Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Oh Catalonia!

It is common in Guam to feel very alone in terms of decolonization.

History books and political commentators tend to argue that the age of decolonization is over.

It happened in the 1960s or 1970s, and that those who remain colonized missed the boat.

They missed the decolonial sakman and are therefore stuck, in whatever political status they have.

It is an intriguing way of justifying the status quo.

A way of arguing that the current world order or framework isn't simply something that has happened.

But rather the end.

Teleological or evolutionary, but ultimately that an apex is reached and there can't be any further reconfiguration of power or reality. 

In the 1980s this notion was called "The End of History" after Francis Fukuyama.

It wasn't real or true, but it felt authentic, in the same way each epoch achieves a certain character or feeling of self-realization.

We have seen History continue marching on.

And those who still have claims from the most recent periods of mass human exploitation are still fighting for them, even if they might not seem to have the greatest chances at finding some sort of real justice.

But as the Catalonian drive for independence shows us, there are still many places that don't want to accept the maps drawn around them and with their sovereignty or destiny subsumed within the interests and power of another.

On Guam, it is imperative that we keep track of what is happening in Catalonia.

Whether they are successful or not this time around, they help the cause of decolonization in Guam.

They help draw attention to the grievances of those who are tired of the global order decided against them, and want the lines or labels shifted in small, but significant ways to accommodate their dreams as well.


Catalan Parliament Declares Independence From Spain
by Sam Edwards and Julien Toyer

BARCELONA/MADRID, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The Madrid government sacked Catalonia’s president and dismissed its parliament on Friday, hours after the region declared itself an independent nation, in Spain’s gravest political crisis since the return of democracy four decades ago.
A new election will be held in Catalonia on Dec. 21, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a televised address on a day of high drama.
As well as removing Carles Puigdemont as head of the autonomous region, he also fired the police chief and said central government ministries would take over the Catalan administration.
“Spain is living through a sad day,” Rajoy said. “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.”
As he spoke thousands of independence supporters packed the Sant Jaume Square in front of the Catalan regional headquarters in Barcelona, their earlier celebratory mood dampened by Rajoy’s actions.
In a stunning show of defiance to Madrid, the Catalan parliament had voted in the afternoon to make a unilateral declaration of independence.

Despite the emotions and celebrations inside and outside the building, it was a futile gesture as shortly afterwards the Spanish Senate approved the imposition of direct rule on the autonomous region.
Several European countries, including France and Germany, and the United States also rejected the independence declaration and said they supported Rajoy’s efforts to preserve Spain’s unity.
The crisis has reached a new and possibly dangerous level as independence supporters have called for a campaign of disobedience. Immediately after news of the Catalan vote, which three opposition parties boycotted, Spanish shares and bonds were sold off, reflecting business concern over the turmoil.
The crisis unfolded after Catalonia held an independence referendum on Oct. 1 which was declared illegal by Madrid. Although it endorsed independence, it drew only a 43 percent turnout as Catalans who oppose independence largely boycotted it.
The independence push has caused deep resentment around Spain. The chaos has also prompted a flight of business from Catalonia and alarmed European leaders who fear the crisis could fan separatist sentiment around the continent.

Catalonia is one of Spain’s most prosperous regions and already has a high degree of autonomy. But it has a litany of historic grievances, exacerbated during the 1939-1975 Franco dictatorship, when its culture and politics were suppressed.
In Barcelona, Jordi Cases, 52, a farmer from Lleida province who had driven down with his family for the protest, said he was excited but worried about what came next.
“Now the repression is going to be terrible but we have to take what we can. We must resist and ask for help where needed,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Paul Day, Julien Toyer and Jesus Aguado, writing by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Julien Toyer)


Spain's Harsh Crackdown Draws Worldwide Attention to Catalonia
by Nick Robins-Early
Huffington Post

