A digest of this week’s Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners: 

Prepared by Lenox Napier.  Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

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April 26 2020            Nº 343

Editorial: 

El Mundo reported on Sunday that the lockdown will be extended for another two weeks, taking us up to April 11th. For those who live in a small apartment, maybe with kids, a dog and a mother-in-law, that must be quite a burden. We need to find distractions, and with all of us on the Internet, watching Netflix, MovistarPlus, Pornhub (currently free to Spaniards) and other memory-hungry sites, it’s a wonder that the whole thing hasn’t broken down – so our hats off to Telefonica

Here at BoT Towers, located as we are in the quinto pino, we don’t have fibre-optic cable and it’s a wonder the Internet works at all. So when not helping with the horses (we have a riding school that of course is currently closed to the public) and getting extremely wet, I’m either reading or fooling around online.

Luckily, we can cyber-visit museums, take online courses and travel the whole world (if the family router will stand for it) from our armchair. A few easy to load sites I particularly like are Amor Vincit Omnia (poetry and art) here; Good Shit (great features and some cheesecake) here; the crazy Rapture Ready News (seriously, it’s quite a thing!) here; Menéame (so, that’s where he gets his stories) here, Rotten Tomatoes for movie criticism herePost Secret (where people anonymously post their deepest secrets) here, Wolf Street (gloomy yet entertaining financial news) here; Wikipedia (both Spanish and English versions) here and here; Maldita (because you shouldn’t believe everything you read) here;  and, regardless of whatever your hobby is, there’s a Reddit page for you to check out here

Colin Davies updates daily on life in Spain at his blog Thoughts from Galicia here and, while on the subject, I might as well give a plug to my own blog Spanish Shilling

The news-sites I like (ElDiario.es, El País, El Mundo, Público, The Huff Post, The Guardian etc) appear often enough in my weekly bulletin for you to know them without my putting links here. 

Did I miss some?

Lenox Dixit

……

Tourism:

El Mundo reports gloomily ‘A blow to tourism of 63,000 million euros’. It says ‘To the closure of shops and bars and restaurants due to the coronavirus crisis will be added the hotels. This has been ordered by the Ministry of Health declaring the compulsory closure of hotels, tourist establishments, camping sites, caravan parks and short-stay accommodation by Thursday, March 26th…’. 

‘…“A tsunami has arrived,” Ramón Estalella of the Confederation of Spanish Hotels said on 12 March. “A meteorite has fallen on us and we have to see how we survive.” The next few weeks and months will determine how deep the virus’s impact will be in a country that depends on tourism for 11% of its GDP, and which was shaken by the collapse of Thomas Cook last year…’. Excerpt from The Guardian here

‘Campsites that host long-stay tourists may remain open, although they will not be able to admit new clients until the suspension of the opening of tourist accommodation to the public decreed by the Ministry of Health on March 19 to stop the expansion of the coronavirus. However, business and professional associations in the sector do not share the decision made by the Government and warn that all campsites should be evacuated to avoid an outbreak of coronavirus that would also target a group of risk: elderly tourists…’. An item from Hosteltur here

From The Independent here: ‘As the travel industry implodes because of the coronavirus crisis, rules on refunds for cancelled holidays are to be suspended. At present package holidaymakers whose trips are cancelled are entitled to all their money back within two weeks of the trip being called off. But the Package Travel Regulations 2018 were never designed for a total shutdown of international tourism.  An estimated two million overseas package holidays were due to depart in the first 30 days of the government’s warning against non-essential travel, running from 17 March to 16 April 2020. They have all been cancelled – representing around £1,000m that the law insists should be paid back to consumers…’. 

From The Guardian here: ‘What happens if our tour operator goes bust?’

