Insults and discovery on the one side, triumphs and cat-calls on the other - it must be getting close to election-time.
Those few of us foreign residents who either have the vote or will be voting in the municipal elections to come on May 28th will be doing so in our town of empadronamiento, which, in most cases, will be a smaller conurbation, perhaps somewhere between a thousand and fifty thousand in size.
We may even know the candidates for mayor (and most probably, some folk from their party-list).
The regional elections fall (in many cases) on the same date. If you follow your local TV, you will see the candidates often enough - at least the one for the party that controls that particular autonomía. Of course, no foreigners are able to vote in these elections, making them for us as hechos de otra pasta - a different kettle of fish.
We return to the local ones.
The party candidates will soon have the list of voters (of course, the mayor has it already) and they will be looking for support. Normally, one votes along family lines, which is simple and obvious enough, and one might be considered locally 'to have so many votes' under his roof. There may even be rewards: a job for Junior in the town hall, or at the very least, a post in the gardening squad. Sometimes, those who have long moved away to the City will keep their name on the padrón, and thus will vote locally, inevitably for family. We foreign residents with the right to vote (that's to say, EU citizens and some Brits and Norwegians who have claimed their emancipation) are a bit more tricky as we may not be familiar with the candidates and their little foibles, and might lean towards voting along party lines. Perhaps it's worth putting one of us guiris on the list, safely towards the bottom, to keep us all in step.
Those lists - a candidature is a party list with thirteen or fifteen or more putative councillors on it - will either be (vaguely) representative of a national party or they could be a local effort: 'Keep Villa de la Sierra Flat' or some such thing. The parties with the national support will be handing out free lighters and pens, but may on occasion be obliged to march to the tune called out in Madrid. The local ones may be short on the complimentary tee-shirts, while having more freedom in their message.
The results are important for the parties with their headquarters in the Spanish capital. With enough town halls in a given province, the diputación (viz. the provincial council), falls under their control.
The budgets will have been passed for the year, but since no one in the ayuntamiento can be completely sure what will happen this time, there may be a good argument for spending the whole year's worth of funding before then, which also has the advantage of seducing a few on-the-fence voters as the council fills in the potholes, erects some more street-lights and plants a tree or two.
It's a murky world, local politics.
La Ley de Vivienda, the 'housing law', will oblige owners to assume the expenses and fees of the real estate agency (rather than, as is beginning to occur, the customer). 'The new law adds a regulation on the price of leases and changes the definition of "large holders" of properties' says The Objective here. Rental increases will be fixed at a maximum of 2% in 2023, rising to 3% next year. The so-called 'large holders' will (or may - it's a regional decision) be considered as any landlord who rents out five or more homes, and by extension could be subject to extra taxes. We note that 'In Málaga, rents have increased by 20.4% as availability fell by 27% in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to housing search website Idealista.com' as quoted by Reuters here. El Confidencial worries that the new law could hurt the vulture-funds - both through the control on rent increases and also the prohibition to find other ways of increasing charges connected to the home. In Barcelona, a third of all rentals belong to just 3% of landlords says La Vanguardia here.
Mark Stücklin at Spanish Property Insight is unimpressed: 'Thirteen months after the draft housing bill went to the Spanish parliament for debate, but just in time for local elections in May, the government has stitched together a parliamentary majority for a housing bill that intervenes heavily in the market, especially the rental market, and protects tenants and squatters at the expense of landlords.'. He ends with, '.Whatever the final version of Spain's new 'Ley de Vivienda' or 'Housing law', it won't directly affect foreigners buying second-homes in Spain. It will, however, distort the market, in particular the rental market, and make housing even more problematic for a growing number of people. That spells trouble for Spain in future, but in the short run it's a clear message to foreign and local capital to avoid Spanish housing beyond purely personal needs like buying a home or second-home for personal use'.
From Mark Stücklin's Spanish Property Insight (here): 'Spain has some of the cheapest mortgages on offer in Europe, according to the European Mortgage Federation. Spain had an average weighted mortgage interest rate of 2.02% in Q3 2022, only behind Portugal (1.93%), France (1.59%) and Denmark (1.11%)'.
