Catalonia’s leaders are jailed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Catalonia’s leaders are jailed a week after the region declared independence


Thousands of people rally outside the regional presidential palace in Barcelona on Tuesday to show their support for those appearing in court. (Manu Fernandez/AP)
 November 2 at 4:12 PM
 A Spanish judge on Thursday ordered the jailing of eight of Catalonia’s separatist leaders a week after the region declared independence, extending the tough crackdown on the breakaway effort.The decision not to free the former officials on bail ahead of their trials on charges of rebellion, sedition and the misuse of public funds came after an Oct. 27 takeover of the region following the Catalan Parliament’s vote to secede.

The imprisonments set off an immediate outcry from independence advocates in Catalonia, who said they fit into a repressive pattern from the Spanish state that began when national police intervened with truncheons and violence to try to prevent an independence referendum from being held on Oct. 1. Town squares across Catalonia filled with protesters after the decision was announced late Thursday afternoon.

A prosecutor also asked Judge Carmen Lamela to approve an international arrest warrant for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium on Monday alongside other officials. An extradition request would set the ground for a difficult diplomatic dance between Spain and Belgium, which allows E.U. citizens to claim political asylum and which is partly ruled by Flemish nationalists sympathetic to the Catalan cause.

Lamela planned to decide on the warrant Friday. In denying bail, she said the leaders still in Spain were a flight risk, citing the retreat by Puigdemont and others to Brussels.

 Play Video 0:48
Catalan secessionist leaders arrive at court without Puigdemont
Catalonia’s secessionist leaders arrived at a Madrid court Nov. 2 to answer charges of rebellion and sedition. The region’s former president Carles Puigdemont said he would not turn up. (Reuters)

Puigdemont refused to appear at the Madrid court on Thursday, saying that the charges were politically motivated. The leaders are facing prison terms of up to 30 years. In all, 20 officials are charged.

Apart from the eight people sent to jail Thursday, a ninth was allowed free on bail of $58,000 because he resigned from the Catalan government before the independence declaration.

“A long and fierce repression lies ahead. We must combat the situation as Catalans do, without violence, in peace,” Puigdemont said Thursday in a televised address to Catalans that appeared to be recorded in his Brussels hotel room. He has said that he remains Catalonia’s leader and that the decision by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to use constitutional powers to strip him of office was illegal.

The decision to put the former officials behind bars meant that the highest-profile Catalan separatist leaders will probably not be able to run in Dec. 21 regional elections that Rajoy called after dismissing the government. After darkness fell Thursday, the former officials were transferred in police vans with flashing blue lights to the Alcala-Meco Prison outside Madrid.

The move was condemned even by some pro-union Catalan leaders, who said it was needlessly harsh.

“This is a black day for democracy and for Catalonia,” said Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who appeared close to tears as she spoke to journalists late Thursday. Colau has said she believes Catalonia should have more autonomy but should not be independent.

The crackdown drew condemnation from several other leaders in Europe, including the heads of Scotland and Belgian Flanders, two regions that have sought independence or more autonomy from their national governments.

“Jailing democratically elected government leaders = more than bridge too far,” the leader of Belgium’s Flanders region, Geert Bourgeois, wrote on Twitter.

That was echoed by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who wrote that “regardless of opinion on Catalonia, the jailing of elected leaders is wrong and should be condemned by all democrats.” She added: “The disagreement about Catalonia’s future is political. It should be resolved democratically — not by the jailing of political opponents.”

Opinion polls show that support for independence in Catalonia is growing but that slightly less than half of the population seeks a split.

Braden Phillips contributed to this report.

Spanish Jews Come Out Against Catalan Independence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

AS SPANISH JEWS WE WHOLLY SUPPORT THE SPANISH CONSTITUTION’

Breaking neutrality, Spanish Jews come out against Catalan independence

Despite umbrella body statement, Jews living in the secessionist region appear divided over the crisis that is roiling the country

  • People gather to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic at the Sant Jaume square in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
    People gather to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic at the Sant Jaume square in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
  • Catalan president Carles Puigdemont casts his vote for a motion on declaring independence from Spain, during a session of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE)
    Catalan president Carles Puigdemont casts his vote for a motion on declaring independence from Spain, during a session of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE)
  • People gather in front of the 'Generalitat' palace (Catalan government headquarters) at the Sant Jaume square to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic in Barcelona on October 27, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
    People gather in front of the ‘Generalitat’ palace (Catalan government headquarters) at the Sant Jaume square to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic in Barcelona on October 27, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
  • Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gives a press conference after a cabinet meeting at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO)
    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gives a press conference after a cabinet meeting at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO)
  • People gather in front of the 'Generalitat' palace (Catalan government headquarters) at the Sant Jaume square to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Lluis Gene/AFP)
    People gather in front of the ‘Generalitat’ palace (Catalan government headquarters) at the Sant Jaume square to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Lluis Gene/AFP)
  • People celebrate after Catalonia's parliament voted to declare independence from Spain on October 27, 2017 in Barcelona. ( AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU)
    People celebrate after Catalonia’s parliament voted to declare independence from Spain on October 27, 2017 in Barcelona. ( AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU)
  • People celebrate after Catalonia's parliament voted to declare independence from Spain in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Pau Barrena/AFP)
    People celebrate after Catalonia’s parliament voted to declare independence from Spain in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Pau Barrena/AFP)

Breaking with its policy of neutrality on Catalan independence, the main umbrella group of Spanish Jews on Friday blamed separatists for the kingdom’s crisis and declared allegiance to the constitution.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, or FCJE, did this in a statement released hours after Catalan lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain, as Madrid vowed in turn to “restore legality” and quash the region’s secessionist bid.

