Wednesday, February 08, 2006

President Putin of Russia is visiting Spain today and had breakfast with the King and Queen, or ‘The Kings’ as they are called in Spanish. I wonder if they chatted about the 34 Russian mafia groups reported this week to be operating here.

For the second time in 6 months, a man has died of a heart attack while being arrested or detained by the National Police [the Guardia Civil]. Not the same man, of course. The latest case involves a drunken Brit down on the south coast, where there are quite a lot of these. The police officers have been charged but some of the witnesses to the incident have immediately been stigmatised as ‘people with previous convictions for drug-related offences’. One wonders how the media have got to know this.

More details have emerged of Sunday’s chaos at the new Madrid airport terminal. The event, it seems, had actually been postponed a few times, possibly because the construction companies were working on several airports at the same time. But one positive aspect is the force with which the media – well the press, at least – have condemned this blow to Spain’s international image. It would be nice to know this will hit home.

During the first month of its operation, the new anti-smoking law led to more than 200 prosecutions, with Madrid leading the field on 70. At present, it’s difficult to know how these will proceed as none of the regional governments has yet fixed penalties for the various offences. Perhaps it’s going to be one of the new type of law described by President Zapatero in connection with the obligation to speak Catalan in Catalunia – ‘A law without a sanction for failure to observe it’. If this precedent is widely followed, it will at least make de jure much of what is already de facto in Spain. With parking offences, for example. At a single blow, Spain would immediately become a much more law-abiding country. Another example of the brilliant pragmatism with which the Spanish approach things in order to achieve a higher quality of life than anywhere else.

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