News

Catalan government jailed / Northern Ireland a bit closer to direct rule from London

27 October to 2 November

Protesters demand freedom for political prisoners.
Protesters demand freedom for political prisoners. Autor/a: Òmnium Cultural
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. Just six days after Catalonia declared independence 27 October, the Spanish state has imprisoned two thirds of the Catalan government 2 November, while the remaining third is in exile in Belgium and the nation’s self-government is suspended. Northern Ireland is another territory that —over very different reasons— is moving towards the suspension of its autonomy. Meanwhile, in Honduras, a report sheds new light on the murder of Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres. And in South Kurdistan, president Masoud Barzani is stepping down as president.

NEWS HIGHLIGHT

Catalans protest government imprisonment. Tens of thousands took to the streets and cut various roads and railroads cuts in the very first signs of popular rejection of preventive prison without bail for 8 members of the Catalan government, which was ordered 2 November by Audiencia Nacional judge Carmen Lamela. Protests have been called until at least 12 November. Gathering immediately after the government members were jailed, both protesters and political and grassroots leaders were voicing calls for a general strike.

All 8 cabinet members (vice president Oriol Junqueras and ministers Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva, Josep Rull, Meritxell Borràs, Dolors Bassa, Joaquim Forn and Carles Mundó) have been held on rebellion, sedition and embezzlement charges over the 27 October Catalan independence declaration. Pro-independence parties and civil society groups are unanimously speaking of “repression” in Spain.

The same word, “repression”, has been used by the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who is currently exiled in Brussels along with ministers Clara Ponsatí, Antoni Comín, Lluís Puig and Meritxell Serret. Puigdemont has demanded the immediate release of the arrested, and has predicted that “repression will be long and fierce”:

Catalan citizens are called to elect a new Parliament, 21 December. Opinion polls predict pro-independence parties will again win an absolute majority. But some voices within right-wing, pro-union PP and Citizens’ Party are suggesting that parties or manifestos vowing to defend the consolidation of the Catalan Republic be outlawed.

MOREOVER

Northern Ireland, a little closer to autonomy suspension. UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire has confirmed that he is preparing to “take the necessary steps” to make Westminster adopt a 2018 Northern Irish budget before the end of November. The reason stated for this is the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) and Sinn Féin’s failure to agree on a new government for Northern Ireland, eight months after the elections. The republicans blame the DUP for rejecting “a rights agenda” that includes an Irish language law and same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, the unionists blame Sinn Féin for having included those demands in the political debate while, one year ago, the two parties had agreed to a government program that did not contemplate them. Without an agreement in Belfast, the UK government —with DUP support— could decree self-government suspension.

Report points to DESA responsibilityovermurder of Berta Cáceres. According to an International Experts’ Advisory Group (GAIPE) report unveiled this week, the death of the Indigenous activist “responded to a plan conceived by DESA senior executives.” DESA is the company that owns the hydroelectric project against which Cáceres’s organization COPINH was fighting against. In a previous report, Oxfam had detailed DESA’s irregular connections with the Honduran State apparatus since 2010. DESA has denied any participation in the murder of Cáceres. GAIPE was formed in November 2016 at the request of Cáceres’s relatives and several Honduran grassroots groups, including COPINH. It is made up of five lawyers from the USA, Colombia and Guatemala.

Barzani steps down from South Kurdistan presidency. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader was, since 2005, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Since 2015 he was holding that position without a legal mandate. In his farewell letter, Barzani has said he will continue to be a Peshmerga. He is also expected to keep his post at the KRG’s High Political Council. It is foreseen that no one will take on his duty as KRG president until a new presidential election is held.

MORE FEATURE STORIES AND ANALYSIS