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 2 2020            Nº 344

Editorial: 

It seems there can never be a single view on anything in this life – and even the coronavirus has its two sides. There are those who support the government’s handling and those who criticise it (that’s to say, almost anyone from the opposition). All good fun, but do we really need a fifth column at this moment to weaken our democracy? There’ll be time enough, once this is over, to hold the government to account. Remember, too, that no one has ever faced this kind of emergency in living memory and we must learn as we go. Would the opposition do a better job? Maybe, maybe not. Let us hope that we never need to find the answer to that particular question.

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Housing:

From Revista El Observador we read, ‘The City Council of Nerja and SALSA Inmobiliaria have signed an urban agreement to destroy the environmental area of Maro by removing its landscape protection. The local ecologists “will fight against this bestial outrage”. The speculative project to be imposed in the area includes «an 18-hole golf course and an urbanization with 680 luxury homes and several exclusive hotels, all on an area of 200 hectares reserved for agricultural use and of great cultural and landscape value». The ‘quiet, picturesque little village’ of Maro (where the Nerja caves are located) is here

‘Dirt-cheap homes for sale as a Spanish region struggling with depopulation tries to attract newcomers’. Spanish Property Insight reports that the ‘…Municipality of Igüeña, in the county of El Bierzo, part of the autonomous region of Castilla y León, has been offering homes at almost giveaway prices to attract new residents and second-home owners, and not without some success…’. 

From Architectural Digest comes ‘An ultra-modern underground corridor was built into a charming Spanish home. Barcelona-based architect Jordi Hildalgo Tané renovated a 100-year-old stone home, while designing a sleek addition that would provide space for dining, cooking, and social gatherings’.

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Tourism:

From Wolf Street here: ‘The $1.5 Trillion Global Tourism Industry Faces $450 Billion Collapse in Revenues, Based on Optimistic Assumptions’. Two quotes: ‘…The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in its updated assessment of the potential impact of COVID-19 — based on the optimistic assumption that the tourism industry will experience a swift recovery over the next 3-4 months — projects that for the whole year 2020, tourist arrivals will have fallen 20-30% from 2019, and international tourism revenues will have plunged by $300 billion to 450 billion, almost one third of the $1.5 trillion generated in 2019…’. and ‘…The ten countries with the most reported cases of COVID-19 as of three days ago (China, the United States, Italy, Spain, Germany, Iran, the Republic of Korea, France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom ) account for 34% of world tourist arrivals and 53% of world tourism expenditure. Between them, China and the U.S. alone contribute 29% of total expenditure. Some of these countries’ economies are massively dependent on the income and jobs provided by the tourism industry…’. 

‘The hotel sector, one of the big losers in the coronavirus crisis, finds itself «forgotten» and has been demanding more financial aid from the government for weeks. The general secretary of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations (CEHAT), Ramón Estalella, describes the measures adopted so far as «disastrous» and says that the government of Pedro Sánchez «is a disgrace». The hotels have been forced to close by order of the Executive until the end of the State of Alarm. According to the latest data published by the National Statistics Institute, at the end of 2019 there were 14,818 establishments open in Spain, including hotels and hostels; with a total of 725,662 rooms…’. Item from VozPópuli here

‘The UK pledges €85 million to repatriate stranded Brits, with over 150,000 returning from Spain since the coronavirus lockdown’ says The Olive Press here

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Seniors:

‘Parking for the Elderly S.A.. Multinationals and vulture funds control 75% of the beds in centres for the elderly. In Spain the business is worth at least 4,500 million euros annually. The coronavirus massacre, which has already caused at least 1,500 deaths, has been brewing for years’. A major report on the big business of the residencias at CTXT here. A quote: ‘50% of the total number of deceased from coronavirus registered in Madrid –2,090 by March 26– came from residences’.  From El Español here: ‘One in every four people killed by COVID-19 in Spain was living in a nursing home’. 

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Finance:

‘The EU announces a fund of 100,000 million euros to curb the layoffs for the coronavirus with its sights set principally on Spain and Italy’ says ElDiario.es here (with video). 

