Inside Spain’s Reinvented Civil Guard Reply

Civil Guard control room

Feared under Franco, the 170-year-old force has been reinvented under democracy

Jesús Rodríguez writes for El País in English–The first security control involves a digital fingerprint reading; the second keying in a number; and each step we take is monitored on CCTV. Our destination is the Civil Guard’s control center, a 6,000-square-metre underground complex opened in 2012 in central Madrid. Unlike the headquarters of the National Security Department underneath the Prime Minister’s official residence, it is not nuclear bomb proof, but it does provide an impressive display of the key role this paramilitary force, set up as a rural police corps 170 years ago, plays throughout Spain on land, sea and air.

The nerve center of the complex is the Operations Room, about the size of a theater, and filled with computer-lined desks attended by rows of green-uniformed officers monitoring information provided by the force’s 85,000 officers – just six percent of whom are women – who guard 2,000 control posts and patrol in its 20,000 vehicles, 120 boats, 36 helicopters, and two reconnaissance aircraft.


Spanish Lawmakers Vote in Favor of Recognizing Palestine Reply

Palestinian ambassador Madrid

Musa Amer Odeh, Palestinian ambassador to Madrid with Spanish parliamentarians after vote

Spanish members of parliament have voted nearly unanimously to exert pressure on Madrid to recognize Palestine as a state.–The Spanish Parliament voted late Tuesday in favor of recognizing Palestine. MPs voted 319:2 in favor of draft legislation demanding that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government recognizes Palestine as a state. The bill said the “only solution to the conflict is the coexistence of two states, Israel and Palestine.” Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party was widely in favor of the bill, but set a requirement that a negotiation process between the two guarantee peace and security first.

The parliament also called on the government to pressure the European Union to recognize Palestine as well. At the end of October, Sweden became the first western EU member to recognize it. Israel, in turn, recalled its ambassador from Stockholm. Britain and Ireland held similar non-binding votes last month and French lawmakers will vote on November 28. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia had recognized Palestine before they became EU members. The UK parliament is also considering a vote on recognition of Palestine, which is currently recognized by around 130 countries worldwide.


Spain: Medical Tourists to Double Within Five Years Reply

Medical tourism Spain

Tourism–The number of medical tourists coming to Spain is expected to double in the next five years. A new public-private partnership ‘SpainCares’ has been proposed to boost the segment and to achieve 200,000 travelers seeking medical care in the country in 2019. 

According to estimates from the president of the Spanish Tourism Cluster of Health, Íñigo Valcaneras, cooperation with the Ministry of Industry in this area could place Spain among the top three medical tourism countries in the world, shortening the distance that separates it from countries like the United States, Morocco and the Czech Republic. “Our sectors are much more competitive from the point of view of health and tourism, especially when we unleash our full potential with this initiative,” said Valcaneras. To achieve it, the Tourism Cluster, through the EOI Foundation and Secretary of State for Tourism, and the body of private companies have signed two agreements to organize activities to attract foreign patients generating revenue and employment in Spain.

As explained by the Secretary of State for Tourism, Isabel Borrego this initiative is in line with the objective of tourism diversification pursued by the government – “looking for a quality product and improving profitability of the sector.” The new project will have a group funding of EUR 2.7 million in the next two years, but the activities to boost medical tourism industry will take place over a decade. The initiative includes marketing campaigns to attract tourists in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, Morocco and the United States. The brand ‘SpainCares’, that will be promoted in the campaigns is currently connecting  a number of private clinics in Spain and it will become a property of the Spanish State.


Six of Spain’s Best Cava Tours Reply

Pares Balta_winery Spain

Jackie de Burca writes for A Luxury Travel–A little bit like “the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain”, so does the Spanish version of Champagne. Cava, which was considered for a long time to be the poor person’s Champagne, has increased dramatically in popularity over the last few years. Of course there are differences between Champagne and Cava, that both the discerning palate and wallet can note. However the production process is essentially the same, but of course Champagne can only come from the region of the same name in France. Cava, on the other hand, can be produced in a number of regions in Spain, but actually around 95% of it comes from the Penedès region, not too far from Barcelona, in Catalonia. The name Cava simply means cave or cellar in Spanish.

For anyone who enjoys a glass of bubbly, and especially for those who like to understand more about its production process, the Penedès region is a special vintage just waiting to be uncorked.


Prison, Ma Non Troppo: Court Revokes Day Release Privileges for Ex-Balearics Crooked Politician Reply

 Jaume_Matas crooked politician

But the court’s most recent decision does not mean Matas will be going back to jail immediately, as the ruling could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which previously ruled in the politician’s favor by reducing his initial conviction from six years to nine months.

El País in English–A Valladolid court has revoked the day-release privileges that the Popular Party (PP) government recently granted to former Balearics regional leader Jaume Matas, who fell out of grace after being engulfed in a series of far-reaching corruption scandals. On October 31, the ex-PP official walked out of Segovia penitentiary, where he was serving a nine-month sentence for influence peddling while premier of the islands. Under the terms of the day release granted by the Interior Ministry, Matas has to sleep in a social rehabilitation center and can spend weekends at home. This means he will no longer have to spend time inside the penitentiary proper.


