divendres, 21 novembre de 2014

Statement on Catalan Public Participation Process by International Observers

As you should know if you've been keeping up with my rivetting blog posts, a group of international observers made up of a wide (politically speaking) range of  Members of the European Parliament were present at the Catalan "vote" on 9 November. Here's their report (and here at this link, the team leader's personal thoughts):

STATEMENT
by the International Parliamentary Delegation on Catalonia’s Public Participation Process.

 We are a cross party delegation of European Parliamentarians. We have been asked by the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia to observe this process under what proved to be unusual and changing circumstances.
 In our view this process was unique. As far as we saw, and we did not and could not be expected to see everything, the process took place in a calm and open manner where no one was coerced or intimidated. We
witnessed no attempt to persuade citizens to participate in general or to endorse a particular side.
 We can make no comment on the count, as we did not observe it. We can make no comment on the polls which took place abroad, as we did not observe them.
 This participatory process has been conducted under challenging circumstances, and we believe has been conducted successfully. We would hope that in the future, Catalans will be able to participate in such a process, without the challenges that we witnessed today.
 The delegation was treated with respect and enjoyed co-operation with all those involved in the process. We had the freedom to travel and interrogate as we saw fit and experienced no coercion or direction. We
were able to interact with the media at all times. We were also able to meet participants from all sides of the debate.

Main Findings
Strength
s

• The delegation witnessed no coercion or intimidation and no attempt to influence the activity of the participants.
• There was a high level of participation across Catalonia in spite of challenges.
• The process was conducted in a positive and family-friendly atmosphere.
• The process was conducted in an efficient manner by a large number of
volunteers.
• There were an adequate number of ballot boxes for the process.
• The process for verification of citizens intending to vote was of a high standard, utilising ID cards. Those without cards were unable to vote (although they would be able to vote later). The details of each participant were recorded on paper, and confirmed by interrogation of a computer database, before each vote was cast.
• The computers used in each polling station were not connected to the internet providing greater confidence that they were free from abuse or interference.
• The computer software which facilitated the verification of IDs was off a high standard and was tested by the delegation to ensure that it did not allow false voting. The Computer Programme was called ‘Participation
Process 2014’.
• The participation of people aged 16 - 18 was a success.

Weaknesses
• There was no census/electoral roll available, adding difficulty to administration of the poll.
• The unusual conditions of the poll meant that there were fewer polling stations than during standard elections creating problems and potentially confusion for voters.
• The absence of an official Electoral Presiding Officer was a weakness since it made addressing complaints and problems in real time more difficult.
• Whilst we do not question the integrity of the volunteers, the manner in which they were selected and allocated positions was less satisfactory than would have been the officiation by designated polling officers.
• The provision for privacy of voting was not universal.

Ian Duncan (United Kingdom) acting as spokesperson / European Parliament /
European Conservatives and Reformists - Conservative Party
Izaskun Bilbao (Spain) / European Parliament / ALDE – Basque Nationalist Party
(PNB)
Mark Demesmaeker (Belgium) / European Parliament / European Conservatives and
Reformists - Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie
Jill Evans (United Kingdom) / European Parliament / Group of the Greens -European
Free Alliance - Plaid Cymru
Valter Mutt (Sweden) / Swedish Parliament / European Green Party - The Green
Party
Gérard Onesta (France) / Regional Parliament of Midi-Pyrénees / European
Green Party - Europe Ecologie
Peter Vilfan (Slovenia) / Parliament of Slovenia / ALDE - Alliance of Alenka Bratusek
ZaAB
Bernhard von Grünberg (Germany) / Parliament of the Land North Rhine-
Westphalia / European Socialist Group - SPD

Barcelona, 9 November 2014

dijous, 20 novembre de 2014

Dear Mr Cameron...

Around 80 British citizens (including yours truly) living in Catalonia, Catalans living in the United Kingdom, and other citizens with close links to the United Kingdom and/or Catalonia have signed this letter which is currently being rushed to Downing Street by the Royal Mail (as well as appearing in the Catalan press) ...



