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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May 21 2020            Nº 351

Opinion: 

Right now, I’m enjoying a local page set up on Facebook which shows old photographs of people and relics from the village in Spain I’ve called ‘home’ for half a century. These pictures often connect, or make me smile, or help me remember those who have died and sometimes disappeared from my thoughts. 

Mostly these days Facebook is about politics from posters who are increasingly hostile to other opinions. The days of goofy kittens and dogs that catch a Frisbee seem to have moved on to attacks against political groups (in preference to celebrations of one’s own favoured party or leader), obscure petitions (‘only another 641 signatures needed’) and improbable cures for everything from warts to, uh, the coronavirus. 

Whatsapp meanwhile appears to have been appropriated by those who spend all day sending out bulos, the fake news that is designed to make us indignant. 

In Spain, it’s usually about Podemos, of course. 

Small and obscure positions are often featured on social media (I’m too old to even quite know what Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and so on are) and, with enough punch, they can soon grow to become trending, that’s to say, to attract more attention than they are worth. Take the chauffeur-driven chap in his open car, Spanish flag and loudhailer who briefly toured a couple of streets in the smartest area of Madrid, the Barrio Salamanca, calling for the government to fall. A silly story that started out on YouTube and Facebook which soon went viral – precisely because all who saw it, clicked a ‘like’ or an ‘angry’ and then shared it with their followers.

Another one (maybe a mistake, maybe a fake) comes from El País in English and its inept translation of Pablo Casado as Pablo Married. C’mon, how can you not pass a thing like that around?

In certain instances, the social media has probably brought about fundamental shifts. Donald Trump (the Twitter-king) would never have become the Republican candidate without the barrage of comments and posts from the millions of Keyboard Warriors of America, making an obscure candidate mainstream (‘About one-in-five adult Twitter users in the U.S. follow Trump’ says The Pew Research Centre here). 

As eldiario.es says here, the anti-vaccinators are another example: an obscure, silly and improbable idea that is suddenly pushed to the front by endless visibility posted by those who, typically, have no training in science whatsoever. Down with Bill Gates (who, apparently, wants to vaccinate us and turn us into slaves for some unknown reason)! 

A study in Nature says ‘Groups opposing vaccines are small in size, but their online-communications strategy is worryingly effective and far-reaching…’. 

We’ve seen posts and videos that claim that the coronavirus is an artifice of the, uh, New Order, who are going to turn us all into something terrible (terrible, I tells ya). There’s not much on Google, besides a pop group of the same name, but then there’s Trump’s nemesis, the Deep State, so maybe they mean that. 

Here’s the Kremlin’s sinister hand (apparently):  ‘Secret Labs and George Soros: COVID-19 Disinformation in the EU Eastern Partnership Countries’.

Another time, we can look at UFOs, fairies and the Matrix. 

Maybe I’ll post something on Facebook about them later. 

It could go viral. 

……

Housing:

According to Mark at Spanish Property Insight, ‘Thousands of second-homes in Spain would be hit by a new tax on “large fortunes” proposed by the coalition government’s far-left Podemos party’. The story here.

‘It’s a utopian fantasy- discover a ghost town and rebuild it in line with your ideals-, but in Spain where there are nearly 3000 abandoned villages (most dating back to the Middle Ages), some big dreamers have spent the past three decades doing just that. There are now a few dozen «ecoaldeas» – ecovillages – in Spain, most build from the ashes of former medieval towns. One of the first towns to be rediscovered was a tiny hamlet called Lakabe in the mountains of northern Navarra…’. a YouTube video from 2011. Spanish with English subtitles.  More on the ecoaldea of Lakabe is at their website here

Three years on the market for 3.3 million euros, and still no buyer for the castle at the Cabo de Gata (Almería). Traveler (esp) has the story and pictures here.

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Tourism:

‘The Government extends until June 15 the restriction of non-essential travel to EU countries’. La Vanguardia here. In the end, thirteen airports may accept foreign flights, says the ABC here. ‘Spain’s reeling tourism industry objects to travel restrictions’ found at El País in English here

‘Only a slim chance that tourists can visit Spain this year, suggests the country’s foreign minister. An exclusive interview: Arancha Gonzalez Laya speaks to The Independent about opening up Spain’s borders, the impact on tourism and the need for an EU emergency fund’.

