The International Writers Magazine:Our European Correspondent
Back to reality
Before kicking off on my usual updating report on Spain can’t help focusing on today’s incomprehensible mayhem going on in France. It so happened that we were caught out on one of their first bout of strikes as were visiting relatives in the Périgord region and were due to fly back the very day that the stoppages started on 7th September.
Dear old Ryanair cancelled our flight from Bordeaux and we ended up driving our hired car all the way back to Vigo, Spain. Luckily we’d filled the tank up with gas the night before – just in case! As I go to press the French are still at it and all because the citizens won’t accept the fact that the pension system is about to collapse and if the government doesn’t do anything about it there won’t be any money for the oldies in a few years time. Hey, we’ve heard the story before and in most other parts of the world!
I had ended up my last essay in August saying that I’d write about similar action programmed in Spain for the 29th of September, and strangely enough, for similar reasons. Well the general strike took place, but with no where near the rioting that’s been going on in France, although a large group of anti-establishment freaks that had taken over an abandoned building in Barcelona decided to have a go at smashing up the city. ‘Nothing to do with the strike,’ said the Mayor, except that it overshadowed the strike itself because of the violence and destruction that went on for days in the lovely Catalan capital. So what happened then?
Spain did not stop entirely although the trade unions did claim victory thanks to their so called ‘information’ pickets that reminded me of Kevin Costner’s film the ‘Untouchables’. Robert de Niro acting as Al Capone said, ‘you get further with a kind word and a gun than just with kind word.’ I think you get the gist of it if you can picture hundreds of ‘baseball bat wielding’ trade unionists outside factories and stores warning workers to keep away or else. Anyway the end result was that the very next day all was back to normal as if nothing had ever happened and people had enjoyed the good weather to go to the beach or sit around a bar that opened after the riot brigade had left. Trouble is that, according to some economists it cost the country around five thousand million Euros. The two head honcho men of the main trade unions have not been seen or heard of since. Too many other things are going on in Spain.
One is the good news of the Nobel Prize award for literature that this year went to a Peruvian with Spanish Nationality called Mario Vargas Llosa. This illustrious gentleman was born in Arequipa in March 1936 and spent his youth in Bolivia working as a journalist before travelling to Spain to study literature. Apart from writing many great books and other journalistic pieces he also dabbled in politics during the infamous Fujimori days in Peru. Why do I say good news; for two reasons? The first is that twenty years had gone by before someone was awarded the prize for Spanish language literature; which leads on to the second reason. Sr. Vargas, on receiving his prize said, ‘this is not only a personal award but it is a triumph for the Spanish language.’ The majority of proud Spaniards were overjoyed, especially in Catalonia and the Basque country where the nationalists have been trying their hardest to impose their own regional languages by ostracizing Castilian. As I’ve stated time and time again, these regions, including Galicia where I live, are trying their hardest to separate from Spain and this award is a sort of symbolic blow to their independence movement. Another of his virtues was his outspokenness on freedom of the press. This is rather ironic as Spain has been suffering over the past several decades, since the death of Franco of a covert left wing censorship in the national media. That is, until a new television channel called ‘Intereconomia’ appeared on the scene – pardon the pun – that has started to uncover a great deal of dirty linen within the Socialist party that has been going on for years. They range from accusations of bribery and corruption to favouritism and lavish spending sprees at all levels of government including regional and town council. The list is too long to be included in this account. Suffice to say that a great deal is beginning to change thanks to a rebalancing act that is taking place in this great country within the public information media. It is another plus in my accounting system of positives and negatives.