Dear Prime Minister,

As expatriate citizens from different countries with strong ties with the United Kingdom, we firstly wish to express our sincere admiration for the democratic position your Government adopted over the Scottish Referendum. The Scottish people were given the opportunity to decide their own future, an initiative that must be deemed fair, modern and democratic. It is due precisely to the wisdom of this decision, however,
that we consider it a contradiction that, on November 10th, you should have publicly expressed your support for Mr. Rajoy over the Catalan independence poll which was incomprehensibly declared “illegal” by the Spanish Government. This successful poll was conducted in the most democratic fashion, as certified by a group of MEP observers headed by Mr. Ian Duncan, giving a result of over 80% support for Catalan independence. 
Many Catalans regret the implicit blessing that your statement bestowed on Mr Rajoy’s blunt opposition to the right of Catalans to vote. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and 301 years after the British Government’s tragic failure to comply to the terms of the Treaty of Genova at Utrecht, the signatories of this letter feel that today it should be the duty of the British Prime Minister, and other European leaders, to support the Catalan people in their bid to find a democratic solution to their problem and to take into their own hands the key decisions regarding their political future. It is a right no European people should be denied.

Yours faithfully,

...
Un grup de 80 persones vinculats amb el Regne Unit i/o Catalunya hem fet aquesta carta al primer ministre britanic, David Cameron. Ha sortit també a la premsa, aquí i aquí.

Benvolgut Primer Ministre

Com a ciutadans expatriats de diferents països amb vincles estrets amb el Regne Unit, volem d'entrada expressar la nostra sincera admiració per la posició democràtica que el vostre govern va adoptar sobre el Referèndum Escocès. El poble escocès va tenir l'oportunitat per decidir el seu propi futur, iniciativa que considerem justa, moderna i democràtica. És precisament degut a aquesta assenyada decisió que veiem com a contradictori que, l'endemà de l'exitosa consulta, vostè declarés públicament el seu suport per la posició del Sr. Rajoy respecte a la consulta d'independència que incomprensiblement va ser declarada "il.legal" pel Govern espanyol. Aquesta reeixida consulta es va conduir de la manera més democràtica tal com van avalar-ho un grup d'eurodiputats liderats pel Sr. Ian Duncan, amb el resultat de més d'un 80% a favor de la independència de Catalunya. 
Molts catalans estan dolguts davant el suport implícit que la vostra declaració prestava a l'oposició inflexible del Sr. Rajoy al dret a decidir dels catalans. En celebrar-se els 25 anys de la caiguda del Mur de Berlin, i 301 anys després que Gran Bretanya deixés de complir a Utrecht els mandats del Tractat de Gènova, els signants d’aquesta carta creuen que el Primer Ministre britànic, i altres liders europeus, tenen avui el deure de donar suport al poble català en la seva demanda de trobar solucions democràtiques al conflicte i de poder prendre lliurement les crucials decisions sobre el seu futur polític. És un dret que no s’hauria de negar a cap país d’Europa. 

Ben atentament

dimecres, 19 novembre de 2014

The Catalan Issue in Europe

Interesting video offering views on the present Catalan situation from a wide range of European politicians. Worth a watch!

