Pro-independence Spaniards have staged a protest rally against the Spanish monarchy as the new king urges collaboration in the region.
On Thursday, thousands of Catalonians took to the streets of Girona to voice their anger against the royal family’s involvement in a series of corruption scandals.
The fresh protest came hours after Spain’s newly-appointed King Felipe VI reached out to Catalonians earlier in the day, urging their collaboration to help defuse tensions with Madrid.
“Sincere and generous collaboration is the best way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of each person and achieve great collective goals for the common good,” the king said in a speech on his first visit to Catalonia since ascending to the throne.
The majority of 7.5 million inhabitants of Catalonia have expressed resentment for the redistribution of their taxes to other regions of Spain.
Catalan leaders plan to hold an independence referendum in November. The government has condemned the move as illegal.
Catalonia has been seeking independence and autonomy from Spain since the end of the 19th century. In recent years, massive rallies have been held to claim the self-determination right for the region.
The latest protest comes as the image of the royal family has been tarnished by a series of scandals. Juan Carlos’s daughter, Princess Cristina, and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, are under investigation for possible tax fraud and money laundering.
Spain has been the scene of anti-monarchy protests in recent weeks after Juan Carlos announced he would step down in favor of his son Philippe. The 46-year-old monarch was officially sworn in before parliament on June 19.
According to a survey conducted earlier this month, the majority of the Spanish people are in favor of a referendum on the future of monarchy in their country.
A rare way of life is under threat in Spain where authorities have renewed attempts to evict dozens of cave-dwelling families from their homes in an ancient settlement in Granada. Residents say “it’s a disgrace”, and are determined to resist eviction.
Throughout the week dozens of activists have been protesting the eviction they deem unlawful and unfair.
The San Miguel cave dwellers say they have been the victims of the authorities, violating their human rights, and evicting people for cynical reasons only.
San Miguel is the site of one of the four main cave neighborhoods in Southern Spain. For over a thousand years, hundreds of caves carved out of the eye-catching hilltop have been home to gypsies and other homeless settlers.
Abandoned in the 1960s, in recent times eight caves have been occupied by squatters, who reclaimed them to turn them into modest and unconventional homes.
However, several years ago the council announced plans to turn the site into a tourist attraction. The Sacramento caveman heritage would include flamenco caves for tourists, a number of “artisan” and souvenir workshops, as well the main landmark – a hotel – which, according to the council, would “respect the harmony of the area”. The caves happen to be located in a lucrative location, affording the best views over the city, which relies on a robust tourism economy.
The authorities aren’t ruling out the possibility of going to court to get an eviction order. According to the cave dwellers, the court in Strasbourg has already ruled that eviction must be suspended until they have been provided with proper accommodation.
On Thursday, Granada’s city council proposed providing social housing to the cave dwellers.
RT’s Lucy Kafanov, reporting from the site, spoke to local residents and activists who told her it’s the third attempt by the authorities to clear cave dwellings in the past six years. Officials have repeatedly claimed that the “hand-made” homes built there are dangerous.
A spokesman for the cave dwellers argues their homes may be lacking fancy furniture but are perfectly habitable. Juan Antonio Parra told RT that should eviction take place this time round, people will band together to resist it.
“We certainly will resist, using every legal means available. Which is more than can be said of the city council, whose actions have been unlawful and underhand all along the way. First, they have no property rights on the caves. Secondly, they never did an expert assessment of the caves’ condition. There have been no cave-ins in any of the caves that the city council proclaimed to be crumbling as far back as three years ago, not even after the heavy rainfall we have had. So we can see their lie for what it is: they just need an excuse to throw us out.”
Parra says that what is happening these days is in fact highly reminiscent of past events.
“This has happened before, the seizures and the evictions: under the Francoist regime, and before that, during the reign of the Catholic kings. These caves have always sheltered Arabs, Gypsies, etc. The past still prevails in this part of Granada, so we believe the authorities will not succeed here.”
Local activist, Antonio Redondo, believes that plans to evict the cave dwellers have nothing to do with worries about comfortable and safe living conditions.
