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••• The International Writers Magazine: From our Vigo Correspondent

Batea - (The town that says no to Independence)
• James Skinner
Corruption and Nationalism rolls on as Spain enjoys a prosperous summer


I kicked off last month’s essay with a synopsis of the world’s present woes and apart from North Korea’s nuclear nutcase firing off a new set of intercontinental missiles that can now reach the heart of Uncle Sam plus new revelations regarding the tragic life and death of Princess Diana nothing much has changed. I guess that the same applies for Spain as the country slowly grinds to a halt for the summer recess so that politicians, families and friends can take to the highways and relax for a few weeks during the much earned yearly rest.

Well, almost everyone, as certain events did take place and some will certainly be waiting to turn into ‘hot potatoes’ the moment the sun tan wears off and the office computers are switched back on.

Take the continued saga of the Catalan separatist movement. The cat and mouse game between the central and the autonomous governments continued on the collision course started months, if not years ago, as President Puigdemont has gone one step further ordering the supply of ballet boxes and pamphlets to be ready by his deadline, the 1st of October. Meanwhile, Sr. Rajoy, the conservative government President (PP) once more has passed the buck on to the constitutional courts that again confirm the referendum as illegal. No change in scenario except for one peculiar step taken by the council of Batea, a small town of just over 2000 inhabitants in the province of Tarragona that sits near the border of the autonomous region of Aragón. The Mayor, Sr. Joaquin Pala Della has stated that his constituents are fed up of being ignored by the Catalan government and that they have decided to request annexation to the neighboring province of Lerida in Aragón. Apparently, the statutes of Aragon allow this strange change to take place. Might seem like a spit in the ocean but many great historical changes have taken place due to a small and insignificant event such as this peculiar case of yet another border dispute.

Once again, I revert back to the ongoing corruption scandals.

I reported last month that Sr. Rajoy was summoned to appear before the courts as a ‘witness’ in the never ending saga of the infamous ‘Gürtel’ case that involved his conservative party (PP). Well, he did and depending on what side of the fence one sits, his performance according to the right wing was satisfactory whilst both left (Sr. Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist PSOE) and extreme left (Sr. Pablos Iglesias of Podemos) requested his immediate resignation. The actual result was no different to any other court case. Sr. Rajoy answered the questions, closed his file and returned to his office. No accusations nor charges were issued by the judges.

However, there is one serious corruption case that has erupted unexpectedly and has nothing to do with politics.

A huge scandal has emerged that started with an investigation last year into the possible shenanigans of Sr. Angel Maria Villar, President of the Spanish Football Association as well as the Federation. Some 1.2 million euros of public funds used back in 2010 to sponsor a series of international football events kicked off the investigation. It opened ‘Pandora’s Box’! Last month, it finally came to light that Sr. Villar and his son Sr. Gorka Villar had organized a whole network of syphoning off public funds towards illegal fixtures and other football bribery type activates over the years. More than 40 persons have now been summoned. The case is known as ‘operation Soule. Both father and son have been sent to jail without bail.

On the bright side, the IMF have raised Spain’s economic forecasts for this and next year and have congratulated the government in overcoming a great deal of the problems that started with the crisis of 2008. Unemployment continues to drop and although Sr. Rajoy admits that a great amount of jobs are of lower pay, he expects the continued progress to eventually create more companies and thus an increase in more professional jobs with higher paid employment.

No need to mention tourism that has broken all records and has in fact created saturation in some parts of Spain, especially in the coastal areas of the country.

Finally we return to Brexit and the plight of Brits in Spain and Spaniards in Britain. The continued debate on the ‘rights’ of citizens is at the heart of the matter and it seems that the battle on both sides of the channel will continue throughout the rest of the year. The main item of news this month is that King Felipe VI made a state visit to the United Kingdom and was given a proper royal welcome by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Among other subjects, he voiced his concern of the future of his countrymen that presently reside in Britain. Meanwhile, back home on the ranch, his Majesty’s British Ambassador, Mr. Simon Manley publicly stated that he has had dozens of meetings with representatives of the British community and listened to all the possible doubts and worries that have been aired. He confirmed what is well known, that there will be no change to their status until March 2019 and that hopefully the ongoing negotiations will eventually conclude with a satisfactory result.

He, is after all, the British government’s representative and is voicing the present ‘party political broadcast’. 

See you next month.

© James G. Skinner. August 2017.

Our European Demons
James Skinner writes from Vigo in Spain.

...instead of agreeing that rights should have been guaranteed 100% on both sides of the Channel, there is still an air of confusion. As far as Spain is concerned it has just added more anxiety to the over 200,000 Spaniards presently in Britain

Premonition - Spain
James Skinner
For more than a couple of years, and because of the attacks in other parts of Europe, the terrorist threat level was raised to 4, short of a full scale level 5.

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