Brain explosions in the 21st century

Ultimament quan no treballo, estic pensant - pensant i treient profit de l'internet. Tot comença per no haver seguit el ritme dels canvis tecnologics del segle 21, basicament perque són de la vella escola - aquells que pensen, si funciona, no ho canvies, i si no ho necessites, no ho compres.
Per tant, tenim televisor del 1996, fins fa 4 dies gravabem en VHS, escolto cassettes, tenim equip de música del 1993, l'ordenador ja té un edat. No tinc tablet ni res que comença amb la lletra "i",i de smartphones ja en parlarem un altre dia.
Llavors arriba el dia que t'has de posar al dia, i simplement no saps per on començar ja que hi ha tanta informació. Em recorda el cas del cafe - fa 20 anys a Anglaterra deies, "Un café per favor" i et donaven un cafe amb llet i va que xuta. Ara has de saber si és capuccino, expresso, americano, macchiato... si ho vols descafeinat o no, quin tipus de llet, de sucre, la mida del got...
Per tant, aqui em veieu, trencant el cap mirant les ofertes del Fusion TV i intentant esbrinar com gravarem coses de la tele, i com la gent ho fa avui en dia per veure internet per la tele (tot s'ha de dir, també soc de Yorkshire i tenim una certa reticencia de gastar diners sense saber exactament el que tindrem i quina és la millor opció). L'equip de musica comença a fer aigues - ho reparem, o canviem? Canviem components o comencem de zero? Hi ha manera de escoltar la musica que tens al disc dur de l'ordenador a traves d'un sistema de musica normal? Hi ha amplificadors que llegeixen pen-drives?
De cara a nadal... fa 30 anys vaig comprar un console de video-jocs, Atari. Ara he de fer un curs accelerat de quina és la millor opció pels nostres xiquets, que si PS4, PS3, Wii... i quins jocs, i quins accessoris...
Per més inri, intento seguir el que volen fer els xiquets amb l'ordenador - ara un blog, ara busca aixo, ara instalar mods i mapes al Minecraft.
En fi, molta informació i poc temps per a assimilar-ho tot!
.....
When I'm not working, recently I've been spending most of my time thinking - thinking, and taking notes from friends' advice and the internet. Up to the point that my brain might explode soon.
It all starts out due to the fact that we've got behind with the question of technological developments - basically as I'm a firm believer in the old saying, if it ain't broke, don't fix it - and if you don't need it, don't buy it.
So, here we are with a 1996 TV, and still using a video recorder up to last year, and a 1993 music system. The computer is also old in most people's eyes, I have no tablet or other gadget beginning with the letter "i", and as for smartphones..., well, they deserve their own post which I may or may not write soon.
So, anyway, we've decided to go for one of these TV-phone-internet packages but we're inundated with special offers and information on which to choose. As if that weren't bad enough, I'm trying to work out what kind of gadgets allow you to record from TV in the 21st century, and - in for a penny, in for a pound - how people go about seeing internet on their TV. Apart from the information overload, another factor to bear in mind is that I was born in Yorkshire and we are not known for jumping in and spending money haphazardly.
The music system is starting to cause problems - what to do, fix it, change components, start again with a new one? Are their gadgets which allow you to hear your computer's music through your normal hi fi system?
Christmas is coming. Last video game console I bought was an Atari in 1982. So now, another crash course (late nights shared with Mr Google and a glass of the hard stuff) in what each new game (PS4, PS3, Wii...) does, and which would be most suitable for our kids, and what you need - games, accessories etc.
On top of it all, trying to keep up with the kids and their computer use, and helping them out, setting up blogs, preparing things for school, installing gimmicks on the Minecraft game...
To cut a long story short, too much information and too little time. It all reminds me of coffee. Twenty years ago, you'd go into a café and say "Can I have a coffee please?", and you'd get a cup of white coffee. Now, you get half a dozen Italian names thrown at you, and then have to choose if it's decaf or not, what kind of milk or sugar you want, even the size of your bloody cup (or plastified paper beaker)! 

dimecres, 12 novembre de 2014

Personal thoughts the day after the Catalan Vote.



On Sunday 9th November, Catalonia voted.

1.       My day. After a couple of very late nights trying to keep up with things on the internet, and trying to do some work at the same time, I somehow dragged myself out of bed just before 8am on Sunday to check (on the internet and radio) that all was well, that the police hadn’t turned up at polling stations and there was no need to rush there to help out. The missus then went off to help her mum (with mobility problems) get ready and bring her up to our house for a traditional Catalan breakfast – thick hot drinking chocolate, or rather, dunking chocolate. Delicious with lots of bread and buns dunked in it. And made in Tortosa.

After that we got our voting clothes on – I went for the ELO t-shirt to make a statement – and drove up to our polling station. There were about 50 cars in the car park, a queue of about 10 cars to get in and 8 local policemen helping out. We made our way slowly to the school entrance – my mother-in-law walks with crutches after 4 different unsuccessful hip operations. Once in the grounds, there were crowds of people milling around, many with Catalan flags, happy smiling faces, from babes in arms to elderly people – and I mean, really elderly people. The amount of people who must have been in their 80s or 90s waiting to vote was amazing. Goose pimples! We each had to go to different ballot boxes due to our surnames, but went happily from one to the other as a family. There’s no rush when you’re changing history. Loads of volunteers inside the school helping out. More smiles. Photos of the historic moment – see above. And finally we’d done, but spent some more time there in the school playground greeting friends and chatting about the importance of this day.
By 12.30 we were back home, but I then had to go back out to pick up my seven-month-pregnant sister-in-law at the train station. She’d flown back home especially from Mallorca just to vote. Left Mallorca early doors, arrived in Barcelona at 9, and then a 3-hour train ride to Tortosa. I drove her up to the school and we repeated the earlier process – and smiles.
Back home, for a vermouth together, another Catalan tradition, followed by a delicious paella and a short well-deserved snooze before spending the rest of the day following the proceedings on the internet and TV news. Finally hit the sack, worn out but euphoric about 1am.