“It is a disgrace. This has nothing to do with concerns for the people. The government cares nothing for the fact that there are some 500 evictions administered in Andalusia every day. Instead, they keep trying to exploit the situation. They insist on eviction rather than carry out an assessment of the caves’ condition, or call a town hall meeting with the cave dwellers in order to explain the makeover plan and offer to relocate the inhabitants. This shows how totally unconcerned they are about these people.”
The government of Andalusia is expected to bring experts to the site to evaluate it. The cave dwellers are also looking for independent architects to confirm that their houses are a safe place to live.
In a bid to resolve the escalating crisis, the activists are planning to establish a co-op tenant council to help sort out property rights.
“After all, these caves belong to the original settlers. That makes the city council complicit of a fraudulent sale scheme, where all of their assets are effectively illegal,” Parra told RT.
“Right now, we are attending various meetings to figure out what our nearest future looks like.”
So far initial plans to convert the caves into a tourist area have been canceled due to the global economic crisis.
Spain, whose banks suffered a severe blow during the financial downturn, is said to be slowly emerging from a deep economic slump. Although Spain’s economy grew 0.1 percent in the July-to-September period, it still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the industrialized world. Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund predicted that the debt-ridden country is likely to be saddled with unemployment of about 25 percent until up to 2018. Unpopular austerity measures have led to riots across the country.
The Catalan regional parliament has set November next year for a referendum on the Spanish province’s independence. The government in Madrid blandly said the vote won’t happen, but activists wonder how it might be stopped.
Catalonia’s four pro-independence parties, which hold a majority in the regional parliament, announced Thursday that the rich industrial Spanish province will hold a referendum on whether to gain greater autonomy or even total independence from the country’s central government.
The vote’s preliminary date is November 9, Catalan regional government head Artur Mas said. The people will be asked two questions: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” and “Do you want that state to be independent?”
The former question was added for those Catalans who seek to change Spain into a federation, with Catalonia forming part of it. According to a Metroscopia poll in newspaper El Pais last month, 46 percent of Catalans favor separatism versus 42 percent who wish to remain within Spain. The support for greater autonomy, however, is very strong.
Just minutes after the announcement Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon rejected the idea, saying it would be unconstitutional.
“The vote will not be held,” he said.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy spoke out later in the day, saying his government will not allow the Catalan referendum to happen.
“As prime minister I have sworn to uphold the constitution and the law and, because of this, I guarantee that this referendum will not happen,” he stressed. “Any discussion or debate on this is out of the question.”
But in Catalonia pro-independence moods are not withered by Madrid’s rebuke. They say the central government would have few options, if it does want to stop the referendum.
“They will have to show how they are going to prevent a vote from happening,” Elisenda Paluzie, professor of economics at the University of Barcelona, told RT. “What are they going to do? Will they send the police to the polling stations? It’s up to them to show what kind of democracy they support.”
Catalonia, a land with strong cultural roots and its own language, has had strong pro-independence sentiment for decades and shares a painful history with the rest of Spain. It was oppressed during the rule of military dictator Francisco Franco (1939-75), who stripped it of autonomous powers and issued a ban on Catalan language to fight separatist tendencies.
The situation now is different however, and Catalans don’t believe that Madrid would use force to block their independence aspirations.
“If Spanish tanks rumbled into Barcelona, like they did in 1939, there wouldn’t be enough tanks to go around. There wouldn’t be enough soldiers to go around. Spain, being a modern country, has drastically reduced its armed forces,” Miquel Strubell, member of a pro-independence grassroots organization, the Catalan National Assembly, said to RT.
In modern Spain, Catalonia renewed autonomy and currently governs itself in areas like health and education. It has a regional parliament and maintains its own police force. But the calls for independence from Madrid have gained stronger support in the last few years, as Catalans complained that it is being drained of tax money, which is spent in other Spanish regions.
The situation is aggravated by the economic crisis, which forces the Rajoy government to adopt painful austerity policies. But financial considerations are not the prime reason why Catalans seek independence, says Strubell.
“I think most of my colleagues would agree that this isn’t about money. It’s about a much more basic issue of running our own things,” he assured “It’s all been on the cards for years. It all started before 2003, which is well before the economic crisis.”
