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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.

Basque Country and Galicia regional elections: PNV's Íñigo Urkullu and PP's Alberto Núñez Feijóo back in power
26 September 2016

RESULTS of the Basque and Galician regional elections have been released following yesterday's (Sunday's) votes, and the existing presidents have retained their roles for the next four years.

Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) leader Íñigo Urkullu has won 29 seats – two more than in the September 2012 regional elections – and will continue as the federal president, or Lehendakari.

In fact, the PNV gained an additional 13,000 votes, or a total of 37.65% of the ballot papers.

Urkullu is still nine seats short of a majority, but in the second round of the in-house votes where he only needs a simple majority in his favour – more yes votes than no votes – it looks likely he will get through.

The only risk to his continuing in office would be if the left-wing parties banded together in coalition, but this would seem very improbable.

Socialist party PSE did reasonably well and is now able to govern in coalition in three provincial councils and three cities in the Basque Country, although it has still lost a major amount of seats with just nine after the final count.

And the predicted tie between nationalists EH-Bildu and left-wing independents Elkarrekin-Podemos did not arise, with the latter doing worse than predicted – gaining 11 seats – and EH-Bildu a long way off the PNV with 17 seats.

In Galicia, Alberto Núñez Feijóo – who is about to become a dad for the first time at the age of 55, with his girlfriend of 51 – has gained his third outright majority on the trot, meaning he will have been regional president for 12 years by the time the next elections come round in September 2020.


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Spain is seventh-healthiest country on earth, level with the UK and ahead of Australia and Canada
25 September 2016

SPAIN'S inhabitants are the seventh-healthiest on the planet, according to a research project titled Global Burden of Disease (GBD).

Now published in the science magazine The Lancet, the report analyses how different countries have complied with, or otherwise, the United Nations' health objectives which cover a vast range of areas from reducing infant and maternal mortality and controlling AIDS and tuberculosis through to cutting road crash deaths and alcohol and drug addiction.

Each country studied was given a percentage, which in Spain's case was 82% - the same score as the UK, The Netherlands and Finland, some of the world's most developed countries.

Andorra pips them all at the post at 83%, whilst the joint three 'winners' are Iceland, Sweden and Singapore with 85%.

The last two places in the top 10 are occupied by Canada and Australia with 81%.

At the opposite end of the scale, the majority of the worst-scoring countries were in Africa , with the exception of Afghanistan – bottom of the list were the Central African Republic (CAR), Somalia and South Sudan on 22%, followed by Niger on 23%, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 24%, Burundi and Mali on 26%, the same as Afghanistan, and Sierra Leone on 27%.

Threats to health studied clearly differ according to the developed nature of each country – United Nations reports place 'diarrhoea' as one of the top 10 causes of death in the world at present and expect it to still feature in the list by the year 2030 – but some of the greatest global health risks were very 'western' in nature, according to the research.


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Woman who won 'lifetime income' in prize draw forced to repay €17,000 in dole money
25 September 2016

A WOMAN who won a competition where the prize was an after-tax €1,200 monthly salary for the rest of her life has been forced to refund over €17,000 in dole money over a total of four years during which she was out of work.

The woman had registered for unemployment benefits payable for jobseekers aged 52 and over and received these between March 2011 and July 2014.

Her appeal against the initial verdict has now been turned down by the regional high court of the Balearic Islands, where she lives, but she is expected to continue to fight it through the Spanish legal system.

The defendant is calling for the amount refunded to be reduced to three months rather than four years, based upon the 'excessive and unreasonable delays' in investigating her case.

Also, she stresses that she has never tried to hide her income, but explained the situation in full when signing on at the dole office.

And she has always filed correct tax returns which clearly set out the source of her income.


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Inditex profits up by 8% with 83 new stores and 10,000 extra jobs in six months
25 September 2016

HIGH-STREET clothing empire Inditex earned €1.26 billion in the first six months of this year, proving once again that Galicia's most global enterprise is apparently immune to any financial crisis.

Founded by Europe's richest and the world's third-richest man Amancio Ortega, 80, Inditex is best known outside of Spain for its budget fashion store Zara.

It also covers the mid-upper high-street ranges Massimo Dutti and Uterqüe, Zara's cheaper 'younger sister' Bershka, cut-price streetwear chain Pull&Bear, underwear retailer Oysho, quality interiors range Zara Home, and budget young fashions store Stradivarius.

