Business over Tapas Nº 530

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A digest of this week’s Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:

Prepared by Lenox Napier. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

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Editorial:

The future hope of the Partido Popular: once (and when, and if) the current leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo (who is as dull a politician as his name is unpronounceable) is defenestrated, is the attractive Madrid regional ruler Isabel Díaz Ayuso.

Ayuso is a popular and charismatic leader, the lucid spokesperson for the modern conservatives: the ‘pijos’ as they are sometimes known in Spain.

She has a modest tattoo on her forearm to honour Depeche Mode. So one can safely add ‘groovy’ to her manifest allure.

Ayuso’s popularity took a hit following the pandemic and her order to leave those who were in the region’s old people’s homes – or residencias – to stay put and not be transferred to hospitals if they caught the Covid. ‘They would have died anyway’ she said callously the other day. Some 7,921 old people died in their residencias (alone, without receiving medical attention), and maybe 4,000 of them could have been saved.

Last summer, Ayuso and her boyfriend moved into a luxury one million euro apartment in the tony area of Chamberí and – if we can believe elDiario.es – also into the upstairs roof apartment, giving her and her fellow 380sqm to wander around in. The apartment belongs to her boyfriend, who bought it loan-free, and the upstairs apartment belongs to a company controlled by the boyfriend’s lawyer.

The boyfriend is Alberto González Amador, who earned two million euros in commissions during the pandemic and has since attracted the attention of Hacienda for neglecting to pay his taxes – claimed to stand at some 350,000€. In fact, González Amador had recognised the debt and had offered through his lawyer to pay the outstanding amount ‘plus any fines’ back in February, to avoid any larger punishment.

The original story of the boyfriend’s misdoings and his protection by his chorba (Madrid slang: girlfriend), who also happens to be the regional president, first appeared in elDiario.es a week or two ago. Since then, other news-sources have either fanned the flames, or done their best to put them out – depending on their political stance and the amount of money pledged to them in institutional advertising over the past few months (that’s 27 million euros for the Madrid regional for 2024). An example being Eduardo Inda, the director of OKDiario, who sings for his supper with his headline: ‘What they have done with Ayuso and her boyfriend shows that the Government is a mafia and Sánchez its boss’. With video (for those who can’t read). Hacienda was evidently working to pull down the wrong tax-avoider, indeed.

Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, Ayuso’s chief of staff, quickly responded to the scandal by opening a WhatsApp conversation with a journalist at elDiario.es and threatening to both sue and close them down:

We are going to crush you. You’re going to have to close. Idiots. F**k you.”

Is that a threat?” the journalist asked.

It’s a fact,” Rodríguez responded. (Google translation, not mine)

Elsewhere, we read that elDiario.es claims 1.5 million daily readers. They’ll be surprised.

How will this all affect Ayuso? Will she remain as the likely future candidate for the leadership of the PP? Not only Núñez Feijóo but the Vox leader Santiago Abascal must be watching all the goings-on – and trying to keep a straight face.

Housing:

From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘There were 123,189 homes bought by foreigners in 2023, a decline of 8% compared to the post-pandemic boom year of 2022, although the second-highest number on record. Overall sales including both local and foreign buyers totalled 638,522 in the year, down 11%, and the third best year in over a decade’.

La Cañada Real is the largest bidonville in Europe. It’s situated just outside Madrid, has no electricity and is home to some 8,700 people (wiki). El País reports that the Government now plans to rehouse the neighbours (at least those in Sector Six, the most problematic part of the shanty town) with a project to build 16,000 dwellings over the next ten years, with a budget of 330 million euros. El País also reports on another settlement, this time in Almería, where around 4,000 immigrants live in fear, says the article, of a court-ordered demolition: the tent-city called Atochares just outside Níjar. A nearby and similar-sized settlement – Walili (photos) – was razed to the ground in January 2023.

Idealista in English always has interesting articles on property.

Tourism:

Tourism isn’t – of course – spread evenly across Spain. From Hosteltur here: ‘Six communities account for almost 98% of international arrivals’. These are Madrid, The Canaries, Cataluña, Andalucía, Comunidad Valenciana and The Balearics.

What are the best places for British holidaymakers in Spain? El Economista says that three out of every ten Brits plan to visit Spain this year, but where? The British press, says the article, is hyping several new destinations, including Extremadura and Asturias.

