Friday, March 7, 2008

ETA again

ETA, the Spanish terrorist ("armed separatist") group from the northern Basque Country, is being blamed for today's assasination of an former councilman. The victim, a socialist, had moved away from politics and had recently given up his bodyguard. ETA hasn't yet claimed responsibility but the media and the politicians leave little room for doubt. With the TV full of reporters and politicians condemning the assasination, the most impressive in my opinion was the president of the Basque Country. Not only did he directly speak to ETA ("Never again use the name of the Basque Country and its people in support of your terrorist gains"), but he also had the best one-liner. "ETA sobra." More or less translated as, "ETA is not wanted," although it definitely loses something in the translation. What is truly shocking is the fact that the city council of the town where the assasination happened, and which the man called home, has not yet condemned the attack. What are they waiting for?

In between screen shots of the bullet-ridden car and interviews with neighbors who refuse to show their faces, the talk turns to how this will affect Sunday's elections. The two main candidates, Zapatero and Rajoy, have called for a break in the campaigning out of respect. But the question remains, how will this affect these elections?

Update: Apparently the city council in the town just voted to officially condemn the killing. However, those in favor of the motion won the vote OVER the opposing vote of the mayor. Either she's connected to ETA or she's afraid of them.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Absentee Voting

Last night around 9pm the doorbell rang. The postman. (Yes, the mailman comes "late" at night here.) Nahco will be gone this Sunday to the States for a training course and he requested an absentee ballot for the elections. They come by certified mail and have to be returned the same way. Basically you vote by choosing which political party you want and putting that "slip" in the envelope (or the box at the actualy voting booth). So the absentee ballot packet came with 37 (yes 37!!) slips for the various parties. In reality, there are just two with a real hope of winning, but the others are still there for your voting pleasure.

I was floored by the sheer number of options, including these:
  • The anti-bull fighting party against the mistreatement of animals (look for the symbol of the bleeding bull...)
  • The Non-Smoking Party
  • The Carlists
  • Two Falange parties (one, apparently, is the "authentic" one)

Interestingly, the top slip on the pile was the PP. The PSOE was burried deep within the set. Any idea why?

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Elections here in Spain are right around the corner – just one week from today, in fact. Structured differently than in the States, the Spaniards get to vote just for a political party with a pre-determined presidential candidate (no primaries here). There are two major political parties here, the PP (right) and the incumbent PSOE (left). Last Monday saw a debate between the presidential candidates from these two parties – a fairly big deal since most elections apparently occur without having such a face-to-face. The general consensus was that Zapatero (PSOE) walked away with the victory, but it was also almost unanimous that little ground was gained by either party in the fight for the undecided votes. It was all simply too scripted. Tomorrow night is the second installment and one of the last chances to capture those extra votes. Hopefully both parties step it up a little.

Most experts predict a PSOE victory, but only after creating a pact with one or some of the lesser-voted left-wing parties. Election victories in Spain are frequently obtained only through these unions as a simple majority isn’t always forthcoming. Despite their apparent lead, the PSOE is pulling out all the stops when it comes to their campaigning. I’ve heard from numerous people that it appears the PSOE is putting a greater effort into winning this election than the PP – their posters are on every corner, their signs are in the metro, and their campaigners are popping up everywhere – even in our predominately right-wing neighborhood. Today, while out and about, we came across PSOE promoters handing out pamphlets and stickers outside the Corte Ingles. The pamphlet they gave us was 100 Motivos - 100 reasons to vote for the PSOE.

It is a fairly striking and well-written handout that enumerates all of the biggest campaign promises - some very general, others more specific. Despite the fact that I can’t vote, I found the pamphlet informative – not only about what we can (likely) expect in the next four years, but also what the current state of things is. Some of the highlights include:

  • 3. Lower the unemployment index to around 7%.
  • 14. Increase to 12 years old the age limit for the child for a parent to have the right to a
    reduced workweek. (Didn’t know this right existed!)
  • 15. Increase the paternity leave from 2 to 4 weeks.
  • 28. For people under 30 years old, increase the scholarships of 1,600 Euros to study English
    in a foreign country.
  • 48. Place our university system among the top 10 in the world.
  • 86. Complete an extensive reform of the Civil Registry to ensure efficient service.
    95. After recuperating our role in the EU, we will support its conversion into a true political an
    social union.

If the PSOE wins and these promises are actually carried out, the social situation in Madrid, and throughout Spain, can improve greatly in the coming years. Granted, that “if…” is a big one.

Everything but the TV

I’m back. I think. It’s been a long time since I last wrote, but I am going to try to get back into it. The start of 2008 proved chaotic (broken laptop, new job, sick hubby) and left little time for blogging. But I haven’t yet lost the blogger’s eyes completely; and I am still constantly confronted with those “only in Spain” moments. However, I am also constantly reminding myself that not everything new that I encounter is related to being in Spain. After all, having not yet arrived at my fourth decade of life, I am fully aware that my overall life experience is still limited enough that there are plenty of things (common perhaps even in the US) that I simply haven’t been exposed to yet. If I comment on something of that nature, be sure to let me know. Like this most recent encounter…

This past week gave me an inside look at one of Madrid’s private hospitals. With a sick father-in-law, (luckily not life threatening) I spent an abnormally larger portion of my time checking out the private installations. I found it strange that even after days in the hospital my suegros (in-laws) never had the TV on. When I asked why I discovered that the TV usage is not included for free. Instead you have to purchase an access card from the nurses, thereby giving you limited viewing time. Apparently years ago, and surely in some older hospitals, the TVs were actually coin operated. Perhaps I could understand it in the public hospitals where the care is “free” and any xtras might be used to gain some revenues. But in a private hospital? Where you (or your insurance) is paying for the room, the food, the care, everything? Apparently it’s everything, but the TV.