Política, Brexit, turismo, actualidad, finanzas, Cataluña, ecologismo, medios o corrupción son algunos de los temas que trata este boletín informativo

04/03/24. Opinión. El periodista Lenox Napier repasa la actualidad española en su boletín semanal Business Over Tapas, al que puede suscribirse por 60 euros anuales. Puede obtener más información en su web (AQUÍ) o en su perfil (AQUÍ). EL OBSERVADOR / www.revistaelobservador.com ofrece este contenido tres días después de su lanzamiento...


Last week’s main story was the tragic fire that burned two connected 14- and 10-storey blocks of flats in Valencia in just a couple of hours. 138 apartments were gutted. That it happened during the day meant that only ten people were killed. Another 500 or so (the estimate of the total inhabitants in the two blocks) are reported safe.

The fire started on the seventh floor following a spark from a short-circuit inside an electric window-awning.
The façade of the building – which began construction in 2006 – was covered by an innovative material called Alucobond, an aluminium composite that includes synthetic material.
The manufacturer’s website insists on its product: ‘High-quality, resilient and unique in appearance – Alucobond® stands for sustainable construction quality and the highest creative standards. The façade material is distinguished by its outstanding product attributes such as precise flatness, variety of surfaces and colours as well as excellent formability’.
The suggestion is that the inner core was highly flammable. The cladding ‘was made from polyurethane, Says The Local, which is a versatile plastic material, which exists in various forms. It is used in everything from shoe soles to sportswear fabrics and mattresses. It’s also often found in building construction, particularly for cladding and insulation. The material is highly flammable, and "when heated, it catches fire" said a fireman. The fact-checking site Maldita expressed caution over the claim, saying that the cladding was more likely to be a rock-wool composite.
We are reminded of the Grenfell tragedy in North Kensington, London, which burnt down in June 2017 with 70 deaths. The fire ‘was accelerated by a dangerously combustible aluminium composite cladding and external insulation, with an air gap between them enabling the stack effect’.
Back in 2008, when the buildings were completed, similar to the entire real-estate sector in Spain, the developer behind the project and an even larger sister block nearby, a firm called Fbex, went into crisis. Two years later it filed for bankruptcy for 640 million euros and the entity passed into the control of its lending bank Banesto.
Many of the owners (or perhaps mortgage holders) were left with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. The city hall of Valencia has given shelter to those affected. Mapfre insurance nevertheless has an obligation for 26.5 million euros on the buildings.
There are an untold number of high-rise buildings in Spain using a similar kind of cladding with polyurethane built before the regulations were changed in 2006. How would the owners (or, again, the mortgage-paying tenants) feel to discover that their building is potentially a fire-hazard? The tenants in the second Fbex project, in nearby Mislata (162 apartments) are understandably very concerned.



‘The renovation of Spain’s ageing housing stock declines 8% in 2023 despite the ‘Next Generation’ EU stimulus package’. But, writes Mark Stücklin at Spanish Property Insight, ‘Spanish bureaucracy has turned an opportunity into a fiasco’.

From The Olive Press here: ‘Authorities say that at least 50 people have been investigated in the last year in Málaga province over illegal properties and land-use transgressions as well as urban planning regulations. The Guardia Civil carried out 179 inspections over the last 12 months, which yielded 192 infractions. Most of the transgressions were over not having an urban planning licence or deviating from original plans. “All of the complaints have been passed onto town halls, who have jurisdiction over territorial and urban laws”, stated the Guardia’s Málaga Command…’


Opinion from the Majorca Daily Bulletin here: ‘We are very lucky that the British have an enduring love affair with Mallorca and Spain because every day that goes past it appears that Spain and the European Union are making it more difficult to come here…’

‘Seville plans to start charging entrance fee to city's iconic Plaza de España tourist hotspot.
Of the 3.8 million tourists who visit the Andalusian city every year, around 95% take in the historic open-air square’. Sur in English has the story.
Tourism, says Juanlu Sánchez, is a creature that gives us to eat, while at the same time it devours us. He says: ‘In many cities in Spain there are more and more public spaces where residents avoid passing because they have been swallowed up by tourism. Squares, walks, neighbourhoods, full of people taking photos, having a drink on a terrace that takes up the entire sidewalk. Going one step further, in Seville, the mayor has announced the intention to close the Plaza de España to turn it into a venue where tourists can enter for a fee’ (podcast).


