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It’s ‘unthinkable & absurd’ to jail Catalan pro-independence leaders, former UN special rapporteur tells RT

A protest in solidarity with the Catalan pro-independence politicians in Barcelona, Spain, October 20, 2019. © Jon Nazca / Reuters
RT | October 24, 2019

The prosecution of Catalan pro-independence politicians by Spain violates European law and is simply “absurd,” a former high-ranking democracy and human rights expert at the UN has told RT.

“Political prisoners in Spain… It’s absolutely unthinkable!” Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, who served as the UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, said in an interview with Rafael Correa on RT Spanish.

He branded the jailing of the leaders of the Catalan independence movement “absurd,” especially since the “Catalans have been protesting for many years in a peaceful, democratic fashion.”

Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia voted in favor of independence in October 2017. Madrid called the vote illegal and sent in a massive police force to disrupt the referendum.

Chaotic scenes from the ground with officers in full riot gear beating civilians for merely voting, storming polling stations and snatching ballot boxes made the headlines back then, triggering widespread condemnation from international humanitarian organizations.

Following the voting-day crackdown, Spanish authorities detained a group of prominent Catalan politicians who had been involved in staging the referendum. Former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras and eight others were sentenced to between nine and 13 years in prison earlier this month.

Spain is now demanding the extradition of former regional president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium shortly after the failed independence bid.

“Both Puigdemont and Junqueras were elected with a mandate to carry out this [exact] referendum,” de Zayas stressed.

“So, criminally prosecuting someone for actions that were legitimized through a democratic election is … beyond all reason.”

“It violates Article 2 of the [EU’s] Treaty of Lisbon, which says that such issues must be brought up before the European Commission. Yet, I don’t see any complaints coming from Berlin, Brussels or Copenhagen that declare: ‘Things like that shouldn’t happen in Europe.’”

The lengthy prison sentences for pro-independence politicians sparked peaceful protests in Barcelona, which has been marred by night-time rioting and clashes with police. The mass protests raged for several days in a row, culminating in a general strike last Friday, which attracted at least half a million supporters of independence.

October 24, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

German Government Refuses to Recognise Guaido’s Envoy as Ambassador

Sputnik – March 29, 2019

Although Berlin has sided with the US and recognised self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido, it is keeping Otto Gebauer, whom he picked to represent Venezuela in Germany, in limbo and has not granted the representative key diplomatic status. Spain, above all, has reportedly urged fellow EU member states not to recognise him.

Although Otto Gebauer, sent to Germany by self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela Juan Guaido as his emissary, was received in Berlin, the German government does not plan to accredit him, as the newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung reports, citing the Foreign Ministry’s response to a request by the left-wing party Die Linke.

According to it, the German government first received Gebauer as “personal representative of Interim President Guaido” on 13 March 2019 to hold talks with him, but “further steps are not planned”. The outlet also reports that, above all, Spain has called on other EU member states not to grant Guaido’s representatives any diplomatic status or corresponding privileges.

Since a political crisis broke out in Venezuela in late January, when parliamentary opposition leader Guaido, backed by the US, declared himself the interim president of Venezuela after disputing President Nicolas Maduro’s re-election last May, Germany recognised him as a transitional head of state. Around 50 states, encouraged by the US, did the same. However, the constitutionally elected head of state Nicolas Maduro, supported by Russia, China, Cuba, Bolivia, Turkey and a number of other countries, continues to hold power and refuses to step down, accusing Washington of trying to orchestrate a coup in order to install Guaido as a puppet leader.

This has led to a paradoxical situation in Germany, leaving it with two Venezuelan emissaries in Berlin but not being able to hold official talks with both of them.

Die Linke praised the decision to restrain from recognising Gebauer as ambassador. Lawmaker from the German parliamentary foreign affairs committee Heike Haensel pointed out that “dispatching of new representatives for Venezuela is based on the recognition of self-appointed President Juan Guaido in violation of international law”, according to the conclusion of the Bundestag’s probe.

