How hard could it be for the PP to lose its reputation for corruption? As another ruling crashes onto the party over a separate string of the Gürtel Case (wiki), the two Madrid leaders – Ayuso the President of the Region and Almeida the Mayor at City Hall – are both feeling the approach of major inquiries into their probity.
Their last leader, Pablo Casado, said he wouldn’t answer questions from the media about the corruption within his party (as endless cases of party graft ground their way through the courts), adding that it was ‘all in the past anyway’.
He then lost his job following his squabble with Ayuso, after accusing her brother of having taken major commissions over Covid-related material for the Madrid region: easy enough to believe, between one thing and another, following the treatment of the elderly in their old-folks homes during the pandemic.
Uncomfortable with the latest Gürtel news, the new leader of the PP seats himself gingerly at his desk in the party headquarters at Calle Genova 13 (Casado was for selling it after it came out that some major repairs on the building had been paid for with black money). Alberto Nüñez Feijóo is immediately faced with two crises in Madrid. First, as more details leak about his rival Isabel Díaz Ayuso (a popular leader whose power he might even be glad to see diminished); and second, a party-ally in the shape of the mayor of Madrid José Luis Martínez Almeida (wiki), and the current scandal of the moment, as a massive commission of many millions of euros is discovered to have been paid during the early panic of the pandemic to two canny businessmen through the offices of a cousin of Almeida.
Massive, indeed. Jokes are circulating on the social media as the two involved apparently treated themselves to a yacht, a Lamborghini, the ownership of a house in Pozuelo, 6,000€ a night hotel stays and sundry other trifles, since (and where possible) embargoed by the court. Amongst other material, the 8c gloves they had arranged for the Madrid City Hall to buy for 2€ allegedly helped them to take some six million euros in commissions. Nice work if you can get it. One of the pair in question, as he awaits his interview with the judge later this month, has left Spain for a much-needed holiday abroad.
Taking commissions – making business out of the fear, sickness and deaths of an entire region – must be one of the most base of all corruptions, says one editorial as the facts are picked through by the courts. Another critical editorial on the single telephone call that earned one of the pair a million euros says ‘it’s just a little bit of honest bísnes, Guv…’
As Almeida said a few months back, with words which would come to haunt him later: ‘How could the Government of Spain have bought testing equipment against Covid which was neither reliable nor in sufficient numbers – with the taxpayers’ money?’
Feijóo has been in Madrid at the helm of the party for only a week, and already must be regretting his move from Santiago de Compostela, where the Government of Galicia (wiki) sits. There, for the past thirteen years of relative tranquillity, Feijóo ruled the roost.
‘Andalucía is expected to allow the construction of single-family homes on rural land’ says an article at Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight here. The rules on property are changing in Andalucía as the old PSOE land-protection laws are being re-written.
From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘What are ‘Vulture Funds’, and can they chase you back home for mortgage debts in Spain?’. The article takes a legal view with solutions offered…
From Mapping Spain here: ‘Where to live as a retiree in Spain? Places…and comparing Theory versus Reality’. An interesting article by a Canadian couple.
Easter marks the beginning of the tourist season, where it becomes harder to park, harder to shop and where the local village fiestas and concerts are aimed more at the visitors than at the residents. There may be some room at the back if you hurry.
‘The ambitious project for the construction of the largest artificial urban beach in Europe in the municipality of Alovera (Guadalajara) has just passed through the last administrative hurdle after being approved in the plenary session of the city council’. The beach, lagoon, attractions and parking will provide 170 jobs say the promoters, and should bring along some 250 to 400 thousand visitors a year. More at CLM21 here.
The arrival of a new leader for the PP has brought a modest three point swing in the CIS poll towards that party says 20Minutos with the PSOE still leading at 30.3%, PP at 27.2% and Vox down to 14.4%.
A recent and mildly fruitful meeting between Alberto Núñez Feijóo and Pedro Sánchez elicited this response from a truculent Isabel Díaz Ayuso: ‘The president of the Community of Madrid has offered her opinion on the meeting between Sánchez and Feijóo, to whom she has sent a new message: “If we are not a real opposition to this disastrous government, we shall all end up in the ditch. And that’s something I won’t accept". elDiario.es reports here.
