Democracy is a strange animal. People, sometimes hopelessly ill-informed, are asked to vote every now and again (but not too often). They could easily vote on every initiative with the power of the Internet, but that would clearly not work. For one thing, Capital Punishment would be back on the books in record time! So, the powers that be, in their wisdom, are careful to limit the slightly unpredictable act of voting, and putting at risk the jobs, livelihood and power of a deserving set of public servants (or ‘fatheads’, you choose). To do this, there is manipulation, fake news, ‘Russian’ bots, lies, distractions, calls to patriotism, racism and, in many cases, the withdrawal of the public’s most basic right – to participate.
From El Confidencial comes an essay on some of the tricks:
‘...in the 2004 presidential elections in Ukraine, a large number of voters went to the polls in the hope of overthrowing President Viktor Yanukovych. Upon arrival at the polling stations, opposition supporters were given ballots and pens to mark the appropriate box. They then went home with the peace of mind that they had done their democratic duty. But four minutes later, the ballots were blank. The pens they had been given had ink that disappeared, so their votes were null and void.
The Ukraine anecdote is not an isolated case. In the 1998 St. Petersburg mayoral elections, the government sought to neutralize an opposition figure whose popularity was worrying. His name was Oleg Sergeyev. To confuse the electorate, they found both a pensioner and a tram driver who were also called Oleg Sergeyev. There were no photographs on the ballots, so citizens did not know who the "real" one was. With so much of the vote split, all three Olegs ended up losing...’.
The Brexit case is also a tonic. First, we know that the Brexiteers spent vastly over budget, we also know of hugely wealthy people spending millions in support of the proposal, we are familiar with Cambridge Analytica and its tactics and we also aware of the political lies and manipulations (the NHS bus for example) made during the campaign. Furthermore, we know that a large number of Britons, those who would most be affected by a successful Brexit, were either not allowed (‘the fifteen year rule’) or not able, due to various considerations, to vote at all.
In the USA, ex-felons are generally not allowed to vote, neither those currently in jail. An article in The New York Times quotes an estimate that ‘...6.1 million Americans had been barred from voting because of felony disenfranchisement laws...’ adding that ‘...experts say that disparities in sentencing can make felony voting laws inherently discriminatory against minorities and people with low incomes...’. In the UK, prisoners can’t vote (The Guardian here), in the rest of the EU and certainly Spain, they generally can (El Mundo here).
In Catalonia, the *banned* ballot boxes and papers of last October’s independence referendum were smuggled in to the 2,315 polling stations by local people (El País here and BBC News here). That’s some dedication!
Things at a local level, where one might expect a level playing field, are just as bad.
In our local elections here in Spain (May 26th next year, put a note in your diary), besides Spaniards registered on the local padrón and over 18 years of age, most foreign nationals can vote and some can even appear on a political papeleta, a list. Other foreign nationals can’t (and this may well include the British as April 1st is – appropriately – the first day of a new reality following on from the Brexit). But even if you can vote in village life, the ‘Families’ will control how you and your cousins will cast your lot. The same candidates may buy votes (particularly from Eastern Europeans on the padrón) for a few hundred euros each and an overseen postal vote (Mojácar famously went from 1% in the national elections to over 18% in the 2011 local elections). Remember, in local elections, the voters generally know the candidates and rarely choose 'policy' or even party over friendship and accommodation.
Lastly, and returning to the USA, Truthout has a title to worry about: ‘You Know Election Systems are in trouble when it takes an 11-year-old ten minutes to Change the Results’. Mind you, she had a laptop (and a lollipop).
Today, there are more elections than ever before, but, paradoxically, the world is becoming increasingly undemocratic. After all, there’s not much point in calling an election unless you expect to win, and now there are all sorts of fresh ways to help you.
‘Home sales in the Balearics fell by an annualised 27% in May and 18% in June, whilst most other local market popular with foreign buyers continued to grow, according to recent figures from the National Institute of Statistics (INE). How to explain the Balearic decline in sales? Is it just a blip, or the start of a trend?’ Mark Stücklin asks some local realtors about the phenomenon here at Spanish Property Insight.