A disturbing news-item from the Costa del Sol: ‘The filling of private swimming pools is banned in the south of Spain but hotel, registered tourist accommodation and public pools are allowed’ says Sur in English here. El País notes that ‘Andalucía authorizes filling hotel pools, but prohibits privately-owned and community pools. The measure of the Andalusian administration affects the Campo de Gibraltar and the east of Almería, as well as all of Málaga and its powerful tourist sector on the Costa del Sol’. Back to Sur in English: ‘Some clarification came from a meeting of the Junta de Andalucía’s drought management committee when it met last week, but it will need to be ratified with the publication of an official decree in the coming days’. Ask an hotelier or a tourist councillor and it all makes perfect sense…

While there are arguments – particularly from the hoteliers – against tourist rentals, there are also a couple of sound reasons in their favour. From Sur in English here: ‘95% of the holiday home rental properties for tourists in Málaga are run by ‘small owners’. Almost 80% of the tourist rental properties on the Costa del Sol and across the province are in the hands of a single owner, who then uses that money to supplement family income, according to the latest data’.

The panic headline of the week comes from GBNews here: ‘Spain tourist tax: Mayors of Malaga, Seville and Cordoba launch war on UK holidaymakers with new levy’. So, it’s war!

Politics:

From La Sexta here: ‘Pedro Sánchez renounces the 2024 budget and sets his sights instead on approving the 2025 budget’. From The Corner here: ‘Faced with the news of the call for elections in Catalonia, the head of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, has decided not to draw up the draft budget for 2024. Sánchez understands that it does not make sense to sit down to negotiate the accounts in the run-up to an election campaign in which the PSC (PSOE in Catalonia) will compete with the ERC and Junts for the presidency of the Government. In this way, the government considers the budgets approved last year to have been extended – definitively – and will begin to work on outlining those for 2025, on which the Eurogroup (wiki) has already requested adjustments with the aim of guaranteeing compliance with European rules…’

What happened in Catalonia? The government there was unable to agree about the Hard Rock hotel complex – with a casino – to be built in Tarragona (here). Thus the regional government fell over its budgets; and this, in line, affected the Madrid national budget. elDiario.es titles the issue: ‘Two governments paralysed in Barcelona and Madrid thanks to 1,200 one-armed bandits’. From Catalan News here: ‘What is the Hard Rock casino complex? The controversial project stalling the 2024 budget. The leisure facility, blocked for years, has (had) become the key to approving the €430 million accounts’.

The amnesty law has passed in the Cortes and is now in the Senado, the upper house, where, despite any opposition from the majority PP there, it should come back for final approval in a couple of months (just in time for Puigdemont’s return? Maybe not). But what is this? – the Senado wants to hand this off to the Constitutional Court with the claim that the amnesty is unconstitutional. That should delay things a spell…

From El Huff Post here: ‘Nervousness grows in the PP due to the controversy over Ayuso’s boyfriend: “It is not being managed well”. Senior politicians in the party (known as Los Barones) recognize that Ayuso’s chief of staff Miguel Ángel Rodríguez’s public and private statements are unacceptable: “The normal thing would be for him to resign”.’

The Partido Popular had attempted to involve Pedro Sánchez’ wife in some imbroglio to do with Air Europe and reported her to the Office of Conflict of Interests, but the subsequent ruling from the OCI came out as negative says 20Minutos here. Undeterred, Feijóo is trying again to attack Begoña Gómez (Sánchez’ wife) through the Senado says elDiario.es here.

The Basque Country Elections are just a month away – April 21. The two main parties there PNV and EH Bildu are neck and neck, with the PSOE running behind in third place.

Catalonia Elections May 12:

‘Catalonia set for May 12 election after president dissolves parliament. Pere Aragonès signs decree for early vote after failing to pass 2024 budget’. Item from Catalan News here.

Could Carles Puigdemont shrug off his MEP immunity in Brussels and run as candidate for the Junts thanks to the ongoing amnesty, necessitating his return to Barcelona? Too soon? Would he be arrested the moment he sets foot in Spain? (Yes on the last one).

The chances are, says El Español (here), that the next president of Catalonia could be the PSOE candidate Salvador Illa.

……

Europe:

‘Izquierda Española goes to the European elections campaigning as an “alternative” to the PSOE and against the Spain of “tribes”. The presentation of the new party was held at an event in Madrid’ says El Mundo here. ‘The party aspires to bring together the “orphans of Sanchismo”’ says Deia here. The leader of this slightly odd group is Guillermo del Valle. IE is made up primarily of disaffected socialists and Ciudadanos members. It likely has the backing of more right-wing interests (digo yo).

