Who would be a Catalan President? Or at least, a pro-independence Catalan President? Look through the list of those who have served as president of Catalonia before and after the period of dictatorship under General Franco and you will find that just one served out their term in office, the rest were forced out by one means or another at the hand of the Spanish state.
The banning of President Quim Torra from office for 18 months, announced yesterday by Spain’s highest court, is perhaps the most absurd of them all.
“[Torra] repeatedly and stubbornly disobeyed the orders of the Central Electoral Board to remove certain symbols from public buildings belonging to the [regional government] during the electoral process,” the Supreme Court stated on Monday.
We are talking about ribbons and banners hung from Torra’s office in solidarity with pro-independence leaders, which the same Spanish judicial system has tossed in jail for a combined 100 years for organising an independence referendum. Torra’s suspension comes shortly before elections are due to be held in Catalonia. No one could say with a straight face that Spain has a state which respects democracy.
Torra’s removal comes just days after new revelations about illegal operations which took place under the right-wing PP government of Mariano Rajoy from 2011 to 2018 (the one which brutally shutdown the pro-independence referendum in 2017). The Interior Ministry under the tenure of PP minister Fernández Díaz used state funds to run a spying and disinformation operation which had no judicial oversight. One of those operations in 2012 was against then Catalan President Artur Mas, where news outlet ‘El Mundo’ was given completely false reports by the Ministry that Mas had siphoned funds into a bank account in Switzerland. The story came out just months before the Catalan elections.
“I spent the rest of the campaign trying to prove something that I could not prove: my innocence, because it was all a pack of lies,” Mas said. “Nobody would believe me. I’m sure it cost us quite a few lawmakers, we lost 12 seats.”
After the story was revealed to be completely without substance, Mas sought to sue the newspaper, but a Spanish Court found that they had been given the information by a credible source – the Interior Ministry – and the case was shelved. It’s still being pursued in a European Court.
The disinformation operation against Mas was one of many concocted during Díaz’s tenure, including another Swiss bank account that never existed which brought down Barcelona Mayor Xavier Trias in 2015, and multiple operations against left-wing Podemos leader and now Vice-President Pablo Iglesias. One operation sought to convince a former Venezuelan government minister to lie on the record and say that the government was giving money to Podemos and in return the Spanish Government would get his family out of Venezuela and give them a new life in Spain. Several newspapers ran completely false stories about the Venezuelan government funding Podemos.
“If you help us prevent the Podemos people from making it [to power], goddammit, it will be better for everyone,” a police officer calling himself Fuentes Gago said to Rafael Isea, Venezuela’s former finance minister.
This is not just a matter of the PP, but of the Spanish state in general. The use of under-hand tactics to undermine the pro-independence Catalan Government has occurred systematically during PSOE’s period in office since 2018 as well, up to and including bizarre attempts to interfere in Scottish democracy with the aim of isolating the Catalans internationally. It was recently revealed that the Catalan Parliamentary Speaker Roger Torrant was the subject of a Spyware attack to steal information from his WhatsApp in 2019 by an Israeli firm which only sells its services to governments and security forces.
This is state gangsterism. International solidarity with Torra and the Catalan independence movement is a must for any genuine democrat.
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