One might hesitate to call God’s Vicar on Earth a communist, but it seems most likely that, between his other duties, Pope Francis will have read the New Testament and picked up on some of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The Pope, known dismissively by his surname as ‘Citizen Bergoglio’ in certain circles, is – we read – in reality neither right nor left; and a story goes that when, back in 2015, ‘…an overly-enthusiastic Bolivian President Evo Morales presented him with a cross in the shape of a hammer and sickle, the pontiff looked as if he had been handed a dead animal.
“That is not good,” he reportedly told Morales…’.
This past Saturday, Yolanda Díaz, the Second Vice-president of Spain and Minister of Labour (and member of Izquierda Unida), was granted an audience with the Pope – an exception politically speaking, as the Pope normally only receives heads of state.
elDiario.es says ‘The meeting held in the Vatican by the pontiff and the vice president becomes a prominent chapter in the criticism and insults that the conservative Catholic sector utters to the Argentine Jesuit who speaks of the rights of migrants and the poor and who asks for forgiveness for the events of the past…’. Perhaps, says El País, the message was simply that the Pope wants us to understand that he will always support social justice and offer hope to the poor and the downtrodden (viz. his message of ‘las tres Ts – tierra, trabajo y techo’ – broadly: nationality, work and a roof over one’s head).
Thus, the 40-minute ‘cumbre comunista’ (the Communist summit), where the substance of the meeting has largely not been revealed (at the Vatican’s behest). Yolanda Díaz merely describing it afterwards as ‘muy emocionante’. El Mundo nevertheless reports that the subject close to both – better labour conditions – was the main subject under discussion.
La Sexta brings us some of the reasons why the Spanish Right doesn’t approve of El Papa. The apology to the Mexicans for the sins of the conquistadores; his comments on the Spanish Civil War dead who’s bones are still lying in the ditches – and his support for a basic living wage (with video). There’s the fact that Pope Francis is a Jesuit (Spain in under the shadow of the Opus Dei, bitter rivals to the Jesuits). And also, needless to say, his audience with the upstart Commie lady…
Religión Digital reports that La Conferencia Episcopal (the Spanish bishops) are not entirely at ease with the Pope’s recent actions – with Isabel Celáa (the ex-Government spokesperson) approved as the new Spanish ambassador to the Holy See, and of course the surprise visit of Minister Díaz. Indeed, a tranche of Spanish bishops (including some leading critics of the current Bishop of Rome) will be meeting with the Pope today, Thursday – no doubt to test the waters.
ECD says cattily that following her meeting with Pope Francis, Yolanda Díaz’ next plan is to score an interview with the Financial Times (the Spanish remain oddly star-struck by the British media).
High Energy Efficiency Certificates will become key to any house-rentals within the EU says El Economista here.
‘Spain will introduce new measures that aim to attract digital nomads after the country’s government has approved such measures. Through the digital nomad visa, many talented people from other countries would be eligible to live in Spain as well as work remotely, contributing to Spain’s economic sector, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports. The digital nomad visa will permit internationals from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries as well as persons who hold EU passports or those arriving from Schengen Zone countries to work remotely in Spain for under six months of the year without being obliged to register officially…’.
From SchengenVisaInfo.com here: ‘Spain imposes mandatory testing requirement against arrivals from high-risk countries’. The article lists the current requirements for visitors from abroad. The ‘high-risk countries’ (as of December 6th) are a small number of southern African states (including Eswatini, which I must confess I had to look up).
From elDiario.es here: ‘Layoffs in the bank. The financial sector has put a stunning 19,000 workers back onto the street in 2021. An annual record not even reached after the 2008 crisis and culminated by an ERE in Unicaja (following their merger with Liberbank) that has just left 1,500 of their employees without work’.
From Gambling News here: ‘According to Spanish daily newspaper Cinco Días, the private equity group Blackstone will seek to launch an initial public offering (IPO) for the Spanish gambling giant Cirsa. The deal is reportedly estimated at up to 3,000 million euros and could be one of the most significant for the European and Spanish gambling industries. The report states that the IPO should go ahead in April 2022, although Blackstone is yet to confirm, and the date may be subject to changes…’.
