Between the Spanish and the British elections – the one on November 10th and the other on December 12th – the news-pages have been busy. Busier still are the social media with an endless supply of generally negative posts coming from all sides. It’s a big pot in either case – Spain to bring in either an angry left or right wing coalition, while the UK is to get a firm or not so firm Brexit, or maybe even a reprieve.
Since many of the BoT readers can’t vote in either of these elections, for one reason or another, it’s all something to either try to stand above, or to observe with incredulity and anger.
Facebook, so popular with many of us, is currently a place to visit with care and a pair of rubber gloves. No longer kittens, girl-friends and beach scenes, it’s now filled with hatred and poison.
Where do they find this stuff? Are they members of special and unsavoury pages (or maybe they write it themselves).
It’s to be expected that if someone re-posts stuff found on some extremist page, then it’ll be extremist stuff. And thus, we race to the bottom.
Extremism is in, and more rational centre-politics is out.
From Oxford University (here): “The majority of growth comes from political parties who spread disinformation and junk news around election periods. There are more political parties learning from the strategies deployed during Brexit and the US 2016 Presidential election: more campaigns are using bots, junk news, and disinformation to polarise and manipulate voters.”
Besides the many provocateurs and fifth columnists (sic) we must deal with, we also have the bot (not BoT)-driven pages from an attic somewhere pumping out emotive propaganda and flat-out lies designed to manipulate the readers. In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn gets a particularly heavy dose of it; while in Spain, of course, it’s Pablo Iglesias – both being considered as major threats to the ruling status quo. However, a lot of this bilge is aimed at other candidates too. The Liberals are seen (for once!) as a peril in the UK, Boris Johnson takes his medicine as another and so it goes on.
Not much of this crude barnstorming is positive. Tell us about your candidate, don’t tell me about mine!
The Guardian takes us to a commercial troll farm in Poland where ‘...an undercover reporter infiltrated the company, giving rare insight into the means by which fake social media accounts are being used by private firms to influence unsuspecting voters and consumers...’.
The UK had (has?) the notorious Cambridge Analytica (wiki) and Spain, apparently, has the services of an agency (here) which is currently pumping out well-prepared negative propaganda (posters included) against all parties except the PP.
Indeed, ElDiario.es considers that ‘the dirty PP campaign does not comply with the ethical codes of political communication: "It's like playing with marked cards"’.
Pablo Casado, for his part, denies everything.
Between the clever manipulations, the improbable news-stories and the hate-merchants who pump out crude attacks against their particular bug-bears, it’s a good time to steer clear of social media. Until, at least, next year.
Think of it as an early resolution.
‘The number of new mortgages registered in Spain has taken a dramatic nosedive compared with the previous year. This August there was a 29.9% decrease on the same month in 2018. The data released by the National Statistics Institute (INE) reveal that the uptake in mortgages for the eighth month of the year was also the worst since 2015...’. We read that ‘...The poor mortgage data has been blamed on Spain’s new property law (here), which was implemented this summer...’. From an article found at The Olive Press here.
Much is being written about the depopulation of Spain’s interior – La España vacía. From El Huff Post comes a story about how only the bread is still delivered in the village of Mohernando in Guadalajara. For everything else, well, the nearest shop anyway, one has to travel six kilometres to next door Yunquera de Henares. They have a bar though, so things could be worse. Over in Las Muñecas in León, there’s no one left since Isaac died last month and his wife went back to her home-village of Ferreras. Population 3. In Spain, only 20% of the population lives in 80% of the territory. Perhaps we should let some of this go, to allow some of Spain’s smallest municipalities to be struck from the map. The idea is examined by the ABC here, ‘Spain suffers from "mini-population": there are too many villages for such a small population, but it is still reversible. This is the diagnosis offered this week by Domingo Gómez Orea, professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and chairman of the Rural Affairs Committee of the Engineering Institute of Spain, in a conference organized by the Alianza Rural...’.
