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The International Writers Magazine: From our Spanish Correspondent

Where Now for Spain? - All Change
• James Skinner
The schools have closed for the summer and most Spaniards, those that can still afford it are packing their bags and heading for the beaches.

Vigo Beach © Sam North

Vigo Beach

The government and all the other political brotherhood will be doing the same in a few days time. The Spanish football league doesn’t start till next month so its ‘close the shop’ till September for most and, ‘let’s forget about the doom and gloom’ is now the monthly motto in most households.

So the IMF and other international financial institutions around the world are predicting that Spain is on the economic recovery path. Unemployment has certainly dropped and increase in exports reflected in the trade balance figures are positive but then so is the influx of tourists from around the world during this time of the year and the massive exodus of surplus emigrants that descended en masse during the Rodriguez Zapatero days a few years ago.

Or is it?

Go for a stroll through the streets of any town and you will still see beggars outside most churches and baker shops. Young graduates from major universities are continuing to leave for better pastures looking for a brighter future whilst thousands of others are sending their CV’s in all directions hoping they will land a job - somewhere. Mortgage foreclosures continue to hit the headlines in bucketfuls as families are unable to survive the payments despite a drop in layoffs. The banks are still not opening the credit channels that would allow small firms to kick start the economy. Many NGO’s continue to highlight the increasing poverty level of the children unable to obtain a decent daily meal. These are everyday headline news and naturally the opposition is lapping it up as they prepare for the onslaught of the forthcoming town council and regional elections in 2015.   

Despite the human downside the question remains, what are, or still are, the major issues hitting the future stability of Spain as a country? I’m back to the geo-political situation that just won’t go away and shows no signs of changing despite the title of this essay.

Here goes!

We now have a new general secretary of the Socialists (PSOE) that has replaced the outgoing one, ‘Freddy’ Rubalcaba on whom I reported in previous essays. This is a major step towards the stability of the major opposition group that has been in turmoil ever since they lost a great deal of votes in the last European Parliamentary elections.

Sr. Pedro Sanchez Pérez-Castellon, 42 year old, born in Madrid, graduate in Political and Economic Science from the ‘Complutense’ University of Madrid, Master’s degree in Economics from the ‘Free’ University of Brussels, married with two children, member of the Madrid town council from 2004 till 2009, and now a university professor has hit the political scene like a whirlwind. A charismatic, handsome, ‘no-nonsense’ newcomer he is set to turn his party around and, in his own words as he was proclaimed the new leader, ‘stand up and march to change Spain once and for all!’

He continued his rhetoric with slogans against the right wing and all the ‘harm’ that is being done against the welfare state, promised to eradicate the corruption that has hurt the country and above all – wait for it – set the pace for a ‘third way’ (ring a bell with UK Socialist Tony Blair during his campaign years ago?) aimed at the middle and working class that have so far been abandoned in a country that is ‘tired, humiliated and hurt’.

On Monday, 27th July he held a 3 hour meeting with the present Prime Minister, Mariano Raja of the opposing conservative (PP) party and so far the positive outcome has been a unanimous agreement that the forthcoming ‘consultation’ by the Catalan regional government lead by Artur Mas is illegal and goes against the Spanish Constitution. They disagreed on almost everything else!

This brings me to the next major story, heavily linked to Catalonia’s independence plea. Just a couple of days ago, Jodi Pujol, 84 years old, ex-President and founder of the CiU, the Catalan National Party has publicly admitted that he has held several off-shore bank accounts over the past 34 years and has never declared a cent of the money before the income tax authorities of Spain. Nobody knows as yet how many members of his family are involved, how much money is spread around the world and what is even worse, where did it all come from?

Let’s recap on history.

This incredible politician came on the scene at the end of the Franco dictatorship and set about on a nationalistic campaign to literally ‘divorce’ the region from Spain. He was elected President of Catalonia in 1980 and held the post for 23 years, sufficient to establish a base for the actual independence move that is now being undertaken by his successor of the same party, Artur Mas. His ‘Ace Card’ was and still is the imposition from day one of the regional language in the education and administrative sections of Catalonia. Add this to the so called ‘culture’ revolution of ‘We’re different’ that was instilled in more than one generation of Catalans the population today believe that they have the right to be independent.

This new revelation has set the cat amongst the pigeons and is too early to analyze not forgetting that the Basque Country and to a lesser extent Galicia are also in line to present their own plea for independence. Ironically the forthcoming Scottish referendum has taken a back seat, that is, until this row is sorted out in Catalonia

Seeing as am talking about corruption, the saga in Andalucía continues as my favorite Judge, Mercedes Alaya still cuts deep into the ‘rot’ in this region. No need to elaborate as it would require a complete separate essay on the subject.

On a positive note the new King, Prince Felipe VI and his Queen Leticia are being accepted as a modern and necessary change in the Spanish Monarchy. The couple and their children are young, devoid of scandal and are showing signs of a new XXI century approach for the challenges that await them in the future. Suffice to add that there are a plethora of rebellious sectors within the Spanish political arena ranging from republicans to anarchists, communists to independents that can’t wait to see the end of the institution despite the fact that the Royal Family are probably Spain’s greatest asset in today’s international arena.

I’ll end with a statement from Sr. Angel Dorrego, Director of ‘Caritas’ (Catholic Church NGO) in Galicia. Asked about the future he answered, ‘I believe we need a State pact to come out of this crisis once and for all. I have said on more than one occasion that the politicians, society and the economic sectors should unite otherwise we shall be going wrong. The situation is very difficult and serious for many people and something positive has to be done soon. I hope we can react and not continue with more social revolts.’

My own words many moons ago!

© James G. Skinner. August 2014.

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