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Nun Emerges as Spanish Leader in Fight Against Austerity

Sister Teresa Forcades: "The current economic model, institutional and political order has failed."

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

From the peaks of Monserrat, a new and unlikely leader has emerged in Spain's rising "indignado" protest movement, leading the charge against the excesses of capitalism.

Wearing her nun's black habit, Forcades spoke with AFP about austerity, religion and revolution. (Photo: AFP) Sister Teresa Forcades—a Harvard-educated Catalan nun who resides at the convent Sant Benet—along with economist and "indignant" leader, Arcadi Oliveres, has launched a political manifesto that's amassed nearly 17,000 signatures in just two days.

The document calls for the nationalization of banks and energy firms, housing rights and tough measures against corruption. Forcades and Oliveres also pledge non-violence asking for "international solidarity, not war."

"The current economic model, institutional and political order has failed," they write (roughly translated). "It is urgent that we create between them a new political and social model and to do so without repeating past formulas, knowing that the process is not easy nor short."

Speaking with AFP, Forcades denounced the austerity measures imposed by Spain's conservative government at the behest of the greater European Union, which have crippled the Spanish economy and caused widespread grief particularly among the middle and lower classes.

"The cuts go against the needs of the majority and go in favour of the interests of a minority," she said.

Of her, AFP writes:

This feminist and radical thinker has lived at the brick and rock convent near the Montserrat mountain since 1997.

Forcades is a doctor by training. She rose to prominence during the height of the global swine flu outbreak in 2009 when she argued that vaccines against the disease rushed out by pharmaceutical companies had not been properly tested for public use.

Forcades is also an advocate a "unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia," a Spanish region of roughly 7.5 million people. Reportedly, one of the goals of the manifesto is to present a "citizen's list" of candidates to stand in the upcoming regional elections, in 2016— two years after Catalonia is set to hold an independence referendum.

She has written three books: Els crims de les grans companyies farmacèutiques (The crimes of big pharmaceutical companies), La Trinitat avui (Trinity today), and La teologia feminista en la història (Feminist theology in history). Her facebook page is viewable here.

Below is the (roughly translated) complete text of the manifesto:

Manifesto for the convening of a constituent process in Catalonia

The under-signatories call on the people of Catalonia to join this manifesto that aims to call a constitutional process that allows to Catalonia Catalan people decide in a democratic and peaceful state what model and Country is what you want.

The mobilizations of the last two years have shown a growing potential for social struggle and a broad rejection of policies that aim to solve the crisis rewarding with money, recognition and privileges their direct managers and indebted for life to most people.

The current economic model, institutional and political order has failed.

It is urgent that we create between them a new political and social model and to do so without repeating past formulas, knowing that the process is not easy nor short. Require self-organization and social mobilization continued. Only active citizenship, participatory street will be possible to guarantee a process of profound social change.

To achieve this, it is necessary to promote a process of reflection and convergence wide, plural and participatory able to recognize their competence and diversity of the many groups that have long been working for peaceful and democratic change, and able to do place them in a unified platform that crystallizes the growing unrest in organized political majority in favor of a new model.

It is a process initiated from below, creating meeting spaces between the maximum number of groups and individuals in neighborhoods and villages, to build a new tool plural and diverse and articulate candidate for the widest possible upcoming elections in Catalonia with the aim of defending the convening of a Constituent Assembly to define what new model of state planning and socio-economic want.

Our goal is not to create a new political party. Neither person who does not think this manifesto contesting elections, but we want to help promote a process from below that culminates in the creation of a single candidacy which has as its aim the convening of the Constituent Assembly need for a new Constitution for the Republic Catalan, which is not possible in the future that the interests of a few passes in front of the needs of the majority.

A project of social change and breaking the current order will have to defend a series of basic measures and emergency. Define the work is performed collectively by all organizations and individuals involved in this process. A first tentative list, and comprehensive guidance points to consider are as follows:

  • Expropriation of private banks, public banks and defense of ethics curb financial speculation, fair taxation, audit and debt default debt illegitimate.
  • Decent wages and pensions, not layoffs, reduced working hours and sharing of all work, including housework and unpaid care.
  • Participatory democracy, electoral reform, control of elected officials, eliminating the privileges of politicians and determined fight against corruption.
  • Decent housing for all, and foreclosures moratorium retroactive payment in kind.
  • No to privatization, reversal of all cuts and strengthening the public sector under social control.
  • Right to the body and not violence.
  • Conversion ecological economics, expropriation and socialization of energy companies and food sovereignty.
  • Citizenship rights for all, not xenophobia and repeal of immigration law.
  • Public media under democratic control, network software and free trading system and culture.
  • International solidarity, not war, and without an army Catalonia and outside NATO.

We are at a historic crossroads where it is necessary to step forward and gather strength. We call on the people of Catalonia to sign this manifesto and to help build among everyone this change initiative in favor of a model social, economic and political participation and equal refuses to separate the Freedom and Justice Solidarity.

Arcadi Olives and Teresa Forcades
10 April 2013

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