An abandoned village in Lugo bought by a German has been turned into ‘an intellectual paradise’ (Código Nuevo here). In the past eighteen months, around 100 people have taken advantage of The Foundry (as it is now called) as a place to compose, write or think. Visitors are invited to help with the repairs on the hamlet. The Foundry webpage is here.
From My London here: ‘Magaluf and Spanish party resorts blocking Brit seasonal workers until Brexit sorted. Frustrated businesses are looking to employ seasonal staff from Ireland and Eastern Europe because of the uncertainty over the UK's eventual exit from the EU’.
‘Tourism bosses from across the Costa and Andalucía arrive in London for the World Travel Market (November 4th to 6th). The annual event is the most important in the marketing calendar; this year it takes on special significance with Brexit looming, the collapse of Thomas Cook and new names in power’. Item from Sur in English here.
Unemployment is up for October by almost 98,000 – the worst rise since 2012. Conversely, employment was also up, according to social security registration, by 106,500. ElDiario.es has more here.
‘Iberia buys Air Europa for 1,000 million euros. IAG has reached an agreement with Globalia for the acquisition of its airline in order to make Madrid airport an international reference and to lead the routes to the Americas’. From El País here.
‘British landlords with holiday homes for rent in Europe will face extra taxes after Brexit.
Paying more tax is an unforeseen consequence of Brexit that thousands of property owners will have to accept. So far, the worst deal for British taxpayers owning property in Europe looks to be in Spain, which also happens to be the favourite overseas destination for Brits chasing the sun and a more laid-back lifestyle...’. Item from iExpats here.
The BBVA has joined other banks (Banco de Santander and Banco Sabadell) in charging customers 100€ annually for maintaining current accounts that do not meet new and stricter requirements. More at the Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios here.
For every Spaniard who returns home from living in the UK, three have recently gone in the other direction, says El Confidencial here. ‘Employment here in Spain is crap’, they say.
‘Tijola (Almería) always wins the lottery: the richest town in Andalucía with 14% unemployment’. Thus La Información on October 27th here. Tijola residents (population 3,570) have apparently won so many lotteries, that the townsfolk enjoy an average annual income of 40,600€. So, it was good to read on November 5th that the Bonoloto had blessed a tijoleño with a prize of 87,400€ in the Monday draw.
Another winner is Amancio Ortega, who, as La Vanguardia tells us here, ‘...added an extra 813 million euros to his fortune on Monday’. No doubt it will all trickle down...
Spanish General Election: Sunday November 10th.
The Monday evening five-way TV debate was certainly important. The TVE spent at least three news-nights preparing viewers for the event, and the TVE, Antena3 and La Sexta (at least) showed the two-hour build-up and the full debate on their channels. Much of it, inevitably, centred round the Catalonia issue. Who won? We shall see on Sunday.
One thing that stood out in the Monday debate was the Vox leader’s continuous attack on immigrants. El País here. Nonetheless, Antena3 gives the victory to Pablo Iglesias here. The left-wing ElDiario.es thinks that Vox won the debate in their useful summation here. The last paragraph from the foregoing reads: ‘...The only one of all the candidates who did not respond even once to the leader of the extreme right was Pablo Casado. Not a half word, neither for nor against. If the Partido Popular win the elections, Abascal will be their vice president’. El Mundo readers give it to Vox here and ten El País experts reckon that Sánchez won and Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos) lost.
The campaign promises are collected here, with thanks to Reuters (via WKZO Kalamazoo)
Javier Ortega Smith, the Nº2 in Vox, threatened the spokesman for the PNV regionalist party Aitor Esteban during a debate on LaSexta last week: ‘“Worry, worry I tell you. Worry, because when we can, we will abolish your party”’. El Huff Post has video and story here.
A small party seems to be attracting attention (and concern). Teruel Existe say they are tired of their province being ignored by Madrid. El Confidencial has the story.
