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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.

Spain to ban sex adverts from national newspapers
19 July 2010

My question is, why has it taken so long for the Spanish government to act on this???

The Spanish government has put itself on collision course with the national press with the announcement that it wants to ban adverts offering sexual services from their classified sections.

The explicit adverts, which fill at least a page in most of Spain's dailies, are worth €40m (£34m) a year to the struggling newspaper industry.

President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero made the announcement during this week's state of the nation speech, saying it was part of a strategy to fight the people trafficking and sexual exploitation that was rife in the country.

"As long as these advertisements exist, they contribute to the idea of this activity as normal," he said.

The Association of Spanish Newspaper Editors responded by saying that the logical policy would be for the government to make prostitution illegal. "If it was illegal, then newspapers wouldn't carry the ads," a spokesman said.

If the ads are banned, newspapers will want to be compensated and, worryingly for Zapatero, El País, a staunch supporter of his socialist party, is the paper that earns the most from this form of advertising. With its left-liberal sensibilities and readership profile, El País is the Spanish paper that most resembles the Guardian, and yet it earns €5m a year from advertising prostitution.

Yolanda Besteiro of the Progressive Women's Federation was scathing about what she regards as the newspaper's hypocrisy. "No media outlet can proclaim itself a defender of human rights when it publishes this kind of advertising, which makes them directly complicit in this type of slavery," she said.

The most openly religious daily, ABC, also runs the ads. El Publíco is the only national that does not run them as a matter of policy.

Spain is the only European country where the "quality" press carries adverts for sex. With the migration of most classified advertising to the internet, prostitution now accounts for 60% of the Spanish classified ad market.

Prostitution is big business in Spain, worth an estimated €18bn a year. There are about 200,000 sex workers in the country, nearly all of them immigrants, many of them illegal. Prostitutes are a common sight in cities, and it is impossible to go far along any main road before finding an oddly named "alternate club", rural brothels that can house as many as 100 women.

Most of the newspaper ads are not placed by individual women but by the mafias – largely from Romania, Nigeria and various Latin American countries – who exploit them. Proof of this emerged this month when police broke up a prostitution network in Madrid after following up ads in various papers. The women were being forced to give half their earnings to pimps, and much of the rest went on paying for their lodgings, leaving them, the police said, "in a state of near slavery".


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Briton gored in groin during Pamplona bull run
15 July 2010

A bull rammed his horns into the groin of a British tourist on Wednesday as 11 people were injured on the last day of the Pamplona festival in northern Spain, the regional government said.

The 24-year-old man from Yarm in northeastern England was in a "serious" condition in hospital during the eighth and final bull run of the festival.

He was one of four people who were struck by the horns of a bull while the rest were hurt in falls as they raced through the narrow cobbled streets of the city pursued by the animals, a government statement said.

Another foreigner, a 26-year-old man from New Zealand, slightly injured his wrist in a fall during the run which lasted a relatively long four minutes and 23 seconds.

Their injuries brought to 11 the number of foreigners who were injured during bull runs this year: four from Britain, two from Ireland and one each from Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand and the United States.

The overall number of injured was 37.

Read more at Google News

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Spain’s Cajas May Be Hiding Mortgage Losses, CreditSights Says
06 July 2010

Spanish savings banks may be hiding losses on home loans by taking non-performing mortgages out of securitized transactions, according to CreditSights Inc.

By carrying the bad loans on their own books the so-called cajas sidestep downgrades to their mortgage-backed securities, the independent bond research firm said in a report. The regional lenders helped fuel the nation’s real-estate bubble, which burst after the collapse of the U.S. subprime market.

CreditSights follows a sample of 143 Spanish residential mortgage-backed securities collateralized by 136 billion euros ($170 billion) of loans, with about 45 percent originated by cajas. While the savings banks give little information about the state of their loan books, investor reports on the performance of the securitized debt suggest asset quality is weaker than at commercial lenders, CreditSights said.

