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Spanish news round-up week ending 13th January 2017
Stalemate over Catalan independence referendum as wintry weather spreads across Spain
While central and eastern Europe suffer temperatures as low as -25 degrees Spain and the rest of western Europe has so far largely escaped the worst of the cold, but even so the last few days have seen the thermometers drop well below zero in many parts of this country, particularly in the north.
On Monday minimums fell to below -5ºC in parts of the provinces of Lleida, Cuenca and Segovia, and throughout the country night-time minimums have been close to zero. Only in coastal areas has the influence of the sea kept the frost at bay, and hats, gloves and scarves have been the order of the day almost everywhere apart from the Canary Islands.
Wednesday and Thursday provided some respite, but over the weekend a special alert has been issued warning of low temperatures, rain, wind and snow throughout the north, and by the middle of next week frost is expected even in Mediterranean coastal areas.
Basque children rescued from flood-bound school bus: 19 minors and 2 adults were carried to safety in the province of Alava.
The issue of independence in Catalunya
In Catalunya, 2017 has been billed as the year of the independence referendum by the regional government, and while it is all too easy to become distracted from the central issue by relatively petty disputes over flags and other symbolic topics, the seriousness of the real business was underlined on Tuesday by a meeting between Oriol Junqueras, the vice-president of the Catalan government, and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, his counterpart in the national government of Spain.
The government in Madrid has reiterated on numerous occasions that the intended referendum is anti-constitutional and therefore illegal, and in this context the fact that the two vice-presidents met at all is at least indicative of the realization that dialogue is necessary if any kind of agreement is to be reached. However, the outcome of the meeting was disappointing for anyone who might have been hoping that the hatchet could be buried.
The only meaningful conclusion that can be drawn from the statements made by Sr Junqueras and Sra Sáenz de Santamaría after a 2-hour conversation is that unless at least one of them suffers a radical change of heart it will be impossible to reach any agreement over the referendum: the Catalan government reiterates that the referendum will take place come what may, while the Spanish government continues to reaffirm that under no circumstances will it negotiate sovereignty.
Oriol Junqueras maintains that the Spanish government’s refusal to sanction the vote stems from its fear that the Catalan people will decide to leave Spain. Perhaps, as the proposed ballot nears, this touches on the issue which sooner or later is likely to be occupying the headlines, namely which way the Catalans are likely to vote if the referendum does indeed go ahead.
But for those who prefer to have their attention distracted, flags are still in the news! Eduard Rovira, the Mayor of Torredembarra in the province of Tarragona, has come under fire from the Catalan separatist party CUP for obeying a court ruling which obliged him to withdraw the “Estelada” flag of Catalunya from outside the Town Hall and hoist the national flag of Spain instead.
Migration and illegal immigration
African immigrants continue to arrive in Andalucia: the already overstretched illegal immigrant internment centres in Andalucía continue to receive more people who have been rescued or intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean from north Africa into EU territory, and on Monday the latest arrivals were 27 men and one woman who were picked up 60 miles south of Cabo Sacratif, before bring brought ashore in Motril.
Stowaway immigrant found in engine compartment in Almeria: two men have been arrested by the Guardia Civil after they attempted to smuggle an illegal immigrant into Spain by concealing him in the engine compartment of their Nissan Vanette.
Over 75 million foreign tourists visited Spain in 2016: the Spanish government’s central statistics unit is not scheduled to publish its data regarding the number of foreign visitors to Spain in 2016 until 31st January, but Álvaro Nadal, the Minister for Energy and Tourism, jumped the gun on Thursday and revealed provisional data which confirm that the international tourist sector in this country enjoyed a record year.
According to Sr Nadal, by the end of the year the number of people travelling to Spain from abroad reached 75.3 million, an increase of 9.9% over the previous year, and the amount these people spent while in this country also went up by 8.3%.
The Minister also stated that fears over the effect of Brexit on the number of people arriving in Spain from the UK, the largest single source of international visitors, appear to have been unfounded. A total of almost 17 million British visitors represented an increase of 12.3%, widening the gap in comparison with the other leading markets of France and Germany.
