Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Post Politics Tristese.

The politics are strong, but maybe, after all the recent elections, we will soon be able to talk of other things. There’s just the small problem of Brexit to resolve (and the looming visit of the American president and the sale of milk shakes to bemuse the British). And, Goodness! Who will become the next (undemocratically chosen) prime minister? Not Boris, surely?
In Brussels, the question arises of what to do with Farage and his ghastly crowd – ‘ghastly’ if you happen to be a European, or just working in Brussels. He’s evidently a hero in England. Maybe the European Commission could formally eject the UK from the EU (and just keep Scotland) just to preserve some sanity. We shall have to look it up in the rulebook.
In Spain, the local and regional elections went fairly well, with the centrist parties of the PSOE, the PP and C’s taking most of the votes. Both Podemos and Vox failed to perform, with Podemos-clones only managing to hold Cádiz and Valencia (with Barcelona in doubt). A shame about Madrid though, where the stern book-keeping of Manuela has halved the astronomic debt incurred by previous PP overlords. Now they are apparently back...
In my local town of Mojácar, an unpopular town hall not only resisted the call from the opposition, it actually increased its hold on the place.
Strange stuff politics, let’s talk about the weather.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Tourism is Good for Business, But Bad for Comfort

It looks like one of those fakes, but apparently it is kosher. Now six people have died in a couple of days on the final slopes of Mount Everest. So many people were making that last stagger to the top that there was a jam. But look at them!
Tourism these days is sacred. Everyone has the right to see the world (even from the top!). Spain had 82.6 million foreign tourists last year, and another indeterminate amount of national tourists besides. They all went, apart from those Spaniards who chose to visit their grandparents' pueblo for a few slightly uncomfortable days, either to look at some monument or maybe a museum - the Alhambra (2.76 million visitors) or the Museo del Prado (3.6 million in 2018) or away to the beach. 
 Mojácar has a beach. It's nothing special, but it is coated with bars and restaurants to serve both the residents and the visitors - those who aren't staying 'all inclusive' in one of the cheaper hotels. These hotels, in the unfashionable Marina de la Torre area, are owned by Catalonian companies, and the staff is South American. The food is prepared in Málaga and sent up to be reheated in the hotels' kitchens. Sometimes the hotels are successful, other times they aren't like the doomed Hotel Moresco, which adorns the right hand side of the village, closed since 2008 and now housing some okupas, or to say it in English, some squatters.
Another hotel that never got much off the ground is the Macenas Hilton. Two or three stories of concrete shelving, wondrously decorated by graffiti-idiots, and providing a delightful view for the apartments behind. Drive into the next resort, Carboneras, with its power station chimney, and enjoy Spain's most famous incomplete hotel, the Algarrobico. There since 2006.
Mojácar is a delightful village. It has won-bought-acquired the title of Most Beautiful along with a clutch of other resorts. It has narrow streets and white flat-roofed buildings covering the top of a hill - it looks like a pile of sugar lumps, left there under the stark blue sky by playful giants.
As a residential village, it is a nice place to live. You can walk everywhere (the streets are too narrow for anything wider than a donkey) and, if pushed, you can go down to the beach to find a supermarket or a bank.
Mojácar village though, while without any hotels - open hotels at least - still prefers visitors and their wallets (tourism has always been about the wallets) over residents. In the village, there are fifty souvenir shops, and no resident ever goes to a souvenir shop (or, for that matter stays in a hotel). For the local businesses, residents, for all their wealth, aren't necessarily much cop. Oh yes, we drink, we sometimes eat out (although we have our own kitchen at the house) and we are there all year long (a tourist spends about four days average, and probably goes somewhere else for the following holiday). Contrast Turre - an ugly residential town with no beach, no hotels and no tourists - in the winter months with Mojácar. Turre has ten times the night-life.
On Mojácar's beach, it's the same - a number of establishments who serve locals and visitors alike, but who often close for the winter months. Those who own or rent such places (huge, staggering rents from the wealthy local families) will move away during the winter - not really local businessmen after all, just people out to make some business. They want more tourism, just like the souvenir sellers.
But do they represent or speak for those who live here?
Would more tourism bring more out-of-town businesspeople to serve them through the season?
Our politicians work tirelessly for the local business community, and packing in more tourists for a longer season is the apparent dream. Now we have giant pelotones of winter cyclists riding two-abreast (really? Is that the best you could do?). Now we have kids roving the streets at night, looking for some fun. Now we have pickpockets. Now we have fights and vandalism.
Now we have crowds and queues.
Now our mainstream political parties are campaigning for more, more, more, because they speak for the merchants. Not the residents.
If you are living here and don't run a shop, a bar or a restaurant, or God-forbid a souvenir shop selling the same junk as all the others, then more tourism to what is a wealthy-enough pueblo is not the answer.  Your only investment is your home - would you like it to go up in value, or, as Mojácar bursts at the seems, to go down?