The Mesa del Turismo (around fifty leading businesspeople from the sector) has called for an «immediate» rectification or the resignation of the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón – who had described the sector as «seasonal, precarious and with low added value» – and has asked Pedro Sánchez to «put order» in his cabinet. The president of this association, Juan Molas, laments in a note that «a Spanish minister speaks with such contempt about a sector that leads the world ranking of tourist competitiveness according to the World Economic Forum.» Furthermore, he urges President Sánchez to «bring order» to the coalition government «which has repeatedly attacked tourism in one way or another, without understanding its importance for the country’s economy.»…’. ABC has the story here

 ‘Air travel is ‘virus-safe’: Spanish carriers explain how. Spain’s airlines association says travelling by plane is ‘the safest form of public transport, even in times of Covid-19’, due to its atmospheric filtering system…’. Item from Eye on Spain here. From Bloomberg here: ‘The future of air travel ‘will be as enjoyable as open-heart surgery’. As airlines take off again, flying is likely to be more tedious than ever’. Opinion from The Huff Post (UK) here: ‘When lockdown lifts, don’t expect Brits to be booking holidays. Once travel restrictions are gone, holiday firms will have to climb many hurdles to get back into our good graces’.

Ryanair says passenger numbers set to halve’ says the BBC here.

‘The Spanish government is hoping that domestic tourism will restart the sector by the end of June’, says El País in English here

Spain has a system of star-ratings for hotels which reflect their services. A new top-tier rating is to be introduced in Andalucía: the Gran Lujo

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Finance:

‘…The Euro Area’s fourth biggest economy, Spain, also broke records with its latest GDP reading. Clocking in at -5.2%, it was the worst performance since the country began tracking economic growth in the 1970s and is considered to be the largest quarterly drop in economic activity since the Spanish Civil War, in the late 1930s. According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), retail trade slumped by 15% in March while Spain’s second largest bank, BBVA, estimates that consumption has fallen by half since the government declared a state of alarm on March 14…’. Excerpt from The Wolf Report here

The hospitality sector will lose at least 900,000 jobs due to the pandemic, says El País here

‘The sector will be short somewhere between 54,500 million euros and 67,000 million in the year, according to a study by the consulting firm Foqus and the University of Valencia’.

‘The Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, has announced that the Government will approve the Minimum Vital Income in «the last Council of Ministers of the month». The minister responsible for the design of this state minimum income for families with very few resources has explained that the benefit will be received on a monthly basis and that the Government is studying the possibility of speeding up the income for some «100,000 households». The minimum vital income will be 462 euros (to a maximum of 1,015€ per household), will not require that the recipient is registered in search of employment and it will not exclude those who own their (single) home’. eldiario.es has more here

‘Nissan is to close its plant in Barcelona. A move expected by the industry that is part of a major reorganization, which will seek to be more efficient with aspects such as sharing more components in its electric vehicles. At the moment this closure will mean in the short term that the production of the e-NV200 electric van will move to France, which will mean one less electric model to be accounted for within production in Spain. 3,000 jobs will be lost…’. From Foro Coches Eléctricos here

……

Politics:

An article called ‘España no funciona’ at Infolibre here looks at why Spain has always been so divided (a massive weakness evident today during the current crisis).  It says in part ‘…The forty years of democracy after the Franco dictatorship have failed to dismantle the power of the negative Spain – that of the young gentlemen, the cardboard-generals and the retrograde cardinals. Rouco Varela (the fundamentalist Spanish bishop) has more media presence than that of Father Ángel (wiki) and thousands of other exemplary priests and nuns. We have failed to cultivate the value of honesty. Journalists, too…’. An example is the ‘Revolution of the Rich’ or ‘Los Cayetanos’ in the smartest barrio of Madrid. We read at eldiario.es ‘What’s happening with the revolution of the rich has nothing to do with the ravages of the pandemic, or the devastation of the economy, or the temporary lack of freedom; what is happening is a manifestation, however freaky, of the struggle of the gentlemen to hold on to power’. A more cynic version comes from Meneame here: ‘What has already been coined as the «Núñez de Balboa Movement» consists of a group of people who live in the most expensive neighbourhood in this country and who have never come out to demonstrate until they have had their vacations in Bali or Formentera cancelled and their right to a great job without having to study for it removed. Dozens of Cayetanos are demonstrating without keeping the required social distance, endangering their lives and that of their families, and inevitably that of the health workers who will soon have to care for them…’. As economist Marta Flich says in a video at El Huff Post here, ‘the virus has no ideological preference’. Then there’s the sad video-clip here of a woman rooting through a dustbin as the flag-wearing militants pass by ignoring her. These right-wing protestors have been given a ‘secret manual of disobedience’ from goodness-knows-where which tells them to film with their telephones anyone who looks like ‘a Government secret policeman within their ranks’ and advises them to not carry their DNI (ID cards). The story ‘Spain’s 1% revolt against continued coronavirus lockdown’ has been made available to American readers at The Huff Post (US) here