Spanish riot police forcefully descended on polling stations and rallies in Catalonia on Sunday, as the region held a independence referendum that the country’s government in Madrid had attempted to stop.
The referendum saw police use rubber bullets and batons in their operation to seize ballot boxes and shutter voting sites. At least 800 people were injured in the crackdown, according to the Catalan regional government.
The shocking scenes of unrest and violent tactics of the police brought international attention to Catalonia, with the subsequent chaos from the actions to stop the referendum giving additional weight to the symbolic independence vote.
Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull told reporters on Monday morning that 90 percent of Catalans voted yes, but turnout in the disputed referendum was only around 43 percent of eligible voters.
The violence threatens to deepen the longstanding divisions between Catalan separatists and the Spanish government, putting pressure on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and ensuring that the issue of independence will only become more prominent in the days to come.
Images and videos circulating from Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous region, and other cities across the area showed officers violently shutting down a peaceful referendum, albeit one banned by Spain’s central government and deemed illegitimate by the country’s courts. Footage captured police smashing through glass doors and dragging away dissident citizens attempting to protect polling stations.

Some protesters tussled with authorities, leading to several arrests and reports that at least 12 officers had been injured.
In a further sign of the divide between regional authorities, Spain’s riot police got into confrontations with Catalan regional officers and firefighters attempting to allow the rallies and referendum to proceed. Spain’s police closed nearly a hundred polling stations in all, and arrested several protesters.

The clampdown also deepened political divisions between Catalan government officials and Spain’s leadership in Madrid. Tensions over the referendum have been rising for months as the vote approached, and as violence erupted on Sunday both sides blamed one another for the situation.
Barcelona’s Mayor Ada Colau called for Prime Minister Rajoy to resign following the crackdown, saying “he is a coward who does not live up to his state responsibilities.” Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, meanwhile, claimed that the police actions would eternally shame the country.

Several leftist Spanish politicians also joined in the calls for Rajoy’s ouster, adding to the prime minister’s political woes. He is currently the head of a relatively fragile minority government that has already run into trouble in recent weeks from political partners protesting his handling of Catalonia’s bid for secession.
Rajoy defended the police actions on Sunday as a justified response to Catalonia’s attempts to break “the rule of law,” while denying that a referendum had taken place, emphasizing the lack of participation and the illegality of the vote.
But although Rajoy has always had the support of the European Union and the courts in rejecting the legitimacy of Catalonia’s referendum, the harsh response from authorities could embolden the separatist movement.

The level of support for independence in Catalonia is not entirely clear. Polling was scarce in the lead up to the election, but a survey from July showed that only around 41 percent of people in Catalonia favored independence.
Most major European Union officials were largely silent over the events in Catalonia, although some figures including Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel and the EU parliament’s Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt condemned the violence.
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, who has pursued a second independence referendum for Scotland in the United Kingdom, called Spain’s actions “wrong and damaging.”
This post has been updated with the Catalan government’s announcement of results and turnout figures.


Spain Sets Stage to Take Control of Catalonia in Independence Fight
by Raphael Minder
October 19, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain — The standoff over Catalonia intensified significantly on Thursday as the Spanish government said it would take emergency measures to halt a secessionist drive in the economically vital and politically restive northeastern region.

The announcement came almost immediately after the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, facing a second deadline to clarify Catalonia’s intentions since it held an Oct. 1 referendum on independence, warned that regional lawmakers were prepared to break from Spain.

The government in Madrid, in turn, announced that it would convene an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday “to defend the general interest of Spaniards, among them the citizens of Catalonia.”

The rapid succession of events moved what was already one of the gravest crises in Spain’s relatively young democracy to a far more serious and unpredictable stage, with the prospect that Madrid could take over the running of Catalonia. At the most extreme, the Spanish government could arrest Mr. Puigdemont and charge him with sedition, as it has done with two other separatist leaders.

But such a step would risk provoking a popular backlash and new street demonstrations in a region where many are already bridling at what they see as a heavy hand by the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The latest statements from each side now move the dispute to the brink of a potentially explosive confrontation.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, spokesman for the Spanish government, said at a news conference that Madrid was ready to use “all the means within its reach to restore the legality and constitutional order as soon as possible.”

Yet such steps are fraught with uncertainty in a country that adopted its democratic constitution only in 1978, after the death of its longtime dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco.

Last week, Mr. Rajoy initiated a request to invoke a broad and forceful tool that has never before been used — Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — which would allow him to take direct control of Catalonia.

He said he could resort to such a step if Mr. Puigdemont did not clearly back down from a threat to declare independence.
But on Thursday, Mr. Puigdemont sent a defiant letter to Mr. Rajoy, blaming him for escalating the conflict by refusing to meet and negotiate.