‘The Ibex's largest investor is betting that the value of Telefónica will fall despite being its largest shareholder. Blackrock, owner of almost 5% of the 'teleco', has invested about 140 million euros to sell ‘short’, a speculative operation in which money is made if the value of the share falls. The investor is performing a similar bet on Enagás shares’. elDiario.es here.
From Quora here: What is the difference between Blackrock and Blackstone? There is a reason their names are similar. They have a shared history. In fact, Blackrock in its early years was called ‘Blackstone Financial Management’…’.
‘The European Commission has now approved the 10,000 million euros for Spain. It is the first tranche of the recovery fund, after having received 9,000 million in pre-financing. Thus, Spain becomes the first country to receive this endorsement from the Community executive. A recovery plan that has been endlessly vilified by the opposition parties in Spain, both in Madrid and in Brussels, and on which they have not ceased to sow doubts regarding its design, its processing in Brussels and its execution…’. elDiario.es with a lot more to say here.
A press-release from the Spanish Govt here: ‘The Government adopts the draft Start-up Law, placing Spain at the forefront to attract investments, innovative entrepreneurship and talent’. It is explained further at TechCrunch here: ‘Spain moves closer to passing a start-up law’. We read that ‘the draft text contains important measures to cut red tape and remove bureaucratic obstacles for founding and investing in start-ups in Spain…’.
‘Casado and Abascal in search for international support from rightist parties and leaders. The president of the PP has just concluded a tour of several Latin American countries and met with conservative leaders to offer them "an alliance for freedom" – or even the idea of a Partido Popular Iberoamericano. The Vox leader counters this with a trip to Brazil to present to Jair Bolsonaro his alliance with sundry ultra-right parties from Eastern Europe’. Abascal’s plan is to ‘Strengthen alliances against narco-communism and the dictatorship of the progressives. We must recover democracy and freedom in the Iberosphere’, he says. All are welcome except – as the writer Mario Vargas Llosa said in a recent PP meeting – ‘those who don’t know how to vote properly’. elDiario.es reports here.
From The Washington Post here: ‘Conservatives looking for a hero should turn to Spain’s upcoming star’. It begins: ‘Free-market conservatives have been looking for a hero in this populist, Trumpian age. They might just have one in the president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso…’. Later, we are told- ‘…“I believe in freedom,” she says. “I believe in the person, in the individual.” She is also thoroughly modern; a nonreligious, nightlife-loving woman who sports a Depeche Mode tattoo on her forearm. Many young American conservatives yearn for a smart, serious and principled leader like her…’.
From ECD here: ‘Vox calls for the return to "absolute normality" after the pandemic is over and asks for respect for the unvaccinated. Abascal rejects the Covid passport and warns that "violations against freedom and fundamental rights" will be appealed to the Courts.
The ABC says that the PP has asked in the Cortes for Yolanda Díaz to explain her trip and her supposed authority to represent the Government. They are also understandably concerned about both ‘the economic and ecologic’ costs of the return flight to Rome.
Ivan Redondo is a sort of mystery ex-PSOE genius/outcast (along the lines of Dominic Cummings). His analysis in La Vanguardia says that Yolanda Díaz (Unidas Podemos) could take up to 78 seats in an election held now (even though she hasn’t announced a candidacy) – at the cost to the PSOE.
From El Huff Post here: Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the Madrid Region, made an unforgettable remark this past Thursday in the Assembly: "I understand that asking a communist to understand economic data is like asking a Neanderthal to understand the Internet". Alberto Garzón, Minister of Consumption, reacted to this on a TV show at La Sexta by saying that everything is part of the strategy of a Trumpian and populist nature that the PP is developing. He added: “the former US President Donald Trump and the entire international extreme right have been deploying a similar tactic for many years”…’.
