Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Vote of Confidence

The vote of confidence (‘moción de censura’), called for by Pedro Sánchez of the PSOE, with unconditional support from Union Podemos, will be debated on Thursday and voted on Friday, 1st June.
Spain is at a tense moment, with the Partido Popular in disarray following the sentencing in the Gürtel trial last week - with several important ex-members of the party receiving exemplary prison terms (including Luis Bárcenas) and the PP itself cited for improper party finance, with a 250,000€ fine. A couple of days earlier, on Monday, the ex-minister of the PP and Valencia strong-man Eduardo Zaplana had been arrested and jailed without bail for another case of party corruption. There are many more cases down the line (here).
Of course, it could have been worse if one of the judges hadn’t delayed his ruling a few days, allowing, at least, the national budget to go through safely....
Following from this, the PSOE announced that it would table the debate. They need either all of the smaller independent and regional groups to back them, or else the hard-to-fathom Ciudadanos party.
Ciudadanos, a party that is liberal yet right-wing, anti-corruption yet tied to the Partido Popular, has been mealy-mouthed so far, saying one thing then another, and are now shooting for Rajoy to call for immediate elections (which he can’t following constitutional law). In the event of an election, of course, Ciudadanos stand to do rather well...
For once, their protagonism is limited – and the thought of a legislature run by Pedro Sánchez, however brief, is galling.
Rajoy's reaction to all of this is to say that 'Sánchez wants to be president at any cost', despite '...the damage to Spain's stability'. His party has also been busy, sending out appropriate propaganda to friendly news-media – like ‘the economy and jobs would take a massive hit if the vote of confidence were to prosper’.  Público shows some newspapers playing along here.

The PSOE needs all of the independent groups – the Basque and the Catalonians and the Canary deputy. Can they do it? They say they won’t negotiate with the other parties, but offer a simple yes/no. El Pais has a video which explains the position here. The moción de censura also needs the support of the voters – are they sick and tired of corruption, or do they feel that we still need the firm hand of the Partido Popular? As to corruption itself, a guide here shows that 86% of the cost of corruption in Spain (figured at 122,000 million euros) is down to the Partido Popular.
The vote of confidence, then, ideally needs just one more small push. Another little scandal to break the camel’s back. Perhaps to avoid this, Luís Barcenas’ wife Rosalía Iglesias has been spared prison for the time being and her husband’s threat to ‘spill all’ has, for the moment, been silenced.
Either and any way one looks at it, the present Government has fallen in all but name (as forecast by me six weeks ago here).

Friday, 25 May 2018

Mojácar Padrón (Our Town - your Town)

The Town Hall of Mojácar has just published a plea to all residents (well, the English-speaking ones) to register on the padrón now. The padrón is, of course, a town hall's register of inhabitants. If you live here, you should be on it.
They are right to do so, as the more people registered as living in the municipality means more monies from Madrid, plus more licences, school-teachers, policemen, medics, bus routes and so on. Information is not passed to any sinister tax office or secret bunker. It is used wholly for clerical purposes, like figuring out how many Brits live in Spain (as we know, a wildly inaccurate total). With a giant influx of summer tourists, who of course don't figure on the padrón, it is vital to bring the true numbers of residents up to something approaching reality. Spaniards always register, it is only proper that foreign residents should too.
Normally, when you register, you are asked to fill in a form confirming that you, as a EU citizen, would like to vote in either or both the European and local elections when the time comes (May 2019, since you ask). There is no mention of this egregious formality in the Town Hall's current invitation.
Until now, the Town Hall has never published a call for registration on the padrón, probably because, since the nineteen nineties, the British residents here had the vote in municipal elections, a privilege which will probably be removed from us with the arrival of Brexit. While only about 20% of us bothered to vote, that was still several hundred papeletas in the elections, going, we are sad to report, every which way!
So, no more threat from pesky and confused Brits about how to run the Town Hall.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Partido Popular in Deep Doodoo