A lawyer explains the Golden visa system at Spanish Property Insight here.
From El País in English: ‘Tourism replaces construction as Spain’s main employment driver. More than two million people are employed by the sector but many are on temporary contracts’. The article begins: ‘Tourism has been one of the main engines behind Spain’s economic recovery and it is now the most important source of employment. According to a survey by the Spanish Institute of Tourism (Turespaña), 2.65 million people – 2.17 million waged workers and 483,861 private contractors – were employed in the sector in spring. This represents 13.7% of Spain’s working population (19.34 million people), meaning tourism has overtaken construction as the top employer sector in the country...’.
El País looks at the high levels of visitors: ‘Tourism saturation: a growing global problem. Tourism improves the economy at destinations, but overcrowding hurts host cities and their residents’. The article looks at ‘over-tourism’ across the world.
CTXT goes even further – ‘If you want to wreck a special corner of paradise, promote it’. All the nice spots are full thanks to advertising, greed and the usual hype in the social media. (The difference between an over-sold resort in Spain and the perfectly ordinary village next-door is a wonder to behold in prices, tourist numbers and the ubiquitous souvenir shops).
From El Blog Salmón comes an interesting point: ‘Fear of terrorism is fading and currencies such as the Turkish lira in Turkey and the Egyptian currency have depreciated by around 50 per cent, so their salaries in euros have been reduced to half what they used to be. This has led to a sharp drop in prices in both countries, where tourist arrivals are increasing by 40 percent in 2018. Many of these tourists used to come to Spain, mainly to the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, particularly to the 'low cost' segment, which is the home of the tour operators. So we must ask ourselves: the 'low cost' tourism model does not work, what alternatives are left for Spanish tourism to continue growing?...’.
We may have reached the limit, says El Mundo here: ‘The hoteliers warn of the drop in occupancy in August, the most touristy month of the year’.
More on the CNMC’s support for Airbnb: ‘...in Spain, Airbnb’s fourth largest market in terms of listings, the National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC) has announced that it intends to challenge any attempt by city councils to limit the activity of accommodation websites...’. What will the hotels think? From Wolf Street here.
The most sinister title this week comes from La Marea: ‘"The crisis was caused by speculation, costing a vast amount of money to the States, and absolutely nothing has been done to solve it". An interview with the economist and peace and social justice activist Arcadi Oliveres’. The economist blames the rampant real estate and stock market speculation as of 2008.
From The Corner here: ‘The Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility (AIReF) maintains buoyant expectations for the growth of the Spanish economy. According to AIReF´s monitoring model, the economy will maintain a quarterly rhythm of growth of +0.7% in both the third and fourth quarters of this year. With this, AIReF anticipates a slight acceleration of growth in the second half of the year, after a quarterly growth of +0.6% registered in the second quarter...’.
‘The Government will negotiate with Podemos tax increases for companies, banks and technology. The junior partner of the Executive proposes its conditions to support the path of deficit and the team of Pedro Sánchez answers that "there is margin"’. From El País here.
Who pays the most tax out of the IBEX-35? The supermarket people, Día, the smallest of them all. Not only that, they pay more in tax than Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon combined. VozPópuli reports here.
‘The Railway Infrastructure Administrator, Adif, has proposed to cut the huge and growing debt from Renfe, the result of the also unstoppable expansion of high speed rail throughout the country. The cost of each kilometre of AVE varies between 25 and 40 million euros, excluding the maintenance of the line. And the present plans do not seem to be to paralyse investment in infrastructure, despite the tremendous setback that the European Court of Auditors gave Spain in July because of the "poor cost-benefit" of the AVE...’. The proposed charge to use the rail system would increase from 321 to 617 million euros per annum. The story is at El Independiente here.
Banks – and even cash machines – are disappearing at an alarming rate, says Wolf Street here: ‘...Banks in Spain have closed around 40% of their branches over the past ten years, on the back of unprecedented industry consolidation and cost cutting. In Barcelona, there are now less than half the number of branches there were in 2008. But it’s in small towns and villages where the impact is being felt most keenly. According to new research, by 2016 as many as 4,114 municipalities — the equivalent of 50.7% of all urban settlements — had no bank branches at all...’.
