The Pen International, the world association of writers that groups around 25,000 worldwide and one of whose objectives is to fight for freedom of expression, today launched a communiqué promoted by its Catalan center in favor of imprisoned politicians Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez. The statement, which urges the Spanish authorities to withdraw the charges against both and release them immediately, is signed by 14 Pen centers of the 148 (among them the Basque, but not the Galician -at present there is no Spanish Pen-) besides the Pen International , and five writers as such with their name (apart from seven others in charge of the PEN): José Eduardo Agualusa, Erri de Luca, Suso del Toro, Colm Tóibín and the American Mary Ann Newman, Catalan translator, coordinator of the Institut Ramon Llull and Creu de Sant Jordi.
The initiative, presented in Barcelona by the president of Pen International, the Mexican-American writer Jenifer Clement, the executive director of the same, the Catalan writer Carles Torner (with yellow ribbon on the lapel), and the president of the Catalan Pen, Àngels Gregori, coincides with the suspicions of instrumentalization of the association by the independence movement Y the direct accusation of Nobel Mario Vargas Llosa, in an article on Sunday, that the US Pen in particular has behaved like "militant organ of the independence movement". It was planned that in the afternoon Clement and Torner (who has already done so previously) would visit the two prisoners in Lledoners accused of rebellion.
In the statement, whose presentation to the press has been the wife of Cuixart, Txell Bonet, states: "From the Pen Catalan, together with the international signatories mentioned below, we denounce the excessive restrictions on freedom of expression to root of the disproportionate charges of sedition and rebellion against the leaders of Catalan civil society and writers Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, in preventive detention for more than a year, for having peacefully expressed their political views. " The text continues: "Lately the Catalans have been victims, unprecedented since the Franco dictatorship, of persecutions by different artistic manifestations that fully attack the right to freedom and its different forms of artistic expression."
The Pen recalls in the text that one of the principles of its founding charter written in 1922 defends the free circulation of ideas within each country. "By virtue of this principle, its members must refuse any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country or in the community to which they belong and must oppose arbitrary censorship in times of peace." The statement of the Pen stresses that Sanchez and Cuixart, "beyond peacefully manifesting their ideas, have ensured to guarantee, from the entities they preside over, the free circulation of the ideas of writers in Catalonia." Sign the text in addition to the aforementioned, the Pen of Argentina, Canada, Criacia, Scotland, Slovenia, Estonia, Honduras, Mexico, Portugal, Quebec, Russia, French-speaking Switzerland, France and Pen America (USA).
Carles Torner says that in the case of the controversial text of the US PEN so far "only Mario Vargas Llosa has complained"
The president of Pen Catalán explained that the statement has been working for months and that it focuses on the names of Sànches and Cuixart because "they are two authors of different works, who have a commitment and activism in the field of Literature and Cuixart concretely presides over a cultural entity and is a member of the Catalan Pen ". Gregori recalled that the statement coincides with "the general complaint of the deterioration of freedom of expression in recent months and the persecution and repression of many authors here." For Jenifer Clement, one of the challenges of the Pen is "to confront propaganda, lies and xenophobia throughout the world," and the association deals with Spain "like Turkey, Hungary, India or Venezuela."
Torner, who said to speak "from the emotion", because the two prisoners, "people of word", "are very close to me, and to the people of the culture of Catalonia", has explained that the process that the Pen follows is to agree the positions in congresses in which debate takes place and resolutions are proposed. In 2017, under the direction of the Indian writer president of the committee of imprisoned writers Salil Tripathi (who signs today's communique), a text of denunciation of the restrictions on freedom of expression in the Spanish State that is posted on the web was agreed upon of the Pen International and that of Catalan. From the fact that there are writers and Pen who explicitly sign the statement, Torner has said that they are "people and centers that want to be especially active and committed" in the matter, but that "all the Pen support the statement". Torner made a call to journalists to "respect the facts and seek the truth in times of propaganda."
The fact that there is no PenEspaña, reflected that "there is not at this time" and recalled that they are not organized by States but by literatures (there are for example six Pen only in the south of India).
From the criticism leveled by Vargas Llosa against the US Pen for a text published on his website in which the authors endorsed the independence thesis, Torner, who considered it "a slip", has begun by noting that "we are grateful Vargas Llosa, not only because he was president of the PEN International, but because he was emeritus and has been very close and active, is someone from our organization. " However, he recriminated "many inaccuracies", as referring to the Pen America (USA) as Pen New York, or say that the Catalan Pen was refounded in 1976 "when it was in 1973", and especially say that the Pen Catalonia is militant organism of the independence movement, when in the association, he stressed, "there are all kinds of attitudes regarding independence from the favorable ones to the ones that do not, passing through those of indifference". In this regard, he deplored the fact that he was considered to be an independentist when, he stressed, he has never expressed himself in that regard for reasons of his position, although "I have my opinion, of course".
Speaking to this newspaper, Clement stressed that all the Pen are independent and that any joint statement must be agreed through highly regulated mechanisms. Torner clarified that not all the members of a center know the specificities of specific cases and that is why certain texts are signed by specialists in that area, which does not prevent there being a consensus in the background. Asked about what would happen if members of a PEN protested by not feeling identified with a text they did not know, he replied: "Well, there would be debate, the current consensus is one but it can change, we are a dynamic organization". He warned, however, that in the specific case of the US Pen "only Vargas Llosa has complained, I have no news of any other". Of the synergy that seems to occur in cases like the visit of the president Torra last week to Washington and the publication almost at the same time of the text so in accordance with the independence theses in the US, said not knowing when Torra had been, or that the US PEN was going to publish the text. Be that as it may, he admitted that they are aware that they are being "instrumentalized by both sides", "we are used to this, compared to what happens in Russia …". However, he has concluded: "We are neutral in the debate on independence but not in the defense of the right of expression."
The controversy surrounding the Pen and the independence movement occurs at a time when there is no Pen Spain, given definitively low due to non-payment of fees and malpractice this fall. Torner advanced that there are negotiations for the center to return to the refounded organization. Manuel Rico, president of the Association of Writers of Spain (ACE), which promotes such refounding, points out that it is unfortunate that there does not exist at this time "so necessary" a Pen that once formed part Azorín, Caballero Bonald or Antonio Gamoneda In any case, Rico denounced the statement of the US Pen "full of lies" and "inspired by separatists", and stressed that in Spain "there are no writers imprisoned or punished for being writers".