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Sabre rattling in Spain

by Migeru Sat Jan 7th, 2006 at 07:49:46 PM EST

I was barely 5 years old when, to quote a song by satiric band La Trinca, "Dictatorship broke into the [Prime Minister] investiture session [of Parliament] without an invitation". My mother has never been too political, so she spent the evening reading and listening to music, and went to bed without knowing what was up (I seem to recall), but my more political father was teaching the evening classes at a secondary school not far from the Parliament building, so he and others went over to demonstrate in front of it. He says that there was a counterdemonstration of coup supporters, and that at some point the police came over to the democrats and politely announced that they had received an order to charge on the demonstrators so could they please leave, which they did. I don't know whether he says or I am inventing that no such warning was given to the fascists :-)

Anyway, shivers ran down the spine of half of Spain yesterday because, on the occasion of the Spanish Military's Christmas celebration (Pascua Militar), the head the army warned that the army might intervene if the Spanish Parliament approves a version of the Catalan Autonomy Statute going beyond the Constitution's limits.

Update [2006-1-8 19:32:11 by Migeru]: After the goverment's swift reaction the issue has died equally swiftly in the media, which is a good sign.


La Vanguardia: A military commander warns that the army must intervene if the Estatut [Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy] exceeds its limits (2006 January 7)
[Defence Minister] Bono will dismiss lieutenant general Mena, whom he has called to a meeting in Madrid today. The general considers it "beyond measure" that [the Estatute] demands [that those serving in Catalonia know] Catalan.

The highest authority in the Ground Forces, lieutenant general José Mena Aguado, yesterday threatened an army intervention if the Estatut is approved in its current terms. The defence minister, José Bono, has called him to [a meeting in] Madrid this morning.

Lightning dismissal. On the proposal of the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Félix Sanz Roldán, the defence minister José Bono, will dismiss today the highest authority of the army's Ground Forces José Mena Aguado, who yesterday in Sevilla threatened an intervention of the armed forces should the reform of the Estatut be carried trough in its present terms. In an event taking place on occasion of the Pascua Militar, lieutenant general Mena warned of "the serious consequences that the approval of the Catalan Statute in its present terms would have, both for the armes forces as an institution as well as for the people that make them up". In this sense, he added that, should the Constitution's limits be exceeded, "article 8 of the Constitution would be applicable", and he added further that "it is the mission of the armed forces to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain, [and] defend its [territorial] integrity and constitutional arrangements".

(Full text of the speech, via El Mundo, and relevant excerpts via El Pais)

What makes this speech all the more serious is that it was effectively made in lieu of the King, who as Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces delivered a very different speech in Madrid:

La Vanguardia: The King recalls once again the consensus of 1978 (2006 January 7)
The Pascua Militar is celebrated in Madrid with no direct references to the Estatut and in a climate of moderation.

The celebration of the Pascua Militar at the Royal Palace in Madrid was of a marked institutional character, without alluding to the Estatut de Catalunya. King Juan Carlos plaised the values and the currency of the 1978 Constitution and the defence minister dismissed [the possibility of] comparing the [current] political situation to the fratricidal Spain [of the 1930's].

That it's not a surprise does not make the reaction of the right-wing People's Party less astonishing.

La Vanguardia: The PP justifies the military man's words and sees them as inevitable in the face of "the situation we are living" (2006 January 7)
Nationalist parties criticise the pronunciamiento of the military man and IU demands his dismissal.

The PP avoided criticising general Mena and justified his words by saying that they saw them as "inevitable" in the current political situation and "a reflection of the situación we are living". Nationalists and IU demanded disciplinary measures such as his dismissal.

Meanwhile, the president of the Catalan regional government stays cool...

La Vanguardia: [President] Maragall says Catalunya trusts the the King's and [Prime Minister] Zapatero's Spain (2006 January 7)
Pasqual Maragall said today that Catalunya sees with "calm and trust" the settling of  "Spain [as a] great nation" [as described] by the King and the "pluralistic Spain" of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, despite the "potential threat to democratic normality" that, he said, the words of lieutenant general José Mena represent.

Fortunately, the Chiefs of Staff reacted strongly against Mena.

