Spanish republicans organize referendum on monarchy


This video is called Spaniards insist: ‘Referendum now’.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Spanish activists launch street referendum over future of monarchy

Unofficial poll in days before coronation of Prince Felipe will ask Spaniards if they want an elected head of state

Ashifa Kassam in Madrid

Friday 13 June 2014 11.23 BST

Emboldened by the tens of thousands of Spaniards who have taken to the streets to demand a say in the future of Spain‘s monarchy, activist groups have announced they will be holding their own referendum in the five days leading up to the coronation of Prince Felipe.

The idea came about on the night King Juan Carlos announced his abdication, after an estimated 20,000 people dressed in the red, yellow and purple of the former Spanish republic descended upon the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid calling for an end to the monarchy.

“It seems absurd to us that in a democracy nobody is asking the citizens if they want a monarchy or a republic,” said Kike Castelló of ¡Democracia Real Ya! (Real Democracy Now!), one of the dozen or so collectives involved in organising the referendum.

The referendum will begin on Saturday morning and run until 19 June, the day of the coronation. About 60 polling stations staffed by volunteers will be set up along major streets in cities across the country, with voting also taking place online.

A recent poll for El País found that 62% of Spaniards believe a referendum on the monarchy should be held “at some point”. Nearly half, said the poll, would prefer a monarchy headed by Felipe, while 36% would support a republic.

Participants will be asked to answer yes or no to two questions: whether they agree that the head of Spain should be elected and if they agree that a constitutional process should be opened so that citizens can decide how the Spanish state is governed.

“We just want people to express their opinion – whether it’s for a monarchy or for a republic. We want to hear what Spaniards want for their country,” said Castelló.

He brushed aside concerns about the legality of the referendum. “Asking people for their thoughts isn’t illegal,” he said, pointing to a line in the Spanish constitution that stipulates that “transcendent decisions can be put to a consultative referendum”.

Under Spanish law, he added, permission is not needed for this kind of initiative. The only obligation is that those setting up polling stations notify the delegate from the central government in the region. The necessary forms are provided on the group’s website, he said.

Measures are being put into place to avoid people voting more than once, said Eduardo Robles Elvira, who is working on the technical aspects of the poll. Independent organisations are being recruited to monitor and tally the results. “We’re doing all of this so that it’s the most transparent and legitimate referendum possible,” he said.

The group has yet to decide what exactly they will do with the results, said Castelló. “We know that the government isn’t going to say, ‘hey, look how many people want a republic, let’s do that.” He said he saw the effort to take the pulse of the streets as more symbolic than anything else. “We want people to realise that it’s possible for us to have a say in how our country is run.”

The plebiscite is open to Spaniards living anywhere in the world, and a group in Paris has signed up to host a polling station on the streets of the French capital. “Spaniards are the ones who will be affected by this monarchy. If you want one as well for the British, we can organise one for your Queen,” Castelló joked. “But that might seem a bit weird.”

More than 85% of the Spanish parliament on Wednesday voted to move forward with the law that will pave the way for the crown to be handed from King Juan Carlos to Prince Felipe. The law will now move to the Spanish senate where it is expected to be approved early next week.

As leftist deputies waved signs calling for a referendum, Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, defended the monarchy during the debate, saying: “Spain is a parliamentary monarchy with deep roots because Spaniards want it to be so.”

Football World Cup, Dutch and Spanish fans’ songs, and history


This music video from the Netherlands is the song De Zilvervloot (starting about 0:30 after the start of the video). It is a nineteenth century song about seventeenth century Dutch admiral Piet Hein, who captured the treasure fleet with the silver being transported from South America to Spain in 1628.

Tonight in Brazil, the 2014 football world cup will start with a match between the host country and Croatia. Tomorrow, Spain, one of the favourite teams, and the Netherlands, not one of the favourite teams, will play each other. One of the songs Dutch fans will sing probably then is De Zilvervloot, about Piet Hein.

The subject of the song is from the time when the Dutch Republic was at war to become independent from the Spanish monarchy. Fortunately, today Spain and the Netherlands don’t wage war against each other; they just play football. There is more chance of worsening conflict between Spain and Britain about Gibraltar; and between the Spanish monarchy plus political establishment and most Spanish people who want a choice between monarchy and republic in a referendum.

The Dutch-Spanish 1568-1648 war, the eighty years war, is remembered much more often in the Netherlands than in Spain.

One reason why quite some Spaniards still remember that war is famous seventeenth century painter Diego Velázquez.

This video, in Spanish is called Las Lanzas (La Rencición de Breda), about a famous Velázquez painting.

The painting is known in English as The Surrender of Breda. Its subject is the conquest of the Dutch city Breda by Genoese-Spanish general Ambrogio Spinola, in 1625. Velázquez finished the painting in 1635. Two years later, in 1637, Breda was recaptured by the Dutch republic, and in 1648 it was finally ceded by Spain by the Treaty of Westphalia.

