I´m Spanish (not Catalan) and I want a referendum

For years now I have been witnessing how Catalan politics take over absolutely everything in Spain:

  • evidence of systemic corruption in lead political parties, local and regional governments
  • economic crisis with the loss of social services (cuts in education, health, labour rights…)
  • in October a substantial proportion of Spain (Galicia, Asturias and Leon) was literally up in flames, so much so the ashes went flying to UK with the help of a hurricane and made the sun look red, of course, the fires were  picked up earlier by British media than Spanish, it was not about Cataluña so not worthy of reporting. Let alone sending help; even a 1% of all the police it was sent to stop the vote on 1 October would have undoubtedly saved a few thousand hectares.

Image result for catalan independence cartoon

I want a referendum on Cataluña’s independence, I am tired of this topic overpowering all the problems the society is facing, of politicians using it to avoid doing their job, working on behalf of citizens and rallying people against each other. Friends, families falling out due to different points of view and how polarising the conversation and acts of each side are. People without a job, living off their family members without hope for self-independence. Youngsters without any hope of having enough years of working life to amount to a retirement pension, let alone being able to leave their family home or live on their own. People forced to emigrate, leave family, friends, culture behind for the unknown, for being treated like a second-class citizen in a time when racism and fascism are ramping up, all so that they can feel a bit of fulfilment having a job and be allowed to dream of a future.

Instead of addressing all this the central government:

  • changed the law so that the justice system is enabled to stop the Catalan independentism movement. Funny enough some laws can be changed, when it is convenient, this is an example, also they didn’t waste time changing the constitution to prioritise paying back the “public debt” over funding for social services
  • keep moving deadlines and making fictional lines to elongate the drama and exploit the crisis more
  • refuse any dialog as if politics wasn’t the art of compromise, and they were not supposed to find a solution to a problem that is taking away too much time and resources; by the way justice is not a free service, neither is all the police involved in this, all Spanish people are paying the price in more ways than one. When are going to demand governments to be accountable and sensible about spending and the role they are paid to do, people in other countries do
  • keep implementing economic and social policies that only favour corporations and foreign entities, giving arguments for those wishing another type of country to try to break apart to create something that works for them, there is certainly a portion of Catalan’s society working for independence due to the failed politics of the central government, I can’t really blame them for that particular argument
Image result for catalan independence cartoon
At the same time the Catalan president:
  • started a popular vote process outside the law, making everyone that got involved exposed to be prosecuted and jailed, since laws are there to be obeyed, like them or not. If you don’t like them (I believe laws in Spain can be improved) work for change, for a solution that would be within the legal paradigm so that it is achievable, don’t put people in the dilemma of having to choose between expressing their opinion and being prosecuted
  • it is using the independentism movement as the screen for an economic battle, they want a deal that would allow them to have more money instead of sharing it with the rest of Spain, as if they haven’t benefited from all the workers in other Spanish regions that moved there and worked to make Cataluña what is today. In a way they are just funding all the people that would actually have an education and would become producers in Cataluña, call it an investment; it is also the right thing to do if you believe in equal opportunity, plus it is not like you lose all your money anyways and Cataluña has got huge amounts of funding over the years as exchange for supporting national governments
  • at the same time he blames the social cuts they are doing on central government, if they were independent those wouldn’t be necessary, without mentioning that Cataluña is the region with higher public deficit, and that is not something the rest of Spain has forced upon them
  • making equivalences between the existing government framework and Franco’s dictatorship. I see many faults in the existing system, but I also see the many privileges Catalans have now that wouldn’t have should that be true. They have more financial benefits than other regions. Their own language is present in schools, universities, it is very hard getting a job in Cataluña (and almost impossible for public roles) if you don’t speak Catalan. Even the fact they are allowed to talk about independence and protest in the streets (as long as it is peaceful) are signs of a type of democracy. I don´t think we have a democracy progressive enough but we are not in a dictatorship like Franco’s was either.
Image result for catalan independence cartoon

There is a legal way of having a referendum on Cataluña’s independence, ask all Spanish citizens. It is a simple as that. This would allow knowing what is the real percentage of people in favour in every corner of the country. Have proper debates, analysis and make an informed decision. If the independence number in Cataluña is high surely many non Catalans would consider supporting their movement; not that many people want to be married to someone that is not into them.