The Guardian here: ‘‘‘It’s a really big threat’: Portuguese minorities on the rise of the far right. The Chega party – whose leader’s views have been described as xenophobic and racist – appears poised to play a prominent role’. Portugal had colonies in India, China, Africa and South America. Today, there are many immigrants in Portugal and my small experience there is/was of a country without any apparent racism.

Easter:

An interesting story on how the Spanish celebrate La Semana Santa at Brexpats in Spain on Facebook here.

Corruption:

‘The Government admits that the Caso Koldo affects 17.8 million euros of European funds and Brussels demands “light to be shed” on the fraud’ says 20Minutos here. Who is Koldo García? El Confidencial has his story here.

Media:

How about a pretty AI news anchor for the Television? It’s coming, without a doubt, but for now, we have Supersecretos with Alba Renai on Telecinco, Thursday evenings….

An article here suggests that Telemadrid is better known as TeleAyuso, thanks to the efforts of her chief of staff.

Several right-wing newspapers are claiming that ‘masked reporters’ from elDiario.es tried to break into the apartment where Madrid president Isabel Díaz Ayuso lives, and elsewhere, that El País reporters were bothering the neighbours who share the apartment block. ‘City Hall denounces the harassment by pro-Sanchista journalists of Ayuso’s neighbours’ (headline from El Debate), ‘The Ayuso Government denounces that two journalists from elDiario.es have tried to enter the president’s house’ says Libertad Digital here although most media recognised the stories as being bulos (fake-news) being put out to muddy the waters. Indeed, on Wednesday afternoon, the Ayuso chief of staff admitted he made the whole thing up.

Ecology:

The recent rains drive away the threat of water cuts in Andalucía, says Público here.

‘The Andalusian reservoirs already exceed 28%, although the drought emergency situation persists. Málaga, Seville and Córdoba, threatened with restrictions this summer, improve after the intense rainfall in March’. Almería remains the worst, with only 8% reserves.

If we extract too much subterranean water, then the land will begin to sink (anyone remember the 2012 earthquake in Lorca brought about by the draining of the water underneath the surroundings?). elDiario.es says here that ‘The more subterranean water is withdrawn for irrigation, the more the ground sinks, opening the door to flooding. In Spain, by overexploiting aquifers, the depression of the land worsens. This sinking represents a “silent danger” due to the rise in sea level or the torrential floods of flood-prone Spain.

Spain is already close to 12,000 kilometres of areas at risk of flooding, which the climate crisis threatens to worsen. The farming sector has increased the use of subterranean water from 900hm3 in 2000 up to 4,100hm3 in 2018.

Depleting the aquifers is causing the contamination of groundwater due to marine intrusion, the drying out of humid ecosystems such as Doñana or the Tablas de Daimiel and increases the risk of more flooding…’

A magazine called Geophysical Research Letters says that various parts of Spain are under threat from subsidence, says El Huff Post here, including a strip from Andalucía through Murcia and into Alicante and Valencia.

‘Tenerife faces one of its worst summers due to lack of water: “All the alarms have gone off”. Livestock farmers, winegrowers, banana or potato producers face with extreme concern the water emergency situation due to the lack of rain and, as they denounce, “due to poor water management” on this Canary Island’. El Mundo reminds its readers that this summer, there will probably be, once again, some 6.5 million visitors to Tenerife.

‘The WWF complains that there are 1,300 hectares with illegal irrigation in Doñana that sell their strawberries in the markets. The NGO intends to take the matter to the Environmental Prosecutor’s Office and inform European supermarkets’. Thus, Público here.

A farm in Ciudad Real has just received 171 European bison, an endangered species, says Información here.

Various:

‘Spain has subsidized the manufacturing of electric cars in our country for more than 600 million euros. This is non-refundable aid, without any type of compensation, that Volkswagen, Stellantis and the Envision group will try to squeeze to consolidate their projects on Spanish soil’. A headline from Motor.es here. Currently, just seven in every 100 cars sold today are electric says the article. A graphic shows the five largest ‘subsidies without compensation’ (a fondo perdido) in Spain. The article also suggests a place to start would be by building cheap electric vehicles (with a smaller profit margin).