From Brits in Spain: ‘We know many of you who have not yet been able to return to the UK are worried about the imminent closure of the majority of hotels and short-stay accommodation. The Spanish authorities have published a list of places that will remain open during the state of emergency here

……

Finance:

From El Huff Post here ‘Everything you need to know if you are a victim of an ERTE (sent home on unpaid leave). Have I been fired? Do I have to sign up for unemployment and other issues are explored. Sur in English also looks at the unpaid leave subject here ‘Firms queue up to submit ERTE layoff requests as government announces financial aid’. 

From 20 Minutos here, quoting José Luis Escrivá, the Health Minister recently ‘»All the self-employed people (autónomos) forced to close due to the State of Alarm or with a fall in income of 75%, are already entitled to the benefit that we approved at the last Council of Ministers, regardless of their condition. The self-employed in this situation will be exempt from paying Social Security contributions. In addition, they will receive a benefit equivalent to 70% of the regulatory base, which means a minimum of 661 euros for those who have had to close their business or have lost 75% of their turnover,»…’.  Self-employed issues are also discussed at La Información here

From a Business Insider (castellano) item from last December we read, ‘Eleven mind-blowing facts that show how rich Amancio Ortega really is’. Here. An example: ‘…His annual income is better than 200 times the annual budget for the Spanish Royal Family…’. 

……

Politics:

The CIS pollsters gave the PSOE a boost in their latest poll, conducted just before the crisis hit. El Huff Post has the figures here

Madrid: there’s now a larger population and yet with 2,100 less hospital beds than there were in 2009. The Partido Popular, says Pablo Casado, is a responsible party… A short video on the cutbacks in the Capital’s health services here. Successive PP governments in the Madrid Region have closed one out of every five beds says Público here

‘Not a day of truce. Although after the first decree of a State of Alarm, Vox promised «loyalty» to the Government, the good intentions remained only as empty words. Since the beginning of the health crisis, the far-right party led by Santiago Abascal has not stopped launching all kinds of attacks – some very harsh – against the Government and the technicians working against the clock to stop the pandemic, who they have called «irresponsible», » incapable» and «petty», even «criminals» or «psychopaths «. Vox has also called for the dismissal of several ministers. Not a single member of the Government has escaped criticism in his fight against what Javier Ortega Smith says is that «damn Chinese virus.» The heaviest artillery has been reserved for the president himself, Pedro Sánchez, who has been accused of hiding data on the severity of the crisis, of withholding medical supplies preventing them from reaching the autonomous communities, and of being unable to control the epidemic that is spreading…’. From ElDiario.es here

Vox wants to remove free health rights from ‘irregular immigrants’ during the corona crisis. That way, it seems to me, the illegals will stay in the street, sometimes infected, and liable to infect others (including Vox supporters).

……

Essay:

These days we are creating a multitude of controversies, one of them is that of millionaire donations: whether so and so has donated money, whether some other wealthy person in the public eye has not.

And in this way we are creating a false debate because the problem is not money, the problem is that there is no material and therefore even if we had all the money in the world we could not buy it; the planet does not have the capacity to produce the material it needs for an emergency of this depth.

What we could do is ask ourselves why this has happened. We have been taking our manufacturing abroad for decades, believing that the only damage we did was the jobs that were lost at home, and today we see that the chickens have come home to roost since we urgently need materials that we cannot produce.

Right now in Spain, a mattress company is working on manufacturing medical gowns; a clothing company is making face masks. These companies have to transform in three days from one activity to another and no matter how hard they run their workers, it will take some time before they can reach the necessary levels of production.

Now that we are looking for culprits for our current status of fear, we must ask ourselves whether blame must lie with the businessmen who have taken the productive force out of Spain to take it to other countries. Of course, in our system it is legitimate, legal and hitherto applauded that businessmen should look for ways to optimize their profits because we have always understood the concept of «profit» as being an economic rather than a social goal.

From the consumer’s point of view, we all find it very well to buy products at a low price, even though we know that these prices in many cases entail the enslavement of other people in distant countries.

