Category Archives: Spain

Catalan Vote Seen as Test for Separatists in Europe

Raphael Minder writes for The New York Times:

‘[...] As the Catalan vote nears, analysts are raising alarms that it could set off a separatist spiral that would dismember Spain, as well as have a domino effect among other independence-minded European regions that should make defenders of the 28-nation European Union sit up and take note. A meeting last week between Artur Mas, the leader of the Catalan regional Parliament, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain did nothing to forestall the independence drive, and Mr. Mas vowed to go ahead with the vote as scheduled on Nov. 9.

If Catalonia does vote on independence, the Basque Country and other regions will quickly want to stage similar votes, potentially paving the way for the eradication of the Spanish state, said Emilio Lamo de Espinosa, the president of the Real Instituto Elcano, a political research group in Madrid. And if Spain splinters, it “would destroy the E.U. project, which is based on union and not division and splitting,” he added. The Catalans are set to vote just weeks after the Scottish hold their own referendum on independence from the United Kingdom on Sept. 18, and the Scottish outcome is being regarded as something of a bellwether here. But if the United Kingdom has something to worry about in Scotland’s referendum, then Spain arguably faces larger trouble.’


Spanish PM vows to block Catalonia independence vote

From AFP:

‘Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy repeated on Friday his threat to block attempts by leaders of the economically powerful Catalonia region to hold an independence referendum in November.

“The head of the government is obliged to enforce the law and this (referendum) is illegal,” he said at his first news conference since holding talks on Wednesday with the president of the regional government of Catalonia, Artur Mas.

During the meeting, the first between the two leaders since August 2013, Mas told Rajoy that he was “absolutely determined” to hold the referendum.’


Spain Wants to Tax the Hyperlink

Jason Koebler writes for Motherboard:

‘The hyperlink is a crazy thing if you think about it. One of HTML’s most basic building blocks has completely changed the news industry, turning black text into blue (or in Motherboard’s case, purple), and taking a practice that was one completely verboten in journalism—snagging a competitor’s work—and making it commonplace. But soon, if you want to use them in Spain, it’s gonna cost you.

The law, called canon AEDE, would put a tax on aggregation, and would make it illegal for blogs, news sites, and perhaps even Google News to link out to original sources without paying a fee. Make no mistake, this would fundamentally change how the media industry’s link economy currently works (at least in Spain—we’ll see if others follow suit).’


Spanish princess Cristina de Borbon charged with money laundering and fraud

Maria Tadeo reports for The Independent:

Spain‘Spanish princess Cristina de Borbon has been charged with fraud and money laundering as part of a major corruption investigation that has tarnished the royal family’s reputation. On Wednesday, a Palma de Mallorca court formalised the charges against the princess following a two-year long investigation into her husband Inaki Urdangarin’s business dealings.

[...] The couple could now be put on trial just days after her brother, Felipe, was crowned King of Spain after Juan Carlos announced he would abdicate in favour on his son on 2 June following a series of scandals, including an expensive elephant hunting trip that infuriated many Spaniards facing mass unemployment. Princess Cristina did not attend the ceremony last week and reports suggest the relationship between the two is almost non-existent as Felipe seeks to distance himself from the scandal. Her husband has been barred from attending public events.’


Spanish king Juan Carlos to abdicate in favor of son

From the Associated Press:

14 May 1962: Prince Juan Carlos of Spain marries Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark, in Athens. Queen Sofi­a was born in Athens on 2 November 1938, the first daughter of King Paul I of Greece. Her family was forced to flee Greece during World War II. She was Greek Orthodox but converted to Roman Catholicism‘Spain’s King Juan Carlos, who led Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy but faced royal scandals amid the nation’s near financial meltdown, will abdicate so his son can become the country’s next monarch, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told the country Monday in an announcement broadcast nationwide. Rajoy did not say when the handover would happen because the government must now craft a law creating a legal mechanism for the abdication and for 46-year-old Crown Prince Felipe’s assumption of power.’


Six countries that went left, not right in the European elections

Paula Cocozza writes for The Guardian:

‘The headline gains were for nationalist and Eurosceptic parties – witness all those pictures of “evil” Nigel Farage smiling into his pint glass, or of Marine Le Pen, whose Front National party triumphed in France, throwing back her head and cackling. But some member nations bucked the trend in the Euro elections and registered a surge towards leftwing candidates.’