“This proves the absurdity of Germany’s Venezuela policy. Recognising Guaido was manoeuvered outside the bounds of international law and this rows it back again”, she said.

Apart from this diplomatic collision, Otto Gebauer has a debatable profile for a diplomat as he was involved in a 2002 coup attempt against President Hugo Chavez, who passed away several years ago. He was a member of the commando unit that held Chavez prisoner and served six years in prison for it.

The legitimacy of interim president Guiado himself is being challenged now as under Venezuelan law his maximum term is limited to a 30-day period. It expired in February while new elections have not yet been announced.

March 29, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Guaido returns to Venezuela to the welcome of foreign ‘bodyguard’ envoys

RT | March 4, 2019

Self-declared “interim president” of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, returned from his South American tour on Monday, arriving into the loving (and protective) arms of ambassadors from the foreign governments backing him.

Despite Venezuelan authorities making it clear he could face 30 years in prison for attempting to overthrow the government and violating a travel ban, Guaido chose to arrive directly to an airport in Caracas.

The risk of arrest was notably mitigated by the presence of ambassadors from Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and several other countries which gathered at the arrival gate to huddle around him like a high-profile human shield. While Guaido was all smiles, his Western-world entourage seemed a bit on edge.

While the media fretted that Maduro might make good on threats to arrest Guaido, the opposition leader passed through customs without incident and headed straight to a rally in central Caracas.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence warned the Venezuelan government that Washington protects its investments, stressing how important Guaido is to them, and threatening a “swift response” if anyone tries to bully him.

Shortly after moving unhindered through the airport, Guaido arrived at a demonstration he called for on Twitter the week before. Addressing crowds in the country’s capital city, he called on his supporters to take to the streets for continued demonstrations next Saturday.

While Guaido toured South America and met with his most critical support base – foreign governments – the US ramped up pressure on Maduro’s government, imposing intensified sanctions and revoking visas for state actors.

March 4, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Spanish church cancels anti-Israel film event under ‘pressure from powerful Jews’

Press TV – February 4, 2019

A Spanish priest says his church canceled the projection of an award-winning documentary on the plight of Palestinians in the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip due to threats and pressure from “powerful Jews” in the European country.

Spain’s El Pais newspaper ran an interview with Pastor Javier Baeza, in which the priest criticized “powerful Jews” for exerting pressure, issuing threats, and launching an intimidation campaign against his church over its plan to screen “Gaza, a look into the eyes of barbarism,” Israeli media reported Sunday.

He said, “There were pressures from the Jewish community” to cancel the screening of the film, which has won the “Best Documentary” category of Spain’s main national annual film festival, the Goya Awards.

The heart-rending film is about the Israeli atrocities and human rights violations against the downtrodden Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.

The documentary was scheduled to be screened on Friday at the Pastoral Center of San Carlos Borrome in southeastern Madrid.

Carlos Osoro, the archbishop of Madrid, however, said the church was “obligated” to suspend the projection indefinitely due to security concerns “because of the threats we’ve received in the last few days.”

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain said in a statement that the film was being promoted by organizations supporting the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which he said “seeks to delegitimize Israel and Israelis.”

The BDS movement is an international campaign launched more than a decade ago with the aim of ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

It pursues equal rights for Palestinians by exerting pressure on the Israeli regime via economic and cultural boycotts.

View documentary here.

February 4, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spanish Supreme Court Sentences Former IMF Chief for Financial Fraud

teleSUR | October 3, 2018

Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced the former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Rodrigo Rato to four-and-a-half years imprisonment Wednesday on charges of misusing funds.

In February 2017, Rato was found guilty by Spain’s Supreme Court of paying for personal expenses with company credit cards when he was the chief of Caja Madrid and the state-owned lender Bankia during a time when both the banks faced financial difficulties.