The referendum in Catalonia will be held less than a month after a similar vote in Scotland, which will hold it on September 18. Joan Maria Pique, a top aide and spokesman for Catalan President Mas, criticized the Spanish government, saying that London agreed to the Scottish vote on self-determination, while Madrid is reluctant to do the same for Catalonia.
“We expect to open negotiations with Madrid. The Spanish state can’t be blind about it,” he said.
- Spanish government says ‘no’ to Catalonia vote (independent.ie)
The Spanish government has approved a new draft law which imposes harsh penalties on Spaniards taking part in unauthorized anti-government demonstrations, a move criticized by the opposition as trying to silence protests.
The draft law, presented by Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz on Friday, sets fines of up to 30,000 euros ($40,800) for offenses like torching the national flag, affronting the state or causing serious troubles outside parliament.
Fines of up to 1,000 euros will be imposed on people insulting or intimidating police officers.
Four “very serious” offenses, including interfering in electoral processes and illegal protests at strategic facilities such as airports or nuclear power plants, could be fined up to 600,000 euros (about $1,000,000).
The opposition says the bill is meant to prevent demonstrations against the government as the country struggles with a debt crisis and high unemployment.
“When more than 20 percent of people are unemployed, I don’t think this legislation is what we require,” said Alejandro Tourino, from law firm Ecija.
The government, however, has defended the bill, saying it will create discipline and safeguard public freedoms.
It will help “regulate and protect public freedoms,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.
Madrid’s harsh spending cuts and rising unemployment have sparked massive anti-government protests across the country in recent years. Protesters argue that the government-imposed measures have failed to curb rising poverty or help extricate the country from its worst recession in years.
The draft law must be approved by parliament, where it may change to some extent. However, it will probably be ratified as the governing party has an absolute majority in the parliament.
Spain has seen numerous protests in recent years. On November 20, students gathered in front of the Education Ministry in Madrid to show their anger at the government’s austerity cuts, rising fees and other changes to the education system.
The Spanish government has been sharply criticized over the austerity measures that are hitting the middle and working classes the hardest.
Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.
Unauthorized demonstrations near the Spanish Parliament could see participants being fined €600,000 ($810,000) under a new Citizen Security bill being introduced by Spain’s ruling rightist Popular Party, local media reported.
Under the legislation, which will likely soon be approved in parliament, “social uproar” leading to harassment or insults of officials is to be made a criminal offense. Masked disorderly conduct could also incur charges. The legislation will likely be drafted by the Cabinet next Friday.
Unsanctioned protests outside political offices will be outlawed, alongside disorderly conduct by people hindering any means of identification, while people offering sexual services in the vicinity of children’s play areas will also be made illegal, according to Spanish newspaper 20minutos.es.
Other offenses deemed serious are to include publishing images or personal data of policemen, interrupting public events, possession of illegal drugs, vandalism of public property and drinking alcohol in the street.
The fines will vary between €1,000 and €30,000 ($1350 – $40,000) for more minor offences. However, just insulting a policeman could see a citizen landed with a €30,000 fine.
“We’re not looking to punish [people] more, just to reduce the discretionary margin for illicit conduct and not stumble into judicial limbo for ‘new’ acts like the escraches,” Spain’s Huffington Post quoted the Interior Ministry as saying.
“Escraches,” a kind of demonstration popular in Spain and Latin America, where protesters lobby outside the homes or offices of officials, have escalated this year, most notably those staged by the Movement of Mortgage Victims. The group lobbied outside politicians’ homes to protest the repossession of homes.
The law will first have to pass through the commission of undersecretaries, then analyzed in the Council of Ministers, followed by a State Council opinion and the General Council of the Judiciary, before being sent back to be discussed as organic law in the courts.
The current revelations on the NSA’s spying are just the tip of the iceberg and affect “almost every country in the world,” said Glenn Greenwald. He stressed the NSA stores data for “as long as it can,” so they can target a citizen whenever they want.
Glenn Greenwald, the man behind the reports on the NSA global spy program, spoke to El Mundo journalist German Aranda and stressed that the US espionage activities went much further than just Europe.
“There are a lot of countries, and journalists in a lot of different countries, who have been asking for stories and to work on documents for a long time,” Greenwald said. He added that he was working as fast as possible to “make sure that all of these documents get reported in every single country there are documents for, which is most countries in the world.”