2.       The volunteers. As the Catalan government had sort of stepped aside in the final organization – remaining responsible for the vote itself, but they didn’t want it to be run by public sector workers who could find themselves in legal problems – they had appealed for volunteers to run the vote. Over 40,000 registered in a matter of days, and did a wonderful job on Sunday. The vote ran smoothly, efficiently, and was just as well-organized as any other election process I’ve seen. These people are heroes.

3.       The legal threat. As I said previously, to reduce legal problems for local authorities it was decided to hold the vote only in buildings actually belonging to the Catalan government – basically schools (hospitals being ruled out). But the heads of the schools had to actually physically unlock the doors. Late on Saturday the 8th, the Spanish Public Prosecutor decided to apply the Constitutional Court’s ban of the vote by asking police to identify and inform on who was responsible for opening the schools/voting stations. The Catalan President, Mr Mas, immediately stated that he was the sole person responsible and people should not fear legal consequences.
The police did turn up on Sunday morning – but to help with any logistic problems! That's the Catalan police, not the Spanish national police force who, luckily, kept a low profile. Mid-morning, another right-wing political party denounced the process to Catalan courts, requesting the police act immediately to close the voting stations and arrest President Mas. The court, applying what is apparently known as “proportionality” of action, decided not to act. The chances of closing 6000 stations in 900 towns, faced with 2 million citizens, were not exactly high ones – and even less so with a peaceful outcome.
Two days later, though, the governing PP party have announced that tomorrow (Wednesday) the Public Prosecutor will press criminal charges against President Mas and the Catalan vice-president and maybe the Education Minister. Yes, you read that right, a political party is announcing what the legal system will do.

4.       The stories. Polling started at 9am, but the volunteers had to be there by 7.30 to prepare everything – and, just maybe, offer peaceful resistance to police attempts to prevent the vote. Hundreds of other people turned up at every school too, just in case... and by 9am there were huge queues of people waiting to vote, queues that lasted most of the day, especially in big cities. My friend had to queue for an hour in Barcelona, for example. Queuing to vote – with a smile! 

Catalans living abroad could either vote at a Catalan government office in 17 major cities, or fly “home”. People flew in from everywhere, even as far as from Chile and Argentina. People travelled from Miami to New York. From the west coast of Australia to Sydney. From Germany and Holland to Brussels. From Sheffield to London. There was a 6-hour queue to vote in London. See video below.
Babes in arms being breast-fed in hour-long queues. The 80-year-old man who went to vote on the way to his wife’s funeral. A 101-year-old voter. Many in their 90s who lived through the civil war and Franco waiting for this moment. A Catalan woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp. Smiles and tears, many tears were shed – tears of joy and relief.