Triste noticia. Julio Anguita died last Saturday May 16th after a week in coma. He was 78. Anguita was the mayor of Córdoba for many years. The fact that the city has an ‘old quarter’, unblemished with modern buildings, is down to him. He was also the General Secretary of the Izquierda Unida, and was long celebrated in Spain as an honest politician (even by the right wing!). His son was a journalist and was killed in the Iraq invasion of 2004. When he quit politics, he took no Golden Handshake and returned to his job as a school teacher. El Español eulogises him here. Some of his famous remarks are collected here and here

The Government had hoped to sign a further (and final) month of the State of Alarm, but lacked sufficient support in the Cortes for this. After meeting all the parties, they have now agreed to a further fifteen days, with the support of Ciudadanos, taking us up to June 7th.  Following Ciudadanos’ (cautious) support, their deputy (and wealthiest politician in the cortes) Marcos de Quinto resigned from the party, while Juan Carlos Girauta, who had resigned earlier this month, succinctly described Arrimadas as ‘a lavatory brush at the orders of the autocracy’. No lingering respect for his old boss there! 

‘The Government extends residence and work permits of foreigners whose paperwork falls due during the State of Alarm for an extra six months. The impossibility of presenting requests for renewal of these authorizations in person has generated a great legal insecurity for immigrants says La Vanguardia here

The PSOE rises slightly in the latest opinion poll from the CIS. The graphic is here

The PP is fishing in Vox waters, says El País, looking to regain support from the far-right. 

Regional elections for Galicia and the Basque Country have now been re-scheduled for July 12th says El País here

The spokesperson for Los Anticapitalistas, a group which has abandoned its support for Podemos, says in an interview with eldiario.es here, that “The Podemos of the Government with the PSOE is not like it used to be, it has evolved towards more moderate positions”.

From Europa Press we read: ‘Felipe González praises the mayor of Madrid and highlights the «inexperience» of the Sánchez government’. The reaction from left-leaning readers can be imagined. 

An indignant Ian Gibson has this to say in an interview at El Plural: «Organizing caceroladas (saucepan protests) is used by wicked, deranged and fanatic people. The only interest of the PP at the moment is to defeat Sánchez and the government of the coalition».

From La Marea comes an article about the current protests against the Government in the Barrio Salamanca, the wealthiest barrio of Madrid. It’s called ‘Freedom to beat pots, freedom to play golf’ and it’s been written by some of the maids and doormen who work there. 

……

Catalonia:

According to the GESOP poll, ‘ERC would win the elections easily and could choose between either the JxCat or the left. The Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya would take off with up to 41 deputies and the PSC would be the second force in votes says El Periódico

……

Gibraltar:

Item from the Gibraltar Chronicle here: ‘The UK Government has confirmed the appointment of Vice Admiral Sir David Steel KBE, DL as Governor of Gibraltar. Sir David succeeds Lieutenant General Edward Davis CB CBE, who left Gibraltar last February…’. 

……

Europe:

An opinion piece from Edinburgh News here: ‘Brexit’s back, and the threat it poses is greater than ever. With Boris Johnson refusing to consider an extension to negotiations despite the pandemic a hard Brexit is looking increasingly likely’. 

