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Spanish PM says “there was no referendum in Catalonia” – Madrid has passed a point of no return

Spanish Prime Minsiter Mariano Rajoy has turned his government into a genuine basket of neo-Francoist deplorables.

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In the Autumn of 2013 and into the Winter of 2014, violent protesters, including well organised and armed neo-fascist militias descended on the Maidan in Kiev with one goal in mind: to overthrow the weak, imperfect but ultimately reasonable and moderate government and President of Ukraine.

In spite of a foreign funded insurgency descending on Kiev, the then President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych did not resort to lethal force against the militants. To put it in perspective, a duo of average policemen in the United States engaging in a traffic stop are more heavily armed than the Berkut officers of Ukraine were when taking on protesters who had already killed and injured police officers.

Ultimately, even when the militants pulled off a coup in Kiev, Yanukovych refused to use his legal option in calling in foreign allies to help preserve civil order. Where Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad called in his allies to help fight terrorism and restore peace, Yanukovych literally ran away in the middle of the night. Some call Yanukovych’s flight an act of cowardice and betrayal, others say that it was an act of preserving the life of his family.

The story today in Catalonia could not be more different. Whereas in Ukraine, latent fascist elements worked to overthrow a moderate government, in Spain peaceful voters have been brutalised by Spanish police in the heart of the European Union, a place which was supposed to have mechanisms in place to avoid such a disaster. These mechanisms have clearly failed.

Catalonia has voted and it is almost certain that a majority of Catalans have voted to separate from Spain. What’s more is that today’s police brutality against voters and the Spanish regime’s attitude has been one of arrogance, violence, defiance and anti-democratic posturing against people who by Madrid’s own narrative are fellow countrymen. If there is one way not to get people on your side, it is by treating them like dirt, but this is exactly what Madrid’s forces have done.

I have previously made the case that the referendum in Catalonia, cannot be judged through the prism of previous secession movements. All secession movements, like all countries and all cultures are unique. Furthermore, each place and time is also unique. Thus, while Donbass voted for survival, Yugoslavia was broken apart by terrorists, and Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey are all under threat from an Israeli backed Kurdish movement which seeks to disenfranchise traditional indigenous non-Kurdish local populations, Catalonia is different.

While emotions were bound to run high, unlike Donbass where separation was a matter of life or death or Yugoslavia where preserving the state was a matter of life and death–sovereignty versus terrorism and imperialism, Catalonia was not this at all.

CATALONIA: Not Iraq nor Yugoslavia, but a uniquely EU problem

Catalonia was fundamentally about two things. First of all, it was about Catalan pride in resisting a Madrid regime that had become increasingly neo-Francoist in attitude, something appalling to the traditionally anti-fascist patriots of Catalonia. Catalonia was indeed given autonomy by a punitively left-leaning government in 2006. However, Spain’s High Court which was packed with neo-Francoist judges stripped Catalonia of its hard won autonomy shortly thereafter.  The Court’s decision set the pace for a showdown wherein an increasingly disrespectful Madrid ignored, debased and disengaged from Catalonia’s interests.

Secondly, the vote was a matter of economics and governance. Catalonia is the most wealthy part of what is presently Spain and matters of wealth distribution between regions of a country were very much a part of the matter being voted on.

Unlike Spain which disregarded Catalan grievances, in 1974, Josip Broz Tito authored a new Yugoslav constitution which accounted for the autonomous privileges of ethnic minority dominated regions of Serbia (Kosovo and Vojvodina). However, in 1986, Serbs authored the SANU Memorandum, in which Serbian students complained about the lack of Serbian representation in majority Serb areas of Bosnia and Croatia as well as increased Albanian terrorism in what was then the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo.  This ultimately led to the Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution of 1989, a political re-organisation effort that was ultimately crushed by an illegal NATO war on Yugoslavia ten years later.

The Yugoslav leadership did everything it could to make all groups feel included in the organs of state and in civil society. This was crushed by western backed terrorists, ultra-nationalists, fascist groups and ultimately by NATO itself.