The Organisation for World Peace posted last week ‘Ever-Polarizing Political Climate in Spain Brings Catalan Protests into Third Week’. We are now in the fourth week without any apparent change...
From Sur in English here. ‘Gibraltar to hold abortion referendum on 19 March. The subject is so emotive in Gibraltar that the government decided this was the fairest way for the decision to be made’. Gibraltar is one of the few places in Europe along with Malta and Poland where abortion is still a crime. Abortion in Northern Ireland was decriminalized on 22 October, 2019 (wiki).
More on the fake Facebook accounts from those who pretend to be from one party but are in reality from another.
Podemos quotes figures of the political corruption in Spain. Currently, they claim, it runs at 90,000 million euros annually. A book called ‘Diccionario de la corrupción’ estimates the total loss in corruption between 1978 and 2015 to have reached the more modest figure of 7,500 million euros. El Confidencial Digital looks at the disparity here.
El País introduces the reader to a number of foreign crooks living ‘on the lam’ on the Costa del Sol. ‘...The nationalities of those who seek to disappear in Málaga are varied: Russians, Moroccans, British, Scandinavians, Latin Americans... The crime committed does not vary so much: 90% are related to drug trafficking and its adjoining activities. Many choose the Costa del Sol to continue, remake or start businesses with cocaine as the protagonist. The majority are men. There are hit-men, robbers, leaders of biker-gangs. The Costa del Sol makes it easy for criminals to go unnoticed...’. The article nevertheless concludes that the villains are moving away ‘because there were too many, like a wasp-nest’. The police say ‘the Costa del Sol is no longer a good place for them to hide in’. An article on the number of foreigners in Marbella (37,700 in 2018) with Diario Sur here.
Britain says it won't act on European arrest warrant for the Catalan separatist Clara Ponsati, according to Yahoo News here.
From Sur in English here: ‘The vast majority of British citizens living here are angry about the Brexit situation’.
‘No online independence - Spain launches crackdown on Catalan protesters' digital organizing.’ Story from CGTN here. ‘...The government will, on Thursday, adopt a decree to oblige all public administrations to host their websites in the EU, a move Sánchez said was aimed at putting an end to what he called the separatists' aim of a "digital republic."...’.
National RTVE has dismissed a party political broadcast from Vox from the children’s hours which accuses immigrants of rape, although they can show it after 8.00pm. The story here.
As to the excitable tone currently found on Facebook (see editorial) even the Mexican-run bullfight page Viva la Fiesta Brava (here) reckons that the only way to go is with the Vox as ‘they are the party that supports bullfights’. You can imagine the comments.
The largest political spender on Facebook – more than all the other parties combined – is Unidas Podemos at 1,200,000€.
The notorious marketing guru for the PP had earlier offered his magic to the Valencia PSOE, but they turned him down, says ElDiario.es here.
From The Guardian here: ‘Madrid to host UN climate summit after Chile pulls out. The event will take place from 2-13 December as planned after Spain intervenes to save talks’.
There was a large public protest in Cartagena last week over the environmental destruction of the Mar Menor. To some people’s consternation, including Público’s, ‘The PP of Murcia were present at the demonstration: "It is as if the arsonist shows up to the march against the fire"’ says the indignant news-site here. The PP spin comes from the brain of the party manipulator Javier Ager, much in the news recently says ElDiario.es here.
Maldito Bulo looks at the Mar Menor here. The site says that the reason for the huge numbers of dead fish in the saltwater lagoon was simply ‘a lack of oxygen in the water – measurable at 0mg/l’. The huge amount of fertiliser run-off is considered to be the main culprit by the scientists, while the recent heavy rainstorms get the blame from the politicians. Can the Mar Menor be saved? A marine biologist from the Barcelona-based Institute of Marine Science says sadly ‘in the best-case scenario, not as we knew it’. More on the Mar Menor, ‘The story of a deep disaster’, can be seen at Datadista here.
