Spain. When regional elections were held in the Basque country in March, the Basque nationalist party PNV lost power for the first time since regional self-government was introduced in 1978. According to countryaah, a new coalition government was formed by the dominant national parties, socialists and the right-wing party PP. They are usually bitter opponents but united in their opposition to Basque nationalism. Some Basques worried that the Hellenic government coalition would mean reduced self-government. As a result, the exit of the Basque country weakened the position of the Socialist minority government in Madrid, when PNV withdrew its support.
Several members of the Basque separatist guerrillas ETA were arrested in southern France in April, including Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso, who is named as the group’s new military leader. Two former military leaders were arrested in late 2008. At the end of July, two civilian guardians were killed when their car exploded in the tourist resort of Palma Nova, Mallorca. The day before, nearly 50 people had been injured when an explosive charge destroyed large parts of a police station in Burgos, northern Spain. ETA later took on both deaths performed just before the 50th anniversary of the group’s founding.
The government’s plans to introduce free abortion aroused upset feelings. The Socialists, who have already introduced gay marriage and facilitated divorces, have been criticized by the Conservative opposition and the Catholic Church for pursuing an overly liberal social policy. Over one million people were reported to take part in a protest march in Madrid in October. The proposal meant that abortion was permitted from the age of 16 up to the 14th week of pregnancy. In the past, abortion has only been allowed in the case of rape, fetal malformations and in threats to the woman’s physical or mental health. However, the latter has enabled more than 100,000 legal abortions per year to be performed in Spain.
The global recession hit hard on Spain, where the construction sector and the housing market almost collapsed. Unemployment rose to over 19 percent in October; youth unemployment was almost double. In March, the central bank took over a regional bank for the first time, and in May, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero presented new stimulus measures. Among other things, the corporate tax was reduced for small businesses that retained their employees, money was allocated to the tourism sector and subsidies were introduced for new car purchases. In June, a rescue fund of EUR 9 billion was set up to support crisis-hit banks.
On October 30, the Spanish state prosecutor announced that Puigdemont and 13 other fired Catalan ministers would be charged with rioting, detachment and fraud. On the same day, Puigdemont and 5 of his ministers fled Catalonia seeking political asylum in Belgium. The EU, which had kept a low profile throughout the conflict, was thus moved to the heart of the conflict. On November 2, 9 members of the Catalan government were arrested and jailed in Madrid. While the Social Democracy supported the dissolution of the PP by Catalan democracy, it was heavily criticized by Podemos. The party’s chairman, Pablo Iglesias, said: “I am ashamed that they are blocking political opponents in my country. We do not want Catalan independence, but today we say: ‘release the political prisoners’.
To seize Puigdemont, in November, the regime’s police issued an international arrest warrant against him, demanding that he be extradited from Belgium. However, a claim that was initially rejected by the Belgian authorities. 750,000 Catalans demonstrated on November 11 against Madrid’s abolition of Catalan democracy and imprisonment of the country’s political leaders. In March 2018, the Spanish intelligence agency made another attempt as it prompted the German authorities to arrest Puigdemont, who was on the move in northern Germany. However, in Germany, too, the Spanish international arrest warrant was violated because Puigdemont in the German sense did not do anything illegal.
In Spain, the political scandals surrounding the fascist PP continued. At the end of April, the woman of Madrid’s regional government, Christina Cifuentes, had to resign when it was revealed that she had forged her exam papers and had been arrested for shoplifting 7 years earlier. A month later, the PP government fell by a vote of no confidence when the Basque conservative autonomy party PNV chose to withdraw its support for the PP. The day before, a startling verdict on PP’s corruption had been dropped. Twenty-eight people associated with PP were sentenced to a total of 350 years in prison. The otherwise conservative judge in the case characterized the PP as a “corrupt organization” which, in payment of public contracts, demanded bribes that went to finance the PP’s criminal political activities. The PP government was replaced by a minority PSOE government led by Pedro Sanchez. Some thought it would solve the explosive situation in Catalunya, with the central government ousting the Catalan government in October 2017, but earlier in May the PP and PSOE had agreed to continue to override democracy in Catalunya, refusing to recognize the newly elected Catalan government and continue to control the region directly from Madrid.
In April, the female hosts of state-run Spanish TV station RTVE began to go black in protest of PP’s direct political control of the channel’s news coverage. A few years earlier, a number of journalists had been fired for detecting PP’s criminal activities. The hosts were trying to ride out the feminist wave that had risen when a Spanish court in late April acquitted 5 men of group rape by a young 18-year-old woman two years earlier. An acquittal that led to massive female demonstrations across the country. (Spanish newsreaders wear black in protest against ‘political interference’, Guardian 11/5 2018)
In May, rapper Valtònyc went into political exile in Belgium after a Spanish court sentenced him to 3½ years in prison for having “glorified terrorism” in his texts and inflicted “serious damage” on the royal house. By the beginning of May, the Spanish Constitutional Court had dismissed his complaint against the judgment of the High Court. José Miguel Arenas Beltrán (Valtònyc) then stated that he did not intend to go to prison voluntarily. Instead, he followed the footsteps of Catalan politicians who, in the fall of 2017, began to go into exile and the thousands of Democrats who, under the Franco dictatorship, were also forced into exile.