The story of whether Cristina Cifuentes had somehow claimed a fake master’s degree from the Juan Carlos University leads the news this week. Cifuentes is the President of the Community of Madrid since 24 June 2015, following on from the disgraced Ignacio González. She is a ‘clean brush’ after the González wave of corruption.
"The era of the corrupt has come to an end in the Madrid Community," said Cifuentes in her day (here).
Ms Cifuentes gave a presentation in the Asamblea de Madrid, the regional parliament, this Wednesday afternoon (April 4), saying that the title was genuine. She furthermore claimed that the scandal was fabricated to try and destabilise the Government – a classic piece of ‘fake news’, nothing more. Even El País was unconvinced.
‘The document that Cristina Cifuentes used to try to prove that she completed her master's degree at the Rey Juan Carlos University in 2012 was fabricated on March 21st; just hours after the scandal broke. At least two of the three women professors' signatures that appear in the supposed act of presentation of the master's dissertation of the president of Madrid were falsified, as confirmed to El Confidencial by sources at the university's Institute of Public Law, the body on which the degree depends...’. (Here).
Stories about the suspect diploma are in various other news-sites, for example here, here, here, here and here... The PSOE has since announced that it will call for a vote of confidence in the Madrid regional government (here), which Ciudadanos says it won’t support until a full enquiry is carried out (here).
We are left with this question – ‘Why in Spain would most politicians rather die than resign?’ (here). The answer might be that, this is all they know. In other countries, disgraced politicians blithely return to their previous occupations... here, they often have no previous occupation...
‘Spain’s second biggest bank, BBVA, just announced that it is resurrecting the 100% mortgage, a high-risk loan instrument that notoriously helped fuel Spain’s madcap property boom. For the first time in almost a decade, property buyers will be able to receive credit equivalent to the total value of the property they wish to purchase. As before, no down payment will be needed. But this time, interest rates will be even lower. Despite boasting the largest stock of empty housing in Europe — 1.36 million units at last count, almost a quarter of them belonging to banks and investment funds — Spain’s economy is being primed for another property boom. Real estate developers and builders want it and banks need it, not only to fatten their NIRP-eroded margins but also to dispose of some of the real estate assets still lingering on their books from the last crisis...’. From Wolf Street here.
Could the Property Boom return? La Información looks at the situation: ‘The real estate market is once again in full expansion. The figures speak for themselves and show that the worst of the crisis is over. In 2017 alone, the number of new building permits authorised for residential use in Spain stood at 80,786 units, an increase of 26.1% compared to 2016. In addition, purchase prices grew by an average of 6.2%, the highest average annual rate since 2007, and income rose by an average of 8.9% last year, according to INE data. However, this growth, now almost a novelty for Spain, has also served to recover fears of the past: Could this increase in prices, both for new construction and rentals, lead Spain to revive the `boom' and provoke a new real estate crisis?...’. The title of the article provides an answer: ‘The consensus of promoters: no property-bubble and rentals are rising simply because they were too low’.
‘Are you an expat and considering moving back to the UK after living abroad? For many expats, the appeal of living abroad in a warmer climate can wane as you get older and begin thinking about the future. Suddenly the cobbled streets and mountain villas aren’t quite as charming as you grow older and, if your family still lives in the UK, it could be time to ask yourself if this is where you want to live in your retirement. If you are thinking about your health, happiness and future more and more, is it time to come home?...’. A commercial feature from Homewise here.
‘A university in Saudi Arabia and a hotel group are both showing interest in acquiring one of Mallorca’s most unusual buildings. Both are currently in talks to buy the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca, on the market for €1.7m...’. An item from The Olive Press.
International visitors to Spain were up almost 4% in the first two months of 2018, at 8.3 million, says Agent Travel here.
‘The Spanish government presented its 2018 budget to parliament, starting a countdown for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to win support for his spending plan as fallout from Catalonia’s independence crisis threatens his ability to govern. “The budget favours economic growth and job creation,” Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said at a news conference Tuesday. “The government seeks the support of other groups.”...’. The story begins with Bloomberg here, adding ‘...While the liberals of Ciudadanos have said they will vote in favour, Rajoy’s strategy also needs five votes from the Basque nationalists to pass the bill. In a gesture to the Basques, the budget includes proposals to more than double transfers to the region to 337 million euros...’. (The PNV won’t vote for the budget, see ‘Politics’ below).
