Sunday, August 04, 2013

The War of The Rock; Spanish spies; Corruption, again; The train crash; and Rubbish.

STOP PRESS: Shock! Horror! The Spanish government being mired deep in the doo-doo, tempers are suddenly being stoked up around the ever-ready distraction of The Rock. The Spanish border police are detaining vehicles for up to 7 hours at the hottest time of the year, in retaliation for the Gibraltar government laying down a false reef to stop Spanish fishermen dragging their nets in what it considers Gibraltar waters. And things are going to get worse, as the Spanish government has announced it plans to 'turn the screw' with a raft of measures against smuggling, tax evasion and destruction of the environment. This from a government which did nothing to stop further destruction of the Spanish coastline. And which is accused of long-standing corruption. Well, I guess it's easier than taking tough measures against its own citizens and it guarantees positive headlines. At least from ABC and El Mundo.

Meanwhile, a little bit further south, Moroccan feelings are riding high as it emerges that a paedophile who raped 11 children there has been released from prison at the request of the Spanish secret service. It's a dirty business, governing. Though the Moroccan King says he had no notion of what he was doing when he acceded to the Spanish pressure to pardon the ("Iraqi") paedophile.

As many have pointed out, the PSOE has its own celebrated corruption case going slowly through the courts. This centres on fraudulent activities down in Andalucia, a by-word for financial shenanigans - both coastal and inland - going back many years. As is not unusual, the judge handling the so-called ERE case is being harassed by the regional politicians, who'd like to see her removed because of her 'lack of impartiality'. All part of the game.

On the face of it - and not surprisingly - not only the governing PP party but also the Opposition PSOE party are in trouble. According to a July survey, support for them has fallen to 24% and 21%, respectively, not much above the level for two or three small parties. There's some way to go until the next election - unless pigs start to fly and Sr Rajoy brings them forward - but if things stay this way it could impact on the country's stability and, thus, its ability to meet its challenges. We can expect President Rajoy to bang on about this stability during the next 2 or 3 years, as he did in his recent parliamentary appearance. Meanwhile, in a video issued by the Opposition PSOE party, he's been compared with President Nixon. Which is quite clever.

The Train Crash: The Sunday Times today has a review of the developments of the last week, stressing that expert are still baffled as to why the driver didn't brake. The paper adds one detail I haven't seen elsewhere, viz. that the driver received a flashing warning 3km from the bend telling him to slow down and, although he acknowledged it, he didn't apply the brakes. I'm not sure whether this warning is one of the 3 auditory warnings mentioned in the Spanish press.

There are, of course, wider issues than whether the driver was guilty of a crime - hard to see that he isn't - and the biggest of all, perhaps, is whether this was an accident waiting to happen simply because the ASFA safety system in place wasn't up to the job and the more effective ERTMS system should have been both installed and operative for the entire Ourense-Santiago stretch, as it now is, say RENFE. I hope we can assume that the panel of experts commissioned to investigate the accident will address this question, and all the others. Meanwhile, it's been reported that the Brazilian government has advised that the Spanish consortium is still in the running for the 13bn euro contract being adjudicated there in September. Is this support for the cynicism of my friend who thinks they'll get the contract but only on the basis of higher kickbacks? Finally on this, the family who sought (or who were offered) the favour of an easy exit from the train at Pontedeume, lost the wife and one of the children in the crash. It's impossible to imagine the feelings of the desolate husband, knowing that they triggered the sequence of events which seems to have led to the disaster.

Finally, and triflingly:-

Matters domestic 1: - I was intrigued to see a sign in my usual supermarket (Mercadona) promising Novedades, or new product lines. These turned out to be pre-cooked pancakes and 'cocktail ice'. Which says it all really, as regards innovation. By the way, 'cocktail ice' is merely crushed ice, suitable for mojitos and the like, I guess.

Matters domestic 2:- Spaniards are reported to have recycled 358,128 tonnes of plastic last year, or three times more than a decade ago. On the surface this is impressive but I wonder how much of this simply due to the fact there's far more packaging to get shut of now than there was 10 years ago. Here, for example, is just a week's material from one person living alone, me.

As you'll note, this being early last week, there's a definite lack of Economist magazines.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

The root of all Spanish corruption is that, come the elections, the electorate votes as it has always voted, no matter the scandalous doings of pretty much every political party in the land. Thus, the PP will score its 30-35 %, so will the PSOE, and the regional parties (also corrupt to the bone) pick up the rest.

Spain is not a state of law but of loyalties. The old client system inherited from the Romans. And we all know how they ended...

Colin said...

Thank-you, Alfie. Spot on as ever. Yes, as tribal now as it was in . . . . Pick your date. I believe individuals have been ostracised by their family for 'changing sides'.

But surely Rosa is whiter than white.

Perry said...


I have difficulty in understanding the requested favour of an easy exit from the train at Pontedeume.
The station in Avenida Ferro is available on Streetview. The railway is single track & there is a passing loop & what looks like a practically disused siding diverging from the passing loop & controlled (?) from a ground frame.

There appears to be one main platform, although there is another (shorter?) just visible in front of what might be the station building. Passing loops are sometimes fitted with spring loaded, facing & trailing points, which are set for the direction of travel & these permit the passing trains to regain the main line as the wheels pass through the spring loaded point blades of the trailing points. It's not at all clear if that is the case at Pontedeume.

The colour signalling & route setting could be controlled from a modern signal box some miles away. I do not see how the driver could make a choice of where he stopped in Pontedeume.

Granted that Streetview is dated 2009 & an out-of-focus notice board suggests that improvements will have been made since then, in which case, all my speculation is pointless (groan).



Colin said...

Perry, My understanding is that the normal platform there is away from the station and that folk have to go down and walk across the tracks to get to it. Interestingly, the father of the family for whom the request was made was reported today to have said they made no request. The conductor suggested he call his good friend and try to arrange things. RENFE have said these things aren't decided on the train, which I can believe.

So, all in all a pointless call.

I saw a ref. to a figure of 8 at Pontedeume stations but I didn't understand it. May make sense to you.

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