A Threat to Spanish Democracy Reply

Catalan separatism Spain

NY Times.com, bOn Sunday, in defiance of an order from the Spanish Constitutional Court, a farcical referendum on Catalan separatism will take place. It is not clear who is holding it, as there are neither official voters’ rolls nor auditors, only a semiofficial cabal of volunteers. All this in the name of “democracy” and the right to decide, but without respect for the rule of law or the true will of the people, and without acknowledging the gravity of the consequences that the secession of Catalonia would occasion. This supposed referendum — now rebranded a “nonbinding consultation” — and the cynical victim posture that has accompanied it represent yet another stratagem on the part of the Catalan government and its allies to drum up support for the separatist cause, complete with such slogans as “Spain doesn’t love us,” “Spain is robbing us” and, now, “Spain will not let us vote.”

In their attempt to undermine the workings of the constitutional government, Catalan separatists have displayed a remarkable indifference to historical truth. Catalonia was never an independent state. It was never subjected to conquest. And it is not the victim of an authoritarian regime. As a part of the crown of Aragon and later in its own right, Catalonia contributed decisively to making Spain what it has been for over three centuries: an impressive attempt to reconcile unity and diversity — a pioneering effort to integrate different cultures, languages and traditions into a single viable political community.

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What This Small Island Can Teach the World about Disease Control Reply

Cuban doctors abroad
West Africa needs what Cuba has: a well-trained, coordinated healthcare system. Anything less and Ebola wins

The Guardian.com–Guatemala, Pakistan, Indonesia, Haiti. Four different nations that share a common experience: in the past decade, they were all struck by natural disasters which overwhelmed their under-staffed and under-funded public health systems. Into the rubble, flooding, and chaos of these distinct cultures and contexts, Cuba dispatched a specialised disaster and epidemic control team to support local health providers. It was a story of unprecedented medical solidarity by a developing country which few media outlets picked up – until now.

The Henry Reeve Brigade, as it’s known, was established in 2005 by more than 1,500 Cuban health professionals trained in disaster medicine and infectious disease containment; built on 40 years of medical aid experience, the volunteer team was outfitted with essential medicines and equipment and prepared to deploy to US regions ravaged by Hurricane Katrina (the offer was rejected by the Bush administration). Today, Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade is the largest medical team on the ground in west Africa battling Ebola.


Spanish Authorities Arrest 51 Politicians in Anti-Corruption Sweep Reply

Anti-corruption protesters Madrid

A day after PM Mariano Rajoy played down scale of corruption in Spain, members of his party were among those arrested

Ashifa Kassam in Madrid writes for The Guardian.com–Dozens of public officials, bureaucrats and business leaders have been arrested across Spain as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation, just a day after the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, downplayed the scale of graft in the country. Speaking on Sunday, Rajoy sought to depict the issue as a case of a few bad apples and one that must not define Spain. Noting that the justice system was doing its job, he said, “a few small incidents isn’t the same thing as 46 million people nor all of Spain”. Less than 24 hours later, 51 people – including top members of Rajoy’s ruling People’s party (PP) – were arrested as part of an investigation into “a network of corruption” that involved contracts worth roughly €250m (£197m), the country’s anti-corruption prosecutor’s office said on Monday.


Why Madrid’s Poor Fear Goldman Sachs and Blackstone Reply

Raquel Mejias

Raquel Mejias, 39, who is HIV positive and has one lung, waits before learning that her eviction was suspended in Madrid, in this October 2, 2014.

Reuters.com–Last year Madrid’s city and regional governments sold almost 5,000 rent-controlled flats to private equity investors including Goldman Sachs and Blackstone. At the time, the tenants were told their rental conditions would remain the same.

But as old contracts expire, dozens of people have received demands for higher rent, been told their rents will increase dramatically, been threatened with eviction or moved out to escape the insecurity. Thousands of Spain’s poor now depend for their homes on the generosity of private equity.

Jamila Bouzelmat is one of them. The mother of six lives in a four-bedroom flat on the outskirts of the Spanish capital that was bought jointly by Goldman and a Spanish firm.


El Greco: A modern Artist in the 16th Century Reply

El Greco Spain

This year is the 400th anniversary of El Greco’s death but his works can feel shockingly modern. Jason Farago examines how his works influenced Manet, Cézanne, Picasso and Pollock.

BBC.com–Few artists stick out from the standard tale of western painting more pointedly than El Greco, the great outlier of the late 16th Century. Deeply religious, passionately single-minded, he merged the art traditions of three different countries and found his own unsettling painterly language, one that took a very long time to find its most receptive audience.