The Audiencia Nacional has now published its sentencing for the Gürtel Inquiry. The leader of the group is Francisco Correa, who masterminded the network, and he has been handed down 51 years. The ex-treasurer for the PP, Luis Bárcenas, gets 33 years and must pay some 44 million euros in fines. His wife Rosalía Iglesias (significantly, as Barcenas has threatened to ‘reveal all’ if she were sent to prison), received 15 years jail. The Partido Popular ‘...as a legal entity, benefited financially from Gürtel’s corrupt practices. It has been sentenced to pay €245,492...’ (Says El País in English here). In all, 29 people, all PP members, received sentences varying from 51 years to (in one case) just five months (here).
President Mariano Rajoy brushed aside the issue – ‘The PP is much more than a few isolated cases of corruption’, he said.
Pablo Iglesias has already proposed a vote of confidence and says his Union Podemos would support Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) for president. Ciudadanos has yet to respond... 
My article 'The end of the Government within weeks' can be read here.  

Friday update: The Government will now Fall here

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A House for Pablo Iglesias

As more former members of the Partido Popular’s hierarchy are falling from grace (Zaplana, Juan Cotino and Fernández de Moya so far this week, and Pablo Casado under investigation for his fake master’s), the biggest story in the right-wing news remains the house that the Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias has bought with his wife (Podemos speaker Irene Montero) and their unborn twins. The house is rather grand (pictures here), with a pool and a garden and is located on the edge of Madrid in an expensive neighbourhood. It’s not so much the price – 600,000€ – that’s galling or even that they have taken out a huge mortgage to pay for it, but the duplicity of a leader of the masses buying a palace rather than living in a garret in a poor part of Madrid.
Unlike the Arts or football, politics (should) be about Image and for a Trot, that means living under a toadstool.
El Mundo has headlined the story every day since it broke with OKDiario on Friday (sold by an agency to the Media), with Tuesdays’ revelation as damaging as ever (well not really) that Podemos use the same bank as underwrote the hipoteca.
It was an incalculably bad move for Iglesias, who has now gone to the recourse of appealing to his militants, who have until the weekend to either ratify or reject his home-buying spree, in which case both Iglesias and Montero will resign from Podemos. (El Mundo assures us supporters consider the purchase ‘an act of irresponsibility). The item has even made the foreign press, with The Guardian noting here that ‘Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero are accused of betraying principles over €600,000 purchase’ and Bloomberg saying that ‘Headlines in Spain have been mainly focused on whether the purchase is inconsistent with Iglesias’s previous comments condemning the wealthy’.
Other political leaders of course own homes, we would hope that they paid for them appropriately, but the cost of these dwellings has never raised much interest. The COPE lists a few here, but frankly, none of them begin to compare in grandeur with the homes of Julio Iglesias (here) or Ronaldo (video here).
The leader of the Izquierda Unida Alberto Garzón has just bought something suitably modest at 200,000€, we read (again) at El Mundo, which certainly feels it has A Story. 
Nevertheless, this has done major damage to Pablo Iglesias, and maybe he should even step down for this calamitous misstep. But who could take over?
The left-wing titles are sympathetic ‘The "harassment of the extreme right" reduces internal criticism in Podemos of the purchase of the villa by Iglesias and Montero’ says El Diario While a fake news story announces that all are invited to the house for a barbeque on June 2nd – so far, 60,000 people say they are coming.
20 Minutos has a questionnaire as to whether Iglesias and Montero should resign. As one can see, the results are not good. Iglesias has done nothing wrong, but he has shot himself in the foot with this ill-conceived purchase.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Two Hundred to One

