the Church-controlled radio network (COPE, shame on the Vatican for allowing this most un-Christian radio station to broadcast such vile), the TV networks under their control, and the right-wing Spanish nationalist media. A recipe for disaster.

Franco could not defeat the Catalans or the Basques. Now modern Spain has other tools at its disposal (new technologies, the overwhelming power of the State) but we will keep on fighting for our rights. The going is getting very tough and we have to cope with attitudes, remarks and threats that woud be illegal in a true democracy (think of Canada or Belgium). But we will keep on fighting for our time will come. One day our time will come.

I attach below the two editorials by the FT and The Economist supporting our case for an update of Article 8, thus preventing the Army from threatening civil society.

Editorial of the Financial Times, 10th January 2006:

Hostage to Catalonia - But a rattled sabre fails to rattle a democratic Spain.

Most future historians will note with satisfaction that when Spain, three decades after the death of Franco and the supplanting of his dictatorship by democracy, was told by the commander of the Spanish army that the military might intervene if Catalonia was to get more self-governing powers, Spain was mildly shaken but far from stirred. General Jose Mena Aguado will go down in history as an anachronism.
The days of the military pronunciamiento are over. Spain is a confident and prosperous democracy inside the European Union, a cultural and economic powerhouse and an international citizen of standing. Its federal political system - despite tensions with the Basques and Catalans - must be accounted a success.
Yet in a speech last Friday Gen Mena referred to the Catalan regional government's plans to expand its powers as a repetition of pre-civil war history (he referred to the May 1932 debates on the Catalan autonomy statute). This is reactionary blackmail. Unhappily, the general is not entirely wrong when he claims Article 8 of the constitution empowers the army with defending the "territorial integrity" of Spain. Spain's democratic charter, passed in December 1978, contains flaws, recognised by many at the time. Article 8 was used by Francoist officers to justify their failed putsch of February 1981.
That era is over. But perhaps Spain's government(s) and people could usefully remind themselves of this. The government in Madrid, currently under Socialist management, is right to arrest Gen Mena. It intends to fire him, with the full support of the army chief of staff, and should make clear the same fate awaits any of his emulators.
The Catalan government - also currently led by Socialists - should tread with caution. It is within its rights to demand, for instance, tax-raising powers the Basques already have. Its demand that Catalonia be considered a "nation" reflects a cultural desire supported democratically by its people. This is not, per se, separatism; Article 2 of the constitution already recognises "nationalities" within Spain. Nor should its demand for greater judicial autonomy cause alarm so long as the supremacy of Spain's higher courts remains paramount.
But the Catalans, who pride themselves on being more European than the rest of Spain, should remember the principles of European Union solidarity. These include fiscal transfers from richer to less well-off regions. Why should that be right within Europe but wrong within Spain?
Spain's constitution should also be amended to spell out the supremacy of civil over military power. Unfortunately, the opposition Popular Party, still unreconciled to its ejection from power after the Madrid bombings of March 2004, seems to think Gen Mena has a point. That could represent a greater threat to Spanish unity than Catalonia's autonomy ambitions.

A Catalan kerfuffle - Spain and its regions
14 January 2006 - The Economist

The row over Catalonia's constitutional statute

It is better to talk about rather than just reject demands for more autonomy
WHEN a general talks of the army stepping in to uphold a country's territorial integrity, any democrat should worry. When the country is Spain, which emerged from Franco's dictatorship only 30 years ago and saw off an attempted coup as recently as 1981, the worries should multiply.
That is why Spain's government was right to arrest General José Mena Algado, head of the Spanish army, last weekend, after he said publicly that Catalonia's new constitutional statute, which gives it both more autonomy and recognition as a “nation”, might necessitate military intervention. He cited article 8 of the Spanish constitution, which gives the army a mission to guarantee the country's “integrity and constitutional order”. The Catalan statute, overwhelmingly approved by the regional parliament last September, is now being debated by the Spanish parliament in Madrid ()see page 40.
Spain's 1978 constitution devolved many powers that were centralised under Franco to the 17 “autonomous regions”, though it did so unevenly. The Basque country and Catalonia, which have the most autonomy, have long agitated for more; a sizeable minority in both regions wants to move towards independence. In the Basque case, debate has been disfigured by the violence of ETA, though solid police work has weakened this terrorist group. Yet most governments in Madrid have intransigently refused to consider any more autonomy for the regions, let alone to contemplate eventual independence. The willingness of the Socialist government under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, elected in March 2004, to negotiate with the Basque country and Catalonia was a welcome change.
There are respectable arguments against Mr Zapatero's flexibility, even so. Nationalists will never be satisfied by concessions such as a separate judiciary or tax-raising powers; because they always ask for more, it might be better tactically to rule out even limited concessions. Besides, Mr Zapatero's negotiating position is undermined because, in Madrid, his government depends on the votes of left-wing Catalan nationalists; while in Barcelona, the Socialist-led regional government is in coalition with the same nationalist party. Moreover, there is a big financial problem. The Basque country and, especially, Catalonia are among Spain's wealthiest regions. Give them too much fiscal autonomy and they may pull out of the desirable process of transferring money from rich to poor parts of the country. Indeed, a wish to limit net transfers to Madrid has been a driving force behind the new Catalan statute.
Yet Mr Zapatero is still right to favour negotiations. The high-handed refusal of the previous People's Party government, under José María Aznar, even to talk to Basque and Catalan nationalists has merely served to stoke secessionist fervour in both regions. Other countries have discovered that the best way to defuse demands for independence may be to concede more autonomy and even, if need be, to recognise claims to nationhood. Now that they have their own parliament, fewer people in Scotland want a complete break from London. Quebec's demands for independence have to some degree been defanged by Canada's Clarity Act of 2000, which sets out a procedure under which Ottawa would negotiate with any province that votes for independence by a clear majority.

Clarity needed
Because it is the richest part of the country, Catalonia presents more problems than Scotland or Quebec, which are net recipients from central government. Yet since only a minority of Catalan voters seem genuinely to want independence, a bit of pandering to nationalist feeling could still work wonders, even if it involved accepting most of the new Catalan statute and, if necessary, changing Spain's 1978 constitution. Indeed, article 8 of the 1978 text surely needs amendment anyway to remove even the flimsiest excuse for a military intervention. A modern democracy should be capable of accommodating regional autonomy, and even a clear wish for independence. But it should never be intimidated by a general.


Other links:,3604,1686197,00.html