Spain’s judges are busy this week, dispensing justice to ex-politicians and crooks both. In politics, which must always take centre-stage (after all, we voted for them), the ERE case in Seville takes the lead. Two ex-presidents of Andalucía were in the dock with nineteen other ex-officials for mismanagement and worse of a truly gigantic sum of ‘public money’: 680 million euros. None of which, of course, after an investigation lasting a decade, has been retrieved. It is said that corruption and politics go hand in hand in Spain... like pan y chorizo.
The damage to Andalucía’s reputation is immense, of course. Here, at Cuarto Poder, they talk of ‘andalucidio’. But the capital of Seville has enjoyed a reputation for crookery for several decades (remember the EXPO 92?).
In the sentencing, ex-president Manuel Chaves got fifteen years inhabilitación (barred from public office – not, at 74, that he has any plans) and his successor José Antonio Griñán was served with six years of jail plus his inevitable inhabilitación. More on the background to the ERE is here and the accused, one by one, are examined here.
The political reactions over the ERE case: ‘It is not a case against the PSOE but of former officials of the Junta de Andalucía’ say the Socialists while the PP calls for ‘political responsibility from Pedro Sánchez’. Santiago Abascal wants ‘the isolation of the most corrupt party in Spain’ and Albert Rivera (who he?) has asked Pedro Sánchez to resign. Those stories from El Mundo are here and here. El País, which has a more liberal colour, contents itself with ‘The ERE and Gürtel corruption cases: differences and similarities’ here and, in their English edition, here. Finally, Pablo Iglesias from Podemos tweeted that the two-party system breeds graft, whereas multiple parliamentary parties is a safeguard against it. He says ‘Spain will no longer tolerate corruption’.
That’s not to say that Podemos doesn’t have issues with the courts. Isa Serra, a deputy in the party, was involved in a fracas during a protest against an eviction back in January 2014. The trial will begin soon says the ABC here.
Life, in short, goes on.
In Catalonia, the president Quim Torras was summoned to court on Tuesday for refusing to remove the yellow protest ribbons (against the sentencing in the procès) during the April elections. ‘I disobeyed, because it was an illegal order’, he told the judge. The prosecutor is asking for a stiff fine and twenty months inhabilitacíon (which, for an acting politician, is a meaningful punishment).
But, away from politics...
The electric company apparently pulled a fast one... ‘A judge charges Iberdrola for fraud in their photovoltaic plant in Badajoz. The multinational rented a huge estate without informing the owner that the use of renewable energy would allow its subsequent expropriation at bottom prices’.
The manada are a group of five youths who have been sentenced for a group-rape in Pamplona during the Sanfermines of 2016. This week, they were in court again for videoing the attack. Two of them received at extra three years prison to add to the fifteen they are already serving. Four of them are also being tried in a separate rape case from Córdoba.
Finally, the over-zealous publisher of Moncloa.com is being tried for extortion over an investigation by the news-site into the activities of the ex-commissioner Villarejo (who is in turn under repeated investigation for any number of crimes (here).
A new €650,000 campaign and slogan has been devised by the Comunidad Valenciana regional government showing a smiling couple on a sunny balcony and others with tourists on beaches, with the wording, in English: “Time goes by, but some things always stay the same, like home,” and the catch-phrase, “Always Brit Friendly.”. Think Spain has the cute story here.
‘Ryanair can no longer force you to pay for carrying hand luggage in the cabin. A court in Madrid has determined that Ryanair cannot charge 20€ for priority boarding with a small case’. Item from Hipertextual here. The case (hah!) is examined by The Olive Press here.
Some of the big tech companies pay more tax in Spain than others, says Business Insider here. It gives examples ranging from Apple (11 million euros in 2018) to Netflix (3,246€).
The president of SEAT (Volkswagen) warns that the company could – if pressed – move its manufacturing from Catalonia to somewhere else ‘since we have plants all over Europe’. In reaction to this, the company union has sent a message to the 15.000 workers at the SEAT-Martorell plant not to fear for their jobs since the plant is breaking records in production.
The Bank of Spain has revised upwards the cost to the state of ‘saving the banks’ during the 2008 crisis. The current figure is 65,725 million euros (around 1,400€ for every Spaniard).