Shedding light on the NSA’s motives in compiling metadata on citizens, he said the spy organization’s main aim was to store the information to be able to dip into it whenever necessary.
“The very clear objective of the NSA is not just to collect all this, but to keep it for as long as they can,” said Greenwald.
“So they can at any time target a particular citizen of Spain or anywhere else and learn what they’ve been doing, in terms of who they have been communicating with.”
‘Preparing the terrain’
Referencing reports leaked from former CIA worker Edward Snowden regarding the millions of phone calls tapped by the NSA in the EU, German Aranda stated that French reaction was “important to prepare the terrain in Spain.”
“With all the countries around Europe and around the world, it will be the same. The more countries [that] see documents about them, the more interest the other countries will have to see what is happening with them,” said Aranda.
Last week the Spanish Prime Minister, Manuel Rajoy, summoned the US Ambassador to account for the reports of spying, echoing the reactions of France, Germany and a handful of other countries. Spain has so far resisted calls from Germany to sign an EU no-spying treaty against the US in the wake of the revelations; however this may be set to change.
“As in previous occasions, we’ve asked the U.S. ambassador to give the government all the necessary information on an issue which, if it was to be confirmed, could break the climate of trust that has traditionally been the one between our two countries,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, at a joint news conference in Warsaw last week.
In response to European leaders’ furor over NSA espionage, the White House has launched an internal review into the NSA’s activities. The EU Parliament has also threatened to halt the sharing of data on the SWIFT banking system, which provides information on the transfer of funds by suspected terrorists.
A delegation from the EU parliament is currently in Washington to discuss what has been described as a “breakdown in trust” between traditional allies.
The Obama administration earlier said the controversial intelligence gathering procedures that have attracted international scrutiny in recent months may require “additional constraints.” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said that a “number of efforts [are] underway that are designed to increase transparency.”
As the international uproar continues over last week’s grounding of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane in Europe, after U.S. officials apparently suspected whistle-blower Edward Snowden of being on board, many questions remain unanswered about the United States’ role and motives.
But one thing is certain: if the U.S. government was seeking to intimidate Morales and other Latin American leaders who might consider harboring Snowden, its strategy has completely backfired. Instead, the incident has bolstered Morales’s domestic and international standing, consolidated regional unity, and emboldened the bloc of leftist governments that seeks to counter U.S. dominance in the region. It has also dealt a damaging, and potentially fatal, blow to the future of U.S.–Latin American relations under the Obama administration.
The crisis was set off by Morales’s statement on July 2 in Russia, where he was attending an energy conference, that he would be willing to consider a petition by Snowden for asylum. Later that evening, on his return flight to Bolivia, Morales’s plane was denied entry into the airspace of France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, forcing it to make an unscheduled landing in Vienna where it was diverted for 13 hours before receiving clearance to proceed.
In response to Bolivia’s persistent questioning, the four European countries have offered equivocal and somewhat contradictory—if not preposterous—explanations for their actions. France, which has apologized to Morales, says it didn’t realize that the Bolivian president was on the presidential jet. Portugal, originally scheduled as a refueling stop, says its airport wasn’t capable of servicing the plane. Italy now completely denies having closed its airspace.
Spain, after initially attributing the problem to the expiration of its flyover permit during Morales’s unexpected layover in Austria, later admitted that the United States had asked it to block the flight (although the United States has not acknowledged any role in the incident). At first, Spanish officials also claimed that the plane was searched for Snowden in Vienna at the behest of the United States—an action which, if taken without Bolivia’s permission, would constitute a violation of international law even more egregious than the denial of airspace to the presidential jet.
More recently, Spain has insisted (and Bolivia concurs) that it ultimately granted airspace permission upon Bolivia’s written assurance that Snowden was not on board the plane. Spain, which has sought to improve economic relations with Bolivia after being hit hard by Morales’s nationalization of its airport management and electric companies, has also offered to apologize.
The apparent willingness of four European governments to put U.S. interests ahead of international law and Bolivia’s rights as a sovereign nation—despite themselves being victimized by illegal U.S. spying activities—stands in sharp contrast to Latin America, where the detention of an indigenous president is seen as the latest grievance in a long history of colonial and imperial transgressions. Bolivian Vice President Alvaro García Linera has denounced the incident as an imperial “kidnapping.”