The Government will help with the rent with micro-credits says La Voz de Almería here. Furthermore, all evictions have been paralysed (and for six months after the crisis is over). Anyone caught in an ERTE (unpaid leave) must be rehired once the State of Alert is over. The various measures are summed up at El País in English here

‘Spain prepares fresh economic relief for the self-employed. With the economy in slow motion, small businesses may soon benefit from extended deadlines on social security payment obligations’. Item from El País in English here.  ‘What Spain is doing to help tenants and the self-employed during coronavirus crisis’ from The Local here

‘The Community of Madrid will pay the March and April fees for all the self-employed in the region. The cost of the measure, which will affect some 400,000 people, will be around 240 million euros’. Item from VozPópuli here

‘Spain’s cabinet has approved measures to prevent employers from taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to lay off workers, labour minister Yolanda Diaz said on Friday’. An item from Reuters here

Each month of quarantine will translate into a fall of two points in the GDP, says the OCDE.

The Guardian here: ‘Europe’s airlines expected to lose $76bn (around 70,000 million euros) in passenger revenues in 2020. Iata warns it expects passenger flights demand to fall by 38% as result of coronavirus outbreak’.

The Government is to check on the prior movements of those infected with coronavirus through their mobile phones.

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Politics:

Público says that ‘The PP is in competition with Vox to see who can wear down the Government the most in the midst of the health emergency. The positions of both parties contrast head-on with that of Inés Arrimadas (Ciudadanos). The Cs leader has distanced herself from the PP and Vox attacks and has supported the Government from the first moment, without entering into criticism or attacks’.

Vox calls for the resignation of President Sánchez in lieu of a ‘Government of National Unity’ and that ‘essential services’ should be put under the control of the army. El Plural has the story here. In an earlier ABC interview (Monday), Abascal limited himself to calling for the removal of the vice-presidents Carmen Calvo and Pablo Igesias, along with the Health Minister, Salvador Illa. The headline tells Spaniards to be calm, “After this is over, we will demand criminal responsibilities” says the party leader.

‘Morocco signs into law the extension of its maritime space towards Spanish waters’, says 20 Minutos here. These clash with Spanish claims over Canary Island waters. 

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The Coronavirus:

‘The Moncloa (official residence and workplace of the Prime Minister of Spain) assumes that it will have to extend the state of alarm as far as April 26. The next two weeks are «critical» to avoid the collapse of the ICUs and «buying time» is key. The Government believes that tension must be maintained so as not to throw away the effort made so far’. The headline comes from La Razón here. However, as Dr Anthony Fauci (the Washington Government infectious disease expert) says, ‘We don’t make the timeline, the virus does’ (video here).

From European Union External Action (official blog) comes an essay on ‘The Coronavirus pandemic and the new world it is creating’. 

From the MIT Technology Review comes ‘We’re not going back to normal. Social distancing is here to stay for much more than a few weeks. It will upend our way of life, in some ways forever’.

‘Spain not only suffers from a shortage of mechanical respirators, essential to save the most seriously ill from coronavirus, hospitals are also running out of stocks of the drugs used to intubate these patients … The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) has already called for the use of these compounds to be rationed as manufacturers redouble their efforts to try to guarantee supplies…’. From El Confidencial here.

Last Wednesday midday, the numbers stood at 47,610 cases reported in Spain and 3,434 deaths. This Wednesday at 12.00h, we have a total of 102,136 cases declared, with 9,053 dead and a further 22,647 recovered. 

The Financial Times recognizes Spain as the second most effective country in the application of rapid tests. Only Switzerland surpasses our country in the acquisition and application of these tests to detect COVID-19’ A report at Diario 16 here

The anti-drug prosecutor Cristina Toro has died of the coronavirus, says Europa Press here

The head of the GAR (Spain’s version of the SWAT) has died of the coronavirus. He was 48.

Lenox’s take on quarantine at Spanish Shilling (and those were last Saturday’s figures!). 

