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Spanish news round-up week ending 25th November 2015
The skiing season begins in a week where the news is dominated by two female politicians
It’s only a month since southern Spain was sweltering in unusually high autumn temperatures and bathers were still swimming in the Mediterranean, but suddenly the skiing season is upon us once again in Sierra Nevada.
The season officially starts this coming weekend in the most southerly ski resort of Europe, and the weather has smiled on those who have been itching to dig out their ski goggles and head for the slopes in the province of Granada. The sudden drop in temperatures and a band of heavy cloud brought snowfalls of up to 40 centimetres on Tuesday, and it is now certain that the resort will be welcoming the 2016-17 season in style on Saturday and Sunday.
This week, though, most of the attention of the press in this country has been on two of the most prominent women in Spanish politics, for very different reasons…
Rita Barberá, the former Mayoress of Valencia who answered questions in the Supreme Court earlier this week about her alleged involvement in corrupt practices while in office, died in her Madrid hotel room of a heart attack in the early hours of Wednesday morning. She was 68 years old.
Ever since she was ousted from office after 24 years in the local elections of May 2015 Sra Barberá had been under scrutiny regarding the alleged illegal funding of local and regional election campaigns, and as recently as Monday was typically uncompromising in her absolute denial of any wrongdoings. However, outside the court on Monday she appeared uncharacteristically tired, and in hindsight this appears to have been a symptom that the pressure she was under was taking its toll on her health.
Due to her controversial nature it is fair to say that tributes did not flood in from all quarters, but nonetheless there was some consternation in Congress on Wednesday morning when the 41 Unidos Podemos MPs boycotted the minute’s silence called by speaker Ana Pastor.
The representatives of the party walked out of the chamber just before the gesture was made, the reason given being the allegations of corrupt practices in the Town Hall of Valencia. Party leader Pablo Iglesias tweeted “we regret the death of Barberá but cannot take part in a political tribute to someone whose career was marked by corruption”, unfortunately skating over the fact that Rita Barberá was never found guilty of any offence.
Unidos Podemos have been criticised on several occasions for gestures such as these, words such as "petulant, petty and childish" used in commentary about the tactics employed. Among those observing the minute’s silence on Wednesday morning were plenty who counted Rita Barberá among their opponents rather than their friends, and who doubtless wished her every possible failure during her political career, but who nonetheless mustered enough dignity to pay their respects following her untimely death.
This was underlined still further on Thursday, when it was revealed that Manuela Carmena, the Mayoress of Madrid, had sent a telegram offering her condolences to the deceased’s family. Sra Carmena does not officially represent Podemos as Mayoress, but her “Ahora Madrid” party is closely allied to the movement, and her reaction underlines the fact that despite her rejection of Rita Barberá’s policies and the corruption of which she was accused it is still possible to show a certain amount of respect for the loss of others when a political opponent passes away.
On the subject of female politicians, since democracy was re-established in Spain following the death of General Franco in 1975 none of the major political parties has ever been led by a woman, but following the resignation of Pedro Sánchez as the secretary general of the PSOE in early October there is now a very real possibility that this could change in the near future.
The leading candidate to replace Sr Sánchez is generally believed to be Susana Díaz Pacheco, who is currently the president of the regional government in Andalucía, and who on Monday gave the clearest indication yet that she intends to present her candidacy to fill the vacancy at the head of the party organization. In her opinion, she said, it would be possible for her to combine both jobs, although at the same time she maintained a cautious approach in commenting that the decision does not depend on her.
Meanwhile, in parliament the minority PP government is learning quickly how difficult it will be for them to govern effectively, and on Tuesday once again lost a parliamentary vote by which a proposal to raise the minimum wage from its current level of 655.20€ to 800€ per month on 1st January 2018 was approved.
Of course this is significant because it increases the earning and spending power of workers while at the same time bringing about a sizeable rise in expenses for employers, but perhaps more importantly it demonstrates that despite the PP nominally being in power legislation can be passed without the party’s approval.
