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

Third Time Lucky in Spain
• James Skinner
'Disunited we will fall'

Pedro Sanchez
Pedro Sanchez

No doubt the news of the horror attack in Manchester hit the Western world and for a moment Britain forgot about Brexit and the elections, Europeans were side-tracked from whatever events were due or taking place and came together with unanimous sympathy not seen since the attack in the USA on the twin towers. There was almost media silence, except for a plethora of individual stories from the families and relatives of the ones that died or were injured. Europe wept for them.

However, as the days went by and society returned to the usual humdrum with cold reflection some facts emerged that could change the course of Europe’s future. The assassin was a born Brit, not one imported from the Continent. The attack, similar to the Madrid train one in 2004 occurred just before General elections. What is more frightening is that the scourge of Islamic terrorism in Europe somehow unveils the flaws of the forthcoming Brexit negotiations and refutes the reasons for the divorce in the first place. Never since the end of the Second World War, has Europe needed to be more united. The future control of real illegal and dangerous emigration goes beyond setting up bureaucratic barriers through visa systems and the like. The creation of a British mote should be out of the question. What is needed more than ever is real cooperation based on exchange of information and agreements on every issue related to the safety of all European citizens. The British government should put trade deals on the back burner and place citizens as the number one priority. The path that Brexit is taking, on both sides of the Channel, will not only cause the opposite but will worsen the threat of more attacks.  

Returning to other matters, Spain has had a month of political and other upheavals that once again may change the course of a country that is constantly travelling on a funfair roller-coaster.  

May 1st, ‘Groundhog day’, had the usual demonstrations with chants against the government and banners purporting all kinds of ‘claims for the workers’ by front runner union cheerleaders. Happens every year. By midday it’s all over and back to the organized luncheons for all the participants. As the economy is gradually recovering, the unemployment rate is dropping dramatically and job creation continues to rise every month, they don’t really have much to grumble about.

What was a major event was the return of the Phoenix - hence the title - to the socialist party (PSOE) and an incredible marathon of Spanish style Primaries to elect a General Secretary for the General Elections in two years’ time. If one can imagine a serious ‘soap opera’ with several episodes that is exactly what it was. To start with, Sr. Pedro Sanchez, the ‘no-is-no’ man, two time election loser in the past attempt to form a government during a hung parliament, followed by a resignation and a trip to USA to sulk, returned to the arena and picked up his sword to fight off any other contender. Seeing the possibility of his success and assuming a possible total collapse of the party that could swing into the arms of the extreme left wing ‘Podemos’ (the leader, Pablo Iglesias was lapping it up)  who should come to the rescue as Joan of Arc but none other than the President of Andalusia, a lady and charmer Ms. Susana Diaz. Meanwhile, back in the prosperous region of the Basque country, Sr. Patxi Lopez, the previous President (2009-2012) of the region, a serious and experienced politician, jumped on the bandwagon. Thus began a political roadshow, Elmer Gantry style, drumming up support from the affiliated members that eventually voted and placed their bets on… Yes! Sr. Pedro Sanchez. Young (44), handsome, family man and obviously charismatic will once again lead the party, his third attempt. However, it will be the electorate that have the last say when election time comes around.

In the meantime, the charming and sometimes aggressive leader of ‘Podemos’, has called for a ‘Vote of no confidence’ of the present conservative (PP) government of Sr.Mariano Rajoy based on the enormous amount of corruption scandals that have been placed before the judges for the past decade. Sr. Pablo Iglesias, now that Sr. Sanchez, his ‘friend’ will lead the socialists, is hoping that they will back him in parliament. The date is set for June 13th. Up until now Sr. Iglesias has received no support. It remains to be seen what will happen next.

Meanwhile, Sr. Mariano Rajoy has been busy with several visits overseas, sort of waving the Spanish flag and receiving praises for Spain’s supposed economic recovery whilst drumming up support back home for the approval of next years’ budget. This is an important point because he is acting as a sort of ‘good’ cop, bad ‘cop’. On the good side he finally has the ‘go ahead’ that includes support from a plethora of ‘other’ parliamentary representatives such as the ‘Golden Share’ from the Canary Islands’ MP, does not need abstention from Sr. Sanchez’s group and money will once again flow towards much needed public investments. On the bad side, although he can carry on with his economic policies that are still aimed at the macro sector, he is not covering the lower end of society. The gulf between the rich and the poor is still very high. This sector would require a separate essay beyond the scope of this report.

Now we come to the approaching train depicted in the old movie, ‘The Cassandra Crossing’. Catalonia!

The Catalans are still going ahead with the promised referendum for independence in September although the exact date has not yet been decided. In the meantime, the President of the autonomous region, Sr. Carles Puigdemont is drumming up support from other parties including ‘Podemos’ as well as the Barcelona football club. He intends to visit Madrid and is in the process of trying to obtain a conference venue to blow his trumpet. The country is preparing for a showdown as Sr. Rajoy has defied his plans and invited Sr. Puigdemenot, to present his proposals during the Spanish parliamentary sessions as the Catalan president is also an MP. He has refused.

As a final point, and returning to the Jihad threats in Europe, the Spanish Security Services that include the Civil Guards are constantly uncovering ‘cells’ in different parts of the country that were preparing or were ready to attempt an attack. Spain is one of the European countries that are geographically closer to the danger areas.  The Canary Islands are especially vulnerable.

I guess my usual addition is that Spain, despite the dropping pound, continues to be a holiday ‘must’ for most of Europeans including the Brits. Let’s hope that it continues that way and that its security watch is on the alert (level 4, same as UK) regardless of the sun and tapas.

See you next month.

© James G. Skinner, June 1st , 2017.   

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