Iberian ribbed newt in Spain

This video says about itself:

Pleurodeles waltl, Iberian Ribbed Newt

Recorded in Parque Regional Sierra Espuña in the Murcia region in Spain.


Spanish monarchists angry about football team’s shirts

Spanish national football team's new shirts, EPA photo

This photo shows the Spanish national football team’s new shirts, intended for the world championship in Russia in 2018.

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant today:

New red-yellow purple shirts of Spanish team are ‘attack on monarchy

There is a problem with the new Spanish national team football shirt: it is supposedly a secret tribute to the Republican flag.

Spanish republican flag

The football federation president is said to even have received from the highest circles – the king, it is whispered – complaints about the design. On social media, many opponents are calling for a boycott.

By Maartje Bakker

The jersey of the Spanish team is traditionally red and yellow, often with a dash of blue. This time, Adidas, the creator of the shirt, chose to apply thin blue stripes to the red. Any toddler knows: that gives a purple effect. Red-yellow-purple, which are the colours of the Spanish Republic in the thirties. So, an attack on the monarchy and constitution. And just at a time when those, especially from Catalonia, are already very much under fire.

The republican flag always accompanies Catalans demonstrations. The region retains good memories of those years when the Catalan republic (within the Spanish state) was proclaimed, with far-reaching self-government.

Left-wing politicians are delighted with the new national colours. “It’s been a long time since the Spanish selection had such beautiful shirts,” provokes Pablo Iglesias, leader of the socialist protest party Podemos, on Twitter. …

The soccer players seem to be wisest this time. “I think it’s a beautiful shirt”, said Vitolo.

Spanish government jails Catalans as political prisoners

This video says about itself:

2 November 2017

Pro-independence crowd demonstrated in front of the Generalitat (the Catalan regional government) in Barcelona as a Spanish judge on Thursday ordered eight members of the deposed Catalan government detained pending further probes into their role in the region’s tumultuous quest for independence. A European arrest warrant was also issued for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont who is now in Belgium.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 4 November 2017


TENS of thousands have demonstrated in Barcelona in protest at the jailing of eight deposed Catalan ministers who have been remanded in prison by a Spanish high court judge over the region’s push for independence.

The protesters waved placards saying ‘free political prisoners’. The remanded ministers are accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. Catalonia’s former business minister Santi Vila yesterday called on the Spanish state to ‘end the terrible situation that has resulted in politicians being imprisoned’ after leaving a detention centre in Madrid on bail.

Vila, who resigned the day before the declaration of independence on October 27th, was the only one granted the chance to be freed if he paid a bond of 50,000 euros.

The other eight remain in prison. After paying his bond, Vila left a detention centre in Estremera yesterday afternoon. The 44-year-old stopped briefly to speak with reporters before departing in a car.

He said: ‘Disproportionate measures have been taken. I’m convinced democrats of the world do not understand it.’ He called upon the major authorities in the Spanish state, including PM Mariano Rajoy, President of the Congress of Deputies Ana Pastor and President of the Senate Pio Garcia-Escudero to ‘end this terrible situation that has resulted in politicians being imprisoned’.

‘Take action in the matter and take political initiative. This won’t be solved in courts; it will be solved with politics’, he insisted. Meanwhile, deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer Paul Bekaert told Flemish television channel VRT that a European arrest warrant ‘has been issued against the president and four other ministers who are in Belgium’.

He said he expected that the Spanish judiciary would send an extradition request to Belgian federal prosecutors, adding that Puigdemont would appeal if a Belgian judge approved the request. The EU continues to support the Spanish government.

European Commission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt told journalists: ‘This is a matter entirely for the judicial authorities whose independence we respect fully.’ German Chancellor Merkel’s press chief Steffen Seibert told reporters:
‘As government spokesman, I see no reason at all to comment on decisions made by Spanish courts. We continue to support the clear position of the Spanish prime minister (Mariano Rajoy).’

Spanish army threatens to intervene in Catalonia as ministers are jailed: here.

Giraffe ancestor discovery in Spain

This video says about itself:

1 November 2017

Ancient Fossil Offers a New European Ancestor to Giraffes

A near-perfect fossil unearthed close to Madrid appears to be an ancient European ancestor of giraffes, representing a new species in the family and one that had two sets of bony bumps on its head rather than the single set of modern giraffes.