Expressing “deep concern over the grave national crisis,” the statement by the federation went on to state this crisis was “caused by the unilateral declaration of independence” of the regional government of Catalonia through its parliament.

”As Spanish Jews we wholly support the Spanish Constitution, the rule of law as applied in accordance with the law, solidarity and equality between all Spanish people and the unity of Spain,” read the statement. Authorities will “restore normalcy in Catalonia,” continued the anti-secessionist statement, “and throughout all of Spain, and that, finally, fraternity and peaceful coexistence as Spanish citizens.”

The Madrid-based federation’s statement notwithstanding, the Jews of Catalonia, who, according to the European Jewish Congress make up a third of Spain total Jewish population of 45,000, are deeply divided on the issue of independence, according to Victor Sorenssen, the leader of the Jewish community of Barcelona, which is the capital of Catalonia.

Barcelona Jewish Community Spokesperson Victor Sorrenssen ( Screen Capture/ YouTube)

“This is a political matter that doesn’t directly concern Judaism, so the community has no position on it as such,” Sorenssen said earlier this month of the organization representing Barcelona’s Jews.

Jews of Catalonia, an anti-secessionist group, on Friday lauded the Madrid-based federation for its “important” message, as they called it on Twitter.

“The only representative organ of Jews in all of Spain has some out in favor of unity and against separatism,” the tweet read. “Kol HaKavod FCJE! The separatists represent only themselves.”

But a spokesperson for the pro-independence group “Jews for Independence” told JTA the FCJE does not represents the various opinions of Jews in Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain on this issue.

“We welcome the birth of our Catalonian Republic. It is no longer a dream,” the spokesperson said.

The motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and two abstentions, a result that caused Spanish shares and stock to fall sharply internationally, the Agence-Presse France reported.

Shortly before the Catalan vote, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged lawmakers in the federal parliament to give him the power to dismiss Catalonia’s secessionist leader Carles Puigdemont, his deputy and all regional ministers.

If approved, the measures under Article 155 of the constitution, designed to rein in rebels among Spain’s 17 regions, would enter into force on Saturday.

READ MORE:

Spain Dismisses Catalonia Government After Region Declares Independence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Independence supporters gathered outside the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona, Spain, on Friday. Credit Jack Taylor/Getty Images

BARCELONA, Spain — Spain’s leader fired the government of the rebellious Catalonia region Friday, dissolved the regional parliament and ordered new elections after Catalan lawmakers illegally declared an independent nation.

The showdown escalated the biggest political crisis in decades to hit Spain, which is just emerging from a prolonged economic malaise. Catalonia is a critical part of the economy in Spain, the fifth largest in Europe.

“We never wanted to reach this situation, never,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on television, announcing the emergency steps he was taking under the Constitution to crush Catalan independence.

Mr. Rajoy’s move capped a frenzied day of political maneuvering in Madrid, Spain’s capital, and Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, where the long drive for independence — illegal under Spain’s Constitution — has now reached its fiercest level yet.

Whether the separatist emotion behind the independence declaration will now grow or fade could depend on how aggressively the central authorities in Madrid enforce the takeover in coming days.

Continue reading the main story

As of Friday night it was unclear whether separatist leaders — who hours earlier exulted at the independence declaration — would resist. The mood in the city of Barcelona was a mix of intense joy and subdued trepidation.

“We believe it is urgent to listen to Catalan citizens, to all of them, so that they can decide their future and nobody can act outside the law on their behalf,” Mr. Rajoy said.

The steps announced by Mr. Rajoy mean Spain will take direct control over one of the country’s autonomous regions for the first time since Spain embraced democracy under the 1978 Constitution.

At the end of what he called “a sad day” for Spaniards, Mr. Rajoy assured them that he had the means to end a secessionist threat that, he said, was based on “lies, frauds and impositions.”

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain spoke after the Senate voted on Friday to grant him powers to take direct administrative control over the Catalan region. CreditJuanjo Martin/European Pressphoto Agency

He removed the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, and his cabinet, as well the director general of the autonomous police force. He also ordered Catalonia’s representative offices overseas to close.

In ordering the Catalan Parliament to dissolve, Mr. Rajoy said new regional elections would be held Dec. 21.

Pending the elections and formation of a new regional government, Mr. Rajoy said, Catalonia’s administration would be run from Madrid.

Fueled by a distinct language and culture as well as economic grievances, aspirations for a separate state have percolated for generations in Catalonia before boiling over this month.

The events on Friday, coming in the chaotic aftermath of an Oct. 1 independence referendum in Catalonia, were greeted variously with anger, concern and elation on both sides, with the prospect of even more volatile confrontations in days ahead as the Spanish government moves to put the steps in place.

Spain’s attorney general may now seek to detain Catalan leaders on grounds of rebellion.

Such moves were likely to turn the boisterous separatist street celebrations that greeted the independence declaration on Friday into mass protests, with one Catalan labor union already calling on workers to stage a general strike on Monday.

During the debate in the regional parliament that preceded their vote for independence, Catalan lawmakers traded accusations and in turn described the occasion as “historic” and “happy,” or else “tragic” and a violation of Spain’s Constitution — perhaps the only thing on which both sides agreed.

Within an hour, the Spanish Senate in Madrid voted 214 to 47 to invoke Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution, granting Mr. Rajoy extraordinary powers to seize direct administrative control over the region and remove secessionist politicians, including Mr. Puigdemont, the Catalan leader.

In a speech on Friday before the vote, Mr. Rajoy had said he had “no alternative” because Mr. Puigdemont and his separatist government had pursued an illegal and unilateral path that was “contrary to the normal behavior in any democratic country like ours.”

