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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 22 September 2020
22 September 2020 @ 11:08

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'* 

Covid 19    

Was lockdown needed? Effie Deans here calls for a sense of proportion and more common sense. 

Some British 'experts' agree with her (and, I guess with the Swedish approach) and some don't . . .

Living La Vida Loca in Spain and Galicia  

Corruption. HT to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for the (Google translated) article below from El Huff Post: Why is ‘Operacíon Kitchen’ so serious for democracy? 

To move to trivia . .  My bike - a 1984 Raleigh Medale - seems to attract quite a lot of attention. Maybe it’s the 'Sparkling Champagne with brown highlights' trim:-

Or maybe it's me because I'm one of the very few folk on a bike who isn’t garbed as if I'm taking part in the Tour de France. Like these 2 yesterday:-

Or maybe because, having mislaid my clips, I've got my trousers tucked into my socks . . .

Hmm. The plumber who installed my new shower and insisted the subsequent boiler problem hadn’t been caused by him, changed his mind, after I’d sent him the article I found on the net, and is coming today to bleed the water system.

The web page of the Tráfico Department seems to  have been designed by the company responsible for the Renfe page . . .  Error de la aplicación; la operación solicitada no está disponible en estos momentos. Vuelva a intentarlo y si persiste el error póngase en contacto con el Centro de atención de usuarios de DGT, teléfono: 060. Disculpe las molestias.

While Richard Ford might have complained about a great deal in the Spain of 1845, he much regretted its modernisation, seeing it perhaps as the loss of the ‘Old Spain’s soul. Here he is on the essence of Spain: Spain is not to be enjoyed by the over-fastidious in the fleshly comforts; those who over-analyse, who peep too much behind the culinary or domestic curtains, must not expect to pass a tranquil existence.  . . . The traveller in his comparisons must never forget that Spain is not England, which too few ever can get out of their heads. Spain is Spain, a truism which cannot be too often repeated; and in its being Spain consists its originality, its raciness, its novelty, its idiosyncrasy, its best charm and interest, although the natives do not know it, and are every day, by a foolish aping of European civilisation, paring away attractions, and getting commonplace, unlike themselves, and still more unlike their Gotho-Moro and most picturesque fathers and mothers. Monks, are gone, mantillas are going, the shadow of cotton versus corn has already darkened the sunny city of Figaro, and the end of all Spanish things is coming.   

And here he is on just one aspect of the change he abhorred.  . . . After a long dissertation on the many (dis)comforts of the various types of accommodation available in Spain, Ford goes so far - with a degree of humour and British irony - to bemoan the coming of decent hotels:- In the seaports and large towns on the Madrid roads, the twilight of cafe and cuisine civilisation is breaking from La belle France. Monastic darkness is dispelled, and the age of convents is giving way to that of kitchens, while the large spaces and ample accommodations of the suppressed monasteries suggest an easy transition into "first-rate establishments," in which the occupants will probably pay more and pray less. News, indeed, has just arrived from Malaga, that certain ultra-civilised hotels are actually rising, to be defrayed by companies and engineered by English, who seem to be as essential in regulating these novelties on the Continent as in the matters of railroads and steamboats. Rooms are to be papered, brick floors to be exchanged for boards, carpets to be laid down, fireplaces to be made, and bells are to be hung, incredible as it may appear to all who remember Spain as it was. They will ring the knell of nationality; and we shall be much mistaken if the grim old Cid, when the first bell is pulled at Burgos, does not answer it himself by knocking the innovator down. Nay, more, for wonders never cease; vague rumours are abroad that secret and solitary closets [presumably toilets] are contemplated, in which, by some magical mechanism, sudden waters are to gush forth; but this report requires confirmation. Assuredly, the spirit of the Holy Inquisition, which still hovers over orthodox Spain, will long ward off these English heresies, which are rejected as too bad even by free-thinking France.

As for today’s living in Spain, here’s María's Fallback Diary: Day 8.   