Rato was an economy minister in Spain between 1996 and 2004 and a prominent politician in the ruling People’s Party before becoming the IMF chief. He was free on bail since 2017 pending an appeal, but was found guilty alongside 64 former executives and board members for embezzling a total of US$13.8 million between 2003 and 2012.

Spanish political party Podemos welcomed the court decision, saying Spaniards had long demanded justice, tweeting, “the citizens demanded justice for those who robbed public money, ripped off thousands of families, and burdened us with debt for life.”

The embezzlment — famously known as the “black-cards” scandal — broke in 2014 resulting in public outrage. It was discovered that the cards were used to buy jewelry and clothes, and pay for vacations, according to documents filed with Spain’s high court.

Thousands of small-scale investors lost their money after they were persuaded to convert their savings to shares ahead of the flotation of Bankia in 2011, with Rato at the reins. Less than a year later, he resigned when it became public knowledge that Bankia was in dire straits.

October 4, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | | 1 Comment

Israel branded ‘illegal state’ by Spain’s Podemos party leader

RT | June 11, 2018

Israel has been branded an “illegal state” by the leader of Spain’s third-largest party, Podemos, for conducting an apartheid-like massacre at the Gaza fence bordering Palestine.

“We need to act more firmly on an illegal country like Israel,” Iglesias Turrion told Spanish RTVE channel. Accusing the country of violating international law and resorting to what he called apartheid-like policies, the leader of the left-wing party questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

“Israel’s actions are illegal. The apartheid policies of the state of Israel are illegal,” the politician said, adding that when it comes to international politics he and his party would continue to “defend international rights.”

Iglesias Turrion’s comments came mere days after a local faction of Podemos on Valencia’s city council “condemned” Israel’s illegal assassinations and declared that the third-largest Spanish city would be an “Israeli apartheid-free zone” from now on.

Valencia’s condemnation of disproportionate violence against Palestinians and the decision to refrain from any contact with Tel Aviv was supported by other Spanish cities, including Madrid, Barcelona and Andalusia, which decided to distance themselves from Israel in an expression of solidarity with the “boycott Israel“ movement.

While the number of casualties on the Israeli-Palestinian border is over 120, Israel has been trying to legitimize its bloodshed by portraying it as a lawful response to the presumed Palestinian violence and Israel’s attempt to protect its borders.

However, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that no Palestinian was killed “intentionally” and that “people died accidentally” revealed a disturbing inconsistency with an earlier statement by the Israel Defense [sic] Forces.

Tel Aviv’s oppression of the Palestinians, along with the US’ controversial decision to move its embassy to the disputed [illegally occupied] city of Jerusalem, have been openly condemned by the EU. Seeing no better solution to stop bloodshed at the Gaza border, the European Union, represented by Federica Mogherini, has insisted on a two-state solution with Jerusalem remapped as the capital of “both of the state of Israel and the state of Palestine.”

June 11, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Western Media Shorthand on Venezuela Conveys and Conceals So Much

By Joe Emersberger | FAIR | April 23, 2018

A Reuters article (4/18/18) reports that the European Union “could impose further sanctions on Venezuela if it believes democracy is being undermined there.”

The line nicely illustrates the kind of journalistic shorthand Western media have developed, over years of repetition, for conveying distortions and whitewashing gross imperial hypocrisy about Venezuela.  A passing remark can convey and conceal so much.

The EU’s sincerity in acting on what it “believes” about Venezuelan democracy is unquestioned by the London-based Reuters. Meanwhile Spain, an EU member, is pursuing the democratically elected president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, for the crime of organizing an illegal independence referendum last year. Weeks ago, he was arrested in Germany at Spain’s request, and other elected representatives have been arrested in Catalonia, where Spain’s federal government deposed the elected regional government after the referendum.

