The Coronavirus has been with us for a year and we are not through with it yet. The first case on the Spanish mainland was confirmed back on February 25th 2020. Now, we are either climbing down from the third wave – or maybe approaching the forth. Either way, not just our health but our income were (and are) at considerable risk.
Questions like, ‘who do you know who has had the Covid?’ or ‘isn’t it just like the ‘flu?’ have now morphed into worried stories told and shared ‘…and then he gave it to his grandmother…’.
The national picture (economists don’t worry themselves unduly about your grandmother) is bleak. Spain tipped into four million unemployed this week, and the tourist figures won’t be seen again for a while to come.
The final paragraph of the BoT 339 editorial from a year ago (here) reads ‘…The main casualty will be the tourist industry – which accounted for around 15% of Spain’s GDP in 2018. Perhaps, as a beneficial side-effect, we can anticipate the Spanish authorities looking a little more kindly on those foreign residents who live here full time, modestly contributing to the economy’.
Well, that last bit not only never happened, at least for the Brits, it rather went the other way.
‘I’m from the UK: How do I get a non-lucrative residence visa for Spain?’ An article from Spanish Property Insight explains. First thing – be wealthy.
‘Navalquejigo, the repopulated village of the Sierra de Madrid is now under threat with a mass-eviction. The current residents (population: 40) rebuilt what was an abandoned village with their own hands. Now, more than twenty years after their arrival, a company that bought part of the land where the houses are located intends to evict them’. Público has the story, pictures and video here.
A nineteenth century fortress in the public domain has a private house within its walls. The city hall of Santander allows the situation at the Corbanera Castle (Wiki) to continue unaddressed says elDiario.es here.
From Think Spain here: ‘'Massive' holiday bookings reported as vaccinated Brits keen to get back to Spain. Brits are desperate to get to Spain after a whole year of being unable to take their sunshine summer breaks – and with the vaccine roll-out in the UK making progress, bookings have started to soar, according to tourism associations in the Mediterranean country…’. It says that ‘…If contagion rates remain 'under control', the UK government expects non-essential international travel to restart by the end of May…’.
The Olive Press explains here ‘How Spain’s “Green Corridor” plan for vaccinated Brits could save summer tourism’.
Preferente says that ‘There will be a vaccination passport to travel in the EU. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced last week that European partners will launch a coronavirus vaccination passport "for the summer" that could make travel "possible" within the European Union. The German leader explained that all European partners have agreed on the development of a system that manages to make compatible the different vaccination passports that the 27 are preparing…’.
From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘Spanish tax authorities use big data to check the residency status of international expatriates’. A tax expert makes the point that ‘If you spend more than 183 days in Spain during a calendar year, the Spanish tax authorities will consider you to be a resident here for tax purposes, and you will be required to pay tax accordingly. The days do not have to be consecutive, and even if you do not have a formal residency permit this will not affect their decision…’.
As reported last week, Abengoa has finally thrown in the towel. From Wolf Street here: ‘The global green energy zombie Abengoa, caught cooking its books in 2015 & bailed out twice, finally runs out of bailouts, files for bankruptcy, the 2nd largest in Spanish history’. (The collapse in 2008 of constructor Martinsa Fadesa was the biggest, apparentl
The CPAC Republican Party event held this past weekend in Orlando, Florida, has a certain Spanish connection. From El Confidencial here: ‘The organizers of the conservative event of the year in the United States support Santiago Abascal’. Abascal’s Carta de Madrid (a plan to ‘halt the advance of world communism’) has been signed by a number of leading conservatives worldwide here.
An interesting report from Brexpats Hear Our Voice on pdf called ‘Migration Report: Identity and Belonging. Who are the British living outside of the UK’ (or link here).
‘I can’t help wondering how many people who voted for Brexit now wish they’d been given the chance to look at Johnson’s allegedly oven-ready deal and decide whether it was really what they wanted. I wonder how many people have ‘if only’ ringing in their heads like an earworm – especially if they are ever reminded of the campaign for a People’s Vote when a million plus people slogged up to London (on more than one occasion) to beg for some scrutiny, some sanity, some democracy, even…’. An article from West Country Bylines titled ‘Resent third country status? Blame OUR government, not the EU’ here.
‘The ugly divorce between Britain and Brussels is just getting started. As trade disputes pile up, the blame game evident in the early months of the split suits domestic political needs on both sides’. The New York Times here. ‘…Britain and the European Union have also fallen out politically and diplomatically, with a speed and bitterness that has surprised even pessimists about the relationship. While these strains are less tangible to Britons than having to pay extra costs for imported coffee from Italy, they could have an equally corrosive long-term effect…’.