Monday, 20 May 2019

Mojácar Secure

While the current councillor in charge of security is under a shadow in the Vera court, this is Antonio Seonane Quintela standing on the left. He is a retired - and decorated - Guardia Civil sargeant and is N°3 on our list. There would be no nonsense with Antonio.

The Choices for Europe

Wikipedia has a list of the 32 parties on offer for the European Elections (the blue voting paper – the white one is the municipal election). Besides our old favourites of the PP, PSOE, C’s and Podemos, this includes some spicier choices including several coalitions of smaller regional parties, such as Coalición por una Europa Solidaria, which includes the Partido Nacionalista Vasco, Coalición Canaria, Compromiso por Galicia and a few others – and the Ahora Repúblicas which is an alliance of six far-left republican parties.
We have the fascists (FE de Las Jons etc – recommended in 2009 to British expatriates by the Brexit creature Daniel Hannan) and the communists with Partido Comunista de los Trabajadores de España and a few similar, including the, er, positive sounding Izquierda en Positivo... and a party that sounds like it’s made up of motorcycle mechanics called the PCPE-PCPC-PCPA. Communists again.
Por un Mundo Más Justo will attract support from the utopians among us. The anti-copyright Pirates have a candidature (the editor of Business over Tapas is tempted) at Pirates de Catalunya-European Pirates. The Greens are at Coalición Verde-Europa Ciudadana.
...and of course there’s the irrepressible doggyists over at Pacma (Fido for President).
There’s Andalucía por Sí (which doesn’t have much of a chance in our opinion) and the Extremeños PREX CREX (which sounds like a packet of crisps). The Movimiento Independiente Euro Latino (which we had to look up) is another alternative for the discerning voter and appears to speak for the naturalised South Americans in Europe.
Iniciativa Femenina (slightly irritating for them what with the pesky Law of Parity, with every other candidate a man) is another one to watch (heh!).
But Volt is our choice.  Volt (here) is a ‘a pan-European progressive political movement’ and the only European party that has people from different countries on its list. It doesn’t represent just one country in Brussels (so irritating if you are a foreign resident in a European country, with MEPs who do not speak for you), it offers a voice for all of us.  

Friday, 17 May 2019

Astrid and the Fox

I see that Astrid Shröder doesn't post on Facebook. You may know her as Astrid the Vet. I took my dog in to see her last year, the poor chap had Leishmaniasis. She prescribed a pill that cures gout in humans of all things and gave him back his health. But my point isn't that, but this: on the other table was a young dehydrated fox that someone had brought in. Astrid had put him on a serum drip and when he was better, she would be letting him go back into the wild. 
Astrid is Nº2 on ¡Mojácar Para la Gente! which is about the future of Mojácar for everyone who lives here. 
Even the foxes.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

This One is Partisan

Mojácar is divided into various tribes. Broadly speaking (and forgetting those who can't vote - as one does), there are the mojaqueros, the forasteros and the extranjeros.  Roughly divided into 25, 25 and 50%.
Since most of the extranjeros - the foreigners - either can't or won't vote, let's say - in the broadest strokes - that we are three evenly balanced groups of a third each.
Each group has its political party.
The mojaqueros support the Partido Popular. It has run the town for a number of years, made all of its supporters either rich or at least fully employed and has turned Mojácar into what it is today: call it a delightful (if a little crowded) tourist destination, or (if you prefer) a grasping money-based factory run by the Four Families who have no love for their town beyond the commercial opportunities it affords them.
The second party is the PSOE-Somos Mojácar, which is led by a local mojaquero and fuelled by the extranjero vote thanks to the energies of Jessica Simpson, who is second on the list. The rump of the mojaqueros won't support it as they are beholden to the PP (or at least follow the gravy).
The third group is ¡Mojácar Para la Gente! a municipalist party run and filled mainly by the forasteros - settled Spaniards from elsewhere in Spain plus a few foreigners (their Nº1 is Argentinian, their Nº2 is German). The mojaqueros won't support it (its candidate is an outsider) and the Brits are somewhat ambivalent (although it can expect the support of most other European voters).
Tactically, the division boils down to just two choices - the local people versus the settlers. On the PP list, their seventh (and only foreigner) is Lucas Mayo, a bilingual Brit who has lived in Mojácar for many years. If he gets in to the town hall, then the PP will have won. If he doesn't, then some coalition of the PSOE and MPLG will take the town hall and make those necessary changes.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Local Voting