In July 2017, a few months before the referendum in Catalonia, Venezuela’s opposition also organized an illegal referendum. One of the questions asked if the military should obey the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which was an extremely provocative question, given the opposition’s various efforts to overthrow the government by force since 2002.  The referendum required an extremely high level of political expression, organization and participation. It allegedly involved 7 million voters. The Venezuelan government disregarded the results—as Spain disregarded the Catalan referendum results—but unlike Spain, did not jail people for organizing it, or send police to brutally repress voters. In fact, two weeks later, Venezuelan voters (overwhelmingly government supporters, since the opposition boycotted and did not field candidates) were violently attacked by opposition militants when they elected a constituent assembly.  The attacks resulted in several deaths.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has hardly failed to call attention to the hypocrisy of both the EU and Spain, but the Reuters article made no mention of it.

Reuters also reported that “the country’s two most popular opposition leaders have been banned from competing” from Venezuela’s presidential election on May 20. Reuters didn’t name the two supposedly “most popular opposition leaders,” but in the past (e.g., 4/12/18, 2/28/18, 2/19/18) the wire service has identified them as Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles. As it happens, according to the opposition-aligned pollster Datanalisis, whose results have been uncritically reported by Western media like Reuters for years, opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcón has been significantly more popular than Capriles in recent months, and barely less so than Lopez.

Approval Ratings of Main Venezuelan Political Leaders

Mark Weisbrot (in an opinion piece for US News, 3/3/18) broke the news that US government officials had been secretly pressuring Falcón not to run, so that the election could be discredited as including no viable opposition candidate. Two weeks later, Reuters (3/19/18) discreetly reported Weisbrot’s scoop.

However, by far the most important thing Reuters neglects telling readers about the “two most popular opposition leaders” is that had they done in the EU what they’ve done in Venezuela since April 2002, Lopez and Capriles would both be serving long jail terms.

Capriles and Lopez together led the kidnapping of a government minister during a briefly successful US-backed military coup in 2002 that ousted Venezuela’s democratically elected president, the late Hugo Chávez, for two days. Lopez boasted to local TV that the dictator installed by the coup (whom Lopez called “President Carmona”) was “updated” on the kidnapping.

Imagine what Carles Puigdemont’s predicament would be if, rather than organizing a peaceful referendum, he had participated in a foreign-backed, ultimately unsuccessful military coup against the Spanish government. Needless to say, running for public office would not be on the table. That would be the least of his worries.

In Venezuela, Capriles eventually served a few months in prison for participating in the coup, while Lopez avoided doing any time, thanks to a general amnesty granted by Chávez. Lopez was finally arrested in 2014 for leading another violent effort to overthrow the government.

I’ve reviewed before (teleSUR, 1/9/18) violent efforts to overthrow the government that Lopez, Capriles and other prominent opposition leaders have been involved with since the 2002 coup. I also described how Julio Borges and Henry Ramos (two other prominent opposition leaders) have openly sought to starve the Venezuelan government of foreign loans as it struggles with a severe economic crisis.

In August, Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s entire economy that will cost Maduro’s government billions of dollars this year (FAIR.org, 3/22/18). It has threatened to go even further, brandishing an oil embargo or even a military attack. With sufficiently compliant media (and the collusion of big human rights NGOs like Amnesty International), such depravity becomes possible.

The Reuters article also says that Venezuela’s economic “collapse has driven an estimated 3 million people to flee the country.” No need to tell readers when the economic “collapse” began—2014—much less who made the estimates or if other sources contradict them. In fact, the UN’s 2017 population division numbers estimate Venezuela’s total expat population as of 2017 at about 650,000—only about 300,000 higher than it was when Chávez first took office in 1999. Even a group of fiercely anti-government Venezuelan academics estimated less than 1 million have left since the economic crisis began. (See FAIR.org, 2/18/18.)

Cherry-picked statistics aside, when Western powers want a democratically elected government overthrown, the approach is clear. Complete tolerance for violent foreign-backed subversion—which the powerful states and their allies would never be expected to tolerate—becomes the test for whether or not a state is a democracy. The targeted government fails the test, is depicted as a dictatorship, and all is permitted. Only the tactics required to bring it down need be debated.


