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11.14.2014

Catalan independence and our cyberwar

There are increasing calls around the world for the Catalans to be able to hold a binding referendum on independence. Newspaper articles editorials are perfectly clear about this. Here is a short sample


         *** CLICK ON "Més informació" BELOW FOR THE TEXT OF THE POST ***

1. The people of Catalonia have voted. Let democracy take its course (The Guardian, November 12 2014) 
2. Cataluña says Sí in unofficial poll: Madrid should learn from Scotland (Irish Times, November 11 2014)
3. The Guardian view on Spain’s mishandling of the referendum movement in Catalonia (
The Guardian, November 11 2014)
4. Catalonia Overwhelmingly Votes for Independence From Spain in Straw Poll (New York Times, November 9 2014)
5. Catalogne : les observateurs internationaux confirment la régularité du vote (l'Indépendant, 10 novembre 2014)
6. Let them vote. The Madrid government should let the Catalans have a vote — and then defeat the separatists at the polls (The Economist, leader, November 14 2014)

The Economist adopts a very civilised position to graciously advise Spaniards and Catalans: "The case for holding a referendum is strong, but if there is one, Catalonia should vote to stay part of Spain." I for one do not accept the "Better Together" line. 


Spain's treatment of Catalonia is dirty, and getting worse. During the November 9 vote, and the day before, 90% of cyber attacks in Spain were on the Catalan government's website. 60,000 times the usual number of web visits were recorded on the 10th. It was the fourth worst cyberattack in the world on that day. The government's team of computing engineers managed to build up defences, so that on the 9th the website did not go down. This was not the work of the odd mad hacker, but an extremely sophisticated, and expensive, operation. We shall never know, I imagine, who ordered it and paid for it (though I fear that as a taxpayer, I contributed).

‘90% of World’s Cyber Attacks’ Target Catalonia During Independence Vote, Government Says (Newsweek, November 10 2014)

Source: 

Bloomberg and other leading newspapers highlighted this attack: Catalonia Independence Ballot Hit by Cyber Attacks. It affected the websites of the organisations working for independence, but I shall not give their names or URLs here for obvious reasons.

But there was a second attack, on hundreds of telephones of people working in, for or close to the Catalan National Assembly, the main NGO working for a free Catalonia. Mine was one. I started getting phone calls at 9.00 a.m. on the 8th, at the rate of one a mionute, or more. The screenshot below shows that between 9:02 and 9:07 I got seven calls! This was obviously an automated attack. Within an hour and a half I was at the local police station reporting the attack (rightly supposing it would last for 36 hours, until voting stations closed the following day; my phone reveals that I had received 911 calls in that time, though I obviously silenced my phone, and blocked as many in-coming phone numbers as I could). The police office copied and pasted the formal complaint I had lodged on September 10th, on acount of the previous, and very similar, attack, immediately before we made the 11 km-long human Catalan flag along the two main Barcelona boulevards, the V, which gathered, acccording to some sources, 1,800,000 people (most of whom wore either the yellow or the red tee shirts needed to make the flag).
As I said before this was not the work of the odd mad hacker, but an extremely sophisticated, and expensive, operation. Once more, we shall never know who ordered it and paid for it (though I fear that as a taxpayer, I contributed).

All in all, though many elderly people who support independence were intimidated to such a degree that they stayed away, and despite the website informing people about the address of their polling station being out of service for several hours, over 1,800,000 Catalans voted for full independence on November 9.

But I advise The Economist's leader writer to look at how relations between the Madrid establishment and Catalonia have deteriorated, in the view of many, over a period of 15 years, beyond any chance of a credible solution being acceptable. The disdain with which Catalonia's claims is dismissed is offensive, if not outright humuiliating, and this week's plenary is a good example of this. The members of the political, financial, economic and communicational caste that has been in the centre of Spain for several centuries shall not be moved. When it comes to the crunch, these people, who have been clinging to power, preach involution rather than devolution. It simply goes against their raison d'être to negotiate with Catalonia's political representatives. 

I appreciate that it may be hard for The Economist to fully grasp what is going on. I only hope the phone number of their correspondent does not get attacked on the next occasion.

Baròmetre de l'ús del català a Internet