New political arm for ETA?
Alternative for the Basque country
THE creation of the nationalist party, Aukera Guztiak, which means “all the options” in Basque, in time for the region's elections in mid-April has aroused suspicions that the party is in fact a regrouping of the outlawed Batasuna, accused of being ETA's political wing. “The question is whether Aukera Guziak ... is Batasuna's latest disguise”, El Pais asks. “And if it isn't, discover the reason why it refuses, firmly and insuperably, to express its condemnation of ETA's violence”. Spanish authorities have until Thursday to prove a connection between Aukera Guztiak's candidates and Batasuna or ETA to prevent them from standing for election.

Potential evidence includes phone calls between Batasuna and Aukera Guztiak's candidates, links that 1'200 supporters of the party had relations with Batasuna, and the party's firm refusal to condemn terrorism. The government's announcement that it will investigate the candidates was met with positively by La Vanguardia, which stated the move shows, “political coherence by the government with respect to ETA”.

But El Pais fears the government could run into difficulties in banning the new party. “The right of political participation is a right that doesn't have limits, and can't have them”. In the light of the law, “only by penal means ... can they prevent a citizen from exercising their right of participating in politics”.

So by outlawing the party, the government faces ”criminalising Spanish citizens (those forming part of the lists of Aukera Guztiak are also Spanish citizens, although they would probably prefer not to be) for political reasons”. Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has asked Batasuna to condemn ETA if it wants to participate in future elections.

Dictator pulled down in Madrid
An undercover manoeuvre
THE last statue of the right-wing dictator, Francisco Franco, in Madrid, was pulled down on Thursday in a surprising undercover manoeuvre. The PSOE's decision to remove the monument which has spent the past 49 years at Plaza San Juan de la Cruz, “is a decision that has generated considerable controversy”, ABC comments. PSOE “tried to justify its decision by debate about a concrete period in Spain's history with the final objective of fishing in the turbulent waters of division”. ABC believes the government was seriously mistaken in its mode of operation. “If the government's will was to take down the statue, the normal behaviour in a democracy would be to explain their motives and opinions, and let others explain theirs”, but instead, the authorities decided to operate at night, and worked without asking Madrid's town hall for permission.

La Vanguardia notes that the statue can be pulled down easily enough, but the memories are not so easily forgotten. The statue's disappearance, “brings the end to an antidemocratic icon, but it isn't sufficient to hide” a history many are trying to forget. “It could be an exercise in collective amnesia, destined to convince us that Franco didn't exist and that the only one to free us from battles against the poor Saracens was the villain Bush”, La Vanguardia jokes. ABC similarly asks, “when exactly did the rewriting of history start?” A columnist at La Vanguardia was surprised at the news, “who would have said to you and me that we were going to see Franco on the front page this week?” saying the removal of the statue and the result it has had confirms, “there are names that refuse to die”.

The empty pedestal has been elevated to the status of a pilgrimage destination, La Razon observes. 700 people visited the site waving pre-constitutional flags, “the Government has managed to wake up one of the two Spains which had appeared to be asleep or exiled”.

The paper continues, “the empty pedestal has been turned into an improvised altar, where the most nostalgic carry flowers as a homage to the dictator”.
Holiday getaways
The most expensive ever
FOR the 15.5 million Spanish residents who have chosen to travel over the Easter weekend, “they face the most expensive fuel prices ever”, La Razon reports.

As the price of Brent oil reached 56 dollars a barrel last week, a historic record, while crude oil prices climbed to nearly 52 dollars a barrel. The impact on consumers was evident at the petrol pumps across the country. “Last Wednesday, diesel oil reached a historic maximum with prices per litre for the fuel at 86.3 cents per litre”. La Razon continues, noting that in the short term a least, there is no sign of fuel prices declining.

Petrol hasn't escaped the rises, “average petrol prices have reached levels registered at the end of last summer and the price of diesel beats historic maximum levels”.

The “11 March” commission
A call for conclusions
THE commission investigating events surrounding the Madrid terrorist attacks on March 11, 2004 has entered its period of conclusions, despite protests from the Partido Popular, which still wants to call witnesses to add weight to its initial claims that ETA was behind the attacks.

For El Pais, “the PP's strategy regarding the commission could be summed up with the following principal: shout loudly against your own defects, then nobody can reproach you for them”. The paper believes, “it's absurd that the PP wants to now prove the participation of ETA, which was dismissed in the summary, to show the party didn't lie between March 11 and 14”. The PP accuses the PSOE of hiding the truth. El Pais observes how its spokesperson, “raised his voice in scandal to state that the Parliament refuses to know the truth, meaning, it's trying to hide the truth, the same thing that the Government was accused of”, when in power at the time of the attacks. El Pais believes that, “the PP presents itself as if it were a victim of March 11, for the simple reason that three days later, on March 14, it lost the general elections that, they presumed, they had already won”. Political parties have until April 19 to present their conclusions. The commission expects to close in June.

Not enough snow
The driest winter in ten years
DESPITE the polar fronts that left Spain covered with snow for much of January and February, the environment minister, Cristina Narbona, says it's not enough. “The word drought is reappearing”, El Pais comments.

The 2004/05 season was the driest winter in 10 years, “the great snowfall which is still melting in many towns and which left an unusual white stamp, is not enough to fill many reservoirs, which are at 56 percent capacity”.

A year earlier, in March 2004, they were filled to 71 percent levels.
Narbona admits it marks the beginning of a drought period.
Even the wettest areas of Spain have been affected, such as Galicia, or Cuenca del Duero. Here a shortage of rainfall is unheard of, and is so unlikely that the reservoirs are smaller than in other parts of Spain. While weather experts are expecting some rainfall over Easter, this will do little to reverse the problem, especially as considerable rainfall is not expected over the next few months.

In the face of low reserves, politicians intend to speed up the construction of various desalinisation plants across the country, as well as completing the Drought Plan within the National Hydrological Plan which aims to address the problem.


To be able to write a comment, you have to be registered and be logged in.

* Mandatory fields

Currently there are no comments.