Del Cielo a la Eternidad

Hace dos años, me desperté bajo un cielo nublado. Era febrero y estaba en haciendo un pequeño intercambio de una semana en la localidad inglesa de Gloucester. Como tenía todavía un poco de tiempo por delante antes de las clases, cogí la Tablet y me metí en Facebook. De repente, tropecé con una noticia de El País. Aún recuerdo el texto y la foto que la acompañaban: “Ultima hora: fallece Paco de Lucía”. Mis ojos legañosos se abrieron de par en par con incredulidad y de mi boca salió un suave grito ahogado: “¡No!” Pero sí, Paco de Lucía nos había dejado huérfanos. Él, que en vida ya había abrazado los cielos, se marchó a conquistar la eternidad.

Un 25 de febrero de 2014 nos dejaba Paco de Lucía con 66 años. Un infarto se lo llevó mientras jugaba con sus hijos pequeños en una playa de Cancún, lejos de su Algeciras natal. El faro del flamenco español se apagaba súbitamente, poniendo fin a 40 años de puro arte y maestría. El genio de la guitarra flamenca, innovador y visionario, insuperable e inigualable, se fue para siempre, dejando vacío un trono que ninguna guitarra flamenca logrará rellenar. Paco de Lucía fue un maestro único, una estrella brillante marcada a fuego para siempre en el firmamento del flamenco.

‘Es imposible’, pensé aquél día, ‘’Si solo tiene 65 años, ¡le quedan al menos 20 años de vida!’ Me negaba a creer que aquél concierto en Bruselas en junio de 2014 fuese la única vez que pude verle, que no tendría la oportunidad de volver a disfrutar de su música en directo. Pero los escenarios se apagaron irremediablemente con él aquél día y de la misma forma, mis ilusiones de conocerlo.

El mundo flamenco lo despidió con el alma partía y lágrimas en los ojos. Paco de Lucía se marchó a conquistar la eternidad junto a su compañero Camarón de la Isla. Desde hace dos años, Paco de Lucía es inmortal y su legado es eterno. Hasta siempre, Maestro.

Paco de Lucía

Paco de Lucía

© Mario Cuenda García

EU countries are taking an authoritarian turn – and we have to stop it

Since the fall of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc in 1991, the European continent has not experienced any dictatorship, with the exception of Belarus. When the Eastern European countries joined the European Union, many saw this threat disappearing. Indeed, to enter the EU, member states had to commit to democracy and to a certain degree of liberal values and personal liberties. On the other hand, the EU was seen as the enforcer of the new democracies. Meanwhile, neighbouring countries like Russia and Turkey shifted slowly but surely towards authoritarian regimes.

As a result no one expected the rise of authoritarian measures,  which is currently taking place inside the European Union. Some of this measures are happening in Eastern European countries where the relatively ‘new democracies’ are now with conservative and nationalistic governments, which do not embrace European values and impose authoritarian measures nationally. It is indeed one more expression of the East-West cleavage in the EU. Western European countries are also imposing authoritarian measures at home and there are two reasons for this. First, there is fear of terrorism. Facing the threat of massive and indiscriminate attacks, some governments have slowly but surely headed towards authoritarianism, sacrificing liberties over security. Secondly, the economic crisis has increased poverty and made many people worse off. A climate of elite distrust has grown and this has led to social unrest and protest, with some restricting it.

The first warning sign came a couple of years ago, when Viktor Orban became the Prime Minister of Hungary. His years in government have been marked by illiberal measures such as a restrictive media law, and marginalisation of the Roma population, among many others. But as Hungary was only a small country out of the 28 member states, the European Union was not greatly concernced. However, in October 2015, the conservative party Law and Justice won the general election in Poland. In a matter of months, it passed laws that weaken constitutional checks and balances, as well as restrict media freedom. In December, the ministers of Justice of Hungary and Poland manifested their opposition to the legalisation of homosexual marriage in a Council of Ministers of the European Union. Poland and Hungary are giving headaches to the European Institutions and to the member states. Indeed, the EU has already expressed concerns both in public and in private. Some MEPs have suggested a temporal expulsion of Hungary or the suspension of their right to vote in European Affairs. Last month, the Commission decided to put polish democracy under evaluation.

The refugee crisis contributes to these problems. Hungary built a fence this summer and its treatment to refugees has been poor and violent. The new Polish government claims that refugees carry diseases and do not want to welcome them, in spite of the agreement reached by the previous government. But this time, they are not the only countries to act in this way. The Czech Republic voted against the refugee redistribution schema and Denmark has passed a law which allows the government to steal goods of the refugees to pay for their maintenance costs.