For many Bolivians, the episode is viewed as a deliberate effort by the U.S. government to punish Morales for his persistent anti-U.S. rhetoric and actions, including the expulsion of the U.S. Ambassador and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2008, and, most recently, USAID. It also strikes a special nerve since the United States hosts, and has refused to extradite, some of Bolivia’s most wanted criminals, including neoliberal ex-president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (Goni), facing charges of genocide in connection with the killing of 67 indigenous protesters during the 2003 “Gas Wars.”
Within hours of Morales’s detention, other leftist Latin American governments rallied in outraged solidarity with Bolivia. Argentine President Cristina Fernández labeled the incident “a remnant of the colonialism we thought had been overcome.” Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa tweeted, “We are all Bolivia!”
Along with expressions of support from ALBA, CELAC, Mercosur, and other regional blocs, UNASUR issued a statement condemning the action on July 4, signed by six heads of state (Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Suriname) who attended an emergency meeting. Governments from across the region’s political spectrum (including Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile) closed ranks behind Morales.
On July 9, the OAS issued a consensus resolution expressing solidarity with Morales and demanding apologies and explanations from the four European nations (but not the United States.) Internationally, more than 100 UN member nations have collectively denounced the incident, bolstering Bolivia’s complaint before the UN High Commission on Human Rights.
The provocative detention of Morales undoubtedly precipitated the decision of three leftist Latin American governments—Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua (conditionally)—to offer asylum to Snowden, in open defiance of the United States. As journalist Stephen Kinzer has noted, with the U.S./ European rogue actions converting Snowden into a Latin American hero, the offer of asylum is politically popular in the region. This sentiment also stems from the regional legacy of dictatorship and political persecution, including the personal experiences of many leftist leaders. As Uruguayan President José Mujica (a former Tupamaro guerrilla) declared, “To all of us who have been persecuted, the right to asylum is sacred and must be defended.”
Broad regional support also makes it easier for any country offering shelter to Snowden to resist U.S. demands for extradition. As well, the mounting evidence of U.S. pressure on European and Latin American countries to deny sanctuary or transit assistance to Snowden, interfering with their sovereign decision-making processes, strengthens the case for asylum, legally and politically. U.S. officials have made it clear that any country aiding Snowden will be made to suffer, putting relations with the United States “in a very bad place for a long time to come.”
Still, in a region that remains heavily dependent on U.S. trade, the threat of U.S. retaliation through economic sanctions will be a major factor in the asylum calculus for any government, as illustrated by the recent case of Ecuador. After initially championing Snowden’s cause and apparently aiding his transit from Hong Kong to Moscow, Correa suddenly backed off after a phone call from Joe Biden, saying that Biden’s concerns were “worth considering.” While Correa has defiantly renounced Ecuador’s long-standing U.S. trade preferences as an instrument of “political blackmail,” he apparently hopes to replace them with an alternative set of duty-free waivers under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, an option that could be jeopardized by an asylum offer.
Similar considerations will no doubt be of concern to Venezuela and Bolivia, should either of their asylum offers materialize into reality (a complex proposition, given the many obstacles to achieving Snowden’s safe transit). While political relations between these countries and the United States have been polarized for some time—with the U.S. government still failing to recognize Nicolás Maduro’s April election—Venezuela still exports 40% of its oil to U.S. markets, and the United States remains as Bolivia’s third largest trading partner (after Brazil and Argentina). Bolivia also enjoys some of the same GSP trade preferences that Ecuador is seeking, which cover around 50% of its U.S. exports.
Still, the incident has greatly strengthened both Morales and Maduro domestically and internationally, corroborating their anti-imperialist worldviews. For Morales—newly characterized by García Linera as the “leader of the anti-imperialist presidents and peoples of the world”—the wave of solidarity responding to his personal victimization has consolidated his political popularity in a pre-election year. Recalling the 2002 presidential election when the U.S. Ambassador’s negative comments about candidate Morales catapulted him unexpectedly into second place, García Linera jokes that Obama has become Morales’s new campaign manager.
