We were going to run an editorial on the wretched taxi-drivers and their inconvenient strike – based on the ‘unfair competition’ provided by cheaper services like Cabify and Uber. But, Spain is so much better than this. Here’s The Economist making precisely this point in a special report published last week called ‘Can Spain become a normal European country?’ The introduction ends with ‘...The consensus underlying the 1978 constitution was that Spain should become a normal European country. It was a rejection of the idea that “Spain is different”, in the words of a Franco-era tourist poster.
That idea was revived by the separatists in a propaganda battle in which they proved themselves far more adept than Mr Rajoy’s government, leading many abroad to believe that Spain remains a franquista state. It is not. As Mr Borrell (José Borrell, the Spanish foreign minister, who is Catalan) points out, Spain is a country that respects human rights, believes in the separation of powers and is high on the list of the world’s advanced democracies. It is increasingly feminist and tolerant of immigration, and it upholds gay rights. There are few better places in which to live. If it can fix some of the problems that have arisen over the past decade, it will have a better chance of convincing all its citizens of that’. The Spanish media seemed pleased with the Special Report. From the Diario de Sevilla: ‘...Forty years after the restoration of democracy, civil liberties are more like those of Scandinavia than those of a southern country. With the second highest life expectancy in the world, good health and some of the best infrastructure, Spain is, in many respects, an extraordinary place to live. This is the central judgment of the report. However, political corruption, the brutal rise in unemployment, the deep and lasting economic crisis, the growing inequality and the political problems arising in Catalonia are putting Spain's solidity to the test...’. The article ends with ‘...This report will improve the international image of our country, which has deteriorated so much in recent years’.
‘Taxi drivers across Spain were set to keep striking on Tuesday against ride hailing competitors such as Uber and Cabify, which they say unfairly threaten their livelihoods after government negotiations ended without a deal. The strike began in Barcelona last week and spread to Madrid at the weekend as drivers blocked main thoroughfares, demanding action from the government. Strikes or partial stoppages were also called in Valencia in eastern Spain, Zaragoza and Bilbao in the north, and Seville in the south...’. More at The Local here. From El Huff Post: ‘"Yes, we can." The shout that popularized the 15-M movement was heard again this Tuesday at the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid. A large group of taxis has been cutting off this iconic Madrid avenue since Monday at the Nuevos Ministerios, where the Ministry of Development is headquartered. The main taxi drivers' associations have been backing a strike in recent days to protest the proliferation of the Cabify and Uber platforms, which they accuse of "unfair competition". The assembly of taxi drivers from Madrid has approved the stay of the campsite in La Castellana for at least one more day. Those who started the protest were the taxi drivers from Barcelona, who have been stationed on Gran Via and Passeig de Gràcia in the Catalan capital for five days now (Monday). This group has also expressed its intention to continue. Mobilizations and protests have been repeated in all major Spanish cities...’. More here. The demonstrations have not been without violence (scenes of Taxi Driver the Movie, as El Español notes wryly here), as one Cabify driver in Barcelona found when a bullet broke a hole in his window just behind his head on Friday (here).
Some more from the Anglo press: Wolf Street says ‘Chaos Erupts in Uber v. Taxi Drivers Turf War in Barcelona’, noting that ‘...In Spain the central government and market regulators are largely lined up in the ride-share firms’ favour. The spark for the latest round of protests was a decision by Spain’s Ministry of Public Works to block attempts by Barcelona’s City Council to ensure a previously agreed ratio of 30 taxi licenses for every authorized ride-hailing car is honoured. The current ratio in Catalonia stands at 6.7 to 1...’. From the other point of view comes Opinion from Panam Post: ‘It is High Time for the Spanish Government to Defend Uber. Spanish taxi unions are furious at the competition posed by Uber, and have taken to assaulting Uber drivers, destroying their vehicles, and harassing their passengers’.
But maybe it’s just about the salaries... Magnet says that an average licenced taxi driver in Madrid might take a clean 2,000€ a month after tax, maybe 300€ down on pre-Uber days, while a non-licenced taxi-driver – where around 65% of the driver’s take goes to the licence-owner (who also pays for insurance and so on) – the bottom line is around 1,200€ per month net. Over in the ‘collaborative economy’ of the ‘VTC’ (Vehículos de Turismo con Conductor) ride-sharers, Uber and Cabify, the drivers are taking maybe just 700 or 800€ a month...