You can vote in local elections if you are on the voting list (which many of us aren't - well done that man!). In the smaller municipalities where most foreigners live, our vote does make a difference. A town hall can be won or lost on just a few votes... maybe even just the one.
Of course, there are those who can vote but won't because 'it's not our country', or 'we are guests here' (Oh yeah? Where's your invitation?) or 'we don't know the issues'. Normally, the voters do know the candidates, or people on their list; and in small communities, it's not about party politics, so much as personality politics. There are good socialist mayors, there are good conservative mayors too. 
Some local politicians are there for the opportunities. Madrid has long attempted to curtail their powers, but local mayors and their senior councillors often leave politics far richer than when they arrived. They are active in preparing the local urban plan (which will often feature land they have recently acquired, or land that receives a favourable consideration following a short but intense talk with the owner). There are commissions to be won for putting up new street furniture or proving jobs or choosing one supplier over another. Sometimes this activity doesn't matter so much in the Great Scheme of things, othertimes it does.
Not all local politics is about the monetary opportunities. Some others want to climb from their municipality into provincial, regional or even national politics. That's ambition.
Other local politicians are genuine hard-working people who sometimes even forego their salary. They may have given their time and energy to help their communities. Feel proud of them, as many will cross the street to avoid them, or plot their downfall by buying one of their councillors. 
Voting is important, because it makes it your responsibility too, when the town does well. 
Remember also, that four years down the line and following the implosion of the UK thanks to Brexit, the chances are good that we Brits will lose our vote in local elections in Spain.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Mojácar Revolution

In local politics, Mojácar-style, we are reduced from the thirteen parties of just twelve years ago to a more moderate three.
These are:
The Partido Popular, the party in office for the last eight years.
The PSOE, a party in opposition for the past eight years
and Mojácar Para la Gente (here), a non-aligned group with a charismatic leader called Carlos Rodríguez, who is a long-time member of the IU. Carlos has worked in the Mojácar opposition as a councillor for Somos Mojácar with Jessica Simpson (now in the PSOE).
I'm on the Mojácar Para la Gente (Mojácar for its Residents) list rather far down it (I'm too old to run a department in the town hall). The reason I support this group is because it is independent with no ambition beyond the Mojácar frontiers, because it is more interested in the people of Mojácar rather than those who choose to visit for a few days, and because it has several foreigners on the list, including Carlos himself (Argentina) and his Nº2, Astrid Schröder (Germany).
Carlos is a carpenter by trade, and runs a successful bar in Mojácar Village called the BaRpública. Visit for good food, cold beer and interesting conversation. It's one of Mojácar few joints where both locals and foreigners meet.  Carlos has been active in politics all his life and has excellent organisational skills.
Astrid is a vet and has been helping animals and their owners in Mojácar for over 35 years.
The Nº3 on the list is a retired Guardia Civil called Antonio Seonane. He will be of immense use to our community thanks to his experience in security.
Mojácar para la Gente is the best choice, putting the people first, ahead of the ugly cliché of profit for the crafty few.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

We, the People

There it was: the PSOE came through. Of course, with a bit less media manipulation in favour of the right-wing parties, Pedro Sánchez would have won a bit more comfortably, and not been obliged to join in what the El Español huffily describes as ‘another Frankenstein government’.
To paraphrase Jordi Évole’s comment following the results, the far-right, by a heroic effort, managed to get the centre-left supporters away from their Game-boys, afternoon TV shows and walks through the park, to go out and vote. Massively.
Pedro Sánchez, just 47, is now the Veteran and Old Man of Spanish politics. He has become almost respectable (even though the ‘Socialist Old Guard’ evidently hasn’t forgiven him). He won with what we hope will become four years of peaceful growth. Whether this is to be, we shall of course be seeing (he can’t pact with Ciudadanos - they won’t have it - while a Podemos plus Independents arrangement is fraught and his current plan to run as a minority government may be over-optimistic). Understandably, expect nothing until after the second round of elections on May 26th, although the main party leaders (less Abascal) will meet separately with Sánchez at the Moncloa next week for talks.
The stumbling of the Popular Party in the general elections of 28A has been of biblical proportions. Of the 137 seats that Mariano Rajoy achieved, Pablo Casado has lost more than half with just 66 remaining while almost 3.5 million votes have turned to smoke. This, among other things, has placed the party on the verge of bankruptcy.
At least from Ciudadanos' point of view, the conservative vote is falling under their control. Give it another few years and they will be the main centre-right party in Spain. Maybe. Vox didn't do as well as we all expected in the elections, and the PP is imploding. So, playing its hand for the party's future (rather than that of the future of Spain, perhaps), Ciudadanos has once again said that under no circumstance will it join with the PSOE to form a strong and stable government.
The ‘Independents’ did well, with 32 seats – five more than in 2016. Five of their triumphant candidates, four diputados and a senador, are currently in clink.
Still, the greatest threat to Spain’s easy way of life, the fighting bull in the boudoir as it were, was held at just ten per cent, and 24 seats. This nationalist 'anti-illegal immigration' party did well in Melilla and Ceuta (where there are lots of Moroccans) and Almería. They tanked in Catalonia and the north of Spain, Imagine (just to put this in perspective), your first concern about your country is not health, taxes, justice, corruption, child poverty, the economy, pensions or women's rights. It’s worrying about the boat-people!
Vox may have made large gains, but their leaders certainly don’t think so. So much so, that they have demanded a nation-wide recount!
The other elections, to the Senate, went well from the PSOE point of view. The socialists comfortably took the Upper House for the first time in twenty years.
The general elections are through. We won’t know for a while how the new government will be formed, and certainly not who will be the ministers; but, with the local, European and regional elections all still ahead, we do know one thing.
It’s not over yet.