Spanish clubs refuse players permission to join Catalonia squad

Rayo Vallecano and Huesca have joined fellow top division strugglers Valladolid in preventing a number of their players from joining up with the Catalonia national football team.Vallladolid, 16th in the league standings, took the decision to block Ruben Alcaraz and Jordi Masip from joining up with the national side, who are not recognised by neither FIFA nor UEFA, ahead of a friendly with Venezuela next Monday.
All three teams have insisted the decision is sporting, rather than political as tensions continue to rise between the autonomous region and the Madrid central government following an illegal referendum on independence in October 2017.
Twelve people, most of them former officials of the regional government, are currently standing trial for the roles they played in the vote, while the former head of regional government Carles Puigdemont is in exile in Belgium.
A Valladolid statement read: “The club respects the Catalonian Federation, but is putting their sporting interests first heading into a decisive part of the season and we want to avoid any possible injury risks with our footballers.”
Fellow strugglers Huesca and Rayo, who sit bottom and second bottom respectively, both said in statements on Wednesday that Alberto Garcia, Alex Moreno, Enric Gallego and Alex Gallar will also not join up with Catalonia, citing potential injury worries.

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Reinventing nationalism in a new century

From exile in Belgium, Catalan president talks with 'Salon' about reinventing democracy after "right" and "left" have collapsed. The Belgian city of Waterloo has long had outsized connotations. It is where one of the greatest European campaigns of social re-engineering came to a screeching halt on June 18, 1815. Napoleon’s defeat in the fields surrounding the city was so stunning that “Waterloo” remains a byword for any and all manner of unmitigated disasters.

I had come here to talk with a key protagonist of a more recent attempt to rearrange the political map of Europe: Carles Puigdemont, the exiled Catalan president. A journalist by trade and a political leader as a matter of destiny, the 56-year-old Puigdemont has lived in exile since fleeing the Spanish police two years ago. After an intense seven-year campaign of street mobilizations and a popularly organized referendum in October 2017, Madrid responded with a premeditated campaign of violence. The pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament, led by Puigdemont, nonetheless kept its promise: It declared independence from Spain later in the same month. Within minutes, the Spanish Senate voted to dissolve the Catalan parliament and schedule new elections to replace it.

Puigdemont slipped over the French border within days of these events, resurfacing in Brussels with six members of his cabinet. All others in his government remained in Catalonia and are now in the dock in Spain’s Supreme Court awaiting their fates. Despite gaping holes and inconsistencies in the state’s case against them for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, it is widely expected all of those currently on trial will be found guilty and will serve long prison terms.

I had long wanted to interview Puigdemont. Our meeting was arranged through intermediaries in the very potent civil society movement for independence. When I finally arrived at the House of the Republic in Waterloo, where Puigdemont now lives, it reminded me of a faux–French provincial mansion that would not look out of place in a subdivision in Maryland.

The exiled leader greeted me as if I were a familiar neighbor. Over the next 75 minutes he spoke with ebullience and disarming humor about the events of the preceding months, the future of the Catalan Republican movement, and its importance to the much-needed renewal of democracy in Europe. Despite the portent-laden symbolism of our location, Puigdemont was in no mood to accept defeat.

This is the first extended interview Puigdemont has given to the U.S. press. What follows is the first of two parts. We spoke in mid-January, in Catalan. The translation is mine.

In a time of great difficulties and tragedies, why should people in other places, such as the U.S., care about the independence movement in a relatively wealthy part of Spain?

What is taking place in Catalonia is in fact a direct outgrowth of two important things that have come to us from the U.S. The first is the Declaration of Independence, which has inspired the desire for, and the justification of, freedom in countless nations over the years. The second is the right of self-determination for all peoples. In this sense, our movement, and what we are asking for, are quite spiritually “American” things. And it is why, when I visited the U.S. [in 2017], various members of Congress demonstrated their support for Catalonia’s pursuit of the right to self-determination.

In addition to these two things, I believe that for a great power like the United States, we can serve as an example of how to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent fashion — that is, how to employ the right of self-determination as a tool for peace. This saves money and leads to prosperity and a greater balance between the various regions of the world. In short, we are demonstrating that this very “American” right to self-determination of peoples can also be an important way of avoiding conflicts.

You’ve gone right to my next question. What do you say to the people who state that in a world of rising nationalist chauvinism, and in desperate need of more unity and peace, you are simply adding fuel to these divisive fires?

The concept of unity, which is absolutely necessary to assure the rights of individuals and the citizenry as a whole, is best guaranteed on the basis of respect. Respect for identities, for the individual and for “the Other,” is the only possible basis for unity. If this respect is not there, we are talking about something very different, something that has very little to do with democracy. We have seen that the diversity that defines Europe has not been an impediment to the creation of what is now the greatest space of prosperity and democracy in the world, the EU, a space defined by its guarantees for fundamental rights, the welfare state and a balance between countries that once faced each other in wars. All this has been derived from a recognition of “the Other.”

Another thing worth mentioning, one that explains why we as small and medium-sized states need not go forward with fear, has to do with globalization, which gives these same small and medium-sized states the tools needed to compete successfully with larger states. For example, in the index of the world's happiest nations, which is compiled by the UN, eight of the top 10 countries on the list have the same or less population than Catalonia. And I believe that of the top five, four have fewer people than Catalonia. In other words, thanks to globalization, small and medium-sized nations can access knowledge and resources that allow them to play important roles on the front lines of today’s Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Small is better.” [He said those words in English.]

Can you preserve both cultural roots and individual rights?

We need to always guarantee unity through human rights. What is always the basis of rights between individuals and peoples? Human rights.

But these things are now in danger.

Very much so. And it is for this very reason that we are insisting so strongly on respect for the human right of self-determination. We believe doing so puts democracy to the test. And attacking this right, as the Spanish government is now doing, is precisely what puts democracy in danger. This is why we believe that Catalonia is everybody’s business. A retreat from democracy anywhere on the planet affects all of us democrats in the world. This is especially the case within the European Union. I am deeply troubled as democracy recedes in Poland and Hungary. I view it as very much my concern. And I am convinced many Europeans and Spanish nationals are concerned when they see that a member state of the EU like Spain is persecuting people and annulling fundamental rights. Why? Because they understand that, in the end, it will affect them.

You have just mentioned Hungary. I have read many analyses that portray your movement as being similar to that of Fidesz in Hungary and the Lega in Italy. What do you say to portrayals such as these? [Both movements are right-wing, populist and vigorously anti-immigrant.]

This is just one of the many false narratives about us. In fact, the Hungarian leader, Viktor Orbán, who is a member of the European Popular Party — that is, the sister party of the Spanish Popular Party, which initiated the persecution of my government — was publicly thanked by the Spanish government for his strong position against Catalan independence. We have been attacked every which way by the European populist parties, starting with the Front National in France. Why? Because all these populist movements are rooted in a very dangerous form of nationalism.

While we are indeed a national revolution, we do not define ourselves in terms of the classic 19th- and 20th-century forms of nationalism. We represent a challenge to the obsolete concept of the nation-state that these populist nationalisms are trying to preserve, a concept rooted in the idea of one language, one culture, one people and one identity. It is precisely these ideas that we are calling into question. This, of course, is why we receive these types of attacks and mischaracterizations.