Spain’s ‘Robin Hood’ takes from the banks and gives to the disenfranchised

From The Guardian:

Statue of Robin Hood, East Midlands on ShutterstockThey call him the Robin Hood of the banks, a man who took out dozens of loans worth almost half a million euros with no intention of ever paying them back. Instead, Enric Duran farmed the money out to projects that created and promoted alternatives to capitalism.

After 14 months in hiding, Duran is unapologetic even though his activities could land him in jail. “I’m proud of this action,” he said in an interview by Skype from an undisclosed location. The money, he said, had created opportunities. “It generated a movement that allowed us to push forward with the construction of alternatives. And it allowed us to build a powerful network that groups together these initiatives.”


Spanish anti-austerity protests continue

Male fish becoming ‘feminised’ by pollutants in Spanish waters

Antonia Molloy reports for The Independent:

Members of the Cell Biology in Environmental Toxicology group have found evidence that male fish in the estuaries in Basque Country are becoming “feminised” by chemical pollutants in the water. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) acting as oestrogens – the primary female sex hormones – are seeping into the waters and causing reproductive and developmental disturbances, according to a report published in the Marine Environmental Research journal.

Immature eggs were found in the testicles of a number of male fish, the scientists from the University of the Basque Country said.  The chemicals involved are found in everyday products such as pesticides, contraceptive pills and detergents. They are thought to enter the estuaries after getting through the cleaning systems in water treatment plants or as a result of industrial and farming activities.


Secessionism on the March in Europe

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

Several thousand protesters from across the continent turned out today [March 30th] in the European Union capital city of Brussels. Several nations were represented, none of them currently recognized, and all had the same message: secession now.

Officials like to portray secession as a fringe tactic that comes up only in places like Crimea, and then only at the behest of a foreign power hoping to capitalize on it. That’s less and less the case, as secession grows in appeal across Europe.

Scotland aims to separate from Britain, and Catalan hopes to leave Spain. Even Brussels itself is in the midst of a major secession fight, as Flanders hopes to reassert itself as an independent nation, with Brussels as its presumptive capital.

Italy is the king of secessionist movements though, with three distinct major movements going on at once. Venice has already held a referendum on resuming its independence, while Tyrol is mulling a similar division, and Sardinia hopes to go the route of Crimea, ditching Italy in favor of Switzerland.

At the core of all these movements is a single question: is there an inherent right to self-determination, or is secession only acceptable when the major world powers feel it is convenient. It’s an argument that officials are likely to continue to bicker about, but which the secessionist movements see as obvious.

Report: Investor-state lawsuits worth €1.7 billion rage across Europe, could spiral dramatically under TTIP

EurActiv reports:

Greece, Cyprus and Spain are facing claims from speculative investors worth more than €1.7 billion in a series of eurozone-related investor-state disputes that could spiral dramatically under a proposed EU-US trade deal known as TTIP, a new report says. The study ‘Profiting from Crisis’, is launched today (10 March) by campaigning group Corporate Europe Observatory and the Trans-National Institute, as the EU begins a public consultation on the regulatory implications of any agreement.

The paper finds that “a growing wave” of corporate lawsuits from investors burned in Europe’s recent economic crisis risks repeating the banking sector bail-out that precipitated it. Many of these litigants are “circling vultures” looking for short-term bargains and not long-term investments, the report claims.   “At a time when ordinary people across Europe have been stripped of many basic social rights, it is perverse that the EU supports an international investment regime which provides VIP protection to largely speculative foreign investors,” said Cecilia Olivet, the report’s co-author.


Spanish congress approves restrictions on universal jurisdiction doctrine

El Pais English reported last month:

Spain’s pioneering universal jurisdiction doctrine, which has enabled judges to prosecute foreigners in connection with human rights crimes committed in other countries, will be shaved back within four months following a vote in Congress Tuesday night [Feb 11th] to reform the judicial code. According to the reform, judges will only be able to open investigations against a suspected human rights violator if the defendant “is Spanish or a foreigner who frequently resides in Spain,” or who is currently in the country and Spanish authorities have refused to allow their extradition.

After an intense debate that pitted the entire opposition against the ruling Popular Party (PP), the final vote stood 179 in favor and 163 against, reflecting the conservatives’ absolute majority in Congress. The new legislation will come into effect within the next four months. Opposition groups roundly condemned the government’s decision and were united in their conviction that pressure from Beijing guided the hand of Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party administration.