From El País: ‘The legacy of the 'Rajoy era': Spain is 418,622 million more in debt in two mandates. When Aznar left La Moncloa, Spain owed the equivalent of 47% of GDP. With Rodríguez Zapatero it rose to 70% and with Rajoy it exceeded 98%’.
Podemos wants to end the ‘Sicavs’ in Spain, says El Mundo here. ‘The debate about the Sicav has been on the table for a long time. It is an instrument that allows the big fortunes to invest, but also to find a shortcut to avoid paying so much in taxes. There are currently 2,800 Sicavs left in Spain and they have assets of around 30,700 million euros between them...’. Wiki gives us this: ‘In Spain, a SICAV is a public limited company whose object is to invest in financial assets. SICAVs have great tax advantages, paying corporate income tax (corporation tax) at a rate of just 1%. Nonetheless, they have to fulfil several requirements:
Number of stockholders no fewer than 100.
Restrictions on investments.
Capital may vary between the minimum and maximum established by the articles of association.
Minimum capital of €2,400,000.
Oversight and supervision is carried out by the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores and the Dirección General del Tesoro y Política Financiera.
They are fine-tuning the law this week so as to make it impossible for appeal, and then the Government is removing the remains of Franco from the Valle de los Caidos. (It's a bit like reversing Brexit in that a lot of people are going to be pissed off). It’ll still take another few weeks before the historic event itself occurs. El País here. The PP and Ciudadanos, do not support the idea, says La Ser here. No word yet on where they intend to rebury him.
From BBC News: ‘The Catalan president has invited Nicola Sturgeon to visit Barcelona, it has emerged. The invitation was made by Quim Torra during a meeting with Ms Sturgeon in Edinburgh last month. The minutes of the meeting state that Ms Sturgeon indicated to Mr Torra that "she would be delighted to do so". But the Scottish government said on Tuesday that "no arrangements for a reciprocal meeting have been made at this time". A statement released by the government added that: "The first minister had a productive meeting with President Torra and we will look towards opportunities to work together in the future."...’.
The retired Comisario Villarejo (the man with the recordings of the ex-King’s lover Corinne), currently in clink, knew too much, apparently. ‘Prosecutors Warn Of the Risk Of Villarejo's Papers for the Security of the State. Anticorruption gives this warning in a written appeal against the judge's decision to lift the secrecy in the case’. El País has more here.
Speed traps from tráfico vehicles are itemised by province here at El Español. There are 676 of these scattered around the country. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Beer. Four families control 93% of Spanish production, says VozPópuli here.
The purchase of goods from unauthorised street vendors is now a ‘serious’ offence in Salou on the ‘Costa Daurada’: 300 euros fine for consumers says Antena3 here.
The Housing Sector: population and the demand for housing
We resume the series on the housing market and while we looked at population, along with other aspects of the demand for housing, we now take a look at migration.
During the boom, there was, of course, a large influx of immigration, which led to a greater demand for housing. After the boom, this immigration declined and, in addition, unemployment led to emigration, with many Spaniards leaving the country.
More recently, immigration has started to increase once again, and quite significantly in the last two years. Emigration, however, while steadily decreasing for three years, has now risen again in the last year.
This emigration leads to a dampening of the demand for housing fuelled by immigration, but nevertheless, the outcome is positive.
This increase in net migration has clearly contributed to the increase in demand for housing. However, as we have seen, population is only slowly incrementing and while new households set up has increased this past year, it is just rising after years of decline.
From In Facts: UK expats will be left the Brexit orphans of no-deal. ‘In the last quarter of a century millions of UK citizens have got used to living, working and retiring on the European continent as freely as if they were moving from Sheffield to Sherborne, from Glasgow to London, or Birmingham to Barnstaple. Now these rights are about to be removed, putting those UK citizens at the mercy of whatever local immigration, residence and work permit rules are in place in 27 other EU member states...’.