Metro brings us this first-person opinion ‘As homeowners in Spain, we worry that Brexit has ruined the expat reputation’. The British expat, that is…
The second part of Nick Corbishley’s piece on Brexit at Wolf Street here: ‘Looking on the Bright Side of Brexit, 60 Days In’.
A statement from Iceland management in Spain:
‘As promised we said we’d give an update as and when we had more information, so here goes…… As we are sure you’re all aware by now it's been a real struggle to get any trucks from the UK into Spain since 1st January. The update reveals that things are starting to improve slowly and trucks are beginning to get through a little quicker. It’s not a lie when we say that we’ve had more than 30 trucks stuck at customs all over Spain for up to 6 weeks, we’ve tried everything possible to clear these trucks but the goal posts seemed to move on an almost daily basis with new additional paper work almost daily. The average clearance time is 23 days a truck up till now! Once one truck clears things become a lot clearer as we have a template for the paper work required for the products on the cleared truck. We’ve also been sourcing products from Ireland…’ (Thanks to John)
The 19 European states who use the euro are deciding on the final design of a new two-euro coin to honour the Erasmus Program says Colmone here. These coins will no doubt become collectors’ items in the UK.
El País in English here: ‘How is Spain’s Covid vaccination campaign going in each region, and who is next on the list? The inoculations are moving at different speeds from territory to territory, but the objective remains reaching 70% of the population by the summer’.
Johnson & Johnson admit that they are shorting Spain this spring by 20 million single-dose vaccines. The money lost by businesses across the world (plus the inconvenience) must be far greater than the rewards gained by the pharmaceuticals.
Why don't they open up their patents?
El Español says that the Ministerio de Sanidad recommends taking a one gram paracetamol before the AstroZeneca injection, to help against ‘frequent’ mild reactions. The ministry also continues betimes with the recommendation against the AZ vaccine for the over-55s. Other vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are fine. One fellow, commenting on the AZ vaccine he’d received, said: ‘it was like the worst hangover of my life’.
The Government is preparing a rule to be observed across Spain during Semana Santa says 20Minutos here. El País in English says: ‘Spain is heading toward an Easter week with no inter-regional travel’. Apparently, they are waiting on the Madrid Region to join in…
The Court has allowed the excomisario José Manuel Villarejo out of prison. Villarejo did the ‘dirty work’ for the Ministry of the Interior under the PP and as he told reporters at the gate of the prison “They have kept me prisoner so I wouldn't speak. And no matter how much mistreatment they have subjected me to, I am still alive. It's a bitch for those who have tried to silence me. The only thing I want is to defend myself, of course everyone knows that it is a lie that I want to flee. I would like the media to honour the presumption of innocence”. He says he will soon be telling all he knows to the media… El Huff Post has the story here.
From ECM here: ‘Jurists warn that changing the crime of glorifying terrorism will make it difficult to investigate jihadists. Decriminalizing it will imply that many of the procedures that the police or the Prosecutor's Office carry out in this area do not get started’. The situation with Pablo Hasél is clearly in their minds.
The prosecution is asking for a further five years prison for Pablo Hasél for his part in the violence in Lérida during the independence upheavals in Catalonia, in March 2018 . Not just a pretty voice.
From The Guardian here: ‘Like Pablo Hasél, Spain wants me jailed for rap lyrics – but artists must not self-censor, says Valtònyc’. The Mallorcan rapper is in exile in Belgium, fleeing a three and a half year sentence in Spain for ‘slander, lèse-majesté, and glorifying terrorism in his lyrics (Wiki)’.
Meanwhile, the infamous ‘chat’ by the military on WhatsApp about lining them all up, has been quietly shelved as ‘freedom of expression’ by the Madrid Provincial Prosecutor.
The 'Tasa Google' fails to collect even 1% of what was expected for the publication of media news by third parties. The anticipated income for this concept was in the region of 80 million euros, says El Independiente here: ‘From star measure to absolute failure. The famous tax on Google, Facebook and other technology companies for offering information taken from the media seems to be coming to an end, as the Government and the main parties involved in this war are finalizing a draft for Google News and other similar platforms to return, according to industry sources. This summer it will be seven years since the Partido Popular, encouraged by the large media corporations of Spain, approved the Intellectual Property Law, also known as Tasa Google, which among other points included the famous AEDE Canon – that large technology platforms should be obliged to pay a stipulated amount to link to their articles…’.
