Catalunya vote: 80% back independence – officials

 

Catalonia's regional president Artur Mas says an official referendum is needed

Catalunya’s  regional president Artur Mas says an official referendum is needed

 

An informal vote on independence for Catalunya has shown more than 80% in favor, officials say.

The non-binding vote went ahead after Spain’s constitutional court ruled out holding a formal referendum in the autonomous north-eastern region.

More than two million people out of an estimated 5.4 million eligible voters took part in the ballot.

Catalan leader Artur Mas hailed the poll “a great success” that should pave the way for a formal referendum.

“We have earned the right to a referendum,” he told cheering supporters.

“Once again Catalunya has shown that it wants to rule itself.”

The BBC’s Patrick Jackson reports from a polling station in Catalonia

He added: “I ask the people in the world, I ask the media and I also ask the democratic governments in the world to help the Catalan people decide its political future.”

The ballot was held in the face of fierce opposition from the Spanish government.

Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catala dismissed the exercise as “a sterile and useless sham” that only served to exacerbate the divisions between Catalans and heighten political tensions.

He accused Artur Mas of pushing ahead with the 9 November vote to “hide his failure” in holding a proper referendum.

“The government considers this to be a day of political propaganda organized by pro-independence forces and devoid of any kind of democratic validity,” he said in a statement.

Spanish opposition Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez was more conciliatory. He said 10 November should herald a new era, when Catalunya was not outside Spain but “at the vanguard of change” that would lead to a federal Spain.

Voters were asked two questions – whether they wanted Catalunya to be a state and whether they wanted that state to be independent.

Officials said 2,236, 806 people had taken part in the “consultation of citizens” and that with almost all votes counted, 80.72% had answered yes to both questions.

Just over 10% voted yes for the first question and no for the second, he said, and about 4.5% voted no to both questions.

Opinion polls suggest that as many as 80% of Catalans want an official referendum on the issue of Catalonia’s status, with about 50% in favour of full independence.

 

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Catalan pro-independence activists waved a cardboard ballot box at a rally in Barcelona

 

 

Spanish unionist parties argue that because the ballot was organised by grassroots pro-independence groups it cannot legitimately reflect the wishes of the region.

More than 40,000 volunteers helped to set up and run the informal exercise.

Catalunya’s dream of independence from Spain collides with some harsh realities on the streets of Santa Coloma, a dormitory town on the northern edge of Barcelona.

Santa Coloma’s energetic young mayor Nuria Parlon is firmly opposed to independence. Independence, she argues, is a “placebo” which would not solve Catalunya’s underlying problems.

The Catalan National Assembly pressure group collected signatures at polling stations on a petition to be sent to the UN and the European Commission asking for help to convince Spain to allow an official referendum.

Nationalism in Catalunya has been fueled by economic and cultural grievances. The wealthy region of 7.5 million people contributes more to the Spanish economy than it gets back through central government funds.

The Libres e Iguales (Free and Equal) group, which opposes the vote, held protests in dozens of cities.

One protest in Barcelona witnessed minor scuffles but no arrests.

Other rallies in favour of the vote were also held.

 

 

Homage to Catalonia: People defy Madrid casting ballots in symbolic independence vote

Catalunya teus fills i filles luchand per la teva independència del jou espanol!

 

 

 

http://rt.com/news/203627-independenc…

High numbers of Catalan voters are determined to take part in the highly-anticipated symbolic poll on Sunday on whether to split from Spain and become an independent country.

“People seem extremely enthusiastic. If you walk through the streets in Barcelona that energy is palpable,” RT’s Marina Portnaya reported, adding that banners, posters and ribbons are being displayed throughout the city in support of Catalonia’s “consultative vote.”

Organizers told RT that over 1,300 polling centers have been set up for what is expected to be a “high turnout.” There’s also been an army of volunteers, up to 50,000 people, making phone calls to people living across Catalonia, informing them where to go and how to vote.

Regional police are on high alert, but organizers believe that officers are unlikely to stand in their way or to block voters from casting their ballots.