Airport passenger figures: throughout last year the sharp increases in air travel and foreign tourism in Spain were well documented, and the year-end figures which were published by airport management company Aena this week confirm that the number of passengers using Spanish airports in 2016 was the highest ever at 230.2 million.
Significant increases were reported at all of Spain’s major airports, the busiest being those of Madrid-Barajas (up by 7.7% at 50.4 million passengers) and Barcelona-El Prat, while the sharpest increase among those carrying over a million passengers belonged to Alicante-Elche, where the total was 16.7% higher than in 2015.
33.9 million passengers are reported to have been travelling on domestic flights, leaving the UK as the largest single category. There were almost 41.7 million passengers on flights to and from the United Kingdom, accounting for 18.2% of the total after increasing by well over 15% during the year.
The data also show that Ryanair consolidated its position as the most used airline in Spain, accounting for 15 per cent of all air passengers at Spanish airports in 2016. This widens the gap to second-placed Vueling (up by 10.1% at 22.6 million) and the combination of Iberia and Iberia Express (18.2 million), while among the top 20 airlines only three saw their activity at Spanish airports decrease.
Terrorism threat rears its head
Bomb scares in Madrid and Barcelona: the AVE high-speed rail station of Barcelona-Sants was hurriedly evacuated on Tuesday after a suspicious suitcase was spotted, underlining once again that Spain, like the rest of Europe, is currently as keenly aware as ever of the threat of terrorist attacks.
The alarm was raised at approximately 19.10, and within 20 minutes the station had been fully evacuated and the area around the suitcase had been cordoned off.
Later the same day the threat of terrorism surfaced again on the Iberia Express IBS 3674 flight from Madrid to Berlin. After taxiing towards the runway for several minutes the captain of the aircraft, on which there were 6 crew and 139 passengers, decided to return to the terminal for security reasons. It has since emerged that he received a bomb threat, and when the Guardia Civil supervised the evacuation of the plane one of the passengers was taken into custody.
Galicia shoppers shocked by bizarre supermarket gunman incident:shoppers in one of the Mercadona supermarkets in the provincial capital of Ourense in the province of Galicia were sent into a state of panic on Wednesday afternoon when a man rushed in firing shots and reportedly shouting “Allah is great!”
Fortunately no injuries were caused by at least six shots which were fired both inside and outside the building, and the incident ended bizarrely when he calmly approached one of the tills, holding a banana and a cigarette, and voluntarily lay down on the floor so that he could be arrested. It has also been reported that he was suffering from mental health problems, and he is not being treated as a suspected member of any political or religious terrorist group at present.
Two Jihadists arrested in Ceuta: there have now been 180 Jihadism-related arrests in Spain in the last 18 months.
8,000 black market firearms confiscated in Northern Spain: the Policía Nacional located and confiscated the weapons in the north of Spain, and reports that the weapons were ready for sale on the international black market. Five Spanish nationals have been arrested in connection with the criminal operation, which consisted of purchasing deactivated weapons of war and rehabilitating them prior to selling them on the black market.
Animals in the news
Alicante Guardia Civil search for HIV-risk titi monkeys: the Guardia Civil in Alicante are still searching for 42 titi monkeys whose whereabouts were not established during an investigation which resulted in an illegal exotic animal trafficking operation being dismantled, and the hunt has now been intensified after one of the 25 animals which were successfully tracked down was found to be carrying the HIV virus. It was only recently confirmed that one tantalus monkey is a carrier of both the HIV and HTLV viruses, and this has logically raised concerns that other carriers may be among the missing primates.
Madrid panda cub debuts in public: Chulina makes her first appearance in front of the Chinese Ambassador to Spain at the age of four and a half months.
Asturias bear death raises suspicions of illegal hunting: The Seprona wildlife protection wing of the Guardia Civil in the region of Asturias are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a wild bear whose remains were found in the municipality of Cangas del Narcea on Saturday afternoon. The condition of the bear’s body was very poor and it had been partly eaten by other animals before it was found by two visitors to the area, but while most of the body had been severely mutilated, the head and paws were still intact.
Prison for Torremolinos animal rescue boss who massacred 2,000 strays: Carmen Marín, the president of the “Parque Animal” animal protection society in Torremolinos in the province of Málaga, has been handed a prison sentence of three years and nine months for what the courts in Málaga describe as the “massive” and “indiscriminate” putting down of thousands of cats and dogs at the centre.