Inditex is also one of Spain's greatest job-creators – of the 10,000 new posts generated between February and July inclusive, a total of 2,421 were on home territory.

Overall, with sales at €10.465bn and net profits at €1.256bn, the company's earnings have increased by 8% and sales by 11% based upon the same period in 2015.

Positive growth has been seen in every part of the world, including all regions in Spain, where Inditex stores are based – a growth which, on average, sits at 7% compared with the same six months of last year.

Only 17% of sales were reported in Spain, however, with 25% in Asia, 43% in the rest of Europe and 15% in the Americas – the same percentages as last year.

Gross profits rose by 7% to €2.112bn and net profits to just over €16bn over the last year, with gross profit margins up to nearly €6bn or 9% more than last year.

Inditex continues to maintain its expenses under 'strict control', which has contributed to its 9% gross profit increase along with its newly-opened physical stores.

Online sales have risen by 13% in the two-month period since August 1, whilst a 'strong rhythm' of new job creation – including non-shop-floor positions in its head offices – has been largely maintained thanks to a further 83 stores opened in the first six months of this year in 38 countries.



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Major gridlocks on Spain's National No Car Day
23 September 2016

NATIONAL No Car Day in Spain started with heavier-than-usual traffic jams on the road into Barcelona and an accident on the Madrid M-40 leading to tailbacks, but saw a 5% increase in passengers on the metro and outer suburban rail lines in the former.

The B-23 was clogged early in the morning, and the Gran Vía suffered tailbacks due to an accident but 'no worse than at any other rush hour', says Barcelona city council, which assured there were 90,000 fewer cars on the road yesterday.

Tailbacks on the B-23 stretched back nine kilometres, especially at the A-2 motorway interchange between Sant Feliu de Llobregat and Barcelona, and Esplugues de Llobregat towards the city's Avenida Diagonal.

Three-kilometre queues were reported on the C-31 in Badalona and El Prat de Llobregat, and up to 10 kilometres on the C-58 between Ripollet near Sabadell and Barcelona and Sant Quirze del Vallès and the city.

The outer ringroad suffered four-kilometre gridlocks.

It is the first No Car Day since 2003 to be 'celebrated' in Barcelona, and the first-ever on a working day, and saw 54 city-centre streets shut including the Vía Laietana and the Gran Vía de Gràcia.


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'Homework strike' for November called as parents reveal kids have no free time until after 20.00 at night
23 September 2016

PARENT-TEACHER associations have called a 'homework strike' for November after a recent survey revealed that 48.5% of mums and dads believe the amount of extra studying children have to do after school is affecting family life.

The Confederation of PTAs, CEAPA, wants homework to be axed altogether – following on from the 'Finland model' where education standards and results are the best in the world despite shorter hours and no studying at home.

Parents who join in the strike will formally ask their children's schools not to set them any homework over the weekends that month and, if they do so anyway, will send a note with the pupil on Monday explaining in their own words why this work was not done.

A study by CEAPA of the first half of 2016, up to and including the end of the summer term, includes responses from 1,748 pupils' parents, of whom 92% are in State-run schools.

Of these, 58.81% are in primary school and 25.64% are in the two-year run-up to their ESO, Spain's answer to GCSEs.

Just over one in five say their children spend over two hours a day on homework on school nights, and 58.82% say their kids' grades suffer if they do not do part or all of it.


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Facebook 'insult' of Guardia Civil costs user nearly €1,000
22 September 2016

A FACEBOOK user has been fined nearly €1,000 for writing in his status that he wanted to blow up the Guardia Civil.

The unnamed individual, from the northern region of Cantabria, was referring to traffic police on duty in the town of Reinosa during the Spain Cycling Master's Championship race which was taking place there.

“Such a shame someone doesn't let off a bomb and blow them all through the air,” the comment said.

It was written on a profile which was accessible by thousands of locals from Reinosa and followers from further afield, rather than on the offender's own page.

The Guardia Civil Union (UGC) brought a private prosecution in addition to the criminal trial against the author.

Police said they 'will not permit any gratuitous humiliation, libel or defamation' of the forces and were prepared to 'use all means within their reach' to eradicate the 'sense of immunity' which they believe 'the trend for using social networks to stigmatise security forces' has led to.


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Spanish Football Federation chairman's niece kidnapped and murdered in México DF
22 September 2016

SPANISH Football Federation (RFEF) boss Ángel María Villar's niece has been murdered after being kidnapped in México DF, despite her family having paid part of the ransom money demanded.