5.       The observers. Despite Spain’s insistence that the vote was a farce, and illegal, a team of MEPs came to observe that all was carried out correctly. The team was led by a Scottish Conservative MEP and they gave the process a clean bill of health. That a Conservative politician should give such a clear message on live TV too, saying that voting should never be illegal, and that protecting democratic rights comes before any thoughts for and against independence, is what we call a kick in the b*lls for the Spanish “democratic” government. More here.
6.       The numbers. 2,300,000 voted (so far – but you can still vote during the next two weeks at official government offices and people are queuing every day). Before we go on to analyze this, that means that over two million Catalans have committed an act of civil disobedience on a scale probably never seen before in western Europe. Over two million Catalans have told the Spanish authorities where they can shove their laws and legislation. Think about this. In my opinion, this shows Catalonia is already free- we’re just missing the paperwork to formalize the divorce!
The exact number of how many could have voted varies as, with the vote (even the watered-down third and final proposal, known as a “citizen participation process on the political future of Catalonia”) being banned by the Spanish courts, the Catalan government weren’t allowed access to the official electoral roll and simply had to register voters one by one on the day itself. Still, it seems like around 5.5 or 6 million could have taken part (including 16 and 17 year olds, and foreigners like yours truly). The fact that about 35-40% of these voted is a huge success in my opinion, given the obstacles and threats:
a)      There were far fewer polling stations than usual as they could only use school buildings. In areas like mine, not every village has a secondary school, so some people had to travel 10km just to vote. Obviously many people are committed enough (having just explained that some flew across the globe), but imagine the maybe-voters. Would a 65-year-old maybe-voter with a dodgy leg go on a 10km bus trip just to vote?
b)      Legal grey area. People know full well that Spain has a reputation for carrying out its threats, it is a young democracy and I have no doubts that they would have played the law enforcement card if they thought they could get away with it without bloodshed. The volunteers obviously knew this and took the risk, but, again, what about the non-committed voters? Would you go out not knowing what you could find? Not just police action but there could also have been violence from fascist thugs as threatened in the run up to the day. My neighbour phoned me at 11pm the night before to ask us if we thought it was safe to take the kids with them.
c)       It may not have affected many voters, but “someone” brought down the Catalan government and citizens’ pro-independence group websites with a massive cyber-attack on the Saturday and Sunday, thus making it difficult to find out last minute information – as the polling stations were not the usual ones, you had to find out online where to go. Read more here. This attack could have had terrible consequences as it also affected the health website, affecting access to patient’s records, prescriptions and so on.
d)      Several right-wing parties, including the PP who govern in Spain, asked their voters not to vote, thus reducing hugely the overall participation.
e)      Changing the format of the vote at such short notice left many people confused as to the legality and usefulness of the final vote. The question itself was confusing, being a split question rather than a simple Yes or No.
f)       If this had been a “normal” referendum, there would have been a Yes and No campaign, thus informing people and getting more numbers to the ballot boxes. As it stands, only Catalan public TV and radio have done anything similar – mainstream Spanish TV channels, with a huge audience in Catalonia, just did their best to let people know the vote was "at best" a waste of time, and "at worst" illegal!

7. My quick analysis:
As it stands over 80% of those who voted want full independence (about 1.8 million, which could creep up near the 2 million mark in coming days).This is a decent number given the circumstances listed above, and my feeling is that if it had been a normal vote, the Yes could have reached 2.5 or maybe 3 million.
In any normal election, you don’t get 100% turnout so you’d have to expect maybe 75-85% participation, which could mean between 4.5 and 5 million voters in all. Thus, I think a simple Yes/No vote in democratic conditions would throw up a majority for independence.  (PS I really admire the 4.5% who went out to vote NO, ignoring the government’s requests to boycott the vote and deciding to participate in a democratic vote). Apart from that, 2 million voters would probably give a parliamentary majority in a “normal” election.
My gut feeling is that there is a majority of Catalans in favour of independence, and if this had been a binding referendum as Catalonia wanted, we’d be on our way with maybe a 60/40 split, or at least a 55/45 (like the numbers in Scotland). As it stands, the numbers, given the huge difficulties, are excellent and give a clear indicator to President Mas  what his next step should be – call early elections on a one-issue (independence) programme and declare independence upon winning the election.
Some photos(Catalonia) and videos (London) of queues! An article in Bloomberg. Irish Times too. Some great stuff by the BBC here and here who had a reporter here giving great live coverage on internet.




Cues per votar a Londres por vilawebtv



diumenge, 9 novembre de 2014

Update (3) - nine hours to go.

Nine hours to go before voting starts here in Catalonia - though they're already voting at the Catalan govt office in Australia! So, what's new since this morning or what else can I say?
1. As I said earlier Spanish courts have "suspended" the vote, but everyone was hoping they'd realise it is impossible to physically stop it - so it would go ahead under a sort of grey vagueness if the Catalan government took on a low profile. Well, at midday the Spanish public prosecutor formally ordered the Catalan justice system to find out just who's going to be opening the "polling stations" tomorrow, and who'd be legally responsible for this "illegal" act. The actual people opening the doors will be the head teachers of the school buildings being used, so it's obvious that this is just one more attempt to scare people and put them off voting - and maybe to start specific legal actions against the Catalan government, who has tonight taken the pressure off the head teachers and volunteers via a press release where they insist that it's the government, and only the government, who is legally responsible for tomorrow's act.

2. Somebody has hacked into the Catalan government website and the website of the huge pro-independence citizens' group, Assemblea Nacional Catalana, and brought them down. The Assemblea also say many of their workers' mobile phones have been blocked.

