Following the 2011 anti-austerity protests known as the 15-M (Wiki), Podemos appeared three years later as a party created by a professor of politics who wanted to address the rampant corruption evident at that time in Spain. While we were distracted by his silly hairdo, Pablo Iglesias managed something that his eventual ally the Izquierda Unida had never achieved in forty years – and that was to bring far-left politics to the front of Spanish life. The other more traditional parties were understandably aghast, and with the help of the media have been fighting hard ever since to remove this populist leader and his Marxist dogma from society.
It looks like, with some bad calls on Iglesias’ part - some party defections (we remember the Life of Brian Judean Liberation Front scene), together with an ill-judged move with his family to a fancy house in a Madrid suburb followed by an untimely three-month baby-leave, that the party is currently in a calamitous free-fall.
The largest problem is, of course, the issue of the decomposition of the party as splinter-groups such as Compromís, En Marea, En Comú, and even allies like the Izquierda Unida and Equo, along with the party co-founder Iñigo Errejón, not only move away, but sometimes put themselves in political opposition to Podemos. El Independiente looks at this here, The Guardian features the issue here.
Pedro Sánchez is as almost as worried as the still-absent formula-mixing Pablo Iglesias about the party’s precipitate fall – with Albert Rivera from Ciudadanos promising that his ‘centrist’ party will not pact post-election with the PSOE.
The worry is that the PSOE, faced with the tres amigos of the Right, need Podemos’ support following the April elections. Unidos Podemos could fall in deputies from its current 71 to something nearer 39, says a poll (IU and Podemos revalidated their union this Wednesday).
Spain has in effect returned to a new left-right divide as El Mundo notes here – but will the spirit of the 15-M still find representation in future parliaments. Let’s hope so.
Idealista looks at the share of homes bought by foreigners in Spain, which stood at 65,500 last year – or about 12.5% of all dwellings bought in 2018. Of these, 15.3% were British buyers. Alicante was the preferred choice for foreign buyers.
From Spanish Property Insight: ‘The Town Planning Commission for Gerona has imposed a moratorium on all new development, including on land zoned as urban, covering 2,000 hectares of the Costa Brava and 19 of the 22 municipalities on the coast between Portbou in the north and Blanes in the south. The municipalities of Castell-Platja d’Aro, Calonge i Sant Antoni and Castelló d’Empúries have escaped the moratorium...’. The report is here.
The Criminal Court Number 4 in Almería has agreed to the seizure of assets belonging to the Town Hall of Zurgena in order to pay 646,292.61 euros in compensation to seven British couples for the damage cause to them by the granting of illegal planning permissions. The couples bought off-plan properties in the area of Las Cabreras that were never completed. The story is at 20 Minutos here (with thanks to AUAN).
From El País in English here: ‘Ibiza tops list of most profitable vacation destinations in Spain. Three island locations are among the top five in terms of revenue per available room’.
A novel form of cheap holidaymaking is ‘gamping’, where you pay a small fee to camp on somebody’s private land. El Mundo says ‘We are far away from the days when going to a travel agency to book a package was the norm. The arrival of numerous digital platforms has opened the doors to new ways of doing tourism. Hotels now have to compete with tourist rentals, but now not only apartments, but also gardens. Although not a new phenomenon, 'gamping' has been known in the UK since 2010, this new way of travelling, a sort of Airbnb of gardens, has been gaining followers in recent years. In fact, various platforms such as Gamping (‘find private land where you can camp’) or Garden Sharing offer camping in private gardens, vineyards and even farms...’.
Gurusblog in its ‘personal finance’ section looks at bank commissions. It begins: ‘This is how the bank commission cake is distributed: more than 10,000 million euros to share between them. A normal customer with his current account and his card could save more than 100 euros a year if he opts for an institution that applies a policy of zero fees...’.
‘Spain-Morocco railway tunnel talks underway government says. If the first land link between Europe and Africa was made by tunnel, it would have to be 38km to stretch between the two countries’. Item from The Olive Press here.
