Spain in a nutshell!

Map of SpainLocated at the crossroads of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Europe and Africa, Spain’s history and culture are made up of a rich mix of diverse elements.

Through exploration and conquest, Spain became a world power in the 16th century, and it maintained a vast overseas empire until the early 19th century.

Spain’s modern history is marked by the bitterly fought Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, and the ensuing 36-year dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

After Franco’s death in 1975, Spain made the transition to a democratic state and built a successful economy, with King Juan Carlos as head of state.

The constitution of 1978 enshrines respect for linguistic and cultural diversity within a united Spain. The country is divided into 17 regions which all have their own directly elected authorities.

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Pedro Sánchez sworn in as Spain’s prime minister after no-confidence vote

The English broadsheet, The Guardian, reports:

Leader of socialist PSOE faces uphill battle with just 84 seats in 350-seat parliament

Pedro Sánchez was sworn in as Spain’s new prime minister on Saturday, a day after the socialist leader overthrew his conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, in a historic vote of no confidence provoked by anger over corruption in Rajoy’s party.

Sánchez, whose PSOE party relied on support from the anti-austerity Podemos party as well as Basque and Catalan nationalists to depose Rajoy, will have to govern with just 84 MPs in Spain’s 350-seat parliament.

The 46-year-old former economics professor has promised to address the “pressing social needs” of citizens in the country still plagued by high unemployment and the effects of the financial crisis, but he faces an uphill battle. Analysts warn that parliamentary consensus will be in short supply, making significant social reforms hard to achieve.

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Left-wing Podemos leader under fire for his 540k home

Sur in English reports:

Pablo Iglesias, the high-profile national politician who is leader of the Podemos party that grew out of an anti-capitalist street movement, was under fire on social media and in the press this week for acquiring a luxury 540,000-euro home.

The purchase, made with his partner and fellow Podemos politician, Irene Montero, has come as a surprise to many, including those within his own party, due to Iglesias’s outspoken criticism of the supposedly comfortable life of MPs.

Back in 2012, Iglesias commented on the decision of a minister to spend a similar amount on a home by Tweeting: “Would you entrust the country’s economic policy to someone who spent 600,000 euros on a luxury penthouse?”

The new home of the radical Podemos couple is in the hills behind Madrid and is on a 2,000 -metre plot, including swimming pool and guest house. Iglesias has justified the decision saying he has earned the money and it is for living in and not speculating on. The couple are expecting twins and face a 1,600-euro-a-month joint mortgage.

Iglesias currently lives in a 60-metre-square flat.

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Why journalists have an obligation to challenge power

”You can kick Jorge Ramos out of your press conference (as Donald Trump infamously did in 2015), but you can never silence him.

A reporter for more than 30 years, Ramos believes that a journalist’s responsibility is to question and challenge those in power. In this compelling talk — which earned him a standing ovation midway through — Ramos explains why, in certain circumstances, he believes journalists must take sides.” (In Spanish with English subtitles)

Catalonia: a lawyer explains the charges brought against Carles Puigdemont

Pablo José Castillo Ortiz, lecturer in Spanish Law at the University of Sheffield reports:

For many weeks the situation in Catalonia had been extremely delicate. The Catalan government took the nuclear option when it issued a unilateral declaration of independence. For the Spanish government the retaliation was simple: using the constitution to take direct control of some competences of the Catalan government and parliament – usually devolved from Madrid.

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First major bank quits Catalonia after week of crisis and tension

Sur in English reports:

Banco Sabadell, one of Spain’s biggest banks, is to move its registered head office out of the region due to customers’ fears following illegal independence vote and general strike. The Constitutional Court has banned the regional parliament meeting planned for Monday when a unilateral declaration of independence could be debated

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What next for the Catalans? The criticial choices to be faced this week

Sur in English reports:

Carles Puigdemont refuses to deviate from his independence plan while PM Mariano Rajoy rules out considering using a mediator

This weekend Spain appeared to be at its most important crossroads since democracy was restored forty years ago.

Despite attempts by central government to disrupt the unconstitutional referendum on independence organised by the Catalan regional government, the vote which went ahead anyway last Sunday has spurned regional leaders, led by Carles Puigdemont, to carry on with their plan to convert Catalonia into an independent state.

What happens next in Catalonia is likely to be clearer on Monday when the Catalan regional parliament is due to meet for the first time since the illegal vote.

Although Spain’s constitutional court has put a temporary ban on that meeting as well, separatist MPs, who hold a majority, are still expected to attend.

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23rd June 2016 British Referendum: Remain – Leave

BrexitTomorrow is the day for British people to vote on whether they want Britain to remain or leave the EU.  Many people, wrongly assume, that British people living outside of Britain will vote: remain.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth; the opinion of the international British expat community is as divided as it is in the British Isles.

From my point of view, it’s thought provoking that this single, albeit hugely complicated, issue has divided as well as united people across opposing political and economic ideologies, as well as diverse religions, ethnicities and faiths.  Even within business and trade there is no clear voice; some say the farmers want to stay and the fishermen want to leave; big business says stay, smaller companies say leave.  Age also isn’t a clear indicator of how you are going to vote although it is said that the younger generations, if it doesn’t rain and they aren’t watching football, will, generally speaking, vote to remain.

The only constant in this referendum campaign is that both sides have behaved despicably; both have used scare tactics, hatred and paranoia to bully, threaten and misinform the general public into voting for their side.  This behaviour makes me ashamed to be British and it is far removed from the things about Britain and British people that I admire cherish and love.

Now, if the British community are divided, what does the international community think?  Well, in a nutshell, and, very tongue in cheek:

  1. The French: The EU started without Britain and we will continue without them.
  2. The Germans: Britain; it’s a weak nation with under-performing processes, waste, and a rubbish football team.
  3. The Italians: We hate the British, they have no sense of style, they are not good-looking and they can’t make coffee.  However, we love David and Victoria Beckham.
  4. The Spanish: Stay; united we are stronger.  But, if you vote no, we’re not going to like you.
  5. The USA: So, are you saying that Europe is a continent and that London isn’t Europe? Anyway, we don’t care about your tiny insignificant little European bubble we’ve got far more pressing issues with who’s going to be the next president.
  6. Russia:  We are not interested.  It is not of our concern.
  7. The Irish: The Brits are such a crac; they say stupid things, they don’t know a potato from a cabbage and despite the fact that they kept bombing us and stealing our women we want you .

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