Capitalism has always spoken to us about market efficiency, that is; that each country must specialize in those products in which it is competitive. We apparently were not competitive in the manufacture of these surgical materials and now we are in the hands of others selling them to us in the quantity they want and at the price they want, and even then, we do not have enough.

Before looking for culprits and applauding millionaire (and media-savvy) philanthropists, perhaps we should ask ourselves if the system works as well as we thought; because if it doesn’t, something will have to be done when this damn virus gives us a truce.

Eduardo Sánchez Cervantes

……

The Coronavirus:

From El Diario de Mallorca here, ‘The Spanish public health system is at breaking point after years of cuts. The coronavirus pandemic highlights insufficient resources and generalised understaffing’

An opinion piece from The Nation here is titled ‘We’re struggling with the coronavirus in Spain—but we’re vastly more prepared than the US. I am locked down in Barcelona, but at least there is universal health care and a tradition of mutual support’.

The Ministry of Health is spending 432 million euros in products from China, principally face-masks (550 million), plus 5.5 million test kits and 950 mechanical ventilators. 

From El Confidencial here: ‘Toledo keeps the “largest hospital in Europe” closed in the midst of a health crisis. According to the regional government, the inauguration is scheduled for June and at the moment it does not see a need to bring forward the deadlines to open a centre that will offer 853 beds’. The Periódico CLM says that the regional government is nevertheless prepared to offer the hospital to the army if necessary. 

The Madrid public hospitals are overflowing, says El Salto Diario here, while two-thirds of private beds are unoccupied. Across Spain in general, only 2,700 coronavirus patients are receiving treatment in private hospitals (Tuesday).

Cuba is sending 52 doctors to help in Spain says ElComún.es here

Living with animals during the crisis. 

Last Wednesday midday, we had 13,716 registered cases and 533 deaths. A week later the numbers stand (stood) at 47,610 cases reported by 1.00pm (Wednesday) and 3,434 deaths. 

There is a lot of fake news regarding coronavirus, including this picture of the Italian coffins found at Maldita. Why post this stuff? Who knows. From Grunge, ‘Coronavirus myths you need to stop believing’ here

Politicals (and a few others) showing positive for coronavirus: Xavier García Albiol (Catalonia PP), Michel Barnier, Esperanza Aguirre and her husband; Plácido Domingo, Angela Merkel (quarantine), Javier Solana, Vice-president Carmen Calvo (confirmed), Greta Thunberg (maybe), Baltasar Garzón, Prince Charles.  

……

Media: 

As there’s not much point in advertising in the paper if you are closed, or your customers are in lockdown, the media has found its income slipping. The newspapers and private radio and TV stations are looking for Government aid. From El País here: ‘…»If no aid is forthcoming, it will be a tragedy for democracy,» says Fernando Yarza, president of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. This crisis, he explains, “has arrived at the worst possible time, in the middle of launching the subscription models. A lot of effort has been invested, but the health crisis has slowed down the process. The sector has already undergone very painful adjustments, and we have arrived at this point weakened and without help.»…’. Advertising income has fallen, says the spokesperson for the Asociación de Medios de Información, by 75% in the last month.

ElDiario.es, which is a cyber-paper unburdened by the staggering costs associated with printers and distributors, plus the costs of paper and ink, is no less worried. ‘This Government, like so many ones before it, has little concern that citizens should have a reliable and independent media’ it says. On Wednesday the editor of ElDiario.es, cap in hand, sent Lenox an email saying ‘The coronavirus crisis has placed all newspapers in a critical situation, including ElDiario.es. Our advertising revenue has plummeted, due to the economic slowdown that all of society is suffering. There are hardly any announcements, despite the fact that interest in information has grown a lot and so has the audience for ElDiario.es. Our most realistic calculations forecast a hole of about 500,000 euros in our accounts this year, and that if the bump lasts a short time and then the economy rebounds. The most pessimistic calculations double this amount…’. 

