The freedom of expression – recognised by the Spanish Constitution – is the right to say or write (or sing) what you like. Within civilized limits perhaps? Here in Spain, we have that freedom; mostly. It was understood that one didn’t insult the Royal Family (‘lèse-majesté’) or champion ETA or other forms of terrorism (even though the ETA is a dead duck these days). It was also understood that one insulted Christianity and Islam at one’s own risk.
So, we have a number of cases recently of people being arrested and either threatened with prison or indeed being condemned for inappropriate songs, posts, tweets and commentary. Some of these are attracting a lot of attention, while the Courts evidently appear to the Public Eye to be dealing leniently with white-collar and political crime.
The gay creature that dressed up as the Virgin Mary and suffers a parody of crucifixion in Las Palmas, as part of the carnivales there, is a case in point. As The Olive Press says: ‘...The performance, byBorja Casillas (aka Drag Sethlas), has provoked an embittered debate, and at its centre is Bishop Francisco Casas, who accused Casillas of ‘frivolous blasphemy’...’. A proposal to investigate the issue further by the Canaries prosecutor has now been initiated following a complaint by the Christian Lawyers Association, says El Huff Post here. A Canaries imam says ‘I can’t even imagine what would happen if they tried something similar with an image of Mohammed’ (here).
Meanwhile, a bus in Madrid, painted by a far-right Christian group called Hazte Oir, is impounded for advertising anti transsexual propaganda (‘a boy has a penis, a girl has a vulva’).
Meanwhile, others are in deeper water. The current round of arrests began with the titiriteros this time last year, two puppeteers imprisoned for five days for ‘celebrating terrorism’ in what was described by one woman who saw the show in Madrid as ‘rather less violent than Spongebob Squarepants’. They were eventually pardoned. More recently, we have heard of César Strawberry, the punky Marxist singer from Def Con Dos, who faces one year of jail-time for his inopportune comments on the Social Media.
This week, six ‘Twitterers’ were condemned in court for various improper postings on the Twitter platform. They posted humiliations and pro-terrorist remarks and received anything up to two years each (the normal limit for not actually going to jail for a first offence). Another poster, a girl from Murcia, with her joke about the assassination of Franco’s successor Carrero Blanco, must wait for a new defence lawyer – her previous one was a great supporter of the Caudillo apparently. So much for ‘black humour’, she says. The Mallorquín rapper, Valtonyc, now facing three and a half years for two offensive songs, has one of them on YouTube here. Three hundred thousand people have seen it so far.
A liberal judge says in an interview with El Diario: ‘Our criminal laws are very harsh with conduct linked to freedom of expression, as well as the criminalization of poverty. But they are extremely gentle with political and financial delinquency’. So what to do?
Rather oddly, the Minister for Justice says this week that ‘in Spain, no one is condemned for their songs or their opinions’. He blames the courts.
We are left with only this: should the accent be placed on the content of inappropriate speech – or on a better education for the speaker?
‘The tax authorities in Spain get away with murder. In some areas they slap a surprise tax on bargain hunters who buy too cheap, whilst in others they tax vendors for losing money. At least the Constitutional Court has finally put a stop to that, ruling that vendors don’t have to pay the plusvalia tax if they sell at a loss. An estimated 500,000 vendors are affected, and many will be able to claim back tax paid. Hallelujah’. Editorial from Mark Stücklin from Spanish Property Insight. He posts a legal article on this subject titled: ‘Spain’s Constitutional Court rules ‘Plusvalia’ tax is illegal if property is sold at a loss’.
It’s getting so expensive in Ibiza, thanks to the huge numbers of rentals, that ordinary people can’t afford to live there, says an article in El Confidencial here. As one landlord admits – ‘I make so much renting to tourists in just the high season that I can afford to toss out the Ikea furniture each year for new stuff. Well, wouldn’t you do the same if you owned a spare apartment?’.
‘...Specifically, the Director General of Hacienda explained that messages have been sent to 21,500 people informing them that they must include all their income in their 2016 tax-returns, which is the one presented this year. "The taxpayers that rents-out through the web, must know that we are controlling these situations", says the Tax Agency...’. More on this from Hosteltur here.
‘Galicia is experiencing a conflict over the creation of a tax on tourist overnight stays, similar to the tourist tax applied in Catalonia or the Balearic Islands. On one side is the mayor of Santiago de Compostela, Martiño Noriega, from a political group called "Compostela Aberta", integrated in the 'Mareas', a group associated with Podemos, and on the other side are most of the other political parties, especially the Xunta de Galicia, controlled by the Popular Party. Even some mayors of the 'Mareas' also oppose Santiago's proposal - by far the leading tourist attraction in the region...’. More at Preferente here.