Late News (Thursday morning) from El Mundo... The taxi drivers have lifted the strike.
Venezuela is the eternal example used to criticise Podemos (which loosely supports the régime there, blaming the poverty on US actions). In Spain, many very wealthy Venezuelans quietly show the extremes inherent in that country. From The New York Times: ‘Their country is in economic ruin. Hunger is rampant. Inflation is dizzying, expected to hit one million percent by year’s end. Hospitals run out of medicine, equipment, even rubber gloves. But as millions of Venezuelans wage a daily fight for survival at home, others have found a safe haven for their money across the Atlantic: Madrid’s real estate market. During a walk around Salamanca, an upmarket district of the Spanish capital, Luis Valls-Taberner, a real-estate investment adviser, pointed out on almost every street a building that he said a wealthy Venezuelan had recently acquired. Mr. Valls-Taberner would not identify the buyers. Some properties, he said, were purchased through investment companies based in Miami or elsewhere — but the money always came from Venezuela...’. More here.
The okupas (squatters) are a regular menace these days. They are hard to eject and the best thing is to not allow them entry in the first place, but how? Maybe a sign in the window? ‘“Neighbours alert. They're trying to break into the houses. Three weeks ago in houses on Picaza Street and tonight in houses on Leon V de Armenia Street, in the early hours, from 1 to 6 in the morning. It is not known with what intention, whether robbery or okupation of our houses. We ask for the collaboration of all the neighbours. If there is even the slightest suspicion, call 112”. With this revealing message, some residents of this humble area of the Aluche neighbourhood in Madrid try to warn the rest of the residents of the growing wave of crime they are suffering...’. The ABC reports here.
Then, there’re the narcopisos, owned by speculators, banks and vulture funds... The story is at CityMetric here.
From Preferente: ‘The savage strike of the taxi drivers affecting Barcelona and other Spanish cities, has once again dealt another hard blow to the tourism sector that had barely raised its head since the beginning of the independence conflict at the end of last year. Thousands of tourists have been affected at the airport by the inability to use taxis to reach their destinations. "They have ruined our holidays," says a tourist upon arrival at El Prat airport...’. More here.
El Mundo reports ‘Record job creation in the second quarter with 469,900 more employed’. The good news is picked up by El País in English here: ‘Job recovery in Spain has been better than expected this spring, with 469,900 jobs created in the second quarter. No three-month period before had ever come close to achieving such numbers. The unprecedented record means that the number of employed people now stands at 19.3 million...’.
The Bank of Spain, on behalf of the commercial banks here, would like to say 'thanks' for the rescue in public money between 2008 and 2014 for the trifling and unrecoverable sum of 60,613 million euros - around 1,320 € per inhabitant. The money, as El Diario reports here, is 'lost'.
The Minister of Labour, Migrations and Social Security, Magdalena Valerio, announced last Friday that she had approved the Plan por el Trabajo Digno ‘Plan for Decent Work’ for the period 2018-2020 to combat labour fraud, and that "the Labour Inspectorate, which has 1,876 staff, will be reinforced with 833 new posts for inspectors and sub-inspectors in the next five years, so that the staff of the Inspectorate will be increased by 25%". That’s to say, more inspectors against tax-avoiding businesses. El Diario reports here.
From Wolf Street here: ‘Banco Sabadell Begins to Pay the Price for TSB’s Self-Inflicted IT Fiasco. Spain’s Banco Sabadell on Friday announced a second-quarter loss of €139 million, including costs of €203 million related to the IT fiasco at its British subsidiary TSB. Those costs included €40 million euros from fraud losses and €92 million euros to cover future customer claims. The income statement reflects a 51% drop in results from financial operations, as well as a 10% increase in expenses (due to the TSB-related costs)...’.
Usury in the Spanish banks. An article from The Corner: ‘The high retail interest rates in Spain, over 8% compared to at least 4% in France and other Eurozone countries, without doubt indicates usurious behavior, of the banks’ abuse of power at the expense of the customer, who on the other hand ought to inform and educate himself and refuse to pay these rates...’.
