Letter of May, by Peter Fieldman
Well May was pretty dismal. San Isidro turned out to be a damp squid what with the cold win, the rain and usual depressing tales of corruption and waste. It would be nice to talk about something else but how can you. If the plan to privatise Madrid’s hospitals wasn’t bad enough, forcibly retiring the most qualified medical practitioners at 65 seems like suicide when they have the expertise and knowledge not only to do their job but impart their experience onto the young generation coming out of medical school. Good news for private clinics.
What is happening in boardrooms? The crisis has brought to light the unacceptable face of capitalism with Blesa, Ferran, Sousa, Ruis Mateos and Urdangarin among others, being investigated for fraud, corruption and professional negligence. It seems Blesa had no real banking experience but was given the presidency of Caja Madrid by his good friend, Aznar. And there is Rato, who after attempting to strip Bankia of a few million, was handed a cushy job with Telefonica. “With a little help from my friends” as they say. And should anyone in your family plan to marry don’t forget to invite Francisco Correa who is known for his generous gifts.
With six million unemployed and millions more on the verge of poverty, it seems inconceivable that so many million euros can have been transferred or simply pillaged from cajas, banks and public companies or by politicians without anyone being aware. It brings into question the integrity of auditors, accountants, lawyers and Government officials, who somehow turned a blind eye or failed to spot all the questionable, if not downright criminal activities, of boardroom executives and elected representatives. Of course there can be no fraudulent transactions without the full cooperation of banks and their subsidiaries in the tax havens. There lies the real problem.
Coming on top of the Gurtel, Brugal, ERE corruption scandals and the cash filled envelopes, it seems the privileged political, financial and corporate elite are addicted; not to drugs but to money and power, most of it OUR money. This is what appears to be motivating the party barons whose rebellion confirms they are only interested in the next elections and retaining seats.
All the more surprising is that the second anniversary of the Los Indignados sit in passed relatively quietly. But it must have given the PP reason to be concerned about its own future. The rumours of the PP axing Mrs Aznar – Ana Botellon – to save Madrid from becoming a socialist run city is an indication of what really concerns Senor Rajoy and his friends. And Artur Mas continues to have illusions of grandeur in Catalonia. (see attachment)
Spain is not alone in its internal conflicts or corruption. Cameron faces the secessionist Euro sceptics who want to exit Europe to appease the City, while ex politicians like Blair, Brown and Sarkozy are collecting their rewards for services rendered to a grateful financial and corporate sector. Get the tax evaders is the fashionable new game, but will anybody play by the rules?
After Google, Yahoo, Starbucks and the rest of the tax evading corporations, the UK authorities are currently investigating BP, Shell and other oil companies for price fixing while all the privatised energy, utility and transport operators are raking in fortunes at the expense of the consumer. One of the effects of the crisis is that the wealthiest segment of the population has not only been protected by political allies but actually increased its wealth to the detriment of the majority of the people and the State.
Banks, of course, are still public enemy number 1, just behind the European commissars. Bankia has ruined thousands of lives while the bosses walked off with fortunes. It is hoped they will not be allowed to keep their pensions, indemnities or pensions. Hundreds of thousands are being laid off by banks everywhere to keep shareholders happy. I have just received a note from NATWEST explaining their new overdraft rules. They not only want to charge 19.5% interest on unauthorised overdrafts but add a £6 monthly fee for overdrafts over £10. While one can understand the bank’s concern for their clients, when base rate is 0.5% this is outrageous and worse than payday lenders. Both the OFT and Brussels should be clamping down on these abuses which will hurt the poorer customers.
After being rescued by the taxpayers, the bankers now want customers to help pay for their massive losses, mismanagement, mis-selling and money laundering fines.( I do not think NATWEST has been found guilty of any criminal activities – yet). The EU recently pronounced a judgement against Spanish banks for their abusive terms and conditions regarding excessive interest rates so a precedent should have been set. Anyone concerned should write to their local MP, or their local editors.
I was dismayed to learn that Madrid’s Caixa Forum, a supposed “Obra Social”, has introduced a 4€ admittance charge. Not a lot but they have relatively small temporary exhibitions and are frequented by many senior citizens. I can understand that the exhibitions cost a considerable amount to stage but either it is a Fundacion and Obra Social or a business. Can the directors of the Caixa please explain their decision which seems poor timing in the present recession.
The football season has finally ended although the media cannot ignore it as we are now entering the transfer market season with who is coming and going. All change as usual so the punters will have to fork out to buy more jerseys for themselves and their kids. I prefer to concentrate on this summer’s cultural activities in Madrid. The temporary exhibition organised by the Prado is not to be missed. The theme is “La Belleza Encerrada” featuring small dimensional landscapes, portraits and still life from leading Spanish, Flemish, French and Italian artists spanning six centuries. The 281 works of art and sculptures are from the Prado’s own collection with around 90 works from the museum store rooms. After careful restoration and cleaning they are on show for the first time in this exquisitely designed exhibition.
PHOTO ESPANA is becoming an international event. The main theme this year is “Tu Cuerpo es el Mensaje,” the human body in all its forms. 328 photographers from 42 countries are exhibiting their work ranging from the erotic, to artistic, to family life and violence, portrayed by conflicts and the victims of Mexico’s drug war. Fifty years after his assassination a special exhibition in Loewe’s Gran Via store is devoted to personal photos of John F Kennedy. The festival runs from 5 June to 28 July.
After all the depressing news these exhibitions should brighten up your summer if you can make it to Madrid.