‘Spanish banks plan to lower the payment on four million mortgages by 50 euros per month in May’, says ECD here.

‘Canada's largest fund puts 7,000 properties up for sale in Spain. The Canadian Public Pension Investment Board (Wiki), has put the sale of their portfolio of assets valued at 1,000 million euros in the hands of Alvarez & Marsal (Wiki)’, says El Confidencial here or here.

Who are the wealthiest Spaniards? El Mundo says ‘It's not a climb, more of a giant leap. The country’s 200 richest citizens increased their assets by 16.1% in 2023, taking their joint fortune to an unprecedented figure: 320,535 million euros, 81% more than 10 years ago. The year was exceptionally good for 84 of the 200 largest assets, which grew by double digits, that is, above 10%, of which 36 increased it by 20% or more. These are the main conclusions of the new edition, number XVIII, of the annual monograph The 200 richest in Spain…’. Amancio Ortega leads the pack, and is now worth something around 94,000 million euros. ‘As of 2017, despite owning a huge real estate portfolio, he mostly lives with his wife in his apartment in La Coruña’ (Wiki).

From The Corner here: ‘The percentage of the Spanish population at risk of poverty or exclusion rose half a point in the last year to 26.5%, while the population with “severe material and social deprivation” climbed to 9%, the highest rate since 2014 and 1.3 points higher than the previous year, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE). With this, severe poverty has shot up to its highest level in a decade, mainly due to the increase in the electricity bill, the rising cost of the weekly shop, the increase in the cost of variable-rate mortgages and the consequent impact of all this on the purchasing power of households…’


Another mask-buying scandal from the Pandemic has surfaced. This time, a colourful character who started out as a night-club bouncer and wound up as the bodyguard of the ex-Minister for Transport Jose Luis Ábalos (PSOE) was found to have been involved in a massive scam. Koldo García Izaguirre was arrested last week – along with twenty others – for taking commissions from the mask-manufacturers for sales to a value of 53 million euros to government entities (20Minutos has his background here). 
Inevitably, Ábalos was marked by his close association with Koldo García and was asked by the party to resign his position as a deputy within 24 hours. Ábalos was apparently worried about losing his immunity as a politician and instead has moved to the unaligned Grupo Mixto (wiki) (when he joins the seven other deputies in the back row of the Cortes, popularly known as the chicken-coup, along with four from Podemos, one each from the BNG, CC and UPN). El Huff Post reports here. The PP has been tolerably quiet about this corruption scandal (well, relatively speaking), since something not entirely dissimilar occurred in Madrid with the brother of Isabel Díaz Ayuso in 2020 (now quietly archived).

‘Only Catalonia, Euskadi and Navarra resist the push of a PP that would achieve an absolute majority with Vox in the general elections if held today. The conservatives would be the leading force in all territories except these three, according to the latest Key Data study for Público. PSOE, Vox and Sumar would decline in votes and seats’. Graphic and story here.


Following on from the Galicia elections, and before the European ones in June, we are to be treated to the Basque regional elections, says La Cadena Ser, on April 21st. The PNV (27) currently appears to have a slim lead over EH Bildu (26) with the PSOE in third at 11, says El Español (Feb 19) here. Naturally (and tragically), Podemos and Sumar will be fielding separate candidates once again.