‘Who should be afraid of Podemos in Spain and who can just relax. Podemos was born from the rage against austerity as a previous government poured rescue money into the banking system. Now the party is on the brink of taking power as part of a coalition in Spain and investors are worried...’. Bloomberg has a run-down of Podemos’ structural reform proposals here...
As the putative government of Sánchez and Iglesias looks for either support – or at least abstention – from other parties, La Razón says that a small majority of PP voters would like to see their group abstain rather than vote against the proposed (minority) government. The alternative of fresh elections (with probably even more seats to Vox) is not a happy one.
The Corner looks at the current situation here: ‘Spanish politics has become a poker game that has to conclude with the withdrawal of some players to abstention (nationalists) and the sum of favourable cards from others (the left) against the rights. Some variations fit, but they are very unlikely. And another failure that would lead to new elections in 2020 would be possible. But that seems like a catastrophic outcome for all...’.
‘Catalan Separatists preparing supporters to accept Sánchez deal’ says Bloomberg here. ‘...While the leaders of Esquerra Republicana haven’t yet decided to give Sánchez the votes he needs, they’ve already started meeting with local groups in order to minimize the potential backlash if they do eventually back a Socialist-led administration, two party officials said. In exchange for their support, Esquerra wants Sánchez to engage directly in talks over the future of Catalonia, the officials said, asking not to be named discussing party strategy. Contact between the two sides has been minimal so far, they added...’.
An article from Pablo Iglesias is in The Guardian here says we must be concerned about the rise of the far-right and also the Catalonia issue. An excerpt: ‘...Their showdown with the Catalan independence movement and their mutual competition to see who could come up with the harsher solution resulted in the electoral collapse of Ciudadanos, which was supposedly a liberal, centrist party. It has also left the PP beholden to Vox as its only possible partner – and with whom it already governs various Spanish regions and town and city councils...’.
El Español reports that José María Aznar supports a coalition between the PSOE and the PP ‘but without Sánchez as president’. Who does he have in mind?
Felipe González joins José María Aznar in an article in Eco Republicano criticising the Sánchez/Iglesias marriage. González says that a political program must be agreed upon before signing a coalition into place. Moncloa.com considers González to be ‘Sánchez’ worst enemy’ here.
The erstwhile Foreign Minister in Rajoy’s administration was José Manuel García Margallo, who is now a serving MEP for the PP. His article in Friday’s ABC proposes a "national salvation" Government to prevent the "communists" and "Bolsheviks" from being in charge.
Our headline of the week is at Público here: ‘A lady-deputy from Vox says that "feminism is cancer" and that sewing "makes you strong". The deputy of the ultra-right formation Alicia Rubio has thus positioned herself against a bill proposed by Unidas Podemos to end sexist stereotyping at school. She said that instead of compulsory classes on feminism, she would recommend sewing classes instead’.
‘The fertile lands of Vox: the vote to the extreme right is concentrated in the municipalities with high immigration. El País analyzes the size of the foreign population in the areas where the Vox party triumphed. The phenomenon seems evident in Andalucía, Murcia, Extremadura and Alicante’. Headline.
One party that performed poorly in the elections was the Más País, obtaining only three seats. Its junior partner Equo (the Greens) led by Inés Sabanés failed to obtain a place in parliament. El Confidencial looks at the picture here.
This is, of course, a number of fake stories out there regarding the PSOE/Podemos coalition. Maldito Bulo (a kind of Spanish Snopes) takes us through some of them (‘I’m not a man of violence, but I’d like to see someone kill a PP politician. The Right should be exterminated like a virus’ says Pablo Iglesias on his Twitter. Etc).
According to El País, the Catalonians against independence are in the majority, with a seven point lead over the Independentists. It seems to BoT that Madrid should generously agree to a referendum, with 66% needed to win, knowing full-well that such a score would be nigh on impossible (and, of course, only fair if it were achieved).
Just to hit it on the head one more time: ‘The Catalan crisis is key to the rise of the Spanish far right’ says The Guardian here.