El Mundo reports (disapprovingly) that ‘Pedro Sánchez launches the largest public job offer just before the campaign begins’. We read ‘...Sources in the department headed by Meritxell Batet confirm that the Executive is working on an offer for the General State Administration (AGE), and that the aim is to approve and process it by the end of March or early April at the latest. And although the Civil Service still does not want to advance a number of places, union representatives explain to this newspaper that, according to the first conversations held, the figure will be even higher than last year's historic figure (of 30,000)’...
Unherd looks at how the Spanish economy is squeezing lower-paid workers, and how this can lead to support for populism. An excerpt: ‘...When a country suffers a severe economic shock as Spain did during the Eurozone crisis – and it can’t devalue its currency in response because it no longer controls that currency – then it has to find other ways of staying afloat. One of the easiest, but unfairest, approaches is to squeeze workers. At a time of high unemployment and cuts to social security, people can’t afford to turn down work – no matter how poor the wages or insecure the contract...’. (Thanks Lorna).
General elections: April 28th. European, local and (most) regional elections: May 26th.
La Voz de Galicia has published a survey which puts Vox in third place in voting intention, behind the PSOE and the PP. The newspaper says that both the PP and Ciudadanos are working to stem the flow of support to the far-right. El País reports that the Vox leader Santiago Abascal ‘...warns the PP and Ciudadanos that his party won't be their silent partner’.
From El País in English here: ‘As elections loom, Spain’s PP ramps up rhetoric to stop voter drain. Mainstream conservatives talk tough on immigration, abortion and Catalonia to keep up with the far-right Vox, which is threatening to take supporters away at the upcoming polls’.
Ciudadanos ‘is the one party that can attract fresh talent’ as El Español reports two new signings, with the Balearic ex-PSOE politician Joan Mesquida, and the Castilla y León politician Silvia Clemente who has moved over from the PP.
Another party seeking to gain ground in the forthcoming elections is the eccentric PACMA animal-protection party (Bizcocho for President). El Confidencial says that all the candidates for this party are vegetarians.
However the results of the general election plays out, the parties will clearly have to show their alliances and pacts before campaigning for the local and regional elections begin. The one will thus influence the other. ElDiario.es explores this subject here.
From The Local comes: ‘Spain's Pedro Sanchez on Sunday urged Europeans to resist the "winds of xenophobia" threatening the continent, as he marked 80 years since the flight of 475,000 Spaniards to France after Francisco Franco seized power after a brutal civil war. "Across Europe, the winds of xenophobia are blowing," the Spanish premier said in Argeles-sur-Mer, a seaside town just across the border in southern France where he paid tribute to the exiles of the Civil War...’. On Wednesday, in the final plenary session before the elections, 20Minutos reports ‘Sánchez, in a warning to the PP and Ciudadanos – “you can’t even walk half-way around the block with the extreme-right”’.
Business over Tapas must admit to a poor opinion of Vox, the fast-growing far-right party, which appears to be against many things... including women's rights. Here, we read that they had called for a list of all those in the Andalusian government who have been working (´fighting´) against gender violence in the autonomy. El País in English says that ‘The party claims it has seen complaints that some government employees are unqualified to shape decisions on child custody and abuse’. A later story (from El Mundo) says that the Junta de Andalucía has decided against furnishing Vox with a list of ‘the professionals involved in gender violence’. El Huff Post speaks with those involved in an article titled ‘The confessions of Andalusian workers regarding gender violence after being pointed out by Vox: "They are not going to intimidate us"’.
A call for ‘the most voted party’ to take over government, from the Cortes or even the town hall – a popular campaign issue with the Partido Popular – has now been withdrawn by the current leader Pablo Casado. Understandably.
‘Equo slams Iglesias and goes with Errejón in Madrid. The green party will compete in coalition with Más Madrid (the charismatic Manuela Carmena’s party) in the regional elections for the Community of Madrid’. A report at El Huff Post can be read here.
Around 100,000 of those with diminished intellectual understanding are now able to vote in Spanish elections. After all, as 20 Minutos points out ‘Any one of us is subject to manipulation’.
