This blog is born out of a sense of injustice at what people in Spain have had to tolerate from successive deeply corrupt governments in Madrid since the crash; swingeing austerity measures imposed by the government’s creditors on Spain’s citizens while most of the corrupt from government, the monarchy, banking and business avoid sanction. Europe saved Spain, but wants its money back, and has approved an imposition of business-friendly ‘stability’. Sadly, ten years on, Spain is still on the brink of bankruptcy, borrowing on the markets to pay pensions having blown the pension pot completely. It has quite clearly failed to put its house in order in any way other than to impose Merkel’s medicine of junk contracts and precarious employment.
Civil rights have suffered terribly as a result of the infamousIy authoritarian 2015 Ley Mordaza – or Gag Law. The basic freedoms of expression and assembly have been limited and massive fines introduced for relatively minor offences. Rappers, puppeteers and users of social media have all gone to jail. There are also people in jail on terrorist charges for a bar-room brawl with off-duty policemen. These laws have only been used against the government’s opponents and critics, while the far-right in Spain continues to act with impunity everywhere.
And in 2017, on the pretext of ‘restoring law and order’ in Catalonia after its president, Carles Puigdemont, had declared independence, the Spanish government decided to apply the so-called ‘nuclear option’ of the Spanish constitution, article 155, ‘the any measures necessary’ section. It has ‘allowed’ direct rule from Madrid, the suspension from government of elected representatives and civil servants, the intervention of all Catalan institutions, including public Catalan language media and the Catalan education system. The brutally violent repression of the 1 October referendum – which it has shamelessly lied about ever since – was the clearest proof of how far the Spanish government is prepared to go to defend the oneness and greatness of Spain, at the cost of liberty.
The more than questionable existence of any real separation of powers in Spain and the misinterpretation and misuse of articles 472 (rebellion) and 544 (sedition) of the Spanish penal code have in turn enabled the imprisonment of more elected representatives and civil leaders, including Catalonia’s vice president, Oriol Junqueras, and forced others, including president Puigdemont, into exile. The existence of political prisoners in an EU country in 2018 is shocking and its acceptance by the wider world a sign of more generalised backsliding on human rights in the west.
Having rejected the legitimacy of the 1 October referendum result prime minister Rajoy unconstitutionally imposed a regional general election in which the unionist parties were unable to get close to a majority. Rather than respect the result and allow the pro-independence parties to form the government, the Moncloa is bent on continued control. And rather than rallying behind the Spanish government in an outpouring of catalanophobic Spanish nationalism and unionism, perhaps the Spanish should be wondering who is next for the 155 treatment? Incredibly, hate crime laws, designed to protect minorities, are used to persecute teachers and protect unionist politicians and the Spanish police from criticism or ridicule.
The situation has also brought Spanish fascism out of its closet, not that it had ever been properly closed. The violence of many far-right Spanish nationalist and unionist groups at demonstrations and public gatherings in the streets of our towns has been in stark contrast to the pacificism of the massive pro-independence rallies. ln the meantime, the manifest corruption of this government goes unpunished, and unreported, and the economic timebomb continues to tick. Conveniently for the Spanish government, all eyes are trained on the demonized Catalan independentists.
Also worrying is the disconnect between what people have experienced here and how it is reported in most of the Spanish and international media. For all the talk of post truth, alternative facts, fake news and Russian interference, the fact is that Spanish power has funded a concerted campaign of misinformation at home and abroad with a flood of hysterical anti-Catalan rhetoric. Intelligent comment and analysis has been thin on the ground in Spain’s top news media outlets.
The attempts of the media, the EU and foreign governments to normalise the crisis in Spain and the situation in Catalonia have deeply offended people here. That very sense of isolation has, however, imbued many with even greater determination. The ‘process’ has seen disparate political persuasions come together and dare to try to put into effect the wishes of one of the biggest grassroots movements ever seen in a European country. The response of Spain has been to attempt recolonisation.
For all of this, and so much more, this blog seeks not to forget what has actually happened here and explain what is happening now, to give an unpaid perspective in English unlike the myriad foreign correspondents based in Spain making a living from ignoring the real story and parroting the government and editorial lines.
This blog is in love with this part of the world, admires what its people have achieved against all the odds, and believes that one day a better life will be built for EVERYONE living here.
Who can blame so very many people in Catalonia for wanting rid of the yoke, and the arrows?
In the words of Mariano Rajoy, ‘Catalans do things’. I know what he means, even if he doesn’t.
This blog is written by a migrant, not an expat.