Alberto Rodríguez’ seat in the Cortes has remained empty since October 22nd – that’s one less vote for the Government says NIUS here. The reason is that Podemos Canarias won’t send another deputy in replacement as an objection against the dismissal of Rodriguez – ‘an empty seat in parliament is a good way to protest’, they maintain.
The winds of change? asks Magnet here. The article quotes an international survey from the Pew Research Group that ‘Spain is the country with the highest proportion of the population who believe that the political system needs to be completely reformed’. The article says that ‘…The percentage of Spain is very significant: it is the only nation surveyed where a clear majority believe that the system should restart and start counting from scratch…’. Adding that ‘…In Spain, in this sense, the public sentiment is clear: to the 54% of respondents who consider that the system should be rebuilt "completely" we can add another 32% to those who would like to observe "great changes". Only 2% consider that the system "should not be changed". The survey was published during the annual celebration of the Spanish Constitution. The Spanish media had notably celebrated its 43rd anniversary by including the word "reform" in their headlines, either positioning themselves in its favour or evidencing the impossibility of carrying it out…’. .
atalonia insists on schools only teaching in Catalán. Madrid of course has a very different viewpoint, with an insistence (says El País here) on 25% - at least – of classes being in Spanish. The point is that knowledge of the Catalonian tongue isn’t much use outside a smallish part of Spain and (worse still) there’s the nationalist angle to worry about (and who doesn’t have an opinion on that subject?). There are two answers, of course – with the opposition parties in Madrid preferring to take the hard-line: ‘What the fuck has to happen before you take any responsibility?’ asked Pablo Casado in a question to Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday in the weekly government control session (video). Although, maybe he was just playing to the crowd…
As the 90 in 180 days issue worries many British home-owners and long-term visitors in Spain (and elsewhere in the Schengen-space), a tough reaction comes from London over those foreigners who might overstay their welcome in the UK. From Free Movement here: 'Four-year maximum sentences for visa over-stayers’. The article begins: ‘The Nationality and Borders Bill 2021 has passed its third reading in the House of Commons and now goes to the House of Lords on 5 January. The Lords will very likely vote to remove some of the more egregious provisions, and it is always possible that the government will accept a few of those suggestions (it doesn’t have to).
The Bill has already been hacked around a fair bit since we did our in-depth analysis of the text as originally published. One change is to make knowingly overstaying a visa punishable by up to four years’ imprisonment (currently the maximum is six months, very rarely prosecuted). This is being done by adding a new subsection C1 into section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971:..’.
Meanwhile, says The Guardian here, ‘The Home Office is being sued by a watchdog set up to protect post-Brexit rights of EU citizens. The Independent Monitoring Authority says that 2.5 million EU nationals settled in the UK have been put at risk of losing their rights’.
The concurrence of the sixth wave, the Omicron variant, the flu, Christmas and drop in the efficacy of the Covid vaccines combined threatens the health system with a perfect storm says La Vanguardia here (video). The RTVE national broadcaster says that Spain is currently (Wednesday) at 412 infections per 100,000 people (Catalonia is running at 700). Children across Spain between 5 and 11 years old began their shots this Wednesday.
Following from the apparent suicide earlier this week of a famous actress – Verónica Forqué – the subject of talking one’s own life returns to centre-stage. El Huff Post says that an average of eleven people a day kill themselves in Spain with 2020 as the worst year (3,941 cases). 75% of the victims were men. Help is available at a couple of prevention sites here.
A lawyer who was fired from the Podemos party a while ago took his revenge by making a long series of denuncias against them, which kept the conservative media busy for eighteen months as the seven separate inquiries received many column inches before their eventual collapse. La Vanguardia has the story of the investigations, which ‘…after much searching, the magistrate has been closing most of the cases. The emergence of Vox as a popular accusation has not facilitated the judicial process, by incessantly appealing each decision of the judge to shelve the various pieces…’.