Photo

Separatist lawmakers in the Catalan Parliament applauded after the resolution passed. Those opposed to independence walked out in protest before the vote. CreditDavid Ramos/Getty Images

Undeterred by Mr. Rajoys threat, and after a bitter debate, separatists in the Catalan Parliament passed a resolution to create “a Catalan republic as an independent state.”

Most of the opponents to independence walked out of the chamber in protest before the vote, which the remaining lawmakers held via secret ballot, aware that declaring independence from Spain could risk arrest.

The final tally was 70 in favor, 10 against, and two blank votes.

Since the referendum , Mr. Puigdemont had been squeezed in a tightening vise of his own creation, and seemed at times to contradict his own declarations as he squirmed for a way out.

Mr. Puigdemont, a former small city mayor, was trapped between the demands from Catalan hard-liners to declare independence on one side, and, on the other side, the stiffening response from a Rajoy government determined to preserve the nation’s Constitution and territorial integrity.

Despite pleas for mediation, he and his region’s independence bid were shunned and condemned, not only by Madrid but also by European Union officials wary of encouraging similarly minded secessionist movements around the Continent.

European leaders made clear on Friday that they would not be recognizing Catalan independence and would support Mr. Rajoy, as leader of one of the bloc’s most important member states. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, wrote in a Twitter post that “nothing changes” and “Spain remains our only interlocutor.”

Searching for a compromise, Mr. Puigdemont came close on Thursday to calling early regional elections in hopes of forestalling the drastic measures approved by the Spanish Senate on Friday and preserving Catalonia’s autonomy.

But Madrid would offer no guarantee that it would not clamp down on the region, Mr. Puigdemont said, as he immediately faced a revolt in his own ranks from secessionist hard-liners who called him a traitor.

After hours of wavering on Thursday, he relented and threw the decision on independence to Catalan lawmakers, who took the fateful plunge on Friday.

Catalonia

Catch up here on the referendum and its fallout.

  • Catalonia voted on independence despite opposition from Spain’s government. What are the origins of the secessionist movement, and what has happened since the vote?

Addressing the Catalan Parliament in Spanish, Carlos Carrizosa, a lawmaker from Ciudadanos, a party that opposes secession, told Mr. Puigdemont and separatist lawmakers that, far from creating a new Catalan republic, “you will go down in history for having fractured Catalonia and for sinking the institutions of Catalonia.”

In front of the assembly, he tore apart a copy of the independence resolution. “Your job is not to promise unrealizable dreams but to improve the daily lives of people,” he said.

Before the independence vote, Marta Rovira, a separatist lawmaker, told the assembly that “today we start on a new path” to build “a better country.” She added, “We are creating a country free of repression.”

Catalan lawmakers who voted for independence could face prosecution for sedition, or even rebellion.

Marta Ribas, a Catalan lawmaker, said that Madrid’s use of Article 155 was unjustified, but also argued that “it’s a mistake to respond to one outrageous act with another outrageous act.”

She added, “A declaration of independence won’t protect us from the 155, quite the contrary.”

In the streets outside the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona, not far from a boisterous pro-independence rally, a few Catalans quietly expressed similar frustrations.

The Oct. 1 referendum did not give the Catalan government the legitimacy to vote to secede, said Federico Escolar, 53, a cafe owner.

“Most of the people who would have voted no did not participate,” Mr. Escolar said, while smoking a cigarette outside his cafe. “It was not a proper referendum. It was illegal.”

Walking into a nearby subway station, Cristina Juana, a 38-year-old social worker, agreed.

“Neither Puigdemont nor the Catalan government knows exactly what the Catalan people’s opinion is,” Ms. Juana said.

Before the Catalan Parliament’s vote for independence on Friday, large crowds had gathered outside in anticipation of what they hoped would be a historic day for Catalonia.

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Many were draped in flags as they watched the parliamentary debate on two large screens, cheering during speeches by pro-independence lawmakers and hissing those of their opponents. When proceedings hit a lull, the crowds cycled through a series of pro-independence chants.

“Spanish occupiers!” was one, a reference to the national police officers who tried to stop the Oct. 1 referendum by force. “Leave Catalonia!”

Spain: How Many People Will They Be Willing To Butcher In Catalonia?

Spain: How Many People Will They Be Willing To Butcher In Catalonia?

 

As most folks who are interested in this ‘Autonomy’ issue between the nation of Spain and the nation of Catalonia realize the government of Spain appears ready to invade the nation of Catalonia. The reason for this arrogance is that the people of the nation of Catalonia voted on October first of this year to truly separate themselves from the federal government of Spain. By the articles that I have read since the first of October concerning the succession vote by the people of Catalonia it appears that the people voted at a 90-92% rate to completely break away from Spanish rule.

 

The King of Spain and their Prime Minister tried to make it difficult for the people to vote back on the first by using the police to beat and arrest people at the polling locations as well as trying to close those locations. The government leaders I just mentioned have made it plain that they will not tolerate Catalonia breaking away from Spain and they have made it very plain that they are going to use the Spanish police and Spain’s military to remove the elected government leaders of Catalonia. They have also made it plain that the government in Madrid will place their own choices into the seats of government of Catalonia. Yesterday in Barcelona over 500,000 marched against Spanish rule, is Spain willing to kill or imprison hundreds of thousands of people?

 

The population of Catalonia is about 7.5 million people which is about 15% of Spain’s total population. Catalonia is a huge creator of wealth for Spain, they generate about 20% of Spain’s GDP. Is this the issue that has the politicians in Madrid bearing their teeth at Catalonia? If you have not studied the history of these two nations and how they sort of became one please allow me to pass on some information to you. Two nations became one through a wedding in 1469 A.D.. One King, one Queen formed one country. Pretty much ever since this event the people of Catalonia have been trying to break free from the grip of Madrid. They have had autonomy several times just to have it yanked away again and again. This is what is about to happen right now. Catalonia has always had its own culture and its own language and they simply want their freedom back.

