Tag Archives: Catalonia

Spain’s Catalonia Crisis Just Got a Lot Worse, by Sebastiaan Faber and Bécquer Seguín

This is a good overview of the situation in Catalonia, where there have been massive protests over the sentences handed down to the leaders of the movement that tried to put Catalonian independence on the ballot.. From Sebastiaan Faber and Bécquer Seguín at thenation.com:

Now that the verdict’s out, it’s time to start getting along,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said at a press conference on October 18, repeating the rhyme—“después de la sentencia, convivencia”—as if it were a magic spell. Around the same time, half a million Catalans were converging on Barcelona, which for the previous four days had seen its airport occupied and highways blocked while violent clashes between protesters and riot police were increasing in intensity each night. Sánchez insisted on framing these clashes as an internal Catalan problem. “What’s at stake is not the territorial makeup of our country, but the Catalans’ ability to get along with each other,” he’d said a few days earlier. One week of major protests, it appears, did not shake his government’s unwillingness to face reality: The Catalan crisis is something that affects the entire country, and it is far from over.

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Military Police Deployed As 500,000 Catalan Independence Protesters Shut Down Barcelona, by Tyler Durden

The Spanish government, by levying heavy sentences against organizers of a Catalonian independence referendum, has made its bed. Now it will have to lie in it. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Central Barcelona has reportedly been paralyzed as mass protests which international reports estimate to number over a half-million people are driven by outrage at harsh prison sentences for pro-independence leaders handed down by the top Spanish court.

Protest leaders are vowing “the streets will be ours” as they push for Catalan independence, and as riot police have begun clashing with stone-throwing activists, who are also in some places of the city setting makeshift roadblocks ablaze.

Pro-Catalan independence protesters near the police headquarters in Barcelona on Friday, via the AFP.

With night fall, reporters on the ground are describing what’s beginning to resemble a war zone, with increasing violence against police, as also both far-left and far-right agitators are said to be infiltrating the crowd and engaged in increasing violence and vandalism.

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Revealed: The Run on Banks in Catalonia after the Independence Vote was Fomented by Madrid, by Don Quijones

The Spanish government will do whatever it takes to keep milk-cow Catalonia part of Spain. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

The clandestine role of the Spanish government in a run on deposits that drained €29 billion from Catalan banks.

Just over a year has passed since over two million people in Catalonia voted in a banned referendum to leave Spain. On that day, the separatists were given a brutal lesson in the raw power of state violence. Days later, they were given another harsh lesson, this time in the fickleness of money. Within days of holding the vote, which was brutally suppressed but not prevented by Spanish police, Spain’s north eastern region was forced to watch as one after another of its brand names moved their headquarters, at least on paper, to other parts of Spain.

Among the first companies to up sticks were Catalonia’s two largest banks, Caixabank and Banco Sabadell, which feared being cut off from European Central Bank funding in the event, albeit unlikely, of Catalonian secession. That would have meant no more virtually interest-free loans from the ECB or access to Europe’s repo markets. In other words, a death sentence, as Caixabank’s then president Isidro Faine recently admitted.

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World’s Most Wanted Bank Whistleblower Was Just Arrested, for the Worst Possible Reason, by Don Quijones

Will Spain turn over a whistleblower to Switzerland in exchange for two Catalonian separatists held by the Swiss? It would be a sordid deal. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

For a prisoner exchange between Switzerland and Spain? 

Hervé Falciani, the French-Italian former HSBC employee who blew the whistle on HSBC and 130,000 global tax evaders in 2008, has been arrested in Madrid on Tuesday in response to an arrest warrant issued by Switzerland for breaking the country’s bank secrecy laws.

He lives in France, which rarely extradites its own citizens. But when Spanish authorities learned that he was in town to speak at a conference ominously titled, “When Telling the Truth is Heroic,” they made their move. If he is extradited to Switzerland he could face up to five years in prison.

Falciani worked as a computer technician for HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary. One day in 2008, he left the office with five computer disks containing what would eventually become one of the largest leaks of banking data in history.

According to Swiss authorities, Falciani stole and then attempted to sell a trove of confidential data. Falciani says he was a whistleblower who wanted to expose a “broken” banking system, “which encouraged tax evasion.”

When much of the stolen data was leaked to the press in 2015, it revealed, among other sordid things, that HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary routinely allowed clients to withdraw “bricks of cash,” often in foreign currencies of little use in Switzerland. It also colluded with clients to conceal undeclared “black” accounts from their domestic tax authorities and provided services to international criminals, corrupt businessmen, shady dictators and murky arms dealers.

As Falciani would soon find out, snitching on one of the world’s biggest banks and 130,000 of its richest clients does not make you a popular person in a country famed for its banking secrecy. In 2014 he was indicted in absentia by the Swiss federal government for violating the country’s bank secrecy laws and for industrial espionage. A year later he was sentenced by Switzerland’s federal court to five years in prison – the “longest sentence ever demanded by the confederation’s public ministry in a case of banking data theft.”

To continue reading: World’s Most Wanted Bank Whistleblower Was Just Arrested, for the Worst Possible Reason

Playing With Fire in Catalonia, by Don Quijones

Here’s a good update on the Catalonia situation, which has for  the most part dropped out of the news. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

A relentless state, angry demonstrations, and profoundly worried businesses.