From Property Showrooms: ‘How is Brexit likely to affect non-resident's Income Tax in Spain?’ Here.
‘U.S. Expats Face Hammering from New Tax Rules’, from Bloomberg here. A taste: ‘...The tax changes are likely to convince some that it’s no longer worth keeping their U.S. citizenship, according to Nora Newton Muller, who helps run the tax committee for the Association of Americans Resident Overseas. Other U.S. citizens, who haven’t been paying U.S. taxes but are thinking of becoming compliant, might decide just to stay off the radar, she said...’.
‘The Vice President of the Government, Carmen Calvo, has asked the Partido Popular and Ciudadanos to show "loyalty, high-mindedness and responsibility" instead of "cheap politics" to deal with the arrival of immigrants to the Spanish coast, thus responding to the criticism of both Pablo Casado and Albert Rivera. Calvo has referred to this issue during the appearance on Tuesday at the Palacio de la Moncloa after the meeting with the autonomous communities to share the budget of the State Pact on Gender Violence. The vice-president considered it "shocking" that "young leaders" such as Casado and Rivera do not align themselves with the discourse of France, Germany, Portugal and Spain on "border defence", as opposed to the other "xenophobic" positions that exists elsewhere in Europe...’. The story from News Republic here.
Guerra Eterna looks at the PP leader Pablo Casado’s politics regarding immigration here. The article considers whether the claim that massive immigration swamps the European welfare state. Not true, it says, quoting a 2011 study from the Caixa, which claims that immigrants bring more to the economy than they take (as far as pensions go, given the youthful age of the immigrant population, they have a point).
Pablo Casado is choosing his shadow-secretaries and has given posts to two in particular which will upset the Left: Jorge Fernández Díaz (the sacked PP Minister for the Interior who once gave a medal to a saint) and Ignacio Cosidó, ex-director general of the national police, remembered for his opposition to both the Catalonian independents and Podemos. More here.
Things are settling – slightly – in Catalonia. From Bloomberg: ‘Carles Puigdemont wants Catalan separatists to keep pushing for an independent republic, a play he bailed out on when he had the chance last year. But the allies who stayed behind to pick up the pieces when the former regional president fled into exile aren’t so sure about answering his call this time. The Catalan administration has only just regained its powers after seven months of direct rule from Madrid and Puigdemont’s successors are more focused on steadying the ship than provoking another destructive clash with the central government. With the new Spanish government ready to discuss concrete policy changes at a meeting this week, there is also money on the table...’.
There’s a campaign on change.org to get the ‘Two Jordis’, Jordi Sànchez y Jordi Cuixart, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. El Confidencial has the goods here.
The Portuguese footballer Ronaldo, who has now left Spain’s Real Madrid for an Italian team, has agreed in absentia to a fine of almost nineteen million euros and two years suspended sentence for his tax-dodging says El País here.
In Asturias, an okupa family of four has been handed down prison time – six years for the father and two years each for the mother and two sons. El Comercio reports on the case here.
From BBC News here: ‘A Spanish court has sentenced a woman to five years for going into hiding with her two sons rather than hand them to the father, whom she accused of abuse.
Juana Rivas has also been stripped of custody rights for six years and told to pay hefty legal costs. Spanish politicians and women's groups have criticised the verdict. The long-running custody battle for the boys - now aged 12 and four - has become a rallying point in Spain's battle against gender violence...’. The Government is insisting on Rivas’ appeal being judged before any jail-time is imposed.
Mark Stone of Sky News has just set up a dedicated email address to hear about the concerns of Britons in Europe:
‘Rosa María Mateo is finally elected the sole administrator for the RTVE after seven failed attempts to renew the public broadcaster’. Now to see if the news service becomes a fraction less partisan. The appointment is nevertheless only temporary until a full new board is decided in the autumn. The story from VerTele here.
Forty Two 'pirate' download and viewing sites will be blocked in Spain by the Government. Names include 'goear.com', ‘thepiratebay.com', 'freelibros.org' and 'exvagos.com'. In short: ‘geoblocking’: unless you use one of those VPN services (NordVPN is good) to give you a fake IP address. The story comes from La Gaceta de Salamanca here.
