Spain. As one of the last countries in Western Europe, Spain introduced a ban on smoking from the beginning of the year. The resistance was great and reports were made in their quarters about the obvious when smokers defied the ban.
According to Countryaah official site, the economic crisis worsened during the year. The euro area countries tried to help keep Spain’s borrowing costs down as it was considered too expensive if the country needed support. Nevertheless, interest rates rose and were at most stumbling close to 7% for a ten-year loan – the level that has prompted a few other euro area countries to seek help. Unemployment rose above 22% and was the highest in the EU; among young people it was around 46%. Many Spaniards sat with high loans for housing that fell sharply in value. There were a million empty homes in the country, some of which were not even completed.
The dissatisfaction with the Social Democratic Government Party PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) grew stronger. The tough savings packages implemented in 2010 had not produced any visible results. In the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, mainly students and young unemployed people gathered in May. They called themselves “los indignados” (the upset) and camped in the square. The wave of protests spread to other cities, and large demonstrations were held on several occasions.
In May, regional and municipal elections were held which became a tough blow to the PSOE, which lost in principle everything that was lost. The only regions the PSOE had control over after the elections were two where elections were not held: Andalusia and the Basque Country. The result strengthened the opposition’s demand for new elections. In July, the government also decided to announce elections in November, four months before the ordinary election date. As expected, the result was a big victory for the conservative Partido Popular (PP), despite the party’s main message being continued austerity. PP received its biggest support ever, with almost 45% of the vote and its own majority in both chambers. PSOE made a poor record with 29% of the vote. New head of government became PP’s leader Mariano Rajoy.
Just before New Year, the new government presented a new savings package worth € 8.9 billion. The package included both spending cuts and tax increases.
The Basque separatist movement ETA announced in January a permanent ceasefire. In October, it was announced that the weapons had been closed down for good. Thus, over 40 years of terrorist attacks and political murders would be over. Of all the judgments, it was a capitulation of a group that lost support and was weakened by police in Spain and France seizing a long line of leaders for several years.
Aragonès interim head of government in Catalonia
Pere Aragonès is appointed new interim head of government in Catalonia. He will have only limited powers until the new election scheduled for early 2021. The appointment comes after the regional president was banned by the Supreme Court from holding a public office (see 28 September 2020).
34 acquitted of corruption charges
Former IMF chief Rodrigo Rato and 33 others accused of providing false information to investors in 2011 are now being acquitted by the Special Court, the Audiencia Nacional, which deals with crimes against the state, corruption, suspected terrorist crimes and more. Many small savers lost their money after investing in Bankia, which was formed this year through a merger of several savings banks, following information that the bank was making a profit, when in fact it was heading for a billion loss. Rato was then Bankia’s Chairman of the Board, and he has previously been Minister of Finance during the Conservative PP’s government in the late 1990s and early 00s. He is currently serving a 4.5-year prison sentence for using the bank’s credit card for private use (see October 2014). The court has taken a year to reach the acquittal.
HD upholds the verdict against Catalonia’s regional president
The Spanish Supreme Court (HD) has ruled that Catalonia’s Prime Minister Quim Torra is no longer allowed to hold public office for 18 months (July and December 2019). The verdict concerns his refusal to follow an order from the Spanish Electoral Council to remove separatist symbols from public buildings in Catalonia.