There have been several challenges that organizers and volunteers have faced, leading up to the consultative vote, Portnaya said.

“Madrid sent letters to the public schools that are serving as polling sites, threatening them, saying that it’s illegal for schools to take part in an election, even though this is a non-binding unofficial consultation vote.”

Many pro-independence volunteers received robot calls all day long on Saturday, Portnaya reported, in an apparent effort to monopolize their mobile phones and drain their batteries to prevent them from using them.

After Spain’s High Court ruled the independence referendum proposed by Catalan leader Artur Mas unconstitutional last month, the Madrid government has also issued a ban on the informal poll, forbidding Catalans from making any public show of support for independence.

Thousands rallied in front of the National Museum of Catalonia on Friday, however, in an effort to show resolve to stage the November 9 so-called “consultative vote,” despite warnings from Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy’s government to disrupt it.

People wait on November 9, 2014 outside a school in Barcelona to vote in a symbolic ballot on whether to break away as an independent state, defying fierce challenges by the Spanish government. (AFP Photo/Lluis Gene)

People wait on November 9, 2014 outside a school in Barcelona to vote in a symbolic ballot on whether to break away as an independent state, defying fierce challenges by the Spanish government. (AFP Photo/Lluis Gene)

READ MORE: Catalans gear up for symbolic independence vote Sunday defying Madrid’s ban

Rajoy said ahead of the vote: “The law will be enforced. There will be no referendum that calls into question the sovereignty of the Spanish nation. There will be no division of Spanish territory while I am prime minister.”

However, according to opinion polls, up to 80 percent of Catalans want more autonomy from Spain, with about 50 percent backing full independence. With its own language and culture, the comparatively well-off autonomous region has a population of 7.5 million and accounts for nearly one-quarter of Spain’s GDP.

“According to the organizers…within the first four hours of polls being opened, nearly 1,143,000 Catalans turned out to vote – that’s just in the first four hours. Polls will be open for 11 hours. So clearly that is an indication that many are coming out to cast their ballots,” Portnaya stated.

People take part in a Sardana dance, a typical Catalan dance, near the cathedral in Barcelona, November 8, 2014. (Reuters/Gustau Nacarino)

Catalunya Cancels Vote to Secede From Spain, but Calls for Nonbinding Ballot

Students protested in Barcelona last week after Spain's Constitutional Court issued a ruling that prevented Catalonia from holding an independence referendum on Nov. 9. Lluis Gene/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Students protested in Barcelona last week after Spain’s Constitutional Court issued a ruling that prevented Catalonia from holding an independence referendum on Nov. 9. Lluis Gene/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 

The Times

In his latest act of defiance toward Madrid, Artur Mas, the Catalan leader, called off his push for a secession vote next month but announced that the regional Catalan government would instead urge its citizens to take part in a looser, nonbinding consultation on the same date. He added that his government had the right to organize such an expression of popular will and that doing so would not violate Spanish law.

“We have sufficient strength to do what we said we would do, which is to consult the people of Catalonia,” Mr. Mas said at a televised news conference. “There will be ballot boxes and papers” on Nov. 9, he added.

Catalans in Barcelona were among hundreds of thousands in a human chain on Wednesday to show support for separating from Spain.

His alternative plan is less likely to push Spain into a constitutional crisis, even if it creates, at least for now, further political and legal uncertainty and continues to be opposed by the central government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. An informal ballot would also struggle to receive the international legitimacy that Mr. Mas had hoped to achieve with a vote.

In the coming weeks, Mr. Mas also faces a significant challenge in keeping other pro-independence parties aligned with his governing Convergence party. “We continue to go forward, but at the moment not as united as 10 days ago,” he said.

Mr. Mas, a late but staunch convert to secessionism, has been trying to lead Catalonia toward independence without being held responsible for provoking an unprecedented crisis for Spain. Catalonia, Spain’s economic powerhouse, has been pushing for a vote on secession that the central government has vowed to block. Mr. Rajoy is also counting on the support of Spain’s Constitutional Court.