 

The government leaders including the King of Spain are having to make a decision right now about what they are going to do about the people in Catalonia. If the people and the government of Catalonia stand firm and refuse to have their own elected leaders removed for vassals of Madrid, what is the Spanish government going to do? Will they go into Catalonia like the Russians did with Czechoslovakia in 1968? How many freedom wanting people is the Madrid government willing to kill and to imprison to keep these people under their thumb? I have a bad feeling that the world is about to find out the answer to that question very soon. Would it not be better for all of the people of Spain and the Spanish government, to have a good friend/brother next door to them, a true ally? If Spain does go in and force their way on these people they are going to have an enemy in their midst, not a friend. I am sure that Madrid is mostly worried about losing 20% of their GDP yet they will lose a lot more than that if the people of Catalonia are butchered because they want their freedom back.

Catalonia’s leaders slam Spanish government plans for direct rule

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Catalonia’s leaders slam Spanish government plans for direct rule

Uproar in Catalonia

Uproar in Barcelona over Madrid direct rule plan 01:17

Story highlights

  • Spanish PM Rajoy outlined his plan to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy
  • Nearly half a million people marched against the measures in Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain (CNN)Catalan leaders have insisted they will reject any attempt by Madrid to impose direct rule on their autonomous region, as a political crisis escalates over Catalonia’s threats to declare independence from Spain.

On Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced his plans to dissolve the Catalan parliament under a never-before-used article of the Constitution, vowing to remove the region’s elected leaders as soon as possible and hold new elections.
It is the most serious threat Rajoy has made since Catalonia held an independence referendum on October 1, triggering Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.
Madrid dismissed the vote as illegal but Catalan leaders saw it as a mandate to announce a split from the country.

Rajoy urges removal of Catalan President

Rajoy urges removal of Catalan President 02:31

What will direct rule mean?

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On Sunday, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis gave a glimpse into what Catalonia under direct rule might look like.
“We are going to establish the authorities who are going to rule the day-to-day affairs of Catalonia according to the Catalan laws and norms,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

Demonstrators march in Barcelona on Saturday.

He called on the Catalan people to ignore the current regional authorities, including the police, once Madrid declared direct rule and said that new elections should bring in new leaders.
“They wont have any legal authority, so they will be equal to a group of rebels trying to impose their own arbitrariness on the people of Catalonia,” he said.
He said that the regional police could resume their duties once they had been placed under the authority of Madrid or newly elected Catalan leaders.
Dastis denied that Madrid would need to send in large numbers of police or the military to impose direct rule.
“We hope the regional police, once put under the control of people who respect and who uphold the Catalan rules and Spanish rules, everything will be fine.”

‘Attack on democracy’

On Saturday, nearly half a million people protested in Barcelona, Catalonia’s biggest city.
Demonstrators shouted “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” and “Rajoy, Rajoy, so you know we are leaving!”
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont was among the throngs, but he stopped short of declaring independence, as he had threatened to do earlier in the week.
“The Catalan institutions and the people of Catalonia cannot accept this attack,” he said later in a televised statement, accusing Madrid of seeking the “humiliation” of the Catalan people.
“What is being done with Catalonia is directly an attack on democracy that opens the door to other abuses of the same kind anywhere, not just in Catalonia.”

Protesters hold signs reading "Freedom for the two Jordis" on Saturday, referring to two jailed Catalan activists.

Other Catalan politicians were similarly defiant. Catalan parliamentary leader Carme Forcadell accused Rajoy of “enormous political irresponsibility” that “trespassed all limits.”
“He announced a de facto coup d’etat with which he aims to take over Catalan institutions,” Forcadell said Saturday.
“We will not take a step back. We were chosen by the people of this country as legitimate representatives, and as public servants we owe ourselves to them.”

Rajoy calls for new elections

Rajoy is seeking to employ Article 155 of the constitution, which would allow the national government to suspend the autonomy of the Catalan regional administration. Rajoy said the measure would be sent to the Spanish Senate within the week.
New elections should be called for Catalonia within six months, Rajoy said, adding that he wants it to happen as soon as possible.
Under the measures proposed Saturday by Rajoy, Puigdemont, his vice president and ministers would be suspended and replaced by the administration in Madrid, where necessary.

How Catalonia's independence crisis unfolded

How Catalonia’s independence crisis unfolded 01:49
“The government had to enforce Article 155. It wasn’t our desire, nor our intention. It never was,” Rajoy said. “But in this situation, no government of any democratic country can accept that the law is ignored.”
In undertaking these steps, the government has four goals, Rajoy said — to return to legality; to restore normality and coexistence in Catalonia; to continue the region’s economic recovery; and to hold elections under normal conditions.

Spain’s FM denies excessive use of force

Catalan media reacted Sunday to Rajoy’s announcement with editorials goading Puigdemont to declare independence soon.
The Catalan daily Diari Ara published photos of the march under the banner “Freedom,” while the daily El Punt Avui showed a photo of Rajoy in black and white overlooking the colorful protests under a the headline: “Returning to the past.” It also ran an editorial under the headline: “An unacceptable attack.”
Every move Madrid has made to ward off an independence declaration, the Catalan people appear to have responded to with more vigor.

Spanish police officers try to disperse voters at a polling station in Barcelona on October 1.

