Barcelona

Oct 042017
 

Guest post by: Gwilym ab Ioan

In the early Monday morning hours, the Catalan Government issued statements saying that about 2.3 million Catalans, (42.3% out of 5.3 million eligible voters), of those, 90% cast a ‘yes’ ballot for Independence. Without the violent interference of the ‘national’ Spanish police and civil guard, the Catalan Government estimated that at least 80% of all eligible voters would have cast their ballot.

Clearly, the Spanish Government’s demonstration of ruthless and brute force was, and is, a reminder that in Europa fascism is alive and well, that the spirit of Generalissimo Franco of Spain is not dead. Brussels, miserable, spineless puppets to the transatlantic empire and the European oligarchy, remained shamefully silent – arguing it was a Spanish internal affair, as if Spain, a full member of the EU isn’t a European Union’s ‘internal affair’.

At the end of the day of the Referendum on the first of October, President Rajoy had the audacity to declare literally that there was no referendum taking place in Cataluña. He congratulated and thanked the Spanish police for protecting law and order in Barcelona and elsewhere in Cataluña and their upholding of the Spanish Constitution. Yet snippets (mostly from the ‘alternative’ media) showed and reported all-day long violent police battles against peaceful voters. The forceful, riot-clad Spanish police smashed windows and broke into schools where voting booths were located, attempting to prevent voters from voting; they also removed and destroyed ballot boxes.

At the end of the day nearly 1,000 people – 844 officially – were injured by the ‘national’ police force, deploying extreme violence, by utterly harmful and potentially deadly rubber bullets and batons smashing indiscriminately into non-violent unarmed voters (the “lambs”), including elderly people, women and children. 

There were hundreds of thousands of people, whole families who came with their children to this historic event, some camping since Friday in the schools to make sure that their right to vote was protected.

Since the Catalan police decided a hands-off policy, not to interfere with the referendum, but rather to protect the voters from possible violence, the fascist Rajoy Government sent in police and the civil guard from other parts of Spain to prevent the vote from taking place. Their brutal and excessive violence against unarmed voters was shocking. They clearly had firm instructions to employ their brutality from their masters in Madrid – the very masters that later congratulated them for carrying out their duties. It was a horrible sight to see, especially from those of us who can sympathise with our fellow Celts (The Celtic response to the referendum in Catalonia on independence from Spain) who like us are struggling for their freedom from colonial rule.

President Rajoy lauding the violent police that left hundreds of inured, many seriously wounded, is yet another testimony that fascism and Fascist mentality of some states in Europe is alive and well, and seemingly increasing. Franco’s blood must be running in Rajoy’s veins. Brussels, the headquarters of the European Police state – of the growing European military regime – already today engulfing the bulk of the 28 EU member states, concurred with this violence by remaining disgracefully silent. How much of the true news about this deplorable event did you hear from the British Bullshit Corporation and other conforming ‘official’ puppet news outlets controlled by the governments?

Let’s look a bit closer at some of the reasons behind this horrendous crackdown on people who were merely intent on expressing their opinion – a full human right, according to the UN Charter.

Cataluña with a population of about 7.5 million (out of Spain’s 46 million) and a surface area of about 7% of Spain’s 506,000 km2 contributes about 20% to Spain’s economic output, produces 25% of Spain’s exports, receives 23.5% of Spain’s foreign tourist revenue, and 57% of Spain’s foreign investments. There is a lot to lose by Cataluña’s secession. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Re. North Sea oil, Welsh coal, water & steel, etc.

Cataluña today receives about 1,800 euros per capita in tax devolution from Madrid, but contributes at least double that amount to the Spanish Treasury. This imbalance has long been a sore thumb in the relations between Barcelona and Madrid. But Rajoy’s PP (Partido Popular) Government has always staunchly refused any dialogue for more autonomy and more financial justice. We in Cymru get Objective 1 handouts from Brussels, they go to Westminster, the money is raided and manipulated and what gets handed over to us does not reflect the amounts we are supposed to get. Add to that what’s then stolen by Charismatic Carwyn & Co. for pet projects and handouts to the third sector cronies and finally what’s jackaled by ‘consultants’ and it doesn’t take a lot of neuron power to realise why our impoverished areas continue in the same boat of abstract hopelessness.