On the roads
Kamikaze driver crashes into Guardia Civil patrol car in Granada
A “kamikaze” driver who travelled for almost 40 kilometres in the wrong direction on the A-92 motorway in the province of Granada is under arrest while receiving hospital treatment for minor injuries, after he rammed a Guardia Civil car which was one of those forming a barrier to halt his escapade in the province of Guadix on Saturday.
The incident occurred at approximately 9.00 in the morning, when the “suicide” drive began in the neighbouring province of Almería, near the town of Abla. All attempts to detain the driver, a 40-year-old Senegalese man with French nationality, were unsuccessful, and the Guardia are assuming that he suffers from some kind of psychological or mental disorder.
Madrid Town Hall moves forward with Gran Via pedestrianization plans
Now that the Christmas and New Year holidays are over the Town Hall of Madrid is taking stock of its controversial experiments with traffic restrictions in the Gran Vía over the festive season, and in general terms the results are being presented in a positive enough light to make further progress towards pedestrianization justifiable.
Councillors Inés Sabanés and José Manuel Calvo reported on Wednesday that the number of vehicles using the Gran Vía dropped by 43% during the trials, and the next step will be to adapt the Gran Vía in order for the road and the pavements to be on the same level. The intention is that by 2018 road access to large areas of the city centre will be restricted to residents and vehicles falling into special categories.
The changing face of Spanish society
Controversy reignited over pharmacy charges for pensioners: five years after the Spanish government courted controversy by introducing pharmaceutical charges for pensioners Dolors Montserrat, the Minister for Health, reignited the arguments over the scheme on Monday by stating that her department intends to adjust the current system in such a way as to increase the amount some of them pay.
The Minister’s logic here is quite clear, and is based on the principle that those with more resources should be able to pay for their own medicine, but expressions of outrage were quick to appear from political opponents, and later in the evening she appeared to backtrack on her earlier statements.
Spanish courts slow in dealing with corruption: only 6.3 per cent of the accused are behind bars as Oleguer Pujol, the son of the former president of Catalunya, escapes jail for the time being despite having admitted to repeatedly receiving irregular and undeclared commission payments totaling 5.1 million euros.
Basques rush to write children out of wills: it is generally accepted in most of Spain that society is still closely organized around the concept of the family, but a recent change of the law regarding wills and inheritances in the Basque Country suggests that this may not be such an unquestionable truth as many assume. Under a new law no reason has to be given for excluding one or more children from all inheritance calculations, and there has since been a rush of people willing to take advantage. Notaries report that the most usual explanation is that parents and children have simply failed to keep in touch over the years.
Church weddings going out of fashion as Spain becomes more secular: only a generation or two ago in Spain it was almost inevitable that everyone would visit church at least four times: for their own baptism, to perform their First Communion, to get married and for their funerals. Now, though, the Catholic Church appears to be falling out of favour, and fewer than one in four weddings are celebrated with a religious service.
Spanish Property news
The increase in activity in the Spanish property market showed no sign of slowing down in November of last year, according to data published by the government’s central statistics unit on Thursday, with the number of sales registered rising by 17.3% in comparison to the same month in 2015 to reach a total of 33,806.
Even more encouraging is that once again the breakdown by regions shows that year-on-year increases were recorded in all 17 of Spain’s Autonomous Communities, the most significant being those of 32.8% in the Balearics, 26.3% in the Canary Islands, 25.8% in Aragón and 25% in Asturias, and after eleven months of 2016 the cumulative total of sales registered had risen by 14.16%.
Strasbourg rules in favour of pensioners in Galicia property demolition case: the owners of a holiday home in Sanxenxo were unaware of the threat of demolition for eight years, and will now receive compensation of over 35,000 euros after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that their right to appeal had been denied them.
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Cádiz Province, Andalucia
Granada Province: Andalucia
Huelva Province, Andalucía
Jaén Province, Andalucia
Málaga Province, Andalucía
Region of Andalucia
Seville Province, Andalucía
Córdoba Province, Andalucia
Autonomous Community of Galicia
Castilla La Mancha
Castilla y León
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