“If the government continues to prevent dialogue and maintains the repression,’’ he wrote, “the Parliament of Catalonia could go ahead, if it deems it opportune, and vote the formal declaration of independence.”

Officials in Madrid have repeatedly warned in recent days that Mr. Rajoy would consider anything short of a clear withdrawal of the declaration of independence to be unacceptable, after what he deemed an unsatisfactory response from Mr. Puigdemont on Monday.

Article 155 would give Madrid the authority to suspend Mr. Puigdemont and other Catalan lawmakers, and to take charge of the region’s autonomous administration, including the Catalan broadcaster and autonomous police force, although Mr. Rajoy has not publicly committed to an emergency intervention.

It is unclear what Mr. Rajoy will propose to his cabinet on Saturday, but he may try to gradually raise pressure on the fragile coalition of Catalan separatists rather than risk a forceful intervention that could further galvanize the independence movement.

José Luis Ábalos, an official from the main opposition Socialist party, indicated at a news conference on Thursday that the party would support Mr. Rajoy — as long as the prime minister made limited and short use of Article 155, and also somehow kept “self-government” in Catalonia.

Using constitutional powers, Mr. Rajoy could appoint a caretaker administration in Catalonia. Mr. Puigdemont, on the other hand, could face sedition charges and ultimately a long prison sentence for presenting a unilateral declaration of independence that violates Spain’s Constitution.

Politicians in Madrid have recently demanded that Catalonia hold regional elections as soon as possible, but Mr. Puigdemont made no mention of such a vote in his letter on Thursday.

The separatist leaders of Catalonia are already claiming that Madrid has used disproportionate means to push them out of office, with the help of the Spanish police and the courts.

About 200,000 demonstrators gathered on Tuesday in central Barcelona, according to the local police, to demand the release of two separatist leaders who were sent to prison without bail, pending a trial on sedition charges. In his letter on Thursday, Mr. Puigdemont mentioned the arrest of the two leaders as evidence of Spain’s repressive stance.

Catalonia, which has its own language and culture, is an important engine of the Spanish economy. Independence aspirations have built in recent years over a host of social and economic grievances.
Those tensions grew as Mr. Rajoy and Catalan leaders talked past one another, turning the kind of dispute that might have been defused years ago into a full-blown constitutional crisis.

The rising uncertainty and the threat of declaring independence have already prompted hundreds of companies to relocate their headquarters outside Catalonia, further straining the unwieldy separatist coalition that holds a majority of the seats in the regional Parliament.

Hard-line secessionists want an abrupt and unilateral rupture with the central government in Madrid, while conservative and more moderate separatists are increasingly worried about the economic consequences for Catalonia.

Luis de Guindos, the Spanish economy minister, told Parliament on Thursday that the relocation of Catalan companies was “only an appetizer of what could happen if independence was confirmed — something that the government will not allow.”

Mr. Puigdemont sent his latest letter after an emergency meeting of his conservative party late Wednesday, during which lawmakers gave clear support for not withdrawing the declaration of independence, according to local news reports.

Still, secessionism has divided Catalonia. Separatist parties won control of the regional Parliament in 2015, but with only 48 percent of the vote.

Núria Marín, the Socialist mayor of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, the second-largest city in Catalonia, just southwest of Barcelona, said on Thursday that politicians on both sides should take the blame for plunging Catalonia into a crisis.

“I believe that with threats on the part of one side or the other, we won’t now solve this situation,” she said. “We are sadly seeing that companies are leaving while we are sending letters to one another.”
Whatever the government decides on Saturday, the Catalan crisis is set to drag on: Mr. Rajoy would need approval from the Senate before intervening in Catalonia.

Mr. Rajoy’s governing Popular Party has a majority in the Senate, and Podemos, a far-left party, is the only major opposition group that is opposed to using Article 155 in Catalonia. Instead, Podemos has suggested that Spain should hold a nationwide referendum over Catalonia’s future statehood.

Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, said Thursday morning that “Spain can’t appear to be like a banana republic that has problems of democracy.” He added, “We don’t want to threaten or repress Catalonia, but we want to convince Catalonia that Spain is a collective project that is worth it.”

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