Older fossils in the family known as giraffids have been found before, but none in such pristine condition, said Ari Grossman, an associate professor of anatomy at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz., who was not involved in the finding but said the whole field would benefit from it.

“It’s something most paleontologists dream of and very rarely find,” Dr. Grossman said. “The discovery in and of itself was breathtaking.”

Fossils of three other animals of the same species named Decennatherium rex by the researchers were also found, according to a new study in the journal PLOS One. They were not as complete, but all are about nine million years old and provide evidence that ancestors in the giraffe family lived deep inside Europe much earlier than had been suspected. The fossils also suggest that there were physical differences between males and females.


Newly described giraffid species may help trace evolution of giraffe ancestors

Unusually complete fossil extends range, timespan of sivathere-samothere giraffids

November 1, 2017

A new giraffid species from Spain may extend the range and timespan of the ancestors of giraffes, according to a study published November 1, 2017 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by María Ríos from the National Museum of Natural History, Spain, and colleagues.

The giraffids, a family of ruminants that includes modern day giraffes and okapis, are thought to have existed as far back as the early Miocene epoch. While fossils from over 30 extinct species have been described, the lack of fossilised skulls has been a barrier to determining evolutionary relationships.

The authors of the present study describe a new large giraffid species, named Decennatherium rex sp. nov., from the Spanish province of Madrid. The fossilized skeleton is thought to date from the late Miocene and is unusually complete, providing the researchers with new anatomical and phylogenetic data.

The authors conducted a phylogenetic analysis to help elucidate evolutionary patterns. The results suggest that the Decennatherium genus may have been the most basal branch of a clade of now-extinct giraffids containing both sivatheres, the largest known giraffids, and samotheres, whose appearance was somewhere in between that of okapis and giraffes. All giraffids in this group feature four horn-like skull protuberances known as ossicones, two over the eyes and two larger ridged ossicones at the back of its head. The authors state that Decennatherium was likely the earliest-evolving example of this ossicone layout.

The inclusion of Decennatherium in the sivathere-samothere clade would extend its timespan back to the early late Miocene and its range as far as the Iberian peninsula, making the clade one of the most successful and long-lived of all the giraffids.

As Ríos summarizes: “New four horned extinct giraffid Decennatherium rex from Cerro de los Batallones (9my, Madrid) sheds light on the evolution of the giraffid family and the extinct giant Sivatherium.”

Catalan ministers flee to Belgium

This video says about itself:

Catalonia leaders face rebellion charges in Spain

30 October 2017

Spain’s chief prosecutor has filed charges against Catalonia’s leaders over their bid for secession, which Madrid says is illegal.

The region’s deposed President Carles Puigdemont and other cabinet members flew to Brussels, where the Belgian government said Puigdemont could seek asylum.

The charges against the Catalan officials include rebellion, sedition and embezzlement. If convicted, the leaders could face up to 30 years in jail.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reports from Barcelona.

By Alejandro López in Spain:

Catalan Premier Puigdemont flees to Belgium as Spain asserts direct rule over Catalonia

30 October 2017

Catalan Premier Carles Puigdemont sought asylum in Belgium on Monday as the Popular Party (PP) government in Madrid activated Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to seize control of the Catalan regional government. The move by Madrid was taken in response to the October 1 Catalan independence referendum.

The government in Madrid is now moving to dissolve the Catalan parliament, seize control of Catalan regional ministries and impose new elections on Catalonia for December 21. In the place of the deposed Catalan government, Spain’s deputy prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, is to become the unelected head of the region.

Spanish Interior Ministry sources confirmed press reports that Puigdemont had arrived in Belgium together with five Catalan regional ministers. These include Administration Minister Meritxell Borràs and Interior Minister Joaquin Forn of Puigdemont’s Democratic European Party of Catalonia (PDeCAT), and Health Minister Antoni Comín, Labor Minister Dolors Bassa and Agriculture Minister Meritxell Serret of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC).

Regional Vice-Premier Oriol Junqueras has for now remained in Catalonia, together with several other members of Puigdemont’s dissolved 12-member cabinet.

The Spanish Interior Ministry told La Vanguardia that Puigdemont’s flight did not “bother” them, since they were “today more interested” in ensuring that Puigdemont was no longer occupying his Catalan government offices.

