It was surprising to many observers when Spain’s center right government fell earlier in the month, however it was even more surprising to me that it was not considered a major news story. Pedro Sanchez, the leader of the socialist party, successfully filed a no confidence vote against sitting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and ousted him. This catapulted the far-left to power in Madrid, and things have gone rapidly downhill since.
The fact that the government can change in a western country without an election is incredible when you think about it; and the repercussions for Europe are huge.
The country is in the grip of both an economic crisis and a migrant crisis. Spain has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe, with a staggering 35% of young people out of work as of March 2018.
With the summer in full swing and migrant arrivals growing by the week, Spain’s new socialist government has announced that all of the 800,000 illegal immigrants residing in the country will get state funded healthcare. The former conservative government of Mariano Rajoy had withdrawn most healthcare entitlements from illegal immigrants back in April 2012, but this decision is set to be overturned. Although illegal immigrants were already entitled to state funded emergency and maternal healthcare, their rights did not extend to all forms of healthcare which Spanish citizens are entitled to.
The Spanish government has claimed extending healthcare to illegals will save Spain 7 million euros a year, a claim which is widely disputed.
And it gets worse….
When Italy refused to allow the infamous ‘Aquarius’ ship to dock in it ports, Spain jumped to its rescue. Within 48 hours of docking at Valencia, several of the migrants had already gone missing, with the rest housed in student accommodation. Despite it being exam season, and the students paying 750 euros for the privilege of living there, they were thrown out onto the streets. The migrants will also receive 532 euros worth of welfare every month, and many may be moved onto France in the coming months, where the welfare package is even more generous.
This creates a headache for Italy’s new populist government. Their determination to end the Libya-Lampedusa –Sicily-Italy trafficking route depends on not only stopping migration, but also on persuading other European countries in the Mediterranean to do the same. But with Spain now acting as a pro-illegal immigration safe haven, the traffickers can simply carry on with business. Any boats that are found will know that Madrid will willingly take them in, which will no doubt cause a tsunami effect among the estimated 6 million migrants currently waiting in North Africa to cross.
Spain’s new Interior Minister has also vowed to remove the razor wire at the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla which border Morocco. Apparently the razor wire causes ‘terrible injuries’ and so the whole defensive mechanism will be scrapped. Judging by the numbers of migrants who scaled the border fences last year, this is a terrible idea.
The Strait of Gibraltar is also becoming the next big area of tension in the ongoing migrant crisis. Moroccan gangs are using jet skis, boats and car ferries to move human cargo from Africa to Europe.
This migrant route is unusual in the fact that instead of economic migrants, a large number of the illegals smuggled in this area are children. There are several reasons for this. The children are either used as ‘anchors’ to allow chain migration, or they are used as pick pockets by gangs operating in tourist hot-spots. It is believed the parents of these children pay anything from 2,000 - 5000 euros to the traffickers, a large sum when you consider the poverty of Morocco.
There is also the continuing practise of ransoming children, a practise which also took place in this area during the middle ages. Minors are kidnapped from rival gangs, and then they are kept in forests near Cadiz or safe houses on the coast. Their families back in Africa are forced to pay up to 500 euros for their release.
The distance between Morocco and Spain across the Strait is just 15 kilometres, and a journey between these two destinations takes just 40 minutes by boat. Despite the exceptional high winds and the regular merchant and naval traffic, an increasing number of smuggling gangs are operating in this area. Just last week a German woman, who campaigned for opened borders, was murdered by a migrant truck driver of Moroccan origin.
Migration isn’t the only issue exacerbated by Spain’s new left wing government.
A particularly morbid turn of events is also developing in the Guadarama hills northwest of Madrid, at the infamous Valley of the Fallen. The remains of Francisco Franco, Spain’s fascist autocrat, are set to be removed. The socialists and other left wing parties have been campaigning for years on this issue, and only now does it look like they will get their way.
Former Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero introduced the ‘Historical Memory Law’ in 2007, which essentially banned statues, street names and public events which honored the Franco era. The Valley of the Fallen remained untouched though by this law, simply because the center-right parties in the country had blocked any moves against it.
I think anybody with a respect for history will be dismayed at the sight of a historical leader’s remains being discarded from a grand tomb, especially at a time when people in the West are taught to feel guilty about their history.
Although Pedro Sanchez’s allies include separatists from Catalonia and the Basque region, he has been openly against holding any more independence referendums since taking office. So even though Spain has turned to the far left without a democratic election, it looks like the country will stay together at least for now. Many foreign observers do not understand the complex regional variations in language and culture which make up Spain. The tensions in this diverse country have usually come to a boiling point every 50-75 years since the end of the Reconquista in 1492.
The next general election in the country is most likely to be held in the second half of 2019 or during the first seven months of 2020, so Spain has at the most 2 years of leftist rule before it gets a chance to change course. Thankfully the Monarchy does not seem to in the firing line of Sanchez’s manifesto as of yet, so hopefully one of the last remaining great traditional institutions of the country will remain intact. The Royal Family is currently fighting off a number of corruption scandals, and the last thing it needs is a referendum on its very existence.
The Spanish people are a resilient bunch, over the last 205 years they have seen off Napoleon, fought numerous internal conflicts and battled the infamous flu that bears their name.