The International Writers Magazine: From our Spanish Correspondent
Send in the Clowns
James Skinner on politics in Spain
Of the many mistakes that were made during the mandate of the socialist government (PSOE), under President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero prior to the present conservative government was the approval of the so called ‘Historic Memory Law’.
This particular law has probably done more damage to Spain than any of the others, especially economic ones that were passed during the eight years of Zapatero’s reign. It may take years or decades to rectify. The Civil War ended in 1939, seventy-six years ago and the following Franco dictatorship over forty. Democracy was introduced and the healing of past wounds had been attained.
Most of Spain’s new generations were babes in arms at the time and are now grown up and enjoying a new lifestyle. Since the approval of the law, entirely one sided that I had nicknamed it ‘The naughty Franco law’, fresh divisions between left and right have taken place. Republicans backed by nationalists are against monarchists, the independence mob versus loyalists and conservatives against the whole lot has erupted throughout the country. A barrage of projects to completely eradicate even the slightest hint of forty-year fascist dictatorship began. No stone was left unturned. Spain was again divided although the main parties PP and PSOE continued to battle for power. That is until recently when Podemos (We Can) came on the scene in 2014 and hit the deck running in the recent elections in town councils, over eight thousand and certain autonomous regions. Although not directly involved, their myriad of offshoots have taken over and the fun has just begun. I’ll start with the ‘Dead Poets Society’ and the city of Madrid.
The new Mayor, Ms. Manuela Carmena, a 71 year old retired judge under the banner of the Podemos’ party ‘Ahora Madrid’ (Now Madrid) won the elections thanks to a coalition with Sr. Antonio Carmona socialists (PSOE) - odd play on surnames - that ousted the opposition conservative party (PP) candidate, Ms. Esperanza Aguirre. No sooner had she taken over that, one of her councilors (Podemos) Ms. Rita Maestre, indicted for indecent assault for breaking in whilst topless with other women and chanting anti-church slogans in one of the Madrid University’s Catholic chapel back in 2011, was given the task of imposing the above mentioned law. What has she done? Over two hundred streets, avenues and parks with the names of persons that were remotely connected to the Franco regime had to be removed and changed. Guess what? A whole series of past prominent literary writers including prominent journalists, like Sr. Juan Ignacio Luca de Tena (Director of ABC newspaper at the time) and Alvaro Cunqueiro from my neck of the woods, famous Sr. Manuel Machado, poet and how about the well-known painter Salvador Dalí. They are all up for the chop! There is more to come.
Here come the clowns.
I remind you dear reader, we’re talking about eight thousand town councils that range from the largest, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza and Cadiz down to the most insignificant with under a thousand citizens, all indirectly under the power of our political newcomer, ‘Podemos’ (We Can).
The right wing newspaper, ‘El Mundo’ came up with a listing of some of the most absurd suggestions and implementations. Some are hilarious!
- Pamplona. Sr. Ramón Morcillo belonging to a new party called ‘Cannabica Navarra’ suggested planting marihuana in the town’s football stadium Osasuna. His party, by the way is backed by the ‘weed’.
- Marbella. Sr. Manuel del Rio, leader of the other new lot ‘Ciudadanos’ has suggested constructing a ski slope in the city to counter act all the beach type tourism.
- San Sebastian. How about Sr. Juan Carlos Izagirre from the Bildu party (ETA’s lot). He wants sheep to graze in a public park as part of a cost saving program of maintenance.
- Castellon. Sr. Joan Miquel Martinez, from another unknown party called ‘Democracy for Castellon’ is a grammar buff and wants to clean up all street and other names that contain grammar mistakes. Not bad!
- Balearic Islands. The Podemos candidates suggest that the tourist board should include tours of all the graves of those murdered by Franco and his assassins. We’re back to the law mentioned above.
And so it goes on with dozens of other daft ideas drummed up by some of the newcomers in power in the Spanish town councils. As the saying goes, ‘one is promoted to the level of one’s own incompetence’. But let us revert to the more serious issues that are in the political pipeline that could literally turn this country around and could seriously affect the future of Europe and the Western world.
The two main issues are the independence movements, especially Catalonia and the Basque Country followed very closely by Patch, Galicia and the weakness of the UP until now backbone of the democracy, i.e. the bipartisan system of Conservatives (PP) and Socialists (PSOE). The latter is now threatened by Podemos (We can) and all the offshoots in the forthcoming general elections.
I must take a break here to remind you that Podemos’ manifesto is that of a Marxist totalitarian regime. (Nationalisation of Banks, private property and more. No need to expand further.
Manuel Morales do Val, a freelance journalist and ex-foreign correspondent for the Spanish international news agency EFE summed up the situation in a recent article, ‘A weak Spain is challenged’. A great deal of foreign press and Western governments suspect that Spain could be considered as a ‘Weak State’ unable to control the breakaway move by Artur Mas, Catalonia’s president and requires the help from Europe to stop him. He quotes amongst others the distinguished New York Times. Another economic news media, Bloomberg in a leading article doubts the capacity of the present Spanish government to face Catalonia’s challenge. 'It has been passive and incapable of transmitting the fear of an economic, political and social disaster for everyone'.
Pretty strong words
As always. Manuel ends with a positive note. He says that several high ranking European officials (?) have suggested that the European Commission or Council and/or the most important countries, France and Germany should sternly warn that no separatist state will be recognized by the EU. This is in order to stop a flow of other countries, following suit. Ironically Scotland is the next serious contender that wishes to join Catalonia’s club. (And former leader Alex Salmon is already talking of a second referendum to leave the UK)
Other events have taken place that are not as serious or important as the above although they also add to the uncertainty of Spain’s future. One area that continues to flourish is the anti-Catholic movements that still goes on, but with more vigor thanks to the new communist, i.e. atheist mayors of many of the large cities. Here is a classic example. The 25th of the month was St. James’ day and the city of Santiago de Compostela, declared a UNESCO International Heritage site received an overwhelming number of pilgrims visiting the shrine and the tomb where the saint is meant to be buried. Ah! But we have a Podemos mayor, Sr. Martiño Noriega who refused to participate in the ceremonies. The first time in over more than three centuries. There is more flack throughout the country that is not even worth mentioning except to remind all of us dear reader that Christians are being persecuted and murdered in many parts of the world by Islamic radicals. Most of the other Catholic countries, including Venezuela and Cuba continue to respect the religion and Pope Francis is doing a great job all over the world. But not Spain. There is hardly any mention of the Islamic threat to Al Andalus despite constant raids on possible Jihadists cells in several parts of the country.
Finally it is still holiday time and thanks to tourism, unemployment keeps dropping as more workers are required to manage the onslaught of holidaymakers both foreign and national. Tapas bars are flowing. August will follow with most of the politicians taking a break, joining the bandwagon and enjoying what still is perhaps one of the most attractive leisure countries in the world.
Oh! I forgot. Despite the Catalans seeking independence, should they obtain it, the Barcelona football club expects to continue competing in the Spanish Football League, Talk about adding insult to injury.
See you next month.
© James G. Skinner. August 2015.
Spain is vulnerable in ISIS Geo-Political Aim. All you have to do is take a look at the geographical snapshot of the North of Africa and the ‘view from above’ is more than frightening
The Galician Parallax by James G Skinner
will be published by Troubador 28th November