The concept of nation should be more than the number of regions it has, it should be the culture, common goals, nature, history. Surely Spain can succeed and remain as a country without Cataluña, thinking otherwise feels very gloom. It would be different but if it allows us to bring focus to the very serious problems we have it may not be a bad deal for us either. If we build a strong progressive country some may want to come back and others that are thinking about living may change their minds. And who knows a proper referendum could show the real numbers and stop the independentism on its toes due to lack of support but if we don’t try we don’t know and we will remain stuck.

Let’s be bold, let’s be brave and create a country that works for all of us how many of us that would be.

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The real Spanish transition

International media has always praised Spain as the example to follow for a peaceful transition from a dictatorial regime into a democracy. For many years people like me, born in the 80s thought we were indeed an example. Then you start realising that the Two Spains (Pro Franco and Republican) are still alive and showing their hate to each other every day in the media, local conversations, politicians’ spins…. You open your eyes and see that all Transition did was putting the unresolved things (massive murders from both sides, missing persons, political differences, economic social injustices like the taxing system) into a cupboard and lock it. There was no opportunity to deal with it in a civilised manner so everyone could heal and the society as a whole could progress into a democracy mentality, where everyone is equal with same rights and responsibilities. Little lee way was given to communist or republican parties for fear of upsetting the right movements and the army with the pretext of not provoking another war. It feels as if the left had to make all the concessions for the good of the country (to avoid another war) while the right and the people who already had power during the Dictatorship aligned themselves with the new economic powers to keep social structures and institutions working almost like they were during Franco. Since the 40s when the Dictatorship started workers are paying a high proportion of their income as taxes, they suffer this burden even more if they are freelance, having to pay a minimum of 250 € monthly as a fee no matter how much they earn which prevents many from doing a start-up; land and company owners benefit from tax breaks and institutions are controlled by political parties, too often they don’t choose public employees on merits but their friends and family, as if public money was theirs to spend on private favours instead of the good of the country.

Thus Democracy started. My parents generation wasn't given a choice: Parliamentary Monarchy or Parliamentary Monarchy. If a real transition had been put forward another option should have been available, Republic; after all the civil war begun because the army didn’t approve of the Republic that was functioning during the 30s. With the fear of a new war, the majority chose Monarchy, hoping that this new system would be more equitative even though the preferred option for many would have been the Third Republic.

Since the taxing system was copied from the Dictatorship, the government didn’t have enough money to provide for public services and they started borrowing money from abroad instead of rising taxes on the Oligarchy. Years pass by, we get into the European Union and start receiving developing money which went almost solely to construction companies, not the development of the country as it was supposed to. Instead of investing it in research, education, credits for companies or innovation to develop a prosper economy, politicians promoted roads and construction projects; it was easier and generated more profit for them thanks to a law signed by Aznar (Conservative President during the 90s) that allowed local authorities to declare land fit for construction and receive money for such transactions. Thus every land owner (usually wealthy people already associated with the old regime) started selling their properties to build houses. Meanwhile city halls justified their increases on taxes by doing maintenance works on roads and footways, as if public money only could be spent on roads.

I lived in Leon for 20 years, a city with about 175000 residents; I can’t remember the number of times City Hall replaced footways, even when the existing ones didn’t present any need of upgrade. They sometimes also inflate the value of the project so they could justify the use public money and deviate some to their pockets. After a few years on a public seat most of the people magically increase their patrimony, acquiring second houses, expensive cars, etc. We all knew it and we all thought it was wrong but that was how the system worked when we were in the Dictatorship and unfortunately many people didn’t know that wasn’t the only way a country can be governed. Together with this construction bubble we had an extensive clientelism culture. If you have connections amongst the rich you will have the best job and all the possibilities, too often they go as far as to hire you as consultant for a public office. Likewise middle class workers prosper more by praising the manager than working hard and honestly.

