Open letter from Daniel Riaño (Spain’s Pirate Party, AKA PIRATA)
to fellow Dutch Pirates Rico Brouwer and Saskia Söller
I am writing this open letter to fellow Dutch Pirates Rico Brouwer and Saskia Söller as a response to their call to launch an international effort
“to join Catalan political prisoner campaign”. I am doing this because, although I don't question their good will, I find their proposal contrary to the Pirates’ philosophy and guiding ideals. More generally, I think it goes against the ideals of modern democracy, and it is based on wrong facts.
So let’s start with the facts:
On September 6, 2017 the Catalan Parliament voted
a “Law on the Referendum on Self-determination of Catalonia”
. This law established (art. 3.2) “an exceptional legal regime destined to regulate and guarantee the referendum of self-determination of Catalonia. It prevails hierarchically above all norms that may come into conflict with it, insofar as it regulates the exercise of a fundamental and inalienable right of the people of Catalonia.”
That means the law placed itself, and its makers, above all the Spanish laws, including the Constitution, and above all the Catalonian laws voted by the Catalan Parliament.
Article 4.4. of the law established: “If in the count of votes validly cast there are more affirmative votes than negative, the result implies the independence of Catalonia. For this purpose, the Parliament, within two days following the proclamation of the official results by the Electoral Syndicate, will hold an ordinary session to make the declaration of the independence of Catalonia, determine its effects and start the constituent process.” That is, the law required no vote threshold and required just one more affirmative vote than the number of negative votes to to automatically launch the independence of Catalonia.
The law was suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court the next day, and the referendum was declared illegal.
On September 8, 2017 the Catalan Parliament approved a “Law of juridical transition and foundation of the Republic”
only with the votes of the pro-independence side (some pro independency abstained, considering the vote illegal; most of the “pro-Spain” side left the Parliament in protest, and the rest voted against the law). This law created a new state (Art. 1), the “Catalan Republic”, to be proclaimed (disp. trans. 1) as soon as the Referendum of Determination was approved in the terms stated by Art. 4.4 quoted above; and again the norm placed itself above all laws from Spain or Catalonia.
The Law was suspended on September 12th by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
3. On October 1, 2017, the Catalan Government launched the independence referendum. All the parties contrary to the secession from Spain stated they would abstain from participating in a referendum declared illegal by Spain’s courts. Spain’s Government attempts to prevent the vote failed spectacularly at most levels, but it did stop the functioning of the “Electoral syndicate” (the electoral board). Because of that, and because the use of voters’ census data was unlawful, the Catalan Government used a “parallel” electoral board, and allowed voting outside the designed voting centers, and casting the vote outside the required envelope. The "official" results gave a 90% of votes for independence (37% of the census) and 7.8% against it.
4. On 10 October 2017 the president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, declared the independence of Catalonia, but asked to suspend the effects of that declaration in order to negotiate with the Government of Spain.
5. On 27 October 2017, Spain’s Senate approved the application of art. 155 of Spain’s Constitution, thus giving Spain’s Government the legal ability to take over the Catalan institutions. Spain’s Government dismissed the President of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, and the rest of the Government of the Generalitat, dissolved the Parliament of Catalonia, and called for Catalan autonomous elections on the 21 of December.
6. Two days later, on October 29th, the already ex-president Puigdemont left the country and on November 2nd a judge ordered his detention together with former vice-president Oriol Junqueras and eight former councilors of the Generalitat.
Such are the facts. For several years now, Catalonia, one of the regions with a higher level of self-government in Europe (and the world) is divided almost in two halves on the issue of its independence from Spain. One of the halves, currently enjoying a tight majority in the Catalan Parliament, sized the opportunity to impose their will over the full majority of a country just coming out of a profound economic crisis. Whatever you may think about the right of self determination, the referendum of independence in Catalonia, or the shocking events of October 1st, I wonder how any Pirate, or indeed any person that values democracy and the rule of law in Europe, may feel there's any democratic virtue in launching a campaign that declares the political responsibles of such a process as “political prisoners”.
