The International Writers Magazine: Spanish Politics
With all the problems that have sprung up around the world in recent months, the economic woes of Europe and other issues, the Spanish Government has nothing better to do than to start yet another riff raff with Britain over Gibraltar.
The European Union had sent a delegation a few months back to report on Spain’s accusation of massive smuggling and other crimes taking place, whilst Gibraltar on the other hand had complained about the Spanish border authorities hampering persons coming into and out of the ‘Rock’. The result from the EU inspectors was a sort of hand slapping requesting both sides to adopt a series of measures to alleviate the tension. The details are not necessary because it continues to be the same old problem of the territorial water dispute and the accusation that the ‘Rock’ is a tax haven harboring most of the world’s tax evasion criminals. According to the Gibraltar authorities it has long ceased to be one and is controlled by most of the income tax rulings dictated by the Western financial institutions. Perhaps the most serious event was the recent disclosure in the local Andalucía press of the presence of nuclear powered submarines - US and UK - in and around the Straits. This has caused a stir with the British Admiralty as all nuclear powered submarine movements around the world are top secret.
Ironically, another unrelated event has opened up a new can of worms as far as tax havens are concerned, but this time affecting Spain directly.
In last month’s essay I reported on Jodi Pujol, the retired ex-President of Catalonia that suddenly confessed to having many accounts in overseas banks although did not disclose how much money was involved. Lo and behold he has now said that he has deposits of over 3M Euros in a bank account in non-other than Andorra, a sleepy little part of Europe that is known as a great tax haven. Just for the record, Andorra is an anomaly as it is a Principality formed way back in A.D. 1278, and its monarchy is headed by 2 Co-Princes, the Spanish/Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell (Catalonia) and the President of France. Weird! Result?
The Spanish Prime Minister, Sr. Mariano Rajoy has arranged a state meeting with the Head of the Andorra government, Sr. Antoní Marti for the first week in September. I wonder what topics will be on the agenda?
The main story however is the case of an Ebola victim, Miguel Pajares, a Spanish Catholic priest who was the first European to be repatriated back to his country. He was 75 years old and had been working in Liberia as an independent non-governmental volunteer for over 35 years. His case hit both national and European press thanks to the massive isolation process that was put together to bring Don Miguel back home. It included a special Spanish Air force Airbus A310 and preparing the Carlos III hospital in Madrid that had to be evacuated to cater for the patient. It caused a certain amount of concern from both a political and health point of view. Debates and press opinions flowed for days. Don Miguel unfortunately passed away 5 days after he had returned from Africa, but at least his case set a precedent for future European or other Western country citizens that may become infected.
Returning to more mundane subjects we’ve had the privileged state visit for a few days of Germany’s Chancellor, Mrs. Angela Merkel who was entertained on my own home ground at the famous cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela. The PM, Sr. Rajoy was kind enough to take her on a 6 kilometer pilgrim walk before they sat down to a state dinner with all the normal pomp and circumstance of these occasions. Mrs. Merkel is not a favorite amongst the Southern region Eurozone countries because they keep blaming her for all the ills that are hurting their economy. What the two magnates discussed is more of the usual world and European problems that hit the news and then are forgotten the very next day. Not even worth mentioning.
According to the international and national reports Spain’s economy continuous to improve although the debt continues to mount. The boom in this year’s tourism thanks to events elsewhere in the world has helped offset the unemployment rate as job creation has been on the rise for months. Nevertheless the younger generation is still unable to find appropriate jobs once their education has ended and the exodus to other parts of Europe, especially UK and Germany as well as the United States continues.
Now the politics!
The new flamboyant Secretary of the Socialist party (PSOE), Sr. Pedro Sanchez has been making some important speeches on how he intends to turn his party around in the wake of the recent debacle of the European elections when his party took a massive beating in the polls. He has vowed, among other things to come to the aid of the middle classes as in his own words, ‘are the backbone of the country’s economy.’ Good rhetoric but as the serious press has pointed out, he has still to come up with a specific plan to counteract the present government’s program of ending the continuing crisis, especially unemployment. We’re not quite sure either, of what his interpretation of ‘middle class’ is.
On the other hand, the upstart party ‘Podemos’ - ‘we can’ - that I reported in previous essays is gaining more followers on a daily basis thanks to the Internet chat channels and other mass media connections. They are the third most powerful party and have been joined by many other similar type ‘platforms’ as they are called all asking for radical changes to the whole system of government. The charismatic leader, Pablo Iglesias is intelligent, extremely well educated – academically – but is way off beam and has no idea of what it would mean to turn the whole country as well as Europe on its head and start from scratch. His recent proposal is an audit on the top 100 Spanish multinationals in the country! The next set of elections is the municipal ones due next May. It will be interesting to see how far this new brand of mainly young radical left politicians will go in their popularity as the propaganda builds up over the next few months and their program is dissected properly. This is a case of ‘watch this space!’
We mustn’t forget the up and coming independence referendum that is taking place in Scotland that is being followed very carefully by Catalonia, the Basque country and to a lesser extent, Galicia. Whatever happens on the 18th of September will have a major impact on Spanish politics one way or another. I’ll wait until next month to expand on this very important political event.
Corruption is still a major issue. Apart from the most recent involving Jodi Pujol from Catalonia, my favorite Andalucía judge, Mercedes Alaya continues to pound away uncovering more and more filth in Andalusia. She has been threatened from all kinds of influential politicians, lawyers, press and trade unions, but continues to slog away. She was away on holiday for a couple of weeks but was back with all guns blazing on the 25th. Despite her enemies she has a very strong fan club of followers, including yours truly. I consider her Spain’s new Joan of Arc. The country and Europe could do with many more solid legal fighters like Ms. Alaya to uphold the state of law.
On a lighter note, what better way to end this month’s report with comments on sport. The Spanish football league championship has started and my home town team, Celta won their first match against Getafe with a 3-1 victory. The Tour of the Spanish Cycle Race has started and the final legs will be up here in Galicia finishing in Santiago de Compostela. Why do I mention this particular event? It so happens that on the 12th of next month, the 19th leg of the race is from Salvatierra do Miño to Cangas de Morrazo via the town of Puenteareas. The whole bunch of cyclists will be passing right in front of my son’s house out in a village called Fornelos de la Ribera.
See you next month.
© James G. Skinner. September 2014.
Where Now for Spain? - All Change
Most Spaniards, those that can still afford it, are packing their bags and heading for the beaches. But stroll through the streets you will still see beggars outside most churches and baker shops.
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