Among people who don't have access to good information, reductionist schemas like this and others, like “These people are selfish economic elites who just want to put money in their own pockets,” or “These people are against the use of the Spanish language,” can perhaps work for a while. But they do not hold up over time. In fact, they tend to have the reverse effect. The people in the Catalan government who have studied the enormous effort that Spain has made to stigmatize the Catalan national movement as a classic populist movement have come to the conclusion that the effort has failed, which, of course, has called the entire discourse of the state into question. So I guess you can say it worries us only in very relative terms.

But from where I sit, these portrayals still seem to have a good deal of strength and many people with powerful loudspeakers ready to repeat them.

It is easy to swallow. And it needs to be said that Spain has an impressive propaganda machine.

But it is not only the Spanish government. Can’t we also speak of entities like NATO and its propaganda arm, the Atlantic Council, and many media outlets that tend to follow their lead?

That may be true. I will repeat that Spain has a lot of resources at its disposal and can pressure us and others through all the channels of the Spanish diplomatic corps. But I insist on what I said in my book ["The Catalan Crisis: An Opportunity for Europe," 2018]. When people go a few steps beyond superficial discourse, it becomes clear to them that someone is twisting the truth.

For example, all of these claims made from the Spanish side that the Spanish language is endangered in Catalonia: People go and see with their own eyes and ears that this is nowhere close to the truth. This Spanish propaganda is of a type that worked in the early 20th century, when people could not independently verify what they were being told. But now propaganda like this crumbles in no time at all.

I will give you another example. In the interviews I gave at the beginning of my exile, the first question was always about the companies that had supposedly left Catalonia. What the Spanish government had fabricated, and was able to spread through its propaganda apparatus, was the fiction that all the important companies had felt the need to leave Barcelona during 2017, the year we declared independence. Today, no one ever brings this up. Why? Because of facts. How was the performance of the Catalan economy during that year? It is still well ahead of the overall Spanish economy. We are exporting more than ever—nine years of record growth—and have rates of economic growth as well as unemployment figures that are better than those in Spain.

The spokespeople for the Spanish government have gone to great lengths repeatedly to portray the Spanish state as, they frequently say, “a consolidated democracy” with very strong legal protections for its citizenry. You have vigorously questioned this portrayal of reality. Why?

First of all, because the degeneration of democracy in Spain is real. The latest indicators from a variety of international monitoring groups show that Spain is in retreat when it comes to fundamental rights like freedom of expression. For example, the Council of Europe’s Greco Group, which charts political and judicial corruption, has issued two reports sternly warning of the deficiencies of the Spanish judicial system and alleging that it falls short of basic European standards. And of the 11 recommendations for reform in the first report, issued a few years back, not one has been implemented. They were thus forced to issue a second report reminding Spain of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights condemning Spain’s violation of fundamental liberties by its sentencing of people simply exercising their right to free expression.

Could you give some specific examples?

Sure. A group of young people, independence supporters from my home city of Girona, were sentenced to years of prison and sizable fines for having burned photos of the king. And it was only thanks to the European justice system, which said to Spain, “Excuse me, but these people were exercising their freedom of expression. You have violated one of their fundamental rights, without which you cannot speak about democracy,” that they were absolved.

Then there is the case of the torture of the Catalan independence supporters arrested in 1992. This was denounced by the victims but never investigated in Spain. In 2004, the Spanish state’s failure to investigate those crimes was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights. There’s also the case of Valtonyc, a singer who is here with us in Belgium, who was sentenced to three and a half years in prison without appeal — three and a half years! — for the lyrics of a song.

These are just a few examples among many of a democratic failure. So clearly we have objective reasons to back the claim that Spain is not a full democracy. And there’s another reverse kind of proof. When a democracy spends so much time and energy explaining to the world that it is an exemplary democracy, when it spends all sorts of money commemorating the 40th anniversary of the constitution, as it recently did, you have to wonder. I’ve never seen France or Germany proclaiming to the world that they are true democracies. Why? Because they are.

I know many people in Spain and elsewhere who suggest that the solution to the Catalan problem runs through a federalist reform of the Spanish Constitution. Why, for you and your supporters, is this not a viable solution?

Because it is not true that many people in Spain want this. When they vote, they vote against it. Today in Spain many people don't even want Catalonia to have the level of autonomy it presently has. This view is anchored in electoral data. What do those data say? That these are bad times for federalism and confederalism. And even when things were good — that is, when the Spanish federalists had a parliamentary majority — they did not decentralize anything!

When you speak of the federalists, can I assume you are speaking of the PSOE, the Spanish Socialist Party?

Yes, they are the ones who refer to themselves in these terms and say things like, “We have to have a federalist reform of the Constitution.” They have never even spelled out what they mean when they talk about a “federal Spain.” When you get beyond the slogan, everything is vague. When I have asked them to define the fundamental precepts of this idea, nothing is forthcoming.

I’ve always said that independence is not the only solution to the Catalan problem. It happens to be my solution, and frankly I don't think we have a better one, but that does not mean that intellectually and politically I am incapable of entertaining other ones. In the end, it is about what the Catalan people decide. We’ve spelled out our idea for a Catalan Republic.

In the three meetings I had with him before he became prime minister, I frequently and directly asked Pedro Sánchez [leader of the Socialist Party] about it. I was unable to understand what he meant when he employed this term. Is he talking about a U.S.–style system, a German-style system, a Belgian-style system or something like Switzerland, which is a confederation? For example, would the Superior Court of Catalonia become our Supreme Court, as is the case in the German Landers? Would we have judicial autonomy, like the states in the U.S.? Would it be like Belgium, where the regions have independent diplomatic prerogatives? They have never thought seriously about any of this. So how can we know if it is a good formula or not if we have never seen a detailed proposal?

What would you say to the people that say yours is a classist movement working for the economic elites of Catalonia? Or even a racist and a xenophobic movement?

I’d say that the dominant economic class of Catalonia is quite hostile to the idea of independence. Those businesses that did cede to pressure from the Spanish government and moved their legal headquarters away from Catalonia are precisely the largest and most important ones. People who come to Catalonia on their own and observe things realize quickly that it is a transversal movement with a spectrum of ideology stretching from anti-system beliefs to liberal-conservatives. It has both Christian Democrats and anarchists. It is a very plural movement, and thus cannot in any way be described as classist.

Seventy percent of all Catalans have a father or a mother, or both, from outside of Catalonia. This shows that Catalonia is, quite fortunately, not even close to being an ethnic reality! We believe a Catalan is anyone who wishes to become one. And no one is excluded from this process. Today there are many people with no Catalan roots at all who have decided to become Catalans. We are in no way a society built on the idea of ethnic homogeneity.

What about linguistic homogeneity?

The Catalan language provides us with cohesion and helps to give us a collective identity. But there are, within the culture, a wide variety of attachments to it. Knowing this affects our approach to immigration. Our language-immersion policy is anti-classist because it aims to ensure that the traditionally Catalan-speaking elites not be the only Catalan speakers. It has gone from being a vehicle of cohesion for some to being a vehicle of cohesion and democratic participation for many. This is why we jealously guard the Catalan linguistic model and see it as yet another proof of the non-ethnic nature of our movement.