Back from war and painting to football and music. Spanish football teams, like teams in other countries, sometimes have musicians among their fans in stadiums. One of the songs they play is Valencia.

This music video is Valencia, by composer Padilla. Like the Dutch Zilvervloot song, played in a concert hall; not on football bleachers.

In Valencia city there is also a well-known football club, with a bat in its coat of arms.

Coat of arms of Valencia with bat

The city has also a bat in its coat of arms.

According to legend, the bat is in the coat of arms because a bat helped a medieval king of Aragon win a battle. Which reminds me of a Central American Mayan legend about the resplendent quetzal bird.

Which takes me back to Costa Rica; also one of the football teams present at the World Cup in Brazil.

World Cup: Africa Firmly Behind Its Teams: here.

Spanish pro-republic demonstrations again


Spanish demonstrators with slogan No more kings, referendum! Photo by Jessica van Spengen / NOS

From AFP news agency:

Thousands join republican march in Spain

June 8, 2014, 5:38 am

Madrid – Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Madrid on Saturday to demand a referendum to abolish Spain’s monarchy, just days after King Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his son.

“Spain, tomorrow, will be republican,” they chanted, waving the red, purple and gold flags of the country’s second republic, proclaimed in 1931 then overthrown eight years later by General Francisco Franco at the end of the country’s catastrophic civil war.

It was only a few hours after the 76-year-old king announced his abdication on June 2 that a wave of republicanism spread across the country.

On Saturday, dozens of left-wing political parties and citizens organisations came together to demand “A referendum now!” on the future of the monarchy.

Forty-six-year-old Crown Prince Felipe is due to be coronated, probably on June 19, in a joint session of parliament, whose members, both in the ruling party and in opposition, overwhelmingly support the monarchy.

But a spate of scandals over the past three years have caused a dramatic drop in the monarchy’s popularity, which has also been hit by the general loss of faith in Spain’s institutions that has accompanied its economic crisis.

Those feelings were evident in the results of the European Parliament elections on May 25 which saw a collapse in support for the two traditional parties.

Among the insurgent new left-wing parties was Podemos, a new party that emerged from the “Indignants” protest movement of 2011.

“We want to give a voice to the people. Why is it a problem to organise a referendum? Why is it a problem to give Spaniards the right to decide their future?” asked one of the party’s leaders, Pablo Iglesias.

“If the People’s Party and Socialist party think that Felipe has the confidence of the citizens, he should submit to a referendum,” Iglesias said.

The republican wave has mostly engulfed the young, who were not around when Juan Carlos took the throne on November 22, 1975. It was two days after Franco’s death and the young king oversaw a dramatic period of transition to democracy.

In announcing his abdication, Juan Carlos said he hoped for a “renewal” of the monarchy.

Crowned in November 1975 after the death of Franco, Juan Carlos won wide respect for his role in building modern Spain.

But a corruption scandal struck his family in 2011 at the height of an economic crisis and undermined his popularity.

The following year he sparked fresh outrage by hunting elephants in Botswana while ordinary Spaniards struggled through a recession.

Years of economic crisis “have awakened in us a desire for renewal, to overcome and correct mistakes and open the way to a decidedly better future,” the king said in a televised address.

“Today a younger generation deserves to step into the front line, with new energies,” he said.

Although Felipe has been spared the opprobrium that has engulfed his father, he faces a daunting task in rebuilding the legitimacy of the crown.

A poll conducted by the El Pais newspaper showed yesterday that most Spaniards want a say on the royals. Nearly two-thirds called for a vote on whether to ditch the monarchy and return to its much-loved republican aspirations: here. And here.

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US army killing of Spanish cameraman in Iraq investigated


This video from the USA is called Leaked Cables: US Pressured Spain to Drop Case of Journalist Killed in Army Attack in Baghdad 1 of 2.

And this video is the sequel.

From Al Jazeera:

Spain can probe camer[a]man’s killing by US tank

Spanish court rules criminal investigation into killing of Jose Couso by a US tank shell in Iraq in 2003 can be pursued.

Last updated: 07 Jun 2014 10:27

Spain’s High Court has ruled that a criminal investigation into the killing of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso by a US tank shell in Iraq in 2003 can be pursued, despite a new law placing limits on judicial powers in international cases.

Judicial authorities have sought the arrest and questioning of three US soldiers accused of involvement in Couso’s death.

Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, was also killed by the shell that crashed into a Baghdad hotel.

A law passed by Spain’s centre-right government in March curbed the powers of judges to prosecute human rights cases under the principle of universal jurisdiction. The High Court must now rule on the legality of all pending cases one by one.

Cases now must be dismissed if they do not meet the new legal requirements that those accused of alleged human rights abuses must themselves be Spanish citizens.

Despite the alleged perpetrators of Couso’s death not being Spanish, the High Court ruled on Friday that the case could be continued under terms of the Geneva Convention, which defines the rights and protection afforded to civilians in war zones.