‘The world's largest mobile tech fair, Mobile World Congress 2024, gets underway in Barcelona. Visitors from over 200 countries arrive to discuss and present latest advances in AI, robotics, and 5G’. Catalan News says that the fair runs through Thursday February 29. All the latest innovations and gadgets at the fair with The Verge here. The Humane AI Pin looks interesting


The general elections in Portugal will be held on March 10th. From AP here: ‘Corruption scandals cast a shadow over Portugal’s early general election and may favour populists’.


The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States. The CPAC is hosted by the American Conservative Union…’ (Wiki). It’s a toxic mixture of fundamentalist religion and authoritarianism.
Besides the usual suspects, some big names from abroad were at the CPAC last week (held outside Washington DC last Wednesday through Saturday), including the German MEP Christine Anderson from the AfD; Hungary’s Miklos Szantho; the ‘anarcho-capitalist’ Javier Milei from Argentina; Liz Truss from the UK and Spain’s Santiago Abascal, the leader of Vox (Media Matters here). A picture of Donald Trump and Abascal made the Spanish news (they look like they are sharing a lift) – and Europa Press quotes Trump as saying ‘‘From what I read, I think you will soon be number one’, at the same time ensuring that he was "delighted" to have met Abascal and congratulating him on the "great job" that Vox is doing’. The far-right Spanish press was even more enthusiastic: El Debate (owned by 'the Catholic Association of Propagandists') quotes Abascal in his speech saying ‘Only from strong nations can we defend the culture and values that unite us: the homeland, freedom, reason, the faith of our parents, family, property, sovereignty, democracy and the limitation of power. And above all, life, from its beginning to its natural end’. Público (on the far-left) says: ‘Abascal deploys his ultra-remarks in Washington and charges against socialism, environmentalism and the 2030 Agenda’.
(‘The Global Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seek to end poverty and hunger, realise the human rights of all, achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources’, we read here).
‘Brexit boss Nigel Farage — a veteran of more than a decade of CPACs — was received warmly by the CPAC audience and proved even more popular at evening cocktail parties. We “need strong leaders,” Farage railed during his speech, adding “we need Trump back in the White House.”…’ says the The NY Post here.
All of these leaders would no doubt agree with the opening speaker and right-wing activist Jack Posobiec, who said: “Welcome to the end of democracy. We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on January 6, but we will endeavour to get rid of it and replace it with this right here.” He held up a crucifix necklace and continued: “After we burn that swamp to the ground, we will establish the new American republic on its ashes, and our first order of business will be righteous retribution for those who betrayed America”.

(While on the subject…) Trump on Putin – a short video at YouTube. ‘More and more Republican lawmakers are siding with Russia, seemingly at the behest of former President Trump, who has a long history of fawning over Vladimir Putin’ says MSNBC.


Óscar Puente is the Minister for Transport. He answers an accusation in the Cortes from the PP regarding the corruption of the face-masks. ‘Your thesis is that I should know what was happening in my ministry four years ago. How is it possible that you did not know what your accountant was doing for decades, putting a little envelope under your pillow every month? I don’t understand’. Cruel, so cruel. The video is at Twitter here.


An agricultural businessman from the Mallén (Aragón) area, is in prison for labour exploitation of more than 40 Senegalese, who ‘had been living in a semi-slavery condition’. A second detainee is a compatriot of the victims who captured them in his country of origin, Senegal’. Aragón Noticias has the story (and video) here.

After six years of judicial proceedings, the documentary that denounces the tigernuts scandal (‘chufas’ are the main ingredient in horchata) is made public. The horchatero Andoni Monforte travelled to Africa in 2018 and he recounts in the film the harsh working conditions in the tigernut fields of Burkina Faso and the alleged fraud in which companies such as the Valencian Tigernut Traders, the world's largest importer of the tuber, participated. El Salto Diario has the story, and the entire film, ‘Tigernut, la patria de las mujeres íntegras’, is on YouTube here. The tuber-diggers in the fields earn 1.50€ per day.

‘Judge Santiago Pedraz has agreed to investigate the alleged dirty war of the PP Government against Podemos’. elDiario.es keeps a close eye on the proceedings here.


The Spanish journalist Pablo González (Público and La Sexta) has now been two years in a high-security Polish jail, incommunicado, accused with spying for Russia but without any proof or charges being brought against him. The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that ‘his rights are fully guaranteed and that his consular visits are sufficient’. El Huff Post has more here.


From EuroNews here: ‘Tenerife to declare drought emergency as Spain battles with water shortages’. We read that the island is facing months or possibly even years of critical water scarcity, according to the ecologists.

How to water fruit trees – well, in Morocco, you just monitor each fruit on the tree or bush says El Español here. A gadget tests the exact amount of water necessary, and provides it…


‘The Spanish Birth rate is in free fall, with just 322,075 babies born in 2023, a new record of decline not seen since 1941. The births to mothers aged 40 or over have increased by 19.3% in the last decade and those to mothers under 25 have fallen by 26%’, according to figures at El Boletín here.

From Euronews here: ‘Spain is banning some short-haul domestic flights as part of its plan to reduce carbon emissions. Flights with a rail alternative that takes less than two and a half hours will no longer be allowed, except in cases of connection with hub airports that link with international routes’. We read that ‘It isn’t yet clear when measures will be introduced or which routes will be affected. The ban will need to go through several more stages of amendments before it can be approved by the Senate and finally become law’.

A flying car from the American Alef Aeronautics (video) ‘lands at the Mobile World Congress 2024 in Barcelona’ says Hosteltur with some pardonable hyperbole.

By way of explaining the latest bother, ‘The General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) is constantly trying to improve Road Safety on the roads throughout Spain, and therefore continually implements new measures and changes to do so’ says 20Minutos here. Quite. So what is it this time? Well, if you paint your vehicle another colour or even change the tonality, then you need to inform the DGT, your insurance company and the ITV.

From Auto Registrations Spain on Facebook here: ‘If you are purchasing a vehicle in Spain you can easily request online the vehicle history with Clave/digital certificate directly from the DGT or through an agency they can request it on your behalf. For a small fee this is worthwhile for checking the following information related to the vehicle…’

From SVI here: ‘Spain: Almost 200k Ukrainian refugees granted protection in two years of war with Russia. Spain stands in solidarity with Ukraine, marking the second anniversary of Russia’s aggression, as it offers shelter to 199,000 fleeing individuals. Minister Elma Saiz of Social Inclusion, Social Security, and Migration underlines Spain’s steadfast support for Ukrainians, noting that 61 per cent are women and 31 per cent are minors…’

An article on Andalusian Spoken Spanish at The Objective (en castellano) here. They say it’s poetic. (Thanks to Charles).

From April 9th, those subscribers to Prime Video, which is run by Amazon, will either have to fork out a further 1.99€ per month, or accept mid-show ‘limited’ advertising.

See Spain:

From VoxPópuli here: Castellar de la Frontera in Cádiz: the Spanish town that’s inside a castle. More photos here.

‘The best-preserved medieval prisons in Spain, a journey through its darkest times’ (well, it takes all sorts). Article at Fascinating Spain here.


Did Google inform you that last week’s BoT ‘might be dangerous’? Even though, when sent, Gmail says ‘One attachment, scanned by Gmail’? *Sigh!*
If in doubt, ask me and I’ll send it again. Lenox

The Valencia fire. Hi Lenox,
Their insurance should take care of their mortgages and lost possessions. The Valencian government has announced a package of aid which includes emergency cash to cover rental costs for a few months. If they reject the aid package and purchase a new place straight away then Valencia will pay all the taxes on the new property. If the government declares the fire to be a catastrophe, which seems likely, I understand the State will cover the bulk of the costs.

Hi Lenox
You might already know but I've just discovered that you can bring up an entire newspaper via https://archive.is/ - then type in (for example): thetimes.co.uk
A Reader


A beautiful, if decidedly odd production at YouTube here. ‘Residente, Silvia Pérez Cruz, Penélope Cruz – 313’ .