From La Información: ‘The apparently more social ‘General State Budget’, with wage increases for civil servants and tax cuts for lower incomes - including pensioners - also has some small print. As every year, the Minister of Finance Cristóbal Montoro has not missed his appointment with the review of the land registry. To the point that, according to the public accounts for the coming year submitted on Tuesday to the Congress of Deputies, the Government intends to update the catastral value of around six million properties...’.
‘By the end of next year, Spain could recover the 20.5 million members of its labour market it had before the economic and employment crises, according to the forecasts of the employers' association of employment agencies Asempleo...’. El Independiente reports.
‘94% of the principal multinationals companies are fiddling their taxes in Spain. The vast majority of companies with subsidiaries in Spain are opaque in their tax information and, in general, do not comply with the transparency criteria’. El Confidencial says that Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, Decathlon, Volkswagen, Ford and Nissan are among the worst offenders, while the most correct with their taxes here are Leroy Merlin, Airbus and Heineken.
Ciudadanos is described variously as a ‘centrist’ or ‘liberal’ formation (although the Left see them as a hard-right group). From El Español comes the latest poll: ‘The shift to the centre is accentuated: Cs take 20 seats from the PP and 30 from the PSOE. The three-way draw in January has broken: Ciudadanos have risen 3.5 points, the PP fallen 2.2 and the PSOE have lost 3.1 in just the last three months’. Cs=27.4%. PP=21.9%. PSOE=19.4% and UP=16.2%. A second article from El Español says that Rivera has three times more public support as president than either Rajoy or Sánchez.
From Público comes another poll: ‘The PP loses 600,000 pensioner votes and no longer has an absolute majority among pensioners. In just a year and a half of Rajoy's second term, the Partido Popular has fallen seven points among voters over the age of 65, according to estimates for `Público' by the opinion pollster Jaime Miquel y Asociados, losing for the first time its overwhelming superiority in the segment of elderly voters. The major beneficiary of this accelerated collapse of the PP is Ciudadanos, who in this period have won more than 700,000 potential votes...’.
Following from an editorial in The Times of London last week titled ‘Spain Again’ (here: firewall!), El Confidencial, under the heading ‘The editorial is "deeply offensive"’ runs ‘The Spanish ambassador to the United Kingdom reminds 'The Times' that in Spain there is a 'separation of powers', adding ‘Ambassador Carlos Bastarreche denies that the Spanish government is behind the arrest warrants of the independence politicians, as suggested in an editorial in the British newspaper 'The Times'’.
The PNV, the conservative independence party for the Basque Country, has five seats in the Madrid Cortes. The party is holding out from its key position to support or return the 2018 budget. It wants the Government to drop the Article 155 in place in Catalonia before it considers offering its vital votes to pass the Presupuestos Generales del Estado. The PNV, says El Español, have reserved their main criticism for the (highly constitutionalist) Ciudadanos and their leader Albert Rivera.
Who are los Novios de la Muerte? The Spanish Legión, the Companions of Death, were in evidence during the Easter processions in Málaga, says La Vanguardia (video and article here) while singing their doleful song. Slightly more alarming, perhaps, was the picture of several Government ministers who were present as well: the Minister for Justice, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Justice. All standing in a row and gamely singing along. La Vanguardia also features some photos of the event.
From El País in English: ‘the Basque terrorist organization ETA is seeking international backing as it finalizes preparations to declare its definitive end around the end of May or the beginning of June, according to sources from the radical left in the northern Spanish region.’.
‘A fraudster is conning expats using a fake Airbnb website renting out non-existent properties on the Costa del Sol. An Olive Press probe discovered one property on popular advertisement website, Milanuncios, which was purporting to be a luxury apartment in the centre of Estepona...’. The story here.
‘The former president of the public company DEFEX, José Ignacio Encinas Charro, and the director and retired colonel, Ángel María Larumbe, each obtained more than 10 million euros in irregular commissions between 2002 and 2012...’, according to the SER, as quoted by Público here. ‘Both (allegedly) took bribes over the sale of arms and different security equipment in more than 70 contracts under suspicion signed with countries such as Angola, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Cameroon or Egypt, among others, which ended up in opaque accounts in the name of companies in tax havens...’.
Público looks at how the Partido Popular mortgaged the future of the Valencian Region for many years to come. They provide a helpful list of the larger scams...
Gérard Onesta (a previous Vice-President of the European Parliament) in an interview on Catalonia independence: "Europe's position on Catalonia would only change if there were deaths". From France’s L’Independent here.
‘...Europe’s leaders show little sign of budging from their position that Catalonia’s independence drive must remain strictly a matter for Madrid...’. From The Guardian here.
