More Than 150 Spanish Companies Attend FIHAV 2017

Havana, Nov 1 (Prensa Latina) More than 150 Spanish companies are exhibiting their products and services at the 35th Havana International Fair, FIHAV 2017, which takes place since Monday at ExpoCuba fairgrounds, in this capital, a source from that European country reported today.

The economic advisor at the Spanish embassy in Cuba, Federico Ferrer, told Prensa Latina that the ties between the two nations are very strong, in which some 400 companies of that Iberian nation are settled in this island.

He stressed that Spain has five of 25 pavilions of ExpoCuba -the largest Cuban exhibition site-, which is the most represented country, with a 20 percent.

According to the official, bilateral trade in 2016 exceeded 900 million Euros, and a fifth of that figure corresponded to Cuban exports to Spain, consisting of tobacco, rum, nickel and other metal products and traditional goods.

With regard to trade from Spain to Cuba, which favors the European country, it supplies food, machinery, special tools, water treatment machines, supply for hotels, among others.

Cuba is a very important country for Spain and our businessmen are comfortable on this island, where they are present in many sectors, Ferrer said.

Spain is Cuba's fourth commercial partner, after Venezuela, China and Russia.

The Day of Spain at FIHAV 2017 is celebrated today, occasion in which the pavilions of that nation will be opened, on occasion of the official visit to Cuba by Secretary of State for Commerce of that nation, Maria Luisa Poncela Garcia, to participate in the event.

About 3,400 exhibitors from more than 70 countries are participating in the fair, no less than 30 representatives from Chambers of Commerce and other organizations promoting this activity, as well as 300 Cuban companies.

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Greatest Civil Rights Aggression Since Francisco Franco's Dictatorship: Spokesman

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is going to fire Catalan regional government and restrict its parliamentary freedoms.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont will lose all powers and income once the Senate approves Article 155, according to Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría.

RELATED: Hundreds of Thousands Rally for Independence as Catalan Leader Defies Madrid

The triggering of Article 155 will result in Spain imposing direct central government rule on Catalonia. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who enacted the unprecedented move, announced plans to fire the region's government and restrict its parliamentary freedoms.

Following the Senate's approval – which is expected to take place on Friday – Madrid will install a representative to govern the region, de Santamaria said during a radio interview.

Catalonia's regional parliament will meet on Thursday to decide on its response. Puigdemont asked the parliament to vote on a suitable response to the central Spanish government's plan.

Lluis Corominas, the Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) spokesman in the regional parliament, accused Spain of acting "like a dictatorship" before referencing Article 155 as "an act of institutional violence without precedent.”

“In this parliament we won't be able to debate or vote any initiative without Madrid's permission," the lawmaker said. “That is not democracy.”

Corominas said Thursday's talk also has the support of far-left allies, Popular Unity Candidacy, CUP, party, which called for "mass civil disobedience" in response to Spain.

The party described Rajoy's move as "the greatest aggression against the civil, individual and collective rights of the Catalan people" since the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco.

RELATED: Nearly 850 Injured in Catalonia Independence Referendum

According to a BBC report which cited a senior Catalan official, the regional authorities will ignore any mandate issued by Madrid to reclaim Catalonia. And the Spanish government will reject any possibility of dialogue while Catalonia considers independence.

Catalan foreign affairs spokesman, Raul Romeva, said that the European Union will lose credibility if it allows Madrid to impose direct rule on Catalonia.

“How can the European Union live with that situation if it appears?” Romeva told BBC radio. “How can they be credible if they allow this to happen? Because what I can tell you is that the people and the institutions in Catalonia would not let this ... happen.”

He said only the Catalan people have the right to change the regional institutions and that the central government was acting against the will of the people.

The Catalan government reported that of the 43 percent of voters who took part in the Oct. 1 referendum, approximately 90 percent were in favor of independence.

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Spanish Official Threatens Execution for Leader Who Declares Catalan Independence

The comment, undoubtedly directed at Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, was received with indignation.

If Catalan declares independence, Spain will strike with an iron fist, Deputy Secretary of Communication Pablo Casado has warned, reminding Catalonia about the fate of its last leader who declared independence 83 years ago.

RELATED: Spanish Govt Apologizes for Violence but Blames Referendum

"Hopefully tomorrow nothing is declared because the one who declares it may end up like Companys," Casado said, referring to Lluys Comanys, the president of Catalonia who declared a republic in 1934, but was later exiled, handed over to Spain by the Nazis and shot in 1940 by the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

The comment, undoubtedly directed at Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, was received with indignation. Pablo Iglesias, leader of the leftist Podemos party, responded saying Casado is either “ignorant” or an “irresponsible provocateur.”