Those wonderful, lush and exciting places... in the low season, when there’s nobody there. Photos from El País.
Winter foreign tourism is 15% up over last year in Andalucía, says Sur in English here.
‘The European Parliament votes to end visa-free travel for Americans. The passing of the non-binding resolution comes after the US failed to agree visa-free travel for citizens of five EU countries’. Video from The Independent here. The story also receives coverage in Spanish from Univisión here. From The Points Guy comes ‘Yes, it’s true that the European Parliament yesterday passed a nonbinding resolution recommending that travellers from the US must have a visa to visit EU member states. But the truth is that it’s highly unlikely that travel requirements will actually change in the near future...’.
Cruz Roja, who have asked us to help with their new project- TELECARE. The Home-base Telecare service has been set up to help people with disabilities, social isolation, elderly, sick or in a physical or social risk situation, and in need a continuous support. At the push of a button and they will respond immediately to emergency situations, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help. If you or someone you know could benefit please visit Telecare here.
From El País in English: ‘The Madrid regional assembly on Thursday unanimously approved the final draft of a law regulating palliative care in the last stages of life. The new legislation stipulates that terminally ill and agonizing individuals may receive comprehensive palliative care in a hospital (either public or private), or in their own home, if they so wish. The law also sets out the duties of health professionals and provides for their legal security. Madrid thus becomes the ninth Spanish region to pass this kind of legislation, following the example of Andalusia in 2010. The others are Galicia, Asturias, Catalonia, Basque Country, Navarre, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands...’.
The current rates of taxes on inheritance to remain in Andalucía, says the ABC here.
‘Spain’s exports of goods rose in 2016 for the seventh year running, defying expectations that they would tail off as the economy recovers and domestic consumption picks up. Exports were 1.7% higher than in 2015 at €254.5 billion (245,000 million) and imports 0.4% lower at €273.3 billion. As a result, the trade deficit fell 22.4% to €18.7 billion, the second lowest figure since 1997. Coupled with a buoyant tourism year (75.3 million visitors and spending of around €77 billion), the better trade figures helped to generate another current-account surplus (estimated at 2% of GDP). From 1990 to 2012, Spain had current-account deficits every year...’. From the Real Instituto ElCano here.
Paperwork, laws, rules. Bureaucracy. Often from different offices, different authorities. The inspections... the social security... the ‘norms’ and so on. How do we do it? You may want to create employment, but first, you need to get those permissions to open. Tacitus says: Corruptissima re-publica, plurimae leges – the more corrupt a country is, the more laws it has. In Spain, we have more than 100,000 laws and regulations which occupy over 1,250,000 pages in the Official State Bulletin (BOE) and – at least – another 800,000 in the rules from the various autonomies. Vozpópuli opines on this subject here.
El País shows the most-used AVE train stations here.
A French group called Puy du Fou has announced that it will open a theme park in Toledo based on the history of Spain, in 2021.
‘Spain’s banking sector is about to be hit by a new wave of mergers and acquisitions, according to US rating agency Standard & Poor’s. The new phase of industry consolidation will begin with the stealth merger of largely state-owned Bankia with wholly state-owned Banco Mare Nostrum (BMN)...’. Not necessarily a good thing, says Wolf Street here.
‘Spain plays its cards in the Brexit game. Spanish companies could recover human capital that emigrated to Britain during the crisis. Now that Brexit is unavoidable for Britain, the time has come to strengthen the relationship between Spain and the United Kingdom, to address the complex challenges of an unprecedented process full of unknowns, and to make the most of any opportunities that might arise...’. From El País in English here.
Regardless of how the inquiry into the Murcia president’s affairs is resolved, the junior partner in the PP/Ciudadanos coalition there is pulling out as they ‘...have broken their word’. Later on Wednesday, El Mundo reports that Ciudadanos have given Pedro Antonio Sánchez until March 27th to resign ‘or there will be regional elections’. Murcia is of course a one-province autonomous region.
The PP and PSOE want to make a change in the Spanish Constitution to make it easier to find a president, following from the experiences of last year.
According to the latest Sigma Dos survey, Pedro Sánchez is far in front of Susana Díaz in the stakes for leadership of the PSOE (The page doesn’t load very well).