All British and Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland will be treated as EU citizens for immigration purposes, the government has announced after a landmark court case involving a Derry woman over the residency rights of her US-born husband. The move is a major victory for Emma de Souza ending a three-year battle to be recognised by the Home Office as Irish, a right enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). “It is incredibly satisfying to be considered as EU citizens and will be a great help to all the other families in my situation.” She said. The Guardian reports here

‘The European Commission has launched legal action against Britain for a “failure to comply” with EU rules on the free movement of people. The UK has four months to respond to the claim from the top Brussels body, which cites a string of “shortcomings” in the way Britain has handled the issue of citizens’ rights during the post-Brexit transition period. The move is the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter post-Brexit war of words between the two sides as they try to thrash out a future trade deal…’. From Politics Home here

‘Brexit: UK urges EU to uphold rights of British expats’ (with a delightful photograph of us at play). An article from the BBC here. The article notes that ‘The Withdrawal Agreement protects the rights of the roughly three million EU nationals currently resident in the UK and the approximately 1.2 million UK citizens living on the continent who want to stay where they are’.

……

The Coronavirus:

Madrid, Barcelona and a few bits of Castilla y Leon remain in Phase Zero. The rest of Spain (bar a few small islands in the Canaries) is now in Phase One until Monday, May 25th. Madrid, as we have seen, is not taking this well. You can check your municipality here for what is currently permitted. 

The Government has ruled that those over six years old must wear a face-mask when in an enclosed space (work, shops, transport and so on) and recommends them for outside, although not obligatory ‘unless one cannot guarantee the minimum distance of two metres’. Stick to terraces then… The minister recommends keeping a spare mask in your purse. 

The CIS has determined that 95% of Spaniards think that the measures adopted by the Government to fight the coronavirus were necessary.  

‘The consumers’ organisation OCU did not detect any traces of coronavirus in the food and drug products’ packaging in eight supermarket chains acquired during the last week of April (Alcampo, Carrefour, Condis, Dia, Eroski, Mercadona and Supercor) in Madrid, Barcelona, Vitoria and La Coruña…’ says Europa Press here.  

Will shopping ever be the same? Via The New York Times here

At least six countries –  China, Germany, Iran, South Korea, the Lebanon and Saudi Arabia – have had to re-impose isolation measures on the population due to increased outbreaks of the coronavirus after easing their confinements. Business Insider (esp) reports here

‘Dying to go out to eat? Here’s how viruses like Covid-19 spread in a restaurant. As US states begin loosening restrictions, a recent viral video from Japan gives an idea of how easily coronavirus might spread’. The Guardian makes a point with a video. 

Discarded masks and gloves show up in the gutters, in the fields, in the sea and even blocking the drains, as is the case in Castellón here

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Media: 

A Facebook essay from Mark Manson which complements this week’s BoT editorial: ‘…sent me a video of a solitary doctor, somewhere in the world, talking into a cheap camera and saying something contradictory and/or controversial about Covid-19 or the lockdown or the government. Despite the thousands of experts working around the clock, 24/7 to understand the crisis, this one anonymous fucking doctor — who usually isn’t even an epidemiologist! — who happened to be handed a microphone and caught on camera, is now getting passed around as some sort of luminary in virology, economics, political science and history…’ (I couldn’t find the original).

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Ecology: 

CO2 emissions in Spain decrease by 32% in April, higher than the average worldwide drop of 26% says The Olive Press here

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Various:

According to Diario Gol here, the ex-king of Spain Juan Carlos is fed up with the state of his life and is planning to go and live in foreign parts, to wit, the Dominican Republic. 

Why do Spaniards hate the rich, asks El Español plaintively, offering readers the philanthropic Juan Roig and Amancio Ortega as shining examples

«I am 22 years old, I am a woman and I have abandoned Islam». Nao has set up the first Association of Ex-Muslims in Spain. In this interview, she talks about her association, her ideas of the world and her own experience as an apostate from Islam. The interview with Nao is at El Confidencial here

El Salto Diario interviews Serigne Mamadou: «We work twelve hours for 25 euros» he days. ‘Serigne Mamadou works as a seasonal worker and has laboured many years in the fields of various Spanish provinces. He is one of the spokespersons for the #RegularizaciónYa campaign’.

