The politics are strong, but maybe, after all the recent elections, we will soon be able to talk of other things. There’s just the small problem of Brexit to resolve (and the looming visit of the American president and the sale of milk shakes to bemuse the British). And, Goodness! Who will become the next (undemocratically chosen) prime minister? Not Boris, surely?
In Brussels, the question arises of what to do with Farage and his ghastly crowd – ‘ghastly’ if you happen to be a European, or just working in Brussels. He’s evidently a hero in England. Maybe the European Commission could formally eject the UK from the EU (and just keep Scotland) just to preserve some sanity. We shall have to look it up in the rulebook.
In Spain, the local and regional elections went fairly well, with the centrist parties of the PSOE, the PP and C’s taking most of the votes. Both Podemos and Vox failed to perform (here and here), with Podemos-clones only managing to hold Cádiz and Valencia (with Barcelona in doubt). A shame about Madrid though, where the stern book-keeping of Manuela has halved the astronomic debt incurred by previous PP overlords. Now they are apparently back. (Maybe).
In my local town of Mojácar, an unpopular town hall not only resisted the call from the opposition, it actually increased its hold on the place.
Strange stuff politics, let’s talk about the weather.
Those properties bought in good faith (often by Brits) across Andalucía in the early years of this century and later – once the cheques had cleared – to be deemed ‘illegal’ by the Junta de Andalucía, have long been a most disgraceful scandal. Leaving aside, for one callous moment, the three hundred thousand property owners and their families, how much money and reputation did Spain lose by this evil arbitration? How many potential jobs were lost? How many small municipalities lost their chance of withstanding their current demographic decline? A few of these homes were demolished (one remembers Len and Helen Prior in Vera in January 2008), while many others were eventually deemed to be ‘alegal’ (a word which doesn’t exist in the Spanish dictionary but means ‘legalish’ or ‘Aw hell, it’ll do’). How many confused elderly folk had to live with batteries, or generators, or a line plugged into a neighbour’s home? How many were connected to a hosepipe, and how many were unable to pass the property on to their children in inheritance? A good news story comes from Tuesday’s ABC: ‘The Junta announces a plan to regularize the 300,000 “alegal” dwellings in Andalucía’. The item says that, ‘wherever possible’ the homes in question will be amnestied. While things will no doubt take their time, ‘...in all these cases, the regulation will prevail in a clear and firm balance between the general interest and the preservation of the environment and the rights of the owners of these properties’. One must thank the hard work of the AUAN for this.
‘The number of Spanish homes acquired by foreign buyers increased in the second half of last year at the slowest rate since the second half of 2010, and growth would have been even lower had the the British not continued their love affair with property in Spain.
Foreign buyers acquired 50,249 homes in Spain in the last six months of 2018, up 1.4% compared to the same period a year before, reveals a report just published by Spain’s General Council of Notaries, a trade body. Notaries witness the vast majority of property sales that take place in Spain, and according to their figures, foreign buyers made up 18.2% of the market, down from a high of 20.3% in the second half of 2015...’. Item from Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight here.
What a terrible photograph, a queue of tourists waiting for their moment on the top of Mount Everest! From Lenox’ blog ‘...Tourism these days is sacred. Everyone has the right to see the world (even from the top!). Spain had 82.6 million foreign tourists last year, and another indeterminate amount of national tourists besides. They all went, apart from those Spaniards who chose to visit their grandparents' pueblo for a few slightly uncomfortable days, either to look at some monument or museum - the Alhambra (2.76 million visitors) or the Museo del Prado (3.6 million in 2018), or away to an overcrowded beach...’
A village in Cácares called Pescueza has reinvented itself as a place for seniors to live. The Asociación Amigos de Pescueza found an elegant solution to the exodus of residents in their pueblo – by making it senior-friendly. El País has the story: ‘The town that was transformed into a residence for the elderly’ (English version here).
Público looks at co-housing: ‘The alternative to nursing homes that our grandparents would prefer. Through cooperatives, the elderly are organizing themselves with plans to build homes with health services and activities with the intention of aging in common and thus avoid becoming a burden for their loved ones’.
The Corte Inglés, which has prided itself on never closing a store, has announced the closure and sale of two – in Los Arcos (Seville) and Bahía Sur (Cádiz) – to a vulture fund called Castellana Properties for 36.8 million euros. The story is at ElDiario.es here. From Business Day we learn that ‘...Vukile (a South African investment company) owns 72.2% of Castellana Properties, a Spain-listed company that owns €916.5m worth of commercial property and is the ninth largest real estate investment trust in that country...’.