The Corner looks at the tactics to be used by Feijóo as Leader of the Opposition and contrasts them with the ‘scorched earth policy treating the Premier as a mendacious liar, felon and traitor’ employed by the quickly forgotten previous skipper of the PP. It says ‘…Mr Núñez-Feijóo is ready to strike deals with Mr Sánchez on issues requiring broad political support. He is conscious that playing the card of moderation and statesmanship is a winning hand. It is also the best strategy to distance himself from Vox and its radical far-right positions…’ We shall see how long the amnesty lasts…
For our amusement, a comic video from Polonia called Ayuso On Their Minds, as Feijóo and his sidekick the siempre leal Cuca Gamarra plot the downfall of La Santa Ayuso.
From Público here, an interview with the spokesperson for UP in the Madrid Regional Assembly Alejandra Jacinto with the title: "Ayuso and Almeida are both mortally wounded by corruption and we are no longer satisfied with being the opposition".
From El Español here: ‘The left doubles its pressure on the vice-mayor of Madrid Begoña Villacís (Ciudadanos) to kick Almeida out via a motion of censure and take over. However, the deputy mayor rejects the siren songs of Más Madrid, PSOE and the Grupo Mixto, and sympathizes with the mayor: "He is just having a bad time". 20Minutos describes the background to the case. Quoting Begoña Villacis, it says: ‘There are issues. It’s ugly’.
The new government of Castilla y León is now in session under President Alfonso Fernández Mañueco (PP). The Partido Popular and Vox partnership includes a Vox speaker for the regional parliament called Carlos Pollán, a man – says Público here – with no political experience who will nevertheless be paid 101,555.28€ (Spain is different): that’s roughly 15,000€ more than Pedro Sánchez earns in Madrid as president of Spain. Over at
El Huff Post we read that ‘The Palacio de la Moncloa (presidential residence) considers the PP-Vox pact as "bad news" and it warns Feijóo that his party is standing outside the boundaries of the European conservatives’.
From The Olive Press here: ‘Has Spain healed the rift with Morocco?’ The paper says that President Sánchez visited King Mohammed VI last week in Rabat following the agreement by Spain to consider Western Sahara as an autonomous province of Morocco. In return, the pressure on Ceuta and Melilla has been eased, but without any firm agreement from Morocco to drop future claims upon the two territories. A reader from Melilla tells BoT that the move has been welcomed in the North African enclave, as the closed border with Morocco has been strangling the local economy. Spain, she writes, had never done anything for the Western Sahara anyway, since Juan Carlos I pulled Spain from the territory following the Green March in November 1975 on what was apparently American instruction. From El Mundo here: ‘Sánchez announces an agreement with Rabat for the reopening of the borders of Ceuta and Melilla. The agreement with Rabat however makes no mention of the territorial integrity of the autonomous cities or of the Canary Islands’.
Huéscar, a small town in Granada, was for 172 years at war with Denmark. A friend of mine called Paul Beckett, a Danish artist who had lived in Spain since the 1950s, told me the story of how he had found out about the state of hostility between the small town and the mighty Denmark. The Danish government, on being appraised of the issue, promptly sued for peace and sent a group of Danes dressed as Vikings to the ayuntamiento to sign the appropriate documents in 1981. Granada Hoy reports that a documentary called La Guerra Más Larga is now being shown is selected cinemas. To show no hard feelings, Huéscar is now twinned with the Danish town of Kolding.
From The Guardian here: ‘Spain bans harassment of women having abortions. Activists could face up to a year in prison for trying to intimidate women into not having terminations’.
‘Five reasons why you should drink wine’. The campaign from the La Mancha vintners has met with heavy criticism from all quarters, including, says El Diario de La Mancha here, a spirited attack from a doctor at the Universidad de Isabel I who says that ‘the advert is both false and illegal’. The promotion has now been removed, but others, including one from La Rioja: ‘10 healthy reasons to enjoy a glass or two of Rioja wine’, are still going. And why not, says BoT, reaching for the office corkscrew.
From 20Minutos here: ‘A judge accuses three senior officials of the Government of Sánchez for fraud in the award in the purchase of masks’. It follows from a complaint by Vox that the sanitary material was not properly costed.
Público looks at the political power of la disinformación: fake news and manipulation. In this digital age, it becomes ever more professional, slick, and harder to detect. ‘"Manipulation and propaganda have always existed, what happens is that in the digital environment, misinformation is simply a profitable business," says the sociologist Liliana Arroyo. "Platforms are very interested in disinformation circulating through their channels because that generates interaction and attraction for users: it generates money," she points out, noting that "there is very little democracy in the digital world".’
