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The International Writers Magazine: A Dramatic time in Spanish Politics

• James Skinner
On the 17th of January, 1996 Jose Antonio Ortega Lara, a prison guard from the city of Logroño’s penitentiary in the province of La Rioja, where the famous red wine is produced was kidnapped by members of ETA, the Basque terrorist organization. He was held captive for over 532 days in an underground cell of inhuman dimensions, 7.5 square meters and 1.8 meter ceiling height and was finally released on July 1st 1997 thanks to a successful raid by dozens of officers of the Civil Guard.


As a reprisal, ETA once again went on another rampage and barely 9 days later on the 10th of July kidnapped young Miguel Angel Blanco, a counselor in the small town of Ermua in the Basque country. Despite nationwide condemnation and a plea for his release he was brutally murdered 48 hours later by a single gunshot at the back of his head. The culprits for both kidnappings, Josu Bolinaga and Julian Achurra respectively were eventually caught and jailed. However, for various reasons, including the latest Parot decision from Brussels requesting the release of most of the ETA and other prisoners from Spanish prisons these thugs are now scot free and wandering the streets of their home towns.

The story begins here.

Despite his horrendous ordeal that nearly ended in his death, far from falling into deep depression and disappearing from the public eye for ever, Jose Antonio Ortega Lara decided to enter politics and begin his own campaign of justice by running for mayor in Burgos as the conservative (PP) party’s candidate. He did not win and even resigned from the party but continued his own fight against terrorism. A few weeks ago, together with other prominent members of the PP that had also resigned decided to form a new Centre-right party that has been christened with the name of ‘Vox’, meaning ‘The Voice’. They claim to represent the growing number of disillusioned right wing militants, as constantly echoed in the media that are disappointed with the present government’s lack of response to the party’s initial electoral manifesto. This could turn the politics of Spain on its head as for the first time since the beginning of democracy after the death of Generalissimo Franco a change in the structure of the political system may evolve. More moderate weight is added to the right wing faction. The European parliamentary elections in May will be a testing ground for the present Spanish government that may now face a new and strong challenge of their initial supremacy after the national elections two years ago.

This is the main reason for the discontent.

Since Spain’s established democracy in 1982, with a geo-political map divided into 17 autonomous regions, numerous groups of politicians have formed different ideological parties in all corners of the country. Up until now the setup has always been a plethora of nationalists in the Basque country, Catalonia and Galicia adding to different shades of socialism – PSOE being the major player - moving on towards others that clamor for a return to a republic – Down with the Monarchy! Communists of all sorts and finally ending up with the one and only right wing conservative party, the PP. Using a 180º semi-circle mathematical analysis, the conservatives are about 20º right of centre whilst the rest stretch from a similar distance left to almost 90º. There never was a political balance of power.

Right wing extremists, known as ‘Tea Parties’, just don’t exist in Spain. If the PP gained power, be it local, regional or national as at the present moment, politics would always turn into a sort of ‘High Noon’ where the ‘leader’ faced an assorted bunch of opponents all out to tumble him or her lambasting every move he or she made. All kinds of allegiances have been carried out in other sections of both government not ruled by the PP and the obvious opposition. Just take a look at the selection mentioned above and you can figure out the mayhem. Most formations are a mess. Not a very healthy way to run any country. But now we have this new centre right party emerging with tsunami strength to challenge many of the right wing policies with their own recipe of management.

So why has this occurred?

After all, when the PP won the general elections two years ago they vowed to put the country back on its feet and emerge triumphantly from the present world economic crisis sorting out the mess that had been left over from the previous socialist (PSOE) government of Rodriguez Zapatero. As reported in last month’s essay, they did concentrate and hammer away at the macroeconomic problem by reducing the national debt and the deficit, cutting costs and sorting out the banking turmoil. In fact they no longer need a bailout. Spain has since received international acclaim ranging from the IMF to the World Bank and the European Commission with all kinds of media bangs and whistles announcing, at last, a small degree of economic growth. But they have completely neglected the rest of their election manifesto that was complementary and, above all, vital to digging Spain out of the rot. All the other underlying leftovers of the cesspit have hardly been touched, especially the cancerous unemployment rate that is still way above what it should be.

This neglect that has not only caused a continued disappointment in the majority of the citizens who voted and supported the present government, what is even worse is that it has caused a serious rupture within the internal structure of the party. Many members are divided over this lack of effort to sort out the major problems, other than economic ones that continue to hurt the country. Spain still suffers from massive and universal corruption, separatism moves in Catalonia and the Basque country that has crossed the point of no return and apart from the emigration en mass of the young Spanish talented and educated youth the micro economics are just not taking off. Unemployment is way too high, people are still on the dole, the middle class continues to lose purchasing power and before long the tax man is going to realize that money is not coming in the way it should. Consumerism is rock bottom hurting VAT figures.

Back to ‘Vox’.

This new party’s leaders include among others, prominent ex-members of the conservatives (PP) such as Alejo Vidal-Quadros, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Santiago Abascal Conde, an MP in the Basque Parliament. Their voices are being heard.

The European election campaign will be underway soon. It will be interesting to follow the polls to see how this new party evolves. Either way, it’s a new twist in the country’s political future.

Feb 11th Update:
As usual, the Economist correspondent in Madrid has got his knickers in the twist.

'The comment in this week's Economist (7.2.14) on VOX (the new party centre right party) is comparing it to a Tea Party. It is not! I'd say it is more in line with the Liberal Democrats in UK. They are dead against the nationalistic/separatist/republican element in Spain. End of this story. The major discrepancy in the article is based on the 'botched' new abortion law that the present conservative government (PP) is trying to introduce. It states that most if not all Spanish society is against it. Again wrong! True, its a mess but for the wrong reasons. What the Economist does not mention is that the law brought in by Rodriguez Zapatero's previous socialist government, known as the Aido Law (Introduced by the then Minister for Equality, Ms Bibiana Aido, a young inexperienced 'early something' spinster) was probably the most liberal abortion law in the world. Her real mistake - that all the feminist movements, including the almighty radical left wing opposition have grabbed hold of it and are causing havoc all over the country - was that abortion was the free 'right' of a woman to decide on her body with no consideration whatsoever for the unborn. What is even worse was that this lady's academic ignorance in human nature was to declare that the unborn was not even a human. It was an it! Where the present government has gone wrong is that the new changes are not very clear regarding the 'reasons' to abort, especially of the malformation of a foetus. They are also arguing about the gestation period that is at the heart of the matter in all these laws. My personal opinion is that had the government reintroduced the original law approved during Felipe Gonzalez's Socialist government in the 1980's there would be no fuss at all. This earlier law was in line with the common denominator of most major abortion laws that are now established in the democratic and western world.

© James G. Skinner. February 2014

Life and Death in Spain
James Skinner

Just before the Spanish Parliament was dissolved it announced a reform of the abortion laws that had been introduced during the Socialist (Zapatero) government.

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