Spain PM says Catalan independence referendum ‘illegal’

From BBC News:

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

Spain’s prime minister has called a referendum on independence for Catalonia “illegal” in his state of the union address. Mariano Rajoy vowed to block the vote, which the Catalan authorities intend to hold on 9 November. Both Spain’s ruling conservative party and the Socialist opposition have long stated their rejection of a referendum. But in recent months, the Catalan regional government has vowed to press ahead even without Madrid’s blessing.

Mr Rajoy told the Spanish parliament during the annual state of the nation debate that “this referendum can’t take place, it is not legal”. He added: “It is the entire Spanish people who have the capacity to decide what Spain is.” Mr Rajoy also addressed Spain’s economic problems in his speech, saying that the country had turned a corner and was “part of the driving engine” of Europe. He also revised the growth forecast upwards from 0.7% to 1% for 2014, and promised tax cuts for 12 million of Spain’s 17 million taxpayers.


Truthloader: Who are ETA?

‘For 40 years the militant group ETA carried out a bloody campaign for independence in the regions of Spain and France known as Basque country. 800 people lost their lives in the campaign with countless others injured. More than two years ago ETA announced a unilateral, permanent ceasefire in favour of a political agreement but the Spanish government maintains it won’t enter talks with the group until it admits defeat and surrenders unconditionally. But now ETA is expected to announce that it will hand over its weapons and bomb-making equipment.’ (Truthloader)

Spain’s Princess Cristina in court over corruption case

Spanish IKEA store receives more than 100,000 applications for 400 jobs

APRIL 27, 2006 FILE PHOTOFrom NY Daily News:

An IKEA store set to open in Spain has received more than 100,000 online applications alone for just 400 jobs.

Cash-strapped Spaniards desperate for work have been submitting CVs from across the country in a bid to work at the home furnishing firm’s Alfafar branch, outside the eastern city of Valencia.

It means on average a staggering 250 people have applied for each single job.

Youth unemployment for Spain — for those aged 18 to 25 years old — currently stands at a staggering 57.7%, with more than one in four (25.7%) of adults out of work.

The application process initially opened on Dec. 2.


Credit squeeze ‘killing’ 90 Spanish firms a day

 File photo: Flickr/GonmiFrom The Local:

Insufficient credit threatens to throttle Spain’s fragile recovery, they warn, after a double-dip recession triggered by a 2008 property crash, which left banks awash with bad loans.

Last year, Spain shored up its tottering banks’ balance sheets with a €41.3-billion ($56 billion) programme financed by its eurozone partners.

But the banks have shown reluctance to lend, economists and industry say, as the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy struggles with a 26-percent unemployment rate and, according to official data compiled by auditors PwC, a 20-percent rise in bankruptcy filings in 2013.


Spanish protesters riot in Madrid, 11 people hurt

From Reuters:

A Madrid demonstration in sympathy with protests in the northern Spanish city of Burgos against a local government plan to convert a street into a tree-lined boulevard turned violent on Wednesday, leading to 11 arrests and 11 injuries.

Rioters tossed smoke bombs, threw chairs from street terraces and burned garbage containers in central Madrid after a march that began in the capital’s Puerta del Sol square and ended near the ruling conservative People’s Party (PP) central headquarters.

Police and emergency service sources said 11 protesters were arrested and 11 people, including five police officers, were injured during the riots.

It was one of 46 protests across Spanish cities on Wednesday against the state-financed project in Burgos that has stoked public fury. Critics say widespread corruption has plunged Spain into an economic crisis that has lasted for years, leaving one in four workers unemployed.


Spain Moves Toward Heavy Fines For Insulting Police And Protesting Without Permission

From Jonathan Turley:

Spain is on the verge of passing a draconian measure that threatens fundamental values of free speech.  Faced with ongoing protests over economic conditions, the Spanish government is about to make insulting police officers and protesting without permission crimes punishable by fine greater than dealing drugs or prostitution. Not since Franco has the country turned so decidedly against civil liberties and free speech.

Once passed by the Spanish Parliament, citizens who dare to protest without permission will face fines up to $810,000. It would be better to sell drugs which are subject to less than five percent of that fine.

Harassment or insults can be charged with fines as high as €600,000. An insult to a police officer is now treated as a “serious offense” with fines of €30,000. Most people consider insulting the government or police to be a core exercise of free speech.

The concern is that, as economic and social tensions grow, such measures may expand throughout Europe.

The Village Against the World

Book review by Nomi Prins @ Truthdig:

The most expensive government on the planet—ours—was shut down over budget concerns, health insurance and passive-aggressiveness. The inane partisan squabbling most acutely affected those with the most to lose—the people at the bottom of the economic pile. Meanwhile, grossly unequal division of wealth and power is a growing blight on the face of humanity. Dangerous mechanisms of financial ruin are nurtured by governments while they spew rhetoric about helping citizens. A future in which reckless economic exploitation will diminish seems highly unlikely.