The inhuman situation of the African day labourers in Spain is aggravated by the Covid-19 crisis’ says France 24 here. Cuarto Poder runs a similar story here.  

Holland accuses Spain and Italy of treating people who are ‘too old’ for Intensive Care!!… Terrible declarations from Netherland’s politicians… I understood euthanasia was at a terminal patient’s request… I Bet a few ‘old’ folk are happy they live here and not in Holland!!! (Thanks Barny). Mind you, the autonomous regions won’t coordinate or collaborate with each other either says El País here. ‘Without solidarity between members, the eurozone won’t survive coronavirus. The Dutch-led opposition to a ‘coronabond’ to raise funds for nations hardest-hit by the pandemic is self-defeating’ says The Guardian here. The Dutch Minister of Finance says he put things a little strongly and apologises (sort of).

‘…In Spain, José María Aznar, the former prime minister, packed his bags for his holiday villa in Marbella, a celebrity resort on the Mediterranean, leaving Madrid on the very day that the capital shut all schools and universities. The move fueled anger across social media as well as calls to monitor Mr. Aznar and lock him inside his villa…’. The New York Times hereEl Huff Post picks up on the story here.

‘The Czech Republic on Sunday dispatched 20,000 disposable protective suits to Spain and Italy, the European countries hit hardest by the coronavirus. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Social Democrats) told reporters that the protective suits come from police deposits in Opočínek near Pardubice. Each country will receive 10,000 of them…’. Item from Radio Prague International here. A useful video in English from the Czechs here

From an indignant Periódico CLM comes ‘The PP is spreading images of patients lying on the floor in Madrid as if they were taken in Castilla-La Mancha  The controversial photographs used on social networks by the conservatives to criticize the government of Emiliano García-Page in the coronavirus health crisis were actually taken in the Madrid Infanta Leonor hospital’.

The government should resign. A short video

The popular song Resistiré by Duo Dinamico (here) has been remade by a collection of stars connected by video-link from their homes as the anti-coronavirus anthem here for 2020 (profits to Caritas). 

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Courts:

A lawyer in the news for his court-case against the Government is known for being convicted and fined for defrauding clients, says La Ser here. ‘Víctor Valladares, a lawyer who has denounced the Government for the management of the coronavirus, has been convicted and sanctioned before now. The lawyer denies the facts and alleges that he has won «all the trials» that he has faced’. Diario16 would probably describe Valladares as ‘colourful’, if the expression existed in Spanish here

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Media: 

The World Association of Newspapers and Publishers calls for funding to ensure quality information. «We are obliged to work more than ever while we have fewer means than ever,» says the president of the entity, Fernando de Yarza’. Headline from El País here. ElDiario.es explains here ‘…If the advertising crisis is serious for the once powerful television networks, then for the radio and the press it is devastating. Right now, all of the media trembles at the panorama that is presented. Unfortunately, user direct payment systems for newspapers are not yet widespread in Spain. There are hardly any groups that have a significant network of patrons that can sustain their business. The leading traditional newspapers have another threat since the ever-decreasing number of copies that were sold in the kiosks have stopped doing so due to current printing and distribution problems…’. 

The government, any government, keeps the media it likes sweet with ‘institutional advertising’ (here). A full-page every day in some cases. Pick up a newspaper and find one: ‘This year, Visit our Beaches’ or ‘Eat our Oranges’ or ‘Drugs are Bad for You’ or, with the coronavirus ‘Stay Home’. These adverts can add up to a tidy sum if you behave. Of course, as Lenox found out years ago with his newspaper The Entertainer – who cares what the foreigners think?

The Xornal de Vigo shares with us some troll Twitter profiles. These creatures post fake news to try and destabilise the government and cause ‘social alarm’. 

Alerta Digital (along with OKDiario, La Gaceta and others, a popular far-right news site with its own agenda) is debunked here over its false claims regarding the pony-tailed minister Pablo Iglesias who, it claims, wants to confiscate our savings for his own nefarious ends. 

Pedro J Ramírez, director of (the conservative) El Español says ‘»Only a Government of National Unity can successfully face this crisis» «Sánchez cannot continue to run forwards alone, following the guidelines of the most radical sectors of his government,» he said’.