Mr. Mas and Mr. Rajoy have been at loggerheads for two years, initially over fiscal issues. However, tensions came to the fore late last month, when Mr. Mas signed a decree approving the Nov. 9 vote. Mr. Mas contends that his position had been made untenable by Mr. Rajoy’s refusal to talk, even after Scotland rejected independence from Britain in a referendum in September.

Mr. Rajoy’s government has steadfastly refused to allow Catalans to vote on independence and, if anything, has been emboldened by the failure of the Scottish push for secession.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Rajoy described the cancellation of the Catalan vote as “excellent news.” He said at an economic conference in Madrid that “Spain is a democracy and an advanced country, and to comply with the law is an obligation for everybody.”

But Mr. Mas later sought to dampen Mr. Rajoy’s celebration.

“There are people who say they have excellent news, but excellent news sometimes lasts only a few hours,” Mr. Mas said. He added that his government had “competencies in terms of consultation” of its citizens, without specifying how his latest plan could be deemed legal by Spanish courts.

Mr. Mas must now hope a nonbinding referendum can generate sufficient popular enthusiasm amid discord among the main secessionist parties and without legal guarantees from the government of Spain.

However, the possibility that Mr. Mas will instead eventually switch to a longer-term strategy to achieve an independent Catalonia, by calling for new elections for the regional Parliament, raises the prospect that Mr. Rajoy will end up facing a Catalan Parliament controlled by more hard-line secessionist politicians than Mr. Mas.

Mr. Mas changed tack on Tuesday after a long, tense meeting with other secessionist politicians on Monday, during which he failed to gain their support for his latest consultation plan. After that meeting, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, a left-wing secessionist party that has the second-largest representation in Catalonia’s Parliament, issued a statement suggesting that it wanted new elections to move swiftly toward a unilateral declaration of independence.

“I don’t consider what happened yesterday as the burial of the consensus in Catalonia,” Mr. Mas said. “The real adversary isn’t within Catalonia, but it is the Spanish state, which is doing everything possible to deny us the right to vote.”

Mr. Mas was also forced to forget his voting decree after the Constitutional Court recently ordered the suspension of the Catalan voting campaign pending a final ruling on its legality. The court could take as long as five months to rule.

Still, Mr. Mas insisted that the vote on Nov. 9 would look similar to what had initially been planned, organized with the help of more than 20,000 volunteers, held in polling stations across Catalonia and with the backing of 920 town halls that recently voted in favor of a secession ballot in November.

On Tuesday, Mr. Rajoy suggested that he would be willing to reopen talks with Mr. Mas, if his voting plan was shelved. “We need to dialogue and speak,” Mr. Rajoy said.

Mr. Mas has fanned expectations for independence among Catalans since a falling out with Madrid in 2012, after Mr. Rajoy rejected a Catalan request to reduce its contribution to a Spanish system that redistributes tax revenues from richer to poorer regions.

The fiscal dispute coincided with hundreds of thousands filling downtown Barcelona on Catalonia’s national day to push for independence. Catalonia has 7.5 million people, 16 percent of Spain’s population, and it accounts for 19 percent of the nation’s output.

Red and yellow Barcelona: 2 million rally for Catalunya independence!

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13 September, 2014 06:09 PM | Photo by AFP Photo / Josep Lago

 

The Non-referendum popular consultation on the political future of Catalonia 2014, also known as the Catalan self-determination referendum or the Catalan independence referendum, is a non-binding referendum on Catalan independence that has been called for 9 November 2014.

The referendum about “political future of Catalonia” is included in the governance agreement ratified by Artur Mas from Convergence and Union (CiU) and Oriol Junqueras from Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) on 18 December 2012, and called by its signatories Agreement for Freedom. The text indicates that the date of the referendum will be agreed between the two parties, both of which commit to attempting to hold it in 2014 “except if the socio-economic and political context made a postponement necessary.” As part of the agreement Artur Mas was voted in as President of the Generalitat of Catalonia for a second term.