The ever-worsening political standoff between Spain and Catalonia is beginning to take a toll on credit markets, as banks refuse to renegotiate the terms of loans granted to companies with operations in the separatist region. One of the first victims is the British fund John Laing Infrastructure which, in its 2017 annual report, divulged some of the problems it faced trying to refinance a €700 million loan for work on section two of Barcelona Metro’s Line Nine.

The fund owns 53.5% of the concessionaire operating the fifteen stations on the line’s southern section. The other partners include Iridium, a subsidiary of the Spanish infrastructure giant ACS, and Queenspoint, a fund part owned by German insurance giant Allianz and the Danish pension fund ATP.

One of the main reasons why the banks involved don’t want to soften the credit conditions of the loan is that Barcelona’s metro depends on Catalonia’s regional government for funds. Building on Line 9 began in 2005 but was temporarily halted at the height of Spain’s financial crisis due to a funding shortage. Thirteen years later, the project is still far from complete and further progress is unlikely to be helped by the political chaos engulfing the region.

In the last fortnight alone Pablo Llarena, the Supreme Court’s judge in charge of the main investigation against Catalan secessionists, has indicted 25 Catalan leaders, put five who had previously been released on bail back in pretrial detention (for up to four years), and issued European Arrest Warrants against six pro-independence figures who have fled Spain. They include former regional President Carles Puigdemont who is presently occupying a jail cell in northern Germany awaiting a decision on his extradition.

To continue reading: Playing With Fire in Catalonia

There’s Only One Word to Describe Julian Assange’s Internet Being Cut Off – Pathetic, by Michael Krieger

Julian Assange Tweeted about Catalonia and Spain and had his Internet cut off by the Ecuadorian government. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

Let’s get right to it. Earlier today, Julian Assange had his internet access severed.

Here’s a translation of the statement from the government of Ecuador, in whose embassy he’s been trapped since 2012:

The Government of Ecuador suspended the systems that allow Julian Assange to communicate with the outside world from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the citizen remains in an international protection situation for six years due to the risk to his life and integrity.

The measure was adopted in the face of Assange’s failure to comply with the written commitment it assumed with the Government at the end of 2017, for which it was obliged not to issue messages that implied interference with other States.

The Government of Ecuador warns that the behavior of Assange, with its messages through social networks, puts at risk the good relations that the country maintains with the United Kingdom, with the rest of the States of the European Union and other nations. Therefore, to prevent potential damage, the embassy in London interrupted this March 27 communications abroad to which Assange has access.

The Executive also keeps open the way to the adoption of new measures in the face of breach of commitment by Assange.

The excuse for this egregious act against Assange is his social media activity “puts at risk the good relations that the country maintains with the United Kingdom, with the rest of the States of the European Union and other nations.” Naturally, we must ask what Assange has been tweeting about lately that prompted some bigger country, or countries, to force Ecuador’s hand. The answer is Catalonia.

I’ve been following Assange’s tweets closely following the revelation that German police seized Catalonia’s elected President Carles Puigdemont on behalf of Spain. Assange provided some much needed context and commentary about the disturbing incident over Twitter in recent days. Here are a few examples that likely ruffled the feathers of various EU governments.

To continue reading: There’s Only One Word to Describe Julian Assange’s Internet Being Cut Off – Pathetic

The Price of Chaos Rises in Spain, by Don Quijones

The economic costs are rising in Catalonia and Spain as neither side wil budge. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

The longer the toxic process between Catalonia and Spain drags on, the wider the gulf grows.

During a visit yesterday to Barcelona, the organizers of the Mobile World Congress, the world’s biggest mobile event, warned the City Council that unless the political situation stabilizes in Catalonia, they will be looking for an alternative venue after 2018. Barcelona has hosted the annual event every year since 2006 and it brings in billions of euros to the city each year, much of which ends up in the pockets of local taxi drivers, hoteliers, owners of bars, restaurants and brothels, Airbnb hosts and, last but not least, the thousands of professional pickpockets that flock to the city for the four day event.

John Hoffman, the chief executive of GSMA, the association that organizes the Mobile World Congress (MWC), could not have chosen a worst day to visit Barcelona. As part of a general strike to protest the incarceration of pro-independence ministers and leaders and the imposition of direct rule from Madrid, thousands of picketers had blocked dozens of roads across the region including the main freeway connecting Spain with France, causing massive traffic jams.

High-speed train links between Barcelona and France and Barcelona and Madrid were also put out of action after hundreds of protesters moved onto platforms and railway lines in Barcelona and Girona chanting ‘Freedom, Freedom.”

At midday thousands of protesters occupied Barcelona’s Sant Jaume square in front of the city’s town hall, a traditional assembly point for Catalonia’s separatist movement. The chant “Squatters, get out” rang out in allusion to the take-over by central government authorities of Catalonia’s regional government.

Madrid is unlikely to be budged, at least not until regional elections are held on December 21, which it hopes will deliver an anti-independence majority. It’s a tall order, especially given the lack of public support for the Rajoy government in Catalonia. In a recent poll by Pew Research, 91% of the Catalans surveyed said they do not trust the government in Madrid.

If the gamble doesn’t pay off and in December pro-independence parties are handed another majority, direct rule will be reinstated, Spanish government representatives have warned. In other words, the beatings will continue until morale improves. And if morale doesn’t improve, well, the beatings will continue.

To continue reading: The Price of Chaos Rises in Spain