Ford was very fond of quoting refrains, both in English and Spanish. At least one a page. This is one which might well still be in use today: Venderlo a uno gato por liebre: Literally, 'To sell someone a cat for a hare.' Or, as Ford puts it:  ‘To do take someone in’.


You’ve all been wanting to know that Gyoza (plural Gyozas or Gyoza) is A Japanese crescent-shaped dumpling filled with a minced stuffing and steamed, boiled or fried rice.

Finally . . . 

Having mentioned my bike, this is an obvious inclusion in this post:- Hope and the humble bicycle: The bicycle has long been linked to historical moments of social change. Will the pandemic boom in cycling prove revolutionary? 


Why is Operation Kitchen so serious for democracy’

The jurists analyze the creation of this parapolice network orchestrated by the PP to obstruct judicial investigations: "This is a directly criminal action in the heart of the State."

Can you imagine a country in which the Government allegedly orchestrated an operation for the Police to use reserved public funds and spy on the key piece of a corrupt network to steal documents and torpedo a judicial investigation in which senior leaders of the ruling party would be implicated ?

No, it is not a dystopia or a story of banana latitudes. That is now being investigated in Spain. The so-called Kitchen operation launched a para-police network, which received orders from the Interior leadership during the Mariano Rajoy administration, to spy on the Bárcenas family and steal documents that splashed PP leaders for receiving and laundering money from the Gürtel case.

Now the judge of the National Court Manuel García Castellón instructs this case, in which the former Secretary of State for Security Francisco Martínez is already implicated, who threatens to pull the blanket and tell everything. They are surrounded by María Dolores de Cospedal and Jorge Fernández Díaz, for whom Anti-Corruption asks for accusations. And in the eye of the hurricane is also Mariano Rajoy, who could have been aware of everything and be called in the future by Justice.

An operation that exceeds all the limits of the law, according to jurists consulted by HuffPost, and that represents a severe blow to the democratic system itself in the eyes of the citizens. Without any respect for the separation of powers and using the Police, which is for the safety of citizens, not to commit crimes.

"Of extraordinary gravity"

“It is extremely serious. It is a clear and paradigmatic case of confusion between the party and the State. The party considers that the State is its own and that it has to act to protect it and to prevent the Judiciary from intervening in a matter as Gürtel supposed ”, reflects Javier Pérez Royo, professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Seville. And he adds: “Until now it had never happened. Things had been done, but a global operation through the Interior Ministry using the Police had never been seen. The State had to do whatever it took so that the party would not end up being declared responsible ”.

For Pérez Royo, it would be a clear case of application of article 22 of the Constitution, which in its second section says: "Associations that pursue ends or use means classified as crimes are illegal." He goes on: "It is a very clear case, the media are being used criminally and are pursuing a criminal purpose." It is a "case of perversion," he continues, as the police are also used. Rivet: “This is more corruption than Gürtel. The other was Bárcenas with a few businessmen, but it is already using the State apparatus at its highest level to cover up that operation.

This is more corruption than Gürtel: Javier Pérez Royo

“Also, spending public funds. Taking the chauffeur and turning him into a policeman ... It is an eyesore of such magnitude that you don't have to be a jurist to see it ", declares Pérez Royo,  adding: "That the Minister of the Interior order the Secretary of State for Security to start a operation to recover compromising information for the party and that the Police are used and the Judiciary is not informed, which is already investigating the matter ... This is the denial of the constitutional state, the transformation of the constitutional state into an instrument of a criminal gang".

Pérez Royo concludes: "This is a directly criminal act in the heart of the State."

“It is extremely serious”, summarizes Javier Tajadura, professor of Constitutional Law at the University of the Basque Country, who reflects: “For a constitutional democracy to work there must be a series of neutral and independent powers. If there is no judicial independence, there is no rule of law. But the officials also have to be neutral and, specifically, the Police. It is essential that it does not have political colour ”. That the leadership of the Police is appointed by the Government, indicates Tajadura, does not mean "that it has to do anything and obey illegal orders." "Here a greater thing has been revealed, not only that the governments appoint the leaders, but that supposedly the Interior gave illegal orders to act not respecting the fundamental rights of people, even if it was Bárcenas," he adds. “They cannot be investigated in parallel outside the established procedures, and even more so if the ultimate objective is to hinder judicial investigations. Things are getting worse, ” says this teacher. "All this paid for with reserved funds, whose purpose is not, remember, to protect a party."

Justice is slow, but sure: Javier Tajadura

Does it erode the citizens' perception of democracy? "Sure," responds Tajadura, who believes that this lowers people's trust in institutions. But he makes another reading: “Fortunately this kind of thing ends up being known. You can keep the secret between three, four or five, but in this operation there are many names ”. "Justice is slow, but sure," he says.

Ignacio González Vega, magistrate and expert in international judicial cooperation, thinks: “Obviously he not only attacks the democratic system, but also the functioning of the Judicial Power. In other words, it is to put obstacles to avoid reaching the end of the judicial investigations.

"This may constitute a crime: obstruction of Justice", warns González de Vega, who emphasizes that the information that is coming out due to the use of the State apparatus is "very serious and worrying." "It is very serious - he reiterates - to use the police services to stop the investigations of the judges to see whether or not there was illegal financing by a political party and the Government."

It is very serious to use the police services to stop the investigations of the judges: Ignacio González Vega

The also magistrate Joaquim Bosch affirms, regarding this alleged plot, that the “investigating judge considers that there are indications that a para-police operation was created from the main positions of the Ministry of the Interior in order to obtain data on Bárcenas and prevent these documents from arriving to the ongoing judicial investigation. Therefore, if it is confirmed, it is tremendously worrying because we would find that from the State organ that is mainly empowered to protect society and prevent crimes from occurring, all its machinery is used from the highest point to torpedo the actions of Justice and prevent the approval of relevant evidence for the investigation of one of the main corruption issues that have affected our democracy, ”Bosch dissects.

It would be serious if it was confirmed that with the money from all the taxes of the society the Police are used to cover crimes: Joaquim Bosch

“It would be serious if it were confirmed that with the money from all the taxes of the society the Police are used to cover up crimes and prevent the Judicial Power from carrying out its functions. It is a contradiction in the most extreme sense of how a rule of law should work ”, adds the magistrate.

In the order, the judge said that supposedly this operation was directed by "superior organs of the State." Maria Eugènia Gay, dean of the Barcelona Bar Association, comments: “It is one more example of how political corruption seriously detracts from the activity of the public administrations of our country and of which the public, as a mere spectator, turns out to be the first injured. “For this reason, civil society as a whole must demand from the political formations with parliamentary representation that they act with rigour, transparency and seriousness and dedicate whatever efforts are necessary to redirect this intolerable deviation of power with the urgent purpose of recovering meaning and prestige of the Institutions ”, he maintains.

It's inadmissible: Maria Eugènia Gay

This alleged use of the Interior for the Police to obstruct judicial work "is inadmissible," she explains, since "it reflects the extent to which corruption - through the execrable and illicit actions of certain people - has the ability to penetrate the institutions of a Rule of Law, separating them from the legitimate purposes for which they were established. For this reason, when we speak of providing Justice with sufficient means, we are referring to its most strategic sense for the good governance of the country, since it is the best way to reinforce the mechanisms and guarantees that in a democracy must be established to combat events like this one and prevent them from being reproduced in the future ”, he argues.

"Without a doubt" this affects democracy, says Gay, who states: "As Montesquieu said with great success 'So that power cannot be abused, power must stop power', being the separation of powers -and the guarantees that are established for its effectiveness - an inseparable element of democracy ”. In this sense, he adds: “For this reason, the control of the actions of the administrations for their strict purposes is fundamental, being essential a Judicial Power endowed with adequate means to reinforce the sovereignty of the States to ensure that the Executive Power complies with the current legality ”. And she adds: “In that sense, judicial independence becomes crucial as an inseparable element of an authentic Rule of Law; the judges having the exclusive constitutional function of the jurisdictional power, under strict submission to the rule of law and guaranteeing the separation of powers ”.


* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

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