Spain, its culture and the Catalan disloyalty

Today, unlike other days, I will write about my country. Recently, the Minister of Arts and Culture of South Africa, Nathi Mthethwa, visited Madrid. The purpose of this visit was to prepare an exhibition of South African artists to be held at the Reina Sofia Museum of Contemporary Art, to meet with the Spanish government, and to participate in a tribute to Nelson Mandela, held in Madrid. Mthethwa asserted, “We want to learn from the Spaniards, who have made their culture a recognizable brand worldwide, Spanish culture is world-renowned and recognized. We would like to achieve the same.

While from outside, our culture and historical heritage is largely admired, in Spain we keep being around the Catalan question. While the cause of the so-called “Process for Independence” has the support of Yoko Ono, what a sad character, who has recently stated so, a significant number of Catalan intellectuals and artists have manifested themselves in recent days about the ´Process´. All of them have had a great influence in the literature, the music or the Spanish theatre of the last decades, and therefore they enjoy a great social influence. It is interesting to know what they say, because it helps to understand the reasons that in Spain is about to trigger a serious institutional and civil crisis. Of all the 15-people interviewed, only the writer Nuria Amat correctly mentions the Nationalism, its manipulation capacity and its lies, and its toxic responsibility in all these. The others shirked their point.

Also, the recognized Catalan actor and playwright, Albert Boadella, has written an interesting article on this issue this week. In his article, he shows how since the 1980s a single decentralization process had begun in Spain, unique in Europe. The Spanish Constitution has structured the State in the form of Autonomies and specifically Catalonia, got transferred most powers of the State: a region which declares the Catalan as the official language of Catalonia, marginalizing the Spanish and the Spanish culture and endowing its own parliament with the attributions of education, police, health, public works, urbanism, radio & television broadcasting, among others. The Catalan nationalist government has used its powers in educational matters to indoctrinate two generations of young people in the hatred of everything related to Spain. Under the distortion of history and the exaltation of Catalan superiority against Spain, the virus of xenophobia has been instilled since childhood. The public money has also been used to subsidize the Catalan private media, to obtain their adhesion to the nationalist cause.

The Nationalism always grows creating a common enemy. Its spread is made by creating a general paranoia, in this case, against Spain. It also does so against the inner dissident who is quickly accused of treason. This persistent policy of confrontation has also provoked the division between the Catalan society itself, in which a part of it despises and marginalize to those who dare to protest against the separatist drift, and which is more than half of the population. Discord between organizations, families or friends has become commonplace in recent times.

It is almost a commonplace of the Catalan constitutionalists and the rest of Spain to accuse the two great Spanish parties, both left and right, for not having faced for years an intellectual and political battle to delegitimize the nationalism. Of course. But what about the ‘intelligentsia’ most directly affected by it? What some of the intellectuals do today is what they have always done: to temporize with a sinister ideology, to justify it in some way. What the great majority of them does not want to notice in the Process is precisely its radical element: a considerable part of the Catalans, led by a morally corrupt government, have chosen the xenophobic path and refuse to live with the rest of the Spaniards. Moreover, it is likely if they dare recognizing the implicit nationalist xenophobia, would oblige them to stop being equidistant with the two parties, as they have been for years.

The former French President, Francois Mitterrand, asserted that Nationalism is war. He described it this way because Europe has known in its own flesh the tragic consequences of instigating this impulse, which encourages lack of solidarity, xenophobia and destruction to the contrary. The European Union was born to avoid in the future the disintegrating shoots which end up leading irreversibly to the confrontation. In recent times, the European extreme right reappears under the ultranationalist incitement which pushes to close the own borders to filter any foreign intrusion of any kind. In this sense, the Catalan nationalism is equated with this emergent extreme right: it is the rich region which does not want the burden of less prosperous Spanish territories. That is the core of its objectives: the separatist unsupportive and disintegrating trying to break and put borders to a democratic Spain, organized under a solid principle of liberties.

Our young Spanish democracy has had to bear the brunt of Basque and Catalan nationalism along its path of progress and freedom. A ballast tinged with blood and pain, and constant pressure to sacrifice the equality of the Spaniards for the sake of false ethnic differences. Although in the background, it always plans the shadow of blackmail for the obtaining of economic privileges: the unique and the whole issue.