For Maduro, whose asylum offer is being promoted by Russia, the opportunity to champion Snowden’s cause and challenge the United States on a world stage, with substantial regional support, has allowed him to genuinely reclaim Hugo Chávez’s anti-imperialist mantle. “It provides the perfect opportunity for Maduro…to figure internationally, to show that he is a player among the big powers…and that he’s capable of challenging the United States,” says political analyst Eduardo Semetei.
In terms of overall U.S.-Latin American relations, the episode could be a defining moment for the Obama administration. As Kinzer notes, the downing of Morales’s jet may have reflected a genuine U.S. effort to capture Snowden—as opposed to a shot across the bow to intimidate Snowden’s potential supporters—but even so, the depth of misunderstanding as to how the incident would resonate in Latin America is telling. New daily revelations from Snowden’s data trove about massive U.S. spying programs in the region are adding fuel to the fire, further strengthening the leftist popular bloc—and confirming Glenn Greenwald’s assessment that the U.S. government has been its own worst enemy throughout this entire episode. It is difficult to imagine how the Obama administration can recover the region’s trust any time soon.
Spain has apologized to Bolivia for its parts in the recent incident, in which Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was forbidden to fly over some European countries on the rumors that US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden was onboard.
Ambassador Angel Vazquez delivered on Monday the official apology to the Bolivian Foreign Ministry in La Paz.
Varquez gave a statement acknowledging an “apology for the obstacle and the hardships caused to the president.”
France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all refused to allow Morales’ plane, which was flying home on July 2 from Moscow, to cross their airspace.
The presidential plane was forced to land in Vienna, Austria where it was searched by authorities on false rumors that US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was on board.
The Bolivian Foreign Ministry accused the Europeans of bowing to US pressure when it banned Morales’ plane.
After the incident, Morales revealed that Spain’s ambassador to Austria had tried to conduct a search of the aircraft.
“We recognize publicly that perhaps the procedures used in the Vienna airport by our representative were not the most effective,” said Vaszquez.
“We regret this fact … the procedure was not appropriate and bothered the president (Morales), putting him in a difficult situation.”
The incident also caused strong condemnation from several countries in Latin American, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who called it a “provocation” that concerned” all of Latin America.”
Meanwhile, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have all offered asylum to Snowden, who is holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since June 23, when he landed in Russia from Hong Kong.
A senior Spanish judge says he will launch a second investigation into corruption allegations against the ruling People’s Party (PP). High Court Examining Magistrate Pablo Ruz said in a ruling that he would launch the probe into allegations that the former PP treasurer, Luis Barcenas, held a secret record of illegal cash donations that were purportedly channeled to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other members of the party. The allegations have sparked anger among Spaniards who have to deal with high unemployment, harsh cutbacks in social welfare and an ailing economy.
In the first investigation, Barcenas had been accused of involvement in bribery, tax evasion and money laundering. The government of Prime Minister Rajoy has been blamed for the harsh austerity measures, which has led companies to shutdown and driven the unemployment rate above 26 percent. Corruption scandals have also hit Inaki Urdangarin, the son-in-law of Spain’s king. Urdangarin has allegedly embezzled millions of euros of public money paid to a company he managed several years ago.
A court in Spain has formally charged 22 Spanish riot police officers with causing serious harm to a man when they fired rubber bullets at protesters in Barcelona.
Judge Josep Majo, who is leading the investigation, has filed charges of grievous bodily harm against the officers, who are accused of injuring the man during a general strike on March 29, 2012.
Judicial sources say the protester was forced to have his arm amputated as a consequence of the shooting incident.
During the general strike of March 2012, police fired rubber bullets at the crowd, causing at least five people to be hospitalized.
According to reports, two of the protesters lost an eye, two others were treated for injuries to their arms and a fifth reported rib fractures and a perforated lung.
This case is one of several similar probes launched by Spanish prosecutors involving people who have been injured by rubber bullets while protesting.
The most notable incident occurred during a separate demonstration in Barcelona on November 14, 2012, when protester Ester Quintana lost an eye after being wounded by a rubber bullet.
Under Spain’s local police protocol, officers are not allowed to fire directly against protesters, since the speed of the rubber bullet exceeds 700 km/h.
However, video recording of the incident show three agents, who appeared to be firing straight at the crowds.