The country, which has implemented authoritarian measures due to the terrorist threat, is obviously France. After the 13th of November terrorist attacks, the President François Hollande imposed a State of Emergency. The National Assembly approved it by nearly unanimity, as it was seen as a temporary measure following the attacks; European member states and the French public opinion were supportive to a large extent. Three months later, not only is France still under the State of Emergency, but the Assembly has approved a further enlargement. What are the implications? The executive power has been granted more powers over the judiciary. Demonstration are prohibited; indeed during the COP21 conference in Paris, ecological activists were confined to home arrest. Indiscriminate searches can be carried out in homes without judiciary permission at any moment of the day or the night. A plan of mass vigilance have been approved. Finally, French MPs have voted in favour of removing the nationality to citizens with double nationality having committed a crime against the nation. The State of Emergency threatens civil liberties and France cannot use terrorism as a justification of such liberty cuts. Neither Spain nor the UK implemented such measures after the terrible attacks they suffered in 2003 and 2005 respectively. The Commission is worried, as Jean Quatremer, a journalist for the French newspapers Libération, writes in his blog: if France was not a member the EU and wanted to join it under the State of Emergency, it would not fit the democratic criteria!

Governments restricting protest is the last kind of authoritarian measures I have identified. This is especially visible in Spain, which last year introduced a ‘gag law’ aimed at criminalising social and pacific protest. The ‘gag law’ restrains the right to protest and impose harsh sanctions on whoever breaks it. International newspapers such as Le Monde or The New York Times have denounced it as an intolerable freedom cut in a democratic country. Its editorials have described it as ‘ominous’ and ‘with smells of Franquism’, asking for the Commission ‘to condemn the new law’ and urging Spanish lawmakers to ‘reject the measure’. This paragraph of The New York Time explains best what the ‘Gag law’ is about:

“The law would define public protest by actual persons in front of Parliament as a ‘disturbance of public safety’ punishable by a fine of 30,000 euros. People who join in spontaneous protests near utilities, transportation hubs, nuclear power plants or similar facilities would risk a jaw-dropping fine of €600,000. The “unauthorized use” of images of law enforcement authorities or police – presumably aimed at photojournalists or ordinary citizens with cameras taking pictures of cops or soldiers – would also draw a €30,000 fine, making it hard to document abuses.”

The criminalisation of social protest reached worrying grounds last week. Two puppeteers (yes, you read it right, puppeteers) were arrested and sent to prison, allegedly accused of praising terrorism. In Spain, where the Basque terrorist separatist group ETA killed more than 900 people between the 1970s and 2011, it is strictly forbidden to praise terrorism. Later on it has been proven that the two puppeteers were not praising terrorism; in fact, they were denouncing police manipulation. In their representation they used a banner with the inscription ‘Gora Alka-Eta’, which in Basque means ‘long live Al-QuaETA’, mixing the names of the two terrorist groups and playing with the names. The banner was placed by a policeman near an unconscious protester, precisely to accuse him of terrorist allegiances (how ironic!). Clearly, the banner was part of their representation and they were therefore not praising terrorism. As it was denounced by politicians, journalists and cultural personalities censoring critical fiction is something which happens in dictatorships, not in democracies. Even more worrying, in the last four years more than 1000 persons have been accused of praising terrorism. Some of these accusations were right. However, given the really high number, it is legitimate to ask if unfounded accusations of praising terrorism are not becoming a way of intimidating and criminalising social protest in Spain.

It is undeniable that due to different factors, some European member states have taken authoritarian measures unimagined a couple of years ago. In this post, I have mainly talked of governmental actions, but I believe a much bigger threat lies outside power, mainly in the far-right parties, which are growing in France, Austria, the Nordic countries and have a strong presence in Greece, Germany and some Eastern states. Actually, they already influence national politics by weighting the balance in their direction. More worryingly, their increasing electoral support shows that some people are actually ready to support the implementation of authoritarian measures. This is really scary and it throws us back to the worst years of the last century. A radically democratic solution has to be proposed to oppose the rise of authoritarianism in Europe. Civil society, from social movements to the press, have to keep denouncing and pressing. Citizens should reject authoritarian laws in the streets and in the ballot box. Politicians have to adopt inclusive discourses which illegitimate authoritarian parties and oppose them with more democracy. It has been proven: the best way to weaken authoritarianism is democracy. For, France must end its State of Emergency and Spain’s new parliament has to abolish the ‘gag law’. Finally, the European Institutions have a huge role to play as well. It is not enough to condemn what is happening. European politicians and technocrats should be more visible and offer as well more democracy and transparency. Get closer to the people and make them participate. Otherwise, they will fall down in the arms of undesirable parties and individuals. Clearly, those are not easy times for Europe, nor is the solution easy, but it is time to act against this growing authoritarianism. The first step is denouncing. Then will come the protest, and we well might be in this process soon.

Many thanks to my friend Paula García Domingo and my dad for revising this post!