And we got to the point we are now, realising we have a corrupt society that never did a proper transition towards a decent society of opportunities. Some blame belongs to the politicians and economic powers that designed the new system without any ethic values nor consideration for the society, doing it closed and obscure to protect themselves and be able to do whatever they want. But the bigger share of blame is onto the society. The lack of culture we inheritaged from the old regime made us sheep thinking that this was the only way; it has stopped us from demanding a transparent, meritocratic and just system and above all from realising that we are the majority and there is power in numbers. Austerity has been the last straw, we have lost our rights and services while the people responsible are at large and wealthier than before. Now things are changing 11 May 2011 was the beginning of the Spanish awakening. It may take time but we will create the Spain we want and we deserve. And then we will be a real example of transition into democracy.

 

Spanish are not lazy, their politicians are

Contrary to what foreign media say and many people think about Spain, all Spaniards aren´t lazy. If we were lazy Germany (who sells itself as the most hard working country in Europe) wouldn´t be trying to import thousands of young highly qualified Spaniards to work there.

What has become clear to us is that our politicians, the ones that go around the world saying that represent Spain are the lazy ones, following Germany and international markets directions instead of fighting for what their citizens need. They embody a part of our culture that most of us don´t agree with and consider from another century: the culture of the minimum effort and maximum benefit no matter the method or the consequences. Yes it is our fault that those people are in the governement since we voted them. But unfortunately we hadn´t have much of a choice and until recently nor the means to see how other system work so we could compare. The institutional system defined in the 70´s after Franco died is the cause of all our current problems as Julio Anguita has denounced (one of the few valuable politicians in our country that many are hoping comes back from his retirement in this time of need). It was created by the same politicians that are still nowadays working in the two main parties of the country, PP and PSOE, and apart from getting a feeling of evolution from a Dictatorship it helped them to protect themselves and be able to have all the control without being challenged in any way by the society.

When the time for Democrazy came this closed group of people defined the rules that the country would follow for elections, how the justice branch would function and be appointed and the legal penalties for each type of crime. These three things have made possible that they could do whatever they wanted with an impunity proper of thirld world countries. They decided that the citizens will have to vote an ideology not to a party since the lists will be closed and the representatives are chosen by the party, so they could control directly all the policies. Thus politicians follow party directions and don´t have any contact with voters, many representatives represent an area in which they don´t live and know anything about. Their isolation from society is complete and they will only interact with people if they want to, and time has proved they don´t. The justice system is practical terms appointed by the political parties almost in its entirity, which makes justice a slave of politics: corruption cases are dismissed when they impact the party in power in that jurisdiction and promoted when they damage the opposition. Likewise corruption cases have a very low penalty compared to regular bulglary, a person will go to jail sooner for steling a loaf of bread to eat than taking one million euros from the public treasury, and is never forced to give it back. Thus politicians have been living for years inside of a bubble doing whatever the party decided, and to our disgrace they never felt like doing good for the citizens, they prefer following power lobbies and their personal benefit till the end.

Since the 80s politicians in power have sold all the public companies we had at a ridiculous price always benefiting companies controled by their families or friends making sure any debts were paid with public funds before selling so the new owners only get profits. When Europe demanded that we reduced our agriculture production (for example forcing us to stop cultivating olives although Spanish oil is considered one of the best in the world despite of current Italian’s dominance) they assumed the demand without confronting it even though that forces us to spend money importing things we used to produce, export less and limit our growth. They have innundated the system with assessor roles and innecesary construction projects done without people’s consent (the system doesn’t force any consultation nor provides control mechanisms like in another countries) given to their friends and family members at public’s money expense. They haven´t invested in any industry, just sat in their chairs seeing how constuction became the first economic force even knowing the consequences: artificial increase of home values with people having to spend more than before to buy the same house and a huge amount of young people leaving school before graduating to satisfy the low qualified jobs demand. Now with the crisis we have 3 million of empty houses, millions of useless assessors and construction works, millions of unemployed people that required training if they are to obtain any other job not construction related, millions evicted from their homes (organising to occupy empty houses) and no industry that could impulse the economy except the few tourists that visit us (mostly European since the Euro is so high that Spain is too expensive for people living in other currencies) because they have decided a country with more than 300 sunny days per year in some areas shouldn´t invest in renewable energy although many Spanish renewable companies are successfully working in other countries like USA and now we face a law-suit from renewable energy investors due to senseless cuts.