The Australian mining company Berkeley is doing well, with its shares up 35% in the last couple of days. This could be because their planned open uranium mine in Retortillo (Salamanca) will likely get its opening licence following the election of a new PP government for the tiny pueblo of just 200 inhabitants. The story is at El País here.
‘The Government of the United States has included Spain in a joint-program of the sale of arms and the modernization of the army of Saudi Arabia valued at 8,000 million dollars approved by Trump last Friday...’. Leaving Spain in a quandary. Item from VozPópuli here.
The Independent seems sanguine: ‘European elections: After a resounding victory, Spanish socialists set to confront EU’s populist right wing. Analysis: On the back of the general election win, Pedro Sanchez admits an EU win is both an opportunity and an ‘enormous responsibility’’.
The results from Spain for the European, regional and local elections. In the local vote, the PSOE took an overall 29.25%, the PP 22.25% and Ciudadanos 8.25%. In the European elections, El País in English has ‘Socialist Party wins the European elections in Spain. The left-wing group took 32% of the vote, while the conservative Popular Party managed just 20% and far-right Vox gained its own MEPs for the first time’.
Opinion: the winners and losers with ElDiario.es here.
‘Will Spain be the saviour of Social Democracy in Europe?’ Asks an article from GoodShit here. ‘...The election campaign run by the PSOE’s leader, Pedro Sánchez, offers pointed lessons on how centre-left politicians can confront the electoral challenge of the far right—and win...’.
‘Ciudadanos say they are open to agreement with the PSOE in communities such as Castilla y León, where the Socialists were the most voted. Albert Rivera thus removes the veto to the PSOE after the PP’s not doing well in any important place and says he will not discard pacting with “any group”’. Ciudadanos has the key to some city halls, and Pedro Sánchez hopes they will have the sense to shy away from Vox. The item is from ElDiario.es here.
Results for the elections for Unidas Podemos were far from satisfactory and Pablo Iglesias decided against making a public comment on hearing the numbers. The party lost 860,000 votes and 68 regional deputies in the twelve autonomies that held elections says El Mundo here.
Local elections: ‘Vox loses half of its voters in just one month. Data from the European elections confirms a massive loss of Vox voters even in municipalities where it was the leading political force less than a month ago’. El Huff Post reports here.
Vox has won absolute majorities in five local elections. Small places, admittedly, with the largest of the five having a population of just 115 inhabitants. Still (ahem), it's a start.
The Olive Press reports on the local results from Andalucía here: ‘Andalucía won by PSOE in municipal elections as Vox is decimated and the PP take control of the Costa del Sol. Of the 786 municipalities in Andalucía, the PSOE took 690, representing 80%’.
A nice article about Madrid’s Manuela Carmena, who, we read, ‘...is credited with bringing a refreshingly frugal management style to a city administration that had grown accustomed to feasting at the public trough. Her government cut the city’s debt load to €2,700 million from €4,800 million...’. The story comes from The New York Times here. At the moment, and despite the largest number of councillors elected, she is the probable loser (along with Madrid itself), as the PP looks to an alliance with C’s and Vox – although she could still be the winner on June 15th says Público here.
El País in English has ‘Will a right-wing mayor axe the Madrid Central anti-pollution plan? José Luis Martínez-Almeida of the Popular Party wants to review the signature program put in place by outgoing leftist city leader Manuela Carmena’.
There was some doubt as to the results of the local elections in Ibiza, León, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote after the counting machines were found to be faulty. La Ser is following the intrigue here. Later: Ibiza City Hall went to the PSOE on the recount.
The rule allowing 100,000 mentally disabled people to vote caused (it comes as no surprise) certain confusion on Election Day.
Foreign mayors? There were two in 2007, none in 2011 and one, Mario Blancke, in Alcaucín (Málaga) in 2015. So far (as Alcaucín seeks a pact following a hung election), we haven’t found news of any for 2019...
An investigation at ElDiario.es finds connections between Mariano Rajoy and the police-led plot to discredit Podemos in 2015.
‘Ousted Catalan premier Puigdemont beats separatist rival at European elections. The politician, who is living in Belgium after fleeing Spain, won 28% of the vote, while Oriol Junqueras obtained 21%’. Headline from El País in English here.