Messages to Reuters can be sent here (or via Twitter: @Reuters). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

April 24, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

Spain to Deliver 5 Warships Worth $2.5Bln to Saudi Arabia – Defense Ministry

Sputnik – 13.04.2018

Spanish Defense Minister Maria Dolores Cospedal and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday signed an agreement, under which Madrid will deliver five Avante 2200 corvette patrol vessels worth $2.47 billion to the Middle Eastern country, the Spanish Defense Ministry said.

The warships will be built by firm Navantia at its shipyard in San Fernando, Southern Spain, according to the ministry.

Salman arrived to Spain on Wednesday. Earlier on Thursday, the Saudi crown prince held talks with Spain’s King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

In the period between 2015 and mid-2017, Spain has exported military equipment and weapons worth $901 million to Saudi Arabia, according to data drawn by four non-governmental organizations — Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Oxfam, and FundiPau — from official sources.

In October, four NGOs demanded an independent investigation into the destination of arms acquired by Saudi Arabia, after increasing evidence suggested that Spanish weapons have been used in the conflict in Yemen.

April 13, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Former Catalan Education Minister Ponsati Going to Surrender to UK Authorities

© REUTERS/ Russell Cheyne
Sputnik – March 28, 2018

Former Catalan Education Minister Clara Ponsati, who has been hiding from Spanish law enforcement in the United Kingdom, said Wednesday that she was going to surrender to UK authorities.

“Later on this morning I will attend police station with my lawyer @AamerAnwar & will b arrested & taken 2court as Spain tries 2extradite me, I need ur support,” Ponsati wrote on Twitter.

According to Spanish media, a UK judge will decide on the measure of restraint for her later in the day.

On Tuesday, the politician began raising funds online for her legal defense, saying that her goal was to get 40,000 pounds ($56,600). As of now, the campaign managed to raise almost 100,000 pounds.

Charges Against Ponsati

On October 1, Catalonia held an independence referendum, which the central authorities did not recognize. The results showed that the majority of Catalans supported secession, and the regional parliament unilaterally announced independence later in October. In response, Madrid imposed direct rule over the autonomous region, dissolved the Catalan parliament and called a snap election. Several pro-independence leaders were jailed, while others fled to Belgium.

Following the independence vote, Ponsati fled to Belgium with former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and three other regional politicians. In March, Ponsati moved back to Scotland and her position as a professor at St. Andrews University.On Friday, the Spanish Supreme Court activated a European arrest warrant for a number of Catalan politicians, including Puigdemont and Ponsati. Shortly after, Puigdemont was detained in Germany after he crossed the border with Denmark on his way from Finland to Belgium.

According to the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office, Ponsati was responsible for allowing polling places to stay open in schools during the referendum. She is charged with organizing an insurrection — which under Spanish law can mean a prison sentence of up to 30 years — as well as embezzlement of state funds.

READ MORE:

Former Catalan President Puigdemont Detained in Germany

March 28, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | Leave a comment

Maduro: Spain’s Persecution of Catalan Leaders ‘Shameful’

teleSUR | March 27, 2018

After five Catalan pro-independence leaders were arrested Saturday, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro slammed the Spanish authorities over persecution of the Catalan leaders and people simply for independence aspirations.

“What’s happening in Spain is shameful, Catalan politicians jailed only for their ideas… whether or not you agree with these elected lawmakers’ ideas, their persecution is an embarrassment,” Maduro warned in a speech during an international meeting on African decendents rights in the region in Caracas Saturday.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has criticized Venezuela’s government on several occasions, calling it a “dictatorship” and played an important role in the European Union’s decision to levy economic sanctions on Venezuela over what Brussels calls Maduro’s “brutal decisions.”

In an interview this January Rajoy even talked about political prisoners in Venezuela, saying all he wants is for them to be able to go to the streets all while his government is cracking down on Catalan leaders and politicions for purely political reasons.

