OP: The keys to the arrest of rapper Pablo Hásel that highlight the failures of Spanish politics
What did the Catalan rapper say, and why is he being a victim of the gag law?
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There is no act of violence in Hásel's lyrics that you cannot find hundreds of times in gangsta rap or trap. Nor is there any outrageous verse that doesn't pale compared to other genres such as Basque radical punk. However, this Tuesday morning, the police entered the university where the rapper had barricaded himself and arrested him.
The winters in Lleida, where the singer lives, are tough because of the thick fog — a shadow over the marginalized communities Hásel echoes in his first demos.
On Monday night, a hundred young people surrounded the university. The cold and darkness now meet the real loneliness in the streets caused by the Catalan government's curfew at ten o'clock at night.
Although traditionally, both universities and churches are places where it is more difficult for the police to enter, the reality is that precisely the university of Lleida has always been favorable in this regard. Although the professors favored freedom of expression in social networks, president Jaume Puy was in favor of the police device.
Risking the lack of support and the high fines for breaking the curfew, the protesters locked themselves and the singer inside the faculty, nervous about the presence of police vans outside. That's how tense they had remained all night, mounting several trenches inside, until when they were most exhausted and before starting a new day of protests, at seven in the morning, the Mossos entered the interior between tear gas and human chains.
The combative case of Pabl Hásel simultaneously highlights several of the current tensions in Spanish politics linked to freedom of expression. To understand his case in-depth, it would be necessary first to clarify the particularity of Spanish rap, which has been split by the rise of trap and the heritage of punk, making several bands turn their themes on social justice. The Catalan rapper represented the most communist side of this highly politicized school.
Secondly, it should be noted that the comparison with American rap is one of the arguments that the singer himself explained in lectures on freedom of expression in recent years, detailing how certain expressions of violence are understood as diegetic parts of the musical genre in many other countries, giving us an example the lyrics of rappers such as Necro or Immortal Technique.
The Partido Popular government passed a very restrictive plan of repressive measures called the Gag Law in 2015, which broadens the concept of terrorism to conceive crimes in social networks. Also, under the guise of protecting agents, it prevents citizens from recording aggressions. In practice, this law has not been applied against extreme right-wing musical bands while, as it did happen with bands like Insane Clown Pose, it has served to criminalize specific profiles. He is not the first left-wing rapper to be sentenced: Valtònyc is in exile, and La Insurgencia was sentenced to two years. There are also puppeteers on the list and numerous Twitter users.
To enter prison in Spain, the sentence must be more than two years and a day. Her case is the one that has attracted the most attention among the wave of repression because while others face fines, Hásel has accumulated enough convictions to go to prison. His history with the police dates back to 2011, when he is prosecuted for mentions of armed gangs such as GRAPO or Terra Lliure.
Those who listened to his first demos, such as Miedo y asco en Ilerda (2007) or Trastorno bipolar (2007), will appreciate that all his artistic production was particularly acidic and to what extent it was already destined to a specific niche. However, this has not stopped the police forces, who prosecuted his band Prozaks, together with the rapper Cíniko from Lleida, for a song against the mayor of the Partido Socialista Catalán. It is precisely the Partido Socialista Obrero Español that is now in government.
These convictions are paired with accusations of violent attacks against far-right platforms, PP headquarters workers, and a TV3 journalist. The final blow from the prosecution came in the form of a five-year sentence for "slander and libel against the Crown," "slander and libel against state institutions," and "glorification of terrorism" for tweets and songs.
Tuits por los que van a encarcelarme en unos minutos u horas. Literalmente por explicar la realidad. Mañana puedes ser tú. pic.twitter.com/chlGr77JO9— Pablo Hasel (@PabloHasel) February 16, 2021
But the prosecution did not count on the worst possible political agenda. On the one hand, while he is condemned for "slander" to the crown, it turns out that the former Bourbon monarch has fled to some Arab country to avoid economic transparency procedures and arms pacts referred to by the singer.
On the other hand, the atmosphere is taut due to the confinements and the ineffectiveness of the government in dealing with the pandemic, which is added to especially restrictive measures and curfews. The leftist government tries to show itself in favor of freedom of expression. Still, it is hard for many to believe the police forcibly removed the rapper from the university. Besides, many do not forget his link with previous convictions.
To further complicate the matter, since Valtònyc escaped and appeared together with the also fugitive former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, the nationalist forces take part in the state's repression against the singers.
Pablo Hásel showed his support for the pro-independence cause, albeit in a framework of communist emancipation, but that has made many people who in normal conditions would not have defended the singer have greater sympathy for pointing out that once the censorship has begun, it can affect us all.
Although they gave him ten days to enter the jail as there were Catalan elections this Sunday, they did not want to arrest him on Friday or Saturday.
He has not been able to breathe too much either. He has published several songs criticizing the new monarch. There was a concert last week in which the police and their sirens were continuously hovering oppressively. With the elections already held, it seems that they wanted to clear the situation as soon as possible. Major demonstrations are therefore expected in the coming days.