Barcelona Without the Tourists

Barcelona Spain
The sun sets on the Hotel W in Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Leyy M)

Tourism in Spain has come virtually to a standstill as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

For many residents of Barcelona, Spain’s top tourist destination, it is a relief.

The city welcomed 9.5 million tourists last year, up from under two million in the 1990s. That’s almost six times its population (1.6 million).

Most come during the summer, when I normally avoid the old medieval city and Barceloneta beach. (The beaches north of the Olympic Harbor, which were created for the 1992 Olympics, are usually less crowded but still busy.)

Now Barceloneta is actually nice. Cops constantly check to make sure sunbathers keep two meters distance, so crowding is impossible. The xiringuitos (tapas bars on the beach) have free tables. La Rambla, which is otherwise so packed it’s impossible to get through, is now pleasant for a stroll. Read more “Barcelona Without the Tourists”

Arrimadas Shifts Spain’s Liberal Party Back to the Center

Ines Arrimadas
Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Spain’s Citizens party, speaks at an event on liberal feminism, March 6, 2020 (Ciudadanos)

In normal times, being elected as the first female leader of a Spanish political party, on International Women’s Day no less, would be seen as a good omen.

Unfortunately for Inés Arrimadas, she took over the reins of the center-right Citizens just as the coronavirus pandemic spread to Spain. With the country under lockdown, the leadership change in a party that has been reduced to a mere ten seats in Congress drew little attention.

But the health crisis has also given the Citizens an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the other two right-wing opposition parties: the conservative People’s Party and far-right Vox. Read more “Arrimadas Shifts Spain’s Liberal Party Back to the Center”

Support for Quarantine Weakens in Spain

Pedro Sánchez
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018 (La Moncloa)

Support for maintaining the coronavirus quarantine is weakening in Spain. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has partly lifted a two-month lockdown, allowing small stores to reopen and restaurants to serve takeaway, but the opposition is calling for a quicker return to normalcy.

Deaths from coronavirus disease have stabilized at under 200 per day. The infection rate is also slowing.

But Spain still has more known cases of COVID-19 than any country except the United States.

The government fears that without strict controls, the virus could rebound in the next six to eight weeks. Read more “Support for Quarantine Weakens in Spain”

Lockdown in Barcelona

Barcelona Spain
The Sagrada Família seen through two of the smokestacks of Les Tres Xemeneies in Barcelona, Spain, March 10 (Luke Strange)

I haven’t blogged much recently. What little news there is other than the coronavirus outbreak seems rather less important. Since I’m by no means an expert on pandemics, I don’t have a lot to write.

I can tell you what’s happening here in Barcelona. Read more “Lockdown in Barcelona”

Catalan Ruling Parties Fall Out

Quim Torra
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14, 2018 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Catalan president Quim Torra’s suspension as a parliamentarian has divided the Spanish region’s ruling separatists.

In a session of the regional parliament on Monday, Speaker Roger Torrent of the Republican Left warned Torra, who leads the center-right Together for Catalonia, that his vote would not be counted in accordance with a ruling by the Spanish electoral commission. The entire Together for Catalonia delegation then abstained from all parliamentary business in protest.

The electoral commission has ordered Torra to step down as lawmaker for violating regulations on political neutrality. During the last election, he refused to remove a banner from his government’s palace in Barcelona that called for the release of nine separatists who were imprisoned for leading a failed breakaway from Spain in 2017. Among them is the Republican Left party leader, Oriol Junqueras.

Torra argued only the Catalan parliament can remove him. Its presidium has now sided with the electoral commission, although it believes Torra can continue to serve as president. Torra is appealing the electoral commission’s decision to the Supreme Court in Madrid, but it is unlikely to rule in his favor. Read more “Catalan Ruling Parties Fall Out”

Sánchez Wins Second Term as Prime Minister of Spain

Pedro Sánchez
Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez gives a speech in parliament in Madrid, March 2, 2016 (PSOE)
  • Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez has won a second term as prime minister of Spain.
  • He fell short of a absolute majority in Congress on Sunday but needed only more votes in favor than against a the second ballot on Tuesday.
  • Left-wing separatists from the Basque Country and Catalonia abstained, allowing Sánchez to scrape by with a majority of two — the smallest ever for a Spanish prime minister.
  • Sánchez’ will be the first coalition government since the Civil War and the most left-wing government since the fall of the Republic. Read more “Sánchez Wins Second Term as Prime Minister of Spain”

Electoral Commission Sidesteps Courts to Ban Catalan Leaders

Quim Torra
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14, 2018 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Spain’s electoral commission is trying to sidestep the courts in order to ban Catalan separatist leaders from office.

The commission ordered Catalan president Quim Torra to step down on Friday, although he is appealing a similar ban from office by the Catalan High Court.

It also barred separatist party leader Oriol Junqueras from taking his seat in the European Parliament, despite the European Court of Justice ruling that he must. Read more “Electoral Commission Sidesteps Courts to Ban Catalan Leaders”

Sánchez Offers Catalonia a Good Deal

Pedro Sánchez
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez speaks at a congress of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party in Huesca, October 1 (PSOE/Eva Ercolanese)

Catalonia’s Republican Left entered talks to support Pedro Sánchez’ second bid for power with three goals:

  1. A resumption of dialogue between the Catalan and Spanish governments.
  2. An amnesty for party leader Oriol Junqueras and the eight other separatist leaders who are in prison.
  3. A legal referendum on Catalan independence.

They got a “yes” on the first, a “maybe” on the second and a “no” on the third.

They are also promised more autonomy in the coalition agreement Sánchez has negotiated with the far-left party Podemos.

It’s not a bad deal. The Republicans should take it. Read more “Sánchez Offers Catalonia a Good Deal”

Sánchez Close to Forming Coalition Government in Spain

Pedro Sánchez Pablo Iglesias
Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

Spain’s Pedro Sánchez is closing in on a deal with Catalan separatists to remain in power.

The caretaker prime minister has the support of the far left to form a new government, but he also needs the backing of regional parties, who hold the balance of power in Congress.

Sánchez’ Socialist Party does not have a majority of its own. Read more “Sánchez Close to Forming Coalition Government in Spain”

Catalan Rulings Expose Politicization of Spanish Judiciary

Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Catalonia's Republican Left, makes a speech in Barcelona, Spain, July 20, 2015
Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Catalonia’s Republican Left, makes a speech in Barcelona, Spain, July 20, 2015 (CDC)

On the same day Europe’s highest court ruled in favor of the imprisoned former Catalan vice president and separatist leader Oriol Junqueras, who has been prevented by Spain from taking his seat in the European Parliament, the Catalan High Court banned the region’s president, Quim Torra, from public office for refusing to remove separatist symbols from government buildings during the most recent election campaign.

Torra is appealing the decision to the Supreme Court and will remain in office until it has ruled.

Junqueras remains in prison, but the European ruling gives hope to self-exiled Catalan politicians Toni Comín and Carles Puigdemont, who like him were elected to the European Parliament in May but haven’t been allowed by Spain to take their seats.

What the two decisions have in common is that they reveal how politicized the Spanish justice system is. Read more “Catalan Rulings Expose Politicization of Spanish Judiciary”