The El País (here in English) editorial view: ‘The Catalan independence push: a catalogue of violence. While the images from protests may look festive, the secessionist campaign has been anything but peaceful’. The article recalls that ‘...Public authorities (both local and regional), as well as universities, unions, professional colleges and even organizations such as the Barça soccer team, rallied for the right for a referendum on Catalan independence and even directly supported the secessionist cause – completely disregarding the principal of institutional neutrality and the multiple identities of their social, cultural and sporting bodies, which are a reflection of Catalan society...’.
What do young Spaniards from outside Catalonia think of the situation, wonders Vice? Some interesting answers...
‘...Ms Rudd also said the government would not be intervening on behalf of the 1.2 million UK nationals in EU countries who have warned they are “in the dark” over their future rights. She said it would be “up to individual countries” to decide their freedom of movement rights. The chief concern is whether the right to live and work in another EU country will end...’. Snippet from The Independent.
Full article from Cadena Ser ‘Preocupación de los británicos residentes en España a un año del Brexit’
‘The British concern for their future once the Brexit becomes official increases. Camilla Hillier-Fry is the president of the Eurocitizens association made up of British people living in Spain and she denounces the situation of many British people here; pointing out that they will not be able to work in other European countries and, if nothing is done about it, they will also lose their right to vote.
The United Kingdom's own ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, expressed concern a few days ago that many British residents of Spain might not be able to participate in next year's municipal elections.
In the last two years, the number of candidates who have taken the Instituto Cervantes exam required to obtain Spanish nationality has increased six-fold.
More than 300,000 British people currently live in Spain, the vast majority of whom live in the Levante, and, pending a possible agreement between Spain and the United Kingdom, or until they obtain nationality, will not be able to elect their local representatives on 19 May next year as they will not have the right to vote’.
At around 400,000 copies, the four main dailies – El País, El Mundo, ABC and La Razón now print, between them, less copies than El País alone was printing just ten years ago. More on this at VozPópuli here.
Of course, it’s often hard to know who is the third largest political group in the Cortes when the national TV posts a graphic of the first, second and, er, fourth largest groups (poor Podemos, if it’s not about Venezuela, it’s left entirely out of the conversation).
ABC has been fined 1000€ (!) for its front-page cover and interview with Inés Arramidas on the ‘reflection day’ before the elections in Catalonia last December. More at Info Libre.
The Costa de Almería News and Costa del Sol News, satellites of the venerable Costa Blanca News, run their final editions this week.
‘China received 207,835 tons of waste from Spain in 2016 and was until this year the main destination for Spanish plastic waste, scrap and cuttings, as it received 65% of the waste exported by our country. For this reason, the fact that - since 1 January - the Chinese Government has prohibited the purchase of foreign waste is a major problem, since Spain does not have the capacity to recycle all the waste it produces, an issue on which Equo, part of Unidos Podemos, has asked the Government for explanations...’. More at El Boletín.
Like the people at Business over Tapas, Colin Davies is another in a line of bloggers and commentators who loves Spain but who marvels at the occasional worm in the apple. A recent post of his examines the book by another friend of Spain, the Dutch businessman Vincent Werner and his ‘It's Not What it is; The Real (s)Pain of Europe’ (Amazon here). Colin notes in the Amazon comments ‘...several of the negative reactions – ‘...What about Holland and Germany?; You don't speak fluent Spanish; Were you dumped by a Spanish woman?; What about the things you liked during your nearly 20 years here? You are a racist – are classic off-beam stuff. They fail to realise that, like nearly all foreigners here, Werner loves Spain and the Spanish people but is concerned about the country's severe faults and very worried that they represent a serious risk to the entire EU project. Of which he is clearly a fan’.
It’s hard being a hairdresser. Since Hacienda raised the IVA in 2012 to 21% at the peluquería, over 46,500 hair-dressers have closed. La Información lets its hair down here.
Wedding planners are often part of the package when you tie the knot. Here is ‘How to organize an Ibizan wedding and not die’ with The Iberian Post.
One of Spain’s least attractive towns is the frontier town with Gibraltar: La Línea de la Concepción. Here is The Guardian on the drug-trafficking issue there. ‘...The source of its infamy lies the other side of Calle Canarias, along the 12km stretch of beach from where, on a clear day, you can make out the Moroccan coast. Last year, police seized 145,372kg of hashish in the region and 11,785kg of cocaine. Smuggling is hardly a recent phenomenon in this part of the world. But a surge in violence against police officers trying to combat the lucrative drug trade has established La Línea as the frontline of Spain’s battle against the traffickers...’.