Madrid sent thousands of police into Catalonia to stop the October 1 vote, but officers were seen using what many called excessive force, shooting rubber bullets at protesters, dragging voters from polling stations by their hair and restraining elderly people.
Even though members of the Spanish government eventually apologized for the police’s force that day, Dastis defended the police Sunday, saying that the use of force was “limited” and “provoked,” and that many of the images had been doctored and constituted “fake news.”

Implications of independence

Nearly 7.5 million people live in Catalonia, an economic powerhouse in the northeast of Spain. Spain’s population is almost 49 million.
More than 2.25 million people turned out to vote, with the regional government reporting that 90% of voters favored a split from Madrid. But the turnout was low — around 43% of the voter roll — which Catalan officials blamed on the central government’s efforts to stop the referendum.
An independent Catalonia would be outside the European Union and its single market, which is essentially a free-trade zone.
EU leaders have backed the Madrid government in its handling of the crisis, which Rajoy insists is an internal matter.
Catalonia would also sit outside the World Trade Organization, which could have consequences for the region’s economic health.
Amid the uncertainty, businesses have already started to move their legal headquarters out of Catalonia. According to a tweet Friday by the National Association of Registers, 1,185 companies began that process between October 2 and 19.

Spain Will Remove Catalonia Leader

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced that fresh regional elections would take place in Catalonia within six months. CreditGabriel Bouys/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BARCELONA — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia’s independence drive took its most serious turn on Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

It was the first time that Spain’s government had moved to strip the autonomy of one of its 17 regions, and the first time that a leader had invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — a broad tool intended to protect the “general interests” of the nation.

The unexpectedly forceful moves by Mr. Rajoy, made after an emergency cabinet meeting, thrust Spain into uncharted waters. The prime minister is trying to put down one of the gravest constitutional crises his country has faced since embracing democracy after the death of its dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975.

The steps were immediately condemned by Catalan leaders and risked further inflaming an already volatile atmosphere in the prosperous northeastern region. On Oct. 1, thousands braved national police wielding truncheons to vote in a contentious independence referendum for Catalonia, even after it was declared illegal by the Spanish government and courts.

“There’s nothing soft or limited about what he announced today,” Josep Ramoneda, a political columnist, said of Mr. Rajoy. “We’re entering a very delicate phase, in which an independence movement that appeared to be running out of options might now draw instead on a collective sense of humiliation at seeing Catalonia being forced under Madrid’s control.”

Continue reading the main story

Fueled by economic grievances and a distinct language and culture, aspirations for an independent state in Catalonia have ebbed and flowed for generations.

But the current confrontation has presented a vexing quandary not only for Spain but the entire European Union, pitting demands for self-determination against the desire to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an important member state.

Mr. Rajoy took the bold steps with broad support from Spain’s main political opposition, and will almost certainly receive the required approval next week from the Spanish Senate, where his own conservative party holds a majority.

He did so despite repeated appeals for dialogue and mediation by the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, whose independence drive has been shunned by wary European Union officials.

Mr. Rajoy said the Catalan government had never offered real dialogue but had instead tried to impose its secessionist project on Catalan citizens and the rest of the country in violation of Spain’s Constitution.

Photo

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, center, attended a protest in Barcelona on Sunday against the imprisonment of two Catalan pro-independence leaders. CreditIvan Alvarado/Reuters

He said his government was putting an end to “a unilateral process, contrary to the law and searching for confrontation” because “no government of any democratic country can accept that the law be violated, ignored and changed.”

Mr. Rajoy said he planned to remove Mr. Puigdemont, and the rest of his separatist administration from office. The central government was also poised to take charge of Catalonia’s autonomous police force and the Catalan center for telecommunications.

Mr. Rajoy did not ask to dissolve the Catalan Parliament, but instead said that the president of the assembly would not be allowed to take any initiative judged to be contrary to Spain’s Constitution for a period of 30 days, including trying to propose another leader to replace Mr. Puigdemont.

Mr. Rajoy said that his goal was to arrange new Catalan elections within six months, so as to lift the measures taken under Article 155 as soon as possible.

It’s unclear, however, how such elections would be organized or whether they would significantly change Catalonia’s political landscape, let alone help to resolve the territorial conflict.

Mr. Puigdemont led a mass demonstration of 450,000 people in Barcelona, the region’s capital, on Saturday afternoon.

Protests in Barcelona on Saturday Video by La Vanguardia

In a televised address late Saturday, Mr. Puigdemont said he would convene Parliament next week to discuss the response to Mr. Rajoy; he did not rule out using the session to declare independence. He accused the Spanish government of trying to “eliminate our self-government and our democracy.”

In a part of his speech delivered in English, Mr. Puigdemont also addressed Europe’s politicians and citizens and suggested Europe’s “foundational values are at risk” in the dispute with Madrid. “Democratically deciding the future of a nation is not a crime,” he argued.

Other Catalan separatist politicians warned that Mr. Rajoy’s announcement would escalate rather than resolve the conflict.

Josep Lluís Cleries, a Catalan Senator, told reporters on Saturday that Mr. Rajoy was suspending not autonomy in Catalonia but democracy.

Carme Forcadell, the separatist president of the Catalan Parliament, pledged on Saturday evening to defend “the sovereignty” of her assembly. “We will not take a step back,” she told a news conference. “Mr. Rajoy isn’t conscious that by attacking the institutions, he is attacking the society of this country.”

Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story
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Oriol Junqueras, the region’s deputy leader, said in a tweet that Catalonia was “facing totalitarianism” and called on citizens to join the Barcelona protest on Saturday.

Significantly, Iñigo Urkullu, the leader of the Basque region, which also has a long history of separatism, described the measures as “disproportionate and extreme,” writing on Twitter that they would “dynamite the bridges” to any dialogue.

