We arrive at the end of another year, bowed but unbroken (as someone said somewhere). For Pedro Sánchez, it has been a tricky but mostly successful time. The budgets have gone through and the Government looks safe to continue until the end of its cycle in 2023. His greatest failure (as we shall read in the right-wing media over Christmas) will likely be his unfulfilled promise of a large drop in the electric bill by the end of the year, back to 2018 prices, which now looks increasingly unlikely, as even the European Commission doesn’t want to get involved.
Sánchez has seen off the opposition, who can make as much noise as they like – they are still standing outside on the terrace. If anyone has come to the front, it has been the fresh leader of Unidas Podemos: Second Vice-President, Minister of Labour Yolanda Díaz. How the Establishment must fear her!
Outside, warming their hands, we find the increasingly pointless Ciudadanos party. What’s the point of voting for a shrill leader of a tiny PP splinter, whose only remaining function is to remove support from the PP? They are forecast to get just two seats in a future election; and tiny parties that can be bisagra – that can carry the day thanks to the balance of the two main forces – are clearly counting more on Luck than on Grand Rhetoric.
On the other side of the PP – further still to the right indeed, is Santiago Abascal and his Vox. Perhaps (in British terms) a kind of UKIP or Brexit party, Vox has been doing dispiritingly well. Gosh darn those foreigners (with their pesky foreign ways) taking our jobs and our women! Apparently, only an increasingly rightist PP can stop them!
So, we arrive at the doors of the PP, led by the straw-filled Pablo Casado, increasingly known by the Wits as El Fracasado (the RAE describes this as ‘A person discredited because of the failures suffered in his attempts or aspirations’). Big business may be behind the PP, but the endless column of scandal, corruption and poor politics is paying a heavy price. What say it’s time for Casado to go, maybe replaced with a young, attractive, forthright, popular (and populist) leader to bring the limping conservatives back to the forefront, see off the neo-fascists back to their kennels and put an end once and for all to Ciudadanos?
In short, will 2023 be the year of Isabel Díaz Ayuso?
More on the proposal from ‘Brussels on energy efficiency requirements for renting or selling homes in the EU’, at Spanish Property Insight here.
In contrast to the new ‘LISTA’ rules regarding building in Andalucía, we read that things are different in Valencia. From The Olive Press here: ‘New-build projects suspended as development “exceeds growth limitations” on the Costa Blanca’. The article says that the regional government has published a rule in their DOGV bulletin saying that ‘building projects are suspended on rural land designated within the scope of the Territorial Action Plan (PAT) for a period of one year – which may be extended’. All said, the rules regarding buildings within the Coastal Zone – ruled under the Ley de Costas (the coast belongs and is under the authority of the Central Government) are being tightened. A major article from elDiario.es here: ‘The Government finalizes the regulation to prevent homes, restaurants or factories occupying the coast. Current private occupations of the public domain of the coast is limited to 75 years "including extensions" following the amnesty for constructions of the PP legal reform in 2013’. The Spanish coastline is around 9,000kms in length: much of it is concrete.
How about putting a bid onto a house, or maybe an apartment block, or a hotel, or even an airport? El Mundo looks at the business of property auctions – where, it seems, the best bid received by a certain date takes the prize. Who is selling – why, the banks, insolvent companies, credit unions or even the public administrations.
On the one side, stay safe from the pandemic. On the other, the economy must continue – and that means tourists! From Canarian Weekly here, ‘The Minister of Tourism for Spain, Reyes Maroto, has confirmed that the central Government is monitoring the epidemiological situation in the United Kingdom "day by day" in order to be able to reopen to this market as soon as health conditions are met…’.
From Which? here: ‘UK holidaymakers will be charged to enter the EU from 2022. The post-Brexit changes will hit those travelling from Britain next year’.
Welcome news from Sur in English here: ‘The Junta de Andalucía agrees on a big shakedown in bureaucracy to boost the local economy. Regional ministers aim to simplify by 2024 a third of the rules and regulations that make life difficult for businesses’.
Sicavs (wiki) are a financial instrument used by the wealthy to avoid paying tax. Sad to say, these useful ‘collective investment schemes’ have been tightened up by Hacienda, but, with luck, one can continue to pay tax at 1%. Sicavs were introduced in 1983 to stop wealth being exported to safe havens. The idea is that one large fortune (with an investment minimum of 2,400,000€) would need another 100 signatories (straw-men known popularly as ‘mariachis’) to create a fund which then pays a dribble of tax of 1%. The new rule states that each of the ‘investors’ must now stump up 2,500€ per person for membership. To see how these instruments work (all quite beyond this reporter), see an article titled ‘Hacienda changes the rules of the game on Sicavs, which could put their viability in Spain at risk’ at Confilegal here. A way forward for the Sicavs is explained here.