Yugoslavia & Ukraine: a tale of western double standards

Spain by contrast has not tried to listen to the grievances of Catalans. Madrid has treated Catalans as though they are terrorists when they are not. This de-facto means that Madrid is terrorising innocent people who still hold Spanish citizenship. They are treating their own people as though they are an enemy, when Catalonia’s democratic process has never once been violent or threatening to Madrid.

Because of this, Madrid had the luxury of engaging with Catalonia and making a positive case for national unity. Geo-political expert Andrew Korbyko has made such a rational case for Spanish unity, in a piece just published in The Duran.

The Catalan Referendum is a classic bait-and-switch operation by Barcelona

While I personally disagree with Mr. Korybko’s penultimate conclusion, this is because I view the conflict through the prism of neo-Francoism versus Catalan, anti-fascist patriotism. Were I inclined to view the conflict in purely economic and geo-civilisation terms, I would probably be inclined to reach similar conclusions to Mr. Korbyko.

But the pleasant discussions I have had about this subject are now consigned merely to the realm of theory. In refusing to engage with the people of Catalonia in such a manner, Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy has turned what could have been a peaceful dialogue between Barcelona and Madrid into a kind of early stage civil conflict.

After sending police to beat civilians and fire plastic bullets at unarmed voters, Rajoy now says, “No referendum has been held in Catalonia today”. Such an arrogant statement at a time when reconciliation is required, irrespective of the future of Spain’s borders, means that many Catalans who were previously ambivalent or pro-Madrid will have joined the independence camp.

Unlike the legendary footballers of Barcelona, Rajoy has scored an own goal. He has turned a matter that could have been handled calmly and respectfully, into a matter of conflict and all out confrontation.

Many countries facing similar secession movements do not have the luxury of time and calm that Spain had. In throwing this opportunity away and in plunging his country and the entire EU into crisis as a result, Mariano Rajoy has behaved in a manner that is both cruel and self-defeating.

Unless someone feels like a slave, they will generally not wax lyrical about the need to be free. Today, Mariano Rajoy made the Catalans into slaves, this is why soon they will make themselves free.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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Crimea: The Geopolitical Jewel Russia Continues to Polish

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence.

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Authored by Tom Luongo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


With all that is happening in the world Crimea has taken a bit of a backseat recently. Yes, the US, EU and Canada just added more sanctions on Russia via the odious Magnitsky legislation but this is inconsequential.

There’s been a flurry of good news coming out of Crimea and the Black Sea recently that bears discussion. Let’s start with the most important. President Vladimir Putin was in Crimea earlier this week to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the peninsula’s reunification with Russia. There he also officially inaugurated two major upgrades to Crimea’s power grid.

Located in Simferopol and Sevastopol, two new power plants will produce 940 megawatts and secure Crimea’s energy needs for now and into the future.

Power has been Crimea’s Achilles’ heel since breaking off from Ukraine in 2014. It received almost 90% of its power from the mainland. In November 2015, the trunk lines into Crimea were sabotaged by Ukrainian nationalist radicals, encouraged by President Petro Poroshenko plunging it into darkness as winter took hold.

Does this sound familiar? A place that defies US edicts geopolitically is first hit with a full trade embargo, sanctions and threatened militarily by proxies before having its electricity shut off?

*Cough* Venezuela *Cough*

And there are reports that the US has game-planned a similar fate for Iran as well. For Crimea it was easy because of the single-point-of-failure, the trunks from the mainland. For Venezuela it was as well, with the Guri dam, which affected nearly 70 percent of the country.

So, Putin timing the fifth anniversary of reunification with the announcement of the plants moving to full operational status was yet another smooth bit of international political maneuvering.

A not-so-subtle poke in the eye of the Gang Who Can’t Sanction Straight in D.C. as well as lame duck Poroshenko. Elections are at the end of the month and this celebration by Russia and Crimea will not sit well with many Ukrainians, especially the diaspora here in the US which is virulently anti-Putin in my experience.

Secure and stable power generation is a hallmark of a first world territory. Without that economic growth and stability are impossible. This is why to first help stabilize the situation in Crimea after the blackout Russia brought in 400 MW of power across the Kerch Strait from Krasnodor.