While it’s one thing to chuck out a podemita from the parliamentary roll-call (viz., the recent departure of Alberto Rodríguez on the word of a policeman), it may be another to eject a senior Vox figure like the party spokesperson Iván Espinosa de los Monteros who has just had a judgement against him confirmed by the Supreme Court. He was sued for refusing to pay the builders for repairs on his – well the newspapers call it a casoplón – his mansion. He must pay 63,000€ plus interest plus costs. The story at JotaPov here.
Al Descubierto brings us their monthly trawl of right-wing bulos (fake news) for November.
RTVE: La Fábrica de Ignorancia. A documentary on how science must cope with manipulation, fake news and propaganda. ‘…Scientific knowledge has never seemed so vast and robust, and yet it has never been the subject of so much controversy and dispute. We now know that manufacturers have an interest in hiding scientific truths so as not to harm their business. And that methods are put into practice to sow doubts in public opinion and paralyze political decision-making’. The interesting 50 minute-show is here (until Jan 10).
‘Benidorm will be a ghost town!’ British expats may be forced to ‘abandon Spain’ due to new rules. Brinkwire has this mishmash of a story here. (P.S. – Benidorm is much more of a tourist town than a residential one). The ludicrous story appears to have been lifted from The Daily Express (here) – where we collected this particular ‘comment’ from a Brexitly-challenged reader: ‘When brits go on holiday they are there to have a good time and they spend unlike other nationalities especially the Germans who sit there all night hugging a glass of wine and the Frence. The winging Spanish need us well their acconomy does. So go to other countries on holiday where you will be welcomed’ (sic).
From Gizmodo here: ‘Thousands of honeybees stared down Spain’s Cumbre Vieja Volcano. And won. Five hives survived about 50 days covered in volcanic ash. To stay alive, they sealed their hives with bee glue and ate their honey stores’. Really, it’s all over Facebook!
The volcano in La Palma appears to have finally quit all activity, says the ABC here.
From El País in English here: ‘Why Spain’s citizenship test contained a few nasty – and incorrect – surprises for aspiring applicants. ‘Unfortunate errors’ in the preparation handbook for the 2022 exam included listing Mariano Rajoy as still being prime minister and stating that the death penalty is part of Spanish law’.
Spain, Portugal and Andorra’s new Michelin restaurants here – the full list at Hosteltur.
From 20Minutos here: ‘Vox criticizes the Christmas lights of Granada for being "inverted crosses" and an "invitation to Satanism". The party has requested explanations from the PSOE-run Granada city council’. The news-site obligingly has a photograph of the demonic crosses. Maldita checks with the city hall.
The Olive Press reports that ‘Marijuana plant seizures in Spain quadruple over five years in ‘worrying’ trend’. This would no doubt be down to more demand than ever for the drug. The article says that over three million plants have been found by the police so far this year.
The thing about working from home is that your employer can’t be sure that you are at your work-station (computer). So, along comes a gadget which can tell your boss if your mouse is moving and thus if you are present. Heh, very clever. But now there’s another gadget which moves your mouse for you in a pleasingly haphazard way… From Magnet, meet Mouse-mover.
Dolls are for girls, toy cars are for boys. Pink and blue. elDiario.es pulls out its hair in rage, no, no, they say indignantly… Yep, over at YouTube, even the toys are out on strike about gender-stereotyping!
From Eye on Spain here: ‘Ceuta - a disputed pearl between oceans and continents’.
La Palma volcano and the changed landscape: sooty photos at The Guardian here.
From El País here: ‘The possible location of the mythical temple of Hercules Gaditano (wiki2), one of the holy grails of archaeology, may have been located. Scientists from the IAPH (Andalusian Historical Heritage Institute) and the University of Seville have discovered traces of a great Roman and Phoenician building thanks to the study of aerial photos using new technologies’. The temple could date to the XII century BC.
Bras Rodrigo from Carreño, Asturias, performs Lug on YouTube here (bagpipe alert!).
I’ve put the BoT up on a blog again this week (it’s really just an experiment, nothing more). Feel free to share.