The Washington Post article that enthuses over the possible future leader of the PP is brought to Spanish readers by La Vanguardia here. Their title, untranslated: ‘Isabel Díaz Ayuso: una “heroína” made in Spain’. We read that the original American piece says ‘Conservatives looking for an intelligent, serious and principled leader should look to this rising star in Spain’. Other foreign titles have been equally rhapsodic: Politico considers Ayuso to be one of the most influential leaders of the year, The New York Times has her as ‘The most powerful rising figure of the Partido Popular’ and Britain’s The Times calls her ‘The Spanish Iron Lady’. Ayuso’s own cabinet says that ‘The trickle of requests for interviews has been constant in this last year, but it seems that they have all agreed to publish them now’. As for the Iron Lady herself, she says she has no ambitions outside Madrid, but she would say that, wouldn’t she…?
Over at ECD here, they say that Ayuso would win a general election bigly.
The ABC, leading with ‘Sánchez's harvest. If a government sows discord and tension, mismanagement and lies, and pacts against the national interest, what it gets is a vote of punishment and the regrouping of the opposition’, brings us some upbeat news of a right-wing victory if only elections were to be held today. In the survey brought by GAD3, the PP would gallop home with 28.5% (and Vox with 17.1%) bringing the two parties 178 deputies between them (Ciudadanos? Oh Dear, just one for them). The full GAD3 numbers are here. Over in the other court, with our ‘if only they were held today’ (the Government has another couple of years to run), El Huff Post brings us the figures from the CIS. Here we find pretty much the opposite. The headline: ‘The PSOE would win the elections and increases its distance from the PP’. The numbers: PSOE 28%, PP 20.8%... with the full CIS study on a pdf here (go to the final page of their report).
LaSexta runs hot on the real proposals from Vox for the working classes. These include cheaper dismissals and no more informative pickets on the street. With video.
The ‘marriage of convenience but without sex’ in Castilla y León is over. The president of that community, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco (PP) phoned his Nº2 Francisco Igea (Ciudadanos) on Sunday with the surprise news of a remodelling to follow with a snap election says elDiario.es here. The story also receives coverage at La Razón, who says that the precipitate elections will be held on February 13th. Thus, the four Cs politicians within the council are summarily removed and their places taken by PP loyalists (video). Returning to the opinion polls – El Mundo says that the PP are running locally around 40%.
And so begins a new electoral cycle, which after Castilla y León will continue in Andalucía later in 2022, and from there we will begin to prepare for the municipal and regional elections of May 2023. In the autumn of that year will come the general elections…
Could the master-plan be for the PP to win a couple of sure things before we reach the heavy waters of a general election asks El Español (paywall) here?
One further complication on its way is the arrival of the new España Vaciada parties. Following Teruel Existe comes one from Castilla y León – ¡Soria Ya! (here).
The life and death of Arrimadas. From elDiario.es here: ‘Ciudadanos has received a new blow with the political events in Castilla y León, which adds to the loss of their presence in the government in Murcia and their disappearance in Madrid’. In a separate article, ‘Inés Arrimadas attributes the electoral advance in Castilla y León to pressure from Pablo Casado and his "testosterone politics"’.
Actually, no. The budget for 2022 has been bounced at the final hurdle in the Senado as a call from a regionalist party for funds for co-official languages was – surprisingly – supported by the PP (who is, of course, noisily against them). Thus, the budget will return to the Cortes for some fine-tuning, and the happy announcement of the accord over the Government’s figures will be postponed for another week or so. A Government spokesperson says: "With the sole desire to delay the final approval of the national budget for 2022, the PP contradicts itself in the Senate, and once again shows that partisan interest is above the interest of Spain" (here).
Jotapov notes that the far-right leader of Chile took just an hour to call his victorious left-wing opponent and congratulate him on the election results – where in contrast, after two years (!) Pedro Sánchez is still considered by the PP and Vox to be an ‘illegitimate president’.
From La Vanguardia here: ‘The director of the Police ensures that coexistence in Catalonia has improved since the PP does not governs in Madrid’. The report says that the national police chief Francisco Pardo (wiki) and the Guardia Civil chief María Gámez suffered four hours of cross examination from the PP and Vox last week in a commission at the Cortes on security. The Director-General of the Police is worth a second quote: ‘…Pardo rejected "any harassment in Catalonia or Madrid", but took the opportunity to reproach the Popular Party that "anything for them is worth the attack", for which he urged them to "work to unite and not to confront" including, among others issues, to "stop using the Police and the Civil Guard" for their endless offensives. "The PP should stop behaving like arsonists and start to behave like fire-fighters", he said’.
