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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Bulls in Cuba

Cuba was the first country in Latin America where bullfights took place.

Last weekend, in Havana, you could almost hear the snorts of the fevered animal and the olé shouted by hundreds of fans, always rewarded with some challenging pass of the bullfighter.

The exhibition “Cuba brava. El toreo en la memoria historica de Cuba”, hosted by the House of Mexico, was unveiled in Havana. Paintings, pictures, posters, customs, documents and other related articles recalled the long and unknown bullfighting tradition in Cuba.

It is easy to realize that Spanish conquerors were the ones who introduced here and other Latin American countries the bullfight shows. Such shows are being criticized due to the cruelty with which these animals are treated.

According to Spanish Placido Gonzalez Hermoso, the first bullfight in Cuba took place in 1514 and Friar Bartolome de las Casas witnessed the event in his “Historia General de Indias.”

The first bullring in Cuba was built in 1769.

Twenty seven years later, the inhabitants of the village witnessed the second bullring built in Monte and Egido Streets. Bulls and bullfighters were brought from the metropolis.

Among the first documented bullfight festivities, the one held in 1569 to honor Saint Christopher is well-remembered. To honor the crowning of Carlos III, it was held a resounding one in 1759.

To honor this king, the bullring “Carlos III” or “La Infanta” was opened in 1885. Such bullfights were even broadcasted by the television for ten years, but it could not capture the audience’s attention, though.

However, this bullfights environment did not quit easily and they won the government’s approval to allow bullfighting in Havana on the exceptional condition of not killing any animal. The aforementioned bullfight took place at the Tropical Stadium before 13,000 fans in April 27th, May 4th, and May 11st 1941.

Not even Mazantin the Bullfighter

You can listen to some of our grandparents the phrase “This cannot be done by even Mazantin the bullfighter.” And some of our young people use the same expression.

manzantini

Perhaps, they do not know that Mazantin the bullfighter was the very famous Luis Mazzantini y Eguia, a Basque born in 1856.

He was unique due to his elegant and refined art of behaving inside and outside the bullring. He liked opera, social talks, and hanging out with the Spanish high society, where he returned after a long stay in Italy.

He starred a total of 16 bullfights in Cuba. And the bullring located in Belascoin Street, between Virtudes and Concordia Streets was the place where he boasted great skills.

Mazzantini left his mark in the island’s fashion and customs as well as one cigarettes’ brand.

Four decades later, the bullfighter vanished from the daily life of Havana.

In 1899 and after the Maine’s wrecking, the U.S. interventionist forces prohibited bullfights by military order. If any failed to comply with that order, a 500 Cuban pesos fine was executed.

The art of bullfighting in Cuba left like Mazzantini after four centuries. It happened once but those times will never come back again. It may be seen only in exhibitions like the one taking place in Havana.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz / CubaSi Translation Staff

Gibara Film Festival to Have Spain as Guest Country

Gibara International Film Festival will be held in the Cuban eastern province of Holguín from April 16 to 22.

The president of the event, Jorge Perugorría, defined the event as heiress of the festival created by Cuban filmmaker Humberto Solás in that eastern city of the province of Holguin, and, in that sense, promotes the interaction between the arts.

Only the name of the festival was changed to extend the spectrum of the admitted works, explained the actor, director and producer in a press conference.

Theatrical works, dance, books, photo and painting exhibitions as well as music concerts will alternate with the film program with productions from Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Argentina, Bolivia, Italy, Nicaragua and Brazil, among other countries.

The competing categories are fiction feature film, fiction short film, documentary feature film, documentary short film and cinema under construction.

This last section includes from unpublished scripts to works in the post-production period, in both genres and films.

Prestigious figures of the audiovisual and the arts of Cuba and the world will integrate the jury of each category, and honorary Lucia Awards will be granted to Adela Legrá and Eslinda Núñez, the two living actresses of the three who starred in the film of the same name, considered a classic of Cuban cinema.

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Spain's Podemos Snubs Argentina's Macri over Rights Abuses

Spanish lawmakers criticized the visit of Argentine President Mauricio Macri and the human right violations of his government.

