The International Writers Magazine: Spanish Politics 2014
Life and Death in Spain
Apart from the usual independence referendum planned by Catalonia that is in full swing and more corruption scandals are uncovered, especially in Andalucía, the ruling party (PP), just before the Spanish Parliament was dissolved announced a reform of the abortion laws that had been introduced during the Socialist (Zapatero) government.
It is a complete reversal that takes us back to the original of the early 80’s. The fireworks soon began all over the country. Quite a Christmas present just before everyone was winding up and looking back at yet another dreadful and sad year!
Abortion is as old as prostitution and has been practiced for centuries. As humanity became more civilized and proper legislation was introduced in most countries to stop the barbaric methodology used of old to halt unwanted pregnancies, the for and against lobbies continued with the usual battle on the never ending question of whether or not a woman had the right to abort and under what circumstances. The Catholic Church, still dominates the ‘No’ sector; under any circumstances. Doctors in all walks of society differ on the basis of their Hippocratic Oath that forbids them to end a life, whilst politicians, the very culprits of the laws are even more divided despite, in the case of Spain, the ideology of the left is predominant in declaring abortion as a ‘right’ of the a female over the fate of her body.
Without going into the details it is worth reverting to the law that was passed by the previous Socialist government that was probably the most liberal of all abortion laws in the world. Any woman from the age of 16 was allowed to undergo an abortion regardless of reason and what is more provocative, without the need of psychological or other counseling, including informing or seeking permission from her own parents. When the law was passed back in February of 2010 by the then Minister of Equality, Ms. Bibiana Aido it was hailed by all the femenist movements as well the female cabinet members in the Spanish Parliament as the greatest progressive move in the country’s democratic history. The demonstrations soon began by opposition movements as well as the conservative party (PP). The greatest controversy perhaps was not the law itself but the announcement by Ms. Aido, a 33 year old childless spinster that the fetus was not a human being at all! It was an ‘It’.
The new law has turned the old one on its head. Gone are the ‘coffee for all’ abortions that took place over the past three years with the ‘loss’ of more than one hundred a fifty thousand children, the highest in Europe. From now on interrupting a pregnancy shall only be allowed if a woman has been raped or the mother’s life is in danger, and always with prior and proper psychological and parental counseling. Doctors will be allowed to refuse the operation on the grounds of ‘ethical objection’. One important point is that under no circumstances will a woman be prosecuted under criminal charges because of an abortion. On the contrary, women are considered as victims in all unwanted pregnancies.
We’ll have to wait until the New Year to appreciate the real impact of this political decision that once again has divided the country.
Next on the list is a new bubble on the horizon that is about to burst. The electricity supply crisis!
Miguel Font, a journalist colleague – we both write in the same local – summed up the problem in an excellent and subtle article entitled: ‘Vote for me and pay for my whims – or I’ll cut off your electricity!’ He was referring to the mounting public debt thanks to continued massive subsidies by previous and present governments in maintaining a deficient electricity supply throughout the country. What is the basic reason he asks? Spain’s electricity bill is made up of 37% energy production from a myriad of systems, 17% high power transport and local distribution, 20% taxes and a whopping 22% of subsidies for renewables, mainly wind and solar power farms. The remaining 4% is for oddballs like supplying the islands (Canary and Balearic). However, a closer look at the political framework that has an impact on the electricity supply is a lack of foresight into the future, refusing to acknowledge that the power companies cannot continue to supply electricity at a loss and the government cannot continue to increase the consumer’s bill without a major social and economic upheaval taking place. In a nutshell the mounting difference between the cost and the price tag will continue for years unless a change in policy – that spells out construction of nuclear power stations – takes place. The banking rescues are still under way, reduction in public debt that European and other international financial institutions are hailing as a success will soon ‘amount to a hill of beans’.
Although these two issues have dominated the media and public awareness this month, the country took off on their Christmas holidays that will continue beyond the New Year as Spaniards wait for the Three Wise Kings to bring further presents for the kids on the 6th of January. We had the King’s usual end-of-year speech, more wishy-washy than ever and our president Mariano Rajoy (PP) saying that 2014 will be a much a better year as employment will eventually take off. Socialist ‘Freddy’ Rubalacaba (PSOE) had his almost monotonous counter statement, ‘Spain is worse off than ever!’ and will not recuperate. And in my home town I still see many Spaniards begging for food whilst shops continue to close. At least the charity societies have been successful in handing out Christmas food parcels to the needy thanks to the generosity of those who still have a few shekels to share with their fellow citizens.
Jan 4th 2014: Looks like there are positive signs at last in Spain's economy. Unemployment dropped in December, debt interest also dropped below Italy's level and the stock market is healthy. However, a nasty has occurred with the Panama Canal project that has been stopped (Spain's major engineering firm SACYR is running the show) because it needs another 1Billion Euro and we still have the Catalan problem looming in the wings. Down at street level the doom and gloom is still very visible. Trade unions are quiet because of corruption scandals that continue to sprout like mushrooms. Opposition up to its usual tricks of lambasting the government, especially over the new abortion law despite internal rivalry going on as to who will be next in line for future elections. EU elections will be an 'all change' and personally I don't think Spaniards nor other Europeans for that matter give a damn!
I have mixed feelings about 2014. This country’s problems are all part of the world and European scenario. My prediction will focus on the ‘cleansing’ of the corrupt areas right across the board and the eventual showdown of Catalonia’s plea for independence.
Re Catalonia 17.01.2014
I could write a whole book on this subject and why Catalonia is doing what it is doing and how it contrasts from the problem with Scotland. It is like comparing ETA with the IRA; two totally different terrorist (yes, they were both terrorist organizations) organizations. The main underlying point is that Catalonia is Spanish and has always been part of Spain whereas Scotland was an independent country centuries ago. The Spanish Constitution signed by all parties in 1982 including Catalans and Basques states categorically that Spain is one country. End of story. What has happened is that way back in Pujol's days the campaign to institute the Catalan languages - also protected by the same Constitution - began to brain-wash the present and future generations in that Catalonia was different and a separate nation. They slowly began to change the goal posts. Result? The mess we have today is that Catalans really believe that they can go it alone. All this separatism I think personally will go nowhere (especially under the present economic crisis), however, having stated this I feel that the whole affair has gone beyond the point of no return. It is (together with the Basques and Galicians) the most serious problem facing the Spanish government.
The main point is that according to the Spanish Constitution the referendum is against the law. I agree with the Spanish government's attitude as Artur Mas is trying to bypass the system and drum up support all over the world hoodwinking human rights groups and other loonies. True, Catalans are hard working and productive but you have similar situations between States and Cities in USA (example Detroit) as well as UK. Some counties produce more and support others. This is what makes up a true democracy of a nation.
© James G. Skinner. January 2013
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