1 August, 2009

The El Mundo daily newspaper has been running a series of surveys of its readers to find out what they think of various aspects of national life at the end of the first 30 years of democracy. Some of the results have been very damning, but it’s doubtful that the politicians will take much notice of them. Contrary to popular belief, the Spaniards are not indifferent to corruption in high places and know exactly where to place the blame: Socialist politicians, local builders of all political parties and local councils of all political hues. More than 27% said the current Socialist government was more corrupt than the first one under Felipe Gonzalez (24%). Only 14% said the Partido Popular government headed by José María Aznar was corrupt. More than 62% said the politicians were the most corrupt, followed by the judiciary (14.4%) and the media (9%). As for politicians, the most corrupt were those in local government. On the economic front, nearly 60% thought the construction was the most corrupt, followed by the banks (18%). Nearly 80% want to Constitution changed in order to put limits on the nationalist parties while at a local level, the party that gets the most votes should form the local council, doing away with alliances between minority parties. And two thirds of those question said they did not believe that the whole truth about the 2004 Madrid bombings had been told.



12 November, 2008

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10 November, 2008

British police have launched another Operation Captura to track down criminals on the run on the Costa Blanca. In El Campello on the Costa Blanca, Crimestoppers are already putting up posters and handing out beer mats in a second drive to track down unwanted criminals thought to be hiding in Spain. A Crimestoppers’ spokesperson said: “We were blown away by the response to the first Operation Captura two years ago. The expats here really don’t want to have these people living among them and the beauty with Crimestoppers is that it’s totally anonymous so no one will ever know the tip-off came from them.” Of the 30 criminals featured in the first Operation Captura two years ago, 13 are now back in custody, including convicted killer James Hurley, who had been on the run for over a decade. Among the 10 faces on the new list are convicted paedophile Andrew Alderman, 49; drug dealer suspect Adam Hart, 29, on the run after escaping from police; Dean Rice, 47, wanted for kidnap and false imprisonment, and Anthony Kearney, 43, who is accused of extortion, perverting the course of justice and fraud. The full list can be found on the Crimestoppers website, with photographs of each of the wanted criminals and freephone numbers that can be called from both the UK and Spain. The list is prepared by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and those on it are subject to European Arrest Warrants. Introduced in 2004, these drastically reduce paperwork and make extradition a matter of weeks, not years. Bill Hughes, director of Soca, has a strong message for those on the run abroad: “These criminals seem to gravitate to warmer climes and think they can sit back and relax and enjoy their money. That’s not the case. We are determined to seize their assets and bring them back to face trial, or be returned to prison, in the proper way.” Information received will be forwarded to Spanish police, who will make the actual arrests. But Soca admits that criminals are already getting the message that Spain is no longer the sunshine sanctuary it once was. They are now turning their attention to other destinations, such as Dubai, to try to evade the ever-lengthening long arm of the law.


10 November, 2008

Some 10,000 motorcyclists blocked the streets in the centre of Madrid last Saturday when they staged their 3rd National Motorbike Demonstration to back their demands for the removal of safety barriers which they claim are fatal for motorcyclists. As if to highlight their claim, a motorcyclist died after he crashed into a safety barrier just outside Madrid only hours before the demonstration started. Before setting out from the Santiago Bernabeu football stadium, the participants observed a minute’s silence for that death and the 500 motorcyclists who died on Spain’s roads in the past 12 months. Their other demands included the use of non-slip paint on the roads, a general resurfacing and the suppression of the new €1,500 motorbike purchase tax. A spokesman for Unidad Motera (Motorcyclist Union) said the latest measures adopted by the Traffic Authority, such as raising the minimum age for driving a motorbike to 16 or a tougher driving test, only made owning a bike more expensive without teaching the driver the necessary skills. Smaller demonstrations were held in other cities across the country.


10 November, 2008

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said last Saturday that he would use his hard-won invitation to attend the G-20 summit in Washington on November 20th to ensure that Spain becomes a permanent member of groups like the G-20 and the G-8. French President Nicolas Sarkozy made the PM’s attendance possible by giving him one of the two seats he has allocated to him as the current EU President and as president of an EU country. Most political observers in Spain believe outgoing US President Geiorge W Bush had used the G-20 formula, which Spain does not belong to, for the summit to punish Sr Zapatero for having withdrawn Spanish peace-keeping troops from Iraq shortly after he took power in April 2004.


10 November, 2008

One of Osama Bin Laden’s sons has been returned to Egypt after his request for political asylum in Spain was rejected by the government last week. Omar Osama Bin Laden, 27, made his claim at Madrid’s Barajas airport last Monday during a stopover on a flight from Egypt to Morocco with his British wife. Mr Bin Laden, one of the al-Qaeda leader’s 19 sons, said the the government had rejected his petition due to “insufficient evidence of danger or threat to his life””. A metals trader, who has urged his father to give up violence, argued that his pacifist beliefs put his life in the Middle East at risk. Omar Bin Laden currently lives in Cairo, with Zaina Alsabah Bin Laden, formerly named Jane Felix-Browne, whom he married in 2006. The couple said they were finding it difficult to find a country that would accept Mr Bin Laden and blamed his family name. The couple had hoped to move to Mrs Bin Ladens home in Cheshire, north-west England. But they said in April the British government had judged Mr Bin Laden’s presence in the country would not be “conducive to the public good”. It is thought the authorities were referring to comments made by Mr Bin Laden that he could not prove his father was responsible for the 2001 attacks on the US or the London bombings in 2005. Omar Bin Laden says he has not seen his father since 2000. Mrs Bin Laden, who is severely visually impaired, had said she needed access to medical treatment in the UK but refused to be apart from her husband.


10 November, 2008

The National Court has suspended the opening of mass graves in the inquiry into the fate of more than 140,000 men and women who were executed during the Civil War and the years immediately following it. The country’s top criminal court ruled by 10 votes to five to stop exhumations until it can decide whether Judge Baltasar Garzon had the competence to launch the inquiry. Judge Garzon ordered the opening of 19 mass graves last month, including the gravesite of poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Garzon named Gen Francisco Franco and more than 30 members of his regime as instigators of alleged crimes against humanity, but the National Court ruled last Friday that the “activities related to the exhumation of bodies must be suspended while this court resolves questions raised by the public prosecutor regarding the competence of the judge to make this move”. The ruling followed an appeal from the public prosecutor who has said Franco-era crimes cannot be examined because of an amnesty law passed in 1977. Campaigners condemned the court’s ruling as “brutally inhumane”. Emilio Silva, head of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, said: “There are many people who are very old who have been waiting for a long time to recover their loved ones’ bones and give them a decent burial.” The United Nations Commission on Human Rights recently asked Spain to abolish the amnesty law because it contradicted international treaties.