Opposition to the levy comes down to the salient points that linking to an article brings new readers (unless, ahem, there’s a paywall), that there’s always another news-site (maybe even a non-Spain based one) with a similar story and, finally, that one can’t copyright the news.
5 years after his political victory, ex-president José María Aznar has been ‘on the circuit’ recently talking about his times and criticising friends and enemies alike. Here he is talking with Jordi Évole: ‘I never took a penny, but I’m not going to defend anyone else’.
While some of them are useful for teaching, we must recognise that not all English-language news-sources are the same. Here’s an example from the oddest of them all.
Lidl also manages to appear in lots of positive ‘news’ stories. Within the last 24 hours (Monday) the store has appeared in moncloa.com, Economía Digital, 20Minutos, Diario de Sevilla, AS, Merca2, Mundo Deportivo, El Diario Cantabria, and so on.
Consumer electronics – fridges, televisions, washing machines, hair-dryers and so on – are expected to last for a long time and, if they break, be reparable. Thus, a European law has now come into effect protecting the rights of owners to an appliance which is designed to be repairable without specialised tools, and to come with a proper repair-manual. We throw out, says The Next Web, 16 kg of electrical waste per year per person here in Europe, and this law is designed in part to protect the environment from extra electrical junk.
El Periódico de la Energía brings us the seven regions in Spain where setting up one’s own solar electricity is still an administrative nightmare.
‘Spain continues to lead Europe in environmental offenses. Last year, active procedures grew from 25 to 30, of which three were a final notice before being referred to the Court of Justice: the control of nitrate discharges, the treatment of wastewater and the lack of protection of the European turtle dove (hunters kill 400,000 tórtolas a year in Spain ‘to protect the species). elDiario.es has the story here.
A few years ago, the Almería ecologistas managed to push through the Junta de Andalucía a rule saying that we couldn’t keep the tortuga mora in our gardens. This rare Spanish tortoise needed some good old TLC from the tree-huggers. Specimens would be handed in to Seprona (the Guardia Civil animal protection unit) and re-housed in safety. The two places built for the purpose were one in Bédar at 600,000€ which was never used (except for occasional BBQs and botellones) and another, above the snow-line, in Velez Blanco. Fines were considerable if you were caught with one of these tortoises (Mojácar has lots of them in the campo). At the time, I joked ‘if you find a tortoise in your garden, either give it to the cops, or quietly brain it, or throw it over the garden wall into your neighbour’s property. Let them take care of it’. Happy times. Now we read , to no one’s surprise except the politicians, that ‘The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development (CAGPyDS) has responded, a year late, to the request from Ecologists in Action regarding the fate of the tortugas moras collected at the Centre for the Recovery of Threatened Species in Vélez Blanco, Almería. The answer is devastating: thousands have died in this centre, where it is assumed they were recovering for their reintroduction into the natural environment…’.In short - Ecologistas en Accion here carefully dodging the bullet.
More Royal headaches – as Felipe VI’s two sisters Elena and Cristina jet off to visit their papa in Abu Dhabi (at a cost of 33,000€ in security) and get their Covid jabs while there.
March 8th is International Women’s Day, and here in Spain, it’s the day when the women go out and protest against a series of ills. The protests, encouraged by the Podemos Minister of Equality Irene Montero, were singled out last year at this date as being a leading cause of the spread of coronavirus. As El Huff Post points out here, any protest that might be held this year (understandably, there are limits in numbers) will not bring about any sudden changes in women’s rights – especially if the demonstrations are purposefully small. Indeed, in the hands of any belligerent media-group, they could be counterproductive.
La Razón, unapologetically rightist, is no doubt pleased with this article: ‘Irene Montero's family have this to say about her husband: "In our village, no one likes Pablo Iglesias"’.
A disturbing report from the RTVE examines the cases of violence committed by youngsters on their parents. Around 5,000 cases are reported each year. The story with video-trailer is here.
Following revelations about the surprise number of properties held by the Spanish Church, ‘Spain's Catholic bishops defended their church's property rights, after the government accused the church of improperly claiming ownership of thousands of buildings and parcels of land…’.The Boston Pilot has the story here.
‘Spain's international prestige remains high despite the pandemic’. La Vanguardia quotes a study from the Royal Elcano Institute which says that ‘the quality of Spanish democracy receives a high mark and places Spain among the top 15 countries in the world’.