From El Plural here: ‘Ultra-Catholic foundations propose to withdraw the right to vote for the unemployed. PP stalwarts Jaime Mayor Oreja and María San Gil are both present at the fundamentalist talk’.

‘Anger in Madrid but calm in Barcelona at extended lockdown. Contrast is stark between reactions in Spain’s two biggest cities to being excluded from relaxation of coronavirus measures’. The Guardian reports here

Twitter and the man in the Mercedes with his chauffer and loudhailer.

Back in 1967, Juan Ferret Carbonell built the Fervelectric, a car powered by electrical energy. For this, the Catalan engineer whimsically used the body of a 1902 Rambler…’. The car is street-legal, says Foro Coches Eléctricos here. In 1980, Juan added solar panels to the roof of his vehicle. The car is now exhibited in a museum in El Vendrell (Tarragona).

Hard to believe, but ‘Spain is the fourth country in the EU with fewer officials per inhabitant’ says Te Interesa here

Ten of the best novels set in Spain by Spanish authors with The Guardian here.

‘What was the Spanish Inquisition and when was it held? BBC History Revealed explores the brutal period of religious persecution, torture and burnings at the stake (but perhaps not as many as you might think) that raged for more than 350 years…’. History Extra here

How could a stockpile of looted Nazi gold larger than some country’s bullion reserves disappear without trace? Jon Clarke from The Olive Press investigates… 

We’ve heard this a few times recently… ‘The Civil War: Franco’s bombings avoided the Barrio Salamanca’. A recent study highlights where all of the shells and bombs fell in the capital during the war. 

Emma Goldman the anarchist writer (wiki) visited Madrid several times, including during the latter stages of the Spanish Civil War. Agente Provocador tells the story here: ‘…The city lived under the siege of the fascist bombings and the government had fled, taking refuge in Valencia. Madrid, in an exploit that went around the world, was resisting against Franco and his Moorish, Italian and German troops with militias and battalions formed by the working people. After the visit, she would affirm: «I am so devoted to the events in Madrid that I cannot fix my spirit on anything else. My dear Madrid is the miracle of the centuries ». The site, basing its story on the book Emma Goldman Fraternalmente, Emma. Cartas de amor y de guerra (Editorial La Felguera, 2019), takes the reader on an interesting tour of Madrid. 

From El Español here: ‘The silent ‘toricide‘ that is taking place in Spain: more than 6,000 fighting bulls slaughtered so far’. From El Mundo here: ‘before I slaughter my bulls, I’m going to release them on the Castellana (Madrid’s main avenue)’.

In other times, Equatorial Guinea was Spanish Guinea (1778 to 1968 wiki). Here is a post on the history and animals of that little-known country. 

……

See Spain:

‘Nestled into the eastern flanks of the Parque Natural de las Sierras Subbéticas, is a town considered to be one of the most majestically beautiful in Andalucía. Secluded streets, crammed with noble houses, monuments and sculptures form a typically Moorish irregular urban layout beneath a 13th century fortress. Water is abundant and baroque architecture predominates in Priego de Córdoba. So much so that the town is known as the ‘Baroque Jewel’ of Andalucía…’. Travel article at Visit Andalucía here

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Letters:

On the passing of Julio Anguita.

I don’t share his ideology, but Julio Anguita has undoubtedly been a fundamental politician in the Spanish transition. An honest man faithful and consistent with his ideas. He was re-elected I think up to three times Mayor of Córdoba. They voted for him both from the left and as voters who would vote for other parties in the general elections. He did an excellent job in the city, modernizing it and making it more welcoming in all aspects. Rest in peace.

Francisco

Dear Lenox,

Many thanks for the latest BoT!

I was intrigued by the word «bulo» meaning an item of fake news. Here in Italy it is called «una bufala» which means a buffalo. I’m told the origin lies in the fact that years ago in the Campania region which includes Naples and Salerno, cows’ butter was rare, so merchants would try to pass off buffalo butter as cows’ butter. In fact another derivative of buffalo milk, the famous «mozzarella», is highly prized. An odd one…

Best wishes, Norman

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Finally:

Medieval Spanish: how it looked and how it sounded, on YouTube with tío Kev here.

Enviado por José Antonio Sierra