The judge investigating the illegal financing of the Madrid Partido Popular has just uncovered new evidence, says El País here. ‘The information, details still kept secret by Judge Eloy Velasco in the context of the Punic Operation, allegedly contains profuse evidence that show the illegal financing of the Madrid PP since 2004 and that stains much of the then party leadership, according to legal sources. These are confidential documents seized by the judge in the house of the former PP Madrid manager Beltrán Gutiérrez and bring to light the ‘black accounts’ with which the party had paid in previous electoral campaigns and various party events. And, according to research, they have done so, among other criminal channels, through (the unfortunately named) Fundescam, the foundation that the PP created during the leadership of Esperanza Aguirre and that has been fuelled by large sums of money paid by friendly businesspeople in exchange for what should supposedly have been public contracts...’.
An interesting interview in El Diario with the ex-spokesman for ‘Jueces para la Democracia’ (the left-wing magistrates group) Joaquim Bosch describes political corruption as ‘not just a few rotten apples, but a rotten basket’. He also says that around a third of all cases brought to justice are to do with hugely unimportant things like insults or jokes in bad taste appearing on Twitter or Facebook. ‘When ETA was assassinating, there would be two or three cases a year praising terrorism; these days, since ETA has stopped killing, there are around thirty cases...’.
The Catalonian parliament is likely to approve the process for ‘a fast break from Spain’, according to an item in El Huff Post on Tuesday. A report from Villaweb last week says ‘...“...the referendum will be carried out”, stated Catalan President Carles Puigdemont...’. The item also notes that ‘...the Council of Statutory Guarantees ... stated that “the constitutional jurisprudence doesn’t recognise the Government’s power to regulate nor to call a referendum over Catalonia’s political future”...’.
From The Economist: ‘The parable of Gibraltar and Britain. Gibraltar could prove testing for Britain’s relationship with Spain during the forthcoming Brexit negotiations’. The article ends: ‘...That is the thing about leaving the EU. Europe is an old continent, wracked with conflicts and tensions, mutual interests and antagonisms, commonalities and differences. The union, in all its imperfection, broadly contains these in the interests of harmony and prosperity. It was the prospect of membership, for example, that persuaded Spain to reopen the border with Gibraltar in 1982, 13 years after it had shut it. Pulling out of the club risks melting the glue that holds some of these fractures together. The Northern Ireland peace settlement, Britain’s own union, disputes with neighbours over fishing rights, trade and crime: these are the accumulated complexities left after millennia of mixing and mingling. Gibraltar—exotic and yet familiar, so European by vocation but so British in feel—sums them up. The dark clouds over the peninsula hang over the motherland as well’.
El País – here in their English-language edition – has the answer for Gibraltar: ‘...Spain’s recent joint-sovereignty proposal offers a new approach...’.
‘If there’s one sight that Spaniards have enjoyed more than any other in recent months, it’s that of Rodrigo Rato going on trial for misappropriation of funds in the High Court. Sitting alongside his 64 co-defendants in the ‘black’ credit card case dating back to his chairmanship of the lender Bankia, his face was a picture of stunned humility. It’s hard not to contrast that maudlin image with the sight of Rato in 2004, when he wore a Cheshire cat grin having been unveiled as the new managing director of the IMF...’. From The Corner.
However, following the ‘Black Credit Cards’ judgement, Miguel Blesa and Rodrigo Rato elude jail without any cautionary measures, says El País here.
An excellent article from Eurocitizens about the ex-pat stereotype imagined by the British people. ‘...To find out why this is happening we need to delve into stereotypes about expats. We are accustomed to the dehumanising of 'swarms' of immigrants, the 'cockroaches' or 'feral humans’ of the toxic tabloids. Albeit on a much milder scale, the same process is applied to British citizens abroad. In her book, Identity, Ideology and Positioning in Discourses of Lifestyle Migration, Michelle Lawson analysed the language used in newspapers to describe British emigrants in France. She found frequent mentions to 'waves', 'influxes' of Britons, of 'the new British invasion’, of areas 'swamped by Britons'. 'British expat' consistently collocated with negative words and phrases. The term 'expat' itself was derogatory...’. Eurocitizens themselves are written up in Expansión under the title ‘British residents in Spain unite against the effects of Brexit’ here.
From Giles Tremlett, writing in The Guardian: ‘Theresa May cares about me and a million more people like me – British citizens who, before Brexit, chose to make their lives in Europe. There are, however, only two reasons why I know this. One is that the prime minister has repeatedly said so. The other is that three million Europeans who live in the United Kingdom are being held ransom on my behalf, forced to endure the stress and chronic uncertainty inflicted on those “displaced” by the new wall being erected in Europe...’.
‘Brexit has turned us into casino chips’, say a group of Spaniards resident in the UK, who are now organising themselves to defend their rights in a post-Brexit Britain. There are around 200,000 Spaniards residing in the UK. The story is at El País here.