From The San-Diego Union Tribune here: ‘Thousands of Catalans took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday to protest against a court decision that mandates that 25% of all school subjects be taught in Spanish, reducing the still predominant use of the local Catalan language in classrooms…’.
From El Español here: ‘Brussels and London fail to reach an agreement on Gibraltar. The talks will continue next year. The Government of the Rock says that the objective now is to agree a commitment to demolish the frontier (‘la verja’) before Easter’. While neither Spain nor the UK will comment officially, the Gibraltarian government says that "The objective at this time is to conclude an agreement before Easter. The negotiations are focused on ensuring the smooth movement of people and goods between Gibraltar and the EU and thus create an area of greater shared prosperity".
‘Spain is devastated and regrets not in time after Liz Truss' dramatic rescue of 400,000 Britons’. (Heh!) Some Brexit-inspired claptrap here in a YouTube video. Enjoy!
400,000 Brits, you say? Apparently, despite us all leaving Spain ‘in droves’. The official figure for Brit residents in Spain is around 250,000 says Google.
The Government announced on Wednesday that, with the issue of the fast-rising infections of the Sixth Wave upon us, masks must be worn at all times when outside says 20Minutos.
The WHO recommends cancelling all Christmas celebrations, says La Vanguardia here: ‘We are all very worried about Omicron’.
From David Jackson (a writer posting on Facebook): The BOJA (Andalucía Official Bulletin) authorising Covid passports as published on Sunday night:
Until Jan 15th you can only get into bars, restaurants nightclubs by showing a Covid passport, proof of negative PCR (within last 72 hours) or antigen (within last 48 hours) or having passed Covid in the last six months and thus be exempt from vaccination during that period. The under-12s are exempt. You also have to show ID at the same time.
Covid passports apply only to the INTERIOR (espacios interiores) of establishments, so you can sit on the terrace without having to show one.
Antigen and PCR must be certified by a laboratory, so none of these quick lateral flow antigens from the pharmacy.
Establishments must not take copies of your details or keep lists.
Edit: Although this is not specified in the Order, establishment owners can (and should) check verity of Covid passports by scanning it with the Salud Andalucia app. The App comes back with the name of the holder, and a big green tick or a red cross.
I have been experimenting and the UK's NHS Covid Pass (travel version ONLY) works with the Spanish scanners, so don't worry about that.
If you are printing out your Covid Pass, make sure the QR code (the black box full of dots) is not altered, obscured or damaged! Otherwise the bar owner won't be able to scan it.
(A jocular comment from a reader says – we shall have to send the child into the bar to bring the drinks out for Mummy and Daddy).
From ABC here: ‘Pfizer predicts the pandemic will last until 2024 and delays its vaccine in children between 2 and 4 years old’.
The anti-vaxxers are out there, led by the ‘Médicos por la Verdad’ (see here), and are asking supporters to report false cases of issues with the vaccine to confuse the Ministerio de Sanidad – even though, of course, supporters of this group haven’t had a vaccination. The story is at La Voz de Galicia here. One councillor from the PP in the Madrid assembly, Almudena Negro, after insisting that one must take the vaccine and should take care to wear a face-mask, has been the subject of numerous insults and even death threats from the anti-vaxxers says La Razón here.
Do supporters of the conservative parties react in the same way as the liberals when one of their politicians is caught with his hand in the till? Público asks some experts on political behaviour. One says ‘…It's not that people don't care about corruption, but that they do have bigger concerns. If you have problems paying for electricity and other things, what happens to politicians are thought to be their problems, not ours…’. ‘Sometimes’, says another, ‘it’s worth it just to piss off the lefties’.
Google News – in every Western country except Spain – brings a number of news-reports, culled from a variety of sources, to the reader. It’s a useful service because readers will then go to the source, swelling their visitor numbers. A bit (in a modest way) like BoT. Google News doesn’t charge for this service, but the Spanish newspapers think that Google should pay for the honour of covering them. Now, as things begin to lighten up (after seven years absence), some of the Spanish newspaper chains are breaking ranks says the ECD (disapprovingly).
The New York Times has an article (paywall) about both the film director Pedro Almodovar and (confusingly) Santiago Abascal, the Vox leader. Apparently, they don’t like each other. Personally, I don’t like either of them. El Huff Post explains here the connection, such as it is. Again, anything about Spain that’s published abroad…
There’s heavy spending says ECD here for alternative energy in Spain. ‘Installing the wind turbines and the photovoltaic plants authorized by the Government will cost one hundred thousand million euros by 2050’.
Thank climate change, maybe. From Sur in English, we learn that African vultures – well, one anyway – are (is) settling in Spain. A female Rüppell's vulture has now made her home in Málaga. We hope she likes her new diet.