The number of millionaires in Spain has risen by 1.8%: apart from being good news for the 7,207 “new” millionaires, Credit Suisse say it is also a sign of the general economic recovery.
Catalan and Basque independence
In Catalunya, Artur Mas, the former president of the regional government, visited the municipality of Montoliu in the province of Lleida on Saturday to officially open the first street to be named after the controversial informal consultation on the issue of independence which he oversaw in November 2014.
As he unveiled the plaque in the “Carrer 9 de novembre”, though, Sr Mas was highly aware that many would be keen to make mileage out of the fact that the thoroughfare named after the consultation was in fact a dead-end street, and had his answer to the inevitable questions prepared. “It’s not that there is no way out”, he said, “but that there is no way in”, explaining that the entrance has been blocked off to “our adversaries” while a door towards freedom had been opened. Complicated metaphors indeed!
ETA member detained at Madrid-Barajas airport: Garikoitz Ibarlucea was involved in ETA urban violence between 1999 and 2002.
Fascism on the streets on the anniversary of Franco’s death
A group of approximately 200 people gathered in Madrid on Sunday to mark the 41st anniversary of the death of General Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain between the end of the Civil War in 1939 and his passing on 20th November 1975.
The raised right arm of the Fascist salute was much in evidence during an event which also commemorated the 80th anniversary of the death of one of Franco’s chief henchmen during the Civil War, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, and which provided a reminder that there are still right-wing groups in Spain.
However, on the other side of the coin, the general rejection of Franco’s far right-wing philosophy in Spain these days was clear to see at a far better attended event in Pamplona, the capital of Navarra, on Saturday. The slogan behind which thousands of people marched from the Plaza Consistorial in Pamplona was “Por las libertades, no al fascism”, (roughly translatable as “yes to freedom”, no to fascism”) and many of those taking part carried the flag of the Republicans who opposed Franco’s nationalist ideals during the Civil War (1936 to 1939).
The city of A Coruña in Galicia, in the north-west of Spain, is to become the first in Europe to use an abandoned open-cast coal mine to boost its drinking water supplies, following the decision to turn the vast pit first into a lake and now into a reservoir.
The mine concerned is in the valley of As Encrobas, an area which made international headlines in the late 1960s as an example of the policies of General Franco’s regime. At that time it was discovered that in the municipality of Cerceda there was a rich seam of coal, and a law passed by Franco’s government listed mining as a key national industry.
For the residents of Cerceda this meant their homes and properties being forcibly expropriated at laughably low prices, condemning them to poverty and effectively ending agricultural activity in the area over the following decades, and at the same time the picturesque landscape was ruined by the construction of the large power station of Meirama, which is still active despite the mine having been declared exhausted in 2008.
Now, though, the mine has been filled in and is a lake, and the resulting water quality has been found to be so good that no special treatment is required to divert some of it for use in the homes of the 400,000 residents of A Coruña.
Villena rehab centre has 700 primates and large mammals on waiting list: for many it will be necessary to either lose or gain body weight at the AAP Promadomus centre in Alicante.
Four arrested in Guipuzcoa for stealing bear heads and elephant tusks: items worth over 50,000 euros were recovered from garages in San Sebastian.
In Madrid, meanwhile, the mystifying case of the dead dolphin which appeared this March in the Casa de Campo, over 300 kilometres from the sea, is on its way towards being solved by the Seprona wildlife protection division of the Guardia Civil, although important questions still remain unanswered.
It has been established as a result of investigations over the last eight months that the appearance of the dolphin is not in fact related to illegal trafficking in exotic animal species, as had originally been suspected. Rather, it now appears, the dead dolphin was probably found on a beach somewhere in Spain and brought to the capital by a collector, probably with the intention of preserving its skeleton for display in a private home.
This raises another key question, to which no answer has yet been provided: who on earth would want a dolphin skeleton decorating the bookshelves of their living-room?