How much do you spend each day in Spain? Let's add a small fraction of the price of your house, and a slightly larger one for your car... and maybe throw in your furniture and your pills and your taxes (including IBI).
I have no idea, myself. It seems a lot. Many of us residents live on money sent from abroad - our pension or something from the bank. You will know how much I am talking about. It's true that some of us foreigners get our money from the sweat of our brow here in Spain (usually, but not always, money issuing from fellow guiris as customers and clients), and then there are a few foreigners who live here on their wits - ripping off other foreigners as best they can ('I don't feel good about it', says one, having just persuaded an elderly couple in Mojácar to put their car in his name, and then selling it, 'but I do what I must to live').
In short, the above-mentioned gentleman excluded, we foreigners bring in a lot of money to Spain. In the cities we are a tiny fraction, but in many small coastal towns we are very important to the local economy.
Except Mojácar, where if you ain't wearing Lycra, you ain't worth a damn.
But talking of Lycra and Speedos and other tourist paraphernalia, how much do the trippers spend daily while on their hols (for an average of twelve days visit for foreigners, five for a Madrileño)? The answer, according to the records, is 60€ per day.
So, one foreign tourist spends 720€. Perhaps some of this stays in the country of origin, perhaps not (the records understandably don't show). Some of their money will be taken in the all-inclusive hotel and perhaps the rest will largely go to the corner souvenir shop (or maybe in bicycle repair). By the way, those visitors who don't stay in the hotels - usually house guests, family and so on - are known in the trade as 'tupamaros'.
Foreign residents, of course, spend nothing in local hotels and souvenir shops.
I'm just popping into the nick-nack shop...
How much do we spend in a full year, as compared to one tourist in twelve days? My rough calculation is 200:1. One foreign resident spends, in one year, two hundred times more than one tourist in one yearly visit.
Following from this, it becomes clear that one thousand residents would be worth the equivalent of two hundred thousand tourists. With 200 times less crowding, aggravation and noise.
Mojácar, with its 3,000 full-time foreigners (600,000 tourists), should have a slightly higher image as a residential town and, who knows, maybe some representation in the town hall, a foreigners' department and perhaps a vague 'bilingualism' amongst our rulers. We bring a lot of wealth to the pot.
Other towns in the province, far from the playas, like Arboleas, Zurgena, Turre, Bédar and Albox, are aware of the incalculable value of their foreign citizens, but in Mojácar, it's all about the trippers and their sixty euros. 

Monday, 7 May 2018

Mojácar: From Bohemian to Bourgeois in One Legislature

The fate of the 'most emblematic' beach bars is now sealed. The latest extension of the Paseo Maritimo - from the Red Cross to the Maui - was agreed yesterday (Monday) in a rubber stamp plenary session in the Mojácar town hall. The Government to pay 2.2 million euros and the town's piggy bank to cough up another 850,000€, plus the expropriation costs of 15,300 square metres belonging to fifteen separate escrituras. The PSOE leader Manuel Zamora reckons that this could cost as much as 'another four or five million euros'. The town hall claims that the expropriation costs will be a rather more accurate 501,304 euros.
The expropriation of 15,300 metres of land in the short stretch of coast - just 700m long - supposes a lot of land taken: some to make 145 parking spots (in our experience, town hall parking projects mean a reduction in parking spaces) but most of the expropriated land will become a sea wall, an elevated path, a cycling lane (rarely used anywhere, either in Mojácar or elsewhere, but very fashionista By Gum), together with gardens, benches, dog-shit bag dispensers, lights, and sundry other attractions.
"They want to make a macro-project more than nine meters wide in some areas that reduces the surface area of the businesses by more than 30%," says Somos Mojácar spokeswoman Jessica Simpson. "It seems that you hate business," she told the mayor during the Monday pleno, adding "Mojacar has become what it is thanks to that piece of coastline and you collapse it with nothing more than a silly smile...".
The certainty is that the beach bars, El Patio (fifty years old this season), El Cid, the Aku and others will lose a chunk of their land, most of their tables and all their beach beds would of course go - and there would be little left beyond a bar, at least in The Patio.
Clients would have to negotiate the promenade to get to the beach - or rather - the sea (there isn't much beach in that section already).
We must begin to wonder about the next remodelling of our playa - when the Paseo Maritimo arrives at the (quite hideous) roundabout where the crippled Indalo faces Garrucha - what will become of La Dolce Vita, or the Cava or La Pirata? Those places have no room on their sea-side for anything at all.
The mayor has said elsewhere that she wants Mojácar to be attractive to 'family tourism': buckets and spades, mosquito repellent, healthy parents queueing up to buy trifles in the souvenir shops which seem so prevalent here.
Shouldn't she represent the people who live here - rather than the ones she imagines would like to come to visit for a few days?