During recent years, Spaniards have held numerous strikes and protests against the government imposed austerity measures that are particularly targeting the middle and working classes.
Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.
Spain has authorized the temporary deployment of US Marine forces to an airbase in the southwestern city of Moron de la Frontera, Seville Province.
The Spanish government granted the air base to the US forces on Friday for a period of one year for 500 Marines and eight aircrafts.
The United States Embassy in the capital, Madrid, stated that it needed a force able to respond quickly to crises in northwest Africa. On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in the city of Benghazi, Libya.
Africa has experienced a surge in the US military involvement recently.
On February 14, Army General David Rodriguez, the head of US military’s African Command, said in a Senate hearing that the military needed to boost its “intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold.”
In December 2012, the Pentagon announced that the “Dagger Brigade” consisting of 3,500 combat troops was set up to be deployed to as many as 35 African nations to train local forces.
The US Africa Command has been based in Stuttgart, Germany, since it was established in 2007. Efforts to move the headquarters to an African country faced hurdles as numerous nations expressed concern that the Pentagon was seeking to militarize US policy or infringe on their sovereignty.
Spain also granted the US another temporary deployment from March to November 2011, in which up to 45 US aircraft were stationed at the Moron and Rota airbases in the southwestern parts of the country.
Spain’s authorizations originate from a 1988 defense cooperation agreement between Spain and the United States.
Two years ago this May, Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and Barcelona’s Plaza Catalunya, Spain’s two most important city squares, were occupied by thousands of indignant protestors. For many of the nation’s highly educated but disillusioned youth, enough was enough, and for a short while it seemed that a new era of political mobilization beckoned.
A few weeks later, however, such hopes were brutally dashed when the riot division of Catalonia’s police force, the Mossos D’esquadra, unleashed the untamed fury of the state upon the protestors’ makeshift camp, under the rather dubious pretext of ridding the city of a health and safety risk (this is Europe, after all!). The message was clear: all attempts to resist the new European economic reality, no matter how peaceful, would be brutally suppressed.
In little more than an hour, a whirlwind of police violence cleared the square of all the occupants and pretty much all of their belongings, many of which were never returned. All the while, a thick, dense ring of shell-shocked protestors and curious bystanders gathered around the square, looking on in a mixture of bewilderment, fear and anger.
And I was one of them. As I strolled around the square, with one wary eye on the aggrieved protestors and the other on the fearsomely armed and highly unpredictable mossos d’esquadra, a placard caught my attention. Its message was beautifully simple: “No soy anti sistema, el sistema es anti yo” (I’m not anti-system; the system is anti-me).
The placard was held aloft by a small child riding on his father’s shoulders. The cynical realist within me knew full well that the boy, who must have been no more than five or six years old, was merely channeling his father’s thoughts. But that didn’t stop my more romantic side from imagining that the child was, in actual fact, eloquently speaking out for his soon-to-be lost generation.
For if there is one thing of which you can be sure about present-day Europe, it is that its political and economic systems are not meant to serve or protect the interests of the youth; on the contrary, they have been designed to gradually erode their last-remaining freedoms and rights and, by leaving them the tab for the transgressions and greed of the global banking sector, deprive them of all hope of ever attaining the standards of living once taken for granted by their parents or grandparents.
Spain is a perfect case in point: In the two intervening years since the country’s 15-M moment, the economy has spiraled into a bottomless depression. Official youth unemployment in the country has reached a mind-boggling 60 percent. Thousands of Spanish savers and pensioners have been robbed of their life savings, victims of the national banks’ cunning (and, it goes without saying, unpunished) preferentes sleight of hand.
All the while, taxes continue to skyrocket and essential welfare spending has been mercilessly sacrificed on the altar of bank recapitalization. Countless of the nation’s homes have – and continue to be – repossessed, to later be given away at a fraction of their value to wealthy international property speculators.
Perhaps worst of all, the country’s current government, which took the reins of power six months after the inception of the 15th May movement, has proven itself to be the most corrupt and incompetent in living memory.
But Spain is by no means unique; it is, if anything, a mere symptom of what is happening throughout the eurozone. From Cyprus to Portugal and from France to Slovenia, an all-out war has been declared against the continent’s industrious middle classes.