Toro Enmamorado bull run in Astudillo declared illegal on the grounds that it is not old enough: the implication appears to be that cruelty to bulls is justifiable if it can be conclusively proven that it has been going on for a long time.
Pedreguer to hold referendum on Bous al Carrer (bull run): the town is sometimes known as the “cathedral of the bous al carrer”
The Town Hall of Barcelona has confirmed that it intends to take drastic steps to reduce car exhaust pollution in the city, banning up to a million of the vehicles which are currently on the roads by the year 2020.
A Ciudad Real transport company is in hot water over its naked woman logo: the truck cabs of the Alcazar de San Juan firm are under fire from Podemos and feminists.
Sparks fly as Girona woman drives 28 km on the wrong side of the motorway with a wheel missing: sparks flew as she careered along the road with the brake discs in contact with the tarmac.
Barcelona taxi driver praised for handing in case containing 10,000 euros: a Canadian tourist left the case in a taxi on his way to a hotel in the Paseo de Gràcia.
Madrid truck driver killed while attempting to help accident victims: the man was hit by another vehicle when he left his cab to help the occupants of the cars which had been involved in another accident.
Drug smuggling in Andalucía
13 high-speed launches which were being used by drug traffickers smuggling illegal substances into the province of Cádiz from Morocco have been tracked down and confiscated by the Policía Nacional, striking a further blow against the powerful drugs mafias which use the River Guadarranque as their route into mainland Spain. 15 people have been arrested in connection with the launches.
This summer much has been made of an “anti-narcos” barrier which has been built across the mouth of the Guadarranque, between San Roque and Los Barrios on the coast of Cádiz just west of the Rock of Gibraltar, but this barrier is reported to have been only a partial success as there are gaps large enough for small boats to pass under the steel cables which are strung between concrete pillars
However, one of the consequences of the barrier being installed is that the traffickers have had to modify their plans slightly, seeking alternative routes and storage facilities, and this is what enabled the police to trace the 13 boats, which have been found and confiscated in the course of seven separate operations during the last month.
This news comes in a week when the customs authorities revealed that last year 136 tons of hashish and 5.3 million packs of cigarettes were intercepted off southern Spain, highlighting the extent of the problem as smugglers attempt to bring illegal substances into Europe from north Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. Also confiscated were 40,000 tons of tobacco and 1.2 tons of cocaine, and these, it has to be remembered, are only the amounts intercepted: how much reached their destinations is not known!
Christmas is coming…
Throughout Spain the arrival of “Black Friday” has been taken by Town Halls to mean that it is time to switch on the 2016 Christmas lights, bringing forward an event which in the past was associated with the national holidays which fall every year on 6th and 8th December.
As is to be expected, the budget for Christmas illuminations is largest in the major cities of Spain, and in Madrid this year the Town Hall is spending 2.2 million euros on the lights, 8% more than last year. Among the Madrid lights are some which are the work of design companies including Teresa Sapey, Purificación García, Victorio & Luccino and Adolfo Domínguez, and there are even guided tours enabling visitors to see the most spectacular ones.
In Elche, though, the festive spirit is not apparently alive and well: a local primary school has banned nativity scenes from the classroom decorations, and the irony of religion being removed from the celebration of Christmas is not lost on numerous parents!
At the same time, this weekend 100,000 volunteers are taking part in the annual foodstuffs collection for those whose festive season is threatened by poverty, the aim being to exceed the total of 22 million kilos of food which was donated last year. Please give generously at a supermarket near you this weekend!
Noos case verdicts postponed until March: Criticisms are often leveled at the Spanish judicial and legal systems regarding the length of time it takes for cases to come to court and for judgements to be reached, and more fuel will be added to such arguments by the announcement that Samantha Romero, the presiding judge in the Nóos case trial in Palma de Mallorca, is to be allowed until next spring to finalize her ruling.