From Politico here: ‘No moral high ground: British treatment of EU citizens is a stain on our national reputation’. The piece is dismissive of the UK’s latest move: ‘...Let’s also remember that the government has hardly treated its own citizens with less disdain. In a piece for the Guardian, Jane Golding of the campaign group British in Europe correctly identified May’s negotiating priority as "reducing the rights of EU citizens in the UK over supporting ours". UK nationals in the EU have effectively been left to fend for themselves, collateral damage in a great game of new imperialism and old nativism dubbed, with grim irony, Global Britain. Let us therefore abandon any talk of moral high ground. The most extraordinary element of the government’s declaration is not the statement itself, but the fact it had to be made at all’.
Still and all, we may not know much about what will happen to EU27 citizens in the UK following Brexit, at the same time, we know absolutely nothing about what may befall British citizens living in the EU27.
A ‘black fly’ with a nasty bite is ‘invading’ Spain says El Confidencial here: ‘From the Ebro to the Manzanares, the black fly moves to Spain: "Its bite is horrible". Last year it caused 28,500 medical consultations in Aragon. This summer the mosca negra arrived in Madrid and experts believe that its painful bite will become increasingly common throughout the country’. It breeds in – of all places – clean river and lake water. The article fails to note the insect’s Latin name.
From The Guardian, the pork story: ‘Fears for environment in Spain as pigs outnumber people. Official figures show there are 50m pigs to 46.5m humans in country famed for its pork’.
An article on the warming of the sea at Energy News: ‘The temperature of the water reaches values close to 30ºC in the Mediterranean Sea. According to the AEMET, these temperatures are between 3 and 4ºC above normal for the time of year in surface waters’.
‘The final straw: Spain consumes most plastic straws in Europe as Greenpeace calls for ban’. The story at The Olive Press notes that Spain consumes more plastic straws than any other country in Europe. The holiday favourite throws away around 13 million straws each day – and it is the fifth most common waste found on its beaches...’. We are reminded of a recent report in Público which stated that Spain is the second worst Mediterranean country after Turkey for dumping plastic in the sea. From a French news video at 20 Heures, the plastic from a fishing catch in the Mediterranean – 80 kilo of fish and 20 kilos of plastic.
From The New York Times comes: ‘All of Africa Is Here’: Where Europe’s Southern Border Is Just a Fence. The article begins, ‘Spain — For most migrants from Africa, the last stage of their trip to Europe involves some sort of perilous sea crossing. At the border in Ceuta, there is just a fence. Ceuta is one of the two Spanish communities on the north coast of what otherwise would be Morocco, the only places where Europe has land borders with Africa. The other enclave is Melilla, farther east along the same coast. Here, all that separates Europe from migrants is a double fence, 20 feet high and topped with barbed wire, stretching the four miles across the peninsula and dividing tiny Ceuta from Morocco — plus 1,100 Spanish federal police and Guardia Civil officers, a paramilitary police force...’.
The Moroccan authorities are doing what they can to help lower pressure on Spain: ‘they catch us like animals and dump us in the desert’ - an article with video at El Mundo here.
*Two hundred immigrants successfully crossed the fence and arrived in Ceuta on Wednesday. A number of Guardia Civil were injured in the onslaught. In the past month, over 800 ‘subsaharianos’ have made it to Ceuta. The story here.
From The Olive Press comes an interesting article: ‘Retracing the footsteps of Lorca, Granada’s most celebrated poet, during his centenary year’.
Molly from Piccavey has a list of interesting books about Spain here. How many have you read?
Re ocean pollution, there are strict maritime laws about what may be put into the open sea and Princess Cruises were fined heavily last year for allowing one of their ships to do so. Cruise lines are constantly researching ways to use cleaner fuels - l don't have the details in front of me but know it to be so through industry media. JC
Thanks for today’s BoT
Under Politics you say PSOE could take 40 out of 52 provinces
I have always learned that there are 50 provinces ??
Kind regards, Harald
Hi Harald - you are right, it's fifty provinces plus Ceuta and Melilla. They are city-states: 'Ciudades autónomas'.
Un abrazo, Lenox
The old man at the peluquería told Lenox yesterday that the last time he went to the local fiestas, El Fary was singing. Here he is on YouTube with El Torito Guapo.
A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:
With Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra
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