The week began with Spain’s Prime Minister, M.Rajoy, backed up by the PSOE and Cs, still refusing to publish the names of the new Catalan government in the ‘official gazette’, thereby keeping Article 155 and the suspension of Catalan self-government in place, because some of the chosen ministers have “pending cases with Spanish justice”. Just keep that in mind for a few minutes …
The Ciudadanos leader, Albert Rivera, made a big show of announcing that he doesn’t see ‘reds’ or ‘blues’, he only sees Spaniards. He doesn’t see old people or young people, either … he only sees Spaniards. He doesn’t see ‘believers’ or ‘agnostics’, he only sees … wait for it … Spaniards. Helped along by pop star Marta Sánchez, singing her own lyrics to the Spanish national anthem (which include ‘Great Spain, I thank God for being born here … I can’t live without you’ – although Marta lives most of the time in Miami), Rivera launched his ‘#EspañaCiudadana’ movement or ‘platform’. I guess it means ‘Citizen Spain’ and it is supposed to ‘modernize Spain’. Let’s wait and see.
Whilst Rivera doesn’t see red or blue, the spokesman for his Cs party in Catalonia, Carlos Carrizosa, certainly saw yellow in the Catalan Parliament. He threw one of the yellow ribbons out of the way, and the session was suspended. The yellow ribbons that represent the politicians in prison (without any trial) or in exile have been on some of the Parliament’s seats for over 7 months now, so I’m not sure why Carrizosa suddenly felt the urge to remove one. Whilst the political prisoners have had more than enough of being political prisoners, it seems Carrizosa has had enough of seeing yellow. Possibly he was inspired by the ‘aggressive unionists’ or ‘thugs in balaclavas’ grabbing yellow crosses from the beach at Canet de Mar, north of Barcelona, and where 5 people were injured, including an 82 year old man. Today in Mataró, after the local mayor banned yellow crosses on the beach, those protesting against the jailed politicians decided to spread out yellow towels in the shape of a cross. Enric Millo, the Spanish government’s little delegate in Catalonia (and the man who recently said that ‘everyone around the world can see that Spain has a consolidated democracy’ – and he wasn’t joking), felt it necessary to send a letter to Catalan mayors telling them to keep public spaces ‘neutral’ (in other words, free of yellow). It could be an interesting summer for the sale of yellow bathing suits, yellow sun umbrellas and yellow towels.
Talking of joker Millo, he reportedly also issued instructions so that the Catalan President, Quim Torra, was prevented from using any VIP premises at Spain’s airports. Last week Torra visited Carles Puigdemont in Berlin, and this week he made three separate visits to prisons in the Madrid area, to visit 6 of the Catalan politicians and civic leaders held on remand for up to 7 months. After his visits, Torra again asked Rajoy to engage in dialogue – a call he repeated three times on Monday – but his requests have so far been ignored. As far as I know, Rajoy still hasn’t spoken to Torra or congratulated him on becoming the Catalan President … although Rajoy has congratulated Real Madrid for winning the Champions League. Of course.
The Higher Regional Court of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany maintained its rejection of the charge of ‘rebellion’ against Carles Puigdemont in the extradition proceedings, meaning that the new ‘evidence’ provided by Spanish judge Llarena hasn’t changed anything at all. In fact the court upheld its position from 5th April, stating that Puigdemont’s extradition for rebellion was ‘inadmissable from the outset’. It is becoming quite clear that there wasn’t a rebellion before, on or after 1st October in Catalonia, nor was there ‘tumultuous sedition’ (whatever that is), and nor has there been any real evidence to prove any misuse of public funds, either. So why are all these Catalan politicians and civic leaders still in jail without bail and without trial, and why isn’t Quim Torra allowed to form a government? If they release them, the yellow problem would go away, too …
Actor Willy Toledo again ignored an order to attend court and respond to accusations that he insulted God and the Virgin Mary, and instead held a press conference supported by other actors. An arrest warrant has now been issued for Spanish rapper, Valtonyc, who left for Belgium to try and avoid a 3-year jail sentence for singing lyrics glorifying terrorism and criticising the Spanish royal family. Punk rock singer, Evaristo Páramos (who has a musical career spanning over 30 years), was reportedly ‘identified and denounced’ for a series of comments made against the Guardia Civil between songs, during a concert in Andalusia this very weekend. At the time of writing, it is predicted that over 68% of Podemos party members have voted in favour of leader Pablo Iglesias and his partner, Irene Montero, the party’s parliamentary spokeswoman, continuing in their posts.
Eduardo Zaplana, former PP minister, president of Valencia and PP parliamentary spokesman, has been jailed on remand as part of a new investigation into bribery and money laundering. He has been accused of receiving over €10m in exchange for contracts.
On Thursday morning there was what looked like a ‘smokescreen’, with the ‘UDEF’ (the ‘General Commissariat of the Judiciary Police’) ordering agents to raid government offices in Catalonia (again), in search of the alleged misuse of public funds (again) … and oddly El Pais seemed to almost report on it all before it even happened (again). But whatever the outcome of the raids, it couldn’t cover up the real news of that same day: the sentencing in the Gürtel corruption trial linked to the PP.
You can read about the entire case elsewhere (and you should), but the summary of it all is that 29 people related to the PP were convicted of offences including falsifying accounts, influence-peddling and tax crimes. They were sentenced to a combined 351 years in jail. They included the former party treasurer, Luis Barcenas (jailed for 33 years), and other senior members, as well as the corruption mastermind, Francisco Correa (jailed for 51 years).
The Gürtel case relates to the use of a slush fund by the PP in the 1990s and early 2000s to illegally finance campaigns. Rajoy came to power in 2011 and has always denied wrongdoing. He became the first sitting prime minister in Spain to give evidence in a trial, however, when he was called as a witness in the case last year, prompting calls for him to resign. He refused. In his ruling, the judge said there was evidence the party ran a slush fund for many years and that the credibility of Rajoy’s testimony denying it “should be questioned”. “(His) testimony does not appear as plausible enough to refute the strong evidence showing the existence of a slush fund in the party,” the judge said.
In other words, Spain’s National Court has questioned the ‘credibility’ of the testimony given by Mariano Rajoy in the trial of the Gürtel case. Yet he can block the formation of a government in Catalonia because some of the chosen ministers (still in prison without any trial) have ‘pending cases with Spanish justice’.
PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez spent the first half of the week repeatedly labelling Quim Torra a racist and supremacist, comparing him to the ‘Le Pen of Spanish politics’. Now (again at the time of writing) he has called for a no-confidence vote in Rajoy. For that, he has been labelled ‘the Judas of Spanish politics’. Rajoy has said: ‘This goes against the political stability that our country needs and it goes against the economic recovery. It is bad for Spain.’ The Cs have also issued Rajoy with an ultimatum: call an election. It is not yet clear whether the two parties will team up to overthrow Rajoy’s minority government, but my prediction is that Rajoy’s days are finally numbered.