María Villar Galaz, 39 (pictured), was leaving the IBM office, where she worked as a consultant, in the Santa Fe neighbourhood in the west of the Mexican capital on September 13 at night, and took a taxi to Polanco, the suburb where she lived.

Nothing further was known about her whereabouts between catching a taxi and her kidnappers calling her family in Spain the next day to demand a ransom of two million Mexican Pesos - US$100,800, or about €90,000.

According to acting foreign minister in Spain José Manuel García-Margallo, the family paid a sum 'considerably lower' than requested – 65,000 Pesos, being US$3,275 or €3,000 – the very same day, and reported the abduction immediately.

Whether or not they had done this to buy time and had agreed to find the rest of the money at a later date is not yet known, but the kidnappers did not consider this enough and the woman's body has since been found in a river.

Her husband and a male cousin duly attended the location the abductors ordered them to be at to hand over the money, in the México DF suburb of Iztapalapa, and handed over 65,000 Pesos.

María's body was discovered in a sewage channel in the town of Santiago Tianguistenco, 56 kilometres from where she was kidnapped.

Her hands and feet were tied and a plastic bag taped over her head, which is thought to have been used to suffocate her.

A female friend who has worked with María in Madrid and in México DF says she was 'a straightforward person' and not at all ostentatious, 'not your typical starry type who dresses in Chanel and Rolex when she walks around town' and 'not a person who would attract attention' as someone of wealth and privilege.

“As a professional, she was a perfect 10; everyone spoke really highly of her. For a woman to scale the heights she did in a society as sexist as [México] and in such a tough field as IT shows how much she was worth. Whenever you had a problem, your first thought was, 'what would María do?' She always spoke very clearly and confidently in work meetings,” her colleague, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, revealed.

María and her husband had moved to México DF in early 2012 to take up jobs at Everis IT Consultancy and, in 2015, María started work as a high-ranking member of the board of directors at IBM – a firm which has publicly expressed its condolences and says it is 'very much affected by this tragic incident'.



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Aragón, Spain's most rural region, to guarantee broadband internet to everyone by late 2019
21 September 2016

RESIDENTS cut off from 'digital civilisation' in the north-eastern region of Aragón can look forward to faster, reliable internet connections – or simply having an internet connection – thanks to a move to get 700 towns and villages connected within the next three years.

Much of the region, which starts at the Pyrénées in its northermost province of Huesca and runs about a third of the way down the mainland, is very rural and isolated, which is part of its enduring charm but can be inconvenient on a day-to-day basis.

Most of the southernmost province of Teruel, whose capital 'city' has just 30,000 inhabitants, is open countryside with numerous villages whose headcount barely runs into treble figures – despite its being home to some of Spain's most popular ski slopes and less than a two-hour drive from the country's third-largest city, Valencia.

And, in fact, Aragón's largest city and capital of its 'middle' province, Zaragoza, is the fourth-largest in Spain.

But now, regional president Javier Lambán has signed a deal with the three provincial councils or Diputaciones of Huesca, Zaragoza and Teruel in a meeting attended by representatives from Vodafone, Orange, Telefónica, Quantis and Masmóvil to get the region hooked up.

Whilst the rest of Spain is working on a gradual roll-out of 4G, 5G and fibreoptic – depending upon how developed their regions are – Aragón simply wants to guarantee access to a 20MB broadband internet connection.

Everyone in Aragón will be able to get online – and stay online – before the year 2020, Lambán stresses.


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Granada may fine sports centre for throwing three women in 'burkhinis' out of the pool
21 September 2016

GRANADA city hall may fine a local sports centre for ordering three women wearing a 'burkhini' to leave the outdoor swimming pool.

Spokesman for United Left, Francisco Puentedura, has asked the PSOE-led city council to take action against the leisure centre in the La Chana neighbourhood after it received a flood of complaints from local immigrant communities and feminist organisations.

Hundreds of residents have filed written complaints to the Equality department of the council, which runs the leisure centre for various admin reasons, and Puentedura has now passed the grievance onto the Sports department for a two-pronged attack on what he calls 'blatant discrimination'.

He has called for the local government to draw up a bye-law which 'makes it clear' that members of the public may not be banned from sports facilities for 'wearing whatever they like', since there is 'no law in the land which prevents' anyone from entering a pool in a bathing suit which covers all bar the hands, feet and face.

“There's no room for personal opinions,” the spokesman said, alluding to the leisure centre management's 'prejudice' against the three women ordered to leave the pool.


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