For the last 35 years this has helped us avoid the risk of linguistic separation among the schoolchildren of Catalonia, which would have been a tragedy for everyone. We have done just the opposite. We have used linguistic immersion to insure that virtually everyone is in a position to express themselves comfortably in both of the official languages of Catalonia [Catalan and Spanish]. Other countries have approached issues like this in very different ways, assigning certain students to schools in one language and another group of students to schools in another language. This is precisely how ethnic separation begins. We have always fought vigorously against this.

Should Catalonia become an independent republic, would it be a bilingual republic?

It would be a multilingual republic. I believe the Catalan Republic must guarantee the linguistic rights of all its peoples, which are, as I have suggested, quite diverse. I believe that linguistic rights are an integral element of human rights, which unfortunately is still not always considered to be the case. Right now the International PEN club [Poets, Essayists, and Novelists] is waging a battle to ensure this linkage and I support their efforts. One’s language is something that one carries inside and that he or she should never be forced to renounce.

Right now, Catalan and Spanish have the status of official languages of Catalonia. We do not foresee any backtracking at all on this. There is a debate among constitutional scholars as to whether there is any need for an official language at all. Some argue that the linguistic rights of the population can be guaranteed without specifying which particular language is the official one. Whatever happens on this, I can assure you that in a Catalan Republic the linguistic rights of both Catalan- and Spanish-speakers will remain completely intact. I consider this to be absolutely fundamental.

Can you explain some of the legal battles that you have lived through in the last year and two months, during your European exile?

It is all a bit surreal, and for those who have not followed the case, I suspect quite difficult to understand. I am a European citizen and free man with all the rights of any other European citizen, like Mr. Macron or Mrs. Merkel, except in one place in the world, which is called Spain. If I go to Spain, I will be arrested and face the possibility of 25 to 30 years in prison. Outside of Spain, I am free to go anywhere with no charges pending against me.

So how is this possible? Well, it brings us back to the shortcomings in Spain’s culture of democracy. There is a European legal structure that guarantees me fundamental rights that are not, in fact, recognized in Spain. This is possible because in the European Union — where admittedly there still is a lot of work to be done on political integration — respect for rights generally exists. In Spain, they take an à la carte approach to justice.

In my case, rather surreal things have occurred. Two European arrest warrants were issued by the Spanish state against me. Both ended up being withdrawn. The first was adjudicated in Belgium. It soon became clear that they were going to lose. Rather than lose a case contrary to the interests of Madrid before a European court, [the Spanish government] withdrew the order.

In the second instance, when it was clear that a decision from a German court saying that I could not be tried for the crime of rebellion was about to be issued, Spain pulled back the remaining extradition order on misuse of funds, saying it did not like the other decisions of the German court. So I am free, and I travel all around, but with the risk that they might decide to issue a third arrest warrant against me. It’s surreal that they are trying to prosecute me for rebellion when European courts have decided that there was no rebellion.

The crime of rebellion presumes the existence of violence. And this brings me to the narrative of violence — that is, that on Oct. 1, 2017, the Catalan crowds seeking to vote committed acts of violence against Spanish officials and Spanish institutions. This narrative continues to be heard and seen in the press.

All the international observers, and indeed virtually all the members of the international press corps, have said without exception that the only violence that they saw on that day came from the Spanish police. Moreover, this is all documented. When the trial takes place [this interview took place shortly before court proceedings began] we are going to demonstrate that the Spanish police disobeyed a mandate issued by a judge. In fact, in a meeting of my government’s Security Council in the days before the referendum I demanded respect for the decision of the judge who had said that the referendum must be stopped — that is, on the condition that civic peace be preserved in the process.

But of course there was violence and then some, explicit and demonstrable violence carried out by the Spanish state that was met by peaceful resistance — a stoically peaceful resistance by the Catalan citizenry. They were attacked, but did not respond, showing great forbearance. That day, many European citizens felt shame before the images they were seeing and before the silence of the European states who, having been asked by Spain to look the other way, did so — in the same way that several Spanish political parties averted their eyes.

Just to be clear, are you saying that in the days prior to the referendum, you gave explicit orders to the Mossos [the Catalan autonomous police force] to avoid any possible use of violence and, above all, to preserve the civic peace?

The Mossos had the following order: Respect and obey the orders of the judge.

And again, that order was?

To block the celebration of the referendum to ensure civic peace. In fact, the Mossos seized more ballot boxes than the Civil Guards or the National Police [both under central government control] did. But they did not use violence in the process. It was clear that the state wanted to block the referendum. So what else could we have done, being against violence? I can assure you that had someone or some group from the pro-referendum side, or any other side for that matter, resorted to violence, the Mossos had the right and the authorization to move against them. But they did not because there simply was no citizen violence.

Can you comment upon the tactics employed by the Spanish state in general, and the current foreign minister, Josep Borrell, in particular — a member of the PSOE and thus nominally a progressive — to block or impede your efforts, and those of the entire independence movement, to tell your version of events to the rest of the world?

It is rather pathetic that a powerful country like Spain should feel the need to place the counter-narrative of a movement like ours, with very few resources, at the top of its foreign policy agenda. But at the same time, I understand why they are doing it. Because even though we have few resources, we have truth on our side. And it is very difficult to fight against people who have truth on their side. They have availed themselves of all the machinery and resources at their disposal, all of the pressuring mechanisms that a state possesses, and they haven’t been able to …

Could you give some examples?

Well, we could begin with all the pressure their diplomatic representatives have used in third countries. Before every single speech I make, or anyone involved with the movement makes, there are phone calls intended to pressure the organizers or the sponsors to cancel the appearance. Indeed, some have been canceled. And when they are not canceled, they assign someone to get up in the audience and speak against our position. They are doing everything they can so that we do not have a voice. And then there is the pressure on the media to spread fake news [said in English] about the Catalan independence process. We could also speak about the deals to place Spanish troops in certain Baltic countries in exchange for their silence on the Catalan issue.

Speaking of this, a trusted source told me in explicit terms of the enormous pressure brought to bear upon Harvard University by the Spanish government in their drive to have your appearance there canceled.

And at that time, I was speaking as the designated Catalan representative of the Spanish state! I was the president of Catalonia, and as the president of a Spanish region, the law says that I am to be given the status of the of an official representative of the Spanish state when traveling. So the Spanish government was seeking to boycott a high-ranking member of its own state.

In the first part of the conversation, Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president in exile, outlined his vision of universal human rights and the key place the right to self-determination plays in it. He also addressed what in his view are the deliberately errant portrayals of the Catalan independence movement, underscoring its fundamentally modern, democratic and pluralistic nature — which he said contrasts mightily with the archaic and frequently authoritarian behavior of the Spanish state.

In the second part of our exchange, Puigdemont explains the events surrounding his declaration of independence in October 2017, and the importance of the Catalan movement to the much-needed renewal of democracy in Europe.

Why haven’t more European states backed your cause?

It’s quite normal that they shouldn’t. Spain is their partner in the EU. We knew from the beginning that the first instinct of any EU member state would be to back their fellow partner, or at the very least not challenge them. We also understand that many member states don’t have the traditions that, for example, Great Britain has for resolving such things. Many are fearful of national movements within their borders. France has a tremendous fear of this, as does Italy. Finally, don’t forget that Europe is a more a commercial project than a political one, and the economic sectors value stability above all. Thus, is not surprising that in Europe there is not a great deal of interest in upholding the fundamental right of self-determination.

Might it be time to revisit the debate of the 1990s, which some of us still remember, about whether Europe should be a union of states or a union of nations or peoples?