Spain’s northern Basque Region fought for decades (1959-2011) for independence. The Spain-ETA armed political conflict, also known as the Basque National Liberation Movement, caused hundreds of violent deaths. When they finally reached disarmament and a peace agreement in 2011 with the central government in Madrid, they settled for a considerably fairer fiscal agreement with Madrid.

Looking at history, Cataluña became part of Spain in the 15th Century under King Felipe VI and Queen Isabella. In the 20th Century, under the Spanish Republic, Cataluña with, like us, her own culture and language, received full autonomy in 1932. It was abolished by Franco, when he came to power in 1938. After Franco’s death in 1975, Cataluña regained temporary autonomy which lapsed in 2006, when a Spanish High Court challenged the Statute of Autonomy and ruled some articles of the Statute ‘unconstitutional’. That was the time when the most recent Catalan Independence Movement began. Since then several mock referenda took place, including the latest in 2014, when 80% of those who voted (about 30% of eligible voters) opted for independence.

The 1st of October 2017 Referendum was the first serious attempt at secession since 2006. Though not conforming with the Spanish Constitution, the forceful and violent suppression of the people’s freedom of expression – was a grave human rights abuse. It will most likely backfire – badly. I hope it does.

This fierce oppression by Madrid, the unwillingness for dialogue, has definitely turned most Catalans against Madrid and for independence. A few weeks ago the polls in Cataluña indicated a close call with a slight edge for those who wanted to remain with Spain. After threats from Madrid for weeks and the violent police crackdown of this latest election, at least 80% of eligible Catalan voters now seek independence. A similar trend could be found within Spain. A couple of months ago, 10% to 20% of Spaniards were neutral or favoured independence for Cataluña. After this police fiasco, close to half of Spaniards are in solidarity with their Catalan neighbours and support Cataluña’s independence. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for those of us struggling to gain our own independence.

The fight is by no means over after Madrid’s violent attempted oppression of the vote. History’s course is often changed by just one event. What will be ours one wonders?

Addendum

Brychan’s comment below, with a link to a speech by Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy deserves more than just a link. Here’s a video clip of it directly embedded into this post:

Didn’t hear anything like that from the British Bullshit Ccorporation or any of the other ‘mainstream’ government (false) media outlets did you? Do you wonder why? Or are you still sleep-walking with your hands over your ears?

Apr 252014
 

A few days ago I was directed to a piece on the MailOnline website about Barcelona or, more specifically, tourism in Barcelona or, to be really, really specific, high volume and damaging tourism. The problem is that “uncontrolled tourism” is attracting too many low-spending tourists who are turning Barcelona into a ‘theme park’ and making locals feel like strangers in their own city. To give some idea of the perceived problem, in 1993 the city attracted 2.5 million visitors but by 2012 that figure had quadrupled to 10 million. Going to YouTube turned up other videos on a similar theme. One about the Lake District, this one about Snowdonia. And there are others.

Does all this sound familiar – hordes of cheapo tourists over-running a place and making the locals feel like strangers? Of course it does, because it’s what happens in Wales. Though the citizens of Barcelona should be thankful that their city isn’t being bought up by these visitors, looking for holiday homes, a lifestyle change, or somewhere to retire to. Nor is it destroying the Catalan language and identity. And I guarantee that most of the businesses taking the tourists’ money are run by natives of Barcelona. (Though the pickpockets mentioned almost certainly come from further east.)