“Caja-originated mortgages are performing much worse than those extended by Spain’s commercial banks,” analysts David Watts, John Raymond and Hana Galetova wrote. By buying mortgages out of the pools “they could have been artificially reducing the level of bad loans in RMBS while simultaneously undermining the quality of the cajas’ own assets,” they wrote.

A comparison of loans originated by commercial banks and cajas shows that delinquencies in the savings banks’ mortgages have been higher than those of the commercial banks for at least four years, the report said. Falling incomes caused by government austerity packages “would no doubt precipitate further rises in delinquencies,” CreditSights said.

For the cajas, the proportion of mortgages more than 90 days delinquent or repossessed peaked at 4.2 percent in the third quarter of last year and is now 3.7 percent. The rate of serious delinquencies for commercial banks was 2.3 percent in the third quarter and has now “leveled off” at 2.6 percent, according to CreditSights.

“By buying the loans out of the mortgage pool, the cajas would be taking those weaker loans onto their own books,” according to CreditSights. “The current 3.7 percent serious delinquency rate may flatter the performance of the cajas mortgage books and underestimate their potential losses.” 


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Gloomy economy dampens mood at Pamplona bull run
06 July 2010

 Hordes of humans will sprint ahead of thundering beasts this week at Pamplona's famed running of the bulls, but Spain's most storied fiesta is being overshadowed by a crisis in the bullring.

A proposed regional bullfighting ban is combining with grim economic times to send a chill through the national pastime.

Pamplona's historic old quarter comes under the international spotlight because its bullfights are preceded by thousands of thrillseekers chased by bulls that invariably end up goring some humans on cobblestoned streets en route to bloody deaths in the ring.

But across Spain, the number of bullfights has dropped from about 1,000 in 2008 to a projected 800 or less this year, as local governments that have always subsidized small-town bullfights cut budgets because of declining tax revenue.

Bullfights, or corridas in Spanish, have become a luxury when cuts must be made by town councils to maintain funding for schools, social programs and road repairs.

Making matters worse for bullfighting aficionados, the vast northeastern Catalonia region where more than 10 percent of Spain's 46 million people live could wind up without bullfights when provincial legislators vote on a proposed ban in mid-July.

That would shut down Catalonia's last bullring in the city of Barcelona, though it wouldn't ban other bull spectacles like "correbou," where people chase bulls through the streets and "bouembolat," where bulls are forced to run around with flaming wax balls on their horns.

Animal rights activists say the gory spectacles are one of the planet's most blatant forms of animal cruelty. They hope a ban in Catalonia nine years after the Canary Islands enacted a similar one could prompt other Spanish regions to follow suit.

"It would be a huge step forward, Catalonia telling Spain and the rest of the world that they are not for torturing animals," said Mimi Bekhechi, special projects manager and anti-bullfighting campaigner for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Bullfight defenders insist the tradition is still so strong that bans are unthinkable across the rest of Spain. They concede, however, that the country's debt woes coupled with 20 percent unemployment and government austerity spending cuts could keep down the number of small town corridas for years.

In Pamplona, the crisis is expected to take a toll for tourism and nonstop street parties during its weeklong festival of bullfighting made famous by Ernest Hemingway's novel "The Sun Also Rises."

Hotels used to sell out three to four months before the event — but not this year.

"You can still find good quality rooms going for around euro100 ($125) and vacancies even in some top class hotels, something unheard of four years ago," said Nacho Calvo of the Navarra Restaurant and Hotel Association.

In Pamplona's sprawling main plaza, Jose Correa glumly gazed at a crowd numbering in the hundreds instead of the typical thousands he used to see on the eve of the five-day bash of drinking, debauchery and tourism purchases by Spanish, European, American and Australian tourists.

There were plenty of people speaking English instead of Spanish, but few were buying the T-shirts emblazoned with bulls and wine skins he used to sell by the dozens each hour to the partying masses.

"Normally you wouldn't be able to walk out there," he said. "It's the crisis, another year of it."