On 19 September 2014, the Catalan parliament approved a call for a consultation on independence. Subsequently, according to the decree signed by the Catalan President Artur Mas on 27 September 2014, the consultation will be held on 9 November 2014. The same day the Spanish government announced that that it would block the consultation by appealing to the Constitutional Court. The Spanish Constitutional Court decided to hear the Spanish government case on 29 September 2014, which suspended the vote.

But Catalunya won’t give up!

 

President Artur Mas: Stripping Catalonia of Autonomous Status Will Not Stop Independence Vote

Depriving Catalonia of its autonomous rights will not stop the region's independence movement: Catalan president

Depriving Catalonia of its autonomous rights will not stop the region’s independence movement: Catalan president

 

MADRID, September 16 (RIA Novosti) – Depriving Catalonia of its autonomous rights will not stop the region’s independence movement, Catalan president Artur Mas said on Tuesday.

“[The Spanish government] should not think that this will stop the course of history,” Mas told Catalan lawmakers, adding that Madrid should learn from UK authorities, whose policies have made the upcoming Scottish referendum possible.

Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said earlier on Tuesday that Spain would use “all legal tools available to prevent a separation referendum” in Catalonia, including stripping the region of its autonomous status.

According to Mas, the Madrid government is showing double standards, as it appeals to the law, but chooses “not to comply with it whenever necessary.”

“Do not be surprised that there are people in the region who believe that the time has come to achieve [autonomy] in other ways,” Mas stated.

The Catalan leader noted that he would not go as far as claiming that all Catalans want independence, but said that the residents of the autonomous community wished to establish just how many of them want the region to secede from Spain.

“The movement for Catalan rights is not dead. It is now more alive than ever, but in a different form, as it is no longer asking the government for authority or resources, but rather for a nationwide survey,” Mas said.

Tensions in Catalonia about secession from Spain have increased in light of the upcoming Scottish independence referendum, which will be held on September 18.

A referendum on Catalan’s independence has been set for November 9. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Constitutional Court of Spain have repeatedly stressed that they will not recognize the results of the vote, which they consider illegal.

Wales, Catalunya and the Basques May Follow Scotland in Its Search for Independence

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Republican writing supporting the Yes vote in the Scottish Referendum on a mountain in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014.

 

MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) – Inspired by Scotland’s example Wales may also claim its independence in a few years, the Guardian reported Friday.

“It will take a lot of work but I think it can happen. I’m over 50 now but we can see independence here in my lifetime,” Welsh political campaigner and popular children”s author Angharad Tomos told the Guardian after returning from Scotland.

Before the Scottish referendum went forward, debates about independence in Wales were widely seen as impossible, but now there is a growing optimism among Welsh nationalists.

Although Welsh people are aware of the arguments against independence, such as the fact that Wales is not economically strong enough and is located too close to England to be separated, some locals still believe that one day Wales could secede from the United Kingdom. Just as the Scottish people do, Welsh claim that the reason for all of the problems in the country is Westminster’s dominance.

“People tell us we’re a poor country. Wales is not poor. We’ve got huge natural resources. We’re poor because Westminster makes the rules. They’ve never made the rules in favor of us and it’s getting worse. People are having to use food banks; I never thought that would happen. There’s so much unemployment in my area [north west Wales] that young people are disempowered and leaving,” Tomos said.

Some Welsh politicians agree that independence in Wales should no longer be seen as a pipe dream, but rather as a long-term aspiration.

“Six hundred years ago our state was destroyed. We’re playing catch-up. There are 641 castles in Wales. We may be the most militarily occupied nation in the history of Europe. We have to go through a period of de-occupation in our minds. In this century, maybe in our generation, Wales will be an independent state. We need to prepare for that,” the Guardian quoted Adam Price, Welsh politician and former Plaid Cymru member as saying.

Although the majority of Welsh people prefer to live just as they are now and do not want to change the status quo, with recent polls showing that only few percent of voters in Wales would back the independence, everyone agrees that a “Yes” vote is Scotland would have a major impact for the rest of the United Kingdom.

“While a decision to go it alone lies with the people of Scotland, a yes vote would have a major impact for the rest of the UK, and regardless of the result it is important for us to consider our future constitutional arrangements in Wales,” Carwyn Jones, the leader of Welsh Labour and the first minister told the Guardian.