The Venezuelan leader stressed that unlike the U.S., Spain and the EU, his government was not meddling in the internal affairs of Spain but “outraged that they persecute people just for their ideas.”

At least nine pro-independence politicians and members of Catalan’s civil society groups are currently in jail for rebellion, a crime punishable with up to 30 years in prison. In total 25 Catalans will be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobedience for their participation in the Oct.1, 2017 independence referendum.

Rebellion charges are controversial because the crime requires the use of violence; last year’s Catalan independence referendum was a peaceful civic action. The Spanish State Attorney’s office had argued violence was exercised by pro-independence activists and politicians on Sept. 20, 2017, when they surrounded several Catalan government buildings to prevent the Spanish Civil Guard from entering.

Pro-independence leaders like Jordi Turull, the new candidate for regional president, former ministers Josep Rull, Raul Romeva and Dolors Bassa and former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, are the latest prisoners in Madrid’s crackdown against pro-independence forces in Catalonia since the referendum.

Pro-independence sentiments are widespread in Catalonia and have grown after Madrid brutally repressed Catalans who went to the polls to cast their vote last year. The election resulted in Catalonia’s declaration of independence. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded by removing Puigdemont and calling for a snap election, which pro-independence parties and politicians won.

In this context the Venezuelan president called on social movements and humanity “to fight against political persecution and political prisoners in Spain, and to accompany the people of Catalonia in their right to democracy and freedom.”

Animosity between Catalonia and Madrid is rooted in Catalan republicanism and rejection of monarchic rule. The Spanish crown was restored by former dictator Francisco Franco (1936-1975) who banned Catalan language and led a brutal persecution against Catalan republicanism.

Today, in Spain writing a song against the crown or burning an image of the royal family can land a person in jail.

March 28, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Spain falls short of apologising for 1920s use of chemical weapons in Morocco

Spanish soldiers are seen during the Rif War in 1922 [Military Archive of Ávila/Wikipedia]
MEMO | February 15, 2018

Spain has said it will respond to the Amazigh World Assembly’s (AMA) request concerning the use of chemical weapons by King’s Alfonso XIII military during the Rif War from 1921-1926 but has fallen short on agreeing to apologise for its actions.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis confirmed that the request had been made to Madrid and “as a result of the request of the King, the [AMA] were received in the Spanish embassy to submit their demands and also examine possible ways of cooperation.”

Speaking during a parliamentary meeting, Dastis answered questions from Joan Tarda, a member of the Esquerra Republicana, who has been pushing for the Spanish government to admit its use of chemical weapons in the Rif war.

However, though showing his willingness to hear the AMA’s demands, Dastis fell short of expressing his country’s readiness to apologise for its use of chemical warfare on civilians.

The conflict lasted from 1920 to 1927 between Berber rebels led by Mohamed Ibn Abd Al-Karim Al-Khattabi against Spanish colonial forces in Morocco’s Rif region. Following the defeat of Spanish troops in the Annoual battle in July 1921, Spain reportedly used chemical and toxic gas indiscriminately against the Rif civilian population in order to inflict maximum damage. The chemical attacks were a violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versaille which prohibited the use of chemical weapons.

The AMA filed a request calling on Spanish authorities to officially apologise to the Rif people and to compensate the victims and families for the tragedy. A similar request by AMA was last made in 2015 to King Felipe VI.

The Moroccan Centre for Common Memory, Democracy and Peace echoed calls by AMA and called on the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs to honour previous pledges to respond to the requests of Moroccan civil society organisations calling on Spain to recognise its culpability.

As a result of the chemical warfare, many of those in the Rif have suffered the highest rates of cancer than in any other region in Morocco with 80 per cent of cases of larynx cancer in Morocco found in the Rif region.