El Pais: The head of the military leadership requests that the Lieutenant General from Sevilla be dismissed for his assault on the Statute (2006 January 7)
Bono calls Mena Aguado to his office for mentioning the possibility of an Army intervention

The statements on the possibility that the Army intervene if the Catalan Statute goes beyond the Constitution, made yesterday by the lieutenant general for Sevilla, José Mena Aguado, caused a tense political controversy. The military leaddership itself stepped in front [of him] when they asked for his immediate dismissal. As Mena made these statements, described as "inadmissible" and even "coup-like" by Catalan and Basque nationalists, the defence minister José Bono made a speech in Madrid before the King, on the occasion of the Pascua Militar, in which he said congratulatorily that Spain is beyond "sabre rattling". The PP asserted that in the frame of the controversy over the Statute "it is inevitable that pronouncements all all kinds are made".

General mena is now under house arrest for eight days (El Pais), but there have been mixed reactions from the military.

La Vanguardia: Bono orders the home arrest of the lieutenant general who charged on the projected Estatut (2006 January 7)
At the meeting with Bono and Sanz, Mena asserted, according to military sources, that with yesterday's speech he wanted to express his own feelings, as well as opinions that he had received from some underlings, and that he did not think they would have such repercussions.

The president of the Association of Spanish Military People Asociación de Militares Españoles, José Conde Monge, was of the same opinion, and applauded today the lieutenant general's words and criticised that Bono has sanctioned him "for defending the Constitution".

The retired colonel praised Mena's military career and stressed his courage to "say what he had to say" in the face of "a dangerous situation, that politicians won't see and that can lead to putting aside the Constitución and even dismembering Spain".

The members of the Unified Assciation of Spanish Military People (AUME) don't share the same opinion, and they showed their support for the disciplinary measures adopted [by Bono] as well as praising the swiftness with which Sanz Roldán acted.

A spokesman for AUME pointed out that Mena "exceeded his limits", rejected his words, because "democracy has its own places to express opinions and make politics, outside the military" and considered that the problem  resides in part of the military brass, "which is conniving with a certain political party".

You can't say it any clearer than the AUME, can you?

If you read Spanish, this issue is being followed at Ignacio Escolar's blog, which comes highly recommended.

Update [2006-1-8 19:32:11 by Migeru]: After the swift reaction of the govenment, and of the Armed Forces themselves, the issue has died out in the press as quickly as it flared up.

La Vanguardia: Decisive gesture (Editorial, 2006 January 8)
During these long months of debate on the _Estatut_, the controversy has been followed with special attention from the barracks and several Catalan political leaders have even had a chance to know the real pulse caused by the discussion. Very probably, Mena's reflections enjoy some [favourable] reception in parts of the army and hence it is important that the Government's response and its Defence minister as been of democratic firmness, sanctioning such a highly ranked member of the military with measures without precedent since the far times of 23-F. The opposition has requested that Bono appear before parliament to explain the feelings within the armed forces. It seems reasonable. But this does not exclude that Rajoy still has pendin a rebuke of those who these [past] days, speaking for the PP, have found an explanation to the words of the General now under arrest
It does seem, as both ManFromMiddletown and KCurie have pointed out in the comments, that the biggest loser in all of this is the right-wing People's Party. I think they have earned themselves a diary ;-)

Display:
I read through El Pais today and saw the article about Bono putting this general under house arrest, and I couldn't understand why Bono was acting now, since similar comments were made by military officers last year.

Now I understand.

While a repeat of 1981, let alone 1936 is highly unlikely, there's part of me that suspects that someone hasn't let certain General, members of the AVT, and PP militants in on this.  Maybe it's more accurate to say while a military uprising just isn't going to happen, a vocal, violent minority might break the peace, and fire up the and old day when the Spanish government ran death squads, and the Pistoleros de Cristo Rey committed acts of violence.

