miércoles, 4 de julio de 2012

What's up with those Spanish miners?

I have received a few texts and tweets over the past couple of weeks from friends back home asking me just what the heck is going on with the miner strike in northern Spain.  So after doing my best to give an expat's view on the question a few times, and in wake of what the Spanish press is calling a batalla campal (pitched battle) between Guardia Civil troops and strikers in the Spanish coal mining village of Ciñera yesterday, I thought I might try my hand at explaining.  First, take a look at this video of yesterday's battle.

What my friends back home want to know is just how bad are things over there in Spain for workers to actually take up arms against the military (the Guardia Civil is basically the Spanish national military police).  Unfortunately, the answer is -- pretty bad.

First, for a short history of the confrontation, you can peruse these videos and photos of what has transpired over the previous weeks.  Here is a link from AlJazeera, which has proven to be a good source for information on the strikes as the Spanish government and media are trying to downplay the events.

Let's start our story with the presidential debates that took place back in 2011.  The current Spanish government headed by the conservative Popular Party was able to capitalize on the fact that the Socialists had made cuts to social programs, while bailing out financial institutions.  During the debate, then PP presidential candidate Mariano Rajoy said, "No pienso dar un euro de dinero público (a la banca) como han hecho ustedes." (I'm not considering giving even one euro of public money (to the banks) like your party did."

And as we all know, now President Rajoy recently promised upwards of 100 billion euros to Spanish banks, a figure that equates to more than 2,000 euros for every man, woman, baby, child and senior citizen currently living in Spain.  Here is a 30-second clip of the debate from 2011 in which President Rajoy made his soon to be broken promise.

So here is the situation.  The Popular Party has continued the Socialist party's policy of cuts which affect nearly everyone in Spain (I say nearly everyone because recently Mr. Rajoy refused the EU's demand to cut government employee salaries and pensions, which not so ironically would include those of the police).  Add to all this the fact that unemployment in Spain is edging towards 25% with youth unemployment having broken the 50% barrier, and you now see the reason why the miners took to the streets when subsidies to their industry felt the PP's wrath.

But if all this is not enough, the government is trying its best to stifle any protest in Spain through intimidation and confrontation, whether it be by miner, teacher, indignado, or any of the other myriad of groups with a legitimate beef, which seems to be about everyone here but the bankers, civil servants and cops.  The coal miners are simply the first to really fight back.

President John F. Kennedy once said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."  And I suppose this would be the best one line explanation that I could give to my friends back home.

sábado, 30 de junio de 2012

Madrid Anti Police Repression Protest Called Off Due To Police Repression

An ironic TWEET came across my feed today from the Indignados @AcampadaSol account:

Rough translation: police shut down the anti-police repression protest scheduled for today in Madrid with a little repression and a lot of intimidation.  The Indignados had organized the event through social media under the hashtag #30jSinMiedo (June 30th without fear).  The TWEET above tells us that the protest had to be called off at the last moment due to the police demanding IDs, surrounding the protestors, and warning of "serious consequences".  If today's protestors have the same luck as those Indignados who have been IDed by police over the past several months, they can expect a court summons and 300-Euro fine, usually either for "attending an illegal protest" or "challenging the authorities".

And if today's Madrid protest is not all the Spanish irony you require for one weekend, just last night 30 people who have been evicted or are facing eviction, sought shelter in the cathedral of Madrid La Almudena, some with small children.  The families, children and protestors were soon met by the church Rector "to negotiate", but within a couple hours he decided to have the police handle the situation.  Let us say that Christians around the world should be grateful that Marie and Joseph looked for refuge in a dirty stable in Bethlehem rather than an opulent Roman Catholic cathedral in the Spanish capital.  #OccupyAlmudena was soon trending in Spain, complete with photos of children being held against the wall and peaceful protestors being forced to their knees while placing their hands behind their heads.

Here is a video I shot last night at La Almudena protest.  A Spanish woman reminds the cops that they are 99%ers too! (That's our beautiful Madrid cathedral there in the background)

domingo, 17 de junio de 2012

Eviction Notices for the Bankers, Bailout for the Citizens

LaVanguardia.com is reporting that 3,000 protestors marched in Madrid, Spain yesterday from the Cuatro Caminos neighborhood to the Plaza de Castilla to make their displeasure with the BANKIA rescue package known.  The Indignados noisily reminded the public that 23 billion euros has already been promised to the failing financial institution, even though it has been accused of having falsified its accounts last year in the run-up to its IPO.  You can read the original article from La Vanguardia (in Spanish) here:

From the article...
Madrid. (EFECOM).- Más de 3.000 personas se han concentrado hoy ante la sede principal de Bankia en Madrid para protestar contra "la inyección de más de 23.000 millones de dinero público" en la entidad, tras una marcha pacífica que se ha saldado con un detenido.
Madrid. (EFECOM).- More than 3,000 people gathered today at the central headquarters of Bankia in Madrid to protest against "the injection of more than 23 billion in public money" into the institution, after a peaceful march in which there was one detention.
The Indignados have brought charges against the former BANKIA president (private prosecutions are permitted in Spain if the D.A. declines to bring charges of his own), after it was revealed that 2011 actually saw a 2.979 billion Euro loss, rather than the profit that BANKIA had previously claimed on the books.  And as if to add insult to injury, BANKIA accepted 4.5 billion Euros in government funds back in 2010, and has yet to pay any of it back.