‘Every single town and village in Spain will have access to broadband by the year 2021 and a budget of half a billion euros has been set aside for the purpose, national president Mariano Rajoy has announced. Within three years, every home and business in the country will be able to get online with a minimum speed of 300MB per second...’. More on this at Think Spain here. (Yes, even BoT head-office will one day have decent Internet).
The eternal struggle between the Right and the Left: Hospitals. Some public ones are being made private, and as here in Valencia, a private one is made public (again).
The intrigues of the Spanish national anthem are explained by Jaime Altozano in a fascinating video presentation on YouTube here. The tune is public, but for almost a century, the arrangement was copyright. Indeed, the Government eventually bought the rights for around a million euros in 1997.
‘The Government is preparing to legalize 19,000 homeopathic products’, says Xataca here. It may be seen as liberalization, but in reality, it’s the first step in controlling these items, says the article.
There is the video attracting attention this week of the man on a horse taking issue with Puigdemont. He is not kindly disposed towards the Catalonian politician (to put it mildly). The content and reactions are presented at El Huff Post here.
New rules regarding the treatment of pets are now in force. Fines for mistreating or abandoning one’s mascota can be as high as 30,000€. Each year, around 140,000 dogs are abandoned in Spain. Ideal has the story here.
‘The Iberian lynx is a picky eater. Despite its agility and speed, it almost only chases rabbits. This narrow choice of prey helps explain why this feline came close to extinction less than two decades ago, after disease wiped out large numbers of rabbits from the Iberian Peninsula. But a vast breeding and relocation program has now turned the lynx into a flagship example of Europe’s efforts to maintain its biodiversity...’. From The NY Times.
Diario Motor considers the rapid fall in sales of diesel cars here.
‘During the final moments of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, the reader is invited to pull up a chair beside ‘ole Hem at the Sobrino de Botín in Madrid, an eatery that’s not only famous for its suckling pig and free-flowing rioja alta, but because after 300 years it holds the Guinness World Book of Records’ title as the world’s oldest restaurant…’. It’s a terrific place to go for a good time. Here is the article ‘Hanging with Hemingway at the World’s Oldest Restaurant’ at Messy Nessy Chic.
From The Guardian: ‘A wander near Ronda: Spain’s empty quarter. Andalucía’s first parque natural is pretty unknown, yet Sierra de Grazalema is a stunning wild place of peaks, gorges, hilltop villages and vultures’.
In you last edition it looks like you are blaming Rajoy for the imprisonment of Pudgemont and his companions.
This must be wrong – it is the court system that has ruled that they should be detained.
Also you say that there should be mediation.
In my mind – a government does not mediate the Constitution.
Have a nice Easter.
Kind regards, Harald
You appear to have a very one sided view on the problems in Cataluyna. We live there and have seen it at first hand. Perhaps you should apply some of your fake news statement to that region as well.
Perhaps also you should listen to what the Vice president of the European Commission has said this week.
I should also remind you that the October referendum was illegal and whether or not you agree with that particular constitutional law I hope you are not suggesting that breaking the law or disrespecting the courts is acceptable.
The majority of citizens in Cataluyna do not want to break away for Spain, by about 175.000 votes.
I have little respect for Rajoy and the corruption is appalling but I do feel a bit more looking at both sides of the question is in order.
Sally and Nigel
*Thank you all for above comments. Catalonia is, inevitably, subjective. My own feeling is that Spain (Madrid) lost Catalonia both by its endless opprobrium (los polacos, silly language, boycotts and so on) but also by its short-sighted politics. Barcelona was always a more European city than Madrid, and is a rival in influence and economy. A wiser policy would have been to seek a partnership rather than subjugation. I think it’s too late now, and the heavy-handed approach from Madrid is winning few hearts and minds in Catalonia. I’ll try to be more balanced, but can’t resist this from Tim Parfett, who also lives in the region: ‘...Spain is a country full of rich material for foreign writers. But not only has Rajoy spectacularly failed to defuse the Catalan issue (in fact he’s done more for independence than anyone else on the planet), but his actions have also unearthed Spain’s underlying fascism and Francoism for us all to see. It was obviously always there … but it is now clearly visible. As Ian Gibson, the renowned Hispanist and biographer, said on Deutsche Welle radio: ‘The Spanish right-wing says that it isn’t Francoist but it has Francoism in its genes, in its DNA. It’s outrageous.’ This Francoism is ugly, Spain. It’s very ugly, and you need to do something about it. But that does not mean telling us not to write about it...’....’
Les Lutiers are a comedy musical group from Argentina. Here on YouTube they have some fun with gender and the song Ya no te amo, Raúl.