I believe there is a very interesting debate in the offing about what exactly is a nation. We have the classic definition of a group of people conjoined by a linguistic or cultural unity and historical continuity living in a contiguous geographical territory. Catalonia obviously meets these basic criteria. But things today have now gotten much more sophisticated because of the creation of new identities that do not hinge so heavily on the matter of language. We are now seeing the development of non-territorial nations — for example, through social networks. These tools are creating identities and communities that have found cohesion thanks to these bonds. So in the fourth industrial revolution, extra-territorial states may become a reality.

That said, the people-nation or the culture-nation continues to be a reality, but one in evolution. Catalonia is one of the historic nations of Europe, with its roots in the Middle Ages. But it has evolved, and this has been the key to its survival. As a small nation, threatened by two great nations, France and Spain, both of which have tried to eliminate its language, Catalonia has adapted and refused to close in upon itself and cling to fossilized realities from its foundational period.

Rather, it has adapted itself to the circumstances of each generation, often anticipating the challenges to come. In the 19th century, for example, Catalan nationalism was a vehicle of modernization when many nationalisms were organized around the goal of putting a brake on progress and celebrating their past essence. Catalan political nationalism aligned itself with modernity because it realized that this was the best way to guarantee the survival of a small nation with built-in fragilities.

Are you suggesting that Catalonia might, in fact, be in a position to play a leading role in the search for new ways of being a nation in the 21st century?

Without a doubt. This is the only way to understand today’s Catalan revolution. If you try to read it wearing 19th- or 20th-century “nationalist” glasses, you won’t understand it. The reasons for undertaking this revolution were present for 40 years. But during those 40 years, virtually no one pursued independence. Why now? It has a lot to do with these new ways of understanding the governance of liberal democracy. Now, all citizens can avail themselves of tools that give them the ability to participate in the co-administration or the co-governance of their societies. Today people have an access to what is almost on a par with that of those in power.

The world is much more complex today than 50 years ago. However, liberal democracy continues to treat its citizens paternalistically, as if they were underage children. People have their own opinions and want to exercise their power. Catalonia has understood that this is the future, and has decided that it is time to try to create a truly modern state. We don't want to create a small version of Spain, simply changing the name and the flag and having the same parliamentary system and division of powers. No. If that were the case, we would not be for independence. We want to do something that in Spain is impossible to do: create a truly modern state.

You’ve also spoken of how it will include certain transnational elements.

It will be transnational in the sense that we will address ourselves to, and welcome the participation of, all those people in the world who would like to be involved in this project. Who is a Catalan? Ultimately, those who wish to be one. This is another disruptive element of our project. Here we align ourselves with the idea, which others, especially the Estonians, have worked on a great deal, which is “e-residency.” Obligatory concepts of nationality are among the last remaining acts of state violence. You can leave the Eurozone, you can dismiss your particular God, you can leave behind your original sex assignment, you can leave your partner. There’s just one thing you cannot escape from: your nationality.

Isn’t it pretty outmoded to have to have a national identity that you don’t want? States should have to deserve the support of their citizens. Ideally, citizens should feel no desire to divorce themselves from their country. Why are there more than 2 million people who want to stop being Spaniards? They don't feel like Spaniards. In contrast, I don’t know many Swiss who want to stop being Swiss, because they have a system that recognizes them and empowers them. So this is another task of the Council of the Republic — to spread this new, less closed vision for the future.

And, finally, it must engage in the type of activism that the government of Catalonia cannot do today. The government of Catalonia is presently working under surveillance and violence and imposed financial and political limits. It cannot carry out the type of diplomatic work it needs to be doing. It cannot commission activities and studies designed to encourage self-determination without incurring charges of misusing public funds. In short, the Council of the Republic can go much further in these areas than the Catalan institutions within Spain.

We’ve talked about Oct. 1, 2017. [That was the date of the referendum on Catalan independence.] What happened on the 27th of the same month?

On that day we issued our declaration of independence, but we did not enact the Law of Juridical Transition. The declaration was ratified by the Catalan Parliament and remains in force. So we have embarked upon a path that will be long and uncertain and that will end with full international recognition of the Catalan Republic. That path began on Oct. 27, and Oct. 27 and was a direct result of Oct. 1. That’s what happened. Might we have done other things? Of course. But given the context of that moment, with Spain’s coup against Catalonia, we chose this route.

Why this particular route?

Because in that moment it became clear that the Law of Juridical Transition was intended for conditions others than ours. It was to have been enacted from within existing institutions. But as serious attacks took place, starting with the state’s dissolution of the democratically elected parliament of Catalonia and the dissolution of its government and president by decree, this robbed us of the ability to put our plan into place from within the existing institutions. And the Spanish government had shown us on Oct. 1 that, unlike us, for whom it has never been an option, they were quite ready to use violence.

One of the criticisms that has been made of your management of the situation in those fall days is that you should have spoken more clearly of the possibility of violence, and with it, the inevitable need for citizen sacrifice in confronting it. What would you say to these critics?

A number of things. First, violent people cannot win. If we had renounced the vote on Oct. 1 out of fear over the potential use of violence by the state, we would be granting people of violence a victory. Our goal is to be the country of peace and democracy, and we are convinced that the right to self-determination is an instrument of peace that enables us to achieve our goals without resorting to any type of violence and without being victims of violence.

But by Oct. 27 the state’s willingness to use violence was quite obvious. Didn’t this require a change in strategy from your side?

We took the decisions that we believed would best achieve our desired final goals. We want Catalonia to be a recognized republic. Time will tell when this takes place on the path we have undertaken. If along this road we have to make concessions to violence, which the state has never ruled out, we will not get too far. We are not prepared, nor do we want to be prepared, to resort to violence. We have to find a way not to enter into the conflict that the Spanish state seeks.

Ours is a political and constitutional conflict in the context of Europe. But it is not a violent conflict, and we don't want it to turn into one. Is Spain interested in such a violent evolution? The events of Oct. 1 made clear the answer is yes. So despite the provocations we needed to be intelligent and responsible enough to keep our eyes on the future. Sometimes the most secure path to the future is not the quickest one. The state was provoking us into a scenario in which they would have achieved victory. They are strong and we are not. We have to keep the conflict in the space, the terrain and in the language that we believe are the proper ones, which is in the realm of democracy and fundamental rights.

But isn’t martyrdom always a key element of national liberation movements? I cannot help thinking of the example of Ireland. There, martyrdom was in many senses a key catalyst of their independence movement. I am not saying that you should have planned to become a martyr, but rather wondering whether such sacrifices are an inevitable part of achieving victory against a more powerful rival.

This is a debate we had. And as we engaged in it we asked ourselves how could it be that the only path to have self-determination recognized must be through violence, and not the opposite way around. How is that countries that have killed each other’s people deserve international recognition and those that say they won’t kill are ignored? It should be the reverse. We're now in the 21st century, and the right to self-determination should not have to be the consequence of a violent conflict. That is not the way to resolve things in a modern, peaceful and civilized Europe, full of educated people who travel throughout the world.

Are you saying that Catalonia is a trailblazer in the creation of new models of national liberation?

Exactly. We are for modernizing the right to self-determination, as I said, as a tool for the prevention of conflicts. It is no longer the time of armed battles. The people in Hong Kong have understood this, as have many people with whom we have been in contact. People who previously were engaged in guerrilla movements understand that this is no longer the right language. Europe has an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that it knows how to resolve such conflicts, to create a European recipe for doing so.