Ten different bulos (fake news) about the refugees and immigration stories currently in the news are collected by Maldito Bulo here.
The Royal Family holidays in Mallorca each summer. This year, however, ‘The Juan Carlos controversy is clouding the royal family holiday’ says the Mallorca Daily Bulletin here.
Ibiza prices: 13€ for a coke. Antena3 investigates here.
We’ll try anything once... ‘Since the "craft cocktail movement" has been causing a stir, you’re about to notice olive oil finding its way into bars, if you haven’t already. The kitchen staple has been used for frying, drizzling, baking, dipping and much more, so why not cocktails? We are used to seeing olives on a stick, but what about in its liquid state, inside your drink?...’. From Eye on Spain here.
El Diario reports that ‘The S-80 submarine and the A400M aircraft: advanced military technology with more than 3,800 million euros in extra costs but without any responsibility claimed’.
In some changes to the traffic rules, some emergency lights and official number plates (including taxis and public transport) will change colour to a blue background on the rear plate. The story at Qué! here.
‘Can #MeToo Fix Spain’s Language Problem? For the first time in history, Spain has a majority-female government. But feminists looking to change the country’s usage of machismo speech still face an uphill battle’. From The Atlantic here.
The man who saved the Alhambra. ‘It is the early morning of the 16th September 1812. The French troops led by Marshal Soult are preparing to leave their posts in the Alhambra in the face of the advance of the Spanish troops commanded by General Ballesteros. The French Marshal orders the placement of explosives throughout the Nasrid palace. Shortly after he ordered the fuse to be lit, a series of explosions caused the Torre del Cabo de la Carrera to be almost completely destroyed, with others, such as the Torre del Agua, to be partially destroyed. The rest of the Alhambra and Nasrid palaces do not suffer the same fate thanks to the intervention of José García, Corporal of los inválidos, who managed to extinguish the fuses that connected the explosives placed by the French troops...’. From Nueva Tribuna here.
From The Olive Press: Algeciras: ‘Mayor Jose Ignacio Landaluce has said his ‘town couldn’t cope’ as around 1,600 migrants land in Spain, arriving predominantly in Algeciras last week. Landaluce has criticized the EU, warning that Algeciras could become ‘the new Lampedusa’, an Italian town that has struggled to cope with the recent migrant crisis. The Mayor of Algeciras has called for caution: “We’ve never, ever, ever had 1,000 migrants arriving in Spain each weekend. And all this could just be for starters...”’. More here.
Sub-Saharans now make up 2.4% of the population of Spain, says El Mundo brightly.
From Slipped Disk. ‘The next director of the Palau de Les Arts de Valencia is to be Jesús Iglesias Noriega (formerly head of the artists' department of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet)’. A comment says ‘...I, for one, am pleased to see that the person who won is not a Valencian at all. This Jesús Iglesias Noriega is from the north of Spain, Oviedo, studied in Madrid and has impressive international experience. Maybe, as a Spaniard outside of the Valencian “mafia” he can bring some sensibility to the ignorant and clannish politicians there who wreaked so much destruction on Helga Schmidt’.
Ancient Menorca. ‘There was a civilisation on the Balearic Island of Menorca which built strange stone constructions known as talayots, taulas or navetas throughout the 1st millennium B.C. It is fairly easy to follow a route around the island to visit these wonders. A good starting point would be the Biniai Nou megalithic tomb. The Me-1 road linking the cities of Mahon and Ciutadella is the central backbone that crosses Menorca from one end to the other. Five kilometres from Mahon, a trail to the right leads to two hypogeal that give rise to the monument. The oldest human remains in Menorca were found here (2300 - 2200 B.C.)...’. From Eye on Spain here.
Molly from Piccavey looks at some Spanish Traditions here: ‘Anywhere you go in the world, you’ll likely have some cultural expectations. And for a destination like Spain, with a deep history and richly established culture, this is going to be particularly true. That doesn’t mean you know what you’re going to get when you visit (in fact often it means the exact opposite!). But it does mean you may arrive in the country expecting to encounter certain Spanish traditions you may have heard of over the years. Here we’ll get into what some of those elements are, how realistic they are, and what travellers should perhaps expect from them...’.
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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