Yesterday, in a move to secure control of the Catalan police, Madrid sacked the director general of the Catalan police, Pere Soler. Soon after, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido ordered the removal of the chief of the regional Mossos d’Esquadra police, Josep Lluís Trapero, who is considered too close to the separatists. Trapero is being prosecuted on sedition charges for having allowed the October 1 Catalan independence referendum to go ahead. He issued a statement saying he would comply with his removal.

Madrid is also purging hundreds of Catalan civil servants. Since Friday, the Catalan delegations in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Austria, Italy, Portugal and Denmark have been sacked. Hundreds more are expected to be fired this week.

The Popular Party government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is threatening all 200,000 Catalan civil servants with sacking if they oppose its attempt to seize control of the region. Rajoy has announced plans to discipline workers “without recourse to previous mechanisms regarding disciplinary measures.” …

Thousands … demonstrated in neighbouring Valencia against fascism and the attacks of October 9, when a peaceful demonstration in solidarity with the Catalans was assaulted by fascists.

The Spanish trade unions, while hostile to mobilizing the working class against the threat of a crackdown, are warning the political establishment of broad opposition among workers to Madrid’s threat of military intervention in Catalonia.

Marc Casanova of the IAC trade union said that “we will not recognize the violation of the Catalan institutions’ self-government. … our union will not recognize the legitimacy of these authorities.” The spokesperson of the teachers union USTEC, Ramon Font, said that many teachers would not comply if Madrid attempted to change the Catalan education system.

Resistance is also expected from the firemen, who have opposed Madrid’s police measures since the October 1 referendum, when many, dressed in their uniforms, intervened to protect the ballots. One fireman told AFP, “If [pro-independence protesters] block a road and they [the Spanish authorities] ask us to unblock it, maybe we will not respond.”

On the judicial front, Madrid is preparing repression against the Catalan separatist movement on a scale not seen since the 1939-1978 fascist dictatorship established by General Francisco Franco. The Attorney General’s Office is expected to charge Puigdemont, members of the Catalan government and the parliamentary committee that authorized the vote on independence, including parliamentary spokesperson Carme Forcadell, with rebellion, a crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Other charges will include disobedience, prevarication and embezzlement.

The office is charging “all of those who have participated in the events”—a term vague enough to allow the prosecution of thousands of people and anyone who opposes Article 155. The Attorney General’s Office also said it would charge not only those directly responsible, but also all “cooperators.”

Amid a looming threat of dictatorship in Spain, with the European Union backing Madrid, the only force that can offer a progressive solution to the crisis is the working class. The critical question is the mobilization of the working class in struggle, in Catalonia and the rest of Spain and across Europe, on the basis of a socialist and internationalist perspective against the threat of police and military repression by Madrid.

The defence of the fundamental democratic and social rights of working people requires an end to Madrid’s crackdown and the withdrawal of Spanish government forces from Catalonia. …

The December 21 elections in Catalonia ordered by Madrid are entirely anti-democratic, held under the threat of Spanish military intervention and with hundreds of Catalan politicians expected to be in jail.

Catalan, Spanish workers face grave dangers from Madrid’s repression: here.

Catalonia and Spain, a British view

This 27 October 2017 video from Barcelona is called Live from Pro Independence Demonstration Outside Parliament of Catalonia.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Rajoy fans the flames

Saturday 28th October 2017

SPAIN’S conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged all Spanish citizens to remain calm yesterday following the Catalan parliament’s vote for independence, but it is his government that has fuelled mass disquiet.

Whatever the percentage of Catalans committed to secession from Spain, that figure has certainly risen in the wake of brutality meted out by paramilitary police to prevent people voting in this month’s unapproved independence referendum.

Catalonia has a history of backing autonomy within Spain rather than seeking national independence.

However, the region’s autonomy was first abolished in the 1930s by the fascist forces that held all of Spain in chains until the mid-1970s and more recently watered down by Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP), which has its roots in fascist dictator Franco’s Falange party.

This doesn’t mean that Rajoy or his government is fascist today — although small numbers of their supporters are pictured on demonstrations giving stiff-arm salutes — but it emphasises the importance of historical grievances and imagery.

Spanish anti-Catalan independence demonstrators do fascist salute

This recent photo shows Spanish anti-Catalan independence demonstrators do fascist salutes.

Catalans, like every other nationality, have a right to self-determination and an obligation to express that right in a positive way.

If restrictions are placed by central government on a people’s ability to express their language, culture and identity, demands will grow for that people to strike out on their own.