From The Conversation here: ‘We’ve discovered the critter that eats the fly that attacks the olive trees’. Spain’s 2.5 million hectares of olive trees produce 45% of the world’s olive oil. The fly in question is the Olive Fruit Fly Bactrocera oleae and research is now showing that the fly is a target for a small beetle called Orthomus barbarous. A breakthrough? Maybe.
La Voz de Almería mirrors the indignation of local farmers when they see articles in the foreign press about los invernaderos, the plastic farms that cover the southern end of the province. We read that "People die inside the greenhouse, they have no protection and exploitation will continue. There are many risks, consumers are not told and they don’t know that we are slaves inside the greenhouse.". The foregoing text comes in this case from Al Jazeera which notes that ‘Exploitation plagues Spain's farming province, with migrant workers paid below minimum wage and living in squalor’. See the article (and video) here.
VozPópuli says that ‘The Government will share Spaniards’ financial and health data with companies. The National Data Institute will be launched next year, according to forecasts’. We read that ‘Next year, el Instituto Nacional de Datos is expected to become a reality. This agency will be "in charge of managing all the personal information of citizens handled by the Public Administration", according to official government documents. This is an undertaking using Artificial Intelligence (AI), which will allow companies to access, among other information, the financial, health and criminal data of millions of Spaniards. The objective, according to the National Data Institute, is to improve public services...’. Information from visitors to Spain will also be – anonymously – collected for analysis.
It’s not just the INE that’s controlling our mobile telephone (here), says El País, now we hear that the Ministry of Development has paid mobile operator Orange 150,000€ for their customer information. The story here.
El País has a list of pharmaceuticals which don’t work. They list nineteen complaints, and the products that don’t repair them. In brief, these include acne, herpes, nasal congestion, coughs, conjunctivitis, stomach acid and so on.
‘Thousands of drivers will have to change their license to continue driving in Spain. The Directorate General of Traffic (DGT) has extended until January 31, 2020 the deadline for British citizens who want to continue to drive with their vehicle can exchange their driving license for a Spanish one. Around 7,000 have already done so. As the DGT recalls, if Brexit takes place, the UK permit will not be valid to circulate in Spain...’. From an article found at Las Provincias here.
Things you never thought you could send by mail... How about live animals?
Shiny neon games-saloons. Over 18s only! They spring up in mainly poor areas, where the lure of a bit of extra money is strong. From El País here: ‘Madrid: poor neighbourhood, a secured game (for the owners). The Regional Federation of Neighbourhood Associations has developed a study that has catalogued 400 gaming venues in Madrid and locates them, mostly, in areas with low or medium low incomes’.
‘Oussoubidiagna (Mali), the city of the lost souls’. A journalist from El País travels to a forgotten corner of Africa, which lives from money sent by its sons from Spain. A place from where around 400 of their young people died during the hazardous journey to Europe.
There was a time when agents scoured Spain, looking for architectural marvels to buy and export to the USA. William Randolph Hearst and others were their clients. ElDiario.es reports on a documentary called 'Los cielos españoles' which concentrates on decorative ceilings which made their way across the Atlantic. Hearst, for example, collected over 85 of them.
Olive-oil tourism with El País here.
Why my guide-book entry for Orgiva (Granada) was rejected. Comedy from David Luddington at Eye on Spain here.
A guide to Fuengirola at Visit Andalucía begins ‘To many people, Fuengirola epitomises everything that is wrong with the Costa del Sol; high rise development gone mad, cheap beer, poor food, loutish behaviour from some elements of the population, a perceived crime problem and so on. However, if you delve a little deeper you will find that Fuengirola is not all it seems on the surface and certainly no longer deserves its reputation...’.
Spain is divided into autonomous communities, but don't call Spain a federation or else the Spanish Constitution will get mad at you! Spain Explained in a six-minute video here.