There is a report from Alfred de Zayas, the former special representative of the UN, which I believe is from February of 2018 and that I believe was presented to the European Parliament, which says that a very significant number of the wars that have taken place since World War II have their origins in the failure to respect the right of self-determination. If we could learn to respect the right to self-determination we could save ourselves from a lot of conflict.

On Dec. 21, 2017, you headed the most voted-for electoral list in the “new” Catalan elections imposed by the Spanish state after its October suspension of the Catalan statute of autonomy. If that occurred, why are we sitting here in Waterloo, Belgium, instead of the office of the Catalan president in Barcelona?

My first response would have to be because it is frankly unexplainable. [Laughs.] Of course there is an explanation: The Spanish state has not respected the results of the elections, elections that they themselves called and that took place under frankly abhorrent conditions with one candidate in prison [Oriol Junqueras, now on trial in Madrid] and the other [Puigdemont] in exile. From my own list, all the top positions were held by people now either in prison or in exile.

On the day of the election there were 10,000 Spanish police in the streets of Catalonia, and people were obviously very fearful. The state thought it would win the election because they thought the Catalan people — whom the Spanish state does not know or understand — would act upon their fears, lower their heads, and issue a vote of surrender. But, in fact, they made a vote of “No surrender” [spoken in English]. And this completely threw them off.

But they were clever enough to accept the results and then undermine them through a series of improvised abuses of authority, the cumulative effect of which has been to prevent the parliament of Catalonia from swearing in three of its elected deputies as presidents of Catalonia. None of us has been convicted of anything, and there is no law against our taking office. So in a completely arbitrary manner, the Spanish government, working in connivance with the Constitutional Tribunal [which rules on constitutional questions], decided that they simply would negate what the Catalan people had decided.

I am obliged to defend the institution that I then represented. And I could not defend it from prison. I can only defend it from a place where I can be free to speak and denounce the abuses of power of the Spanish state. And this is what I now do.

Who is Judge Pablo Llarena [the prosecuting judge in the Catalonia case]? Would you say he is emblematic of a Spanish judicial system that, as some have suggested, was never really reformed after the death of [longtime Spanish dictator Francisco] Franco? Is it legitimate to speak in such terms?

It is completely legitimate to do so. Llarena is a judge who has presided over the case against us in an improper and illegal fashion. Improper and illegal. He has done so on the basis of political considerations, issuing and revoking extradition requests according to the particular political needs of the moment. ... For example, there are far-right militants sentenced to non-appealable terms in prison for attacks on the Catalan delegation in Madrid. They were condemned and are still not in prison. The Constitutional Tribunal decided that because they have children, going to jail could have negative consequences for their families.

In contrast, we have nine people democratically elected who, for having publicly defended Catalonia’s right to self-determination in their parliament, are in prison without trial, some of them for more than a year. This is a completely improper double standard. And double standards are a sign of very poor justice systems. So why does this occur? Because, as mentioned, there is a line of historical continuity between Franco's justice system and what came along after it.

When we consider that the head of state after Franco’s death was someone named by Franco himself, it is not that surprising. Spain is a monarchy thanks to the decision of the dictator Francisco Franco. The law of succession is a Franco-ist law. The fact that Felipe VI is now king is a result of that Franco-ist law. And given that the highest representative of the Spanish state is a product of Franco-ism, it is not surprising that the judicial system draws its inspiration from the same sources and from the same culture.

Judge Llarena is an integral element of the strategy to put the interests of the state above the pursuit of justice and the pursuit of democracy. And he is carrying out his appointed task.

One of the historic problems of the Catalan movement has been the sharp division between its so-called “left” and so-called “right” branches. According to the taxonomies frequently employed to describe Catalan politics, you are often labeled a person of the right. As I reflect on some of the things we have talked about here, this is rather hard to assimilate. Are you a person of the right?

These views are rooted in obsolete a priori notions of politics. Today we have supposedly leftist politicians that practice rightist politics. In the end, one is, ideologically speaking, his or her policies. Some say that the various governments of Felipe González [the Socialist premier, 1982–96] were leftist. But in fact, his policies were not leftist. Does the fact that they display the Socialist stamp or brand guarantee that they have to be seen as politicians of the left? These obsolete ideas are laughable.

But they seem to still have a lot of influence.

Because they work.

Why do they continue to work? Is it because the media’s tendency to repeat them?

To a large degree, yes. Because in Spain the large communication conglomerates have become …

But doesn't this also take place in Catalonia?

Because many of the Catalan outlets are part of the same Spanish media system. I know people from parties that call themselves leftist that are very conservative. And I know people from supposedly rightist parties that are very progressive in some ways.

I like to talk about policies. The politics of the government I headed can be examined in the light of the a priori assumptions we were just talking about. A government like mine that levied a tax on bank deposits of those possessing large fortunes: Does that make us rightist or leftist? When a government like mine levies a tax upon sugared drinks to prevent obesity and further public health, and that bothers the big companies, is this a leftist or a rightist measure? When a government like mine makes a law to guarantee the effective equality of men and women, or when it issues a decree to guarantee medical coverage for everyone who lives in Catalonia, including for those without legal status, are these things leftist or rightist? When you levy a tax on nuclear power plants to help in the fight against climate change, is that leftist or rightist?

In short, for me it’s always about “the facts” [spoken in English] over propaganda, and then let the people decide. And that's it. I do not allow labels to intimidate me, condition me or imprison me. That any person who knows me and knows how I have lived my 56 years should say that I am a man of the right is merely revealing either bad faith or solemn ignorance about who I am.

But I often wonder, do people really have the desire to go beyond the labels applied by the press?

I think the labels employed by the press have only a relative importance nowadays. Today, the press, which in the past facilitated the creation of those a priori categories, no longer is able to impose them in a hegemonic fashion. For example, nowadays social media drive the creation of narratives much more than La Vanguardia or El Periodico [leading anti-independence dailies in Catalonia]. And in this more complex and sophisticated world, it is not as easy to say “You’re a right winger!” Now you have to explain it to me. Are you going to tell me that you are a leftist even though you privatized all sorts of things?

Is it a generational thing?

I think it is. There are those of us who grew up with print journalism, which is a wonderful form of journalism, but that no longer holds sway. I am not going to say that I don't have an ideology. But the easy, simplistic and reductionist labeling that says, “You are from the right, bad” and “You are from the left, good,” are simply laughable. Laughable because our entire social model is now diverse, sophisticated and complex.

When someone tells me that I or someone else is of the right, I ask, “How do you know? By the way I dress? My way of talking? Because I read? Because of my opinions? Do you really know about all my opinions and how I think?” All this is a product of the tendency, as I was saying earlier, to deal with society through democratic paternalism. All this is so puerile. So, yes, it is probably true that our generation is more susceptible to these frames of analysis. But I don't see people who are 30 accepting them.

It seems that the press’ apparent inability to explain the gilets jaunes [Yellow Vest] movement in France in its full complexity might be emblematic of what we are talking about. Is there any connection between what is happening there and what is happening in Catalonia?