The forced embrace of "Europe" is indicative of the deep fear most Spanish have of the dirty past.  I understand the old men who cling to fascist past, it's the young kids who become skinheads, attacked Santiago Carillo last year, and gave fascist salutes at the protest aginst th removal of the last stature of Franco in Madrid that I don't understand.  There's a rising tide of violence from the Spanish right, they're deeply frustrated at being totally out of power in a way that hasn't been true since 1936, and I'm afraid the result may be that at least some of the right takes matters into their own hands.  And decides to commit terrorism, assasinations, and general bad behavior in the name of Spain.  Look what they've done to Pilar Manjon......

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Jan 7th, 2006 at 09:40:51 PM EST
One could argue that this is a classic pronunciamiento, where a military commander makes a political statement with no intention of actually taking arms if the government does not act on it and there is not wide support within the armed forces, but in that case Mena is over 100 years out of date.

I think the PP has completely lost it, but it represents 10M voters whose opinions it influences. The real test will come if and when they lose the next general election.

I see you've taken to my meme, but I want to stress once again that it is not that they are out of power for the first time since 1936 (see 1982-1996) but that the political tension is at a level that has not been seen since the 1930's (or maybe the 1975-78 if you want to be less dramatic and sound more optimistic).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 10:52:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One could argue that this is a classic pronunciamiento, where a military commander makes a political statement with no intention of actually taking arms if the government does not act on it and there is not wide support within the armed forces, but in that case Mena is over 100 years out of date.

I've always thought this was a possiblity when Sanz Roldan made the statement about the unity of Spain being a logical preoocupation of the military, which was similiar to the statement here.

I see you've taken to my meme, but I want to stress once again that it is not that they are out of power for the first time since 1936 (see 1982-1996) but that the political tension is at a level that has not been seen since the 1930's (or maybe the 1975-78 if you want to be less dramatic and sound more optimistic).

Yes, I took to your meme.  And I think the difference between this and the 14 years of Felipsmo is the enduring myth of March 11, and the willingess of Zapatero to attack the wounds of the Civil War, removing the staute of Franco, etc.
And between the Estatut and the failed attempt to force an "autonomy" (indepence) referendum in the Basque counry there's a real sense that Spain's unity is threatened in a way that hasn't been true since the passage of the autonomy statutes in 78-81, or more darkly, 1936.  

The enduring myth of March 11th allows the right to believe that they had their country stolen from them by Basque terrorists working with Muslims to undermine Spain.  It's shades of the era before the Reconquest when the Basques collaborated with the taifa states on the peninula against their fellow Christians.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 10:07:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And here I thought you were off the wall with your "General's Shadow" diary which you link...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 03:37:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see the that the IU used the term pronunciamiento also, clearly they are fans of my diaries :-)

Call me Cassandra. I'd like to be wrong more often.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 08:46:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wecome back Migeru ! You have been missed here.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 01:21:33 AM EST
I had not heard of this, neither in the French media nor in the European Breakfast - which is why it is essential that we have multilingual coverage!

If the PP is moving rightwards, what is the PSOE doing? Also drifting rightwards, or remaining in place, left of center?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 05:48:05 AM EST
The PSOE remains a progressive party, but economically I think has moved rightwards like all other European Social Democratic parties did in the 1990's.

The PP is the result of the merger of Manuel Fraga's right-wing AP with the smaller Christian Democrat (Partido Demócrata Popular) and Liberal (Partido Liberal) parties in the late 1980's. You could argue that its rightward drift is creating a void that could be filled by a true Liberal party, but the most likely way for this to happen is a split of the PP itself.

It would be better if the approximately 15% of far-right voters (to judge from Europe-wide trends) voted for an explicitly right-wing nationalistic party except for a party which pretends to be centre-right. In 2000, after 4 years of Aznar having to compromise with the Basque and Catalan Nationalists (both Christian Democrat) a party called Democracia Nacional broke off to the right of PP, but was not able to take votes away from Aznar which (amazingly) proved a very charismatic leader for the Spanish right and won a majority of seats in both houses of parliament. If the PP fails to win the next elections (in 2007/8) we'll see what happens.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 10:27:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
for an explicitly right-wing nationalistic party except for a party which pretends to be centre-right
instead of

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 10:45:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That Bono character is fighting every good cause, from the cancellation of third-world debt to the seperation of army and government.

Ok seriously, very interesting stuff here Migeru.

I'd dismiss that lieutenant-general on the spot, with a demotion going along with his retirement.

As for Catalonia, frankly, in the 21st century, no civilized country is going to even consider stopping a region from proclaimining independence (which this isn't even about). It's just not even possible - the backlash from the media, from the world, would be so immense. Besides no soldier would want to shoot. So considering that this would be the case for independence, militarily stopping a region from being more autonomous just doesn't cut it at all.

by Alex in Toulouse on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 06:37:12 AM EST
Bono is just the Minister of Defence, but I have to agree that Zapatero's goverment is fighting for all the good causes.

Regarding Catalonia's autonomy statute, this is not something that the Catalan parliament can do on their own. They submitted a draft to the national Parliament and it is not being debated and amended. If it is passed, it will have the rank of Ley Orgánica, second only to the Constitution itself. As such, it cannot contradict the constitution. It would then be possible to file an unconstitutionality appeal before the Constitutional Court, whose ruling would stand. So Lt. Gen. Mena is out of line in any case.

It may be of interest in this case that Mena was due to retire in march, so he may have felt that he did not have anything to lose, or he might really not have realised the impact that his words would have.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 10:06:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As such, it cannot contradict the constitution.[..]So Lt. Gen. Mena is out of line in any case

Putting it this way, then it's clear that this guy is totally out of line. As you say it may be because he wanted to leave with a bang.

Regarding Bono, I was just making another one of my trademark lousy jokes (referring to the U2 singer).

by Alex in Toulouse on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 10:10:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 10:44:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
submitted a draft to the national Parliament and it is not being debated and amended
now

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 02:19:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems to me more than the military, the parties are the problem here. It's rather clear that PP is playing with fire, and will use this incident to further fire up nationalist sentiments. But what is the Catalan government doing? With this wording of the Estatute, do they also play with fire, play for provocations, or is this just normal uncalculating nationalism, or maybe even bowing to demands from extremists within the governing coalition?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 10:05:12 AM EST
The Catalan Statute was drafted by the Catalan Parliament with the Generalitat (Catalan Government) taking the lead.

The political situation in Catalunya is as follows: for over 20 years CiU (Convergència i Unió), which is a coalition of Christian Democrat Unió Democrática de Catalunya and Liberal Convergència Democrática de Catalunya held the Regional Government. The Leader was Jordi Pujol of CiU. Currently, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida of UDC is the leader.

In 2003 Pasqual Maragall, the socialist former mayor of Barcelona (of 1992 olympic fame), led the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya to victory, and formed a left-wing coalition government with ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) and IC-Verts (Iniciativa per Cataluya-Verts). This left CiU and the PP in the opposition.

Finally, the success of the tri-party coalition government in Catalunya led to PSC, ERC and IC-V to run common candidates in the 2004 senate elections, which they swept in Catalunya (the PSC would normally have run alone, in lieu of the PSOE). This means that the Catalan Senators form a Senate group separate from the PSOE, unlike in the past.

ERC was already around in the 1930's during the Second Spanish Republic, and was the political arm of Terra Lliure (free land), a short-lived Catalan Independentist terrorist group active in the late 1970's.

Zapatero gained the post of PM with the votes of ERC and IU/IC (IU is Izquierda Unida, the United Left "coalition" around the Communist Party). Between 1993 and 2000, both PSOE and PP supported themselves on the Christian Democrat nationalist parties PNV (Basque) and CiU (Catalan) as well as the Canary Coalition. This means Zapatero's government is arguably the farthest to the left that any Spanish government has been since 1936. CiU and PNV are "loyal opposition" because Zapatero is favourable to reviewing both the Basque and Catalan Statutes.

To asnwer your question, ERC has proved itself a source of embarrassments both for Maragall and Zapatero, as they are rather radical and are enjoying new prominence after huge gains in votes and seats in both the regional and national parliaments. Also, the PSC is relatively at odds with the rest of the PSOE on the issue of the Catalan Statute, and the fact that their senators are in a Catalan group rather than the PSOE group may not help.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 11:17:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I knew about the 2003 Catalan government change and about ERC, but not about the intra-socialist split and the senators.

So if I got it right, it's both normal uncalculating nationalism (or calculating only short-sighted, using Zapatero's dependency), and bowing to demands from extremists within the governing coalition.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 01:23:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The PSOE has an explicitly federal structure. That is, it is composed of regional parties which are, to a large extent, sovereign, and are coordinated at the national level by a Federal Executive Commission. This gives rise to extremely powerful regional leaders, known as Barons, one of which (from Castilla-La Mancha was Defence Minister José Bono.

The strongest regional parties are the Galician PSdG, Basque PSE-EE (E for Euzkadi), Catalan PSC, on account of their national status; and then the parties from Andalusia, Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha, on account of their size and their status as PSOE strongholds.

For instance, Extremeño leader Rodríguez Ibarra has criticised the Catalan Statute as strongly as the moderate side of the PP. The PSOE's territorial commission in charge of negotiating the national party's position on the Estatut is effectively under control of Alfonso Guerra, former Vice President under Felipe González who is an apparatchik and arguably one of several Andalusian "Barons" (together with regional president Manuel Chaves - González, though he is from Sevilla, generally stays above the fray and used to rely on Guerra to control the party apparatus when he led it).

While we're at it, both Rodríguez Ibarra and Bono were considered Guerristas back when it mattered.

(Although I have not been in Spain for a while, I can say all these things with confidence because these same people have been playing the same roles for over 20 years)

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 02:41:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, thanks for the little Spanish Kremlinology :-)

BTW, does the Nueva Vía party wing still exist - or is comparison with Bliar' NuLab (and Schröder's Neue Mitte) not longer comfortable for Zapatero & followers?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 07:42:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not quite sure what the deal is with Nueva Vía. I think the comparison to Blair and Schroeder is inappropriate. After Gonzalez lost his majority in parliament and until Zapatero gained the leadership (1993-2000) the PSOE was dominated internally by the conflict between Guerristas (traditional socialists, apparatchiks, barons, followers of then already former VP Alfonso Guerra) and Renovadores (renewers: third-way-ish centre left close to Gonzalez). Zapatero's nueva vía was in my opinion new with respect to this split.

Nueva Via was unheard of outside party circles before the leadership contest won by Zapatero, and has not been talked of since. Zapatero used other memes in his campaign to return PSOE to power.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 05:10:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just to confirm that the Barons are alive and well...

El Pais: The PM dines at La Moncloa with socialist barons (12-01-2006)

The appointment was at 20.30 at the Palacio de la Moncloa and called to it were the regional secretaries of PSOE and the presidents of autonomous governments, as well as the mayor of A Coruña, Francisco Vázquez, as presidente of the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces; the [PSOE's] Organization secretary, José Blanco, and the [party's] parliament spokesmen, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba and Joan Lerma.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 08:16:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hopefully clear form context, but...
Jordi Pujol of CiU
CDC

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 06:21:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it was clear from context :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 04:21:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Leader was Jordi Pujol of CDC. Currently, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida of UDC is the leader.
Actually I was wrong: the leader of CiU is now Artur Mas of CiU, but there was a considerable amount of jockeying between him and Duran i Lleida to succeed Jordi Pujol. Unió is the junior partnet in the coalition (I don't know based on what, given that CDC and UDC have never contested an election separately AFAIK), but Duran i Lleida was widely perceived as more of a heavyweight than Mas and, after over 20 years of playing second fiddle to Pujol, Duran and UDC generally probably felt it was their turn to take the lead for a while. It did not happen, but without Pujol at the helm and having lost the Catalan government, Duran is a more towering figure and enjoys national exposure since he is the one leading CiU's parliamentary group in Madrid while Mas leads the opposition to Maragall in Barcelona. Duran and Mas will often contradict each other in public when reacting to national issues.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 05:02:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice partners, heh.

Actually I was wrong: the leader of CiU is now Artur Mas of CiU

Some errors insist on being repeated :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 05:12:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
great, uber-post...and diary and all!!!

The fast dismissal and the lack of forceful PP response has made the right-wing in Spain lose track. The near future seems good for the left-wing government in Spain. Their clear left-wing you can hardly find that any more in Europe) social policies are kicking asses and the center policies on the economy seem to keep the economy... for now...going

Regarding the catalan statue, it is bascially known that there exists a pact about the differnt parties (except right-wing PP) every single-item except for one: Money.

The new judicial system for catalonia, the new distribution of power, language and probably even the definition of Catalonia (as someone wrote today in La vanguardia... Catalonia is a weird place that has more political autonomy then Scotland but less symbolic atuonomy. An Area with less political power than Baviera but with more money  and taxes than South Carolina. A place with more political autonomy than Flandes but less control over taxes than the Basque Country... you can guess it is a very difficult thing to define)...all the changes proposed by the left-wing governemnt in Madrid have been accepted by the Catalna parties...But the problem of what taxes are collected by who is the last unsolved issue.

Why? well...two things. First issue is whether the Catalan system of taxes should be different than other regions and nations in Spain (never as independent as in the basque country), or, on the other hand, the system should apply for all the regions and areas in Spain... Deciding which things would be general and which particular is really a tough game since PSOE also controls other importnat regions and nations in Spain which are sources of a great deal of their votes and in need of money...so they have to be very careful not to affect economically these regions.

The second issue on money is, of course, pure central/federal dispute. This is, once it is decided which things will be general (and I advance that most of the tax system in Catalonia will be extended to all Spain..because PSOE can not affor to do otherwise).. the question is.. how much will be "these things"? how much money will the central government leave to the different regions of Spain...

This is the key of the double political fight. As Migeru said,a typical political fight which now reduces to money, taxes, resources, etc...a typical political fight that some people are always interested to use as a Spaniards-against-Spaniards stuff.. it gives votes, you know.

Great Stuff Migeru!!!!!

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 01:22:22 PM EST
Why? well...two things. First issue is whether the Catalan system of taxes should be different than other regions and nations in Spain (never as independent as in the basque country), or, on the other hand, the system should apply for all the regions and areas in Spain... Deciding which things would be general and which particular is really a tough game since PSOE also controls other importnat regions and nations in Spain which are sources of a great deal of their votes and in need of money...so they have to be very careful not to affect economically these regions.

It is saddening that this regional let's-keep-our-taxes-for-ourselves fight is fought by leftists in Catalonia. This goes along with the theme of a Social Democratism-critical diary I promised to Colman to write...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 01:27:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are two main reasons why a left-wing government would act as you say.

I guess one is sad, let's say that it is about power of course and asking for as much money as the ratio of the GDP produced by Catalonia minus a direct sum uniquely  dedicated to solidarity, goes with the idea of getting more power and votes.

The second one makes more sense. It is about the resources invested in catalonia on Social Security-Medicair and on infraestructures. The reason is simple, poor people in Catalonia recieve much more less money per person than an poor citizen in other parts of Spain. Why that if catalonia is so rich?  Simple, the central government has reduced the investment in catalonia. So, if Catalonia represents roughly 17% of the population, only 15% of the governments money in this two main issues is spent in Catalonia (Catalonia represent roughly 20% of the economy). You may say that this is because there is need extra money for the poor regions.. but the key point of the left-wing in catalonia is that this is false!! And they are right on this. Actually the city of Madrid receives their fair share of investments according to populations and other rich areas too. It may seem incredible but the poor neighbourhoods of the community of MAdrid (Surroudning the city of Madrid) and the poor areas surrounding Barcelona pay this extra price.

The solution is obvious, asking for a huge investements in those two areas according to population. Catalonia gets more money on their taxes which, ideally, should go to these areas (not necessarily true...).Catalonia would "give" the extra 2-3 point in GDP to help other communities (not a direct sum which would diminish over time as now proposed). The community of Madrid could do the same.

But of course, if you are bargaining you must ask for the moon so that you settle on the above scenario.This is why the statue for catalonia also asks to receive in the future the taxes according to GDP minus a direct contribution on solidarity. This would mean that, if the poor regions of Spain had to receive the same amount of money, the city of Madrid and Basque Country and Navarra would have to lose their present privileges. This is plainly impossible...these privileges are written in the Consititution of Spain

And let us always remember who are the main losers on all this, the poor cities and neighboorhoods in Madrid and Barcelona. The PSOE government has tried to solve the problem on Social-Security but these two badly needed areas (Madrid and Barcelona surroundings) were to receive the investements the poor deserves... where would the money come from?
From the privilege situation of Madrid-city, basque Country and Navarra or by reducing the present spenditures in other areas and regions of Spain that are not that rich....? This is the incredible contradiction of having the most rich areas side by side with the poorest... Surprisingly enough and more contradictory even, if these two poor areas were allowed to direct the production of their taxes on themselves they would be better-off because....just beside the poor concentrations there are technological and industrial areas...just a few kilometers away but years of light away in economic terms.

I could give you examples of el Prat del Llobregat (poor town with really bad services and left-wing workers) side by side with a mega-technological-logistic center. And I could even think about some examples of Madrid.. Migeru can give the answer for me but "El Pozo del tio Ramundo" (the poorest of the poorest areas in Madrid") is not that far away kilometers away from the new Soth(-eastern?) technological-scientific park on aero-spatial and biotechnology...and I do not go on with other cities around Madrid as Getafe, Leganes...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 03:57:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for giving the deeper picture! But I have one quibble:

The second one makes more sense. It is about the resources invested in catalonia on Social Security-Medicair and on infraestructures.

You convinced me on the first, but I think infrastructures is at least a more complex issue. Per capita GDP (or average earnings) doesn't express the as-is level of the infrastructure - and even if Catalonia has regions as poor or poorer as Extramadura, it has a better transport network or (I'm guessing) canalisation.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 07:11:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dead on. Infraestructure is more complex.
Investement in infraestructure in Catalonia is smaller than the ratio of population. And not all infraestructures are social infraestrucuture.

Can you imagine the mess in the number on how to count roads, airports and so on and on and on? In theory , this should be ivnested mainly by the central government now... so who would take care  from now on? A part will help poor areas but most of it it is linked to the comparison wiht the level of infraestructures on airports, public transport and roads in the other big center: Madrid. How much money in the future and compared with what others areas of Spain?

So, yes you are right, the topic of infraestructure is such a mess that I doubt I/they can convince anybody. Even people working on it do not have the things clear (every six months the catalan govermnemnt asks the central governemnt to perform and release a study on the subject so to have some numbers....no way to get it). In any case the governemnt in catalonia should have a level of investment according to population (3 points less than the GDP) in infraestructure, I do not care where it comes from.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 10:31:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was possibly not clear on this the first time: I think the existing infrastructure of Catalonia is more developed than that of other regions, thus it deserves less investment than those other regions, per capita. With your additions to just how complex the infrastructure issue is, I suggest on some fields this could be managed: say, there is reliable statistics on social infrastructure like canalisation, you could make investment in that field an inverse function of the ratio of already canalised homes. (Do you know anything about how social infrastructure spending, as opposed to transport stuff, is divided up now?)

On the other hand, say, metro stations or bus routes into poor suburbs could be financed in a population+income-based way that ends up giving more to Madrid and Barcelona than other areas.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 11:43:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I'm sure glad that our resident Catalan agrees with my take on these things.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 02:42:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The fast dismissal and the lack of forceful PP response has made the right-wing in Spain lose track. The near future seems good for the left-wing government in Spain. Their clear left-wing (you can hardly find that any more in Europe) social policies are kicking asses and the center policies on the economy seem to keep the economy... for now...going
I sincerely hope you're right. If the PP does worse in the next general election (2007/8) than in 2004, I expect a split between the moderate and radical wings of the party. Ideally, there would be a larger Liberal/Christian Democrat party and a smaller Wingnut Spanish Nationalist party.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 03:00:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the center policies on the economy seem to keep the economy... for now...going
Ceck out this pearl by our Minister for Economy and Finance, Pedro Solbes (EU Coommissioner for Monetary Affairs under Prodi):
La Vanguardia: Pedro Solbes: "The State must also be autonomous and not depend on the Autonomous Communities" (2006 January 4)
Which is to say, despite the Spanish economic model not really pleasing anyone, it still keeps its resilience and appeal

Well, the current economic model is not sustainable in time. There are very strong imbalances that it is urgent to correct  y hay que hacerlo ahora que la situación económica va a seguir siendo de un crecimiento intenso en los próximos años. It is true that there has not been as radical a change as we expected, but there is a number of factors which have started to change. For example, interest rates not only will not go down, but they will increase. EU funding, which once represented more than 10 billion net for Spain, have begun to be cut. Massive immigration, which was the third great motor of the economy, has ended.

When will the model change?

We are going to keep working at increasing productivity and reducing protectionism, seeking more efficient markets and introducing greater competition in sector such as energy, telecommunications or services, among others. Moreover, we will work to achieve a more efficient Administration. One thing is clear, although the economy is going well, the current economic model is not sustainable in time.

It is a rare Economy or Finance minister that admits so candidly that the current economic model is unsustainable, twice in the same interview and without being cued by the interviewer. My respect for Solbes only increases: this guy is for real, all substance and no fluff.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2006 at 05:58:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here in catalonia there are two strong defenders of him, and they are big shots in the media. F Estape , one of the forme chiefs of the stabilization program in the 60s and now retired (with strong old social-democrat tendencies) say she, and the guy in charged of taxes, are no-bullshit people, no stupid non-sense, all raw meat. When they speak... they speak.

The other one. J Barbeta has exactly the same opinion.
P. Solbes is pure center-pragmatic, no-nonsense guy..and all surrounded by a Heidi's grandfather outlook.

I couldn't agree more...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 03:57:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh I meant "he is a..."..

And by the way.. Where else in Spain can you hear that massive inmigration was one of the motor of the economy (obvious if you are economist but..) in Spain?

Furthermore I mostly agree with his ideas about the model...Go figure.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 04:02:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And by the way.. Where else in Spain can you hear that massive inmigration was one of the motor of the economy (obvious if you are economist but..) in Spain?

I think on immigration and the economy, there are two extremes equally wrong: the xenophobic they-steal-our-jobs version and the neoliberal version, and from the above Solbes seems closer to the latter.

What I mean is that with immigration, both the workforce and the consumer basis (and hence the size of the economy) grows, and both the reduction of average pay in some jobs and the fill-up of other jobs with a shortage of workers happens. That is, I believe the net result is close to balanced, but the xenophobes will concentrate on the firsts and the neoliberals on the seconds of these two pairs.

To concentrate criticism on the neoliberal version, overall GDP growth only matters for the richest industrialists (who can raise their profits and sales without having to consider the appearance of new competitors), but what matters for everyone is per capita GDP (or even more: average pay) growth.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 07:25:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course I was refering to the particular case of Spain. The benefits were much more bigger than the faults because the base-line of inmigrants was extremely low and the requirements of the Spanish economy made it specially helpful.

It does not meaa that all cases arte like Spain, not even that in the future Spain will benefit as much as now...It will depend. good to remember that it may depend.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 10:35:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It may have died in the Spanish media, but its now getting coverage internationally - with headlines like Spain on edge after general threatens revolt.
by IdiotSavant on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 08:00:33 PM EST
Well, the broader issue of the Catalan statute is reaching its climax, but this pronunciamiento is over except for the PP refusing to condemn the general's words, and using them as a demonstration that Zapatero's territorial policy is reckless.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2006 at 03:18:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a proverb: better to stay silent and seem stupid than to speak and dispel all doubt...

La Vanguardia: The President of the Supreme Court compares speaking Catalan to "dancing flamenco" (2006 January 10)

The magistrate opposes that knowledge of the [Catalan] language be a prerequisite for being a judge in Catalonia.

Madrid. (EFE).- The President of the Supreme Court, Francisco José Hernando, showed his opposition to knowledge of Catalan being a prerequisite to be a judge in Catalonia and indicated that if he worked there he'sd learn it "as personal enrichment, just like when I go to Andalusia I would like to know how to dance flamenco".

Ahem.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2006 at 03:35:46 PM EST
Bono: There is no sabre rattling in Spain (An interview in La Vanguardia, doesn't really say anything we haven't already said here, except for contradicting my title...)

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2006 at 04:53:49 PM EST


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