Tying Crimea to the mainland via the Kerch Strait bridge was a masterstroke by Putin. The initial power lines were simply a necessity. For those that complain he isn’t doing enough to counter US and European aggression need only look at the Kerch Strait bridge.

Not only did the Russians not seek international approval given the nearly universal refusal to recognize Crimea as Russian they built the thing in a time frame that defies description.

Imagine if this had been an EU project. They would still be debating the initial engineering plans and the political effects on some protected minority.

Not only does it open up the Eastern Black Sea to trade via Crimea but it ends the use of the Sea of Azov as a potential staging ground for naval provocations as last fall’s incident proved. Ukraine is cut off from acting aggressively and cannot count on any help from the US and Europe.

Moreover, Crimea is now permanently Russia’s. And every bit of infrastructure Russia builds there ties the two further together and weakens any bonds Crimea had with Ukraine. The resultant growth and modernization will make its way, economically and culturally back into southern Ukraine and erode the hard border over time.

This is far more important than striking out and metaphorically punching Poroshenko in the mouth, that many of Putin’s detractors wish for.

Presidents change, after all. Patience and attrition is how you beat an aggressive, distant enemy like the US

To remind everyone just how insane the Trump White House has become on matters international, no less than Vice President Mike Pence lobbied Germany to provoke another naval incident at the Kerch Strait.

If there was ever an example of how little Trump’s gang of moldy neocons think of Europe it is this bit of news. In effect, Pence was saying, “We can’t start a war with Russia because it would go nuclear, but you can because Russia can’t live without your trade.”

This coming after the US unilaterally pulled out of the INF treaty and is now flying nuclear bombers to eastern Europe. The message is clear. If the EU doesn’t get with this open-ended belligerent program against Russia and China of John Bolton’s they will be the ones paying the price when chaos breaks out.

On the other side there is Putin; building bridges, pipelines, power plants and roads.

He’s making it clear what the future holds not only for Europe but the Middle East, central Asia and India. We will defend Crimea at all costs, develop it not only into a tourist destination but also a major trade hub as well.

You are more than welcome to join us. But, we don’t need you.

These power plants will raise Crimea’s power output well beyond its current needs, allowing first export of power as well as providing the foundation for future growth.

And as if it weren’t coordinated in any way, the Chinese, on the morning of Putin’s speech, announced that Crimea would be an excellent fit for investment projects attached to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

That’s according to the head of the association of Chinese compatriots on the peninsula, Ge Zhili. “Our organization is bolstering cooperation ties, exchanges and friendly contacts with the Crimean society,” he said at an event dedicated to the fifth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, which was held in the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Monday.

It is also ready to contribute to the establishment of “reliable partner ties” and the explanation of legal details of business cooperation with Crimea, Ge Zhili said. “The Chinese society hopes for the development of friendly cooperation with Crimea; we are ready to overcome difficulties for fruitful results.”

Again this is a direct challenge to the US who has Crimea under strict sanctions in the West. China is happy now to move forward with integrating Crimea into its plans. It’s just another example of how Russia and China simply ignore Trump’s fulminations and move on.

I can’t wait until I get to write this article all over again, this time about North Korea, now that Bolton has thrown Russian and Chinese assistance in getting North Korea to the negotiating table back in their face by destroying the Hanoi talks.

This announcement is not to be underestimated given that Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is in Rome this week to open up relations with the new Italian government. Five Star Movement’s Leader Luigi Di Maio said he would welcome becoming a part of BRI, much to the consternation of Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as his coalition partner Lega Leader Matteo Salvini.

It’s already well known that Salvini is interested in ending sanctions on Crimea and re-opening trade with Russia. Italy is desperate for new markets and opportunities, currently stifled under the euro itself as well as Germany’s insistence on austerity hollowing out Italy’s economy and its future prospects.

These issues as well as energy security ones are coming to a head this year with Brexit, the European Parliamentary elections in May and the completion of the Nordstream 2 pipeline later this year.

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence. Salvini will lead a Euroskeptic revolt within the European Parliament in May. It may be big enough to finally defy Merkel and end EU sanctions on Russia over Crimea.

At that point the US will also have a choice, burn down the world economy with even more sanctions, tariffs and acts of war or accept the facts on the ground.

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