The twelve ex-politicians on the boards of Red Eléctrica and Enagás took home between them three million euros in 2020 says elDiario.es here.
‘The Greatest High Speed Network in Europe. Spain's High Speed Rail System Explained’ – a 13 minute video on YouTube here.
The Government has ruled that there will be no courses, degrees or diplomas given in pseudoscience at Spain’s universities. No, not even Reiki.
The Spaniards who live abroad are generally treated poorly by Spain’s army of consular bureaucrats. A story is circulating among Spanish expats about the family that hauled up to the London consulate to get paperwork for their two-year-old child, who was caught short and needed to use her portable potty. They were summarily thrown out of the building.
One thing about buying an electric car this year, says Motorpasión here, is that it won’t have any second-hand value in a few years from now (when the vastly improved models are introduced).
Xataca considers the problems of buying online from the UK. To begin with, those things you just ordered are now considered as ‘imports’, which means customs, IVA and paperwork.
When you are in business, you need to have up your sleeve a little bit of English says ECD. Like ‘To think outside the box’ and ‘To put one’s cards on the table’ and ‘Rock-bottom offer’ and so on. They list ten of them.
If, instead of an employee, you use a robot, the question arises: should it be paying taxes?
West Country Bylines looks at the attempted coup in Madrid from forty years ago and how it all came about; from the beginning of the twentieth century to the current rise of Vox.
From Reach here, ‘The story of Barbarita: Hector Licudi’s Controversial Novel which Saw his Exile from 1920s Gibraltar’ .
‘…In some wineries in Jerez, where they allow the presence of mice in their facilities and offer them glasses of sweet wine that the small rodents do not hesitate to drink before the watchful eyes of the generally astonished visitors…’. Drunken Mice at Eye on Spain here.
‘Spain has four special names for unknown or forgotten people: these are Fulano, Mengano, Zutano and Perengano’ An article at Eye on Spain from Lenox.
National Geographic brings us an essay on the painter Joaquín Sorolla, with lush photos.
From the New York Times here: ‘‘Special and Beautiful’ Whistled Language Echoes Around This Island. On a jagged island in the Canary archipelago, a whistling language known as “Silbo Gomero” is still in use thanks to mandatory classes for schoolchildren’. There’s a short video of a conversation in ‘whistle’.
From Fascinating Spain here: ‘Baños de la Encina is a town that already invites you to spend a weekend there. It has a reservoir with a beach, a perfect connection with the A-4, wonderful routes at a stone’s throw and all the excellence of the mountain cuisine of Jaén. But it is also home to the oldest castle in Spain that is still standing. Yes, the oldest. A gem with perfectly preserved walls. This weekend getaway takes you back to the distant and medieval 10th century…’.
‘Did you know that Spain grows its own coffee beans? Yes, it does and has done for many years. Spanish coffee is produced in a small plantation on the Canary Islands…’. So begins an article from Molly at Piccavey here.
I am feeling very let down by Spanish scientists and politicians.
My confidence has been truly shaken for, at 80 years, all my friends are still to be vaccinated. For myself, at 75 years, and with high risk issues, I am still waiting.
Last week research evidence was published from Scotland, and now today, wherein an UK study shows that the AstraZeneca vaccine is indeed equally as effective as the Pfizer vaccine - if not more so.
Yet we hear of the millions of Astra Zeneca vaccines supplied to Spain, and other EU countries, where only 20% have been used so far.
Spain is limiting use of the vaccine to people aged 55 and under. Some 418,000 AstraZeneca vaccines have been delivered to the nation’s regions, but less than 35,000 have so far administered. The government is relying mostly on the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, which accounts for 95% of the 2.7 million doses administered.
The rest lie waiting in refrigerators throughout EU - which is a disgrace (that this is largely so for political reasons makes things worse?).
I must mention here that the respected European Medical Agency stated, weeks ago, that the AZ vaccine was effective for all age groups.
Is it desirable or justifiable therefore if Spanish scientists and leaders are pursuing a policy which leaves thousands of vulnerable adults over the age of 80 years exposed to getting Covid-19 and maybe dying? If so they should publish the rationale for such a decisions being made?
They people do not have the right to exercise their whims, in the face of scientific evidence, if it could bring about the demise of citizens.
That is truly unacceptable!
Lorna J. Ainsworth RN MSc
Since we are burning police cars this week, we might as well be listening to some punky anti-fascist songs, collected here by Cuarto Poder. Personally, I think Woody Guthrie was better.