Orihuela's city hall (Alicante) has approved the controversial plans to build up to 2,200 homes at Cala Mosca says The Olive Press here. Work on 'the last virgin kilometre of Orihuela Costa' is expected to start next month.
From The Local here: 'The rules for getting a tourist licence to rent out your Spanish property. Everything you need to know about tourist licences in Spain. If you're looking to rent out your property to tourists in Spain on a site such as Airbnb, it's important to know all the rules and regulations. Find out all the requirements you'll need to get a tourist licence in each region in Spain'.
ECD features an article on senior co-housing here. Without giving any detail (maybe try Google for specifics), it says: 'Thousands of retirees embrace a model that allows them to remain independent in self-managed housing complexes, where life is as private or communal as each resident could wish. . Aging with the same freedom that they had before retirement, without depending on or being a burden to anyone, is one of the main motivations among those who opt for this trend. The fear of loneliness and isolation also weighs heavily, especially among those who are widowed'.
Income tax advice at Eye on Spain here: 'How to do your income tax return'. Some pointers. The article says - get a gestoría to do it for you.
There's a shortage of public housing in Spain. From around a million of them built in the decade of the nineteen eighties, Spain managed to build only 167,500 homes between 2010 and 2020 says El Huff Post here. Many have been sold off to the tenants, and currently there are some 300,000 public-owned rental apartments. From the elDiario.es newsletter: '.Pedro Sánchez has announced that almost 50,000 apartments from the Sareb, 'the bad bank', empty because they come from bankrupt developments or that nobody wanted to buy, are going to be released for social rental in the form of public ('council') housing. This brings three types of reactions: those who say that they've heard this all before, those who say that it will be of no use because the Sareb homes are in places where there are no rental problems, and those who say that it is poetic justice - that the dwellings built for a quick profit end up a decade later as social housing'. La Sexta says that, of the fifty thousand, only around 21,000 are actually - more or less - ready for occupation. The rest of these foreclosed properties are not much more than empty lots with planning permits. Some 14,000 are in the hands of okupas, who will have the opportunity to start paying cheap rents. ECD says it could take up to five years to have all 50,000 homes ready for low rental use. On Wednesday, Pedro Sánchez announced a further 43,000 rent-controlled homes will be financed by the Government (with European aid) to add to the 50,000 Sareb apartments. "This legislation will meet two conditions: energy efficiency and the use of these homes for social rental or leasing for at least 50 years", explained the President of the Government, who has promised "to make access to housing a right". El Huff Post has the story here.
'Feijóo sinks more every day', says El Huff Post in an opinion piece: 'Even he admits that the results on May 28th will not be what the PP had expected'. The site adds (with no small satisfaction), 'In fact, even the ABC acknowledges that the PP leader's public rating has fallen 15 points in twelve months: from a high of near 35% to now below 20%...'.
Feijóo has contacted Juan Carlos I to guarantee that he will allow him to live in Spain if he becomes president of Spain. The opposition leader places among his priorities to "restore" the figure of the emeritus King in Spain. El Español has the story.
'The Spanish PM apologises for loophole in new sexual consent law' says The Guardian here. 'Spain's prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has apologised to victims for a loophole in a landmark new law that was intended to toughen penalties for sexual crimes but has allowed some convicted offenders to reduce their sentences. The legislation, popularly known as the "only yes means yes" law, came into effect last October. It overhauled the criminal code by making sexual consent - or lack of it - key in determining assault cases, in an effort to define all non-consensual sex as rape.'. From El Mundo here: 'Sánchez shakes off the criticism from Podemos, saying "The best way to defend the 'only yes means yes' law is to make this technical modification". 'This Thursday the vote that corrects the issues in the law is held'. The vote will see the PSOE voting with the PP and against its usual allies.
