We should be defending the fundamental rights of the people of Catalonia

Catalan Parliament

An illegal vote. State police censoring political websites. Paramilitary police using violence against peaceful protesters. Calls from Amnesty International to release imprisoned political campaigners. The right-wing preparing to seize control of a democratically-elected government.

You might think that I’m talking about a backward dictatorship in a far-flung corner of the world. Rather depressingly, I’m not. Instead, these events are happening right now in one of our fellow EU countries.

By now, I’m sure most of you are aware of events in Catalonia. You may not be aware that this is not a sudden constitutional crisis, but the culmination of centuries of repression from Madrid and, more recently, a failure of the right-wing national government to engage in meaningful dialogue with the wealthy north-east region’s autonomous government.

Spain’s transition from the brutal dictatorship of General Franco to democracy has often been admired by foreign observers. 40 years on from the horrors of Franco’s Spain, the country is now regarded as a respected liberal democracy.

Let me be frank and shatter those illusions for you:

There is nothing liberal about national leaders refusing to engage with political problems (instead passing that responsibility to the courts and ensuring that, rather than progress reflecting changes to the political reality, the status quo is maintained at all costs).

There is nothing democratic about sending riot police in to beat peaceful demonstrators and elderly citizens to stop them from exercising the most fundamental democratic right: the right to vote.

Of course, Madrid is correct in asserting that the referendum on 1 October was illegal (well, contrary to the nation’s constitution), but instead of negotiating a legal referendum in which the “no” camp would likely have won (whilst opinion on independence is almost evenly split, official polls commissioned by the Catalan government suggest a small majority for “no”), they have acted with all the brutality of the European dictatorships of old.

Instead of immediately declaring independence on the strength of the referendum result, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont suspended that declaration and called for dialogue with Spain. As expected, Madrid refused. After all, why would they accept dialogue now, when they had refused 18 times in the past.

Now, Mariano Rajoyís government are preparing to invoke Article 155 of the constitution – allowing them to take control of the democratically-elected regional government. If they do, the regional government will immediately declare independence.

It is a frightening stand-off which, on its present trajectory, will not end well.

As liberals, we should be championing the Catalans’ freedom to protest peacefully, free from fear of arrest, censorship or police violence. As democrats, we should be condemning the use of courts to solve political problems, and calling for Madrid to enter the meaningful dialogue Barcelona is calling for.

It is not our place to dictate whether Catalonia becomes independent or not – clearly that is their decision alone. But as Liberal Democrats and Europeans, we should be unequivocal in our condemnation of the Spanish government’s iron-fisted approach and support of the Catalans’ fundamental democratic and human rights.

This post was originally published on Liberal Democrat Voice.

Catalan National Assembly website “dangerous” with 45 security risks

ASSEMBLEA

Formed in 2012, the Catalan National Assembly (Assemblea Nacional Catalana, or ANC) is a grassroots organisation promoting Catalan independence.

Boasting 80,000 members, the ANC is one of the largest pro-independence civil society organisations whose founding president, Carme Forcadell, is now the President of the Parliament of Catalonia.

However, despite a budget in excess of €5.2 million in 2015, their website has a look and feel that seems to predate their March 2012 formation. It also has no mobile-friendly alternative (have they never heard of Bootstrap?) – and any idiot with a smartphone knows how painfully frustrating it is to try to navigate a drop down menu from a mobile device.

assemblea website

The greatest concern for visitors to the ANC’s website, though, is the number of potential security risks contained within its pages. In fact, users of Norton Safe Web are blocked from accessing the site with a menacing warning that it is a “known dangerous website”.

assemblea blocked

According to Norton’s Safe Web Report, the website contains a worrying 45 computer threats, including 28 instances of viruses and 17 security risks. There is no evidence of any identity threats on the website.

The ANC’s web presence does, however, contain a number of “Fake Jquery Injections”, which are malicious scripts which can download potentially damaging elements onto visitors’ computers. The presence of this kind of threat often indicates that a website has been hacked – and is flagged by Norton as posing a serious security threat.