On the international scene. The government for years has been courting Cuba’s Castro and Venezuela’s Chavez whilst trying their hardest to convince the rest of the world which includes the United Nations, USA and the European Union to form a club of do-gooders under the heading of ‘Alliance of Civilisations’. I’ve spoken about this before but this time round it has started to backfire. Thanks to the efforts of the Catholic Church and the Spanish Foreign Ministry a great deal of political prisoners has been released from Cuba and has turned up in Spain. The first thing they did was to lambast the Castro’s regime thus embarrassing the Spanish government who’s ultimate aim behind the project was to seek conciliation between Cuba and Spain’s partners in the European Union. Venezuela, on the other hand has been a haven for ETA terrorists, including a high ranking leader who ironically is working for the Chavez government. The government has been pussy footing the affair whilst the press is having a field day. As far as the ‘club’ is concerned, which is really aimed at ‘uniting’ the Muslim world with the West, Morocco has been causing problems at the border with Spain’s two provinces Ceuta and Melilla. There have been clashes between the Spanish civil guards and Moroccans trying to cross over to Spain. It could turn into a possible territorial claim by Morocco which is the last thing Spain needs at the moment.
This leads me on to yet another international kafuffle; the ding dong battle with Britain over Gibraltar. Apparently Caruana, the Rock’s Prime Minister has accused Spain of trespassing Gibraltar’s territorial waters whilst Spain is arguing that according to the Utrecht Treaty (1703) they are not entitled to any such privileges. Meanwhile the Royal Navy continues to target practice just off the coast, rubbing the Spaniard’s noses in the dirt and adding fuel to the flames. In other words, here we go again!
But the best is yet to come on the national front, both political and economical that may lead the way to a future upheaval in this beloved country.
Zapatero needed help in Parliament to have his 2011 budget approved. The main opposition party and several other minor groups had stated that they would refuse to vote in his favour. But before I go on there is a short snip of information related to the Basque Country that needs to be explained. Since the end of the dictatorship this region had been ruled by the Basque National Party (PNV); that is until recently when general regional elections took place and an unusual coalition of the Socialists and Conservatives won thus kicking the 25 year PNV leader Juan Jose Ibarretxe into oblivion. Come budget time, the votes from this region would not be sufficient for approval. So what does ZP do? He goes behind his own party’s back and agrees with the PNV, that are now in the opposition to give the Basque Region even more autonomy in exchange for their vote. Remember that the PNV never condemned ETA atrocities and gave a blind eye to the extortions that were going on during their reign. All these past horrors had been overcome until now. Pandora’s Box in the Basque country has been opened yet again. The other votes needed have come from the Canary Islands government which in turn has also received ‘generous’ handouts. They include changes to their territorial waters which are apparently against international Maritime Law; but that is another story.
The latest news and hot off the press is that ZP has once again reshuffled his government, seven times in nearly seven years. That’s a pretty good record! He’s got rid of his Foreign Minister (read previous paragraphs) and replaced him with a young 48-year-old lady called ‘Trini Jimenez’ who was the previous Health Minister. Her international experience is two years living in Ghana with her ex-husband and presiding over some Hispanic-American relations committee. She in turn has been replaced by yet a younger woman who also takes on the Ministry for Equality (read woman’s rights) and Social Activity group; a sort of all encompassing ‘Welfare State’ management role. Her past experience is purely political having come up through the Socialist ranks since she was 16 years old. Her main assets have been an extremely vociferous and venomous critic of the opposition party (PP) that has been overwhelming successful amongst the militant socialist members. Another change has been the promotion to Senior Vice-President of his Minister of the Interior (in charge of security and police), Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba who’s an old hand (he was in the previous Felipe Gonzalez government in the 90’s) in dealing with the ETA problem. Although this gentleman is extremely bright and with a sound political background he is both respected and loathed by the public in general. No one for sure knows how deep into the ETA underworld he has plunged and how he intends to stop the continuing threat from one of Europe’s last bastions of terrorism (see above on dirty washing). Finally we have the Labour Minister, Sr. Corbacho who chucked in the towel weeks ago when he more or less implied, ‘let some other schmuck sort the unemployment mess out.’ He’s been replaced by a Trade Union militant who actually opposed the recent government’s labour reforms. In other words, the whole bang government caboodle has been turned upside down yet again and we’re all ready for new fun and games.
But what about the economy you may ask? Simple, we’re all too engrossed in all these changes that are going on to worry about the banking turmoil (yet to explode) the ever rising unemployment rate and what is even worse the continuing hoodwinking of the false financial reports sent into Brussels that send the message: ‘Spain is doing very well thank you very much!’’
© James G. Skinner. October 23rd 2010.
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