How did those meetings between Podemos and Sumar manage to go so wrong? According to Yolanda Díaz here, there only ever was one meeting, and the Podemos reps got up from the table and left. The anecdote is part of a TV interview with Yolanda on Lo De Évole.
'More than 65,000 foreign residents eligible to vote in next municipal elections across Andalucía. In Spain, as a whole, there are more than 414,000 expats who will be able to cast their vote on 28 May'. Notably, 113,492 Romanian expats lead the foreign voters by nationality, accounting for a quarter of the total. Item from Sur in English here.
ECD takes a swipe at Brexit Britain here: 'The (dis)United Kingdom. The island's political atmosphere is turbulent due to the growing distance between the interest of the new elites and the bulk of the citizenry'. A savage (and funny) piece from The Guardian treads the same ground here. The headline: 'Britain is a dying nation in need of new curators. The Tories' scorched earth policy has wrecked our rivers, our NHS, our freedom of movement. Now even 6 Music is at risk'.
'Tito Berni' is the nickname for the disgraced ex-PSOE deputy Juan Bernardo Fuentes Curbelo, and El Confidencial finds that the records of just whom Tito Berni might have invited to visit his parliamentary office have been destroyed.
From The Guardian here: 'Barça's Laporta hits back at claims of payments to referees. Joan Laporta finally broke FC Barcelona's silence over allegations that they tried to buy favourable decisions from officials, declaring the club victims of a "gigantic" smear campaign and accusing rivals Real Madrid of "unprecedented cynicism". In a two-hour press conference, finally called eight weeks after the first reports appeared that payments of more than ?7m were allegedly made to the former vice-president of the referee's committee, José María Enríquez Negreira, over an 18-year period, he went on the attack, declaring he would "defend the institution until my last drop of blood".'
A long and hot summer is approaching. From 20Minutos here: 'Meteorologists already know what this summer is going to be like in Spain: "scorching" and "long". The article says that summers are already lasting for five weeks longer than they did in the 1980s and they increase in length at the rate of nine days each decade. It also notes that 'A hot and dry environment is a breeding ground for the spread of fires, which could be more serious this summer'. El Huff Post is even gloomier: 'The drought to bring ruin for many. Ranchers, farmers, consumers and the entire country see reasons for concern when looking at the sky.
This year continues to move in painfully hot and dry records, with sporadic and insufficient appearances of the much-needed rain'.
Doñana remains a leading story in the serious media. The Guardian explains: 'Spain's environment minister has accused the Andalusian regional government of engaging in "short-term electoral demagoguery" and playing into the hands of the far right by pressing ahead with irrigation plans for strawberry farms that could threaten the survival of one of Europe's most important wetlands.
Water supplies to the Doñana Natural Space, whose marshes, forests and dunes extend across almost 130,000 hectares (320,000 acres) and include a Unesco-listed national park, have declined drastically over the past 30 years because of climate breakdown, farming, mining pollution and marsh drainage.'
It's easy to blame the PP and Vox of supporting the local farmers in the Cadiz wetlands (the local towns are traditionally PSOE which Seville is anxious to change), but the issues of the illegal wells, blithely ignored by the politicians of the time date back to the days when worries about 'climate warming' and lakes drying out didn't exist.
The regional Canal Sur TV is full of news of the Andalucía-wide sequía - the drought - 'the worst in thirty years', but also manages to support the farmers and their 'alegal' (viz. 'legalish') wells in the Doñana region. Politics? Well, for sure!
From Público here: More than a thousand hectares of greenhouses around Doñana use illegal irrigation.
Who is guilty for the death of Doñana? Everyone, says Datadista here. 'Farms ceded by the public administrations to grow red fruit, private farms with kilometre-long canalizations that diverted the channels causing enormous damage and the systematic uprooting of trees to plant completely illegal irrigation were depleting the aquifer. On the ground, harassment of the nature-guards; and a common practice in Spain in the administrations of both parties: first permissiveness and then regularize what is illegal' (or, as Canal Sur says above 'alegal').
The San Diego Tribune here: 'Andalucía considers more irrigation near Spanish wetlands'.
