Friday, April 25, 2008

García Sanz and Seat: is Volkswagen trusting the right person?

Since july 2007, García Sanz is chairman of Board of Directors of SEAT, a Volkswagen company sited in Catalonia. You can read about his profile on Volkswagen. García Sanz was born in Madrid. I guess readers have sometimes heard about rivalty between Barcelona and Madrid in football, but beyond this sports stuff, I'm sure everybody knows there is a political conflict too, which unlike in the Basque Countries has found uniquely political ways. The ERC, for example, is a secessionist party having 21 of 135 parlamentaries, and is now part of the Government. Catalan identity is strong among the population although some people share it with Spanish feelings too. One of the most significant points is the internet domain .CAT for catalan-speakers. But surprisingly enough, if you tipe on your web browser you will be visiting SEAT Andorra, which is only a part of the linguistic zone and a state independent from Spain. For Spain, SEAT has one single domain: .ES. And not even a Catalan version oin it.

Any serious enterprise knows that identity and language can approach our product to people. In societies where identity conflicts are still alive this is increased. I imagine Volkswagen's aim is to make money selling cars, not to contribute to any nationalist project that could result in rejection. Spanish Government has a nationalist project which consists of using taxes to get money from Catalonia and than invest on infrastructures located in Madrid, thus developing the center. But this is not the case for Volkswagen. They only sell cars. Politics should not interfere on business. But in spite of this, Mr. García seems to be proud of being a Spanish nationalist and acts as if he was a politician. Certainly a bad one.

Last week Mr. Garcia gave a press conference at the Spanish Embassy in Berlin (El Periódico comments it) to announce the new car the company is going to sell at the end of the year. He said SEAT had big trouble to give a name to the car since almost all cities had already been used. At that point, a journalist commented that no SEAT car had the name of any Catalan city yet (Córdoba, León or Toledo are some names used). The answer was clear: “SEAT is a Spanish company”, where “spanish” means “not catalan at all”.

Now imagine a similar situation for a German company: imagine all cars have names of German cities from everywhere except for Baden-Württemberg. Someone suggests a Stuttgart and Mr. Garcia says: “Oh no, we are not using Schwäbish names! We are German!” In terms of business, I can not understand why Volkswagen is still trusting Mr. Garcia. In political terms, if Garcia was a politician, this is nothing new: Spain does not consider Catalonia to be a part of it. Spain is Spanish. Exclusively Spanish. But they take the money from Catalonia and they do not allow the right to decide.

Now take a look at Catalan media and blogs (here an example from Salvador Cardús, whom many people read and admire): lots and lots of people are saying they are not going to buy a SEAT car anymore. NEVER. So, where's the business now?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Who the hell was Guillem Agulló?!

If you write this name on Google Blog Search today, about five hundred results will show that something happens. I guess nobody knows who this guy was. Of course, the Spanish government will not say a word about it. He was killed by spanish radical nationalists fifteen years ago. Any democratic and human-rights-minded state would have made of him an icon, but this is not the case in Spain and it hardly is in Catalonia, where Spanish nationalism has also a certain presence.

Catalan media are not telling a word about it either. Radio and TV keep silent. But the truth remains the same: Guillem Agulló was killed 15 years ago by Spanish fascists who were never imprisoned. And unfortunately he was not the only one. More recently, Josep Maria Isanta was killed too. The media do not remember, but bloggers do. So, if you have a look at Vilaweb, to me the best digital from the Catalan Countries and and honourable exception, you will see many, many blogs with headlines such as "15 years withou Guillem Agulló" or "We don't forget, we don't forgive".

Spanish government can easily accuse 14-year-old Èric Bertran (more than 700.000 views on YouTube) of terrorism and take him to the National Audience, but extreme and real agressions seem to remain unpunished in Spain. Behind the smile of president Zapatero, democracy in Spain has important lacks in human rights.

I wish international journalism should focus on Spain some day. I wish people like John Pilger had a look at human rights in Spain. The world must know about it.