February 15, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Russia’s Alleged Meddling in Catalan Vote: Playing the Blame Game

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 14.11.2017

Few people are able to recognize their own mistakes. Many prefer to deny the truth becoming willfully oblivious to obvious facts. Why assume responsibility if there is such a thing as blame shifting – a true-and-tried method to get away with it? Pointing a finger at someone else to divert attention serves the purpose. There is method to this madness and Western politicians have been resorting to the blame-shifting tactic increasingly often. Each and everything going awry in the world is the fault of Russia. The drive of peoples for independence is a good example. Take Catalonia to illustrate the point.

The Spanish government said on Nov.10 that it had noted news manipulation about the Catalan crisis on social media originating from Russia’s territory. Spain’s government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said disinformation on social networks was a “serious issue.” According to Spanish Defence Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal, the government had established that “many messages and interventions via social networks come from Russian territory.” She did not offer any specific examples to confirm the affirmation. Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said there was evidence of activity by Russian networks and hackers. The trolls are said to be spreading misinformation across social media to further “destabilize” Spain and the EU.

The issue was even raised at the EU foreign and defense ministers meeting on Nov.13-14, where Spain briefed the EU on the alleged interference. The debate comes after eight member states urged EU foreign service chief Federica Mogherini to build up the counter-propaganda cell in her service.

Spanish media have many times attacked Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik Spanish language services for instigating tensions in Catalonia, supporting the separatist movement. El Pais daily wrote an editorial on Nov. 10 denouncing “the intense campaign by Russian media that are close to the Kremlin,” whose “propaganda machine” it accused of siding with the pro-independence movement.

NATO leadership chimed in. On Nov.9, US General Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of NATO forces in Europe, called on Russia to stop “meddling” into European elections. He was concerned over Russia’s “malign influence” in other countries. The Atlantic Council, a US-based think-tank close to NATO, has published a report suggesting that Russia was seeking to meddle in support of Catalan independence and to discredit the Spanish central government’s position that the referendum on independence held on Oct. 1 was illegal. El Paisthe Washington Times and Politico all issued publications alleging that an army of Russian bots had perfected their techniques of online influence and thus ensured the October 1 vote went down the path of separation.

If the accusations were true, it would mean that Russia-backed media networks operate to undermine Russia’s official position on the issue made clear in a Foreign Ministry’s statement. Russia has consistently voiced its respect for Spain’s territorial integrity.

Can anyone of sane mind believe that Russia’s “meddling” is the real reason to make over 40 percent of Catalans support independence? Has Russia been behind the 95-year-old independence movement in Catalonia? Has Russia made the Catalans’ language and culture distinct? Did Russia make Francisco Franco oppress the Catalan people? Has Russia provoked the economic crisis in Spain, which has served to magnify calls for Catalan independence? Has Russia made Catalans believe that the current tax structure is unfair? Has Russia made Madrid unwilling to renegotiate Catalonia’s autonomy agreement? Has Russia written Spain’s constitution, which expressly prohibits a region from breaking away unilaterally? Did Moscow order Spanish police to use brutal force, while preventing the unconstitutional vote? If it didn’t count, why take such pains to stop it?

Several world leaders and political figures condemned the violence specifically. Did Russia make them do it? Did Russia make the EU abstain from mediation effort? And, finally, does Russia stand to gain from an independent Catalonia?

With many publications on the issue, no evidence has been produced to demonstrate a link between the Russian government and Catalonia vote. Obviously, the use of the “Russian meddling” narrative seems to work as a distraction from the wrongdoing of the Spanish government. The fantasy provides a convenient scapegoat to avoid responsibility of the Spanish government for missing opportunities to launch meaningful political dialogue with Catalonia and mishandling of the vote. Spain is by far not the only country to use the narrative to its own advantage. As Karl Sharro, a well-known British architect and satirist, commented on the results of UK elections, “The most disappointing thing about the UK election is there wasn’t even a hint of Russian interference. It’s like we don’t matter at all.”

November 14, 2017 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment