Spain’s Podemos Party Recruits Falciani, Source of HSBC Leaks, to Advise It Reply

Falciani_to_Podemos–Feb 9 (Reuters) – Herve Falciani, the former HSBC employee who supplied information on the bank’s clients and their tax situation, will help upstart Spanish political party Podemos (We Can) with its election programme, party officials said on Monday. HSBC client data obtained by Falciani is at the centre of a storm over the British bank. HSBC has admitted failings by its Swiss private bank, after media reports that it helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets.

Falciani — who used to work in IT at the Swiss subsidiary and who has described himself as a whistleblower trying to help governments track down tax evaders — will produce a tax fraud report for the Spanish party, one of its officials, Luis Alegre, told a news conference in Madrid. “Many thanks to Falciani for offering to collaborate with Podemos’ programme,” Podemos’ 36-year-old leader Pablo Iglesias said on Twitter. “He will be an invaluable help.”Anti-establishment Podemos, which is barely a year old, has risen rapidly in opinion polls, some of which show it would win a general election due later this year, ending decades of a two-party system in Spain.



The Hug That Could Change History Reply

Diego Neria Lejarraga

When Pope Francis reportedly embraced a transgender man at the Vatican he offered hope to those who have struggled to gain acceptance in the Church

Jane Fae writes for Catholic–When I first read that the Pope had met and embraced a transgender man, I was overjoyed. How better to breathe life into his stated view, as I was reminded at Mass on the very morning that I write this, that we should “give witness with joy and simplicity”? My joy, though, was quickly tempered by the analysis that followed. The story, according to the mainstream press, was straightforward. A Spanish transgender man, Diego Neria Lejarraga, wrote to the Pope about his struggles for acceptance within the Church. To his amazement, the Pope responded first by picking up the phone and then arranging a formal meeting at the Vatican.

To the heartfelt question of whether, after his gender reassignment (popularly referred to as a “sex change”), there was “a place somewhere in the house of God for him”, Francis responded by embracing him, Mr Neria told the Spanish newspaper Hoy. This, I told myself, is why Pope Francis is rapidly winning a special place in the hearts of those who have felt marginalised, rejected by a Church that they still desperately long to believe in.


Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Pedro Almodovar Among Spain’s Big Oscar Winners Reply

Javier Penelope Spain

Latin–Mexico is the top performing Spanish-speaking country at the Academy awards, but right behind the nation is Spain. The European country has been nominated 59 times at the biggest awards show in the film industry and has come away with 14 victories. The European giants are going to go home empty in 2015 with no victories, but the country’s performance is so strong at the Oscars that it is worth looking at how well the nation has done.

Spain has seen nominations in all four acting categories, but the big shocker is that all six have come from two actors. Javier Bardem and his wife Penelope Cruz have each managed three nominations apiece and both have managed one victory in the supporting categories. Bardem’s first nomination for lead actor came in 2000 for his turn in “Before Night Falls,” making him the first Spanish actor nominated in the category. He would become the first and only Spaniard nominated in the category when he managed a second nomination 10 years later for his turn in “Biutiful.”


Spanish Photographer Alberto García Alix: Front View, Boxer’s View Reply

Alberto Garcia Alix

Alberto Garcia–Each boxing match is a story: a drama without words. Alberto García-Alix´s photographs are also condensed stories, silent but eloquent stories. These are images imbued with a lyricism and stripped of artifice, poetry that always finds a place to settle within the framework: the tension in the foreshortening of a face, the tip of a shoe, a skewered vagina, the body of a bird, fuzzy profiles of a building … Direct poetry that explodes before our eyes with the radiance of a whiplash. A vocational fighter, when García Alix concludes one of his joyful battles with images, there is only one winner standing on the canvas: his glance. A frontal view. A look of fighter. Pure epic.

García-Alix´s technique has evolved toward a meticulous use of black and white. His visual speech is composed in accordance with the maps that his life’s itinerary has sketched out, maps onto which the photographer sketches his mysterious, emotional and compelling artistic cartography.  A broad map on which objects and landscapes appear, photographs in which Alberto García-Alix captures the scenes of his own biography: houses, streets, roads and trails open up to infinity. Walls, facades and windows bounded by the camera lens. Open spaces on which his gaze jumps around and becomes introspective until enclosing itself in the four walls of a bare room.


Spanish Premier Accused of Knowing about Slush Fund Payoffs Reply

Mariano Rajoy Spain

Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy, accused of slush-fund knowledge, MADRID (AP) — The former finance chief for Spain’s ruling political party has accused Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of having full knowledge about a slush fund that allegedly financed payoffs for party members. Luis Barcenas made the declarations to reporters who mobbed his every public movement after his release on bail from a prison. He was jailed when the scandal surrounding the scheme erupted in 2013.

Barcenas said Friday that Rajoy knew about the scheme “from the beginning” and that party officials received regular payoffs. Rajoy and his Popular Party have denied the claims. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria declined comment on the latest declarations by Barcenas, noting he faces fraud and money laundering charges.


Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown Review Reply

Almodovar West End

Taking a Spanish art house film comedy and converting it into a West End musical may seem like an act of madness but it is very much in the spirit of the work itself.–Although the first try on Broadway tanked, the writers have given it a total overhaul for its London debut and made a pretty good job of it. The stage version detaches itself from Pedro Almodóvar’s 1988 film but it retains the comic delirium and the title’s premise. Four women all in various stages of meltdown congregate in the apartment of Pepa, an ageing actress and voiceover artist whose married lover has just left her for a younger model.

Tamsin Greig is wonderfully cast as Pepa, combining the split–second timing of a professional comic with the intelligence of an actress on the verge of a major breakthrough. Her singing voice is powerful with a strident edge that may not get chairs spinning around on The Voice but is entirely appropriate for the role. Haydn Gwynne as the philanderer’s wife Lucia is every bit her equal, albeit with a better singing voice and a wonderful series of costumes which range from an ocelot coat and hat to a pink number and white patent boots.


An Interview with Charles Powell, Director of Spain’s Elcano Royal Institute Think Tank Reply

Charles_Powell_Elcano–Our interviewee this month is Charles Powell, who is the Director of the Elcano Royal Institute in Madrid. In our discussion, Mr. Powell 1) explains how the Institute uses its annual Global Presence Index to measure how different countries manifest themselves internationally, 2) reflects on how Spain has fared in the Index over time, 3) clarifies why traditional Western defense models are losing their utility, and 4) recommends ways that Spain might want to restructure its defense posture and capabilities.

In 2010, the Elcano Royal Institute launched the annual Elcano Global Presence Index. This index measures and ranks the ‘external presence’ of various countries. Can you tell us more about how you assess this presence? Also, what were the results of the latest ranking?

In our view, global presence refers to a country’s ability to project itself externally. It measures to what extent and in what ways countries ‘are out there’, regardless of whether they are exerting actual influence or power.


Putin, Luxury Wine Producer in Spain Reply

Hacienda Putin Spain

Christian Gysin writes for the Daily–Russian president Vladimir Putin can now toast his own success on the international stage – after planting a vineyard in the grounds of a stunning Spanish mansion he has reportedly bought and developed for some £15 million. Putin’s grand home near Marbella is in the Malaga pueblo of Benahavis and comes complete with stunning northern views of the Serrania de Ronda mountain range.

Meanwhile, to the south the wealthy Russian leader can enjoy an unspoilt Andalusian outlook across the Mediterranean sea towards both Gibraltar and the coast of North Africa. Putin – who has always revelled in his hard-man bare-chested ‘hunter’ image – has clearly now decided he might enjoy the finer things in life. For the Daily Mail has learned that the 62-year-old insisted on 25 vines from the top Burgos-based Bodega ‘Pingus’ – some 500 miles from the Costa del Sol – to be planted into a series of sun-soaked terraces surrounding his new mansion high in the Marbella Hills. The Russian President is understood to have hired the famous Valladolid province vineyard owner – Danish oenologist Peter Sisseck – to oversee both the production of the wine and the later bottling process.


Spain’s Judges Working on Corruption Cases Involving 2,000 People Reply

Princess Cristina lawyers

Lawyers of Spain’s Infanta Cristina attend to media after she testified in front of judge Jose Castro over tax fraud and money-laundering charges in Palma de Mallorca February 8, 2014. They later accused the judge of “corruptela.”

Damien Sharkov writes for–Spanish judges will begin 2015 by dealing with a backlog of corruption cases left unresolved from last year, totalling at 150 according to Spanish daily newspaper El Pais which called the upcoming court proceedings “an inheritance from the past”. Several of these cases involve high profile persons and groups of defendants with European news agency Europa Press estimating the eventual verdicts will determine the fates of more than 2,000 people facing corruption charges.

Among these cases is the infamous ‘Gurtel’ case against Spanish businessman Francisco Correa which allegedly implicates Spain’s ruling Partido Popular (PP) in bribery, tax evasion and money laundering. The total amount of public funds allegedly lost is estimated at no less than €120 million.

Also implicated in corruption charges and awaiting trial are Spain’s Princess Cristina, sister of King Felipe VI, alongside her husband Iñaki Urdangarin. Throughout 2014 issues of corruption at the highest level of Spanish authority became a leading issue in the country, causing widespread disenchantment with politics and public institutions and  being reflected in the meteoric rise of grassroots, anti-establishment party Podemos, which is currently ahead the polls, despite being less than a year old.


Spain: Artist Unveils Royal Portrait after 20 Years Reply

Spain Royal Portrait

A portrait of the Spanish royal family which took two decades to complete has been officially unveiled at the Royal Palace in Madrid.–Artist Antonio Lopez, known for his meticulous approach to work, says the painting took so long because he’s used to working on several pieces at once. “I wouldn’t want you to think I’m lazy”, he jokes in an interview with the Spanish daily El Pais. The life-size canvas shows former King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia with their children, King Felipe VI and Princesses Elena and Christina.

The painter hasn’t quite caught up with the royal family’s most recent changes, so Queen Letizia doesn’t feature. Mr Lopez says he never felt any pressure from the royals while painting, and that they just asked to be “portrayed like a Spanish family. Nothing more”. But he admits that while the criteria and composition didn’t change much over the years, he did get “stuck for a while on the clothes”.