But what if another world were possible? One in which the spoils of predatory capitalism, subsidized by central banks and federal policy, aren’t rapaciously consumed by a tiny minority at the expense of the vast majority of global citizens?

In his captivating new book, “The Village Against the World,” Dan Hancox shows, in lyrical and penetrating prose, that not only is it possible, but “an observable fact.” And so begins his tale of the alternative.

Nestled in farmland about 60 miles from Seville, Spain, in the region of Andalucía, exists Marinaleda, a village of 2,700 people. The cry OTRO MUNDO ES POSSIBLE—another world is possible—adorns a metal arch over its main avenue. For 30 years, the citizens of this tiny pueblo have fought and won a struggle to create a utopia in which everyone has a job and a home. Communism seems too dismissive and combative a term for Marinaleda’s ability to exist in defiance of a system that has shattered surrounding towns, and entire countries around the world.

“The year 2016,” Hancox writes, “will mark the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’sUtopia … But … how do you go from a fevered dream, an aspirational blueprint, to concrete reality?”


Argentine Judge Helps Victims of Franco Regime Seek Justice

From Spiegel:

[...] immunity for Franco’s helpers may be about to end. In Argentina, Judge María Servini de Cubría of the first chamber of the Federal Criminal Court in Buenos Aires issued international arrest warrants for four former Spanish police officers in mid-September. They include some of the tormentors of Galante and Chivite. At least two of them are still alive: Jesús Muñecas and Juan Antonio González Pacheco. There is “tremendous symbolic value” to Argentina’s decision to demand the extradition of Franco’s officers, 38 years after his death, says Chivite.

The Spanish attorney general’s office refuses to have them arrested, and for Spanish citizens there is no threat of extradition. Nevertheless, a judge on the Spanish National Court wants to summon both former police officers to determine whether they are willing to testify voluntarily before Servini.

To this day, the Spaniards have not legally come to terms with the crimes committed by the Franco regime against the leftists on the losing side of the civil war. The cases now being looked into in Argentina occurred during the time period from the coup against the elected government of the Spanish Republic on July 17, 1936, to the first free parliamentary elections on June 15, 1977. The parties of the left, which had been brutally persecuted for four decades, agreed to an amnesty law at that time to help facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy.

But now a wave of lawsuits is heading toward Spain.


Spain football team chastised over friendly in Equatorial Guinea

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial GuineaFrom The Guardian:

Activists in Equatorial Guinea have condemned Spain‘s millionaire footballers for accepting an invitation from an authoritarian regimeaccused of torturing political opponents.

The World Cup and European Championship holders will play Equatorial Guinea in a friendly in the capital, Malabo, on 16 November.


GCHQ and European spy agencies worked together on mass surveillance

BND NSA GCHQ DGSEFrom The Guardian:

The German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency.

The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web, according to GCHQ documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The files also make clear that GCHQ played a leading role in advising its European counterparts how to work around national laws intended to restrict the surveillance power of intelligence agencies.


UN presses Spain over Franco-era crimes and mass graves

From BBC News:

United Nations experts have urged Spain to investigate what happened to thousands of people who went missing during the civil war and nationalist Franco dictatorship.

The plea came after a week-long visit to Spain by a UN working group, who met government officials and victims’ relatives in several regions.

[...] A network of victims’ relatives, the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH in Spanish), has a list of 41 mass graves, but says the remains have not been exhumed “because of a lack of funds”.

In 2008 a Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzon, decided to investigate the disappearance of tens of thousands of people during the Franco era. He ordered the excavation of mass graves – but the move was highly controversial.

In 2010 he was forced to drop the investigation and was suspended after Spain’s supreme court found that he had ignored the 1977 amnesty law. That law was passed in order to ease Spain’s transition to democracy after Franco’s rule.


In Spain, website owners can now get six years in prison for linking to copyrighted material

From The Verge:

Website owners whose sites profit from linking to unauthorized copyrighted material can now be jailed for up to six years under a new measure that passed today in Spain. Spain is considered one of the worst offenders in Europe when it comes to illegally downloading content; one study reported that 98.7 of music Spaniards listen to is pirated. The law will spare peer-to-peer filesharing sites, search engines, and users of the link-sharing sites.

