Allies press Catalan leader to declare full independence, ignore Madrid deadlines

Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont signs a document about the independence of Catalonia at the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona on October 10, 2017. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 13 October 2017
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Allies press Catalan leader to declare full independence, ignore Madrid deadlines

MADRID: Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont came under pressure from one of his key allies on Friday to declare full independence and ignore a threat of direct rule from the Spanish government.
Puigdemont made a symbolic declaration of independence on Tuesday night, only to suspend it seconds later and called for negotiations with Madrid.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has given him until Monday to clarify his position — and then until Thursday to change his mind if he insists on a split — threatening to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy if he chooses independence.
But far-left Catalan political group CUP called on Puigdemont to make an unequivocal declaration of independence in defiance of the deadlines.
“If (the central Madrid government) wants to continue to threaten and gag us, they should do it to the Republic that has already been claimed,” the party said.
The CUP only holds 10 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament. But Puigdemont’s minority government relies on its support to push through legislation and cannot win a majority vote in the regional parliament with its backing.
The wealthy region’s intention to break away after a referendum has plunged Spain into its worst political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981.
Sources close to the Catalan government said Puigdemont and his team were working on an answer to Rajoy though they declined to say what line he might take.
The CUP statement echoes the position expressed late on Thursday by influential pro-independence civic group Asamblea Nacional Catalana which said: “Given the negative position of Spain toward dialogue, we ask the regional parliament to raise the suspension (on the declaration of independence).”
But the leader of Puigdemont’s party, Artur Mas, who served as the region’s president until 2016 and is still believed to influence key decisions, said on Friday declaring independence was not the only way forward.
“If a state proclaims itself independent and cannot act as such, it’s an independence that is merely aesthetic,” he told Catalan television TV3.
“The external factor must be taken into account in the decisions that will be made from now on,” he said.
The European Union, the United States and most other world powers have made it clear they wanted Catalonia to remain within Spain.
“If we allow Catalonia — and it is none of our business — to separate, others will do the same. I do not want that,” Jean Claude Juncker said in a speech at Luxembourg University.


Too good to be true? Slum graffiti warns Kenyans about trafficking risks

Kenya is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children who are trafficked into forced labor and sexual slavery. (AFP)
Updated 17 min 57 sec ago
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Too good to be true? Slum graffiti warns Kenyans about trafficking risks

  • In Nairobi's sprawling slums, which house two-thirds of the city's 4 million people, trafficked children work in brothels, bars and the drug trade
  • Traffickers just pose as recruiters and lure people into forced prostitution or domestic work with false promises of jobs

NAIROBI: Brutal images of a woman cowering as a man beats her and of a terrified girl in chains sprayed on the walls of Kenya’s Mathare slum bring a hidden crime into view — human trafficking.
The graffiti scenes in the capital’s second largest slum are part of a series of pictures, paintings and poems curated by the charity HAART Kenya to get people talking about modern slavery.
“Trafficking is all around us but people just don’t see it,” said Winnie Mutevu, a project officer with the charity, which supports survivors, many of whom were kept under lock and key and sexually and physically abused.
“A simple picture or graffiti showing one of the many forms of slavery can be a powerful way to catch people’s attention.”
Kenya is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children who are trafficked into forced labor and sexual slavery, according to the US State Department.
Children — mostly adolescent girls — are often trafficked from Kenya’s impoverished villages to towns and cities for domestic labor, sex work, street-vending and begging due to poverty and lack of access to secondary education.
Human trafficking is particularly rife in poverty-stricken slums, said Kissmart Bakra, a musician from Mathare and an anti-trafficking ambassador for HAART Kenya.
“When you’re poor and unemployed, it’s easy to be tempted by someone selling you a dream job,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from a corrugated iron shed in Mathare. “But if the job seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”
In 2015, the charity enlisted the help of painters, street artists and musicians like Bakra to create representations of human trafficking, culminating in an annual exhibition.

FALSE PROMISES
High fertility rates, coupled with rural poverty and land scarcity, drive more than 250,000 Kenyans into cities each year, according to the World Bank, which predicts that the majority of Kenyans will live in urban areas by 2033.
In Nairobi’s sprawling slums, which house two-thirds of the city’s 4 million people, trafficked children work in brothels, bars and the drug trade, sometimes simply in exchange for food, according to charities.
Many slum dwellers who have migrated to Kenya — East Africa’s largest economy — from neighboring Uganda and Tanzania looking for jobs are “ideal prey” for traffickers, Bakra said.
“Their families often don’t know where they are so no one checks in or follows up on them,” he said.
HAART Kenya gives free trainings to slum residents to teach them about the risk of trafficking as many are often “completely unaware of their rights” and are easily duped by recruiters, particularly if they are people that they know and trust.
“Traffickers just pose as recruiters and lure people into forced prostitution or domestic work with false promises of jobs,” Mutevu said.
“Having never heard of trafficking, most victims do not even realize they are being exploited,” she said, adding that the art project had also made the police and government officials more aware of the problem.
Kenya must also better equip law enforcement to “outsmart traffickers,” said Patricia Nduta Gituanja, chief immigration officer at Kenya’s interior ministry.
“Traffickers are getting better at covering up their tracks, for example, by using technology,” she said at a workshop on trafficking run by the German state development agency GIZ and the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Nairobi.
Modern technology, from messaging apps to cryptocurrencies, is fueling the modern-day slave trade by enabling traffickers to ensnare more victims, expand their illicit empires, and outfox law enforcement, experts say.