Venezuela won´t forget

 

 

The people of Venezuela demonstrated last Sunday to President Nicolas Maduro on a massive basis, that it is not possible to solve the economic and institutional disaster that the country is experiencing, if it is not through a dialogued solution which is bound the respect to the legality. More than 7.5 million people overcome the fear of violence and turned the streets into a demonstration against the regime, it is a clear signal of the moment that is crossed. The opposition to Maduro announced the creation of a parallel government of National Unity and a general strike that is being held today and is paralyzing the country.

Unfortunately, two other fatalities which fell near a polling station by paramilitary squad shots, were counted. These operate usually in the surroundings of the Chavismo. The two-dead people are close to the already 100 dead, since the start of the daily protests Maduro and his government, given their decision to convene elections to create an assembly which, given the system of nomination, would be completely docile to the current rulers and would end in a definitive way with any hint of democracy.

Meanwhile, it has been a relieve to acknowledge that a hundred Colombian and Colombian congressmen have presented this week before the International Criminal Court based in The Hague, a complaint against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Hague Court judges’ crimes which affect the international community: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The brief, directed to the prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, is based on reports from international organizations, including United Nations agencies, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, reports of several NGOs and official information from Venezuela itself. This report provides evidence which accuse Hugo Chavez’s successor of being a participant in serious violations of international law already since 2008, when Maduro was Foreign Affairs Minister of the Chavez government. It is also crediting more specific crimes against the International Law since it was elected in 2013. The initiative has been supported by representatives of all political backgrounds and colours, and seeks to have The Hague Prosecutor’s Office first opening an observation in Venezuela. Venezuela signed the Rome Statute in 1998 and therefore accepts the jurisdiction of the ICC.

There are eight accusations made by the complaint: First, the crime of murder by direct and indirect instigation: “Between the years 2013 and 2017, people have been killed in Venezuela who expresses themselves in concrete situations, or through the exercise of their human rights, against policies, measures or omissions, attributable to the Venezuelan government.” Secondly, the complainants charge him with “an imposition of certain conditions of life, including deprivation of access to food or medicine, with the intention of causing the destruction of part of a population.” A crime which qualifies as extermination, and that they understand as “closely related to the genocide, since both are directed against a large number of people.”

 Thirdly, deportation or forced transfer of population, coming to use physical force or through threats. The other charges included in the 56-page brief, without including the probationary documents provided for the trial, are incarceration of opponents; Torture; Persecution of a group or collective with own identity, about the critics with the Chavismo; Forced disappearance of persons and even the crime of apartheid, i.e. inhuman acts committed in the context of an institutionalized system of oppression against a part of the population.

The institutional and humanitarian crisis that Venezuela is undergoing, was intensified when the Supreme Court of Justice suspended at the end of March, arbitrarily and in a dictatorship style, which is what practically Venezuela currently is, the powers of Parliament, ruled by the opposition majority. That parliament was the result of the last occasion in which the real democracy was exercised in Venezuela. The decision sparked a wave of protests which has not yet stopped. In the last three and a half months, about one hundred people have died, the pressure from the international community has increased, the Chavismo is divided, the once Chavista Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, has become a symbol of the resistance to the government. But Maduro is not willing to give up the elections for a National Constituent Assembly, convened for July 30th with arbitrary rules of the game which, previously devised and organized by the Cuban intelligence, favour the government. Everything happening in Venezuela has origin and intelligence in Havana. And Venezuela will become another Cuba if Maduro is not stopped.

Because of the curse of the events currently happening in Venezuela, I also hope that they will force the Prosecutor of the ICC to put Venezuela under observation. The second objective is for the prosecution to open a formal investigation into Nicolas Maduro. The governments of Latin America have remained in multilateral forms of condemnation, but none have taken any action to end the situation, in fact some countries have supported Maduro, see Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Argentina during the government of the Kirchner, or Ecuador.