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Ecology: 

‘The pandemic causes the largest drop in pollution observed in Europe.  The collapse of nitrogen dioxide due to confinement measures in Spain, France and Italy is evident from space’ El País has a nice graphic to accompany the story hereIt’s an ill wind… 

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Various:

From El Mundo opinion (paywall) here ‘A heavily financed operation against Juan Carlos I seeks to destroy the Monarchy’. 

‘Santiago Abascal: «Luckily, there are people who shine in the worst moments, like the King». The Vox president describes as «unacceptable» the attacks on the Monarchy and the Armed Forces «by the accomplices of Pedro Sánchez»’. ABC provides him with a platform here

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‘The Estepona hospital, another unused white elephant against the coronavirus. The City Council spent 18 million on its construction. The Ministry had to equip it. The works finished in December 2018 and there is still no opening date’ says El Confidencial here

Galicians have another cross to bear – the AP-9 toll route. The concessionary is asking the Government for massive compensation ‘as traffic is way down due to the State of Alert’. 

A map of the 371 cafés that remain open on Spain’s road network for drivers. Here

There is a video doing the rounds of a truck-driver who claims that a warehouse-full of sanitary equipment is being emptied and taken to France ‘because Spain doesn’t want it’. It is, of course, another bulo put out by an agency that wants to create insolidarity and confusion. Russian bots, the Vox people, trolls… who knows? The cargo in question, it turns out, is paper.  Another bulo, this time on WhatsApp, was saying that all the supermarkets were closing from yesterday (Wednesday). Oh, and the weeping Spanish doctor? That’s a fake ‘He is not a doctor: Beware of the video in which a man claims with no evidence that respirators are taken off elderly COVID-19 patients in Spain’ here

‘The specialized police unit cracking down on hit-men on the Costa del Sol. Sixteen people have been arrested thanks to a group that focuses exclusively on score settling’. A report here from El País in English

So, briefly, a gypsy hoodlum hits a policeman with his car and disappears into a tower block controlled by a rival gypsy family. The police give chase, and discover a marihuana plantation. Now the Granada gypsies are at war with each other… Granada Hoy recounts the tale with relish: ‘Game of Thrones, with Weed’. 

‘The gender-violence emergency phone 016 reports an increase of 18% in calls for male violence during the State of Alarm. From March 14 to 29, the victims’ helpline received 3,382 requests, 18% more than in the same period of the previous month’ El País here

Free opera with My Opera Player. Register here (in English here).  Other opera services are available, says 65yMas here

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See Spain:

Mallorca’s mysterious river is at Eye on Spain here

One thing Asturians are proud of is their region’s nature: its mysterious forests and coastline left unscathed by the whirlwind of property developments, its salmon rivers and steep mountains, ideal for rock climbers and hikers. Arising from this pride is a magnificent conservation that has led to more than a third of Asturias’ territory being declared as national and international protected areas and the best-preserved coastline in Spain…’. Eye on Spain reports on ‘Asturias, one big nature reserve’ here

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Letters:

Of the favourites within the English-language media in Spain, The Olive Press (print edition) is the best. It obviously loves this country and its articles reflect this enthusiasm. The other main freebie seems to be more for those who don’t; with endless articles culled from the UK press, together with pages of UK television and commissioned articles about the decline (or otherwise) of the UK. If The Olive Press is for expats, the other one seems to be for exiles. 

Scott. 

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Finally:

.

The acclaimed Italian novelist Francesca Melandri, who has been under lockdown in Rome for almost three weeks due to the Covid-19 outbreak, has written a letter to fellow Europeans “from your future”, laying out the range of emotions people are likely to go through over the coming weeks. 

________________________________

I am writing to you from Italy, which means I am writing from your future. We are now where you will be in a few days. The epidemic’s charts show us all entwined in a parallel dance.

We are but a few steps ahead of you in the path of time, just like Wuhan was a few weeks ahead of us. We watch you as you behave just as we did. You hold the same arguments we did until a short time ago, between those who still say “it’s only a flu, why all the fuss?” and those who have already understood.