Worries that Juan Carlos might return to Spain for Christmas (or, at least, before King Felipe’s Christmas TV speech on December 24th at 9.00pm) have now receded, but the Emeritus is said to be chaffing to return - perhaps for Reyes (January 6th). An opinion in elDiario.es here from the journalist Ester Palomera doubts that he will ever be welcome in Spain again, and certainly not to return to the Zarzuela Royal Palace. It would, she says, cause too much of a scandal which would rock the Monarchy. InfoLibre also takes a poke at the situation with their title ‘We all work for the tax agency – except for the Emeritus’. It says in part – ‘…And that exoneration - warn different experts - can undermine the image of the Monarchy. But above all it can weaken the already fragile confidence in Justice. And reinforce the idea that tax evasion hardly affects the powerful when it comes to punishment. Does forgiveness for the Emeritus destroy the emblematic Hacienda slogan that we are all tax-collectors? Is there a risk that we might remember that old cliché that someone who robs a chicken will go to jail while the great ones will always escape justice?...’.
The commercial backers and advertisers behind (and within) the gaming industry in Spain have fallen sharply after the new rules introduced by the Government (aimed at discouraging gambling) says elDiario.es here. (Where I live, in a barrio popular, there are three salons within easy walking distance, all happy to take my money).
The Guardian features opinion from the Madrid-based Peruvian writer Gabriela Wiener and ‘How Spain’s right clings to its imperialist past’.
The minimum guarantee on goods has been adjusted in law from two to three years says the Government on their web-page here. Spares must now remain available from discontinued products for ten years (it was five).
A Granada news-paper took some pleasure to point out that the PP-controlled City of Zaragoza also had some ‘inverted crosses’ among their Christmas lights. Clearly, there’s just no pleasing Satan.
We had some trouble in Almería with our last bishop and the Pope has now sent us a new one, after the diocese was found to be 22 million euros in debt. The story here and here.
It was good to see one Christmas tradition still going strong – Iberdrola has just put (another) ex-minister from the PP on their board. Isabel García Tejerina was the Minister of Agriculture under Rajoy, so one can see how she could be useful. The story at VoxPópuli.
I don’t buy lottery tickets, says this lady in a swish Madrid neighbourhood, I don’t want to help the Government.
An article at A Las Barricadas here looks at the American volunteers who joined the Spanish anarchists during the Civil War. Around 3,000 foreigners were involved in the militias in Spain, including some 100 Americans… An interesting story, which once read, reveals that it can be found in English in The Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade magazine here.
Keeping with the Civil War, elDiario.es has an article about the pyramid memorial for the Italian fascist troops raised outside Burgos and now sadly abandoned.
More on ‘the submerged ruins that could correspond with the Phoenician-Punic temple of Melqart and Hercules Gaditanus’ from Heritage Daily here, and why this is wrong, according to a professor from the University of Córdoba here.
From Eye on Spain here: ‘The Three Wise Men have earned their well-deserved reputation, but they are not Spain's only protagonists during the Christmas season. Although less known, there are other very peculiar characters who always visit us around these times. From the Olentzero to the Caga Tió, the one who doesn't bring gifts but instead brings peace and love: something less materialistic but equally important. Discover more about these interesting Christmas characters, maybe one of them will visit your home in the coming weeks...’.
From El Español here (thanks to Jake - nice timing!): the doctors say that the daily glass of vino is not only bad for your cardiovascular system, alcohol-use also affects one’s eyesight.
From Sindinero here: Did you know that a banana costs the third of an Actimel, and has three times as much Vitamin B6 as the Danone product? Just saying… A similar point is made over at Visit-Andalucia: ‘Outdoor Markets Beat Inflation’. Things could be worse (and, sometimes, they are): from Standing in a Spanish Doorway here, The Game.
From Eye on Spain, I’ll take a glass of milk occasionally.
The Cascada de la Cimbarra Natural Park, famous for its waterfalls, is a couple of kilometres east of the Despeñaperros Natural Park and just south of the small town of Aldeaquemada (Jaén). It is one of the most remote areas in Andalucía. Visit-Andalucia has the story here.
Think Spain says, ‘If you are on the lookout for the perfect place to hide away from the hordes this Christmas and New Year, you might well be tempted by one of these five charming villages with under 1000 inhabitants, tucked away in some of Spain's most scenic areas’.
More folksy stuff: elDiario.es ran a title recently that said ‘Folklore and improvised home-made instruments: this was the music that was made in Spain before Mariah Carey came along’. We meet El Trío Árbole who perform a poem from Federico García Lorca set to music called Seco y Verde on YouTube here.
Feliz año, and remember, don’t believe everything you read (unless you read it here)!