Six months ago today, Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, failed to stop a referendum in Catalonia taking place – despite saying he would, and despite spending over €87m brutally trying to prevent it, deploying the Spanish National Police and Guardia Civil to attack innocent voters of all ages. In the weeks prior to 1st October 2017, Rajoy’s right-wing Spanish government warned its country’s media against publishing any advertisements about the referendum, sending Guardia Civil agents to editorial offices in Catalonia – effectively banning them from doing so. Not only did it try to censor the Catalan media (in addition to clearly controlling certain media in Madrid), but it also blocked websites and apps that gave balanced and practical information about the referendum, or on how to vote. They searched printers for ballot cards (even the car boot of a printing company’s cleaner), banned posters, events and debates, blocked telephone operators and even threatened to cut off the power, clearly violating human rights and the freedom of speech. And now … for that same government and its ‘diplomats’ to openly criticise the international media for reporting the true facts about what happened before, during and since 1st October, it is an utter disgrace.
Spain is a country full of rich material for foreign writers. But not only has Rajoy spectacularly failed to defuse the Catalan issue (in fact he’s done more for independence than anyone else on the planet), but his actions have also unearthed Spain’s underlying fascism and Francoism for us all to see. It was obviously always there … but it is now clearly visible. As Ian Gibson, the renowned Hispanist and biographer, said on Deutsche Welle radio: ‘The Spanish right-wing says that it isn’t Francoist but it has Francoism in its genes, in its DNA. It’s outrageous.’ This Francoism is ugly, Spain. It’s very ugly, and you need to do something about it. But that does not mean telling us not to write about it.
In a weird sense, I’m glad that this whole issue is now in the hands of top lawyers in Germany, Scotland, Switzerland and Belgium. I’m glad that the media from all over the world are reporting on it all, in every language. The EU Commission and Juncker himself have done bugger all. It needs international lawyers and the international media to continue to expose the truth, and if Spain’s ‘ambassadors’ don’t like it, then … tough. Get proper jobs. As the top human rights lawyer, Aamer Anwar, who is representing Clara Ponsatí in Scotland, said the other day: ‘Our defence in court may make uncomfortable reading for the Spanish government in the full glare of international scrutiny. We are confident that the outcome will make it even more so.’ Go for it.
I’ve written here before about my experiences of 1st October, and how I was incensed that the ‘Madrid media’ failed to report on the true events – unlike the international (and Catalan) media. It incensed me that the EU remained silent. It incensed me that Spain’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, went on CNN and BBC stating that the images of police brutality were ‘fake news’. It incensed me and it still does. Late October (I think it was), Spanish ‘politician’ Juan Carlos Girauta, the C’s spokesman, voiced his concern in Congress about the international media’s coverage of events in Spain, appearing to suggest that it should be better controlled (he then blocked me on Twitter and I wasn’t even following him). This time last week, the former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, said on his LBC radio show, about the detention of Carles Puigdemont in Germany: ‘I thought European Arrest Warrants were for drug smugglers and criminals, not for democratically-elected political opponents of the Spanish government.’ We’ve since had the weekly German magazine, Stern, comparing Rajoy to Milosevic – and The New York Times reporting that ‘Spain is creating a situation where Europe’s judges rather than its own politicians are being asked to solve Catalonia’ – yes, because Rajoy is used to getting his judges in Spain to resolve his ineptitude. In the past few days, Spanish ambassadors, diplomats and Spanish authors have criticised The Washington Post, Le Monde, The Times and other international media for daring to question Spain’s democracy, calling it a ‘campaign of disrepute’. But, no, no, it’s not a campaign of disrepute. It’s called reporting the truth.
There was no ‘rebellion’ in the weeks prior to the Catalan referendum of 1st October, nor on the day itself, nor was there since. There was no ‘violence’ – except the violence carried out by Spain’s national police and Guardia Civil. As far as I know (and as far as some videos now show Rajoy appearing to also confirm it), there was no ‘misuse of public funds’, either. So why are there nine political prisoners in Spain (still without any trial) and a further seven in self-imposed exile fighting extradition charges? The fact is this: there shouldn’t be. It is clearly an injustice, and it is up to the international lawyers and foreign media to finally expose it. Someone has to.