Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 4.10.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain
  • The Future of Spain: I've just come across this note for my blog of several months ago: Spain's constitutional fabric – never very soundly stitched together – is stressing and straining and may well come apart at some of the seams. Looks more than a litle prophetic right now.
  • Cataluña 1: There's a terrible smell of axe grinding from all quarters, based - of course - on (perceived) self-interest.
  • Cataluña 2: The vainglorious Catalan President - Sr Puigdemont - has confirmed that he and his other-world nationalist mates will ignore the pleas of the king and declare independence late this week or early next week, assuming the regional parliament endorses this when all the votes are in. Things have clearly gone to his head. Expect the Spanish state to respond to this launch of an ICBM with its own nuclear option of Article 155 of the Constitution, allowing them to take over control of Cataluña from Madrid. Thereafter, it's anyone's guess. Utter madness.
  • Cataluña 3: At least one Spanish politician is showing himself to be even more hardline than Sr Rajoy. This is the president of the 'moderate' right-of-centre Ciudadanos party - Sr Rivera - who thinks Madrid should take the Article 155 step immediately. Maybe because the party's origins were in Cataluña.
  • Cataluña 4: Some apposite comments from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: The Catalan parliament deems the referendum legally-binding but that is political fiction. . . . Both sides have invoked the “law” with promiscuous abandon in this dispute, using parchments and judges as a cover for raw ideology. . . . In Madrid, it is far from clear whether the right-wing minority government of Mariano Rajoy can survive after so many staggering misjudgments. He depends on the acquiescence of regional parties to pass his budget. . . There has been little self-criticism. Mr Rajoy insists that the conduct of the Guardia Civil was “exemplary”, a claim echoed by his Partido Popular and the loyalist press. This is not an attitude likely to soften Catalan wrath or to open the way to an amicable settlement, such as enhanced devolution with budgetary powers along the lines of the Basque formula. . . . It is unclear whether Mr Rajoy has enough support in the Cortes to activate Article 155. It is a dangerous move in the current febrile atmosphere, suggesting that the Moncloa Palace in Madrid still underestimates the intensity of the Catalan revolt. Seeing this through might require coercion reminiscent of the Black and Tans in Ireland in early 1920s. . . . Brussels and EU leaders have backed Mr Rajoy and the Spanish constitutional order so far. They have little choice. Yet they are on a slippery slope, becoming an accomplice to what many deem repression to uphold an untenable status quo. . . . The Catalans intend to file complaints for systemic violations of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, ultimately decided by the European Court, which has supremacy over Spanish courts. . . . Madrid has invoked the rule of law all the way through this crisis, often with elasticity. It may discover that the law is a double-edge sword, as is Europe.
  • The BBC: It would be wrong to interpret the anger and anguish so palpable in Catalonia right now as an expression of political unity. Catalans are as divided as ever on the question of independence. What unites them today is a seething fury and resentment at the heavy-handedness of the Spanish government, represented by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, with what Catalans perceive as his Madrid-centric arrogance, brutishness and disregard for the rights of individuals. This is far less about separatism than populism. Anti-establishment, nationalist sentiment a la Catalana. While the majority of Catalans say they don't actually want to leave Spain, they demand the right to choose. . .  Catalans want change, but that does not amount to a common call for independence. So what now? Before this weekend, Mariano Rajoy - nicknamed by opponents as "The Robot", as he could never be accused of having the common touch - had all the cards:
  • the legal argument (Spain's constitutional court deemed this weekend's referendum illegal
  • public opinion (most Spaniards opposed the vote)
  • EU support 
  • and a fractious, disunited front (until this weekend) of Catalan independence parties.            But he's thrown those cards away. . . . He and the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, have walked, if not arm-in-arm then at least back-to-back, duel-like, to the cliff's edge. A cynic might point out that both men benefit personally from this constitutional crisis - arguably Spain's most severe in the 40 years since the transition to democracy. . .  Mr Rajoy heads a minority government, so short of support that it recently withdrew plans for the 2018 budget, for fear it wouldn't make it through the Spanish parliament. Meanwhile, Mr Puigdemont presides over one of the largest regional debts in Spain. . . Both men are tainted by allegations of corruption, which swirl persistently around their governments. The Catalan question is a very public distraction from unwelcome financial questions. Both men score political points from standing their ground now, as opinions in Catalonia and across Spain harden. 
  • Cataluña 5: Here and here are views on the question of What Happens Next? Nothing very convincing but this would be to demand more than is possible right now, I guess.
  • Spain: Here's the thing . . . Whatever the rest of the world thinks about Rajoy, if he were to hold a snap general election now, it's highly probable his PP party would garner more votes than last time. But not in Cataluña, of course. Pick the meat out of that. 

I wouldn't normally quote Nigel Farage but this comment looks indisputable right now: The EU is in worse shape now than at any point in its history. Indeed, all the evidence shows it is a terribly unhappy, unhealthy and increasingly ungovernable bloc. But I would agree with that, wouldn't I?

Brexit: Here's the despairing comment of the leading Brexiteer/Flexiteer, Richard North, after his latest review of British strategic ineptitude: Brexit will have become a monstrosity, set to destroy our economy and our global political standing. The only up-side is that it will almost certainly take the Conservative Party with it. and even that will be poor compensation for what we might be about to endure. Maybe there really should be a second referendum . . . 

Spanglish: Un gag: A sketch or cartoon, I believe.

Finally . . . Here's how Saudi car dealers have responded to the announcement that women there will be allowed to drive:-

This came from a German source, suggesting that at least one person there does have a GSOH.

Today's Cartoon:-

From Private Eye . . .

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