Catalonia again calls for Scottish-style independence referendum

Demonstrators, many waving Spanish and Catalan flags, rallied in Barcelona on Sunday to oppose a push by the regional government of Catalonia to break away from the rest of Spain. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2017

Catalonia again calls for Scottish-style independence referendum

MADRID: Catalonia’s separatist government has again urged Spain’s central government to let it hold a legal referendum on independence like the one Scotland staged in 2014 with London’s approval.
“The government of Britain and Scotland agreed on a referendum,” the president of the regional Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, and his vice president, Oriol Junqueras, wrote in a letter published in daily newspaper El Pais.
“And everything indicates that Scotland and Britain will once again agree on the celebration of a new referendum on independence.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday demanded a new independence referendum by early 2019, once the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union are clearer.
She is widely expected to get the Scottish parliament’s support for her quest in a vote on Wednesday but still needs the agreement of the British government to proceed.
In Scotland’s 2014 plebiscite, 55 percent backed staying in the UK.
“The scenario of an agreed referendum is what we desire in Catalonia,” the Catalan leaders wrote in their letter.
“We would like to recall that we have proposed it on various occasions. Today, despite the bad omens and the outright rejection of the Spanish government, we once again insist on it.”
The government of Catalonia, a wealthy region in northeastern Spain that has its own distinct language and is home to 7.5 million people, has since 2010 sought to hold an independence referendum.
But Spain’s conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has repeatedly ruled out giving the region a vote on independence, saying it would be illegal and against the constitution — a stance supported by the judiciary.
The Catalan government has vowed to hold an independence referendum by September — with or without the approval of the central government.
“We will do the unspeakable so that the citizens of Catalonia can vote in 2017 in an auto determination referendum,” Puigdemont and Junqueras wrote.
Demands for autonomy have been fueled by Spain’s economic downturn, leading many to resent sending tax money to Madrid to prop up poorer regions.
Recent attempts by Madrid to interfere with Catalan education have further stoked passions as did a 2010 ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court that struck down part of a 2006 autonomy statute that recognized Catalonia as a “nation” within Spain.
Opinion polls show Catalans are evenly divided on independence, although the vast majority back a referendum.


Bolsonaro takes on Norway for whaling, but bungles it

Updated 13 min 55 sec ago

Bolsonaro takes on Norway for whaling, but bungles it

  • Bolsonaro took to Twitter to criticize the Scandinavian country for its whaling practice and post spectacular — albeit misleading — images
  • Bolsonaro has been taking digs at Norway since the country announced that it was blocking €30 million of subsidies to Brazil, accusing it of turning its back on the fight against deforestation

OSLO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday responded to Norway’s decision to halt its forest protection subsidies, taking to Twitter to criticize the Scandinavian country for its whaling practice and post spectacular — albeit misleading — images.
“Look at the killing of whales sponsored by Norway,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.
The post includes a video and photographs of a spectacular whale hunt, where mammals in the shallow waters of a bay are slaughtered by people wading on shore, armed with hooked knives. The whales’ blood turns the waters red.
However, the images, reportedly taken on May 29 in Norway, illustrate a “grind,” a type of pilot whale hunt practiced exclusively in the Faroe Islands — a Danish territory in the North Atlantic.
Norway is one of the few countries in the world that authorizes commercial whaling, but the whales are hunted individually, at sea from a ship, and with grenade-mounted harpoons.
“We can confirm that the video/the photos are not from Norway,” the Norwegian fisheries ministry told AFP in an email.
“Our whale hunt takes place from ships at sea,” he said, arguing that the Norwegian practice was “sustainable.”
Bolsonaro was ridiculed on social media for the mix-up.
“Haha what a stupid president Brazil has! This is NOT from Norway! We don’t kill whales like that. Do your homework to get respected! ‘Fake news’ as Trump would have said,” wrote one Twitter user.
“False information is a crime Mr.President,” wrote another.
Bolsonaro has been taking digs at Norway since the country announced last week that it, like Germany, was blocking 30 million euros ($33 million) of subsidies to Brazil, accusing it of turning its back on the fight against deforestation.
Norway has been the single largest donor to the Amazon Fund for forest protection, giving almost 830 million euros since its creation 11 years ago.
Oslo said Brazil, under Bolsonaro’s leadership, “no longer wishes to stop deforestation” and said it unilaterally “broke the agreement” it had on the Amazon Fund.
Bolsonaro reacted immediately and angrily.
“Norway, isn’t that the country that kills whales up there, at the North Pole? And that produces oil too? That is not at all a role model to us. Let them keep their money and let them help Angela Merkel reforest Germany,” he said.