3. Despite the Spanish government's insistence that they are protecting democracy in Spain by banning tomorrow's activities, the rest of the world is not so sure. The list of international figures demanding Catalans be allowed to vote, which I posted the other day, grows every day. Plus, international observers have arrived today to ensure a democratic vote can go ahead - or at least the nearest thing possible given Spain's obstacles. They are led by a British Tory MEP - obviously a unionist, but, as he says himself, first and foremost a democrat. More here. 

4. Some amazing stories. The Catalans who have flown in from Chile just to vote. The Catalan girl living in Miami who's travelled to the Catalan office in New York to vote. An eighty-year-old who was operated on yesterday says he'll be out voting. And many many more....
 
5. What will the turnout be like - that is the question no one knows the answer to. All we know is we need to get numbers at the polling station doors as soon as they open, just in case the police try to prevent them opening, and that we have to stay calm and peaceful whatever happens - whatever right-wing, neo-fascist, provocations occur, like today in Barcelona where there was a bit of trouble. Many people will not be sleeping tonight, everyone's nervous and excited. It's going to be a big night on Twitter! I'll be ferrying my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to vote first thing tomorrow, and we've printed up our voting slips just in case the police confiscate them in the night.
I hope, and expect, the Catalans to offer yet one more example of a festive fun-filled peaceful celebration of democracy. If not, the next blog post may be sent from the local jail....


dissabte, 8 novembre de 2014

Catalan update (2) - 24 hours to go...

Carrying on from Monday's update as the Catalan roller coaster continues...
... so as  we said, with it being impossible to hold any kind of referendum or referendum-like vote, even a non-binding one, the Catalan government announced that the 9 November "thing" would now be a "citizen participation process on the political future of Catalonia." From my understanding of this, it means a volunteer run "asking-opinion-survey", with no legal value or democratic guarantees - the volunteers, presumably from the pro-vote camp, manage the vote and count the papers. There is a sense of formality to it, though, as the "vote" (or public opinion poll?) will be held in public government-owned buildings, but with no government or public workers present. The government has compiled the list of volunteers (about 40,000 names in 3 days!), sent ballot boxes and voting papers, and given instructions on how to run it - and then took a back seat. Luckily.
The Spanish government decided even this kind of act would also be illegal and anti-constitutional in their eyes, so they asked the Spanish State Council to prepare an opinion. The State Council is one of these supreme bodies, supposedly neutral and above everything, but actually full of over-paid, under-worked, 99-year-old recycled Francoists nominated by the two main (anti-vote) Spanish political parties. I kid you not. For example, the president of the Council was a top man in the health minstry under Franco and already on the Council back then. Can you imagine members of Hitler's government being offered the top job in guaranteeing democratic rights in modern-day Germany? Neither can I.
The State Council then passed their decision on to the Constitutional Court (political party nominated bunch of 99-year-old puppet judges) who immediately suspended the vote while they decide whether it's anti-constitutional - the same as they had done with the original decree (see Monday).
This would be like attempting to ban a public opinion survey involving a group of volunteer citizens standing on Barnsley market asking you what you think about the new plans for the market. Not really 21st century Europe, is it?
As this was the last card the Catalans could play - nobody could imagine that we wouldn't even be allowed a Mickey Mouse public survey - then, the Catalan government has decided to go ahead anyway.
The reasoning behind the Spanish government and Court's decision is that they claim the new event is basically the same as the original proposal for a real referendum but with a different name. This is not true - the long-term objective is the same, but the format and style of the new action must surely be allowed in democratic Europe!
 So, with all the to-ing and fro-ing, what will happen tomorrow? Who knows. The Catalans want a huge turnout obviously to show to the 700 international journalists who have come to cover a "possibly illegal Mickey Mouse public survey" that we mean business. Spain has the option of physically carrying out the ban, sending in the police to confiscate ballot boxes and lock the polling stations. This would be hard to achieve - 900 towns with 7000 polling stations, and over a million people on the streets - and a disaster for their public relations. Imagine a photo of 5000 people queuing past a famous Barcelona landmark with a voting slip in their hand as the Guardia Civil arrest and drag away the volunteers,or the Spanish authorities removing the Catalan government's powers and arresting the President? 
Personally I think the Spanish government will go for the least worst scenario and let the event happen, before dismissing it as a non-serious vote the day after. Damage limitation. Having said that, there has been an initimidatory increase in the presence of Spanish military and navy in Catalonia over the last week.... this, plus the general confusion - the ups and downs of all the changes made to the voting system -and physical difficulties - some people have to travel 20km to reach their nearest polling station - mean that there is huge uncertainty as to how people will react tomorrow. I think, given the extremely difficult circumstances, a 50% turnout would be a success.