The detainees participated in a very long, costly and well organized process aiming to subvert the legal order in both Spain and Catalonia. They tried to ignore all the check and balances provided by the Spanish and Catalonian norms to preserve the rule of law. They used their institutional position and privileges, their access to the resorts of power and money and their sway on academia, media, the judiciary and NGOs to make a direct attack against the fundamental laws of their democratic state. I call this a putsh, and fortunately it was one that failed. The detainees tried indeed to illegally declare the independence of a part of a sovereign territory of the EU against the will of about half of the population from Catalonia (and against the will of most people in Spain at large). I call this and unmistakeable act of despotism and contempt for people’s will.
The detainees are not political prisoners. They are politicians detained because of a flagrantly illegal behavior that put their country in a very dangerous situation, and because they are made responsible of funneling public and private money and resources to this end. Many of these leaders belong to the party that drove down Catalonia (once the powerhouse of Spain’s industry and commerce) into bankruptcy during the 2008 crisis, its bonds lowered to a credit rating of junk
. I can see no reason why any pirate should side with such politicians.
The detention of the politicians responsible of the failed putsch in Catalonia is not the outcome some unheard-of legal procedure in Spain: literally dozens of politicians (most of them from the right wing Partido Popular, which was on power during all the above mentioned events) are now in pre-trial detention for serious cases of malfeasance or corruption in Spain. No one called them “political prisoners” to this date. No one in the pro-independence side have ever called against the same judiciary procedure in such cases, which are not as serious and with far-reaching consequences as the events surrounding the illegal “independence process”.
Now, I am almost certain neither Rico, or Saskia or any member of the Dutch Pirate Party would ever tolerate, even less encourage, such political activities in their country as the ones they are encouraging in Spain. I wonder what, in the name of the holy pirate chest, make them think Spain deserves to have a bunch of politicians that have showed such profound and criminal disdain for the law, their people, and their institutions, to be free and trolling their way up to power in a state they tried to create ex nihilo outside any democratic control.
A “putsch” (as I have described the actions of the detainees) is no criminal category in Spain. The specific criminal offense they are accused of is “rebellion”. Whether this, or “sedition”, or any other criminal category is the one that must apply to their case is in the hands of Justice, but there is no way to, blindly to all the facts, consider them “political prisoners”, mocking real political prisoners all around the world and banalizing the efforts of all the people who are trying to advance the cause of freedom and democracy, instead of the rotten interest of old fashioned nationalism and the arrogance of a gang of unchecked politicians.
Pirates are for democratically empowering people, and for using modern technology towards such empowering, instead of using it for the state's control of its people (the way of traditional parties). It is basic to this effort that we convey the idea that democracy is not just "voting" (tyrannies often start with just one act of voting, and then no more) but the defense of a fair system of justice. To this normative system is essential the principle of norm hierarchy and the respect for minorities. The detainees after the process to impose a secession of Catalonia from Spain tried to leverage their occasional advantage in the Catalan Parliament to override the full building of democratic securities in our state. In doing so they were no different from other European antidemocratic nationalists of the past. Their victimised narrative to sell this nationalistic, deeply undemocratic "process", needs not to be gullibly swalowed by the European public opinion no more. No one in Europe tollerate their country to be taken by ellected politicians that size the moment of an occasional majority to overturn all the laws, and we dont tollerate them in Spain neither.
You may choose to launch a campaign that considers just one part of the issue (the part concerning the right of self-determination and the need to let people vote in a democratic state) and turns a blind eye to all the rest of the question (the part concerning the need of the democratic state to preserve the hierarchy of the norms, the rule of the law, the rights of all parts concerned in social issues, and the guaranties of democratic procedures), but you do it at your own peril. Certainly you are not doing it to advance one inch the pirate cause. The real "friends of Catalonia" are not the allies of just one half of it, but those aiming to respect the rights of both sides of this social and political issue and the rule of democracy.
Long live the pirate ship!