Spain News Roundup of the Week: Jan. 29 – Feb. 4, 2012

This is a new feature that I am going to try to keep up with as my blog goes on in which I highlight 5 important stories here in Spain from the past week, with some explanation and academia from yours truly. The links to these stories, which unfortunately for many of you will mostly be in Spanish, can be found on the right-hand side of your screen, in the box titled “Spain News”. Discussing from the bottom up . . .

First on the list for this week is the surprising (to me anyway) news that Rubalcaba has won the election to be the leader of the PSOE, Spain’s socialist party. I say surprising because Rubalcaba was the PSOE’s candidate in the presidential elections of this past fall, and he was well and thoroughly spanked by the PP’s candidate and current president Mariano Rajoy. However, to be completely fair to Alfredo, there was widespread voter dissatisfaction with the PSOE considering they had been in power for the past 8 years during one of the worst economic crises Europe has seen. Rubalcaba beat his opponent, Carme Chacón, by only 22 votes, with 2 votes voided and one turned in blank, so it may not be a stunning victory, but it will be interesting to see where he takes his party after such a crushing national defeat.

News stories number two and three are interrelated, and they are from a little earlier than last week, sorry guys. I just thought up this feature and wanted to include el Caso Gürtel. This is an enormous and multifaceted trial that is going on right now at the federal level in Spain. Item number 2 specifically is about Baltasar Garzón, who was the judge who issued the arrest warrant for the exiled exdictator of Chile (and currently dead) Pinochet. He has been under investigation for some time now due to his investigations of atrocities during the Franco era which were protected by amnesty agreements. He is also under investigation for using illegal wiretaps while investigating the Gürtel corruption case. And now he is also under investigation for corruption and taking secret money from Banco Santander. Basically the legal issues boil down to a judge overstepping his bounds, but the moral issues go much deeper than that. Item 3 is about one of the implicated men investigated by Garzón during the Gürtel case: Francisco Camps. He was the president of the Community of Valencia and was charged with corruption, taking bribes, and hanging around with a guy called “El Bigotes” (please, even if you never click links in my posts, take a look at that guy, because holy cow). Earlier this week he was found not guilty by the courts, which of course doesn’t make Garzón look any better . . .

Item 4 is of special interest to me as a poor tourist: the news that SpanAir, a budget airline based in Barcelona, has gone bankrupt and ceased operations. This would just be a sad footnote to the state of the economy nowadays if it weren’t for the fact that thousands of workers suddenly and with no notice have no jobs, and thousands of passengers suddenly and with no notice have no flights. Everyone is justifiably angry with the way SpanAir dealt with their closure, but SpanAir claims that the company was so broke they couldn’t even afford jet fuel. Yikes.

And the final item is sports. It’s the Copa del Rey here in Spain, which is a little like the Super Bowl. Teams have been whittled down in the past month until the semifinals were played this past week. Valencia played against FC Barcelona on Wednesday, which was a 1-1 tie. They will play again on the 8th. The real story though is on the other side of the semifinals: Athletic Club of Bilbao vs. Mirandés. Mirandés is a second-level team, so the fact they have made it this far is pretty amazing. Sadly they lost to Bilbao 1-2, but they get to play each other again on the 7th. The page I have linked is in English and just details the logistics of the final Copa del Rey game, which won’t be until May.

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