I believe it is an important phenomenon. I can’t say I have a deep understanding of it, and this being so I have not wanted to fall into making a simplistic judgment. That said, I believe it demonstrates the failure of both the traditional press and traditional politics. It is rooted in the sense of unease that is sweeping across Europe that in some cases, such as Italy, is expressed in Europhobic and xenophobic terms in groups such as Five Star and the Lega, and in the United Kingdom is expressed through Brexit, and I suppose in Catalonia in opposition to our reality of kidnapped democracy, and in France in many ways, including the gilets jaunes. It is a terrain in which one can go fishing for many things, certainly populist movements, but also democratic ones. It is not always simple to know what is what.

Might it be that that France, for various reasons, has a subsoil that is richer in political options? I am thinking here of Naomi Klein’s invocation of Milton Friedman’s words: “In times of crisis, people latch on to the ideas than are lying around.” Could it be that in France there are more power-challenging ideas and traditions still lying around?

We Catalans have always been very French in that sense. Catalonia has always had a great deal more political plurality in its parliament and political life than is the case in Spain. There, for example, they have never had a coalition government in the 40 years of [post–Franco] democracy. Catalonia, in contrast, has had a number of them.

But again, back to France, I am not a big enough expert on the social phenomenon of the gilets jaunes to come to a lot of hard conclusions. What I will say is that it is complex and multi-faceted and yet another symptom of something bigger. It is not an isolated French story but part of a wider set of dynamics. And we would do well to read it properly, to change the glasses we used to look at reality in the 20th century for new ones — this is no longer May 1968 — adequate for viewing the much more complex realities of the 21st century. We need to make an effort to understand the plural sense of unrest sweeping across Europe.

Today I read poll numbers that said that the National Front, now called the National Rally, is the preferred political choice of the French. Yikes! So what has happened here? Let’s not be reductionist about it. What is going on to make people who do not correspond to the typical profile for those political alignments join them now? It is not enough to insult them.

Might it just be that they have not been offered what they really need?

Of course. This is also true in the case of Trump. Trump is what he is, and as a person he we might not like him. But what about respecting the people in the society who voted him in? His election has surprised us and profoundly dismayed many people, but we have the duty to try, in a sophisticated fashion, to understand what has taken place.

The same applies in the case of Brexit. It is not as simple as saying “They are just anti–Europeans who want to…” What bad things has Europe done to offend those who are not part of the City of London [the financial district]? The European political class is not understanding these things, and consequently it is providing all the wrong answers and is allowing, as we said, opportunists to come along, grab an idea, and take advantage of people with it.

Thomas S. Harrington is a professor of Hispanic studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

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“Self-determination is not a crime”: big pro-Catalan rally staged in Madrid with 120,000 people

Tens of thousands of supporters of Catalan independence have rallied in Spain's capital Madrid in protest at an ongoing trial of 12 separatist leaders.  Many waved Catalan flags and had placards reading "Self-determination is not a crime". Protest organisers said 120,000 people marched in Madrid. The separatist leaders of Catalonia's failed 2017 independence bid face rebellion and sedition charges. If convicted, some could face up to 25 years in prison.

The demonstration through Spain's capital was organised by two civil society groups the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural and led by Catalan leader Quim Torra.
Demonstrators waved the Catalan flag and marched under signs reading: “Self-determination is not a crime”.
In unusual scenes for the capital, the central Paseo del Prado boulevard was steeped in red, yellow and blue, the colours of the Estelada flag of the Catalan independence movement.

"I think it's a fair judgement to say you've never heard the voice of Catalan independence spoken so loudly and with so many numbers here in Madrid," Al Jazeera's David Chater, reporting from the demonstration, said. "There are two phrases that have been prominent here: that democracy is about taking decision and that self-determination is a right, not a crime." Canarian, Basque, Castilian delegations took part in the rally denouncing that 90,000 people have been prosecuted by the Spanish opinion law (ley mordaza) against freedom of expression in the neoFrancoist Spain.


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European Human Rights court to examine convicted rapper’s case

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECHR) has communicated to the defense team for Josep Miquel Arenas, a.k.a. rapper Valtònyc, that it will examine the musician’s case, according to his lawyer Gonzalo Boye.
Court sources have not yet confirmed the pledge to study the case, but they have stated that the body beginning to examine the case does not mean that it’s officially been admitted for consideration.
The musician presented his case to the European court in October, alleging that Spain had violated his right to freedom of expression by sentencing him to three and a half years in prison for song lyrics, convicted of the charges of glorification of terrorism, slander against the crown and threats.
Arenas is currently residing in Belgium, where he is facing extradition back to Spain. The court in Ghent originally rejected his extradition arguing the case dealt with freedom of speech in September, with the prosecutor announcing an appeal. Originally scheduled for November, the final decision was postponed.

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Northen Catalonians launch campaign for a Catalan Departement in the French State

Northern Catalonia party Oui au Pays Catalan (Yes to the Catalan Country) launched the last weekend a campaign asking for a Catalan Departement. Nowadays Catalan Northern region is mixed with Occitan speaking lands. Oui au Pays Catalan demands a department for the Catalan regions conquered by Francein 1659: Roussillon, Vallespir, Conflent, Capcir and Cerdagne.

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'Civil and political rights under threat in Spain' event at UN Human Rights Council, Geneve

Centre Unesco de Catalunya organise side event at UN Human Rights Council Geneva today on civil and political rights under threat in Spain, discussing Jordi Cuixart and the imprisoned Catalan leaders as well as the Basque Altsasua case. Professor Neus Tobisco-Casals said that there is no evidence of crimes of rebellion and sedition and any other government would have considered it a political manifestation to be heard, not penalized. "Mr Rajoy's heavy-handed way of handling this crisis (...) and the continued refusal of the socialist government to negotiate on the issue of self-determination has caused the Spanish domestic turmoil to escalate". “The international community cannot close its eyes to the arbitrary arrests of social and political leaders,” said Jordi Cuixart lawyer Olivier Peter. He also denounced the presence of the far right party Vox in the trial as the private prosecution.

"The international community cannot close its eyes to the arbitrary arrests of social and political leaders,” said Jordi Cuixart's lawyer Olivier Peter at the UN Human Rights Council side event yesterday on the threat to civil rights in the Spanish state.
The event featured Amaia Izco, a lawyer for some of those jailed in the Altsasu case, and human rights experts Neus Tobisco-Casals, and Michel Tubiana (EuroMed Rights)
The event was organised by Òmnium Cultural and Centre Unesco de Catalunya, with the support of the European Language Equality Network.
Spain was also criticised yesterday in a statement by the NGO Centre for African Progress and Development during a general debate of the Human Rights Council. In an oral statement the NGO stated that the accusations of rebellion and sedition against the Catalan leaders are unfounded and urged the United Nations to "immediately" demand the release of the prisoners. "The Spanish authorities have converted the right of assembly and demonstration into a crime of rebellion," they said.
They reminded the UN that Spain is obliged to protect the freedom of expression, which includes political expression in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and that the right to self-determination is guaranteed through Article 1 of the same text.
The Spanish representative reacted by declaring the NGO's statement as "Not appropriate" adding that Spain is "a fully democratic country, under the rule of law and with the full separation of powers." (Eurolang 2019)

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Catalan Activist Jailed Jordi Sànchez and Culture Minister Laura Borràs will head JxCat list in Spanish election

Jordi Sànchez and Laura Borràs will lead the pro-independence ticket in Spanish election. Sànchez is jailed in Spain and was President of the Catalan National Assembly, a grassroots movement who leads the fight for Catalonia's independence. Sànchez is one of the founders of exiled president Carles Puigdemont's new movement, Crida Nacional per la República (National Call for the Republic).The members of this platform ratified his bid on Saturday, and the ticket will also include members of the Partit Demòcrata Europeu de Catalunya, PDeCAT (Catalan Democratic European Party) party after an agreement with Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) reached on Sunday. PDeCAT's vice president and MP in Spain's Congress Míriam Nogueras and MEP Ramon Tremosa will be the number 4 in the Barcelona constituency.