The world must let Maduro know that if he continues, his regime will suffer international sanctions. The Venezuelan people should not be the only ones who pay for the broken dishes. As the singer and politician Ruben Blades recently said in Madrid, Venezuela will never forget!

The crack is enlarging

The meeting held in June 2016 by Donald Trump’s eldest son with a Russian lawyer, who promised him toxic information about Hillary Clinton, came marked directly from the Kremlin. The eldest son of the then, Republican candidate, was informed by email that the material which she was going to provide was part of a Russian government effort to support Trump. The disclosure, advanced by the New York Times and supported by three other sources, further narrows the suspicion of collusion between the Republican election team, and Moscow.

This alleged collusion is the investigation’ cornerstone led by the FBI and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Its base is the report prepared by the three major US intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI and NSA), which states that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to his secret service to interfere in the US elections, to damage Clinton’s image and facilitate Trump’s triumph. The attack was the plundering of the Democrats’ computers and the mails of Clinton’s campaign chief. The material was later leaked to WikiLeaks. And we know the rest of the story.

The meeting with the Russian lawyer was held five months before the election, right in the heyday of Russian attack. Trump Jr. maintains that his father was never informed of the meeting, despite of the fact that his eldest son, son-in-law, and campaign manager attended it during the middle of the election battle. It also raises suspicions the ease with which they decided to receive toxic information from the Kremlin against a rival. Trump Jr. has tried to salvage this stumbling block by pointing out that he acted like any politician would act during a political campaign.

Meanwhile, during the G-20 summit last week, the particular summit held between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G-20, made the same economic sense that if the US president had met during two hours and 16 minutes with the president of Bolivia. None. A military superpower with a Third World economy. That is Russia. And its economic prospects are very bad because its economic structure is that of a Third World country. Russia exports oil, natural gas and other raw materials, and imports everything else. The only thing which might break down is the foreign sales of military equipment, largely inherited from the former Soviet Union industry, which means that it has fewer and less dependable buyers who are interested in these antiques. Now they sell a lot in Nicaragua, for example.

That a country with the life expectancy of Bolivia and the Per Capita wealth of Greece, play the role of Russia in the world, should be the subject of several PhD theses. The international community surprisingly continues accepting Russia as a great power, as the heir to the Soviet Union. The influence of Moscow is due precisely to that heritage of the USSR. An inheritance which includes a formidable defence, espionage and security apparatus, in which Vladimir Putin made his whole career and is an expert. Other than that, is practically nothing. Without this militarization of the economy, Russia is ethereal, like the natural gas it exports. Russia is today a country in development, armed ‘to the teeth’, and with a government of ultranationalist ideology. A country with 7,000 atomic bombs which combines political hyper-nationalism and a third-ranking from the economic point of view, is clearly a danger. And it is because the three factors feedback each other. Without nationalism, the economic status quo and militarism make no sense. But nevertheless, Trump gives a lot of importance to Putin, to Russia, which does not have it.

The meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, which was going to take half an hour, lasted two hours and 16 minutes. There were no American complaints about Russian intervention in the November election. As it was expected. It is important the ceasefire agreement in Syria, which the other G20 members do not know what it is about, since they were not informed.  Also, they have decided to create a sort of protective cloud in cyberspace which will give to Putin a huge political triumph, in front of the European G20 leaders’ puzzlement. In the final declaration about the environmental agreement, the vote was 19 to one: they all differed from the US regarding global warming. In trade matters, Trump was the most protectionist of all the other participants. And, as the G20 plenary met, Trump rose up from the table again and again, and his place was not filled by the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, but by his daughter Ivanka, who has any function of government representativeness: it was rude and a lack of diplomatic, political and respect for the other participants.

For the time being, there are not any sophisticated analysis of what the Trump administration is, his particular way to make policy and politics. We do not understand it, nor we don’t understand the interests behind it. We could sense that Trump’s provocations and tweets are serving his internal agenda, to adjust personal matters and to hide their true policies. To be guided by the tweets and verbiage seems to me a mistake and is, paradoxically, what best suits the interests that took him to the White House.