Anyway, I'm going to vote. This is now going beyond a desire for independence; it's a desire to maintain my basic democratic rights. By coincidence the vote happens on Remembrance Sunday. Fortunately, as bad as the Catalans' lot is, the present situation bears no comparison with what our forefathers had to fight for, but, in a sense, I think carrying out my democratic rights (suspended by the Spanish government) would have made my grandfather (who lost his physical and mental health as a prisoner under the Nazis) proud.

dijous, 6 novembre de 2014

I'll vote for you

Well-known Catalan artists, singers, politicians, intellectuals and so on, remember those who dreamed of and fought all their lives for this day, but unfortunately are no longer with us. We will vote for them.




 

(the second photo, Salvador Puig Antich, is of the last political activist to be executed by Franco in 1974. His death sentence was signed by the lawyer who now represents the current leader of the Catalan section of the PP (right-wing governing in Spain) party)

dimecres, 5 novembre de 2014

Internationally prestigious names say Let Catalans Vote

LET CATALANS VOTE

A majority of Catalans have repeatedly expressed in different ways the wish to exercise their democratic right to vote on their political future.
This strong demand to vote is the result of longstanding dissension between the governments of Catalonia and Spain over the degree of cultural, political, and financial autonomy that Catalans should enjoy, despite several attempts to reach an acceptable solution.
As the precedents in Quebec and Scotland show, the best way to solve legitimate internal disputes is to employ the tools of democracy. To prevent the Catalans from voting seems to contradict the principles that inspire democratic societies.
Accordingly, we call on the Spanish government and institutions and their Catalan counterparts to work together to allow the citizens of Catalonia to vote on their political future and then negotiate in good faith based on the result.
  • Desmond Tutu, Archbishop and Nobel Peace Laureate
  • Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, sculptor and Nobel Peace Laureate
  • Ken Loach, cinema director
  • Saskia Sassen, Sociologist (Columbia University)
  • Richard Sennett, Sociologist (New York University)
  • Harold Bloom, literary critic (Yale University)
  • António Lobo Antunes, writer
  • Bill Shipsey, Founder of Art for Amnesty International
  • Paul Preston, Historian and Hispanist (London School of Economics)
  • Ambler Moss, former Ambassador of the United States of America

Pep Guardiola and Mrs Garcia on importance of Catalan vote

dimarts, 4 novembre de 2014

The British and the Catalans, 300 years later.


"[..] and the Honour of the British Nation, always renowned for the Love of Liberty, and for giving Protection to the Assertors of it, was most basely prostituted and a free and generous People, the faithful and useful Allies of this Kingdom, were betrayed, in the most unparalleled Manner, into irrevocable Slavery..."
—Journal of the House of Lords, vol 19, 20 (1715) with reference to Britain's shameful failure to fulfill its agreement with the Catalans.

Letter I sent to British press but no one has published (yet):-

Three hundred years ago Britain signed the Treaty of Utrecht with Spain, thus pulling out of the War of the Spanish Succession and abandoning their allies, the Catalans, to their fate. A notorious act of betrayal reflected in writings and parliamentary debates at that time which led to the Catalan people, and their institutions and laws coming under Spain’s yoke. Many years later in the twentieth century, Britain’s refusal to intervene in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the democratically elected governments allowed Franco’s coup d’état to go ahead, representing the loss of freedoms and democracy for Catalans and Spaniards alike. Now, at the third time of asking, will Britain make amends to Catalonia? Their struggle for the simple right to hold a vote on their own future has come up against a Spanish state which has still to overcome the attitudes and mindsets of the Franco era and refuses to even consider a referendum. Given this impasse, Catalans propose to go ahead with a non-binding vote within the current legal frameworks and it is now looking increasingly likely that the next Catalan elections will lead to a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence. I hope that, when this moment arrives, Britain will stand firm for democracy this time and support their old Mediterranean allies.