Puigdemont announced plans to proceed with secession from Spain at a scheduled meeting of the Catalan parliament Tuesday evening, in accordance with the over 90 percent of Catalans who voted for independence in an Oct 1 referendum marred by Spanish police repression.

"Credibility and dignity suggest making the declaration of independence tomorrow," director of the civil group, National Catalonia Assembly Jordi Sanchez, said.

The Popular Unity Candidacy, a pro-independence party, denounced an attack on its headquarters carried out in the early morning after a demonstration held in Barcelona by unionist and fascist forces. The attackers tried to burn the shutter at the entrance of the compound, in addition to filling the lock with silicon and painting words like "Terrorists," and "Scum" on the outside.

Madrid maintains its resolve, warning that the government will not stand for a declaration and will take all necessary measures to prevent it.

"If they declare independence, there will be decisions made to restore law and democracy," warned Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria in an interview, urging Catalan politicians who “still respect democracy and freedom” to abstain from the political session.

RELATED: Catalonia: Anti-Independence Protesters Give Fascist Salute

“Spain will not be divided and the national unity will be preserved. We will do everything that legislation allows us to ensure this," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told Die Welt, "We will prevent this independence from taking place."

Meanwhile, France has signaled that it will not recognize an independent Catalonia, warning that the move will mean an automatic expulsion from the European Union.

Thousands protested outside municipalities across Spain Saturday against the government’s repressive response. The protesters dressed in white calling for a peaceful dialogue between Catalonia and Madrid, saying Spain is better than its political leaders.

Results from the independence vote show that, despite political repression, including confiscating millions of blank ballots and 100 ballot boxes and police violence against voters, 2.3 million citizens, or 43 percent of the Catalan population, cast their ballots. Of them, 90.18 percent favored a breakaway from Spain.

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Why isn't NATO bombing Madrid for 78 days? - fmr British diplomat

It is a little bit late for the EU to remember international law on its Western border when it was ignoring it on its Eastern border, Marko Gasic, an international affairs commentator, told RT.

Catalonia's leader has vowed to declare the region's independence from Spain in the coming days.

Carles Puigdemont, the breakaway region’s president, said he does not plan to delay the declaration of independence for much longer and is ready to “act at the end of this week or the beginning of next,” he said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday.

Spanish authorities continue to say they see the vote on Sunday as illegal and unconstitutional, while the EU gave its backing to the Spanish prime minister to resolve the crisis.

 
A Catalan regional police officer looks on as people who showed up to support the Spanish national police officers staying in town, hold up Spanish flags as police vehicles depart in Pineda de Mar, north of Barcelona, Spain, October 3, 2017. © Albert Gea

The move has been criticized by the president of Serbia, who has accused the EU of double standards regarding Kosovo.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic did not mince his words when he voiced a rather obvious question: "How did you proclaim the secession of Kosovo to be legal, even without a referendum, and how did 22 European Union countries legalize this secession, while destroying European law and the foundations of European law, on which the European policy and EU policy are based?"

Marko Gasic, an international affairs commentator, said Kosovo's vote was recognized because it's not part of the union.

"Some say the EU has double standards on this matter. I would say that they just have very low standards on this matter, in terms of international law and their consistency in obeying it. Because the EU opposes Catalan secession in Spain and it supports Kosovo secession in Serbia," Gasic told RT.

He added, "this is clearly a schizophrenic position the EU has."

Gasic provided some historical insight into the EU's past stance on Kosovo secession.

"While opposing the referendum in Spain, it was insisting and organizing referenda in Yugoslavia," he reminded. "In Yugoslavia they were saying that it didn’t matter what the constitution said; in Spain it is saying the constitution is all important. In Yugoslavia they said you have two weeks to decide whether you want independence for parts of Yugoslavia and we will decide within a week for you - this was in 1992."

Gasic expressed doubt that the EU has learned any lessons from its past experience in Yugoslavia since "it never admitted any mistakes" there

"I believe the EU would behave in exactly the same way again because [Kosovo] is not an area that belongs to the club, the rich man’s club, as Spain does," he added.

 
A person holds up a banner during a protest in Barcelona, Spain October 3, 2017. © Yves Herman

In the case of Yugoslavia and Kosovo, the EU is "deciding the fate of countries outside the European Union," because although it craves "stability in EU countries," it has no problem when it comes to "instability outside of the EU... because that gives the EU an excuse to project itself into those areas," Gasic argued.