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Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will head the Together for Catalonia European Elections list

Carles Puigdemont, will run in the European election for MEP in the May 26 election. The President will top the pro-independence Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) candidacy. The former head of the Catalan government, who is in exile in Belgium since October 2017, announced it through his social media accounts. "It is time to make another step to internationalize Catalonia's right of self-determination from the heart of Europe to the world," he tweeted. It remains unclear whether Puigdemont will be able to take office as MEP .Spain's Supreme Court enforced in July 2018 an article of the criminal code enabling for individuals facing rebellion charges and a prison warrant to be temporarily suspended from public office until the verdict on their cases is out.

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Jordi Sànchez: I am before this court for having been the president of the Catalan National Assembly. I deem myself a political prisoner.

The former chairman of the grassroots group Catalan National Assembly, Jordi Sànchez, was asked more than six hour by Spanish Inquisitors. ànchez also stated that "the facts" used by the State Attorney General and the Government Attorney's Office to accuse him are "false":
"I deem myself a political prisoner. This is a political trial and I believe this is my obligation as a citizen who intends to answer before the truth, and, faced with a court that proclaims its will to be impartial, I would like to give it a chance to prove it."
"And since I am convinced that all the facts levelled at me by the State Attorney General's Office and the Government Attorney's Office are false, I am not afraid of answering and offering the truth to my fellow citizens."

The roadmap of the ANC
When questioned by the prosecutor by the so-called "roadmap" of the ANC, Sànchez defended that such tools are very common in a number of fields, and that "these elements are mere statements of intent".
Sànchez specified, however, that when the ANC roadmap was approved, he was not the president of said association:
"Everyone uses roadmaps. A few weeks ago we could hear about Sánchez's government and the Spanish Socialist Party discussing their roadmap; this is quite a normal concept, and all roadmaps are statements of intent endowed with the value of political intentions. The roadmap towards independence approved by the ANC was drafted when I was not the president of the association, but I am familiar with the document."

Citizen mobilisations, "a basic element of a state governed by the rule of law"
When asked about his role leading the ANC, Sànchez defended its function in mobilising people, and he pointed out its legitimacy and the legality, even when working towards the independence of Catalonia:
"Citizen mobilisations are a basic element in a state governed by the rule of law, and the purpose of said mobilisations is to generate cohesion and social majorities."
"There is an unambiguous will and desire, namely independence which, as the Court is well aware, in this country, in a Constitutional Court ruling on not having a militant Constitution and democracy, it is perfectly legitimate to formulate independence as my own wish and that of the ANC."
In this regard, Sànchez complained that the accusation questioned "perfectly peaceful demonstrations":
"The indictment contains a number of references and sections that seem to clearly question demonstrations that were absolutely peaceful in the strict exercise of the right to demonstration and protest. This, among other reasons, has led me to consider myself a political prisoner, a conscientious prisoner, because I am convinced that I am before this court for having been the president of the ANC."

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The Artist Peter Gabriel Announces His Support to the Catalan Independence Movement

'Hi, I'm Peter Gabriel, I'm supporting the Catalan independence movement. I'm a passionate European. The advantage of this European umbrella is that strongly independent peoples should have the right to self-determination'. Thank you very much, Peter Gabriel, for your support to the Catalan cause. As you say, it's all about democracy and civil rights.

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Surreal: Catalan Political Prisoner Jordi Sànchez faces 17 years for receiving an e-mail

During Spain's trial of Catalan independence leaders, the Spanish Inquisitor accused activist Jordi Sànchez (@jordialapreso) of having received an email. The Prosecution is seeking 17 years of prison for the crime of violent rebellion. And this is evidence of the "crime"? Surreal.

A mysterious "Sabi Strübel" came to the fore of the news on Thursday afternoon during Jordi Sànchez's statements in the Supreme Court.

The prosecutor asked Sànchez if he knew anyone called Xabi Strubell. Sànchez answered that he did not. Javier Zaragoza then asked for an email message to be displayed on the screen. The email message, written to Sànchez, suggested parking private vehicles in front of the polling stations.

The pro-independence leader denied ever having seen the message. In a tug of war against the prosecutor, Sànchez made the following reference to justice Manuel Marchena:

"I do not want to be rude. There have been WhatsApp messages that have compromised the dignity and good name of the presiding magistrate of this Court."

Sànchez was referring to the message sent by the spokesperson of the PP in the Senate, Ignacio Cosidó, to all the senators in the group, stating that he would control the courtroom judging the pro-independence leaders "from behind" due to having managed to place Marchena as the president of the General Council of the Judiciary and of the Supreme Court. Marchena resigned from this position on the following day.

The former president of the ANC also told the prosecutor that "it would have been interested to call Xabi Strubell as a witness".

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Spanish unionists attack the HQ of the Crida Nacional party

The headquarters in Barcelona were attacked yesterday by Spanish supremacists. The National Call for the Republic (Crida Nacional per la República) was launched last January 27th by 2,500 people. The party is promoted by the Catalan President in Exile, Carles Puigdemont, the political prisoner Jordi Sànchez, who was elected Chairman, as well as the Catalonia's President Quim Torra. The transversal movement was joined by right and left factions with the main aim of a Catalan independent Republic. Spaniards threw red pinture symbolizing blood as a clear threat. As usual in these Spanish attacks none has been arrested.

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Spanish Supreme Court Judge Marchena bans the witnesses to speak Catalan: "You have no right"

"Can I Speak Catalan ?", "No", said the the Spanish Judge of the Supreme Court today. The Esquerra MP, Joan Tardà, has begun the round of witnesses in the judgment of the shame to the Supreme Inquisition court. A very chaotic intervention marked by the interruption of Judge Marchena and the questions of the lawyer of Fascist Vox.

Tardà has begun his statement combining Catalan and Spanish, until he has answered Vox questions that he has only done in Catalan, which has come into conflict with Judge Marchena. Finally, the Spanish judge has acknowledged that the witnesses "have no right" to make the declarations in Catalan, since it is not the official language of the judicial chamber of Madrid. New attack against the language, which has become visible.

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"My priority is not leaving prison, but denouncing the violation of rights and freedoms in Catalonia and Spain"

Grassroots activist Jordi Cuixart defended the "right to vote" in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, as week three of the trial of Catalan independence leaders got underway in Madrid.

"The right to vote in Catalonia is achieved by voting," the head of the Òmnium civic organization told the court, adding: "What we did on October 1 [holding the referendum] was an exercise of collective dignity."

Charged with rebellion, Cuixart is the 11th defendant to take the stand in the trial, and precedes the former parliament speaker, Carme Forcadell, who will bring the testimonies of the prosecuted leaders to an end.

In his testimony on Tuesday, Cuixart also made a defense of democracy, telling the prosecutor: "Criticize me for wanting a 'democratic tsunami'… We want more democracy, for citizens to be heard, not only for Catalonia, but for Spain."

