Friday, June 20, 2008

It seems that complaints about the activities of the mayor of Estepona and his twenty-odd colleagues were first aired at least a couple of years ago. And that they could act the way they did because the Andalucian Junta had not implemented anti-corruption laws framed by Madrid. I can’t say that I understand this fully but over at South of Watford, Graeme has a post which might help. The question I’m left with is whether the smorgasbord of criminal activities in which they were involved is a microcosm of Spain as a whole. El Pais has expressed a feeling of shame that, this time round, the folk with their hands – and feet – in so many tills were socialists but my impression is the general Spanish reaction is a Gallic shrug, at most. Unfair?

El Pais is also upset at the Socialist PSOE administration for supporting the extension of the EU week to a possible 65 hours and for voting in favour of locking up illegal immigrants for 18 months. Assuming they’ve been caught, of course. But given Spain’s problems, it’s hard to see the government not going along with these initiatives. As least in the case of illegal immigrants.

Over at the other main party – the PP – the besieged President, Sr Rajoy, has announced that his deputy will be a lady from Castile y La Mancha. As it’s de rigueur in Spain these days to make very public gestures in the direction of miembras of the fairer sex, I’d like to do my bit by announcing that my next wife will be a woman. Although I’m free to chose anything I like in modern Spain, of course.

There was a mild, silent demonstration in the EU parliament this week in favour of respecting the Irish vote on the Lisbon treaty. El Mundo – a right-of-centre paper – gave us a photo of this and labelled it “A demonstration from far-right members”. In fact, it was “cross-party and multi-national, with Euro-MPs from 14 countries and five out of the eight political groups taking part. Neither Le Pen nor any of the far-right parties was involved.” What is the world coming to when the Fascist label is so easily applied?

I may have stumbled upon the real reason for the deterioration in my daily tapas offerings. The café-bar I patronise used to get these from a sister restaurant around the corner. But this has closed and been converted into – what else? – yet another bank. Just like the ex-cake shop opposite the Post Office. So it was interesting to read yesterday that the Bank of Spain is recommending to the industry that it considers reducing the huge number of branches it has around the country. This seems to me to display a surprising ignorance of the fact this is the main business strategy for banks here. Followed by the offering of cheap towels, pans or china crockery so that you'll rush to open an account there. Followed by the coup de grace policy known technically as Screwing the Captive Customer.

The Bank of Spain has also pronounced that Spain’s generous pensions policy is unsustainable, especially as regards the much-coveted jobs of civil servants. This, of course, has been pretty obvious for some time to anyone who can count.

July is not far in the distance and this is Chemicals and Catalans month for me. Any time now, my neighbour will chuck several kilos of chlorine into a pool in her garden which is a violent, putrid green for eleven months of the year. So that it can be pristine for the three kids from Barcelona who – rain permitting - will spend the whole of July screaming from it. It’s the highlight of my year. But I do wish The Baldie would send me some choice Catalan sentences to lob from my study window from time to time.

On a less curmudgeonly note, I was charmed today by a young waitress who dallied at the side of my table not, as I first thought, to ask me to cough up immediately for my coffee – a huge insult where an honour system operates – but to enquire about Paul Preston and the book of his on Franco I’m finally nearing the end of. Quite made my day. Week even. So I gave her a full list of Preston’s works on Spain. In return for the lunch he invited me to a couple of weeks ago. Did I mention this?


Alfonso el Idiota said...

I think you'll probably get by this summer by leaning out of the window, shouting "Visca Joan Laporta!" and laughing hysterically.

Sierra said...

It's a microcosm of the construction industry world-wide - it's just that they don't appear to be too subtle about it here.

Graeme said...

One thing I forgot to mention iin my original post on Estepona was the way in which so many of these corrupt mayors get re-elected. Several of those facing serious charges got elected again in the last municipal elections, often with bigger majorities. Gil's party in Marbella and Estepona won elections at the same time as they were looting these paces. Construction based corruption spreads some of the wealth around and many of the people living in these places seem happy with that.

Colin said...

Thanks, Graeme. Yes, I recall my stupefaction in hearing 10 years or so ago that the mayor of O Grove had actually been re-elected while he was in prison. It's for this reason I find it hard to accept the view that Spain is not just a very pleasant place but a, relatively speaking, incorrupt place. But perhaps it's true to say that this aspect is far more prevalent in local government than it is elsewhere. And I doubt, for example, that any of Sr Z's people have their hand in the national till. Or that Sr R's would, if they ever got the chance that you are praying against..

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