The restrictions in Madrid are being extended
The area affected by the new corona restrictions introduced in Madrid earlier in September will now be extended to several areas from 28 September. However, the Spanish government is not satisfied but calls on the regional authorities to quarantine the entire metropolitan area (later, drastic measures are threatened if nothing more is done). At the same time, the decision on the restrictions is provoking protests in Madrid, as hundreds of protesters gather around the regional parliament on September 27 to show their dissatisfaction. The Madrid region is now the area in Spain hardest hit by covid-19, with just over 746 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
New corona restrictions in the Madrid region
The Madrid region is introducing new restrictions to prevent the further spread of the virus that causes covid-19. Freedom of movement is restricted to residents in several extra vulnerable areas. They are only allowed to leave their home quarters to work, go to school or take care of relatives. A maximum of six people may socialize at the same time and all parks must be kept closed. More than 855,000 people live in the affected areas. In the most affected areas, an estimated 100,000 inhabitants out of 100,000 are infected with covid-19. New restrictions are also being introduced in other parts of Spain, including Alicante, San Sebastián de los Reyes and Cuzco. The following weekend, several demonstrations are being held in Madrid to protest the restrictions and to demand the resignation of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, from the Conservative People’s Party (PP) who leads the regional government. Madrid regions,
New law paves the way for identification of victims from the Franco era
The Spanish government approves a bill that makes it possible to dig up and identify the remains of thousands of people from mass graves from the time of the Spanish Civil War 1936–1939 and during the dictatorship under Franco. There are about 100,000 victims now resting in unmarked graves around Spain. A database will also be set up to identify the victims and state institutions will also be banned from glorifying the dictatorship. Descendants of those who fought with the international brigades in the republic’s sisa during the civil war should also be offered Spanish citizenship. El Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen), a mausoleum about 50 km north of Madrid, where Franco was previously buried, will be transformed into a place where visitors will learn more about what happened during the Civil War and the dictatorship. The government allocates 750,000 euros to pay for the work carried out in accordance with the law in 2020.
Criticism of corona control
Spain is now the first European country where a total of more than half a million (over 566,000) cases of covid-19 have been reported. Experts now believe that the government’s decision to hand over responsibility for the pandemic fight in the regions in June has both politicized and made work more difficult. The regulations look different in different regions, at the same time as the inhabitants can travel freely between different parts of the country. Madrid, which has been hit hardest by the pandemic, has recently limited the number of people allowed to meet at the same time to ten, restrictions that other less vulnerable regions have introduced in the past. The government points out that it allows the regions to use 2,000 soldiers in the work of infection tracing. On September 11, over 12,100 new cases were reported, which is the highest figure to date in Spain.
Small-scale La Diada celebration in corona times
The annual National Day celebration in Catalonia, La Diada, is now limited by the restrictions imposed due to the ongoing corona pandemic, where large crowds are banned. In many parts of the region, however, there are smaller demonstrations in support of Catalan independence. According to estimates, about 59,000 people participate in these, according to the newspaper El País. The organizers encourage participants to maintain social distance in their manifestations. In the morning, parts of the train traffic are stopped when burning tires are placed on the tracks. At the same time, it is clear that there are tensions between the regional governing parties, where the left-wing party ERC, just like the opposition, wants a new election, something JxCat says no to.
Ex-Colonel from El Salvador convicted of Jesuit murder
Former Salvadoran Colonel Inocente Montano has been sentenced to 133 years in prison by a Madrid court for his involvement in the notorious assassination of six Jesuit priests and two others in 1989. Five of the priests were Spaniards. A man suspected of committing the murders is a witness at the trial.
Spanish ex-minister questioned by Argentine judge
Rodolfo Martin Villa, Spanish interior minister in the 1970s, is being questioned by an Argentine judge for his role in the deaths of 12 people. The twelve were shot dead by police or right-wing extremist groups during the transition to democracy after the death of dictator Franco in 1975. 85-year-old Martin Villa maintains that he is innocent of what he is accused of. The investigation has been initiated on behalf of families of those who were killed. An amnesty law from 1977 means that Spanish courts do not have the right to pursue such cases.
Court orders Franco’s relatives to return the mansion
A court in the region of Galicia orders relatives of former dictator Francisco Franco to return a mansion in Galicia that was illegally acquired in 1941 to the state. The Pazo de Meiras property was used as Franco’s summer residence. The mansion is today owned by six of the former dictator’s grandchildren.
Important budget talks begin
Talks are now underway to get through a new budget between the two governing parties, the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos. This comes after information about a schism between the parties after the talks that the PSOE had with the bourgeois Ciudadanos. For the coalition government, it is important to get a new budget adopted, as Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez two ministers have so far had to follow the budget adopted by the previous Conservative government in 2018. In late August, Sánchez held a meeting with PSOE supporters at grassroots level, where also several leaders of Spanish big business participated. He then downplayed all talk of a schism between the PSOE and Unidas Podemos. Mr Sánchez also stressed the need for a political dialogue to deal with the ongoing pandemic and the economic problems that followed in its wake; which saw the Conservative People’s Party (PP) as a boot year. The spread of infection in Spain remains high, with thousands of new cases reported every day, but there are now signs that it is declining somewhat.