As we watch you from here, from your future, we know that many of you, as you were told to lock yourselves up into your homes, quoted Orwell, some even Hobbes. But soon you’ll be too busy for that.

First of all, you’ll eat. Not just because it will be one of the few last things that you can still do.

You’ll find dozens of social networking groups with tutorials on how to spend your free time in fruitful ways. You will join them all, then ignore them completely after a few days.

You’ll pull apocalyptic literature out of your bookshelves, but will soon find you don’t really feel like reading any of it.

You’ll eat again. You will not sleep well. You will ask yourselves what is happening to democracy.

You’ll have an unstoppable online social life – on Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom…

You will miss your adult children like you never have before; the realisation that you have no idea when you will ever see them again will hit you like a punch in the chest.

Old resentments and falling-outs will seem irrelevant. You will call people you had sworn never to talk to ever again, so as to ask them: “How are you doing?” Many women will be beaten in their homes.

You will wonder what is happening to all those who can’t stay home because they don’t have one. You will feel vulnerable when going out shopping in the deserted streets, especially if you are a woman. You will ask yourselves if this is how societies collapse. Does it really happen so fast? You’ll block out these thoughts and when you get back home you’ll eat again.

You will put on weight. You’ll look for online fitness training.

You’ll laugh. You’ll laugh a lot. You’ll flaunt a gallows humour you never had before. Even people who’ve always taken everything dead seriously will contemplate the absurdity of life, of the universe and of it all.

You will make appointments in the supermarket queues with your friends and lovers, so as to briefly see them in person, all the while abiding by the social distancing rules.

You will count all the things you do not need.

The true nature of the people around you will be revealed with total clarity. You will have confirmations and surprises.

Literati who had been omnipresent in the news will disappear, their opinions suddenly irrelevant; some will take refuge in rationalisations which will be so totally lacking in empathy that people will stop listening to them. People whom you had overlooked, instead, will turn out to be reassuring, generous, reliable, pragmatic and clairvoyant.

Those who invite you to see all this mess as an opportunity for planetary renewal will help you to put things in a larger perspective. You will also find them terribly annoying: nice, the planet is breathing better because of the halved CO2 emissions, but how will you pay your bills next month?

You will not understand if witnessing the birth of a new world is more a grandiose or a miserable affair.

You will play music from your windows and lawns. When you saw us singing opera from our balconies, you thought “ah, those Italians”. But we know you will sing uplifting songs to each other too. And when you blast I Will Survive from your windows, we’ll watch you and nod just like the people of Wuhan, who sung from their windows in February, nodded while watching us.

Many of you will fall asleep vowing that the very first thing you’ll do as soon as lockdown is over is file for divorce.

Many children will be conceived.

Your children will be schooled online. They’ll be horrible nuisances; they’ll give you joy.

Elderly people will disobey you like rowdy teenagers: you’ll have to fight with them in order to forbid them from going out, to get infected and die.

You will try not to think about the lonely deaths inside the ICU.

You’ll want to cover with rose petals all medical workers’ steps.

You will be told that society is united in a communal effort, that you are all in the same boat. It will be true. This experience will change for good how you perceive yourself as an individual part of a larger whole.

Class, however, will make all the difference. Being locked up in a house with a pretty garden or in an overcrowded housing project will not be the same. Nor is being able to keep on working from home or seeing your job disappear. That boat in which you’ll be sailing in order to defeat the epidemic will not look the same to everyone nor is it actually the same for everyone: it never was.

At some point, you will realise it’s tough. You will be afraid. You will share your fear with your dear ones, or you will keep it to yourselves so as not to burden them with it too.

You will eat again.

We’re in Italy, and this is what we know about your future. But it’s just small-scale fortune-telling. We are very low-key seers.

If we turn our gaze to the more distant future, the future which is unknown both to you and to us too, we can only tell you this: when all of this is over, the world won’t be the same. (Thanks to Dwight for this)

Enviado por José Antonio Sierra