4 September 2021

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

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain

 Cosas de España/Galiza  

The (‘conservative’) Spanish judiciary . . . See the (machine-translated) El Pais article below. Or read it here in Spanish.

The 3rd thing that regularly appears in our media – along with kamikaze drivers and farmers killed by overturned tractors – is the crashing of trucks into the railway bridge in nearby Alba. I think I recently posted a foto of the missing metal plates designed to warn drivers of the (low) height of the bridge. Which can’t help.

Another warning from the Voz de Galicia for Galicians travelling to the UK: There’s a lot of confusion about the certificate that passengers must present in the UK to minimise Covid infections on board and after the rejection of the tests issued in Galician. If you have to travel outside Spain, don’t forget that the antigen tests obtained in pharmacies are useless.

A roundabout special, albeit from Down South.

I was washing my car in the street early yesterday morning, an activity which I was told years ago is illegal here in Spain. I’ve done this with impunity many times but this morning things were different – a Guardia Civil patrol drove past. They didn’t stop, so I guess they were on the way to fry bigger fish. Possibly involving gypsies in the nearby settlement. I suspect the local or regional police wouldn’t have been so indulgent. So, a lucky break.

Talking of the traffic police . . . We’re still waiting for parliamentary approval of the new rules and higher fines. For details of these, see here, in Spanish, where it’s reported that: The DGT will increase surveillance with camouflaged vehicles, to avoid situations like the one in Rois, where a driver driving at 183kph in a 90 zone escaped conviction because he wasn’t identified. Which seems wise.

And talking of gypsies . . . Having left my car in town for a service yesterday, I walked the 3.8km back home, half of which was up a steep hill, hoping to get rid of at least some of summer’s kilo of excess weight. At one point, I had to decide between 2 options – a short one which passes alongside one of our 2 permanent gypsy settlements, and a longer one, through a small industrial estate. I chose the latter, and then tried to convince myself this was because I’d already decided to buy something in the DIY place there. And not because I had my laptop in my backpack. Arriving home covered in sweat, I wondered whether the shorter route wouldn’t have been worth the perceived risk. For which, I must admit, there is no logical basis.

The UK 

Research shows that almost a quarter of Amber list travellers broke quarantine rules, by not isolating at home for 10 days and/or by not taking a PCR test. Not hugely surprising.

The EU

So, as I predicted, The EU and AZ won’t get to court   . . .


The truth – here – of about what the Americans thought they were doing in Helmund 70 years ago and what they were actually doing – laying the foundations of events since then. Including the production of much of the world’s heroin. As Santayana said nearly 120 years ago: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Talking about tragic events . . . Maxar Technologies has some amazing Before&After fotos of storm Ida’s damage here.

Quotes of the Day 

From the US special representative to Afghanistan: The big test for the Taliban is: Can they lead their country to a safe and prosperous future where all their citizens, men and women, have the chance to reach their potential? Can Afghanistan present the beauty and power of its diverse cultures, histories, and traditions to the world?’  What would your answers be?

Slightly less serious: The Abba revival: Like a West End* leftover performed by a group of Swedish OAPs**

*London’s theatre quarter

**Old age pensioners/’Seniors’

Finally  . . .

These are the  US State Department’s foreign service institute estimates of the time required for an English speaker to be be at an ‘acceptable level’ of the cited languages:-

Category I: All those ‘closely related’ to English, including Spanish: 23-24 weeks, or 575-600 hours

Category II. German, 30 weeks, or 750 hours

Category III: Indonesian, 36 weeks, or 900 hours [Bit of a surprise to me that this is rated harder than German]

Category IV: Finnish and Persian, 44 weeks, or 100 hours

Category V; Arabic, Japanese and Korean, Cantonese & Mandarin Chinese: 88 weeks of study, or 2,200 hours [ie. twice as much time as even Category IV languages]

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here


The PP blows up the bridges for the renewal of the judiciary

Casado calls for the dismissal of Minister Bolaños and sources in the PP leadership say: “He is no longer a valid interlocutor”. The PSOE accuses the leader of the PP of “twisting” his words.

The bridges have been blown up and the game seems to be back to square one. The change of ministers in charge of negotiating the Judiciary – the Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory, Félix Bolaños, and the Minister of Justice, Pilar Llop – and the start of the political year after the holidays have not favoured a rapprochement between the two major parties to renew the Judiciary, which has been paralysed for more than a thousand days this week. On the contrary: the relationship between the PP and the PSOE has flared up again on the second day of September over this matter of constitutional importance, and agreement once again seems impossible. The leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, staged the breaking of bridges by calling on Thursday for the dismissal of Minister Bolaños, the man with whom the Popular Party was supposed to negotiate the renewal of the judges’ governing body. “He is no longer a valid interlocutor,” say sources in the PP leadership. The PSOE accuses the popular leader of “twisting” the minister’s words.