Some news about the historic number-plates. In principle, vehicles over thirty years old can get a special number-plate which allows them certain privileges. These include the right to pass through low emission zones (ZBE).

Miguel Ángel Rodríguez’s property, as found at El Plural here. MAR (as he is known) is Ayuso’s chief of staff. We read that he has done well for himself.

‘Great White Andalusian Chief asks for rain from Vatican Wizard’. A joke title, maybe, but true nonetheless. Juanma Moreno will see the Pope today, Thursday, and ask for some divine attention to the weather. The story at Nueva Tribuna here.

From Sur in English here: ‘The Irish in Andalucía: Catholic exiles, nobles and wine merchants. 490 years ago, Irish Catholics started emigrating en masse from the British Isles. Spain, and especially Andalucía, was a preferred destination, giving rise to Irish connections that remain today’.

From El Español here: ‘The five days in which Galicia proclaimed itself an independent state: the First Galician Republic. The story of an insurrection that captured the attention of half the world to demand that the railway reach Galicia’. From June 23rd until 27th 1931, it says, Galicia was its own boss. (Wiki gives the republic just one day here). The article says that the rail-link to Madrid was first approved (and later discarded because of the cost) in 1860. It ends with: ‘…Regarding the railway to Galicia, the work was intended to be completed in five years, but it took more than thirty years, a republic, a civil war, two dictatorships, more than 15,000 people and several hundred victims to complete a pharaonic work with 14 viaducts, 182 tunnels, 692,000 cubic meters of concrete and more than 19 million cubic meters of earthworks. On July 1, 1957, Francisco Franco inaugurated the section to Orense and no one remembered what was known as the First Galician Republic.

A shoot-out in Puerto Banus is partially captured on video at NarcoDiario here, under the title: ‘Organized crime sows panic in the streets of Marbella. The presence of the large drug trafficking mafias constantly causes extreme violence’. Another shoot-out, this time in Marbella’s Nueva Andalucía last month, where two Swedes were shot and wounded ‘by rival gang members’, has now resulted in three arrests says The Olive Press here.

From The Guardian here: ‘A Spanish court decided on Wednesday that Brazilian footballer Dani Alves could leave prison if he pays a bail of €1m and hands over his passports while awaiting the appeal against his conviction for raping a woman in Barcelona in 2022’.

The protestor at Spanish Shilling. 

Letters:

Hello Lenox

Excellent edition again. Hugh Grosvenor is actually the Duke of Westminster and is certainly worth a peseta or two!!!

Best regards

David

(I had put Duke of Wellington – sorry for the mistake, Lenox)

The 20 year anniversary of the 11M (here)

Quite by chance Lenox I was in Barcelona on business, and when I got to the Station early evening, to return home via Valencia on the fast train, on which if one booked First Class one got breakfast in the morning and drinks and snacks in the evening. To say the Security was highly motivated in Barca was an understatement. They wanted ID, and body pat down on top of normal baggage scanner I remember. I was facing forward in a two-seater table on the right of the train, reading a UK paper, and opposite me was a very well to do lady abogada who started chatting.

She said the train is moving unusually slowly, normally it would be picking up speed after Sitges I think.

Anyway it slowed even further until I saw what we would call a country halt came into view, but this halt I could see was crawling with heavily armed Troops and GC all with submachine guns half raised and Officers with drawn pistols!

I said to the lady something like OMG as she couldn’t yet see as her back was to them, as the train reached walking pace and then shuddered to a halt! Lots of shouting and banging of doors as a guard shouted to us to stay seated! My lady spoke to him, and he said I’ll tell you later but please don’t move.

It turns out that at Barca four suspected Terrorists had been followed to the carriage behind, thank goodness!

They were handcuffed and dragged off the train. All the Passengers were then checked before the train was allowed to proceed. I believe these were the people later announced as being arrested in Barca. But all lips remained sealed and the Guard only told my Abogada Lady what had happened next door where the Terrorists were overwhelmed and they didn’t seem to be armed he said.

Hard to believe the terrible deeds were 20 years ago in what remains Europe’s worst Terrorist Incident with over 190 killed and many hundreds injured, some terribly!

Best

Robin

*The red danger warning about Goodness-knows-what which sometimes appears is only received by Gmail accounts. Those concerned can send me another email address, or I can – if you wish – send out the BoT without any links. Lenox

Finally:

Natalia Lafourcade is a Mexican singer, here she performs María la Curandera at YouTube.

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