Monday, August 29, 2011

Tribute to H. Barrera, President of the Catalan Parliament



The death on Saturday 28 of Heribert Barrera (Barcelona, 6 July 1917), has struck a whole country, not only because of who he was and what he represented, but especially because of his sacrifice in a lifetime defending the national freedoms of Catalonia. Who could move an entire nation like this? He was the first president of the Parliament of Catalonia (1980-1984), restored after 40 long years of persecution by Franco's dictatorship in Spain. A tireless combatant throughout his 94 years, he fought on all fronts (from the trenches in the Spanish Civil War, through democratic activism, to the highest national institutions), in the defence of a country, his own, too often belittled and attacked by a Spain that refuses to recognize Catalonia and its people, the Catalans, who have democratically expressed their wish. The proof is in the sentence of the Spanish Constitutional Court in 2010 that aborted much of the Statute of Catalan Autonomy that had been passed by Parliament and approved in a referendum by the Catalans.

A clear example of perseverance and dedication to his ideals, of commitment to a cause, Heribert Barrera joined Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC - the Republican Left of Catalonia) at a very young age, in the 1930's. Esquerra Republicana was the predominant party at the time and had been founded by the mythical figures of Francesc Macià and Lluis Companys, the latter being the only democratically elected government Prime Minister to be executed in Europe in the twentieth century by fascist troops (he had been captured by the Gestapo in France and delivered to his executioner, Franco). Mr. Barrera had been influenced by his family, who were committed to the legitimate government of the Republic. His father, Martin Barrera, was a trade unionist and a Minister with the democratically elected Catalan republican government. Heribert Barrera followed his father's steps in his commitment to democracy, enlisting as a volunteer in the People's Army after Franco's military coup and uprising. The Republican defeat and persecution by the Franco regime led him to taste the harshness of exile, where he kept the flame alive and worked to organize the survival of Esquerra Republicana in hiding. He graduated in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics and gained a PhD in Physics at the Sorbonne in Paris. Mr. Barrera made a determining contribution to save his party from extinction, and under his leadership, ERC revived with unexpected strength in the Spanish democratic transition, after the death of General Franco.

He became a Member of the Spanish Parliament and an MEP, led ERC in the first parliamentary elections in Catalonia after the legalisation of his party, and was elected the first President (Speaker) of the Catalan Parliament in 1980, rebuilding the institutional architecture that had been crushed by fascism, thanks to a deal made with the conservative Catalan nationalists led by President Jordi Pujol. A firm supporter of a confederation of Spanish nations, he evolved in recent years towards a clearly pro-independence position before the obvious impossibility of a harmonious engagement between Catalonia and a Spanish state that plunders but denies Catalonia's citizens their collective rights. He had recently particularly favoured the union of the several Catalan pro-independence organizations in order to achieve a joint parliamentary majority that would allow a unilateral declaration of independence within the context of the European Union. After 94 years of relentless struggle, his personal combat has ended. But a new generation of politicians and a new social majority is growing, and they are increasingly convinced of the infeasibility of any political, social or economic project for Catalonia that does not include its own sovereign state in order to speak on equal terms with the other democratic nations of the world.

May he Rest In Peace.


Last discourse of President Heribert Barrera

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