In November 2004, a US Defence Department report stated that US forces bore “no fault or negligence” in the shelling of the hotel, where about 100 international journalists were staying at the time.

Pinochet arrest

Universal jurisdiction, the principle that crimes such as genocide and torture are so serious they can be prosecuted across borders, was pioneered by Spain in 1985.

It led to the detention in London of the former Chilean military ruler General Augusto Pinochet in 1998 through an arrest warrant issued from Spain.

“It’s been said that when people could not find justice, they came to Spain,” said European University of Madrid law professor Nieves Noval.

He said about 13 cases in areas from El Salvador to Rwanda were being processed in Spanish courts.

However, China, Israel and the United States have all bristled at Spanish judicial investigations into allegations of genocide, rights abuses or war crimes.

Critics say this led to the tightening of the law to prevent diplomatic disputes.

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Aunt of Spanish crown princess pro-republic


This video from Spain says about itself:

‘Monarchy? No, Thanks': Thousands demand referendum after Spanish King’s abdication

3 June 2014

Thousands gathered in Madrid to celebrate the abdication of the Spanish King Juan Carlos. The crowd jumped and chanted slogans “Spain tomorrow will be republican”, alongside calling for a referendum to end the monarchy in Spain.

See also here.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Princess’s aunt stirs up revolution in Spain on social media

Aunt of Spain’s soon-to-be queen tweeted in support of republican movement, calling for a referendum on the monarchy

Ashifa Kassam in Madrid

Thursday 5 June 2014 18.18 BST

Ever since King Juan Carlos announced on Monday that he planned to abdicate, demands for a referendum on the monarchy have dominated Twitter in Spain. But one might wonder why a tweet urging people to sign a petition on the referendum earned so much attention.

The woman who sent it was Henar Ortiz Álvarez, aunt of Spain’s soon-to-be queen, Letizia Ortiz. “It’s time for the people to speak. Sign and retweet,” she tweeted one day after the king announced he would be handing over power to his son, Felipe.

She retweeted several other calls for a referendum along with a picture bearing a text that read, “this person thinks that the title of head of state shouldn’t be hereditary”.

When asked by one of her 3,000 or so followers about her stance, Ortiz Álvarez replied, “I’m not against my niece. Let’s not confuse blood with politics.”

The princess’s aunt has made headlines before, for example in an interview with Vanity Fair in Spain last year where she described herself as “secular, red and republican”, and suggested that Letizia held republican views before marrying Felipe. “I think everyone has the right to change, to take in new data, modify themselves and become what creates most opportunity,” she told the magazine.

Ortiz Álvarez’s comments rank her among the tens of thousands of Spaniards who flooded into squares in towns and cities across the country on the night of the king’s announcement to demonstrate for an end to the monarchy. Many of them brought republican flags, shirts and anything else they could find in the red, yellow and purple colours of the 1930s Spanish republic. Some called themselves republicans, others said they were Juancarlistas – those who remain grateful to the king for the role he played in Spain’s transition to democracy, but who dispute the need for the monarchy to continue.

The abdication announcement has created a rare opportunity for Spain to have a frank discussion on the monarchy, said the United Left coalition, which announced on Thursday morning that it had brought together half a dozen leftist parties in Madrid to devise a strategy to push for a referendum.

The group’s first action, said Ricardo Sixto of the coalition, would be a large rally on Saturday in Madrid and several other cities as a show of force by 50 or so anti-monarchist groups. Other actions are to follow, including a “parallel act” on the day of Prince Felipe’s coronation as Felipe VI.

This, a royal family spokesperson told El País, was likely to take place on 19 June in a secular ceremony to which foreign leaders and royalty would not be invited.

More than 90% of Spanish parliamentarians have voted in a new law allowing the royal handover, and Sixto conceded that that it was unlikely that any referendum would happen before the coronation.

He described the republican campaign as a “long-term battle” and said the 20% share of the vote held by leftist and anti-monarchical parties in last month’s European elections showed that times were changing and that the issue would play out in municipal and regional elections next year. “The dominance of Spain’s two parties, who sustained the monarchy for 39 years, is lessening. That will make holding a referendum easier,” he said.

This week Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, dismissed demands for a referendum, arguing that the monarchy had majority support. Recent polls back him: one in January found three in five Spaniards supported the monarchy. But Sixto argued this was all the more reason to move forward with a referendum. “If Rajoy thinks the majority of Spaniards support the monarchy then he shouldn’t have any problem in calling a referendum.”

Rajoy‘s hesitation, he argued, played into the idea that the monarchy in Spain had run its course. “It’s an anachronism. In an advanced nation, it doesn’t make sense to maintain a tradition from the middle ages.”

The new king and queen plan to dedicate July and August to travelling in Spain and countries including France, Morocco and Portugal. The royal family spokesperson said that once Felipe becomes king, he will outline his father’s salary, title and role.

BBC claim that “Only a few hundred” are protesting in Spain for a republic. Meanwhile, in Madrid, see here.

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