Spain News Roundup of the Week: April 29 – May 5, 2012

Back again after somewhat of a hiatus, and it feels good to be news-ing again. I have a bit of catch-up to do with the Royal Family, and then some business and sports news. The title says April 29th to May 5th, but some of these articles and comics are older – I’m sure you don’t mind.

So let’s get to it with the Royal Family. It hasn’t been a great few months for King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia, their children, or their grandchildren. Recall that el Caso Noós tangentially involved the king’s daughter, the Infanta Cristina, by virtue of being married to the man under investigation for embezzlement – Iñaki Urdangarin. Juan Carlos’s second daughter, the Infanta Elena, joined the news cycle when her son, the king’s grandson Felipe, was accidentally shot in the foot during target practice with his father. And then Juan Carlos himself joined the party when he went on a safari in Botswana to hunt elephants and fell and broke his hip. There have been some interesting comics on the subject, such as this one, showing an elephant crushing the king, this one, echoing criticism that the crown shouldn’t be taking hunting trips during an economic crisis, and this one (my personal favorite), in which Juan Carlos cries from off-screen “My hip! My hip!” and an elephant repeats the king’s famous comment of 2007 to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, “Why don’t you just shut up?” Article #1 in the sidebar gives a good overview of the changing image of the royal family in Spain, which may not have actual political power, but wields a great deal of soft power in the country.

Article #2 is a follow-up to the March 25th elections in Andalucía. I mentioned before that the ruling party, the PSOE, was expected to lose big time, but although they did lose their majority, the opposition PP didn’t gain a majority either. This means a coalition government, and after much debate and compromise, the PSOE and the IU reached an agreement that allows José Antonio Griñán, leader of the PSOE, to remain president of Andalucía – even though he did not win the elections. The PSOE and the IU together have 59 seats in the Andalucian Parliment, while the PP has 50.

In article #3 we move to business and economic matters. It has been a big deal here that Argentina decided to nationalize YPF, an oil company that was controlled by Repsol, a Spanish company. Now Bolivia is jumping in with its nationalization of TDE, an electric company in Bolivia in which REE (la Red Eléctrica Española or the Spanish Electric Network) had a majority stake. Considering that the Christian Science Monitor used the word “decline” in the YPF story I linked, this is becoming cause for concern here in Spain.

Article #4 highlights the power of social media against government policy in an interesting way. The hashtag #novullpagar, which means “I do not pay” in Catalán, has been used to draw attention to a campaign against toll roads in Catalunia. There are 632 kilometers of toll roads in Catalunia, which is the highest percentage of toll to non-toll of all 17 communities in Spain, and the No Vull Pagar protest involves . . . not paying the tolls! I really want to know how this works. Do they drive through the gates? I mean, even the electronic toll lanes have a gate on them; you drive into them, the machine detects the transponder, and then the gate opens and you go on. Anyway, there have been rumblings from the central government about increasing the number of toll roads throughout the country, so I expect this will continue, and I’ll figure out how the protest is carried out.

Sports! When it comes to sports in Spain, there is only fútbol, and when it comes to fútbol, there are only two teams: Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Accordingly, the faces you see most on the sports segments of the evening news are José Mourinho, the trainer for Madrid, and Josep (Pep) Guardiola, the trainer for Barcelona. These faces will be changing soon, since article #5 announces that Guardiola oversaw his last game as trainer on May 5th,  retiring after leading Barça to 13 titles in 4 years. Mourinho will be staying, however, and I seriously hope the man starts smiling soon, because I have never seen him do so. Even when Real Madrid won the League title I didn’t see him smiling! Maybe if he had come to the first communion party I went to yesterday, and heard the group of incredibly tipsy guys spontaneously break out into song, he would have smiled a little. I sure did, considering the song was the chorus of “You’re Just Too Good To Be True”, with all the words replaced by “José Mourinho” (“José Mourinho! Da da da da da da, José Mourinho! Da da da da da da!”).

 

Well, that’s all for this week. May your drunken songs to your favorite sports team be at least a little more creative.

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