Flip through the pages of a textbook or wander through the permanent collection of a major museum and you can sometimes fool yourself that art history is a clear and predictable progression, one style and one century inevitably giving way to the next. But art history, we know, isn’t nearly so simple, and El Greco, like few other painters, gives the great delight of seeing that story disrupted and contradicted.


Why a Little Economic Growth Won’t See an End to the Pain in Spain Reply

Invisibles Tetuan Spain

Politicians hail signs of economic recovery, but others foresee little change for the country’s jobless millions

Ashifa Kassam writes for The Guardian.com–Just streets away from Madrid’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant, peeling buildings in the city’s Tetuán neighbourhood have been plastered with posters featuring the faces of five women. Placed at eye level, each a few yards apart, the women’s portraits are accompanied by descriptions of their situation.

“I’m one of the 23,000 people in Tetuán who has to decide between eating or paying the bills,” reads one poster. “My daughters and grandchildren barely get by on my €600-a-month pension,” reads another. The Invisibles of Tetuán campaign was dreamed up by local activists after city officials disagreed with them over the need for a community food bank.


12 Stereotypes About The Spanish That Are Totally NOT True Reply

Penelope Cruz Spaniard

Margarita Lázaro writes for Huffington Post.com–What do you REALLY know about Spanish people? If you were to ask a foreigner, his response would probably consist of one accurate statement and many, many misconceptions. That’s how it appeared to us in a cliche-ridden New York Times article called “Spain, Land of 10 P.M. Dinner, Asks if It’s Time to Reset Clock.”

Foreign films and television series only serve to reinforce these cliches. In “Knight and Day,” there were bulls running through Sevilla and in “Little Fockers,” Dustin Hoffman was traveling to Spain to learn how to dance… the flamenco! (Was there any other option?) The time has come to shatter these myths about the Spanish. The following stereotypes are totally not true:


Baby Giant Bustards Reared in UK from Spanish Eggs Reply

great bustard chicks

ITV.com, Wiltshire, UK–The team of people who are reintroducing a giant bird to Wiltshire say they are going to step up their programme. A ten-year trial to bring Great Bustard (in Spanish avutarda) chicks to Salisbury Plain has ended – now they are going to increase the number of birds they rear there. Until now the chicks were brought from Russia, but now they’ve discovered the Spanish species is actually more like our native one that was killed off nearly two hundred years ago. Dr. Paul O’Donoghue of the University of Chester undertook a genetic comparison of European Great Bustard populations. He discovered that, contrary to the previously held belief, the Great Bustards in Spain form the closest living population of Great Bustards to the original UK population before its extinction.


Spain’s Model Organ Donor System in Jeopardy? Reply

Spanish organ transplant

Spanish transplant candidates are some of the most likely to receive an organ, since the country has the highest organ donation rate in the world: 35.1 donors per million.

Evangeline O’Regan writes for Al Jazeera.com–Sonia Gallego, 30, was born with polycystic kidney disease. Since birth, she has had ongoing renal dialysis, and undergone three kidney transplants. Now, she is back on the waiting list and on stand-by to receive her fourth kidney. “He [the kidney] can come when he wants, as long as he arrives all right and stays for many years,” says Sonia with a touch of humour. “That’s the most important thing”. Worldwide, there are one million patients just like Sonia waiting to receive a much needed heart, kidney, liver, lungs, or pancreas. According to the Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation (associated with the World Health Organisation) just 100,000 transplants are carried out each year. Only one in 10 patients will receive a transplant.


Authentic El Bierzo Wines Achieve International Projection Reply

Bierzo vineyards Spain

Rosa María González Lamas writes for Foods from Spain.com–Autóctona del Bierzo, a winery association from the Bierzo DOP works on a new stage of its campaign “Authentic Bierzo”, a promotional effort that pretends to expand and strengthen the presence of Bierzo wines in the United States highlighting the unique landscapes, the indigenous flavors of Mencía and Godello grapes and their very old vines of origin, and the authenticity and singularity of Bierzo wines as quality products. The Association works in conjuction with the Bierzo DOP Regulatory Council.

This new stage is based on developing a new web site for the US market to be launched by mid-2014, and on capitalizing in social networks to promote the wines from Bierzo in America. As part of the new web site, a comprehensive catalogue of the wineries’ portfolios will be available online, offering  information about these, images, export contacts and other key wine and winery information, framed to also reflect the essence and history of the Bierzo wine region so that Americans can be attracted to its wines.