Amnesty International says that the two Jordis (Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart) who were, respectively, the leaders of la Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, should be released as their prison sentences were ‘an excessive and disproportionate restriction of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly’. The opposing view on this, with ‘A Lesson in Law for Amnesty International’, comes from EDC here.
From VozPópuli (in English) here: ‘Spain's Gov has "under surveillance" several foreign consuls appointed in Barcelona. Spain's Foreign Office has asked for the cessation of "half a dozen" honorary consuls for supporting the Catalan independence movement. Mr. Borrell's Chief of Staff now reveals that they also used to monitor the activities of regular consuls, as well as the honorary ones’.
Basque town halls have the right to issue communications to the public just in euskera if they so wish, says El Mundo indignantly here. The article admits that the regional government accepts that no charge may be made to a citizen to have any official document translated into the co-official language of Euskal Herria: el castellano.
‘The BBC faces backlash over CBeebies (wiki) show that depicts Gibraltar as Spanish. “The BBC has let its guard down and failed in educating the next generation about our far flung, diverse and fascinating Overseas Territories”’. Item from The Olive Press here.
From El Huff Post here: ‘The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development postpones the results of Spain on student reading in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) due to "anomalies" detected. They say: "Some data show unlikely response behaviour from students."’. Some students, it seems, managed to answer twenty questions in a surprisingly short 25 seconds.
El Confidencial introduces us to a humble shepherd who became mayor of a village in Zamora for a single term. He refused to help with the party ‘B accounts’ funded by over-commissions back in 2004 and has been the target of the provincial PP ever since. It’s quite a story.
Some of the astronomical figures from the ERE inquiry are printed by La Vanguardia here. They ask, ‘Is corruption properly punished in Spain?’ 96.5% (5,900) of readers say ‘no’.
It’s getting harder for Britons to find a job in the EU-27. From The Guardian here: ‘'CVs at bottom of pile': Britons in EU say Brexit is taking its toll’.
Oh dear! ‘Leave-backing expats in Spain regret their decision as Brexit looms: 'We'd vote the other way now'. 'I know it might be selfish but I think on reflection now we'd probably vote, if we had a referendum, the other way now'. Headline from iNews here.
The Majorca Daily Bulletin has a piece here titled. ‘Property and tourism among Spanish Brexit concerns’.
Excerpt from The Times ‘...Brexit is a chief concern for British expatriates in Spain, with many fearing changes in policy may affect their access to healthcare and pensions.
More than 365,000 Britons are registered as living in Spain. Like many, Aida Cabrera Morris, 67, who lives in Almería, is worried that if the Conservatives win and Brexit goes ahead, Spain may only offer healthcare until the end of the transition period in December next year.
“Does this mean I will have to pack my bags and move back to England and be a burden on the NHS?” she asked. “If Brexit happens, will I be able to travel freely between Spain and my family in Britain?”
Anne Hernández runs Brexpats, a group set up to provide information about changes that may affect them as Britain leave the European Union. “They include the loss of state healthcare here, frozen pensions, not aggregating pensions, loss of freedom of movement, no repatriation to go back to care for elderly parents and vice versa,” she said.
Spain has promised to protect British expatriate rights for 21 months from the original date of Brexit leaving date of March 29. The UK has not committed the same in writing.
“The UK is making refugees out of its own people,” said Ms Hernández. “We have exactly the same rights as other Spanish nationals here which we stand to lose as third country nationals.”...’.
The RTVE has decided against showing the Spanish Supercopa which is to be played in Saudi Arabia in January because of ‘economic and humanitarian reasons’. Mediaset and Artresmedia have announced that they are following suit, leaving the championship for the moment without a Spanish outlet. The story at VerTele here.
ElDiario.es criticises the Spanish media in general for not reporting recent events in Bolivia as a coup d’état.
The Conversation looks at reforestation in Spain (‘the good and the not so good’).
‘The Prosecutor's Office has decided to investigate the death of protected birds in Zincsa sulphuric acid ponds in Torreciega, Cartagena. The Prosecutor's Office is studying whether the Autonomous Community has incurred crimes against the environment and perversion of justice in the Zincsa sulphuric acid ponds in Cartagena that continue without adequate fencing or a cleaning plan...’. The story is at Onda Cero here.