Faced with Madrid’s decision to remove him from office, Mr. Puigdemont could try to pre-empt Mr. Rajoy’s intervention and instead ask Catalan lawmakers to vote on a declaration of independence in coming days.

Mr. Puigdemont could also then try to convene Catalan elections, on his own terms, to form what he could describe as the first Parliament of a new Catalan republic.

His government has been flouting Spain’s Constitution since early September, when separatist lawmakers in the Catalan Parliament voted to hold a binding referendum on independence, as a key step toward statehood. An alliance of separatist parties has controlled the Parliament since 2015, after winning regional elections, but with only 48 percent of the vote.

Should Mr. Puigdemont resist Mr. Rajoy’s plans, Spain’s judiciary could separately step in and order that he and other separatists be arrested on charges of sedition or even rebellion for declaring independence.

Rebellion carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years. Earlier this week, a judge from Spain’s national court ordered prison without bail for two separatist leaders, pending a sedition trial.

Using Article 155 “was neither our desire nor our intention,” Mr. Rajoy said on Saturday, but had become the only way to to return Catalonia to legality, normality and maintain a Spanish economic recovery “which is now under clear danger because of the capricious and unilateral decisions” of the Catalan separatist government.

Mr. Rajoy highlighted the decision of over 1,000 Catalan companies this month to relocate their legal headquarters outside the region, in response to the uncertainty generated by the possibility of a breakup with Madrid.

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Mr. Rajoy received strong backing from politicians from the main opposition parties, with the notable exception of Podemos, the far-left party that wants to use a referendum to convince Catalan voters to remain within Spain.

“We’re shocked by the suspension of democracy in Catalonia,” Pablo Echenique, a senior official from Podemos, said in a news conference on Saturday.

Catalonia crisis: Puigdemont to ask region’s parliament to discuss ‘attack’ by Madrid

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Catalonia crisis: Puigdemont to ask region’s parliament to discuss ‘attack’ by Madrid

Rajoy urges removal of Catalan President 02:31

Story highlights

  • Catalan’s president was expected to address the pro-independence crowd Saturday
  • The region’s succession could have dire economic effects for Spain

Barcelona, Spain (CNN)[Breaking news update, posted at 3:35 p.m. ET]

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will ask the region’s parliament to discuss Spain’s attempt to curb Catalan self-government, he said Saturday in a televised address. “The Catalan institutions and the people of Catalonia cannot accept this attack,” he said. He did not announce Catalan independence in the statement.
[Previous update, posted at 3:09 p.m. ET]
Nearly half a million people took to the streets Saturday in Barcelona, waving flags and banners in support of Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
The rally unfolded just hours after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced his government would invoke rarely used constitutional powers to remove Catalonia’s leaders.
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Demonstrators shouted, “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” and “Rajoy, Rajoy, so you know we are leaving!”
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont was among the protest crowd, which police estimated at 450,000 people. He was scheduled to speak later Saturday.
The unprecedented constitutional measures — intended to end Catalan leaders’ independence bid — fall under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution and would have to be sent to the Spanish Senate for approval. This would happen within the next week, Rajoy said.

Rajoy, left, called Saturday for the removal of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

The Madrid government announced Thursday that it would invoke Article 155, a provision that allows it to suspend the autonomy of the Catalan regional administration.
The move followed weeks of division triggered by a banned independence referendum on October 1.
Puigdemont on Thursday threatened that his wealthy northeastern region could formally declare independence if the Spanish government did not engage in dialogue.
Nearly 7.5 million people live in Catalonia. Spain’s population is almost 49 million.

Move to oust in Senate’s hands

Under the measures proposed Saturday by Rajoy, Puigdemont, his vice president and ministers would be suspended and replaced by the administration in Madrid, where necessary.
“The government had to enforce Article 155. It wasn’t our desire, nor our intention. It never was,” Rajoy said. “But in this situation, no government of any democratic country can accept that the law is ignored.”
In undertaking these steps, the government has four goals, Rajoy said. These are: to return to legality; to restore normality and coexistence in Catalonia; to continue the region’s economic recovery; and to hold elections under normal conditions.
“The autonomy is not suspended, nor the government,” he said. “People are removed who put the government outside the law, outside the constitution and outside statutes.”
New elections should be called for Catalonia within six months, Rajoy said, adding that he wants it to happen as soon as possible.
“The only way for Article 155 to be stopped is if the Senate votes it down,” he said.
Rajoy’s Popular Party holds a majority in the Senate. Two Spanish opposition parties, PSOE and Ciudadanos, have also said they will back the Article 155 measures, Rajoy said.
Senate Vice President Pedro Sanz said the Senate would hold a session Friday morning to vote on Article 155.
Spain’s national prosecutor’s office told CNN it is preparing to file charges of rebellion if Catalan authorities declare a declaration of independence. It did not name Puigdemont or any other officials as possible defendants.

Protesters to rally

The crisis threatens to fracture Spain, one of the European Union’s principal members, and has prompted mass public protests in Catalonia and elsewhere.
The immediate response of Catalan politicians appeared to be one of defiance.
“In the face of totalitarianism, today more than ever, we defend democracy and civil and political rights, you will find us there,” Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras said via Twitter.
“Today President Rajoy, in an act of enormous political irresponsibility, trespassed all limits. He announced a de facto coup d’etat with which he aims to take over Catalan institutions,” said Catalan Parliamentary leader Carme Forcadell.
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colao tweeted: “Rajoy has suspended the Catalan self-government for which so many people fought. A serious attack against the rights and freedom of many, here and everywhere.”
Puigdemont said Thursday that if Madrid “persists in blocking dialogue and the repression continues,” the Catalan parliament reserved the right to formalize a declaration of independence that was suspended on October 10.
At that session, Puigdemont said that Catalonia had “earned the right” to become an independent republic in its October 1 referendum, which was banned by Spain’s Constitutional Court. But he suspended the effects of the declaration to allow for talks.
Puigdemont also demanded Spain end its “repression” of Catalan separatist leaders, two of whom were taken into custody on suspicion of sedition earlier in the week.