Left parties in the Spanish Congress criticized Wednesday the presence of Argentine President Mauricio Macri, with one lawmaker greeting him with a shirt demanding the release of Milagro Sala, an Indigenous activist and lawmaker who was dubbed the first "political prisoner" of Macri's administration when she was arrested after a protest in January 2016.

RELATED: Macri Rejects UN's Call to Release Political Prisoner Sala

Macri also received a letter from the left-wing party Podemos party requesting the release of the activist, who has been in jail for more than a year. After his address to Congress, none of the Podemos lawmakers applauded.

In a second rejection to Macri’s visit, the same party announced its members will not participate in the state dinner that the Spanish king will offer on Wednesday in honor of the Argentine president, his wife Juliana Awada and his team. All parties in Congress are often invited for celebrations as part of official visits by presidents or heads of state.

Upon his arrival, President Macri also shook the hand of lawmaker Irene Montero, a spokesperson for Podemos, who wore a white t-shirt with a drawing of Sala and in black letters the phrase "Free Milagro."

Irene Moreno received Macri in the Spanish Congress with a t-shirt that asks "Freedom for Milagro Sala."

Montero called Macri "an offshore agent," referring to his use of tax havens revealed through the Panama Papers leak last year that identified Macri as one of a dozen global power players with assets in offshore companies.

"It’s not necessary to do those acts of honoring a president of the type of Macri," said Montero during a press conference Tuesday. She also accused him of being "responsible for human rights violations".

RELATED: Milagro Sala Trial: ‘I Apologize for Being Black and an Indian'

Meanwhile, Lawmaker Anton Gomez-Reino blasted the visit, saying that the Congress "is not a chamber of commerce in the service of the Popular Party of (Primer Minister Mariano) Rajoy and President Macri. Congress is not a platform for his friends’ businesses."

Iñigo Errejon, also from Podemos, said he was troubled by the fact that Macri called the parliamentary coup in Brazil against former President Dilma Rousseff “a political change.”

Meanwhile, back in Argentina various workers’ organizations called a massive protest in the capital city of Buenos Aires to protest the Macri government. The movements have also suggested that the may set up an encampment in the center of the capital city to continue the protest against also said they could set up a camp under the emblematic obelisk monument in the center of the city.

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Cuban Baillarina Marta Garcia Dies in Spain

Famous Cuban Baillarina Marta García, 68, died today in a hospital from lung cancer, according to sources close to the artist.

García was born on Feb.7, 1949 in Guanabacoa, Havana and her long career made her one of the main pillars of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba (BNC) company.

With less than 5 years old the Best Artist Award given by a popular TV program at that time, when she sang, acted and danced.

In 1956 she starts in the Academia de Ballet Alicia Alonso located at then called Teatro Radiocentro (today renamed Yara).

Ten years later she perfoms her first presentation in Las Amigas de Gisselle;and Danza Española and Mazurca from the El lago de los cisnes.

With thel BNC she travels the world and performed all the main roles of the great classic ballet repertoire like La fille mar gardée, Giselle and El lago de los cisnes, Don Quijote y La bayadera.

Less than two years ago she published her memoirs in Spain.

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Majority of Spaniards Perceive Local Political Situation as Bad

Despite the end of the prolonged political blocking and the formation of government, almost 75 percent of the citizens considered the political sitation in Spain as a bad situation, reported an official survey Monday.

According to the survey from the Center for Sociological Investigations (CIS), conducted from November 1 to 11, 74.3 percent of the respondents perceived the situation as bad (35.6) or very bad (38.7), when they were the 88.1 percent, a month earlier.

The CIS developed its traditional monthly barometer two days after Mariano Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party, was vested on October 29 for a second presidential mandate, which put an end to more than 10 months of institutional paralysis in this European country.

Despite the better perception, still two of each three Spanish considered the politicalsituation as bad or very bad, and just a 3.5 percent qualifies it as good, while for 19.6 percent, is regular.

The sample of November, shows unemployment remains at the head of the main concerns, with 72.9 percent - up nearly two points compared to October-, followed by corruption, a scourge which is mentioned by 36.1 percent of the 2,487 consulted people.

The parties and the political class were, with 29.5 percent, the third more designated unease by the Spanish people and the economic problems classified in the fourth, since they were mentioned by the 23.9 percent of the surveyed.

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