From The Olive Press here: ‘Lib den leader Vince Cable issues stark Brexit warning for Gibraltar’.
The number of Brits seeking Spanish nationality has increased by a factor of six since 2016, says Europa Press, but admits it still ain’t that many. Indeed, just 209 británicos (compared with 33 in 2016) registered themselves on the never-ending, never-resolved list in 2018. The article says ‘...in Spain an application can take more than three or four years to process, while in the United Kingdom or Germany the average term is about six months...’.
From The Times (paywall) here: ‘The European parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator has joined calls for an investigation into how thousands of EU citizens and British expatriates may have been denied their right to vote in the European elections. Guy Verhofstadt said that there were “worrying reports of EU citizens in the UK being denied the right to vote and told to vote ‘at home’. The scale of this apparent problem needs to be investigated.”...’.
‘Scottish govt publishes independence referendum bill. Nicola Sturgeon says a second vote before 2021 would give people chance to reject Brexit’. From The Guardian here.
How to manipulate elections (or political opinion), using bots and murky social networking. El País finds five different systems present in Spain (and blames Russia) here.
EU versus Disinfo – lots to read about bots, manipulation and bogus news stories here.
From Nueva Tribuna: ‘Greenpeace points to OKdiario as one of the websites that propagates the most manipulations and lies’. The story here.
Digital Sevilla is surprised that Albert Rivera’s fabulous new home and car aren’t worth the treatment from LaSexta or any of the national dailies.
‘A new Spanish book called ¡Mecaguen! praises the ‘therapeutic’ quality of insulting. Sergio Parra's book favours amusing, old-fashioned Spanish insults above modern swearwords’. Item from The Olive Press here.
Puff from AtresMedia for a new documentary to be shown on Antena3 on June 3rd, World Oceans’ Day. ‘The waters of the Mediterranean, the most polluted and threatened on the planet according to a new documentary called "Salvemos nuestro Mediterráneo", which alerts us to the alarming pollution to which the waters of this sea are subject, as it is found to contain between 20% and 45% of the micro-plastic particles from all over the world’.
‘30 university students of the branch of environmental sciences of the University of Vigo and students of Vocational Training of Pontevedra and Mondoñedo (Lugo) participated last week in a campaign promoted by the National Park of the Illas Atlánticas in order to control the expansion of the African daisy on the archipelago (the Cies and Ons Islands), and they collected up to 1,400 kilos of this invasive species. This plant has been present on the islands for years and "poses a threat to the native flora."...’. Found at Galicia Press here.
Bullfighting numbers are down every year says ElDiario.es here. These are figures from the anti-bullfighting AVATMA and they contradict the data from the Ministry of Culture (here and here respectively). The Americans evidently aren’t as upset as the Europeans by Los Toros (generally speaking). Here’s an engaging article from Outside on Cristina Sánchez called ‘The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup’.
From El País in English here: ‘The father of current monarch Felipe VI, who is aged 81, has informed his son via a letter that he will no longer be making official appearances and will retire from public life from June 2, which will be the five-year anniversary of his abdication of the throne...’. The Berliner Morgenpost takes a shot at Juan Carlos’ ‘scandals and infidelities’ here, says El Huff Post here.
Please be nice to the Nazis. Thumping one may be considered by the courts as a ‘hate crime’ says Spanish Revolution here.
Google Maps is now showing all the static speed traps. El Mundo reports on this here.
Ten must-sees places in Andalucía that you may have missed. ‘More than 1100 kilometres of coastline, two National Parks and cities such as Seville, Córdoba and Granada are the epitome of Andalucía, but there is so much more to this region. Roman ruins, villages that defy gravity, dizzying trails and rivers that appear to be from another planet. This too is Andalucía. Come discover these other destinations, those that aren't on the first page of the travel guides...’. From Eye on Spain here.
‘The Virgin, the Moslems, and the wild mountains and ravines of the Picos de Europa’. Mike Arkus conquers the Cordillera Cantábrica.
In photos: Eleven more of Spain’s most beautiful villages with El País in English here.
The old black and white Pathé News, that was shown in the cinema before the main feature (similar in Spain to the Noticiarios y Documentales – known to the public as the Nodo), here shows ‘Zero Hour for Franco’ (1946) on YouTube.