Finally, Maldita dots the eyes and crosses the tees here with 'Tools and sources to follow what is happening in Doñana'.
The Emeritus Juan Carlos I is now in Spain for a sailing weekend in Sanxenxo, Pontevedra. He won't be seeing his son Felipe VI during his brief visit. Elsewhere, The Economist runs an article about the often-absent King of Morocco, who, says the article, appears to be more comfortable with some buddies of his: three Moroccan/German brothers of dubious providence. '.Mohammed VI is not just distracted - he is often entirely absent. He liked to travel and take holidays before he met the Azaitar brothers but the tendency appears to have become much more pronounced. Sometimes he cloisters himself with the brothers in a private ranch in the Moroccan countryside. Sometimes the group escapes to a hideaway in West Africa. When Gabon palls - "so boring, there's a beach but nothing else to do," moans one member of the entourage - they descend on Paris. One former official estimates that the king was out of the country for 200 days last year.'.
Teruel Existe, a provincial party (with one seat in the national government), submits a proposal to consider the lowly village bar in the empty quarter of Spain to become a national treasure (more specifically, un bien de interés general) because a village without a bar 'no es un pueblo'. Spain is the country with the most bars in the world, at 280,000! The story is at Antena3 here.
Sur in English reports that 'Hispasat to connect homes in rural Spain to the Internet for 35 euros a month. The satellite operator has been awarded 75 million euros by Brussels to achieve the plan to deliver services to areas still in a 'black hole' for high-quality connections'. ·
Some live web-cams showing nesting birds at SEO Birdlife here, include a swift (vencejo), a Booted Eagle (Águila Calzada), a Barn Owl (Lechuza Común), a Lesser Kestrel (Cernícalo Primilla), a Black Vulture (cute!) (Buitre Negro), a stork (Cigüeña Blanca) and a view over Doñana.
Los toros are returning again, says The Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter here: 'The death of Spanish bullfighting has been declared many times, but the number of bullfights in the country is at its highest level in seven years, and the young are the most consistent presence as older groups of spectators drop away...'.
'A man slices a dragon's head off (saving a princess) and he then gives her a rose that is made from the dragon's blood. The End? No, just the beginning really. The human desire for legends of this sort is legendary but there is a lot more to every April 23, Sant Jordi's Day, than a mythical story.'. Brett Hetherington with Catalonia's Saint George's Day here.
The Spanish Civil War explained for the classroom at History Skills plus videos here.
From El País in English here: 'Discovery of Tartessian sculptures turns study of Iberian pre-Roman culture on its head. Researchers have unearthed five stone busts dating from the 5th century BC at the Turuñuelo de Guareña archeological site in Badajoz'.
Foreign folk may pepper a few words of Spanish in their language: tapas, mañana and caña for example, but when it comes to pescado - who knows the home term? A useful guide comes from The Chorizo Chronicles with the fishy vocab we may be lacking here.
The Camino de Santiago is the route (actually, there are hundreds of them, there's even one that starts in Almería) to the Shrine of Santiago el Mayor in the Cathedral of Santiago. Wiki says that in English it's called 'The Way of Saint James'. Pilgrims in increasing numbers trudge along their chosen itinerary (or use a bicycle) and stop to eat at carefully modest-looking restaurants or stay the night in posadas of varied quality. La Vanguardia features the video of an over-night albergue, reporting it to be very uncomfortable: stinky, and loud snores in the dorms.
My neighbour is a young immigrant from The Gambia. He managed to cross to Europe (via Italy) in a patera some years ago. His brother died while attempting a similar crossing. He works in the greenhouses here in Almería for 5? an hour. He says that it gets very hot under the plastic and the chemical sprays and back-breaking work are hard on his health.
Life is not easy for him, but it could, of course, be worse.
He shows me his residence card - which to my guilty surprise, and thanks to Brexit - is exactly the same as mine. It's the tarjeta for non-Europeans: the TIE. Lenox
Nu Alrest, another piece from Radio Tarifa on YouTube here.