At the moment there are more than 400 politicians suspected of corruption, almost all are keeping their political duties and priviledges whilst being judged and keep appearing in the lists because is the party’s choice. All the major parties have corruption cases, with stong evidence of the party in goverment financing themselves illegally for years through donations from construction companies in exchange of allocating public projects to them, althogh this is not exclusive of this party and has happened at all institutional levels independently from the party governing; likewise the Monarchy is being investigated for corruption and trafficking of influences. We have a national government applying all the austerity measures Germany and Europe want and when people make demonstrations in the streets they order police to charge as if we were a thirld world country without any human rights.They don´t feel any need of giving explanations of their actions; our President hasn´t made a press conference with questions since November 2012, he has appeared once thorught a television, and the rest of the government follows that approach; in the State of the Union address the president admitted he hasn´t follow any of his electoral promises claiming that he is doing what he has to do instead (following Germany above the compromise he established with 11 million voters) and they haven´t given no reasonable explanation about their dubious finances, if it weren´t for the press we wouldn´t know anything; obviously they are preparing a law to make illegal publishing any news related to corruption. They got 40000 millions of Euros from Europe claiming that they would go to the banks so they could start giving credit to small companies and people but that money has gone to pay French, Dutch and German banks instead of the society. People that are loosing their homes started an information campaign in the streets, going to areas where politicians live since they don´t provide any other point of contact, and the Secretary of the party in governement calls them nazis and has mobilised police against those protest.

The main party in the opposition has a leader that has been 20 years in politics, was vicepresident less than two years ago (when his party was in power and started applying austerity meassures despite being called Socialist party and being supposed to support citizens, not banks or markets) and lost the last elections. Nevertheless he considers himself fit to lead the opposition, even though no one in the country agrees with him.

If we put together all this it is fair to say that the lazy ones that live above their possibilities in Spain are politicians and all that benefit from their activities. They do what they are told by foreign bodies in direct opposition to Spain’s interest and the advice of Nobel price winners that offer other solutions, don´t bother giving any explanations and use all means at their disposal to protect themselves. During this economic turmoil times none of them has reduced costs of the political system they created with lots of public companies without any meaning apart from providing a salary to them and their friends, neither they have reduced their salary or benefits, in fact the president of the nation has increased his 27%, they fly first class, catering orders are a norm, private car with driver, as if they were rock stars instead of servants of the society. We complain and demand common sense, they ignore us and call us names.

Meantime Spaniards were forced to get a pay cut while seeing their duties doubled having to do their job and the job left from the people that got fired (almost every company in the country has reduced salaries and fired thousands of people even if the company was making profits, after all the less workers the more profits), have to spend more money on their health (medicines and general services since there are privatising hospitals) and their education (schoolarships at all levels have been reduced). Millions have left the country, specially young highly qualified that are required to have 5 years experience to get to any job in Spain without no one giving them a chance.

We are ashamed and angry with our politicians and their lack of compromise towards the society that pays their salary. They have left us without any industry and now are destroying our social net instead of making banks pay for the crisis they originated with their unregulated greed; specially German banks that voluntarily invested in our banks knowing the risk of those investments and now are demanding the state to pay that private debt instead of going after the Spanish banks and assume some loss in their investments so both parts can survive. Spain had only 30% of its GDP in debt on 2008, less than Germany, we were doing ok, the banks have destroyed that, not Spaniards living above their posibilities as they want everyone to believe. Since banks control all the economy and we don´t want citizens of other countries to pay our debts, we just need Europe to devaluate the Euro so we can borrow cheaper to pay our bills and increase our exports since we would be more competitive; otherwise we demand we leave Europe because we don’t want to be Germany slaves, I rather live poorer and free. They don´t listen to us and neither talk to us. People are organising themselves because contrary to their opinion we are not a bunch of brainless beings. We can only hope people from another countries understand our situation and support us from the outside giving us voice to put more pressure on our politicians and perhaps join us since many countries are in a similar situation (Italy, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus).