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Live News From Spain As It Happens

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Spain as it happens. The blog will be updated constantly throughout the day bringing you all the latest stories as they break.

Winter wonderlands: Spectacular Christmassy footage in mid-autumn
18 November 2019

WITH temperatures dropping to as low as -8ºC in the north, parts of Spain remain coated with a thick blanket of snow – not unusual between Madrid and the Pyrénées in deep winter, but exceptionally rare for the first half of November.

Whilst the Mediterranean is chilly at night and 'coat weather' but not yet 'bracing' – colder than usual for the time of year – nearly a foot of snow has been seen in parts of the northern third of the mainland, and not just at high altitudes.

Spectacular photo footage that resembles central Europe in early February has yet to rival the snowmen on the beaches in Dénia and Jávea (Alicante province) seen in the winter of 2016-2017 – the first time this had happened since 1983 – but has certainly made a few viewers further south feel chilled looking at them, and will have left smiles on kids' faces as they got the day off school to go sledging and stage snowball fights.


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How many people do we know? Spanish research reveals answer
18 November 2019

IN WHAT IS probably the largest social research project ever, La Caixa bank has released the answer to a question not many of us would have thought to ask – how many people does each of us know? Not just friends and family, or even close acquaintances, but the staff from our nearest bars and restaurants, from the supermarket, the dry cleaner's, or the regular customers we share a queue with or stand at a bus stop with. Basically, anyone we've ever spoken to more than once.

According to the Social Observatory, part of La Caixa's charity and culture foundation, the average person in Spain knows 536 other people. This includes people they have not seen or heard from for many years, but who, perhaps, are contacts on Facebook, or those they bump into regularly.

But when it comes to our close circle – friends, family and the closest of our acquaintances – the average is just 23.

It could be this means we potentially have another 513 people we've already broken the ice with and who could become our friends – although that figure is likely to include those who really annoy us or whom we try to avoid.

Across the board, most people know between 300 and 600 people; those who know just 200 or around 600 make up fewer than 10%, and those who know fewer than 100 or around 1,200 make up only 3%.

At the opposite end of the scale, very few residents in Spain know as many as 2,000 – below 1% - and although the very odd occasional respondent turned out to know 6,000 or more, this is extremely rare and few enough cases that could probably be counted by hand.


Gender and social situation

Men, on average, know about 50 more people than women – and the figures for Spain are not, apparently, unusual: so far, this same research has only ever been carried out in the USA, where the average person knows 550 other people.

To this end, it seems the cultural environment does not make a huge difference, but educational level, apparently, does: those with at least further education or sixth-form studies know fewer people than those with degree-level qualifications and more than those with only compulsory high-school education; those who have trained or studied formal qualifications since age 16 know an average of 600 people, compared with those who have not, who know an average of 400.

Of course, the average fluctuates according to where we live, although only the extremes have been reported in detail – those living in almost total rural isolation compared with those living on bustling urbanisations – but it is not necessarily the case that those who live in small villages know fewer people than those in big cities; the former are, especially in Spain, often close-knit communities where everyone knows each other by nickname only and where mail is addressed to residents care of the local bar, whereas a huge metropolitan area, like in any country, can be somewhat impersonal.



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Postal vote count gives extra seat to PP as Basque National Party loses MP number seven
15 November 2019

POSTAL votes from overseas have now been counted, changing the election results from Sunday – the right-wing PP has gained another seat, giving it 89, and the Basque National Party (PNV) has lost one, dropping to six.

This makes life a little more difficult for the PSOE's Pedro Sánchez who, with 120 seats out of the total of 350 and with 176 needed for a majority, needs to find an additional vote in his favour to replace the outgoing PNV MP.

With 35 now guaranteed from left-wing Unidas Podemos thanks to a coalition agreement struck on Tuesday, plus another certainty from the Cantabria Regional Party's lone MP and five highly likely from Más País!, the Galicia National Bloc (BNG), and Teruel Existe, this gives Sánchez 161, but with the PNV's having dropped from seven to six, the 'definites' now only total 167.

Even if the Basque reunification party, EH-Bildu's five MPs and the two from the Canarian Coalition agree to vote for Sánchez, he will still only have 174 in favour and be two short.

This is likely to mean he will have to convince the Catalunya separatist parties, who total 23 MPs, to at least abstain from voting in the second round, where only a simple majority in favour is needed – but the largest of the three pro-independence outfits, the Catalunya Left Republicans (ERC), with 13, have already said they want an amnesty for their jailed politicians in exchange.



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Greta en route to Spain for COP25 on solar-powered yacht
14 November 2019

SCHOOLGIRL climate change activist Greta Thunberg is on her way to Spain from the USA in a yacht belonging to millionaire YouTubers after putting out a Twitter appeal for transport.

The 16-year-old refuses to use air transport wherever she goes because of the high emissions generated by aeroplanes, which contribute to climate change by trapping warm air within the atmosphere inside a 'coating' of CO2 and NOx (carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide).

She took two weeks to get to New York from Sweden to attend the United Nations Climate Change Summit, and is now aiming to get to Madrid by early December for the next leg of the Summit at the IFEMA exhibition centre.

Greta had remained in the USA after the September meeting, since the next was due to be held in Santiago de Chile – but the president of the Andean nation pulled out due to mass protests over living costs and conditions.

“So happy to say I'll hopefully make it to the COP25 in Madrid,” Greta announced on Twitter, along with a photo of Australians Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu, owners of the solar- and wind-powered yacht, and their baby son, plus the captain, Brit Nikki Henderson.

“I've been offered a ride from Virginia on the 48-foot catamaran La Vagabonde.

“Australians @Sailing_LaVaga, Elayna Carausu & @NikkiHenderson from England will take me across the Atlantic.

“We sail for Europe tomorrow morning!”

Her tweet was published just after midnight today local time, meaning she is now on the water and expects to be on Spanish soil within about a fortnight.



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What the PSOE-Unidas Podemos deal means: 10 key points
13 November 2019

FULL details of the agreement between the PSOE and Unidas Podemos will not be released for a few days or possibly weeks as those present fine-tune it, but it will be based upon 10 key points Unidas Podemos and the PSOE want to use as their foundation for a 'progressive government'.

They include strengthening growth and job creation – eliminating the 'temporary contract culture' from the job market and guaranteeing meaningful, quality, stable and well-paid employment; working for regeneration and fighting against corruption, by protecting public services, especially education, with free nursery places guaranteed for all children from birth to age three, plus public healthcare and elderly care, guaranteeing pensions for life and index-linking them to reflect real living costs, investing in science as a 'vehicle for economic intervention' and improving working conditions in the industry, encouraging talented Spanish emigrants to return, treating residential property as 'a right, not mere merchandise', and controlling the 'expansion of gambling centres'.

These cover the first two; number three deals with fighting climate change, protecting biodiversity, and guaranteeing animals are properly treated, whilst number four focuses on strengthening small and medium-sized businesses and on the self-employed, boosting 're-industrialisation' and 'the primary sector', increasing digitalisation, and providing the tools for 'creation of wealth, wellbeing and employment'.

Five is concerned with 'approving new rights' which 'increase the recognition of human dignity', such as the right to 'die with dignity', euthanasia, protecting diversity, and protecting historic memory.

Six 'guarantees culture as a right' and seeks to 'combat the precarious nature of the industry', promote sports as a tool for health and wellbeing, quality of life, and integration, and seven deals with feminist policies: keeping women safe, independent and free, especially in the face of gender violence, closing the gender pay gap, drawing up a labour equality law, ending human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and equal maternity and paternity leave periods which cannot be transferred between parents.

The southern Aragón party Teruel Existe is likely to approve of number eight, which deals with reversing the increasing population decline in rural areas by providing proper modern services; and number 10 covers 'fiscal justice' and 'budget balance', or evaluating and monitoring public spending to 'ensure a solid and lasting welfare State'.



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'Always Brit Friendly': Comunidad Valenciana launches new campaign aimed at UK tourists
13 November 2019


A MAJOR drive to attract and keep British tourists is at the heart of a €650,000 investment by the Comunidad Valenciana regional government, which started off with its stand at London's World Travel Market (WTM) trade fair a week ago and is set to continue in the UK capital next month.

A new campaign and slogan has been devised (pictured above), one showing a smiling couple on a sunny balcony and others with tourists on beaches, with the wording, in English: “Time goes by, but some things always stay the same, like home,” and the catch-phrase, “Always Brit Friendly.”

Regional tourism secretary Francesc Colomer says their aim is to convince Brits that they will always be welcome, 'whatever happens with Brexit', and that they can 'feel safe, well and worry-free in the Comunidad Valenciana'.

Now the WTM has finished, Colomer's team is planning a 'huge publicity event' in London on December 3, as well as 'other actions' – as yet undefined – to 'attempt to diversify the offer' within the British market and 'seek out new segments'.

Indeed, as well as enjoying some of the best year-round climate in Spain and at least four months of beach weather per year, the Comunidad Valenciana offers breathtakingly-beautiful scenery and a host of other attractions suitable for families and for culture vultures alike.

Whilst the campaign is aimed at the three provinces of Castellón, Valencia and Alicante as a whole, it is focusing more on the latter of these – which is arguably the most touristy – and especially its coastline, known as the Costa Blanca, and its long-standing 'Brit-magnet' Benidorm, which was one of Spain's first-ever towns that opened up to international tourism in the 20th century and was initially the first or even only parts of the country British travellers would have seen in the 1960s and 1970s.



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Graffiti on Madrid's Berlin Wall pieces 'nearly cleaned off by mistake', says retired mayor
12 November 2019

THREE chunks of the Berlin Wall have been on display in a Madrid park for exactly 29 years – but the day before they were unveiled, council workers started cleaning the original graffiti off them by mistake.