People hold candles and a Catalan flag during a demonstration in Barcelona against the arrest of two Catalan separatist leaders on October 17.

More than 2.25 million people turned out to vote on October 1, with the regional government reporting that 90% of voters were in favor of a split from Madrid. But the turnout was low — around 43% of the voter roll — which Catalan officials blamed on the central government’s efforts to stop the referendum.
Violent scenes unfolded as national police sought to prevent people from casting their ballots.

Marchers demand the release of imprisoned Catalan leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart on Saturday in Barcelona.

Rajoy urges unity

Rajoy said Saturday that Puigdemont had repeatedly rejected opportunities to talk to Madrid before calling the banned referendum and insisted his own government was acting to protect the interests of all Spaniards, especially Catalans.

Catalan families divided over independence

Catalan families divided over independence 01:48
“I am fully aware this moment is difficult but all together we are going to overcome (it), as we have previously overcome very complicated events throughout our history,” he said.
Rajoy also warned that an independent Catalonia would be outside the European Union and the World Trade Organization, with dire consequences for the region’s economic health.
A combination of higher tariffs, lack of access to credit and “disproportionate” inflation would lead to “impoverishment of the Catalan economy of between 25 and 30%,” he said.
Amid the uncertainty, businesses have already started to move their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, Spain’s economic powerhouse. According to a tweet Friday by the National Association of Registers, 1,185 companies began that process between October 2 and 19.
Spain’s King Felipe VI said Friday that Spain was facing an “unacceptable” attempt at secession and that Catalonia must continue to be a central part of the nation.
EU leaders have backed the Madrid government in its handling of the crisis, which Rajoy insists is an internal matter.
European Council President Donald Tusk described the Catalonia situation as “concerning” but said there was “no space for EU intervention,” in remarks Thursday in Brussels.

Catalan Leader Proclaims Independence But Suspends It

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Catalan leader proclaims independence but suspends it to allow talks with Madrid

The Spanish government has said any unilateral declaration of independence would be illegal and has promised action “to restore law and democracy”.

WORLD Updated: Oct 11, 2017 00:18 IST

Reuters, Barcelona
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont gestures during a plenary session in the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont gestures during a plenary session in the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017. (REUTERS)

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday proclaimed the region’s independence from Spain but said its effects would be suspended to allow for talks with the Madrid government.

“I assume the mandate that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic … I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks to reach an agreed solution,” Puigdemont told the regional parliament in Barcelona.

Though Puigdemont stopped short of seeking the explicit support of the chamber for the declaration of independence in a vote, a move that would have closed the door to any negotiated solution, the declaration plunges Spain into the unknown.

The Spanish government has said any unilateral declaration of independence would be illegal and has promised action “to restore law and democracy” if the parliament of the autonomous and affluent northeastern region presses ahead.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy could take the unprecedented step of dissolving the Catalan parliament and triggering new regional elections, the so-called “nuclear option”.

The Madrid government could also ask the courts to strike down a declaration of independence as unconstitutional.

Despite renewed calls for dialogue with Madrid, the proclamation makes a negotiated solution more difficult as Rajoy has said he would not talk to the Catalan leaders until they drop plans for independence.

Catalan head says already feels like the president of a free country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Catalan head says already feels like the president of a free country

Catalonia will move to declare independence from Spain on Monday.

WORLD Updated: Oct 04, 2017 21:26 IST

Reuters, Barcelona/Madrid
President of the Catalan regional government Carles Puigdemont (2R) and Josep Lluis Trapero (R), chief of the Catalan regional police on September 10.
President of the Catalan regional government Carles Puigdemont (2R) and Josep Lluis Trapero (R), chief of the Catalan regional police on September 10.(AFP File Photo)

Catalonia will move on Monday to declare independence from Spain following October 1’s banned referendum as the European Union nation nears a rupture that threatens the foundations of its young democracy.

Mireia Boya, a Catalan lawmaker from the pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party, said on Twitter that a declaration of independence would follow a parliamentary session on Monday to evaluate the results of the vote to break away.

“We know that there may be disbarments, arrests … But we are prepared, and in no case will it be stopped,” she said.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont earlier said he would ask the region’s parliament to declare independence following the poll, which Spain’s government and constitutional court say was illegal and in which only a minority of Catalans voted.

“This will probably finish once we get all the votes in from abroad at the end of the week and therefore we shall probably act over the weekend or early next week,” he told the BBC in remarks published on Wednesday.

In an interview with German newspaper Bild, Puigdemont said he already felt like “a president of a free country where millions of people have made an important decision”.

He said the Madrid government’s refusal to negotiate had left Catalonia “no other way” than to declare independence and accused it of authoritarianism.

“The Spanish government is letting political opponents be arrested, it is influencing media and blocking Internet sites. We are under observation day and night,” Puigdemont said.

“What is that other than an authoritarian state?”

Spain was only restored to democracy following the death in 1975 of dictator Francisco Franco, under whom the Catalan language and traditions were suppressed.

The constitutional crisis in Spain, the euro zone’s fourth-biggest economy, has shaken the common currency and hit Spanish stocks and bonds, sharply raising Madrid’s borrowing costs.

The cost of insuring against potential losses on Spanish bank debt and Spanish, Italian and Portuguese sovereign debt has also jumped, suggesting an impact on the wider euro zone.