Casado’s request to Pedro Sánchez to dismiss Minister Bolaños, who is in charge of negotiating with the PP, leaves no room for doubt: the PP sees no options for a pact. Politically, the message is crystal clear. With this staging, Casado is sending the Government the message that he has no problem with the General Council of the Judiciary remaining blocked for as long as necessary. That it is the PSOE who will have to give in. The leader of the PP has decided to resist pressure from the Executive and will only renew if the PSOE accepts his demands. The main one, now (a few months ago the PP also demanded that Unidas Podemos should be left out of the agreement and that the Gürtel judge José Ricardo de Prada should be removed from the list), is that the pact should include a change in the method of election so that the judges elect 12 of the 20 members of the judiciary, instead of the Cortes, as is currently the case. This is not going to be dropped. Casado went so far as to speak of “inadmissible totalitarianism” from the head of the Presidency.

The PP leader called for the dismissal of Bolaños in very harsh terms following statements made by the minister in an interview on Cadena SER in which he defended the current model for electing judges, and opposed the system proposed by the PP. Casado extracted 2 decontextualised fragments of the interview to attack the minister. “Bolaños should be dismissed for his attack on democracy and the rule of law,” the Popular Party leader wrote in a message on Twitter, in which he quoted part of the minister’s words in quotation marks. He said: “You cannot create watertight compartments with the powers of the State” and “judges cannot choose judges”. According to the PP, it was the government that “blew up the bridges” when Bolaños so forcefully opposed the change of model.

The minister had argued that the judiciary must have a “democratic basis”, and this is achieved with the participation of Parliament in the election of the members of its governing body, as is the case in the current system. “In a state governed by the rule of law, in a democracy with our Constitution, judges cannot elect judges, nor can politicians elect politicians: we are all elected by the citizens because they are branches of the state,” Bolaños said on Cadena SER. The Government opposes the PP’s demand that the judges should elect the members of the Council because the Cortes would no longer be involved in the process. “In a state governed by the rule of law, in a democracy like ours, the judiciary is as important as the executive and the legislature, and they all derive from the free vote of 47 million citizens. We cannot create watertight compartments in the different powers,” said Bolaños.

For the PP, these statements are inadmissible, and Casado gave them the utmost seriousness, according to sources in his leadership. The PP is annoyed not only by the argumentation, but also by the pressure from the government, which it describes as a “campaign of permanent attack on the PP”. “Bolaños dedicated the meeting of the Council of Ministers to charge against the PP, and this Thursday again an interview dedicated to attacking us”, Casado’s team complains. “This is as far as we have come”, warn the same sources. “Bolaños’ mask of moderation has fallen. You can’t pretend to start a negotiation like an elephant in a china shop”, insist the PP about Sánchez’s new strongman, who they see as an spent interlocutor.

The PP is also feeling pressure from Vox on this issue. Santiago Abascal’s party defends the change of model so that judges elect 12 of the 20 members and rejects “partisan divisions” that “seek the political colonisation of all the powers of the state”. The Popular Party does not want the extreme right to win points by reproaching them for a possible agreement with the PSOE in this area, and for this reason they want to shield the hypothetical pact from attacks with a reform of the system at the same time so that judges elect the members of the Council. The problem is that the socialists do not see it.

“The twisting” of Bolaños’s words

The PSOE accused Casado of “manipulating the words” of Bolaños. The PP had not lashed out with such impetus against the Minister of the Presidency, the new strongman of the Government  since the reshuffle of the Executive in mid-July. But he had not gone so far as to ask for his resignation. Ferraz sources recalled that the blockage in the judges’ control body exceeded 1,000 days on Monday.

The government also understands that the PP is taking advantage of the interest aroused by the paralysis in the judiciary to divert attention from the blockade it maintains in other institutions. The change that Casado is proposing in the election of the members of the judges’ body is not applicable to the renewal of the Constitutional Court, the Court of Auditors and the Ombudsman. The point on which they do agree is that they must have the backing of three-fifths of the Cortes, but the format for selecting their members varies. The government pushed for a modification so that an absolute majority would be enough to unblock the impasse in the General Council of the Judiciary, until the PSOE gave up going ahead -Unidas Podemos is in favour of taking it up again- following warnings from the European Commission.

Meanwhile, time passes without anything changing, maintaining a status quo that, according to the PSOE and Unidas Podemos, benefits the conservatives. The two partners in the coalition government believe that the PP wants to take advantage of the majority in some of these bodies with a view to the judicial processes in which former PP leaders are immersed in cases such as Kitchen, Lezo and Púnica. Casado’s team points out that, beyond the situation in the judiciary, they are willing to renew the rest of the pending constitutional bodies. But they counter that there have been no contacts with the government.

Meanwhile, 4 of the 12 magistrates of the Constitutional Court had their mandates expire a year and a half ago. The next 3rd should be renewed next year: 2 would correspond to the judiciary and 2 to the government, but right now there is no sign of this happening. To complicate matters further, on 23 July the nine-year term of office of the 12 councillors of the Court of Audit, where the conservatives are also in the majority, came to an end. Francisco Fernández Marugán, the Ombudsman (PSOE), has served his entire term in office since 20 July 2017, when he took office following the resignation of Soledad Becerril (PP).