Note to self: don’t miss a week again, as there’s too much to catch up on afterwards. Here’s just a recap of the key news stories, therefore – I mean, so much has happened in 2 weeks, I can’t bore you with my take on it all …
ETA announced its dissolution after more than 40 years of violence, in which hundreds of lives were lost and thousands of people injured. Former Secretary General of the UN and Nobel prize winner, Kofi Annan, tweeted: ‘The dissolution of ETA marks a welcome end to a difficult chapter in Spanish history. Conflict is rarely solved through force of arms alone, and this news illustrates that political dialogue is the key to building lasting peace.’
Following on from the ‘wolf pack’ gang rape verdict in Navarra (and where an error on the justice online portal even made it possible to identify the victim), a ‘#Cuentalo’ campaign took hold across Spain – very similar to the global ‘#metoo’ campaign – and it is on-going. In fact another court verdict concluded that the abuse of a 16 year old teenager in shock was also not rape. A UN report stated that the “light sentencing of the ‘wolf pack’ attackers in Spain diminishes the severity of the violation and undermines clear obligations to uphold the rights of women”. Meanwhile it emerged that the Spanish government’s commission to review the definition of sexual offences in the Penal Code consisted of … wait for it … 20 men, and not one woman.
What else happened? Prime Minister M.Rajoy congratulated Rafael Nadal, Marc and Feliciano López for winning at tennis, and Carolina Marina for winning at badminton – but he forgot to congratulate FC Barcelona on winning the league. He also forgot the name of the mayor of Alicante during a speech (it is Luis Barcala). Arriving at the event in Alicante, Rajoy was booed and whistled at by a group of protestors, mainly pensioners. His director of communications, Carmen Martínez Castro, was overheard saying that she’d like to show ‘the finger’ to the pensioners and tell them to ‘fuck themselves’. She later had to apologise, insisting that it was a ‘private conversation’.
Spain suspended the universal access to public health services in Catalonia. Because the Catalans ‘do things’, runners set off on an 800km relay from the Catalan Parliament to the Spanish prisons where Catalan leaders are being held in pre-trial detention (some for over 6 months now). A spectacular human chain also formed on the Montserrat mountain as part of the same protest. A €3,000 fine was reportedly imposed for someone shouting ‘freedom’ at a football match.
Black became the new yellow, at least on Fridays, as many journalists at Spain’s public broadcaster TVE now wear black on Fridays in protest at the government’s manipulation and meddling in radio and TV content. The editor in Valencia of TVE resigned for not being allowed to broadcast the Spanish government’s director of communications wishing pensioners would ‘fuck themselves’. Spain began an investigation of 80 Catalan teachers for ‘indoctrination’, simply because they discussed the Spanish National Police brutality during the 1st October referendum with their students. Spain censored a recital by Catalan poets in Brussels, in favour of freedom of expression, ensuring that it would not be held at the building of the Catalan government delegation to Brussels, currently overseen by the Spanish state. Spain also embargoed €110k from the Catalan association, Omnium. Meanwhile, the Spanish government said that it would not be withdrawing the title of ‘Duchy of Franco’ because it is ‘simply honorary’. Perhaps they think that being tagged with ‘Franco’ is still regarded as an ‘honour’.
The Catalan Parliament approved a law to appoint (or perhaps ‘reinstate’) Carles Puigdemont as the President of Catalonia from Germany – which the Spanish government immediately challenged and blocked via the Consitutional Court. The Spanish government also warned Roger Torrent, the Catalan Parliament speaker, about ‘what happened to Carme Forcadell’ (his predecessor, jailed without trial since 23rd March). At a hearing for her own case, the imprisoned Forcadell actually told a judge that incarcerating a speaker for allowing parliamentary debates would happen ‘nowhere else’ in the world.
In a separate hearing, Catalan MP Mireia Boya questioned why she was being prosecuted for disobedience for calling for a debate in the Catalan Parliament, whilst ex-speaker Forcadell is being prosecuted for rebellion for allowing the debate (and, as stated above, already in pre-trial detention). Spanish judge Llarena replied: ‘If you like, I’ll prosecute you for rebellion.’ It was also reported that judge Llarena had sent a report to German justice regarding the possible misuse of public funds in the Puigdemont extraditon request, stating that he was ‘unable to inform them about this definitively’.
Facebook announced it would be creating 500 new jobs in Barcelona, setting up offices in the Agbar Tower as its centre for combating fake news. A bride was asked to remove a ‘free political prisoners’ badge before getting married. A new survey showed that 48% of Catalans now support independence, whilst 43,7% are against it. The New York Times included the example of Spain in an article entitled ‘Why Are So Many Democracies Breaking Down?’ The Spanish Chamber of Commerce is to invest €484k with the PR group Brunswick to promote a ‘consolidated democracy’.
The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, received the ‘Carlos V Award’ from the king of Spain. It was also reported that Spain has not fully implemented any of the 11 recommendations by the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body (the Group of States against Corruption, GRECO), aimed at preventing corruption in politics and the judiciary since they were issued in 2013. Meanwhile, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, once again insisted that ‘dialogue is needed’ to solve the Catalan issue. He also added that mediation would only be possible if Spain asked for it.
A rapper lost his appeal against a 3 year jail sentence for singing lyrics that included criticism of the Spanish monarchy, as well as glorifying terrorism. Meanwhile, Spain’s Eurovision entry, ‘Amaia and Alfred’, finished 23rd in the competition. Online newspaper OK Diario labelled them as ‘shit singers’. Fernando López Miras, president of the Murcia region in southern Spain, announced that flights will soon be available from Murcia to Manchester United. Perhaps they’ll be flying via Sant Esteve de les Roures …
Tomorrow (Monday 14th May), barring any last minute changes of voting intentions, Quim Torra will be appointed President of Catalonia, in a second round of voting requiring only a simple majority. It is predicted that 66 will vote in favour, 65 against, and with 4 abstentions. During the debate for his investiture, Torra spoke some words in English, calling on Europe to mediate in the Catalan crisis. He also said that ‘Carles Puigdemont should be here today, the legitimate President of Catalonia’. The Spanish government called his speech ‘sectarian’ and has said they will be keeping an eye on him to avoid any ‘illegal acts’. They also said that Torra should be careful ‘with the things he says and does’.