April 2004 Issue -
THE LEFT WON IN SPAIN
Here is a special editorial by James Skinner who lives and works in Vigo,
LEFT WING POLITICAL ERA IN SPAIN
November 2002, a rusty old oil tanker called the Prestige
sprang a leak off the coast of Galicia, Spain and after being towed
around the sea for days, northwards and southwards broke in two
and sank. It was carrying 70,000 tons of crude oil. Whilst this
was going on, the President of the Regional government, Manuel Fraga
and one of the government ministers, Alvarez Cascos were out shooting
wild boar in Castille. The vice President of the ruling Peoples
Party, Mariano Rajoy was assuring the Spanish public on television
that there was no reason for alarm. Meanwhile tons and tons of the
fuel kept leaking from the sunken vessel eventually making its way
to the Galician coastline and caused the worst ecological disaster
in this countrys history. The opposition partys leader,
socialist Jose Maria Rodriguez Zapatero didnt hesitate to
hit the streets leading demonstrations together with the trade unions
accusing the government of incompetence and other misdemeanours.
This was the beginning of the governments downfall.
Image: Prestige Oil Spill on ocean floor
As George Bush and Tony Blair prepared their sophisticated armies to invade
and overthrow Sadam Hussein in Iraq based on the excuse of destroying
the Middle Easts arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, the Spanish
prime minister decided to jump on the band wagon and support the so called
war on terror. After all, Spain had long been suffering from the bombings
and murders of Basque terrorists also known as ETA and neither France,
their neighbour nor the rest of the European Union seemed interested in
offering a helping hand to stop the slaughter. Once again, his opposite
number in the Socialist party was out in the street shouting slogans of
Stop the war. Peace on earth, or words to that effect. The
vast majority of Spaniards were in agreement. Ever since the Cuban war
of the 1890s whereby Uncle Sam kicked out Imperialist Spain, this
countrys citizens have hated the USA.
When no WMD were found in Iraq coupled with Osama bin Ladens threat
of revenge on the aggressors categorically pointing out the USA, Britain
and Spain, the political storm gathered momentum. Both these events caused
a great deal of public resentment. The Peoples Party was now at
a disadvantage. The country would be going to the polls in a General Election
within a year and the opposition was in a clear position to start a campaign
of so-called radical change based on peace. The stage was
set for a long battle. In the meantime, municipal elections throughout
the country took place and the results were no surprise. A marked rise
in left wing support hit town council level. The crunch came when Catalonia
held its own regional elections. The right wing nationalist party CIU,
who had governed the region since the fall of General Franco was suddenly
out of a job. However, the Socialists won with a minority and had to join
forces with the extreme left ERC. This latter lot have always been after
independence similar to the Basque region run by Eberretxe of the PNV.
Both present a headache to whoever governs eventually in Madrid as their
political ambitions could threaten the foundations of Spains fragile
democracy, which is based on a Constitutional Monarchy.
Putting to one side the horrors of sunken ships and bombs, Aznars
Peoples Party has done a great deal of good for Spain. He has reduced
unemployment dramatically creating thousands of new jobs, cleared up the
horrendous debt of the Spanish Social Security system, increasing medical
care and old age pensions, and stood up to the European Union superstars
on their blind march towards a European Constitution. President Jose María
Aznar started off eight years ago as a nobody with a large moustache and
ended up being one of the most revered international political figures
of our times. In eight years he has taken Spain into the twenty-first
century and placed the country in the top ranking as one of the economical
success stories of the developed world. Yet Spaniards are temperamental
people and dont like being pushed around. His style of government
bordered on methods of the recent past. He came across as a bully and
continually lambasted at the opposition with astute political rhetoric.
In the last few months, as the build up to the elections took place, his
opposite number began to hit even harder at the two main issues of discontent,
the Prestige disaster and the Iraq war. All the other, mainly
left wing, minor political parties who make up the election package followed
suit. Whilst the government continued on its firm course of current policies,
the opposition insulted, manifested and promised and promised and promised
This impasse of sticking to the guns by the government versus
changing everything by the Socialists became a monotonous
one-liner on everyones breakfast table, until one day an incredible
bloomer was made by the newly elected vice President of Catalunia, Sr.
Rovira of the ERC. He tried to strike a deal with the Basque terrorist
group whereby he would support Basque independence in exchange for ETA
laying off Catalonia with their bombs. The shit hit the fan. The opposition
didnt know where to put itself and Jose María Aznars
government was once again back on track and up in the polls. Mariano Rajoy
had been elected by the party as the running candidate. So far so good
until three days before the elections, on 11th of March three commuter
trains coming into Madrid were blown up by still unknown terrorists
(although ETA were initially blamed by the Government causing resentment
in the Basque region) killing over 200 people and wounding over 1400.
The election campaign was in tatters and the country thrown into turmoil
and convulsion. It was anybodys guess what would happen next.
On Sunday, 14th of March elections were held as planned. The Socialist
Party headed by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero finally obtained the majority
of votes although he will have to pact with certain minor left-wing parties
and settle for a coalition government.
As I write these finishing lines I cant help feeling numb and speechless.
Whoever caused the massacre in Madrid with the inevitable confusion towards
the end of an election campaign were thoroughbreds in the art of terror.
Regardless of the tremendous grief and pain suffered by the whole country
and the civilised world for that matter, the fact remains that a government
has been voted into power through fear and hatred rather than common sense.
Nobody won. The political and economic future of Spain is now at stake,
but then so is the rest of the world!
Ever since the attack on the World Trade centre in New York in September
of 2001, the world is no longer a safe place to live. Certain countries,
rightly or wrongly declared a war on terror and part of the
plan was to destroy Iraqs supposed arsenal of WMD and depose a tyrannical
despot with a democratically elected government. The whole affair today
is one bloody great mess. In the meantime and for over two years the stock
markets have behaved irrationally causing the world economy to look like
a floating balloon going nowhere. Oil is still in the hands of irresponsible
nations whilst pacifism in Europe continues to give a blind eye to everything,
the youth are too busy having a good time whilst it lasts. Nevertheless
travel is beginning to suffer, tourism is going up the spout, jobs are
being thrown out of the window and, wait, what about the developing world?
Well, lets quote from that old film classic Casablanca,
they wait and wait and wait.
© James Skinner. March 14th 2004
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