Bullfighting promoter Luis Miguel Ballesteros two years ago put on 27 or 28 small town bull spectacles in villages with populations ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 people each across the Castilla-Leon region, part of Spain's historic heartland.

This year he's down to nine or 10 because the rest can't come up with the euro30,000 to euro35,000 subsidy payments they used to give him for putting on corridas costing euro80,000 to euro100,000.

"The first thing they are cutting are the bullfights, they're spending less money on bulls so they can pay for education," Ballesteros said.

Things are so bad in Estepona, a Mediterranean seaside resort of quaint whitewashed homes, that city officials couldn't find a promoter willing to stage bullfights at the local festival starting Tuesday.

"It did surprise us, but we understand there is not a lot of money out there," said town councilor Carmen Ocana.

Estepona — a town of 70,000 that doubles in size each summer as tourists pour in — normally spends euro250,000 on its weeklong summer festival of music, parades, food and booze. But this year there will be no public spending and no parade. A children's show that used to be free will charge admission. Instead of hiring big-name musicians for concerts, Estepona put out a call for local musicians who will play for free.

Some see a silver lining in the crisis: higher quality fights.

Jose Carlos Arevalo, editor of Spain's top bullfighting magazine, 6 Toros 6, said that in the boom years before the crisis, bullfighting was flush with money. The subsidies for staging fights drew in freewheeling managers and even people who turned to raising fight bulls after getting rich on Spain's real estate boom.

That led to a glut of fights, featuring "semi-empty rings and bouts with any animal that had four legs and two horns," Arevalo wrote in an editorial in last week's edition of the magazine.

Now Spain's economic woes are bringing the industry back into equilibrium, with fewer but more star-studded fights and breeders also trying harder to turn out only top-quality beasts.

The crisis, Arevalo wrote, "has made the men of the bullfighting world come to their senses."

But Correa said a ban like the one that could happen in Catalonia would never happen in Pamplona.

"It's a tradition here," he said. "If there aren't any bulls, there's no party."

Source:  The Associated Press

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Interpol seeks suspected paedophile in Spain
05 July 2010

Interpol has called on the public to help trace a suspected British paedophile over claims he kidnapped two teenage boys for sex.

Daren Elarmo

Commercial pilot Daren Elarmo, 40, was among 26 fugitives in the sights of detectives at the international law enforcement agency. Officers have launched the second stage of a global manhunt, aimed at redoubling efforts to catch some of the most elusive suspected criminals.

Elarmo, also known as Jones, is wanted by officers in the United States investigating the grooming of two boys via social networking sites between 2005 and 2008. Police said the aeroplane and helicopter pilot visited Britain last year, but may now be living in Spain, possibly among the expatriate community.

Other cases highlighted once again by Interpol included gangsters, murderers, people traffickers, thieves and sophisticated fraudsters. Those with a British connection included:

:: Romanian Ioan Clamparu, 41, is suspected of masterminding an international people smuggling operation in which women were forced into prostitution in Spain. He has contacts in Britain and Ireland.

:: Pole Marcin Balcewicz, 29, known as Balas, is wanted for murdering a man with an iron bar in his homeland in 2006. He has not been seen since and may be on the run in Britain.

:: Former financial director Jason Holland, 42, may be hiding in Britain from South African police investigating a substantial 2008 fraud involving the Sentula mining company. He has joint British/South African nationality.

:: Briton Christopher More, 32, is wanted for murder and false imprisonment over the death of a man fatally beaten at a farmhouse in Cheshire in June 2003. He may be on the run in Spain.

:: Hungarian company director Janos Szpevak, 33, is thought to be hiding in Britain from police investigating a sophisticated financial fraud in his home country. He has also travelled to Belgium and Sweden.

:: Irishman John Griffin, 43, known as Fozzy, is wanted by police over the murder of a 23-year-old woman whose body was found in a burned-out caravan in Galway in April 2005. He may be in Britain after faking his death on a cliff top.

If you have any information about the whereabouts of Daren Elarmo please contact Interpol.

Source:  Google news

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