There are also a number of “Malicious Script Redirections”, which are just as malicious and are also scripts which can download potentially damaging content. These scripts could also be a result of a hack.

It is not clear how long the ANC’s website has been compromised. However, until the organisation’s tech gurus fix the numerous security issues, visitors without effective antivirus protection could be putting the health of their computers at risk.

Barcelona metro map literally translated to English with brilliant results

Barcelona Metro

Ever wondered what Barcelona’s Catalan metro station names mean in English?

Well, reddit user teologico has recreated the metro map with literal translations of each station – with some hilarious results.

Now you know that when you are riding L1 from Santa Coloma to Can Serra, you are literally travelling from Saint Pigeon to Saw Home, whilst passing through stations such as Towers & Bagels (Torres i Bages) or the impressive Urwhatawave (Urquinaona).

Or maybe you are travelling from Maragall to Collblanc on L5, and notice Entença on your way through. Now, thanks to this handy map, you can see that you have, in fact, left Seatorooster and arrived at Whiteneck. That station you saw on the way through? Well, that was called Doyounderstanda.

I would, of course, advise keen travellers to take the translations on this map with a pinch of salt (or a glass of Cava!) and refer to each station by it’s proper Catalan name if you wish to enjoy a smooth journey!

You can see the full-size map – together with other people’s reactions – on reddit. The official metro map, including the tram and Rodalies rail stations, is available on the Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona website here (PDF).

Catalanofòbia in the wake of Paris

Català

While the world was watching the terrible events in Paris overnight, the anti-Catalans took to social media to make some, frankly, disgusting comments.

These are just a few (with translations into English):

The attacks in Paris are devastating for the Catalan separatists, as they lose all of the attention and publicity which they need so much.

Terrible thing in Paris and despite this the Catalans will continue on Monday by…

While in Spain the Catalans boo the national anthem in France they sing it in chorus in a sign of unity after the attacks in Paris.prayforparis

Massacre in Paris. While the Catalan secessionists are welcoming thousands of Arabs as long as they wave the Estelada. Well. As God intended.

And possibly the worst of the night:

Well what a shame they weren’t Catalans #Paris

Stay classy, Spaniards…

Victory for “Yes”

Catalunya

The two Catalan seperatist forces have won an absolute majority in the Generalitat.

Junts pel Sí (JxS), the coalition formed for these elections, and Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) have won an absolute majority of seats in the regional assembly, claiming victory and the right to negotiate seperation from Spain.

However, opponents of independence have claimed that their push lacks legitimacy, as they have failed to win a majority of votes, falling 3 points short.

JxS won 62 of the parliamentary seats, six short of a majority of 68, but will work to form a “transitional” government with CUP, who more than tripled their number of seats and now have 10 representatives. One of the biggest obstacles to an agreement will be JxS’ proposal for Artur Mas to be president, which CUP have consistently opposed due to allegations of corruption (among many other reasons).

For opponents of independence, the fact that the separatist forces only achieved 47.7% of the popular vote suggests that independence is now a dead issue. However, those opposed to independence polled 41.6% and have just 52 representatives. The remaining voters seem to be largely in favour of a legal referendum, but in the absence of such a referendum it is impossible to attribute their votes to either the pro- or anti-independence side.

Ciutadans, who are now the second largest party after increasing their number of seats from 9 to 25, are opposed to independence. Their candidate for president, Inés Arrimadas, said last night that the question had been settled, that a majority were opposed and that another vote should be called with parties focusing on what they would do for Catalunya, rather than independence.

However, to do so would be to betray the majority of people who are unhappy with the current relationship with the Spanish state, and JxS and CUP have the necessary majority in the Generalitat to push for independence or, at least, negotiate a better deal with whoever is in power in Spain after December’s elections, in which the future of Catalunya is bound to be a major theme.

Yesterday’s election is not the end of the independence story, but merely a pause in the current chapter. The story will never end until Catalunya achieves full independence and, until then, there is always time to write another page…