According to officials in Mali two Catalan NGO workers who had been kidnapped by Al Qaeda have been released (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Officials in Mali have confirmed the release of Albert Vilalta and Roque Pascual who were kidnapped by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on November 29th. Press have confirmed the release with the Sahara Media quoting "sources in northern Mali," the region that the two Catalans were supposedly being held. According to both the Sahara Media and Al Arabiya the release is related to the recent extradition of Omar Uld Sid'Ahmed Uld Hame, more commonly known as Omar Saharaui, who was sentenced to 12 years in a prison in Mauritania for his part in the kidnapping. Vilalta and Pascual were kidnapped along with Alicia Gámez (who was released in March) on November 29th on the road between Nouadhibou (northern Mauritania) to Nouakchott, where they were part of a humanitarian convoy traveling with Barcelona Acció Solidaria. Francesc Osán, the president of Barcelona Acció Solidarity, the NGO, which Vilalta and Pascual belonged to said that he had received no confirmation that the pair had been released yesterday. Osan has ensured that neither the organisation nor the family of the kidnapped pair have heard any official news and are still awaiting confirmation from the Spanish government.
Catalan politcal parties increase their presence on the internet ahead of the upcoming elections (read article in Castilian here, El Pais). In a bid to reach more voters the Catalan parties, who had been struggling to find places to push their message, have now adopted new campaign policies that include using blogs, YouTube videos and social networks to put out their messages. The parties were aware of how important the one-way communication the internet used to provide with all candidates having their own website in the 2006 elections but this has developed further; Artur Mas, leader of CiU, now has a weekly updated video blog, an initiative in Catalan politics that is being hailed as pioneering. This election, the parties have noted the appeal of the blogs, with most members of parliament, having one. Plus the interactive aspect of the internet is being The Esquerra Republicana have launched a website (www.decideixes.cat) where you can amend their electoral programme, collaborate with the party and even get the change to design the ad for their campaign. Whilst Jordi Cuminal, the CiU communications secretary said that Twitter will "set the elections on fire," and works under the philosophy "Whoever does well on the internet is not guaranteed to win elections, but who wants to win the elections should do well in the Internet." However the presence of the candidates on Facebook and Twitter is uneven. Everyone has their own profile on Facebook and most post themselves, however most parties say that politicians do not have time to give Twitter enough attention to make it worth while. Marc Rius,the ICV campaign manager said "Joan Herrera has not opened a Twitter account because it demands a very high frequency of comments and we do not want anther person to do it in his place."
Gràcia festival closes with fewer incidents than previous years (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). The last night of the festival ended without incident after it was feared there would be violence over the intervention by the Mossos on Saturday afternoon.The police, who stopped a tribute to an ETA collaborator on Saturday afternoon only made a few evictions of people in the early hours which ended without uprooted containers being set on fire or damage done to traffic lights, a common consequence of previous festivals. Despite the absence of violence, the Mossos, arrested three people and the Guardia Urbana detained two, for throwing beer cans at the police. In the Plaça del Raspall, where young squatters and alternative bands, organised a homage to ETA collaborator Laura Riera, who left jail yesterday after serving her sentence of nine years, they sang Anti-Spain songs and unfolded banners that demanded that alternative fiestas aren't controlled as tightly as they are by security forces. The Mossos had to implement a major deployment for their eviction.