The political analyst went on to note that "if the EU wants to be consistent with international law, it should oppose secession in Spain, or in Serbia, or anywhere else in line with the terms of Helsinki Final Act and the UN Charter. Self-determination should be within nation states or rather within states, not without states."

"The EU behaves selectively according to where its power interests lie. It is supporting Spain not because Spain is right, I believe Spain is, it is supporting Spain because it is convenient. And it was opposing Yugoslavia and opposing Serbia now because that is an opportunity for its projected power over there."

"I think all Serbian see the comparison between Catalonia and Kosovo and Metohija. That is something that the Catalans themselves see. The Catalan government expects the EU to support its bid for independence because it is thinking 'if a drug-running, organ-harvesting criminal cabal in Kosovo can be allowed to separate from Serbia, then why shouldn’t we civilized Catalans have the same pleasure at the expense of Spain?"

You could hardly blame the Catalans for seizing the opened Pandora box the EU is responsible for. It is a little bit late for the EU to remember international law now on its Western border when it was ignoring it on its Eastern border," Gasic told RT.

'Why isn't NATO bombing Madrid for 78 days?'

Former British diplomat William Mallinson told RT that a major part of the problem involving the Catalan crisis is "the enormous size of the European Union and globalization" which brings about the "slow destruction of the nation state itself.”

This undermining of the nation state causes the "smaller parts getting irritated."

Mallinson then drew parallels between what is now happening in Spain to past events when NATO opened a relentless offensive on Yugoslavia and the capital Belgrade over the question of Kosovo independence.

"Why isn’t NATO bombing Madrid for 78 days, because the situation is similar in very many ways."

“In fact, Kosovo is even more a part of Serbia than Catalonia [is to Spain.] Let’s remember in the Middle Ages joined when Ferdinand and Isabella joined all those bits of Spain together. Let’s remember that Spain is a united country but it is a conglomerate. We also must remember this dangerous knock-on effect. This is going to feed Basque anger more and more. And of course, other parts of Europe, possibly even the Walloons in Belgium, not to mention Scotland,” he continued.

Mallinson suggested a possible solution to the ongoing crisis is to "throw out the hotheads and get Mr. Rajoy to talk to the leaders of Catalonia to try to come to some kind of temporary compromise while everyone gets together and try to put a stop to these deleterious effects of globalization and the destruction of the nation state."

"Keep the interfering people out,” he emphasized.  

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Over 40,000 Catalans Protest Detentions, Demand Independence

Adria Alsina, an organizer of the demonstrations, said protesters intend to keep up the pressure until all prisoners are released.

Over 40,000 Catalans have heeded the call by civilian groups to protest the arrest of 14 activists, including high-ranking regional officials. They are gathered in front of a regional court to show their disapproval of the detainments and reiterate their quest for independence from Spain.

RELATED: Spanish Govt. Raids Catalan Ministries, Arrests 12 Officials

The detainments were authorized by Madrid in an effort to deter the Oct. 1 referendum vote to determine if the autonomous province of Catalonia will separate from Spain and become its own sovereign nation.

Adria Alsina, a leader of the demonstrations, said protesters intend to keep up the pressure until all prisoners are released.

Although no major incidents are being reported, three Spanish Civil Guard vehicles, the same kind that carried out several of the arrests of sovereignty activists, have been damaged amid demonstrations.

Altercations broke out in Barcelona and other Catalan cities on the eve of the arrests.

In related developments, Catalonia has invested some US$21 million to beef up its regional tax agency, according to Reuters. This is part and parcel of the autonomous region's bid for independence.

“In a future transition, it would not be acceptable for them (Madrid) to keep our taxes, because they are ours and they keep a lot," Catalan Treasury Secretary Josep Lluis Salvado said.

The tax agency increase, which includes an expansion of personnel by 75 percent, signals one of Catalonia's most palpable institutional investments for a people on the brink of attaining their independence.

Carlos Puigdemont, Catalonia's pro-independence president, has said the autonomous region's independence referendum is a moment for his compatriots to “express our will as a people, remembering the past, where we come from, but also to project ourselves into the future.”

RELATED: Barcelona Hosts Mass Rally for Catalan Independence

He added that the push to become a sovereign nation is “a future that we have in our hands and that we will democratically decide really soon."

Catalonia’s regional government has vowed to declare independence from Spain within 48 hours if the “yes” vote wins.

Countering Catalonia's bold step is Spain's conservative government headed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who insists that actions taken by the autonomous community are in direct violation of the nation's constitution. He has vowed that “there will not be a referendum.”