Bank stocks were hit especially hard as the Ibex stock index, fell below 10,000 points on Wednesday for the first time since March 2015. In a sign of the nervous public mood, Catalonia’s biggest bank, Caixabank, and Spain’s economy minister had earlier sought to assure bank customers that their deposits were safe.

Influential Catalan business lobby Cercle d’Economia said it was extremely worried by the prospect of Catalonia declaring independence and called for both sides to start talks.

“Such a declaration would plunge the country into an extraordinarily complex situation with unknown, but very serious consequences,” the group said in a statement.

Read more

Evening statement

Puigdemont’s comments appeared after Spain’s King Felipe VI accused secessionist leaders on Tuesday of shattering democratic principles and dividing Catalan society, as tens of thousands protested against a violent police crackdown on Sunday’s vote.

The Catalan leader is due to make a statement at 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Wednesday.

Spain has been rocked by the Catalan vote and the Spanish police response to it, which saw batons and rubber bullets used to prevent people voting. Hundreds were injured, in scenes that brought international condemnation.

Catalans came out onto the streets on Tuesday to condemn the police action, shutting down traffic, public transport and businesses, and stoking fears about intensifying unrest in a region that makes up one-fifth of the Spanish economy.

Road closures related to the protests briefly halted production at Volkswagen’s Catalonia plant. Stoppages also affected production at Nestle’s instant coffee plant in Girona.

“As a businessman, as a Spaniard and as a person, I am very worried and I am scared by what’s going on (in Catalonia),” said Juan Roig, chairman of Spain’s biggest food retailer Mercadona.

“Irresponsible behaviour”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a conservative who has taken a hard line on Catalan independence faces a huge challenge to see off the issue without further unrest and potential damage to his minority government.

Pro-independence parties which control the regional government staged the referendum in defiance of a Constitutional Court ruling that the vote violated Spain’s 1978 constitution, which states the country is indivisible.

Catalonia has its own language and culture and a political movement for secession that has strengthened in recent years.

Participants in Sunday’s ballot — only about 43 percent of eligible voters — opted overwhelmingly for independence, a result that was expected since residents who favour remaining part of Spain mainly boycotted the referendum.

Outside Catalonia, Spaniards mostly hold strong views against its independence drive. In his televised address, the king said the “irresponsible behaviour” of the Catalan leaders had undermined social harmony in the region.

“Today Catalan society is fractured and in conflict,” he said. “They (the Catalan leaders) have infringed the system of legally approved rules with their decisions, showing an unacceptable disloyalty towards the powers of the state.”

The king said the crown was strongly committed to the Spanish constitution and to democracy, and underlined his commitment to the unity and permanence of Spain. He had earlier met Rajoy to discuss the situation in Catalonia.

Opinion polls conducted before the vote suggested a minority of around 40 percent of residents in the region backed independence. But a majority wanted a referendum to be held, and the violent police crackdown angered Catalans across the divide.

17 dead after protests in Cameroon English-speaking areas

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN NEWS PAPER ‘DAWN’)

 

 

Cameroon police officials with riot equipment patrol along a street in the administrative quarter of Buea some 60kms west of Douala on October 1. — AFP
Cameroon police officials with riot equipment patrol along a street in the administrative quarter of Buea some 60kms west of Douala on October 1. — AFP

Cameroon’s military is heavily deployed in the country’s English-speaking regions and few people are on the streets after 17 people were killed over the weekend in protests in support of independence for some Anglophone regions.

Tens of thousands of English-speaking Cameroonians hoisted flags on Sunday to show that they want independence from the country’s French-speaking majority, defying security forces and bans for gathering in some areas.

Security forces shot dead 17 people in Cameroon during gatherings on the 56th anniversary of the incorporation of Anglophone regions into Cameroon, according to Amnesty International. The group expressed worry over the government’s “ongoing campaign to silence any form of dissent”.

The Northwest province on Friday banned meetings and travel for 72 hours.

The rights group called on security forces to cease unnecessary violence and called on protesters to be peaceful.

“The worrying escalation witnessed over the weekend has now reached a crisis point. The use of excessive force to silence protests in the west and southwest regions of Cameroon is not the solution,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Lake Chad researcher.

“All deaths related to these protests must be promptly and effectively investigated.”

Local media had reported at least a dozen people killed in the English-speaking northwest and southwest regions, some shot by military helicopters, while at least 40 others were arrested, according to local media. Six soldiers were attacked and severely wounded, reports said.

No declarations were made by separatists, but protests have been ongoing since late last year with the country’s English-speaking population saying it is discriminated against by the majority French-speaking population.

Social media platforms such as WhatsApp have been blocked in the English-speaking regions and residents express fear about restrictions imposed by the government.

In Yaounde and all major towns in the French-speaking regions, political parties, lawmakers and the government organized rallies denouncing the separatist groups.

Lawmaker Tabe Tando from Cameroon’s English-speaking southwest region read a declaration at a mass rally organised by Cameroon’s senate and national assembly in Yaounde.

“The members of parliament condemn outright any action aimed at destabilising our beloved and beautiful country. Reaffirm their attachment to a Cameroon which is one and indivisible as enshrined in the constitution. Express their brotherly solidarity to the populations of the northwest and southwest regions, victims of the unscrupulous acts of enemies of the fatherland and peace,” it said.

Some experts called for dialogue to avoid ongoing tensions.

Schools have been closed in the northwest and southwest since November when lawyers and teachers called for a strike to stop what they believe is the overuse of the French language. Violence erupted when separatists joined in and started asking for complete independence.

President Paul Biya has made clear he is not open for any negotiations on separate states.

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