And now, with Winter turning to Spring, and Spring soon to Summer, the people of Europe face the starkest of choices: resignation to the EU’s neoliberal, neofeudal agenda, and with it, the gradual elimination of the few remaining freedoms and opportunities we still enjoy; or a spirited last-stand against the encroaching totalitarianism of the European superstate.
Before you make your choice (if, of course, you are European), let me first make a few of my own personal observations vis-a-vis our current situation and future outlook.
1. In case you hadn’t noticed, we are already owned, lock, stock and smoking barrel, by the international cartel of too-big-to-fail banks.
2. Pretty much all our political representatives and institutions, whether at the national or EU level, have also been bought off by the same banks, whose agents – the national central banks, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the ECB, the European Commission, the IMF, OECD and World Bank - now stand head and shoulders above all other players in the global political order.
3. Said banks are, to all intents and purposes, bankrupt, both financially and morally. They are also quite literally a law unto themselves. By allowing them to continue to operate in a mark-to-model fantasy world as well as gorge themselves on virtually interest-free central bank credit and regular transfusions of tax-payer funds, our politicians have shown all too clearly on which side their bread is buttered. As such, as long as the current financial system remains in place, the banks and their senior executives will be free to continue bleeding dry our national economies and personal bank accounts.
As Golem XIV recently wrote in his blog, there now exists an official list, drawn up by the Financial Stability Board, of 28 banks that are now free to operate beyond any legal jurisdiction. Like HSBC, they can consort with and engage in business with some of the world’s most wanted criminals, at absolutely no risk of legal action. And as Golem notes, this month (April 2013), we can look forward to the announcement of “another list, this time of Globally Systemically Important Insurers (G-SIIs). They too will be above the Law.”
4. Democracy has absolutely no role, beyond a figurative one, in the European Union. The continued survival and expansion of the European superstate supersedes all other concerns, whether moral, political, social or economic. As such, no genuine form of democracy or civic political engagement will be allowed to take root. As in Stalinist Russia, complete power and authority will reside in the hands of faceless, unaccountable apparatchiks, all doing the bidding of the large global banks and conglomerates.
5. As the real economy (i.e. everything that is not the stock exchange) continues its descent into the abyss, businesses will continue to close down, jobs will continue to vanish at an alarming rate and taxes will continue to rise. What’s more, at a politically expedient moment, the final nail will be driven deep into the coffin of Europe’s welfare state system, once the envy of the world. Needless to say, the newly privatized healthcare, education and pension systems that will take its place will be the sole preserve of the upwardly mobile (i.e. not us).
Instead of paying for essential public services and utilities such as health care, education, pensions and infrastructure, the public’s ballooning tax burden will be directed toward two purposes: keeping the big banks afloat and sustaining the ever-expanding police-state apparatus that will be needed to keep the collapsing civic society in line. Put simply, we will be forced to finance our own enslavement.
6. Most importantly of all, the global financial system’s days are already numbered. Put simply, the system is buckling under the combined weight of unsustainable debt, unpayable pension schemes and a derivatives market whose total value dwarfs global GDP by magnitudes that exceed all human logic.
The question is, once it does collapse, who’s going to pick up the pieces and rebuild a new, more sustainable system in its ashes? Will it be us, the people, or will it be the same bankers, central bankers and heavily compromised political half-wits that got us here in the first place? Will we bravely stake our claim to a new future, or resign ourselves, in fear and despair, to the global bankers’ totalitarian nirvana?
Whatever choice Europeans make in the coming months and years, one thing is clear: the human, social and economic costs will be tremendous either way. For the unpleasant truth is that we have allowed ourselves to be led so far down the rabbit hole of exponential debt that reemerging into the light of day will take years of collective struggle and sacrifice.
Don Quijones is a freelance writer and translator based in Barcelona, Spain. His blog, Raging Bull-Shit, is a modest attempt to challenge some of the wishful thinking and scrub away the lathers of soft soap peddled by our political and business leaders and their loyal mainstream media.
Also by Don Quijones: Spain’s Descent Into Banana Republicanism
- EU growth strategy a ‘failure so far’, study finds (irishtimes.com)
- How The Criminal Banking Cartel Is Destroying America (blacklistednews.com)