Independence movements often arise also out of complaints that minority nationalities and regions are exploited or starved of investment by central government, but that is not the case in Spain.

Catalonia is the richest region, with a quarter of Spain’s exports and a fifth of its national income, and one complaint voiced loudly by Catalan nationalists, though recently muted, was that they have to subsidise poorer areas of Spain.

That reality doesn’t fit well with the image of a downtrodden and exploited national minority.

But that is not to downplay the deep-held grievances that Catalans express about Madrid’s dilution of autonomous rights enjoyed previously during Spain’s post-fascist existence.

One problem is the constitutional clause that rules out the possibility of any part of Spain separating itself from the country — not because splintering Spanish unity is advisable but because the PP tends to refuse to discuss further devolution and relies on the constitution to authorise its stance.

The current crisis has not arisen in a vacuum. It could have been foreseen.

The Catalan government organised a previous independence referendum three years ago, which was boycotted by its opponents but showed a clear majority in favour of those voting.

Rather than initiate bilateral discussions, Rajoy ran to the constitutional court to quash the vote.

That remains the PP stance now, backed by the equally neoliberal [PSOE] Socialist Party and Citizens party but opposed by left parties united in the Podemos Unidos (United We Can) coalition.

The Senate has authorised the government to impose Madrid’s authority, but it is impossible to foretell how this could be done and what resistance there might be.

Certainly the worst scenario would be that floated by Attorney General Jose Manuel Maza whose suggestion of laying sedition charges against as yet undetermined numbers of Catalan leaders would herald disaster.

Neither the Catalan government of Carles Puigdemont nor Rajoy’s counterpart has as its priority the interests of working people in Catalonia or the rest of Spain.

The organised labour movement and left parties should mobilise a unified working-class alternative to the dead-end alternatives of these mutually reinforcing bourgeois politicians to prevent further discord and probably more serious violence.

Catalonia independence: Grassroots movement vows to oppose direct rule from Madrid. ‘Welcome to the first edition of la Festa Catalana under the auspices of the new Catalan republic’: here.

Spanish army threatens to intervene in Catalonia as ministers are jailed: here.

Dutch Catalan woman on Rajoy’s crackdown

Sylvia Lorente

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Her father was Catalan, her mother Dutch. She was born in 1976, one year after the death of dictator Franco. “I was conceived during the celebration of his death”, Sylvia Lorente laughs.

She studied business and moved to the Netherlands, to her mother’s country, in 2000 because of work. After stays in Barcelona and Berlin she is back here. Her mother and sister still live in Catalonia. “Even though yesterday on the phone, they joked they would come to live with me if things would become too exciting.”

Although: things are not really funny. “There is an energy of fear in the streets of Catalonia,” says Lorente. “People wonder if tomorrow military tanks will drive through the streets.”

Dictatorial moves

Sylvia Lorente’s father was governor in the Catalan city of Tarragona in the late 1970s. He actively managed to get self-government for Catalonia in practice. He would be shocked by the current situation, Lorente thinks.

“He was a moderate man, a man of dialogue. He would not have been for independence, but he would have been scared of the Madrid hard line. He had experienced Franco’s dictatorship and what’s happening now surely looks like dictatorship. There are people in prison for free speech.”

Lorente finds it horrible that the situation has escalated. “I’m not for independence, but I think Catalonia should become a federal state, and we were so between 2006 and 2010. In 2010 Madrid reversed it. Then the European Union should have mediated. Why would federal states work in Germany, but not in Spain?”

… “They [the Catalan regional government] should never have proclaimed independence, but under pressure from the people they could not do otherwise.”

And Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy? “Until recently, Rajoy was politically weak. His popularity in the rest of Spain has grown tremendously in recent weeks, now he is seen as a strong leader.” According to the Catalan woman, that suits him, because Rajoy is also involved in a corruption affair.

Somber future

As a business expert, Lorente sees the future as gloomy. “Madrid realizes that it is economically dependent on strong Catalonia. Over the next ten years, Madrid will do all it can to overcome this dependency: companies moving away from Catalonia, stimulation of tourism elsewhere. And that’s bad news for my country.”

She only sees one solution, though she hardly thinks it will happen. “The European Union must act as a referee. It’s too easy to say, it’s a Spanish problem, just let them solve it. If a man abuses his wife in a marriage, then will you intervene or not?”