Brexit... Catalexit... An opinion piece in El País in English: ‘The pipe dream of Brits and Catalans. Talks with the European Union show that it makes no sense to demand national independence in a global world’.
From the pro-independence Vila-Web comes ‘Eight examples of dirty tactics employed by Spanish Supreme Court in referendum trial. From arrogance and haste and the ban on international observers to the obstacles facing the political prisoners’ lawyers and relatives’.
From The New York Times we read ‘Will Spain become a victim of the Catalan separatists?’ An excerpt: ‘...In forcing early elections and the potential fall of the Sánchez government, the Catalan separatists appear willing to forfeit the best chance they have had in decades to advance Catalan autonomy. The Sánchez government has supported dialogue with Catalan separatists; appointed many Catalans to prominent cabinet positions, including Meritxell Batet, responsible for managing regional affairs; and agreed to a substantial increase in public spending in Catalonia for 2019. It even consented to talks about amending the Spanish Constitution to expand autonomy for all of Spain’s regions. Those gains could be quickly erased if the Popular Party is returned to power...
You might as well know the worst... From The Guardian we read of Hard Brexit dangers for British expatriates and tourists: ‘If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, what will be the immediate impact on your finances, rights and travel plans?’.
‘Spanish PM announces decree to deal with a “disorderly” Brexit. Pedro Sánchez told Congress the measure would seek to protect the rights of Britons in Spain and Spaniards in Britain after the UK leaves the European Union’. El País in English has the story here.
‘Britons face five-hour airport queues in Spain with no-deal Brexit. Alicante airport is likely to be worst affected, says consumer group Which?’. Headline from The Guardian here (Project Fear?) .
The PP are pleased that the Government investigation into their erstwhile corrupt practices – an activity which brought them low in the vote of confidence last summer – has now been cancelled. El Español says ‘The commission on PP's 'B accounts' collapses after the PSOE refuses to extend it’. Público seems a little more upset about this: ‘Congress falsely closes PP’s ‘B accounts’ commission after two years of work. Unidos Podemos, Ciudadanos, ERC and others accuse the PP, the PSOE and the PNV of slowing down the inquiry and vetoing Rajoy's appearance’. This way, an inquiry into Pedro Sánchez’ doctoral thesis by the PP-controlled Senate has also been dropped.
VozPópuli reports that LaSexta plans a five-way televised debate with the candidates from the PSOE, PP, Ciudadanos, Unidos Podemos and Vox scheduled for April 23rd, just five days before the General Elections. The national television, RTVE, has meanwhile offered a debate between the four main party leaders for April 22nd.
El Mundo escapes from its habitual political impartiality with this interesting piece of information: ‘PSOE voters drink wine, Ciudadanos voters like to diet’. The picture shows the two leaders from Union Podemos enjoying a beer... The article reckons that PP supporters lean towards gin and tonic. Oh, and here’s another manipulation from the same paper: Jose Borrell, the erstwhile Foreign Minister (and Catalonian) is the first name on the PSOE list for the European Elections and, inevitably, a job in Brussels. A straight-forward item, but this is how El Mundo announces it: ‘The independentistas applaud Josep Borrell's departure to Europe’. You see, the Sánchez people are really on the side of the Cataloonies!
Rather more serious, an item from Xataca: ‘The Congress approved on Thurday the new Law of Intellectual Property or "Ley Sinde" as it was popularly known in its day. After PSOE, PP and Citizens agreed on the reform of this law, the text has finally obtained the necessary votes for its approval and subsequent sending to the Official State Gazette (BOE) where it will become effective...’. It’s to do with Internet control – where the Government can now close or block pages it objects to without recourse to a judge. Readers are reminded to use a VPN to avoid political interference in their Web-browsing.
How much will newspaper subscriptions cost in 2019? Many Spanish newspapers will soon have a pay-wall. How will that play out, asks Media-tics here.
Xataca looks at the Government discounts available on electric cars here.
