Catalonia Calling #09 is called Oh Le Le, Oh La La! The 'Oh Le Le' bit refers to the Spanish government's clampdown on funding the Generalitat in an attempt to block the independence process whilst the 'Oh La La!' is about the CUP's continued refusal to invest Artur Mas as President. It seems to me that the CUP are playing directly into central government's hands and both are as pathetic as each other.
Fortunately, the complete chant goes 'Oh Le Le, Oh La La, Ser del Barça és el millor que hi ha!', which more or less translates as 'Supporting Barça is the best thing there is!' and after thrashing Real Madrid 4-0 in the Bernabéu and AC Roma 6-1 in Camp Nou, we have to thank our lucky stars, particularly Messi, Súrez, Neymar and the utterly and completely marvellous Sergio Busquets. Immense!
Montoro made a statement early in the week that the 3 billion euros of the Autonomic Liquidity Fund would be dependent on none of this money being spent on any activity associated with independence. This reply from Artur Mas was that, rather than applying Article 155 of the Constitution, this was an undercover way of controlling Catalonia's autonomic status. Obviously without financial liquidity the Generalitat can't function.
The important point about the Fondo de Liquidez Autonomica or FLA is that it is lending, with interests, money that belongs to Catalonia in the first place. Catalonia has a 15 billion euro tax deficit according to Generalitat figures (10 billion according to Spanish government figures), which means that it pays much more to central government than it gets back to finance public service. If the distribution of money was more equitable the Generalitat wouldn't have to ask to borrow money in the first place.
Over the past few years, in order to maintain health, education and welfare service, the Generalitat has had to make cuts, sell properties and privatise companies. I'd definitely question some of these decisions but this has made Artur Mas's government an easy target for the left, when if Catalonia was given the money it was due, it would have more than enough to finance essential services.
One of the hardest hit groups has been the pharmacists, who have to buy the prescription drugs they sell and are the reimbursed by the Generalitat. Government offices always pay late and at the start of the crisis, they were paid after 60 days, then the period went up to 90 days and now they are being paid after 10 days. This means that every time someone gets prescription drugs from a pharmacy, the pharmacist won't get paid until at least 4 months later. Now this creates a real liquidity problem for these small business owners and has meant that some pharmacies can't afford to stock the most expensive prescription drugs. There was one case of someone who needed a drug that cost 1,000 euros having to change treatment because no pharmacy could afford to stock it.
Obviously, many other sectors of Generalitat finance have been affected but the case of the pharmacists has received most coverage, and now taking advantage of this central government, has ostentatiously offered 3 billion euros with strings attached. They've said that, because they're worried about the money being misspent on independence, they're going to pay the 131 million euros owed directly to the pharmacists.
What hasn't been so publicly reported, though, is that if and when the money comes, it's going to divided into ten monthly instalments so the full amount won't be paid until next October. This means that central government has a means to hold the Generalitat to ransom as the independence process advances over the coming year. In fact, Catalan Minister of the Economy Andreu Mas-Colell expressed serious doubts whether any money would come at all on TV the other night and wondered whether the announcement of the FLA money wasn't just an electoral bluff by the PP.
The best solution to this situation would be to have a strong Generalitat government in power, which can put some of the resolutions of the Declaration of the Beginning of the Independence Process into practice, such as the new Catalan Treasury Law, for example. However, negotiations continue over the investiture of Artur Mas and although Junts pel Sí try to put a brave face on the situation, little progress seems to be being made.
A few cracks have appeared in the CUP's armour this week, though, as an increasing number of prominent members are speaking out in favour of the investiture. At the same time, some of the more intransigent sectors are digging their heels even further in. They've got a national assembly tomorrow, Sunday 29th November, in which one thousand five hundred or so members will vote and I wouldn't be surprised if, sooner or later, the disagreement causes a split in the party.
The question is will the group in favour be big enough? If you've ever been involved in left-wing politics, you'll know that the loony left is just as much a reality as the loony right. If it came to the parliamentary group splitting, all that is necessary would be for at least 2 members to vote in favour of Mas, whilst the rest abstained. If the rest voted against and succeeded in blocking the next stage of the independence process, they'll end up being the most hated people in Catalonia - even worse than Albert Rivera or Xavier García-Albiol - and end up having to flee to Venezuela. Mark my words. There could be serious trouble here.
Even so, a lot of damage has been done to the CUP's image. Just compare public opinion of David Fernàndez with that of Antonio Baños and even more so, Anna Gabriel. And this is a CUP sympathiser who's talking, we've put up with the frustration for over two months now but our patience is beginning to run out.
Fortunately, against this depressing political panorama, we can behold the joy of Catalonia, the wonderful, amazing, beautiful, inspiring FUTBOL CLUB BARCELONA. On Saturday, we thrashed Real Madrid 4-nil in the Santiago Bernabéu with a football that can only be described as orgasmic.
The first goal was by Luís Suárez from the edge of the box with a great deep diagonal assist from Sergi Roberto. Suárez is turning into a perfect Barça number 9 because not only is he scoring goals but he's generous and he opens up the opposing defence for Neymar, Iniesta and Messi, who came on in the second half after a couple of months out for injury. Just imagine that we were able to thrash Madrid without Messi on the pitch for most of the game. Amazing! Also I've been saying since the start of the season that Sergi Roberto is turning into a really brilliant player and will soon be up there with Xavi and Iniesta as a Barça midfield legend. Luis Enrique was so right in playing him in defence at the start of the season. It's given him that little extra vision that he needed.
The second was a lovely little sidefoot in by Neymar from an assist by Súarez, which just goes to show what I was saying about the Uruguayan before. Neymar really is turning into a genius player and it's pretty clear that he'll don the mantle of best player in the world as soon as Messi starts to abdicate from the title. He's a wonderful sparkling player full of surprises and a joy to watch.
Now in the second half the third goal was a beaut by Iniesta. A lovely slow midfield build up to create the space and wallop an Iniestazo from well outside the box. In fact, the Manchegan had a superb game, flawless throughout and in the press conference after the game, Luis Enrique described him as a World Heritage Monument.
Finally with Messi now on the pitch, Suárez put the fourth away after breaking the offside trap. He had so much space and time that Navas didn't stand a chance.
Madrid's Isco got himself sent off for a stupid foul on Neymar and we could have got a fifth, when Munir fluffed a chance that he could have left for Piqué, who had plenty of space. In many respects, it's lucky that Piqué didn't score because with the provocative celebration he would have had, he'd have given the government the perfect excuse for military intervention in Catalonia. Just joking!
I also have to mention the immense Sergio Busquets, who is just so unbelievably great both in defence and in inventing that first pass. If you want to undrstand why this new more vertical Barça midfield is so lethal, Busquets is the key.
Then on Tuesday at Camp Nou we wiped the floor with Roma in the Champions League by 6 goals to 1 and they only got their consolation goal in extra time when Barça had relaxed. I'm not going to go into detail but 2 from Suárez, 2 from Messi, 1 from Piqué and 1 from Adriano from a rebound from a penalty missed by Neymar. The game was absolutely superb and it's clear that Messi, Neymar and Suárez are shaping up to be the forward line in the world if not in history. Brilliant!
Anyway that's it for this week and I'll see you next Saturday, when I'll be broadcasting from London.
Visca el Barça! Visca Catalunya!