The current flush of posts – full of odio – on social media and other efforts from the far-right are designed, it says here, not to make the Government fall, not yet, because whoever is in charge during these parlous times will become unpopular enough in due course anyway, but (following the alt-right tactics elsewhere) are designed rather to prepare the popular psyche for the coming of the far-right (PP and Vox in this article at CTXT) with their stalwart defence of Capital.

……

Ecology: 

From Energías Renovables we read: ‘Germany produces more solar energy than Spain, Portugal, Italy and France combined’. The article has graphics showing the differences. 

The Mar Menor in Murcia is choking, says La Verdad here: ‘The aquifer injects 1,575 tons of nitrates into the Mar Menor each year and only 8.5 hm3 of fresh water’. 

Aww, say it ain’t so. A headline from National Geographic here. ‘Fake animal news abounds on social media as coronavirus upends life. Bogus stories of wild animals flourishing in quarantined cities gives false hope—and viral fame’.

……

Various:

From El País in English here: ‘The close friend of Spain’s emeritus king transferred $39 million from “a donation” to a US bank. A request for judicial cooperation sent by Swiss prosecutors to a Spanish judge reveals multiple payments to Corinna Larsen, who used part of the money to purchase real estate’. Vanitatis looks at the time when ‘Corinna was like one of the family’ here.  ‘The Royal Palace in flames’, says El Español here, quoting sources from within the palace itself. 

ElDiario.es looks at how the Spanish media solemnly ‘looked the other way’ for many years. ‘…For decades, the king of Spain had been out of control. He was inviolable in the Constitution. The courts could not judge him, nor could he be held accountable to Congress. Following the 23F (the failed coup d’état of Tejero), out of fear of a military-led reversal, the Spanish media reached an unwritten pact: to protect the king is to protect democracy, or at least that’s how they wanted to present it…’. The article follows up with some historic quotes from the media which defends its silence… 

… …

Spanish universities offer 42 free courses online here. For those with time lying heavy on their hands… 

‘The price of weed in Spain has skyrocketed due to the coronavirus lockdown. According to last year’s national plan on drugs report, one in ten Spaniards smokes marijuana. These people will have to pay more to get their supply of hash however, as with the lockdown that has been in place nationwide since last week, freedom of movement has been severely restricted. Dealers can therefore no longer easily sell their product on the streets, with police stopping people and fining them if they don’t have a valid reason for being out of their homes…’. Item from The Olive Press here

‘Duelling in the Golden Age of Spanish Literature’ is brought by The Making of Madrid here. The article is interesting and even finds an old-fashioned ‘sword and dagger fighting’ school in Madrid you can join. 

From Eye on Spain comes ‘Curl up and indulge: Top reads by Spanish authors translated into English’ here

……

See Spain:

‘Is this really Spain?’ some amazing and unreal landscapes from Eye on Spain shown here.

Here’s a virtual tour of the Visigoth Collection of the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida. It’s practically a video-game…

Google Arts and Culture here has five hundred museums for your virtual tour, including many in Spain. 

……

Letters:

Thank you Lenox for your unstinting work.

It is «The end of the world as we know it», but let’s hope a new world will dawn.

Look after yourselves and each other, I say.

Encerrados en Las Moletas. Jackie & Charlie

Good morning Lenox,

First of all, thank you for your fresh news every week particularly at this time. Life can overcome fiction and the covid-19 has been completely unexpected and shows once more our human vulnerability. Take care of yourself and as you know ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ so we will overcome this moment for sure and be stronger as a country and ourselves.

My case is delicate with a nurse and two doctor daughters working in hospitals such as Bellvitge and Val d’ Hebrón in Barcelona. They are a bit tired but happy with helping people.

All the best 

Felipe

……

Finally:

A Flash Mob – Started by one little girl – Ode to Joy on YouTube. Thanks to Dwight

Enviado por José Antonio Sierra