Who needs a cumbersome car when living in the city? The concept SEAT Mínimo is a cute electric two-seater solution which will no doubt be ubiquitous in a few years from now... Citröen have an odd new electric transporter too, the Ami One Concept... Both of these vehicles are planned as ‘car-share’ where one buys credit on a card and then books the vehicle for single-time use. (Ami One on YouTube here).
From Reuters here: ‘Spain’s government presented a draft proposal on how to drastically reduce carbon emissions on Friday, less than two weeks before parliament is due to be dissolved ahead of a general election that may nix its chances of becoming law’.
From VozPópuli here: ‘One of the most dangerous invasive plants in the world has been found in Catalonia. The invasive aquatic plant 'Alternanthera philoxeroides' – known as alligator weed (Wiki) – proliferates on the surface of the water and prevents the penetration of light and the exchange of gases, thus affecting both the growth of native species and also maintaining a correct ecological balance’.
From Sur in English here: ‘A guiri's guide to extra virgin olive oil. While large-scale production of the golden liquid remains a Spanish affair, many foreigners also produce their own. This year promises to be a bumper one for olive oil production thanks to the wet spring followed by a mild summer and good rainfall in autumn too’.
‘Luxembourg – the Spanish Duchy’. The Wanderer (en castellano) reports that ‘For nearly 200 years, this strategic corner of Old Europe was under Spanish rule, and its streets and buildings were home to thousands of soldiers, engineers, nobles and civil servants who struggled to resist the onslaught of enemy troops. These are the traces of the Hispanic past in the so-called "Gibraltar of the North"...’.
‘Spain is a country of great contrasts. Here's one of them . . . While in our cities we might still be spoilt for choice, out in the countryside as many as 4,000 villages have no local bank branch and just 20% of these are served by a monthly or fortnightly mobile bank open for 3 hours at a time. This is problematic for an entire generation which still pays its bills in cash over the counter at the bank’. Item from Colin Davies’ blog Thoughts from Galicia here.
From Bloomberg here: ‘Maybe it’s something in the gazpacho or the paella, as Spain just surpassed Italy to become the world’s healthiest country. That’s according to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, which ranks 169 economies according to factors that contribute to overall health ... Four additional European nations were among the top 10 in 2019: Iceland (third place), Switzerland (fifth), Sweden (sixth) and Norway (ninth). Japan was the healthiest Asian nation, jumping three places from the 2017 survey into fourth and replacing Singapore, which dropped to eighth. Australia and Israel rounded out the top 10 at seventh and 10th place...’. (The UK is 19th and the US is 35th).
Can one own too many dogs or cats? The town hall of Palma thinks so. From 20 Minutos comes ‘The ayuntamiento plans to limit the number of pets per home in multi-family buildings to a maximum of three’. In Madrid, one needs a licence to have more than five domestic animals (here).
From Euronews: ‘The latest tech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona’. Video.
‘The advantage of calling Andalucía home is that we live a short distance from some of the world’s most amazing cities, such as Granada, Córdoba and Seville. With Ronda as our chosen base, we also have the added bonus of near proximity to Andalucía’s famous White Villages or Pueblos Blancos. Picturesque, peaceful and quite pristine, they are often favoured by day-trippers from the Costa del Sol. But are these rustic mountain towns suitable for elderly travellers? Planning the forthcoming visit of my mother, we decided to preview the village of Zahara de la Sierra to ensure that we could conquer it with a sprightly Norwegian 88-year-old in tow...’. From Eye on Spain here.
‘In 1980, a man called Josep Pujilula i Vila, a former textile worker, began crafting a labyrinth alongside the Fluvia river in Catalonia, Spain...’. The story at Eye on Spain has some wild photographs...
Again from Eye on Spain here, we read of Madrid’s Botanical Garden: ‘Founded by King Ferdinand IV's royal decree, the Real Jardín Botánico is a two-and-a-half centuries-old wonder, occupying 20-acres of lush terrain in the heart of Spain's capital city...’.
Since we found Reggaeton last week, here’s Zion and Lennox from Puerto Rico with Hola.