The International Writers Magazine:Spain
Spain's Future within the EU? Part 1
As this may be my last report on this fantastic and once lovable European country at a very crucial stage of its contemporary political history I thought it would be important to divide it into two sections; a past and a future.
Thus I shall begin with the recapping of what lead to the overwhelming and unprecedented victory of the centre right wing People’s Party (PP) in the recent 2011 General Elections.
It’s ironic to recall that this has not occurred since the dictatorship days of Generalissimo Franco whose death incidentally, coincided with the election date, Sunday 20th of November. As stated earlier, Mariano Rajoy is the new Primer Minister, who happens to come from my home territory (he is Galician) but does not ‘officially’ take office until the middle of December. We have a sort of ‘no-mans-land’ approach to governing the country that may or may not be lethal in macro-economic terms as the rest of the financial world couldn’t give a fig unless the Spanish economy is seen to kick-start and that may not happen right away. But let’s back track to understand what landed Spain in the mess it’s in and why certain dramatic measures need to take place over the next couple of years provided the rest of the world doesn’t go up in smoke and the urgently needed Spanish reforms matter anyway! Most of my previous essays have already dealt with the subject but its worth recapping anyway to appreciate what Sr. Rajoy is up against.
When Jose Luis Rodriguez of the socialist party PSOE was surprisingly elected in 2004 just three days after the tragic Al Qaeda terrorist attack in Madrid (yet to be proven) he was a virtually unknown political upstart from the city of Leon, who was suddenly thrust into the hot seat of running the country. Nobody knew exactly what his political agenda was other than to return Spain to its socialist roots of the past and literally wipe out eight years of right-wing neo-liberalism imposed by the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar (PP). What the Spanish citizens didn’t realise was that underneath this smooth-talking, ever-smiling political animal ready to make peace with the world was an underlying ambition to eradicate the ‘ills’ caused by forty years of fascist dictatorship by literally rewriting the history of Spain. In other words, he wanted to turn back the clock seventy years and re-introduce the basics of the ‘false’ democracy set up during the II Republic in 1931! He soon got cracking and introduced a law called the ‘Historic Memory’ Law. Result was the reopening of the 1936-1939 Civil War wounds that had been reconciled during the transition period, destroying most of Spain’s post war heritage, starting a wild goose chase digging up the country looking for war (only Republican) graves but above all setting the stage for an anti-Catholic Church comeback. This latter move was identical to that of the Republican government of the 30’s. In summary the law ended up by dividing the country, yet again into two sides.
Sr. Zapatero also began a ferocious equal rights campaign and created another series of laws allowing overwhelming women and gay rights with offshoots like new abortion laws, gay marriages and incredibly tough legislation to deal with domestic violence. Example, if you’re seen in a restaurant just insulting your female partner during a heated discussion a bystander can get you facing a judge in 24 hours! I’m not a male chauvinistic pig and deplore the act of ‘wife beating’ but there are more road death accidents per month than murdered women per annum. Other examples were the build up of his female cabinet. They consisted among others of very liberal feminist politicians with hardly any experience in the field that they were dealing with. Ms. Leile Pajin, the Health Minister had no medical background whatsoever. She was more concerned with the ‘day after’ contraceptive pill for sixteen year olds than improving the hospital waiting lists. Ms. Trini Jimenez, the Minister for Foreign Affairs had been married (she is now divorced) to a diplomat but had no knowledge or experience in real international affairs. She recently signed off on a 1.5M Euro donation for the women’s rights campaign in Vietnam! Ms. Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde, Minister of Culture came from the audiovisual sector of business and couldn’t distinguish a Picasso from a hole in the ground. She tried to introduce a law that charged a fee for showing musical DVD’s in public places including bars and restaurants. It blew up in her face! Finally there is Ms. Carme Chacon, Minister of Defence, who carried one of Spain’s most vital portfolios; that of the military agenda. She is a Catalan and a hard core nationalist! I could go on with many other of his members of government that were one of the reasons for his downfall. Trouble is that over the years he got rid of some good people as he continued to build his own group of ‘yes’ persons to run the country. They all were however, good at one thing; continually insulting the opposition and accusing them of causing the country’s problems in the first place. There were other disasters such as the education system that resulted in one of the largest dropout and failure rate percentages in the developed world yet lead in cocaine consumption amongst the young.
But his real failure was the complete mishandling of the country’s economy. Whilst he built an enormous welfare state to give handouts to almost every possible ‘lonely-heart’ in the country he neglected the basic roots which were the creation of wealth and jobs whilst pampering the Marxist trade unions to keep them quiet. He also failed to recognise that the banking system (see my previous essays on the Savings Banks) was slowly falling apart. ‘We’re in the economic Champions League,’ he once pontificated. ‘We’ll soon surpass France as economic leader,’ he said as businesses were slowly grinding to a halt. He nearly achieved his goals had it not been for the breakdown of the world economy around 2007 that put the cat amongst the pigeons and blew his unrealistic social project out of the water.
When the world crunch came, Sr. Zapatero ignored it and continued to look the other way. As unemployment began to rise to an almost uncontrollable level as well as the public debt, especially at autonomous region and town council level he just continued to fork out public money taken from the Social Security funds to keep feeding the already 5 million humans out of work hoping the outside world would eventually sort itself out and he could continue acting as the Spanish ‘Godfather’ for his people. As of today, Spain does not have a clear picture as to what is owed by whom and to whom despite all the reports sent back to Brussels. Another fallacy ‘swallowed’ by the European Union is that his government introduced reforms to off set the debts. All he did was freeze pensions and reduce the public sector salaries by 5%. ‘Great’, said the left wing, ‘hot air’, said the right. The bottom line is that firms were still dying, banks continued with closed doors (for loans) whilst fighting for their lives and the homeless were growing, as shown by millions saturating the postal system with CV’s, queuing at the employment agencies before going for a meal at the Catholic Church kitchens.
Another legacy that Sr. Zapatero has left is probably a profound one. Spain is faced with one, two or possibly three lost generations as the young cannot find jobs and time has run out for them. The other is the citizens’ mentality as a whole as demonstrated by the so called ‘Indignados’ movement (the Madrid campers) of the 15th of May. Spaniards have been used to the ‘good life’ for over thirty years and Zapatero has only bloated that feeling over the past eight as if it would go on for ever! How to break the mould will be awesome!
And then there is the Basque country terrorism; read ETA; Batasuna, Sortiu, Bildu and Amaiur. They’re all the same! The recently announced ceasefire is the first act of a side show that the rest of the world has accepted as the final act when in fact, the curtain has just risen and the show is about to start!
In a nutshell, that is what the new Prime Minister is faced with! So what should he do, or more important what should be the priorities that he should deal with right away taking into account that the public reaction to the austere and tough measures he will need to impose to save the country may eventually blow up in his face?
© James Skinner. November/December 2011
Spain's General Election
Rajoy wins but the delay to taking office will test market nerves
The Future of Spain Part Two Dec 12 2011