So when will the misery end, and how to get out of the crisis?  This week the International Monetary Fund offered Spain some advice of its own -- increase taxes!  In this article the IMF suggests that Spain needs to raise its sales tax to cut the deficit -- a sales tax that currently stands at 18%. 

Every day, Indignados along with more and more ordinary Spaniards, are asking the banks and international organizations, "what more do you want from us, and when is it going to be enough for you?"

domingo, 10 de junio de 2012

Students Fined for Seeking Student Loan Info at BANKIA HQ in Huelva, Spain

HUELVA24.com is reporting that around 100 students were surrounded by police, ID'ed, and in some cases given fines, simply for going inside a bank to ask for information about student loans.  Jesús Díaz of HUELVA24.com reports that the government is denying that any fines were given.

11.39 h. Alrededor de un centenar de universitarios han acudido a primera hora de la mañana a la oficina central de Bankia en la plaza de las Monjas para informarse sobre los préstamos que ofrece la entidad bancaria. La Policía se ha presentado en el banco minutos después de que el local quedase colapsado por estudiantes, muchos de los cuales fueron identificados por los agentes. Según declararon algunos de los participantes en la protesta, los agentes "han estado multando por alteración al orden público", un extremo que ha sido negado categóricamente por la Subdelegación del Gobierno.

11:39 am  Around one hundred university students turned up at the BANKIA headquarters in the Plaza de las Monjas at opening time this morning to ask for information about student loans that the financial institution has on offer.  The police arrived at the bank a few minutes after the central offices were overwhelmed by students, many of whom were asked to produce identification by the officers.  According to several of the protestors, the police officers were giving fines for "public disorder" -- a charge that a local government official categorically denied.

You can read the full version of the article (in Spanish) here:

sábado, 9 de junio de 2012

Dear Mr. de Guindos, I don't think you have convinced the international press

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, so we will keep this post short.  Today, Spain finally reversed course and announced what everybody knew was going to happen all along -- that Spain would be needing an economic lifeline, if it is to survive.  However, Spanish Minister of the Economy Luis de Guindos, in typical Spanish political Orwellian fashion, engaged in double speak when the announcement was made this afternoon.

Mr. de Guindos actually managed to keep a straight face when he announced the EU "aid" package by saying, "Se pide apoyo financiero, esto no tiene absolutamente nada que ver con un rescate."

("Financial support has been requested, this in absolutely no way is a bailout.")

The international press didn't buy it Mr. Guindos, does the Spanish government really think its citizens are that stupid?

Espanol: ayuda
English: help, assistance, aid

Espanol: rescate
English: bailout, rescue


sábado, 2 de junio de 2012

Spanish Bank Served Eviction Notice

Today's edition of PUBLICO, an online Spanish newspaper, has announced that the Spanish people will be giving their masters a taste of their own medicine.  Since BANKIA is completely insolvent and can only survive on charity and welfare, the citizens of Spain have instead decided to evict.

Here is an English translation of the PUBLICO story.  You can find the original (in Spanish) here:

viernes, 6 de enero de 2012

Meet Spain's New Director General de Policia

It's really strange for us extranjeros how things work here in Spain sometimes.  I mean you will often hear us grumbling about the ambivalence of waiters and bartenders, the smoking that still goes on in non-smoking areas especially after dark, and that whole close-the-business-down-from-2pm-to-5pm thing that still surprises us when we forget about it.  So figuring out Spanish politics can be as mysterious as a Stephen Hawking documentary to us even on a good day.  Therefore, I am not going to draw any conclusions from the things I have dug up in the past couple of days.  I'll let you readers, especially the Spaniards tell me what all this means below in the comment section.

In the past couple weeks, the Conservative Popular Party (PP) took the reins of power from the Socialists (PSOE) in what could be described as an electoral drubbing.  Mariano Rajoy was sworn in as the new Spanish prime minister on December 21, after 8 years of Socialist Party rule.  Mr. Rajoy has been mostly out of sight in his first few weeks in office.  However, 3 interesting decisions have already been made.  First, the new government decided that the Spanish tear gas reserves needed to be replenished and OKed a 1-million Euro purchase of the chemical weapon used mostly to keep protesters in line.  Second, Mr. Rajoy bowed to US pressure and passed the Ley Sinde, which makes its US counterpart SOPA look impotent in comparison.  And finally, and you would not even know this from the media or any other source because it was not covered as an important news event, but for an Indignado it is of vital importance -- a new Director General del Cuerpo Nacional de Policia was appointed.