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DENUNCIATION ON THE COLONIAL SITUATION OF THE CANARY ISLANDS


Date : 1998-07-31

DENUNCIATION ON THE COLONIAL SITUATION OF THE
CANARY ISLANDS

Frepic-Awañak
(Popular Front for the Independence of the Canary Islands)
Geneva, Switzerland, 31st July 1998

 

The Canarian Archipelago occupies a wide band in the direction of the parallels in front of the coast of Cape Num or Sidi Uarzik to those of Cape Juby, some 96 km. off the coast of the Kingdom of Morocco at its nearest point, and some 1,000 km. from the European coasts. The Archipelago is made up of seven main islands: Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera y El Hierro, and four smaller ones: Lobos, Alegranza, Montaña Clara y Graciosa, with a total area of 7,446.62 square km. and a de facto population of about 1,631,798 inhabitants, of which some 500,000 are Spanish residents and other foreigners, whereas a similar number of Canarians has been forced to emigrate, making up the Canarian diaspora, mainly in Venezuela and other Latin American countries.

The Canarians are a people of insular Africa, of which the descendants of the native Canarians are ethnically Amazigh (Berber). The population of the Canaries comes from Northwest Africa, arriving in the islands on successive waves since the first milennium B.C. to the time of Roman colonisation in the north of the continent. The racial type prevailing in the XVth century, at the beginning of the European conquest was "mechta" (Mechta-el-Arbi and Mechta Afalù), and the existing population at that time, according to Bartolomé de las Casas in "Brevisima relaciôn de la destrucciôn de Àfrica" (brief account of the destruction of Africa) reached up to 100,000 inhabitants. Recent research by Professor Manuel J. Lorenzo Perera of La Laguna University estimates some 87,000 inhabitants in the two main islands, Tenerife and Gran Canaha, a significant population for those days.

We speak the Canarian language, a dialectal variation of Spanish spoken in the islands, in which are used some 3,000 words from the archaic dialects or Tamazight spoken by the natives, whose written form was very close to present Tifinagh. The autochthonous names of the isiands and its inhabitants often show their ethnic origin. Achinech was the name of today's Tenerife, inhabited by the Ait ben-Wanche; Tamaran was Gran Canaria, inhabited by the Ait-ben-Canarii, who came from the High Atlas; Benahoare was La Palma and its inhabitants Benahoritas; La Gomera keeps its original name, inhabited by the Ghomaras or Gomeros from the Riff in present Morocco; Mahoh was Fuerteventura, inhabited by Mahoreros as well as Titeroygakat, today Lanzarote; and finally Hero, present Hierro, inhabited by the Bimbaches. Nowadays we name all the Canarians of pre-colonial origin, and by extension every Canarian, "guanches." Once the islands were conquered by the Spaniards, after a bloody war, which lasted a century, its inhabitants were mostly submitted to slavery. At the time, the Spaniards brought in new slaves from the neighboring Sahara coast, from Senegal, and the Gulf of Guinea. The present population is composed of this ethnic substratum and later contributions of other African, several European, and Latinamehcan types.

All through history, there have been several independence movements in the Archipelago, the main one, perhaps, led by Secundino Delgado at the beginning of this century. In 1934, the United Revolutionary Front carried among its proposals the independence of the Canaries, but the so-called "Spanish War' and later dictatorship of General Franco drowned this movement in a bloodbath. Many Canarans had to migrate. Only in Venezuela could there be counted up to half-a-million, who would create, outside the islands, new movements for independence. Among these groups is the MPAIAC, created in Algiers in 1964. In 1976, created inside the Canaries, there was the Party of the Canarian Workers (PTC), which in 1979 was renamed Revolutionary African Party of the Canary Islands (PRAIC). At the same time, there were created the nationalist trade unions, Canarian Confederation of Workers (CCT) and the Canarian Labor Union (SOC), later merged as SOC, today part of the Intersindical Canaria. In the poles of 1979, the Canarian nationalists split. Whereas PRAIC, MPAIAC and others were for abstention, those around Pueblo Canario Unido joined those of Union del Pueblo Canario (UPC), which obtained 13% of the votes, though the abstention got a major response. In 1983, the PRAIC merged with the Nationalist Canarian Groups and other political and ecological groups to make the Popular Front of the Canary Islands (FREPIC-AWAÑAK), today Popular Front for the Independence of the Canaries.

The present situation of the independence movement is lead by FREPIC-AWAÑAK, whereas lntersindical Canaria prevails among trade unions. Since 1960, the Spanish military forces increased in the islands, with new naval and air bases, which support NATO in Northwest Africa. Nowadays, they face a strong popular fight against this military presence and the establishment of new bases, increased as a result of Spain's refusal to sign the Pelindaba Treaty of Nuclear Weapons. FREPIC-AWAÑAK has played an important role in this fight.

The Spaniards have imposed a Statute of Autonomy on the Archipelago, with limited competence, not submitted to public approval. And forgetting about our specific economical and fiscal conditions, they have integrated us in the European Union, signing a Permanent Statute to regulate the relations of the Archipelago with the EU, which is leading us toward the loss of historical rights and denaturation of our cultural inheritance. On the other hand, they have established a "Regional Government" with the coalition of Canarian parties (CC) (who rule together with the PP), whose highest political goal is to widen the Statute of Autonomy within Spanish constitutional frames in order to achieve more competence as a compensation for granting the colonial situation. Despite the harsh political repression suffered by the Canarian independentists--including murders from police torture, police shootings, prisoners in jails, and prosecutions, etc.--the independence movement has strengthened and gained supporters among the population, getting a fair representation in the political life of the islands by creating cultural, social, and youth associations.

The economy of the Archipelago has always been headed for a monoculture to export, today, tourism, port, and commercial services. The tertiary sector occupies 80% of the Gross National Product of the Canaries. But today, despite the high rates of increase of GNP--over 3.8%--and a per capita income higher than 16,OOO $USA, the rate of unemployment stands over 20% of the work-age population, and 30% of the total population is extremely poor, which shows that the Canarians do not take advantage of the rents generated in the islands. As a rule, the economic reality of the Canaries is defined by control and extraction of the richness generated in them by the Spanish metropolis and foreign enterprises. Thus, the Spanish bank controls all the capital and receives all benefits since we do not have our own bank. Indirect and some direct taxes are collected by the Spanish Treasury since there is no Canarian Treasury. The substantial economic resources generated by Ports and Airports are cashed by the Spanish Administration. All the air companies and most shipping trades are not Canarian. All the energetic production, as well as the trade of oil by-products is in the hands of Spanish monopolies and multinationals. Tourist operators, as well as most travel agencies, are European without Canarian shares, and their benefits do not revert to the islands. Catalonians, Majorcans, and some other Europeans own most of the hotels, with over 400,000 beds available. The highest turnover of public works and building businesses put out to tender are warded to Spanish companies. Food multinationale control over 60% of domestic products, importing more than 80% of those consumed in the islands, serously damaging agriculture and the cattle economy. Most insurance companies are foreign capital and pay taxes outside the islands. The economy, which controls the fishing activity except for a scanty fishing fleet, is in Spanish and foreign hands. On the other hand, there are some elements operating in everyday life, which do not have an obvious political character, as is the case for some social and religions institutions and some professional organizations, which do work together with the colonial system. Judges, notaries, land inspectons, religious orders, sport and social clubs, public officials, etc. are all personalities, which fit into the lack herein mentioned and other structural deficiencies naturalizing the colonial reality.



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