One British newspaper, The Star, has suggested that the Spanish are prepared to follow the UK out of the EU, so as to keep the British tourists. Hum, not very likely!
‘This is how the TVE has manipulated the news since the Popular Party came to power in 2011’, says Público here. ‘Mariano Rajoy's party has made the Public Sector, especially television, an extension of the PP’s communication office. Público offers a summary of the main cases of manipulation, censorship or bad practices since 2011. RTVE workers have presented 2,000 signatures to Congress to claim their "independence"’. Lots of examples follow.
‘A report from the University of Oxford concludes that the Spanish media are the least credible of the eleven countries consulted in Europe and the second least credible of the twelve studied from around the world’. Nueva Tribuna has the story here.
OK Diario and La Razón, in their zeal to report a Barcelona loss against PSV following the Champions League game on Wednesday, neglected to wait until the end of the match to publish their reports. Barcelona eventually won 6-1. The story here.
The Housing Sector: the demand for housing
by Andrew Brociner
During the construction boom, the population of Spain grew rapidly, due to large scale immigration and higher fertility, driving growth which, in turn, resulted in new households being set up. The numbers in those years were very large and the demand for houses led to sales which were significant. It was, therefore, a virtuous circle. Of course, when the boom came to an end, in the ensuing years, quite the opposite happened, with people leaving, the number of new households set up falling, demand declining, and sales decreasing.
The latest figure for new households set up in 2016 registers an increase of a mere 32,491. This is even less than for 2015, which was just 43,100, which itself was only one half of the number for 2014 with 85,800. We are clearly on a trend which has steadily and significantly decreased from 2007 when it was a mammoth 474,000. This latest figure only confirms this trend with very few new households being set up and is a logical consequence of the issues we have been discussing, such as the low fertility rate, emigration, and the consequent declining population. In so far as the number of new households directly affects the demand for houses, its implications for the housing sector is not encouraging. Moreover, all the demographic components mentioned point to this trend continuing.
The INE publishes forecasts every two years for new households to be set up with a fifteen year horizon. The last forecast two years ago, for 2029, was for 950,000 to be set up, but the trend we have been on for some time has led even this forecast to be revised downwards. The latest forecast, now for 2031, is for 902,663 households to be set up, considerably lower than before, and very low for a fifteen year figure (consider how many were set up in a single year in 2007). If we average this number for the fifteen year period, we find that the forecast is for about 60,000 new households a year for the period, a figure which is something between the 2014 and the 2015 one; in other words, even this figure is close to the current numbers and nowhere near those of the boom period. We could therefore say that the figures are hardly very optimistic for the entire period. Moreover, in light of the 2016 numbers, this forecast might be revised downwards again. These figures are very much confirming what we have been saying for some time, that given the demographic situation of Spain, if nothing else happens, the number of households set up continues to be very low, impinging on demand for housing and hence price.
Spain has the second most expensive Internet charges in the EU, says Kelisto here. We beat Croatia, apparently.
After ten long years, the new hospital in Lepe (Huelva) is finally finished and opened. Well, it would be if there were any roads leading to it, says Público. The 28 million euro hospital has no water, electric or access. Maybe next year.
The Ministry of Culture has lowered IVA on the Toros from 21% down to 10%, says Mundotoro with some understandable satisfaction.
The famous tea-house in Madrid called The Embassy is to close after eighty five years.
‘Valuable Enough to Kill For: 4,000-Year-Old Mine Which Was Hijacked by Foreign Forces Uncovered in Spain’. The story from Ancient Origins begins: ‘Archaeologists in Spain have uncovered sophisticated mining operations in Munigua (nearVillanueva del Río y Minas in Seville), which were in operation as long ago as 4,000 years, but first Carthage and then Romans hijacked them for the vitally important metals iron and copper...’.
From The Olive Press: From the confused to the disillusioned to the just plain bored, a collection of twelve of the worst TripAdvisor reviews given to top tourist attractions in Andalucía.
Trailers from a film called Cantábrico on YouTube. Nature at its best. Here and here.
Visit the highest villages in Spain with El País here.
The eighteen most spectacular abandoned sites in Spain, from Cultura Inquieta here.
Dear Lenox and Andrew,
I must repeat once more my congratulations on the good job you are doing. The graphs of Andrew in BoT 198 on housing is a torpedo under the water line for the publications living from rose-painting the situation of the promoters. Per Svensson
Wednesday 8th of March was International Women’s Day. Here are ten new songs by female artists of various nationalities. The last one is from Mercedes Mígel Carpio "Vega" singing, for some reason, in Italian.
Next week’s edition will be Business over Tapas Nº 200 (still going strong!)