Wales tourism stats

Click to Enlarge

The traditional reason that Wales is a low-spend destination for tourists is because tourism in Wales was developed for the convenience of England, not for the benefit of Wales. Which has meant that in practice, we – or those who run tourism here – target English tourists saving their major outlay for holidays abroad, encouraging them to use Wales for weekend breaks and secondary holidays. Then, because these English tourists don’t spend much, we must have them in damaging and unsustainable numbers. This recent news story even rejoiced in the fact that Wales is “affordable” / cheap, without apparently realising that ‘cheap’ is also a derogatory term.

Though the story in WalesOnline is rather confusing. It claims a record 9.93m tourists spending a record £1.7bn in 2013. Yet the figures on the ‘Welsh’ Government website, for 2012 (see panel), claim 10.45m tourists (from the UK and overseas) spending £2,44bn. Presumably the article refers only to tourists from within the UK, though this is not stated.

Numerate readers (of whom I have many) will have worked out that this means in 2012 UK visitors spent on average £165 (up to £171 in 2013), whereas overseas visitors spent on average £405. So why aren’t we doing more to attract overseas visitors, of whom we’d need fewer? Well, in addition to the explanation given above, tourism in Wales also has a political purpose, in that it anglicises Wales; partly by smothering areas in English tourists for months on end and partly by encouraging English tourists to make a permanent move to Wales. And don’t overlook the financial benefits . . . to England. Money spent in Wales by English tourists will eventually make its way back to London, unlike money spent abroad.

(The panel from the ‘Welsh’ Government website also quotes “around 100 million day visits” earning “over £3bn”. I have ignored these figures mainly because we are expected to believe that these are all day trips made from outside Wales; they are not. The most popular pay-to-enter ‘tourist attraction’ in Wales is Swansea Leisure Centre. Most visitors come from within a 15 mile radius. Your next shopping trip or day out in Wrecsam, Llandudno, Aberystwyth, Brecon or Carmarthen may count as a ‘day trip’. So you will understand why I treat such figures with caution, if not contempt. The (nicely rounded) figures for day trips get wild guesswork a bad name, but are, regrettably, what we expect with tourism ‘statistics’.)

The table I’ve compiled (and I hope it’s clear) gives some figures for the tourism industries in Ireland, Scotland and Wales for one year. (Click to enlarge.) The figures for Ireland and Scotland were fairly easy to come by, but not so with the figures for Wales. The ‘Welsh’ Government website is difficult to negotiate, full of guff and propaganda on tourism but low on facts. So I went to StatsWales, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s specialist group for statistics – actually part of an English government department – but the most recent figures available there are for 2010. (A regular failure with StatsWales.)

Tourism table

Click to Enlarge

A few observations from the table. As an example of how little Wales really earns from tourism note that visitors from the Six Counties to the Republic spent £225 per head, even though many would have been staying with friends and family, or making just a short trip (e.g. Derry to Donegal). Compare this to UK visitors to Wales, who spent just £165. UK visitors to Scotland spent £227 per head. In addition, Scotland made over one billion pounds more than Wales from overseas tourists. Spend per head can be equated with the profit margin, which means that when other considerations – cultural damage, traffic congestion, environmental degradation, etc  – are factored in to the equation then tourism in Wales is a loss-making, bargain basement business. To tourism what the Reliant Robin is to automotive technology. Nothing to be proud of.

Furthermore, reReliant Robinmember that Ireland and Scotland are some four times the size of Wales and both see a ‘spread’ of tourists across the land, whereas most of those who come to Wales head for the west and the north, and stick fairly close to the coast. This, inevitably, results in the kind of overcrowding and unsustainabilty being complained of in Barcelona.

Given the damning facts why is ‘Welsh’ tourism trumpeted as a great success story that cannot be improved on? Why are we constantly reminded that our rural and coastal areas were wastelands ere the arrival of English tourists, and without them to wastelands they will return? In a word, we’ve been brainwashed. We can either continue accepting this ludicrous – and, frankly, racist – propaganda or we can start arguing for a tourism industry for the twenty-first century rather than the nineteenth, one that serves Wales and Welsh people.