The Nóos trial hogged the headlines earlier this year due mainly to the inclusion among the accused of Princess Cristina, the sister of King Felipe VI, and her husband Iñaki Urdangarín.
Other crime news
Entire Marbella family arrested over death of newborn baby: the under-age mother claimed that she was unaware of the fact that she was pregnant.
German murderer arrested in Lloret de Mar after fleeing with his baby to Spain: a tattoo on his left arm reveals the exact date when he killed the boy’s mother.
Aranjuez mother commits suicide after murdering 5-year-old daughter: the Aranjuez woman was suffering from mental health problems.
Fuenlabrada man murders pregnant girlfriend: the killer in Fuenlabrada believed that the child was not his, and phoned the victim’s father to inform him that he had just killed his daughter.
Ciudad Real bank manager shot dead by dissatisfied customer: the killer also attempted to murder the deputy manageress in La Solana.
Other items in the news
Largest floating bookshop in the world docks in the Canaries: the Logos Hope has visited 1,400 ports in 160 countriessince 1970.
Largest floating stable in the world docks in Cadiz: not to be outdone, Puerto Real welcomed 20,600 head of livestock traveling from Montevideo to Izmir!
Happy 150th birthday to the best known clock in Spain: the clock in Puerta del Sol in Madrid is the star of New Year TV scheduling all over Spain.
Royal Navy in latest flare-up of tension of Gibraltar: HMS Sabre fired flares at a Spanish scientific research vessel after accusing the crew of having trespassed in Gibraltarian waters.
Galicia smoker falls to her death: smoking claims another life as a balcony gives way in Cedeira.
Malaga art museum to open on 12th December: the Palacio de la Aduana is now home to 2,000 canvases which were taken down from the Palacio de Buenavista in 1997.
250,000 surplus human embryos in Spain: fertility treatment centres in Spain find it hard to donate extra embryos either to would-be parents or to research projects as the only logical outlets for the surfeit are complicated by legal details.
King of Spain attends military exercises in Alicante: the Spanish armed forces show off their new NH90 helicopters in Alicante.
Diocese of Lugo website targeted by Islamist hackers: the Tunisian Cyber Resitance All Falaga Team proclaims Islam as the only true religion.
Energy poverty row follows death of Reus woman who lived by candlelight: the government of Catalunya could fine the electricity company a million euros.
Chinese President brings 160-strong entourage to Gran Canaria: Xi Jinping met the Spanish Vice-President on Thursday morning, and of the 1,136 hotel rooms in the resort of Maspalomas well over 10% were occupied by the Chinese president and his team for the night.
Spanish property news
The Spanish property market currently appears to have achieved a level of stability or gradual growth which could only be dreamed of during the years of the slump which began in 2008, and although there are some provinces and regions where spectacular growth has been achieved this year the latest figures regarding mortgage loans back up this trend towards steady improvement.
According to the country’s central statistics unit, during September the number of mortgages registered on residential properties was 26,667, an increase of 10% over the same period last year, and while the relationship between mortgages and sales is not completely predictable this indicates that the number of properties changing hands is continuing to rise.
On top of this, the average loan capital was up in September by 2.2%, taking it to the highest level for five and a half years (since February 2011), and further good news is that for once there were no exceptions to the upward trend in mortgage numbers in any of the 17 regions of Spain.
In the past it has frequently been the case that Spanish mortgages have been among the cheapest in Europe, but now, as the banks seek to maintain their profits as best they can, the opposite is the case and Spain is now the third most expensive country in Europe in terms of interest rates on mortgage loans.
What has happened in Spain is that the banks have gradually been increasing their own interest charges to compensate for the continuing fall in the Euribor rate on which most mortgage repayment schedules are calculated, and these charges have now risen by 5 points since the start of this year.
Banks fined in Barcelona for keeping apartments empty: the Town Hall of Barcelona imposes of 315,000-euro fines on 4 properties.
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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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