The King of Spain was in Cuba’s La Havana last week and gave a useful speech on the virtues of democracy and human rights. Público wonders why the Saudis didn’t receive a similar talk from the Monarch during his recent visit to Riyadh. But then, in official foreign policy, we often find double standards (take the different treatment by the hierarchy of Venezuela and Bolivia for example).
From Infobae, a timely look at women’s rights: ‘Franco's slaves: how the fascist dictatorship made the woman a prisoner of her husband and her home. During the 36 years that the Franco regime lasted, the Spanish Falange Women's Section created a series of manuals, which look like they were written in the Middle Ages, with the objective of subordinating women to the desires of man’. We wonder if they were encouraged to sew.
Black Friday en España. This imported marketing plan is celebrated on Friday 29th November. Some stores start their sales early and keep them going, so Black Friday can last for a few days or even longer. El Mundo explains here.
The UK’s answer to Mercadona, Tesco (at least, according to El Huff Post here), is opening stores in Spain. The first, already open, is in Mazarrón (Murcia) as ‘The Food Co’. Mijas and Ibiza will open soon...
BBC World has an article in Spanish about how use of the language is discouraged in the USA. ‘When Ordering, Speak English’ says a sign in a restaurant in Philadelphia. Parallels for the Costa del Sol? We hope not.
The Guardian introduces us to a young ‘illegal’ migrant from the Ivory Coast who is now a budding middle-distance runner training for the 2024 Olympics and (inadvertently) shows how Spain will sometimes grant a quick naturalization to those who make it look good: ‘...Every afternoon he trains for a couple of hours. If he can meet the 1,500m time, his coach says, Spain will also grant him citizenship to compete – and although the pressure is intense, Yossodjo understands he is running for his future. “I will never forget my country, or that I am African, but my future is in Spain,” he says’.
An interesting article on olive oil and coffee here with points on how to get them right, and where many Spaniards get them both wrong. Eye on Spain says ‘...history and social circumstances have led to a general misunderstanding of what is actually good olive oil and what is good coffee and this lack of knowledge and false belief has lead a nation along for generations and only now are people starting to wake up to this misconception...’.
Here in Almería (headquarters of BoT), there are daily stories of marijuana plantations being discovered by the police. (Indeed, there’s a ‘grow shop’ just down the road from here. No doubt kept under permanent vigilance). Whether marijuana should be legalised and taxed, or left in the gentle hands of the criminals, is a subject for another day, but a TV program called Clandestino on DMAX looks at the industry including mention of the Pozo Green bust this summer in El Ejido (here) with twenty arrests and 18,000 plants taken.
The Olive Press looks at gang shootings on the Costa del Sol.
The Prado museum is 200 years old this week. ABC tells us a few fascinating secrets about the collection within.
Sicab, the feria del caballo (horse fair), is in Seville through Sunday. ABC has the program here (some nice photographs).
From El País in English here: ‘Five of Spain’s most captivating castles. Travel writer Paco Nadal lists his favourite fortresses in the country, and explains why they are so special’.
All of Spain’s Michelin-starred restaurants are on a map here.
(The Mar Menor is dying – or dead) We visited by boat about 15 years ago, it was in a sad state then, jellyfish were floating in 6’s arranging themselves in the discarded plastic holders for 6 pack beer. The amount of plastic was bad & the lack of life .......it has been dying for years and nobody did anything!
Meneame has a piece on the goddamn communists. We’ve translated it.
Goddamn communists who raise the minimum wage,
so you can make plans for the future.
Goddamn communists who create public companies,
so you pay less for services.
Goddamn communists fighting climate change,
so that your children have a planet where to live.
Goddamn communists who defend your job,
so you don't lose it when you need it most.
Goddamn communists who defend death with dignity,
so that you do not suffer unnecessarily in your last days.
Goddamn communists who ensure culture,
so that you are aware and critical of your surroundings.
Goddamn communists who are feminists,
so you can have the same opportunities and total independence.
Goddamn communists who support the rural environment,
so that your village doesn’t die.
Goddamn communists who accept debate,
so that if you don't feel comfortable in your country they can find solutions.
Goddamn communists looking for a fiscal balance,
so you pay taxes proportional to your income.