Journalist and writer Olga Rodríguez looks at media manipulation in a short video at YouTube here.
The US Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 has just been released. For Spain (here) it says inter alia that both Podemos and Vox were guilty of threats against the freedom of the media. The report says that in February 2021 ‘Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias accused media organizations of being a “weapon of corporate power.” ’. The report also says that ‘Vox sought to stigmatize journalists through online harassment and by prohibiting the media from covering its events, notably its campaign rallies prior to the Madrid regional elections on May 4 last year’. The report further notes that ‘In its July report on the country’s rule of law, the European Commission cited the need to improve the transparency of the ownership of media outlets’.
elDiario.es brings us some new invasive species to worry the ecologists, including the poisonous red fire ant (wiki) (yikes!), the large-scale loach (an air-breathing fish) (wiki), the New Zealand Mousehole Tree (wiki), our old friend the picudo rojo, the red weevil (wiki) that destroys the palm trees and finally, we seem to have a plague of mongooses as well…
An opinion from a retired judge and conservative politician called Andres Ollero at ECD here (his biography is worth the price of admission alone) considers modern Spain in his latest book Tercio de quites. The title of the article gives a glimpse of where we are being taken: ‘One day in the future, abortion will be seen in the same way as we see slavery today’
From Público here: ‘The ultra-Catholic Heraldos del Evangelio (Heralds of the Gospel), whose project to build a monastery, a Gothic church, a school and a hostel for pilgrims in a small town in the province of Madrid called Sevilla la Nueva has opened a front between the PP City Council and local residents.
An article at 20Minutos looks at the galgo. ‘The Spanish greyhound, the tragic victim of the most inhuman outrages from some hunters and, at the same time, a conqueror of sofas’.
An odd article from EPE looks at an odd detail of the okupa phenomenon. It seems that when a Guardia Civil is in service, he is given the free use of an official apartment within the cuartel, the barracks – known as un pabellón – for his use. This is until retirement when he (and his family) is expected to fend for himself. The corps has 36,329 homes at its disposal throughout Spain, yet there are 76,642 active agents. Of course, not all Guardias want to live within the barracks, so a balance is maintained. The issue here is the ones who are retired but won’t – for one reason or another – abandon their apartment. Oddly, it’s the local police whose job is to eject them in un desahucio, an eviction.
The alarming discovery of a giant collection of 1,100 stuffed animals in Valencia (apparently valued – by someone – at 29 million euros) reminds Yahoo! News of a smaller collection built up by the ex-King of Spain. Juan Carlos’ stuffed animals – said to be around 500 of them – are housed in a pavilion in the Palacio de la Zarzuela along with the Emeritus’ gun collection. Details of the collection are secret.
Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Association (RFEF), is well paid, says the sports-paper As here, at 634,518.19€ before tax last year.
From Sur in English here: ‘Almost three million vehicles on Spain's roads are not insured. It is illegal to drive without insurance and can result in hefty fines and the vehicle being seized’. That’s around 9% of all vehicles by the way.
From 20Minutos – a handy map of the radar-traps across Spain.
From El Comercio here: ‘The Ministry of Transport plans to reduce rail services in sparsely populated areas. The state mobility law prefers to support bus travel because "no society can afford to finance empty trains"’.
El Periódico de la Energía says that Spanish electricity prices will fall – permanently – below French and German levels, from July onwards. It puts it down to Spain’s growing solar energy production.
The largest marijuana plantation ever to be discovered by the police in Europe: In Artajona (Navarra) the end of 415,000 plants on 67 hectares came as the police destroyed the giant crop (burned it? Surely not!). Some photos straight out of High Times! The story here.
There is a fuss going on over whether waiters should be forced (!) to follow employment rules during the Easter festival or if exceptions should be allowed letting them work for anything up to sixteen hours a day. In the right-wing media, says 20Minutos here, the issue isn’t the hours, but rather the lack of willing staff!
Happy Easter (and the peaceful season beyond) from Lenox at Eye on Spain here.
‘Very few people had heard of Riglos until the French newspaper Le Monde placed this small town of about 250 inhabitants in the pre-Pyrenean region of La Hoya de Huesca in seventh position in its special ranking of the 20 most beautiful towns in the world (and their only Spanish one) that it recommends visiting in 2022’. Eye on Spain has the story here.
Ten cities for the best free tapas at Eye on Spain here.
Pop-rock from Baja California: Yuri with Reik perform Duele on YouTube here.