Late August Happenings in Spain at a Glance

Category: Articles

It is still August and much of Spain continues on vacation, including millions of foreign visitors, our citizens, the royal family, the country’s government, and the president. This month should be hot and sluggish, but the weather and other frivolous circumstance don’t seem to cooperate.

On the weather front, we’ve had a few cold days, yes very cold, days like you would expect in late October. Then came the rain to our delight. In Madrid, we had two days of wonderful, much hopped-for rain. Should I mention the drought and the ever-decreasing water supplies in most areas of the country? Yes, but that is a theme for another story. In any case, the weather is almost back to normal as I write.

Some adverse circumstances have taken over in our country, but one wonders how many people really know the full extent of them. We’ve had devastating fires in Galicia, uncontrollable—or so it seems—illegal immigration, and increased violence and by the terrorist group ETA.

The wave of fires in Galicia lasted 12 days in which nearly 90.000 hectares (or 222,390,000 acres) of woods and farmland was scorched by more than 100 fires burning at one time. More than 8.000 firemen, guards and soldiers worked around the clock to extinguish the fires with the help of 895 vehicles and 65 planes and helicopters. Some of the firefighters worked 20 hours a day, on a voluntary basis, letting go of their vacation and free time. Unfortunately, they could not prevent the loss of life, and five people died in the fires. Thank God the weather helped at the end, and all fires were finally extinguished. The potential loss to farmers and wood sellers has been calculated to be more than 248 million euros. Those affected are protesting and calling for assistance, but they will have to wait until the ministers return from their vacation. Such is life.

Illegal immigration is a tough problem. Just over the past weekend more than 1,500 people came from African countries, mostly Senegal, in boats and rafts onto the Canary Islands’ shores. Since the beginning of the year more than 18.000 persons have been intercepted by the police. The retention centers are crammed, doctors and health services overwhelmed, and the humanitarian services workers exhausted. Last year the government generously gave free papers to all the illegal immigrants who requested them—that is more than 1 million. The political party now in the opposition claims that the uncontrollable wave of illegal immigrants is a direct result of that—and so they had forewarned.

In the last few days, the Spanish Minister of Interior traveled to Senegal to seek cooperation in controlling the massive exit from their coasts. As a result of their negotiations, Spain will send to Senegal 2 boats and 1 helicopter to patrol 700 kilometers (or 434 miles) of coastline. You might wonder—as I do—how much controlling they will be able to do. Spain’s president announced—from his vacation palace—that he would send the vice president to Finland, the country presiding the EU this semester, to seek assistance. However sources report that the Finnish government had found out about the supposed trip through the media, and so far no help has been requested. And so life goes.

On the terrorist front, we are seeing a worsening of street violence in the Basque cities, continued extortion to businesses and threats of new attacks—all that in spite of the so-called “peace process.” Last Saturday night a group of hooded men set on fire a city bus and several vehicles, burning them to the ground. A nearby restaurant had to be evacuated, but fortunately no one was hurt. Businesses in the Basque Provinces and Navarra have continued to receive intimidating letters from the terrorists who demand payment of the “revolutionary-tax,” as they call it. The extortion letters have not ceased even though the terrorist group announced at the end of March that it would cease all activities and begin peace negotiations with the Spanish government. However last week, the group had reproached the government that they had not followed through on their “acquired commitments” and threatenned to respond. Some people suggest that the “process” was not about peace, but about estortion because the terrorist group never had any intention to dissolve or stop their criminal activities. Other people wonder what this “peace process” is about, since there had not been a war–only the terrorist have arms and use them against people who have no means of deffending themselves.

All that aside, life is good. It is still summer, still vacation time, and food here is as awsome as ever. As Spaniards would say: “Que más se puede pedir? (What else would one want?)