"Democratic values are above the rule of law. It is an obligation of citizens to defend them."

Cuixart's priority, "denouncing rights" and "solving conflict"

Duing the cross-examination, Cuixart also said: "My priority is not leaving prison, but denouncing the violation of rights and freedoms in Catalonia and Spain," adding that "solving the ongoing conflict" is also among his priorities.

October 1 referendum, "the biggest exercise of civil disobedience in Europe"

The independence referendum "was an exercise of civil disobedience, which is not punishable with 500 days of pre-trial jail or a 17-year prison sentence," said Jordi Cuixart on the October 1 vote, suspended by Spain. "Civil disobedience is a tool for societies to move forward socially."

"All Spaniards should be proud of the October 1 referendum, the biggest exercise of civil disobedience in Europe".

"The pain that we feel towards the disproportionate [Spanish police] violence on October 1, 2017 will last generations," he added. Some 1,000 people were injured as a result of the law enforcement operation, according to the Catalan health department.

"What we did on October 1 [holding the referendum] was an exercise of collective dignity"

Jordi Cuixart · Grassroots organization Òmnium's president

In fact, Cuixart went further, arguing that defending democracy is more important than complying with the law: "Democratic values are above the rule of law. It is an obligation of citizens to defend them," he told the court.

September 20, 2017 protests

Alongside Jordi Sànchez, Cuixart led a protest outside the Catalan economy department on September 20, 2017, as a response to Spanish police raids of official buildings aimed at halting the organization of the referendum.

On Tuesday, the Òmnium head defended the protests, over which he was remanded in custody for almost 500 days, saying "[the September 20 raids] saw the response of any society whose institutions were being attacked."

Cuixart added that the "September 20, 2017 protests were the spontaneous reaction of the people," and that "since 2010, we have been asking politicians to listen to the will of the citizens." He said the protests that day were peaceful.

The leader of Òmnium also expressed disagreement at some questions on the rally. "The prosecutor is questioning the right to protest."

"No court ever told citizens not to take part in any mobilization," he added.

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Jordi Turull: the State government has breached 25 sentences of the Constitutional Courtand nothing happens here

The Spanish inquisitor asked Minister Jordi Turull (Together for Catalonia) if he was aware that the referendum was prohibited by the Constitutional Court, Turull stated that in 5 years the Spanish government has breached as many as 25 sentences of the Constitutional Court and "here nothing is done about it":
"But according to the Prosecution, this applies to everyone. I mention this because in the same period from 2012 to 2017, the State government has breached 25 sentences of the CC (…) How come those that denounce us before the CC are those that are breaching decisions of the CC every day and nothing happens here?"
He gave as an example military service, regarding things that the Constitution introduces and do not exist:
"My political formation has a lot of experience in things that seem to have no room in the Constitution and end up having it. Many young people probably don't remember or even know what compulsory military service is. Nor should they have to remember, and the Constitution says that there is compulsory military service. It does not exist today."
In this line, he insisted that judicial action is different for "constitutionalists" and for "pro-independence people" and let fly that he had spent one year in prison for one summons.
"Do you know what is happening? When we say that the law is equal for all, that of wearing the constitutionalist suit must be a cushy number, because it allows you to breach the Constitution whenever you feel like it. In contrast, if you are pro-independence, for one summons, that came from the CC, for a summons, not for a sentence with grounds, no, for a summons, I have spent one year in prison. For a summons."
He added that the strategy has always been one of dialogue:
"The strategy followed from the very beginning has been: 'Let's harvest, let's speak'. As Machado said, before dialogue you have to listen. You have not wanted to listen to us, but we have insisted, because in Catalonia the word ‘resignation' does not exist in the political dictionary. We continue insisting."
Asked about the financing of the referendum. Turull confirmed that "not one euro of public money" was spent:
"Not one euro of public money was spent on the referendum."
At the beginning of the questioning, the Spanish inquisitor asked him if he was a member of  Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium, and Turull answered with a list of organisations of which he is a member:
"I am a member of Òmnium Cultural, of ANC, of Càritas, of Fundació Catalana de l'Esplai, of Intermón Oxfam, and RACC. I have been a member of Òmnium for over 20 years."

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Northern Catalan protest demagogic visit from Spanish premier

Pedro Sanchez was not welcomed in Cotlliure (Northern Catalonia) where he tried to mask his authoritarian approach to the Catalan democratic demands. Northern Catalans, under French rule, boycotted the visit to the village and Sanchez must left in only ten minutes. They displayed banners with the slogan 'Self-determination is a right, not a crime".

The crowd dennounced the demagogica of the Spanish premier who tried to mask a tribute to the exiled Republicans to Northern Catalonia and France while he himself maintains Exiled Catalans and Political Prisoners condemned by a court heiress of the Franco Regime. Sanchez laid flowers to Spanish refugees with the Franco's flag as Spain has no returned to the original flag (red, yellow and violette) but kept the Fascist putschist flag. In fact Franco named as his heir a king and the Republic has never been recovered. The son of the king named by the Fascists is nowadays the so called "king".

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Jordi Turull: "The people of Catalonia are not sheep, they are not militarised people to whom you can just say: Go here, go there!' It's not like that"

The Catalan Minister Jordi Turull begun his intervention in the trial of the process at the High Court rejecting the formulation of many of the questions of the prosecutor Jaime Moreno, and has added that in the written accusation of the Prosecutor the pro-independence process appeared suddenly:

"This process, in its written accusation, is based on the fact that one day the light came on and a blank book fell on the table. Just like that! That just doesn't stand up anywhere."
The minister stated that the main part of this narrative is missing: a pro-independence movement which he stated, "goes from below upwards":

"The people of Catalonia are not sheep, they are not militarised people to whom you can just say: ‘Go here, go there…!' It's not like that. The people of Catalonia, whether pro-independence or not, whether from the extreme right or extreme left, from the centre,... they have criteria. We are in the 21st century. I say this because we hear of the people in a way that totally misunderstands Catalonia and the pro-independence movement. The pro-independence movement in Catalonia goes from below upwards."

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General Strike a Success in Catalonia

Significant transportation disruptions amid general strike in Catalonia February 21th. Catalan Labor union Intersindical-Confederació Sindical de Catalunya caledl for general strike in Catalonia region today against the Spanish Inquisition trial on Catalan Government and grassroots peacefull activists. Significant transportation disruptions, schools, shops, universities, ports closed as well as medical centers closed showed a "Sunday's image" of Catalonia.

Dozens of demonstrations also took place in urban centers. Public transport services provided a minimum service, with 50 percent of metros and buses expected to run during peak hours and 25 percent of services expected for the rest of the day. Furthermore, 50 percent of the shuttle bus service, wich connects Barcelona's city center to El-Prat interncational airport (BCN), was provided. "Go slow" operations and roadblocks were executed on different roads across Catalonia.

On a related note, several demonstrations will take place. In Barcelona, a demonstration took place at 12:00 at Universitat Square with dozend of thousans marching. Several columns crossed the city from East to West and North to South. Another rally at 18:00 at Salvador Espriu Gardens. Espriu is the poet who said "Catalans are unassimilable for Spain". Other demonstrations will be held in the early evening in Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. In the morning demonstrations were held in Igualada, Ripoll, Vic, Lleida, Banyoles, Reus, Valls, Tarragona, Sitges, Martorell.

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