© Mario Cuenda García

Sobre los titiriteros

Este fin de semana hemos presenciado un hecho grave acaecido en Madrid: dos titiriteros han sido detenidos y enviados a prisión preventiva, acusados de apología del terrorismo por exhibir en un momento de su actuación una pancarta dónde estaba escrito “Gora Alka-ETA”. Se ha creado un revuelo mediático, institucional y jurídico, que a su vez ha conllevado un estado de confusión enorme entre la opinión pública y los actores institucionales. Poco a poco, se va aclarando lo ocurrido y con toda la información disponible, puedo afirmar con total seguridad que los titiriteros no deberían estar en prisión y me uno a las voces que piden su liberación inmediata.

Para empezar, hay que explicar en qué contexto surge la pancarta en la obra de teatro. Como se puede apreciar en un vídeo del diario CTXT, un policía la coloca al lado de una bruja detenida e inconsciente, se supone que en una caricatura denunciadora de la la manipulación policial. El personaje de la bruja no es anecdótico, ya que personifica la caza de brujas. Por último, la pancarta es un juego de palabras en vasco. “Viva ETA” se dice “Gora ETA”. “Gora Alka-ETA” significaría “Viva Al-QuaETA”, un juego de palabras que junta los dos grupos terroristas Al-Qaeda y ETA. Os invito a ver el vídeo, porque demuestra que la pancarta se coloca claramente en el contexto de la obra, y no es un mensaje explícito de apoyo a la banda terrorista.

Con esta sencilla explicación, queda claro que la acusación de apología del terrorismo está completamente infundada. No es una exaltación de la violencia armada, sino en todo caso una caricatura en el contexto de una representación teatral. Obviamente, surgen preguntas. ¿Era la obra apta para niños? Desde el Ayuntamiento de Madrid, han surgido respuestas contradictorias. Aunque lo fuese dudo mucho de que los niños entendiesen la escena. ¿Debió haberse representado la obra? Sí, parece ser que ya se hizo en Granada sin no hubo ningún incidente y prohibirla sería una afrenta a la libertad de expresión. ¿Hiere la sensibilidad de cierta gente? Puede ser. En tal caso el Ayuntamiento debía ser consciente de ello y actuar en consecuencia.

Hay varias cuestiones que deben ser discutidas, como por ejemplo la sobreactuación de la justicia y los límites de lo ‘políticamente correcto’. Soy un ferviente defensor de las leyes que prohíben el enaltecimiento del terrorismo y del fascismo. Sin embargo, en algunos sitios parece confundirse la prohibición del enaltecimiento con la prohibición de cualquier tipo de mención al tema. ¿Habría reaccionado la justicia igual de haber sido una obra para adultos en un teatro privado? No lo creo. Es cierto que la línea entre la sátira, la caricatura y la broma de mal gusto puede ser muy fina, pero detener y enviar a prisión preventiva a dos titiriteros por una escena de su espectáculo es una respuesta completamente desmesurada, indigna de un estado de derecho y más propia de una dictadura. Además, una obra de guiñoles, y cualquier otra obra de teatro, escrita, cinematográfica que enaltezca implícitamente o explícitamente el terrorismo debe ser permitida en el marco del derecho a la libertad de expresión. Me asusta ver que en España no se haya respetado semejante derecho básico y se defienda su violación desde muchos sectores del espectro político.

Todo este revuelo contrasta por cierto con una situación similar que ha ocurrido este fin de semana en el carnaval de Alost, en Bélgica, donde unos comediantes locales se han disfrazado de los hermanos Abdeslam, responsables de los atentados terroristas que costaron la vida a 130 personas en Paris. Incluso utilizaron una furgoneta pintada donde se podía leer: “Hermanos Abdeslam, mudanzas París-Bruselas”. No parece que vayan a ser detenidos. Y admito que en este caso me parece una broma de mal gusto que puede haber ofendido a gente. Pero desde luego, no acabarán en la cárcel y nadie en su sano juicio pediría semejante condena.

Concluyendo este post, creo que ya con más tranquilidad, queda fuera de duda que los titiriteros no buscaban hacer apología del terrorismo. Por ello, me uno a las voces que reclaman su libertad. Pido también que seamos sensatos a la hora de hablar del terrorismo. España ha sufrido la lacra del terrorismo durante más de 40 años y las heridas aún no se han cerrado. Queda por finalizar el proceso de desarme. Hay que abordar procesos de reconciliación. Han de discutirse compensaciones. Hay procesos jurídicos que permanecen abiertos. La lista sigue. Cuando se discute sobre terrorismo estos han de ser entre muchos otros los temas políticos en el centro del debate, y no una pancarta satírica exhibida por dos comediantes en un carnaval de barrio. Volvamos a una política seria que trate de temas importantes y deje de lado polémicas estériles que jamás deberían haberse iniciado.

© Mario Cuenda García