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The International Writers Magazine:Total Chaos in Spain

General Elections in Spain
James Skinner
Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy informed supporters that their voice must be respected again, after a resounding election win. At the end of a campaign the centre right PP confirmed 186 seats in the 350-seat lower house of parliament.
However, Spain's borrowing costs continue to mount reaching 6.5% on 21.11.11 and the stock market fell by 3%. Can the market wait a whole month for Rajoy to take office?


Like most of the rest of us, the Greeks haven’t a clue on how to resolve their problems as the world financial virus is too far gone for any real remedy other than to sit tight and hope we all won’t fall off the cliff. I’m sure a great deal is being said in millions of webpage chit chats, blogs, Twitter and Facebook forums and the like for me to add anything new. I’ll stick to my home ground as usual and try to fit in the Spanish ‘piece’ to the international jigsaw puzzle that I have called ‘Total Chaos’.   

It’s an incredible coincidence that the day Kaddafi was found and murdered near Sirte, his home town ETA, the Basque separatist movement issued a statement of a ‘definite’ ceasefire. Most headlines around the world were full of the horror story including gruesome videos of the butcher of Libya being butchered whilst the ‘supposed’ historic end of sixty years of violence in Spain hardly had any international coverage. It’s obvious that one historic event was totally overshadowed by the other. Nevertheless those important sectors within the world’s leaderships have taken note and hailed the end of the so called Spanish ‘conflict’ as a new beginning for this volatile country south of the Pyrenees.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Sure, ETA has abandoned their decade’s long armed fight but then they don’t need to carry on blowing up innocent bystanders or shooting civil guards. As I said all along, they won their battle the day Bildu, their ‘new’ political arm was allowed to bid for local town council elections and won more than 80 of them including the important city of San Sebastian in the Basque country. They now have real political power! But let’s analyse the build up to this event.

When the newly elected local authorities took over, their first move was to start an undercurrent campaign of vindication for the future independence of the autonomous region by removing any signs of ‘Spain’ such as the national flag and the photograph of his Majesty King Juan Carlos from all public buildings. Next was a move to ignore all public inference of Spanish unity such as national holidays and begin the replacement of the Civil Guards by ‘local’ police services. What is even more significant was the immediate dismissal of all ‘other’ party officials’ security by removing their bodyguard entitlement leaving them at the mercy of harassment and possible attack by members of the still active terrorist group that have yet to lay down their arms. But the new Basque politicians are smart. Before the actual statement was issued the San Sebastian town council – remember they’re governed by Bildu (ETA) - called for an international body of eminent persons to assess the situation and ‘negotiate’ a peace accord on the lines of the Irish model.

For over a week, the quintet of do-gooders sponsored by Brian Currin, the South African terrorist negotiator and made up of ex-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, ex-Irish PM, Bertie Ahern, ex-Interior Minister of France, Pierre Joxe and ex-Norway PM, Gro Harlem Brundtland bashed out a proposal that ended with a conclusion that the governments of Spain and France should sit down at the table and negotiate a peace accord. They also asked for a ‘definite’ ceasefire from ETA which, as stated earlier was issued almost immediately. All this took place on the 17th of October. The responses, depending on their origin were in some cases obvious and in others of total bewilderment. Every entity, especially those of the international arena that had any interests in what was going on hailed it as a huge success. But back in Spain, the whole scenario was quite different. The conflict was not one of confrontation between two sides; after all Spain has been a full blown democracy for 40 years, but simple and straightforward acts of violence that included murder to gain independence.

To start with, the so called gurus had completely forgotten about all the innocent victims assassinated over the years. These had been considered as ‘equals’ to the terrorists who also suffered in the conflict and that had either been killed, caught and imprisoned or had had to ‘escape’ the ‘war zone’ to other parts of the world –notably Venezuela. There was no mention of handing over all the vast arsenal of weapons, explosives, stolen cars that were still scattered all over the woods of northern Spain and southern France, as well as the over two hundred thousand Basques who, over the years fled the region in fear for their lives. Enough said about the whole affair except that the issue is a sore topic in the forthcoming elections should the conservative People’s Party win with an overall majority. Their leader, Mariano Rajoy has pledged that he will not negotiate with ETA; full stop! So what else is pending?

Where did the money go? Airports in Spain:
In Galicia for example, the Vigo airport has recently been given 100M Euros to renovate the whole building plus car park and runway, whilst Santiago, which is only 90 kilometres away has received 230M to build a whole new airport. Corunna also has an airport and received a similar amount of money. Oporto in Portugal (about 120 Kms from Vigo) has completely overhauled theirs and is gradually taking Galician traffic away as they offer over 80 routes including dozens of international ones. There just aren’t enough passengers for all airports so therefore the Galician ones are losing money hand over fist. Who pays? You can imagine; the taxpayers through subsidies.

As this is my last essay on Spain and will probably need an update after the general elections, I shall keep it short and sweet with simple numbered bulleted items.

  1. Unemployment figures have once again shocked the nation and have now surpassed the 5 million with more than 1.5 million families with all their members on the dole, twice the European average. The hardest hit is the young. Nearly 50% cannot find their first job which includes hundreds of thousands of young graduates.
  2. The banking system is still being overhauled and needs money, especially the new merged Savings Banks going through the process of transforming into proper banks. Where the money is going to come from is anybody’s guess. How much is owed is another mystery. I’ve said all along that their balance sheets aren’t worth the ‘paper’ they’re printed on as the ‘hidden’ debt,  especially those incurred by the local governments and private borrowers are still to be determined. The bottom line is that the flow of credit is at a standstill which leads on to the next point.
  3. Spain needs a complete overhaul of the labour laws. Flexibility in employment terms is the key, especially the hire and fire of staff. However, the Marxist trade unions still have a stronghold on the government’s policies, in particular their collective bargaining card. Unless the poker game changes with the new government they will continue to harass small and medium size firms (over 65%) that are the key to kick-starting Spain’s economy together with help from the moribund banks that still keep their vaults shut.
  4. No need to emphasise the need for a cutback in unnecessary public spending. And we’re talking about billions of Euros! This is a tricky one, no different to some other countries in Europe, but nevertheless a must for the new government. The key word is ‘bureaucracy’! The ‘Nanny State’ has gone too far and it is time to reduce a great deal of ‘fat’. Trouble is the ‘buck passing’ or shall we say ‘after you’ is still going on. Until the end of this final Socialist government’s time in office ceases no political party player is prepared to make a move.

Conclusion: By the end of this month, Spaniards will be faced with a new government. The polls predict that the People’s Party is well in the lead but if they do not obtain an absolute majority they will have to ‘bargain’ with the Nationalists (Basque, Catalans and Galician) to have a mandate to govern. Either way, the end of eight years of what I would call left wing radicalism will come to an end. There will be drastic cutbacks, social unrest and who knows another European euro zone state in the firing line for a bailout.

See you with my update on the 21st of November.  
Recognition for James Skinner
James Skinner y sus análisis sobre España
Cierra la revista Hackwriters. Una pena porque aparte de sus excelentes plumas, dirigidas por el novelista Sam North, estaba la aportación regular de James con su crecientemente dolorido análisis de España por la decadencia de los últimos años.
A este respecto es conveniente leer su última aportación, aunque anuncia una actualización para después de las elecciones, titulado ???"Total Chaos in Spain". No necesita traducción y sí lectura.         

© James G. Skinner. updated November 21st 2011 
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