Hope of Spain’s Housing Market Revival Kick-Starting the Economy Is Misplaced Reply

Spain property revival

Recent months have seen house prices in Spain rise for the first time in six years, after the housing sector was badly hit by the financial crisis. José García Montalvo writes that one of the most damaging aspects of the crisis in Spain was that the housing bubble experienced during the 2000s was also accompanied by declining productivity.–It is well known that one of the culprits of the Spanish economic crisis was the housing sector, as was the case in many other countries such as Ireland and the United States. The size of the Spanish housing bubble was huge: in just a few years the ratio of housing prices over household disposable income doubled from 4 to close to 8. But the worst part of the housing bubble and Spain’s “marvelous decade” was the decreasing productivity of an economy concentrated on building houses, alongside the institutional corruption tied to the development of land and the housing business. In fact, an important part of the current corruption problem in Spain stems from the easy money of the prodigious years of the housing bubble.


Spanish Political Corruption: A Lot of Bad Apples Reply

Francisco Granados indicted

A wave of arrests upends the political establishment–José Angel Fernández Villa led the biggest miners’ union in northern Asturias. Francisco Granados was a key minister in the Madrid region. Jordi Pujol was president of Catalonia for 23 years. The three men have one thing in common: they all allegedly hid large sums of money in secret foreign bank accounts. The accounts, unveiled during a rash of recent arrests and investigations, are the tip of an iceberg of corruption that now threatens to sink the Spanish political establishment. Until this week the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, and other mainstream Spanish politicians were sailing blithely towards it. Now they are scrambling for the lifeboats.

Mr Granados was one of 51 people arrested on charges of bribery and embezzlement on October 27th, including six sitting mayors. Most, like Mr Granados, belong to Mr Rajoy’s centre-right Popular Party (PP). But the main opposition party, the Socialists, faces corruption scandals too. So do the governing coalition in the region of Catalonia and the country’s two largest trade unions, the Unión General de Trabajadores and the Comisiones Obreras. The PP is the worst sinner. A former interior minister, Angel Acebes, is being probed for his role in a funding scandal that has already sent the party’s treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, to jail. Rodrigo Rato, a former finance minister and head of the IMF, allegedly used company credit cards to top up his salary…


Spain: Pilgrim’s Progress Reply

Pilgrims to Santiago

With a little help from two wheels and a combustion engine, Mike Cowling joins the faithful at Santiago de Compostela.

Yorkshire–The emotion of it all was too much as tears streamed down their cheeks. Two young women, rucksacks and walking sticks discarded, hugging each other for all it was worth, had finished the pilgrim’s route Camino de Santiago and were standing outside the city’s cathedral, journey’s end.

Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries since claims of the discovery of the remains of St James were made. It would appear that it doesn’t matter if you haven’t walked or cycled one of the many routes of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James to the English), all are welcome and have been since the Middle Ages.

The back streets, stunning plazas and alleyways of this randomly laid out city have history and the visitor feels part of that evolving story. Santiago de Compostela was the focal point of our trip, one powered by internal combustion engine and not by human power. That would have taken too long for our week in Spain that started well after a smooth crossing from Portsmouth.


Ibiza’s Best Restaurants Reply

Dining in Ibiza

Actually It All Depends on How You Define “Best Restaurant”

Holly McQueen writes for A Luxury Travel–I have recently been exploring the island of Ibiza, and the foodie that I am, love to mix any opportunity to experience the new ‘it’ restaurant, chef or hang out. Ibiza, famous for its DJ’s, parties and VIP guest lists and now, home to the world’s most expensive restaurant. Welcome to the golden steps of gourmet heaven where I explore the top 4 restaurants in Ibiza:

Leading the way this week is SubliMotion which was in the news recently for being the most expensive restaurant experience ever, if you want to try this restaurant, I recommend booking a table in advance, possibly upon (or even before) your villa confirmation, this restaurant is so exclusive it is only prepared to serve 12 clients per night. SubliMotion at La Playa d’en Bossa is located at the Hard Rock Hotel, new hotel in Ibiza. The chef of the restaurant is the famous Michelin starred chef Paco Roncero.


Five Less-Traveled Spanish Cities Reply

Almeria Andalusia Spain

5. Almería, Andalusia

The setting: Much like a quaint version of Barcelona, this city has a vibrant blend of history and family-friendly attractions.

Things to do: Situated on the southern Mediterranean coast, Almería is only a short taxi ride to Cabo de Gata Natural Park, where you can explore over 60 km of pristine beaches, and still make it back to the city to enjoy the delicacies of the hundreds of tapas bars that are open all night. If you want to take a unique tour, El Cabo al Fondo will take you on an interactive adventure along the cliffs and caves of Cabo de Gata. Swimming and snorkeling off the boat is highly encouraged.

Where to eat: El Rincon de Basi – Whether you’re looking for a full fledged meal or just stopping in for tapas, there is no better place to find fresh seafood, steak, or a fantastic relleno.

Where to stay: Hotel Catedral Almeria – located in the heart of the old city, this hotel blends right into the stunning cathedrals located around it.