Located in the northeast of the country, Catalonia is recognized as one of Spain's most prosperous regions, not only economically but culturally. Residents have also been able to maintain their national language, Catalan. Apart from these aspects, which have historically fed into the independence movement, residents of Barcelona say they pay exorbitant taxes to Madrid and don't receive their worth back in services.

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Catalonia sets independence referendum date, Spain seeks to press criminal charges

The Catalan parliament has greenlit a referendum on the region's secession from Spain, to be held on October 1. It followed a fierce, hours-long debate on Wednesday. Madrid denounced the move, threatening to bring criminal charges against the region’s authorities.

 
© Albert Gea

The so-called “transition bill,” designed to serve as the constitution of a sovereign Catalan state during the transition period, was championed by the pro-independence ruling coalition that submitted the motion late August. The legislation envisions the legal framework that will pave the way for a constituent assembly, tasked with laying groundwork for a brand-new Catalan Republic.

The idea, however, did not find favor with many of the local deputies, who were staunch opponents of the legislation during a gruelling 11-hour session preceding its eventual approval by 72 MPs loyal to the region's separatist government, as 52 opposition deputies of the 135-member legislature left the room in defiance.

Predictably, the outcome of the vote did not sit well with the federal Spanish government. Madrid has vowed to employ all legal means at their disposal to stop the plebiscite from going ahead, and to punish lawmakers for neglecting earlier court rulings proscribing such legislation.

READ MORE: Catalonia sets date for landmark vote on independence from Spain

 
People react at an impromptu memorial a day after a van crashed into pedestrians at Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain August 18, 2017 © Susana Vera

Spain’s deputy prime minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, announced that the government is contesting the newly adopted legislation in the country’s constitutional court, arguing for it to be declared null and void.

“What is happening in the Catalan parliament is embarrassing, it’s shameful,” de Santamaria told journalists on Wednesday, reacting to the vote, as cited by Reuters.

On Thursday, Spain’s state Prosecutor-General Jose Manuel Maza announced his office will pursue criminal charges against members of the Catalan government and the parliament for passing the law. Maza noted the charges will be presented shortly to the Catalan High Court of Justice.

Maza told reporters he had requested the security forces to investigate any move to prepare or hold the referendum.

After reading out prepared notes, the prosecutor-general said they will “continue to act with firmness, proportionality, celerity and full subjection to legality to guarantee our constitutional framework,” according to La Vanguardia.

While the vote was a success for the Catalan elite, recent polls indicate that support for the independence cause among the local public is wearing thin.

According to a June poll, prepared by The Center for Opinion Studies, only 41.1 percent of Catalans favor independence from Spain, a decrease of over 3 percentage points compared with an earlier poll conducted in March. At the same time, the number of those who do not want to part ways with Spain reached 49.4 percent, slightly higher than in March.

Separatist sentiment in Catalonia traditionally runs high, and from time to time becomes the driving force behind massive pro-independence rallies attended by tens of thousands of people. In 2014, the region staged an informal vote on independence, during which some 80 percent voted to split from Spain. However, the vote had a poor turnout: only about a third of the region’s voters came to the polls.

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Cuba's Raul Castro meets with Spanish FM in Havana

Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis met on Wednesday with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana during an official visit to the island.

Cuba's state daily Granma reported Castro and Dastis had discussed bilateral relations saying both sides were satisfied with developing relations which they both hoped would continue to strengthen.

Dastis is seeking to strengthen ties after the 2016 signing of the first Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between Cuba and the European Union.

Spain is the country with the most joint ventures on the island and is Cuba's first trading partner in Europe. Globally it is third after China and Venezuela, respectively.

Also at the meeting were the Spanish ambassador to Cuba, Juan Jose Buitrago de Benito as well as Dastis' Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez.

Wednesday's meeting came has Hurricane Irma was thrashing its way through the northern Caribbean towards Cuba and Florida where it is expected to make landfall later this week.

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Cuban President Raul Castro Sends Message of Condolences to the King of Spain and Relatives of Victims of the Terrorist Attacks in Barcelona

The Cuban Embassy in Spain reported that president Raul Castro sent a message of condolences to King Philippe VI as well as to the relatives of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Barcelona. Such attacks left a total of 13 deaths and dozens of wounded citizens, with five Cubans among them.

Cuban ambassador in Madrid, Eugenio Martinez, also expressed his condolences before the authorities of the country.

The Embassy and its Consulate in Barcelona have been in touch with the relatives of the four Cuban injured in the terrorist attacks. A fifth Cuban was partially wounded in the Cambrils event and was immediately discharged, according to the website Cubadebate.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz // CubaSi Translation Staff

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