The long-standing issue of the Scottish independence is to be settled by a referendum scheduled for September 18, when voters will be asked one question only, “Should Scotland become an independent country?”

If the majority of Scots vote for independence, then on March 24, 2016 Scotland will secede from the United Kingdom.

A Catalan Singer With Many Brave And Treacherous Stories To Tell

Silvia Perez Cruz

Raul Fernandez Miro and Silvia Perez Cruz

Photo: Raul Fndz/Courtesy of the artist

“She has like a complete vision of music,” Fernandez Miró (left) says of Silvia Perez Cruz. “She’s not thinking just about vocals, about the voice. She’s thinking about everything.”

For Spanish singer Silvia Perez Cruz, stories are everything.

“Style is not what matters to me, but the result,” she says through a translator. “The song has to have a story that I believe in and I can make my own. I think I have that influence from my mother. My mother is a good storyteller, and she’s always believed that songs are stories.”

Cruz’s own story is pretty remarkable. The 31-year-old is a classically trained singer from Catalonia. She studied piano and classical saxophone, and has a degree in vocal jazz.

While still at the Catalonia College of Music in Barcelona, Cruz co-founded a flamenco group called Las Migas (The Bread Crumbs) with three other women. She says that none of them were the best players or singers, but that that helped them take a different approach to flamenco.

“I think that’s the best thing we did,” she says. “It was a sound that really did not exist in Spain, based on our limitations, which was to make a more accessible type of flamenco.”

 

 

 

Before long, Cruz was the buzz of the Spanish music scene. Javier Colina, a jazz bassist, invited her to record an album with his trio. Colina sent her a CD of classic Cuban songs with a note telling her to listen to the lyrics.

“Of course, he liked the melody and the harmony,” Cruz says, “but he selected them because of the text and the stories they told.” She says he told her, “Don’t study the songs. Listen to them at home. Let them keep you company until they stay with you.”

Again, it was the stories in the songs that were at the heart of the recording they made.

Time To Tell Her Own Stories

Finally, just two years ago, it was time for Cruz to record her own solo album. She asked guitarist and producer Raul Fernandez Miró, who’s worked with artists ranging from ‘s Lee Ranaldo to Spanish rapper La Mala Rodriguez, to help her.

“She has like a complete vision of music,” he says. “She’s not thinking just about vocals, about the voice. She’s thinking about everything.”

The recording they made, 11 de Novembre, earned Album of the Year nominations in Spain and France. That same year, one of her own compositions, “No Te Puedo Encontrar (I Can’t Find You),” won a Goya — the Spanish equivalent of an Oscar — for Best Original Song.

Silvia Perez Cruz sings in four Iberian languages, as well as French, German and English. She uses them all on her new album, Granada. She sings an iconic Catalan folk song called “El Cant Dells Ocells,” made famous by cellist Pablo Casals; a lied from the mid-1800s by Robert Schumann, and the Edith Piaf classic “Hymne a l’Amour.”

 

 

 

 

Once again, Fernandez Miró was her collaborator. For Granada, he says they chose songs with stories they liked, but they had to figure out how to unite such a wide range of material.

“I think that if you don’t know that they come from different styles, and they have different languages, I think you can imagine the record or you can see the record as a whole thing,” Miró says. “Which is something that we were looking for — not to be impressed by playing so many different styles, just to play them as the way that we want to play.”

One of them is “Gallo Rojo, Gallo Negro,” a popular song from the Spanish Civil War. The words read, in part:

The black rooster was big, but the red one was brave

The red rooster is brave, but the black one is treacherous

Cruz learned the song when she was part of a concert to honor the remaining members of the International Brigades, who went to Spain to fight against dictator Francisco Franco.

“At the concert, these men were singing the song in their own language with tears in their eyes,” she says. “This song made a big impression on me. They stood up with their arms raised, and I thought, ‘These people have lived through so much. It’s good that I can sing and help them remember.'”

It’s just one example of the way Silvia Perez Cruz comes to understand the stories she sings.