October is coming

There’s been a lot of coverage in the UK over events in Catalonia and I wanted to see how Spanish newspapers were reporting the latest developments. Not surprisingly, the Spanish Government’s moves to prevent the disputed independence referendum, and the counter-reaction, have dominated the news in Spain.

El Mundo’s lead on Friday was an article reporting that Spanish prosecutors are considering sedition charges against the organizers of demonstrations called to block local police and Guardia Civil officers from accessing Catalan Government buildings (La Fiscalía de la Audiencia Nacional denuncia por sedición los disturbios de Barcelona). During the disturbances, Guardia Civil vehicles were attacked and protestors blocked local roads in order to prevent detainees being taken away. The article points out that the crime of sedition carries penalties of between eight or ten years in prison, or more if the perpetrators are deemed to be in a position of authority. Elsewhere in the paper there is anger at reports that Catalan schoolchildren have been encouraged to take part in demonstrations by their teachers.

There are lighter elements though – the paper reports on a video made by one of the policemen brought into Barcelona by the Government for counter-Referendum operations, who was less than impressed with the accommodation provided for him,  a tiny cabin he will be sharing with three colleagues for two weeks (“Vaya zulito bueno”, policías del operativo por el 1-O denuncian las condiciones de sus alojamientos). To add insult to injury, one of the ferries the police are sleeping on is painted with massive pictures of Tweety Pie and Daffy Duck from the Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes, a fact that has not gone unnoticed on social media.

A couple of days later, La Vanguardia was leading on reports that a senior officer, but not the most senior officer, of the Catalan police was attending a ccordination meeting with Guardia Civil and national police chiefs, in an article which highlights the political minefield the Mossos d’Esquadra are currently navigating and the unease which exists within the force (Los Mossos envían a su número tres a la primera reunión de coordinación contra el 1-O). The officer delegated to attend was reportedly due to hand over a legal report commissioned by the Catalan Government arguing that the Mossos cannot work under the command of the central Spanish authorities. And in Llega Octubre, an opinion piece which illustrates hardening attitudes in the rest of Spain, Enric Juliana gives a round-up of a pretty awful week in which Spain only narrowly avoided the spectacle of a full scale riot when far-right protestors surrounded a conference hosted in Saragossa by the left-wing Podemos party, which was debating compromise solutions to the Catalan crisis.

Trade talks, and some music to dance to

El País provides very good coverage of Latin American (and North American) issues, and this week I’ve been following some of the stories that have appeared in the international section.

In La brecha salarial separa a México y Canadá en la renegociación del TLC, Ignacio Fariza reports on attempts by Canada and Mexico to forge a common front in negotiations with the US on a revised NAFTA framework. Both countries need to face down the threat of a resurgent US protectionism, but the huge gap in labour market conditions between Mexico and North America is a problem for the Canadians, and trade union leader Terry Dias, who is in Mexico as an observer and is reputed to have the ear of Justin Trudeau, has been pressing to get it on the agenda for the talks.

This is doggedly opposed by the Mexican government and business organisations, but some Mexican experts think the Canadians may have a point. As the article highlights, the country has achieved a major expansion of its industrial base over the past twenty-five years, in the face of stiff international competition, but at the cost of very low and stagnating wages for its workforce, who earn a fraction of what their North American counterparts get, and relatively poor productivity.

Negotiations between all three sides are set to start in earnest in a couple of weeks and this issue is likely to be a sticking point, alongside country of origin rules, intellectual property rights and dispute resolution mechanisms.

Journalist Ramiro Barreiro has been celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Garrahan children’s hospital in Buenos Aires as an example of what Argentina can achieve at its best (El hospital de niños Garrahan, un ejemplo de la Argentina que funciona). The hospital treats more than 600,000 patients a year, many of them from outside the country, carrying out at least one organ transplant a week and twenty-two operations a day. Despite constant wrangling over funding, it has become a highly respected public hospital and centre for specialist paediatric surgery training. Director Carlos Kambourian argues that it’s not all about high-tech medicine, however; they try to provide patients, some of whom are there for very long periods, with a stimulating environment, giving them opportunities for music and art therapy alongside their treatment. Former patients have gone on to achieve great sporting and other success and one eleven-year old has set up his own Cumbia band.

This article has given me an excuse to listen to Cumbia music on YouTube.