Saturday was the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the start of the reunification of the 'two Germanies', on November 9, 1989 – a moment for great celebration across Europe, including in Spain, according to José María Álvarez de Manzano.

Now 82, he was mayor of Madrid between 1991 and 2003 and, the year before he gained power, helped out his predecessor, Agustín Rodríguez Sahagún, in setting up the pieces of the wall in what is now known as Berlin Park.

“From the start, it had a tremendous impact,” admits Álvarez de Manzano.

“So many people went to see them out of curiosity.

“It was really intriguing, knowing we had a piece of the Berlin Wall right here in Madrid, and the people of Madrid were fully in support of the idea of what the wall's coming down really meant.”

The three pieces, now made into a fountain (pictured above), cost nine million pesetas to acquire and ship over - €54,000 – and the city hall was due to cut the red tape on them in a public ceremony on November 9, 1990, the day of the first anniversary.

But on November 8, 1990, Álvarez del Manzano – who was deputy mayor to Sahagún – got a panicked call from the head of city cleaning services.

Council technicians were, reportedly, scrubbing off the graffiti, believing it to have been the recent work of local vandals rather than the historic spray-painted messages left by the separated citizens of East and West Germany.



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Abstaining Spaniards 'donate' their votes to resident foreigners
12 November 2019

OVER 300 Spaniards who did not intend to vote yesterday (Sunday) 'donated' their ballot to another 300 foreign residents, many of whom are children born in Spain to expat parents.

The campaign was set up by Safia El-Aaddam, who is in her early 20s and born in Spain to a Moroccan couple who had emigrated there.

She condemns the 'institutional racism' that exists in practically every country and which prevents anyone other than a national from voting in a general election.

Safia is one of thousands of young adults born in Spain but who do not have Spanish nationality because of the 'delays, red tape and cost' that she and others like her face when attempting to become citizens.

It costs around €1,000 to become a Spanish citizen, and proof of residence exceeding 10 years – two for those married to a Spaniard or a native of a former colony or of Portugal – must be supplied along with reports from police to show a clean record, and two exams passed.

These are not too onerous – the Spanish language test is at level A2, about the equivalent of a good O-level or GCSE standard, and the 'culture, law and society' exam is 25 multiple-choice questions, of which at least 15 must be answered correctly.

But Safia, who has been trying to obtain Spanish nationality since she was 18, says she flatly refuses to take exams proving she speaks the language of and knows the basics about the only country she has ever lived in, 'on principle'.



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Sánchez wins most votes, Ciudadanos plummets and Vox soars
11 November 2019

PEDRO Sánchez's socialist (PSOE) party has once again won the most votes in yesterday's (Sunday's) general election, although as predicted, short of an outright majority.

The PSOE now holds 120 seats out of 350 – for a majority, they would have needed an unlikely 176, and although forcing Spain back to the polls for the second time in six months was bound to take its toll on the party, the reduction from 123 seats is not major.

But it does mean Sánchez will need to be much more open this time around to striking deals with other left-wing parties since, as opposition team with similar values to the PSOE's point out, the country would not forgive him if he made them vote a third time.

And, as Unidos Podemos' Pablo Iglesias said in his post-results speech, what had been a 'historic opportunity' in April of 'creating a progressive government' has now become 'a historic necessity', since it is 'the only way to keep the far-right out'.

Centre-right Ciudadanos' change in direction seen in April has taken its toll, with Albert Rivera's party losing a whopping 47 seats, dropping to just 10 and seeing it plunge from the third political force in Spain to the sixth, just two seats above pro-independence liberals Junts Per Catalunya (JxCAT) and three more than the Basque National Party (PNV).



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Your complete guide to today's elections: Who's voting for whom, and why
10 November 2019

BY TONIGHT, we will once again know which political party has won the most seats in the fourth general election in as many years – but we probably won't know who will be in government for the next four. The upsurge in independent parties – with four major contenders now on the scene who were either unheard of or did not exist in the 2011 elections, the last to end with a definitive result – general elections in Spain are no longer a straight contest between the 'Big Two', the left-wing socialists, or PSOE, and the right-wing Popular Party, or PP.

This is exactly what has led to hung Parliaments since the November 2015 election, which ended inconclusively and sparked a repeat in spring 2016.

After this, and to avoid taking Spain to the polls for a third time, PP leader Mariano Rajoy was reluctantly given licence to reign again by the opposition subject to numerous caveats; when these conditions came undone, a no-confidence vote by PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez in June 2018 put him into power, but with the smallest minority a national government has ever seen.

Such a small minority, in fact – just over a quarter of the available 350 seats in Parliament – that Sánchez was unable to gain enough support from the opposition for his budget, forcing him to call a general election in April this year to give him a mandate to rule effectively.

Sánchez's presence in Parliament dramatically increased, to 123 seats, but the inability of the left-wing parties to reach an agreement meant he did not have enough support from the opposition to get him back into power, resulting in a repeat election, taking place today (Sunday, November 10).



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