Fundamentally, and for benefits across the board, we need to attract more overseas visitors and fewer low-spend tourists from England. To do that we must ditch the defeatist argument that says Scotland and Ireland have a higher international profile. Because even though this may be true today, there are successful tourism destinations now that were unknown a few decades ago. It comes down to promotion, and priorities.

The first priority is for the soi-disant ‘Welsh’ Government to start living up to its name, by putting Welsh interests first. A phased move from caravans to serviced accommodation would be a start. Tourism taxes – especially at ‘hot spots’ – would be another step in the right direction. The second priority must be minimising the influence of the tourism operators who currently control long-term and strategic planning. Few of these are Welsh and consequently have little regard for the damage being inflicted. Too many are driven by self-interest and believe there can never be too many tourists. That’s the major problem with tourism – if you allow it to be run by such people then you end up with the problems of Barcelona, or Venice, or Prague, or Wales. Restraining influences are needed.

Jun 032013
 

It’s official! Vincent Tan’s Malaysian Red Dragon Hobby Team is “bigger by miles” than the Swans, and will soon be Wales’ equivalent of Barcelona. How know I these things? Because they were written by Craig Bellamy and published today in the Wasting Mule. Two sources that can be trusted to give balanced and impartial assessments of all things Cardiff. But there was more to it than simply having a pop at the Swans.Bellamy

For example, “We could control Merthyr, Rhondda, Caerphilly. We could have them in lockdown.” “Lockdown” is a term used in the penal system, it means prisoners confined to their cells. A loss of even limited freedom. (Maybe it ties in with a theme I explore below.) Used in this context it seems to suggest that Bellamy views the Valleys as a possession of imperial Cardiff. After reading that, and if I lived in the Valleys, I would be getting worried about the prospects offered by the Cardiff city region.

Then there’s his flawed understanding of the roles played by Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona. Bellamy says: “We can build on our regional identity in the way Athletic Bilbao have placed themselves at the centre of Basque culture and Barcelona have become a focus for Catalunya.” “Regional”! He seems to see Euzkadi and Catalunya as nothing but regions of Spain. He doesn’t seem to appreciate that both clubs (Bilbao with its Basque-only players rule) represent the desire of two small nations for independence. Something else Bellamy overlooks is tBellamy 2hat Bilbao and Barcelona are owned by those sharing this ambition. Neither Bilbao nor Barcelona is owned by an unknown Oriental tycoon for whom the club is just another investment . . . someone who could walk away tomorrow.

I don’t want to sound too harsh, but Craig Bellamy has had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus, most of which have been glad to see the back of him. For throughout his career he has displayed a genius for wearing out his welcome wherever he’s gone. And that’s without the court appearances for the odd ‘altercation’. To counter the image this projects he goes to Africa now and again to be photographed with poor black kids. Image management of the kind Al Capone – the philanthropist to Chicago’s poor during the Great Depression – would have understood.

His publishers seem to have appreciated this and run with the theme, to judoctor-with-stethoscopedge by the title of the book, GoodFella, an obvious reference to Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster epic, GoodFellas. So which one is Bellers? Not Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta; nor Robert De Nero’s Jimmy ‘the Gent’ Conway; I see him more as Tommy De Vito, played by Joe Pesci; the short one with the hair-trigger temper. The gangster motif is so blatant that even the noir-grungy picture used for the cover makes Bellamy look like a long dead associate of the Krays.

So what have we got here? Yet another book written by a fading footballer who never realised his potential. His publishers hope to sell more copies of the book by promoting the ‘bad boy’ image and by being provocative. As a result, this book is only for the most blinkered of Cardiff fans. Because I predict with certainty that it will not fly off the shelves in Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle or any of the other cities where Bellamy has played. And I can’t see any Swansea bookshops running out of copies either . . . that’s if they bother stocking it.