I still do not understand what happens between Trump and Putin, and what we so far know, does not smell good. The meeting among Trump’s eldest son, the rest of the election team and the Russian lawyer, the long meeting with Putin last week, further narrows the suspicion of collusion between the Trump’s electoral team and Moscow. The crack widens, as it does the scandal.

Meeting between Friends

 

 

When the British decided to support the Brexit and turn their back on the European project on June 23rd 2016, Donald Trump saw his protectionist project backed at the most convenient time during his election campaign. In the midst of the euphoria, the first anti-establishment candidate in the recent American history predicted that other European countries would follow in the wake of the United Kingdom. In his view, we were witnessing the process of disintegration of the European Union. Identical feelings he shares with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump may have confused his own desire with reality, but four and a half months after, when arriving at the White House, the United States President turned the traditional North American foreign policy by gradually trying to unravel the main transatlantic ties. Pure continuity of what was proposed in the campaign. First, it was the punch at the NATO table: he questioned its current meaning and demanded the Allies to fulfil their obligation to contribute 2% of their GDP to military spending. Until there is nothing unusual, and he even might be right about it.

The US’ neo-nationalism, fuelled by the extremist digital journal Breitbart News, owned by Trump’s adviser and man of his trust, Stephen Bannon, has backed the European populist options which could have helped put the established order upside down, supporting the populists French Marine Le Pen and the Dutch Geert Wilders. Like his friend Putin, who has even supported them economically.

Then came the shelve negotiations for the free trade agreement between the US and the EU, which happened in an almost natural way. Finally, with the output of Climate Paris Agreement, Trump ratified the withdrawal of any multinational collaboration. The Paris agreement, or COP21, was signed in December 2015 after decades of negotiations. Technically it is not a binding treaty, precisely because of the closed opposition of the US government (among others) to be enforced: according to the agreement the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions are established by each country independently. Under the signed stipulations only the process of leaving the agreement could start in November 2019 and the process includes a year of delay, so the exit will not be effective before 2020.

Trump has sought from the outset, to replace the major transnational agreements in which the USA participates, through bilateral agreements, with the aim of reaping the greatest benefit to each of them. He has already chased it with Theresa May, and even proposed it to Merkel, who rejected it, which earned her some odd expletive.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will hold a bilateral meeting this week during the G-20 summit in Hamburg. Finally, the friends will see each other face to face. The moment had to come: They seem to share many interests and have many things in common. There will be plenty of time for conversation and discussion. They never have meet before and between them flows an unusual electricity, almost a mutual fascination.

An encounter that in any other case would enter into the diplomatic normality, but the meeting among the two-alpha-male of world politics, acquires disturbing airs. The face-to-face with Putin has been discouraged by the Trump’ advisors. The powerful military sector of the White House distrusts openly of Russia. And the intelligence services consider without any doubt that the Kremlin is a hostile enemy who orchestrated a smear campaign against Hillary Clinton during the past presidential election. An intervention intended to favour Trump’s interest, which feeds up until now a great scandal in Washington: the Russian plot. Trump, euphoric, showed already that weakness, telling the Russian foreign minister about some secret terrorism’ information during his visit to the White house in May. The slip has not been forgotten, and the White House fears the thorny Russian scandal.

The neuralgic point of this meeting for President Trump should be Syria and the fight against Daesh’s terrorism. He hopes to make some progress there. The Russian seeks a stable dialogue and insisting that the US sanctions against Russia must be withdrawn, including those imposed by Obama for electoral interference. It’s not something Trump could promise after the Senate’s nearly unanimous decision to armour them. But there is no doubt that Putin would have access to a leader who has publicly expressed his admiration towards him. A leader, who in the middle of the election campaign, asked to Putin for continuing to check his rival’s mails. In Hamburg, face to face, they might amusingly remember it.

For the time being, it seems like the wishes about the European target are not being achieved, even though Trump has succeeded in convincing a most of his voters that the EU is something negative for the US interests. Behind the anti-European aspirations of US President Donald Trump, who is defying decades of alliance and faithful collaboration arising from the status quo after World War II, the strategy and ideology have always been present: the president wants to run the country as a company, and for this he applies the same yardstick in politics as in the culmination of good business: weakening and dividing, and then winning. The same view as his friend Putin.