The country enacted the law as a response to pressure from the US, where ironically the law is not as strict. Spain is in danger of being added to a list of countries that Washington considers to be the most egregious violators of copyright law, meaning it could be subject to trade sanctions from the US. Considering that Spain has just started recovering from the deep recession that began in 2008, it makes sense that citizens are downloading their music and movies instead of paying for it. But for the same reason, the Spanish government desperately wants to avoid angering one of its best customers.

Spain youth unemployment reaches record 56.1%

People queue outside Spanish job centre From The Guardian:

Youth unemployment in Spain has reached a new high of 56.1%, a quarter of the 3.5 million under-25s jobless across the eurozone, according to the latest Eurostat figures.

The number of young Spaniards belonging to what has become known as the lost generation is up 2% since June to 883,000. Only Greece has a higher percentage of young people out of work, at 62.9%.

Among adult males, Spain has the highest unemployment at 25.3%, higher even than Greece. Despite the government’s claims that the worst has passed and that employment reforms will encourage firms to hire, the figures suggest it will be a long time before any upturn in the economy is reflected in a declining jobless rate. With the holiday season coming to a close, the numbers are likely to rise as workers on seasonal contracts go back on the dole.

With close to six million Spaniards out of work, unemployment is so entrenched that there was no political reaction to the latest figures, neither from government nor the opposition. Indeed, mentioning the economy at all has become virtually taboo across the political spectrum. Meanwhile, Spaniards and recent immigrants are deserting the country in search of work, with 500,000 leaving in 2012, 60,000 of them Spanish nationals, most of them to Latin America and Europe.



IMF advises Spain to cut wages by 10 percent

From El Pais:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday called on Spain’s unions and employers to work together to find solutions – including cutting workers’ wages – to tackle unemployment and stimulate growth so that more jobs can be created.

In its latest report on Spain, the IMF said government reforms need to go further to increase companies’ “internal flexibility” and “enhance employment opportunities for the unemployed.”

While lauding the government’s labor reform, IMF officials said the government should consider reducing taxes on companies that focus on hiring certain groups, such as the young and low-skilled.

[...] IMF technicians undertook a study to look at the effects of a 10-percent wage cut over two years accompanied by a reduction in social security contributions by one and two-thirds of a percent. It also examined broadening the base of the value-added tax (VAT) in two years, passing the now-reduced products, which have an 11-percent rate, into the general 21-percent category.


Spain taps social security reserve fund to pay pensions ~ Reuters

People raise their hands and shout slogans as they take part in a protest outside the People's Party (PP) headquarters in Madrid July 18, 2013. (Reuetrs / Juan Medina)Reuters

Spain tapped its social security reserve fund for the second time in a month on Monday, the Labour Ministry said, to help with extra summer pension payments as unemployment and retirement costs deplete government funds.

The government turned to the fund for 3.5 billion euros ($4.6 billion) on July 1 then for a further 1 billion euros on Monday. Spanish pensioners receive two cheques in summer and two over the Christmas holidays.

Spain was forced to tap the reserve for the first time last year to help pay pension costs, using some 7 billion euros.

Record high unemployment, which hit over 27 percent in the first quarter, and a growing number of retirees on a state pensions have put an unprecedented strain on Spanish social security funds.

The fund was worth 59.3 billion euros, or 5.65 percent of gross domestic product, after the operation on Monday, the Ministry said.


Corruption scandal could bring down Spain’s government ~ WSWS

World Socialist Website

Last week the multimillionaire former treasurer of the ruling Popular Party (PP), Luis Bárcenas, was refused bail and remanded in custody pending trial on charges of corruption and tax evasion. He amassed a fortune worth tens of millions of euros hidden in foreign bank accounts, which were used to channel illegal payments from wealthy businessmen to PP ministers and officials.

This week, Spain’s second-largest circulation newspaper El Mundo published an interview between its editor Pedro J. Ramírez and Bárcenas.


Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy faces allegations of slush-fund cash payments ~ Independent

The Independent

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was allegedly paid from a slush fund operated by the governing People’s Party (PP) when he was a minister in the 1990s, according to documents published in the newspaper El Mundo. The accusations drew denials from the PP and calls for Mr Rajoy’s resignation, from opposition parties weary of austerity measures and an economy mired in recession.

El Mundo says it handed over documents, supposedly handwritten by former PP treasurer and senator Luis Bárcenas, to the High Court on Monday, and carried pictures on its front page of ledger entries which purport to show the names of Rajoy and other senior PP figures, along with the amounts they were allegedly paid.