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ERC walks away from government Covid meeting calling for end to leaks

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Government ERC members that were participating in the executive committee meeting on how Catalonia will step out of the current Covid-19 measures have walked out of the session on Wednesday demanding that the leaks of the de-escalation plan be stopped.

ERC are calling for a “loyalty pact”from their governing partners Junts per Catalunya, party sources confirmed to the Catalan News Agency. However, JxCat deny that the leaks have come from their part.

According to ERC, the move is about “saving lives” and not “generating more confusion for citizens.”

Since October, strict measures were applied to suppress the spread of the coronavirus, including a 10pm curfew, the partial closure of municipal and regional borders, and the closure of bars and restaurants.

On Tuesday, it was officially announced that the first set of measures would be de-escalated from Monday, November 23, including the partial reopening of bars and restaurants at 30% capacity.

The conference call meeting was set to be chaired by vice president Pere Aragonès, and to be attended by the government spokesperson, Meritxell Budó; the interior minister, Miquel Sàmper; the minister for health, Alba Vergés; the minister for education, Josep Bargalló; and the territory minister, Damià Calvet.

JxCat deny leaks

Meanwhile, Junts per Catalunya deny that the leaks of the plan came from their members.

Government sources in the party want to avoid arguments with ERC, after they left the Covid-19 meeting on Wednesday morning.

JxCat were surprised at this reaction, as they claim that they have not sent any draft on the plan to reopen different sectors of the economy to the media. They also said they would not comment on details of any meeting that is not made public.

Civil Protection complaints

The Civil Protection body also complained about the leaks. On Monday afternoon, after a draft of the de-escalation plan was leaked in the morning, deputy director of Civil Protection, Sergio Delgado, criticized what had happened.

In his opinion, the leaks are a “total disrespect” to the technicians and the work they have been doing for months against the pandemic, but also to the citizens, “who deserve to have certainties and not rumours.”

Opposition criticizes “mess”

The opposition has charged against the “mess” of the government in managing the Covid-19 crisis as well as the “partisan struggles” after ERC left the meeting.

During a parliament plenary session, the leader of Cs, Carlos Carrizosa, said JxCat and ERC have failed the self-employed. Carrizosa criticized that Catalans have complied with the restrictions and made the sacrifices that were asked of them, while the Catalan executive “has not paid with the same currency.”

Miquel Iceta of the Socialist party affirmed that the opposition is more “responsible” than the executive itself. Iceta called on the government to make an “effort” to convey “certainties and confidence” to citizens, with reliable information and agreement. He also called for planning ahead about how a possible third wave of the pandemic could be dealt with.

Both the Socialist and CatECP leader Jéssica Albiach demanded that the governing parties come to an agreement to last until the next elections and not cause “problems.”

Read from source: https://www.catalannews.com/politics/item/erc-walks-away-from-government-covid-meeting-calling-for-end-to-leaks

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At least seven people die after boat hits rocks near Lanzarote

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Spanish rescue services said at least seven people died after a boat hit rocks near the Canary Island of Lanzarote.

The migrant boat was carrying more than 30 people, and was one of 12 intercepted in waters of the islands overnight on Tuesday.

The Canary Islands emergency service said some 300 people were rescued from the other boats, but one died later.

Video images show rescue workers pulling men from the water in the dark, after the boat crashed into pier rocks and overturned in the Orzola area on the north of Lanzarote.

The emergency service said seven bodies from the boat were found overnight. It said search operations continued.

In the other incidents, the national rescue service and Civil Guard rescued some 300 people, including women and children, arriving to the islands in 11 boats. One person died.

The services said many of the migrants were from northwest African countries and had set sail from Morocco several days ago.

Many of the rescued were taken to the Arguineguín dock on the southwestern coast of Gran Canaria island, where several thousand people of different origin are being kept, some in tents.

Spain has promised to set up more tents to accommodate the people arriving.

More than 18,000 people fleeing poverty, violence or other circumstances at home have arrived in Spain’s Canary Islands this year, a 1,000% increase from the same period in 2019.

More than 500 have died in the attempt. Around half of those arrivals — and most of the deaths — have been in the past 30 days, a spike that has strained resources on the archipelago.

 

Read from source: https://www.euronews.com/2020/11/25/at-least-seven-people-die-after-boat-hits-rocks-near-lanzarote

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Spanish government secures pledge for budget deal with Catalan, Basque support

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The Spanish executive has secured enough support to get its 2021 budget plan approved in Congress, bringing added stability to the minority center-left government of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos.

Spain has been functioning since 2018 with a budget that was approved by the previous Popular Party (PP) administration. The country held a snap election in April of last year after parliament voted down an earlier draft, and this was followed by another early election in November. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the PSOE is hoping that this new budget deal will see him through the remainder of the political term.

Support is being provided by three regional parties that also backed Sánchez’s return to the prime minister’s office in January of this year. The executive said it has reached a “preliminary deal” with the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), and ensured backing from the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and Bildu, a far-left Basque party. Together with the governing coalition partners, they represent 179 seats, three more than required for an absolute majority.

But Ciudadanos (Citizens), a national center-right party that had initially offered support, said that it cannot join a pact with ERC, which played a key role in the Catalan government’s 2017 attempt to unilaterally secede from Spain, or with Bildu, whose leader Arnaldo Otegi was once a spokesperson for the political wing of the now-defunct terrorist group ETA.

Sources at ERC who were present at the negotiations said that they accelerated their own talks with the government and with the two Basque parties in a bid to “keep Ciudadanos out of the equation.”

Powers restored

The parliamentary spokesperson for ERC, Gabriel Rufián, said on Tuesday that his party has reached a preliminary agreement with the executive, although the deal still needs to be ratified by the senior leadership of the Catalan party on Wednesday.

Under the draft plan, the Catalan government will have “all its powers restored to manage its expenses,” according to ERC. The Catalan government feels that its financial independence was curtailed in 2015 when the central executive, then under Rajoy of the PP, introduced spending controls to prevent regional officials from using the funds towards independence goals.

These controls were introduced before the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution following the illegal referendum of October 2017. Some of those restrictions were lifted by the PSOE government two years ago.

Madrid, a “tax haven”

The ERC also underscored that it has convinced the central government to support the creation of a working group to study “a comprehensive, fair and progressive tax reform” that will “end the tax haven created in the Madrid region by the political right.”

The Catalan party wants the wealth tax to be more progressive and more uniform among the various regions, which have broad powers to apply deductions on certain taxes. Other regions governed by the PSOE, such as Valencia, have voiced similar complaints in the past about Madrid, which has very low inheritance, gift and wealth tax rates.

Finance Minister María Jesús Montero is working on a reform to reduce these regional disparities, but said that the plans were already on the table before the budget deal with ERC and the Basque parties.

Madrid regional premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso, of the PP, on Thursday warned that she will not stand by and let this happen. “I’m going to be the worst nightmare of whoever touches the taxpayer’s pocket,” she said in an interview on the private television network Antena 3. “What the PSOE and Pedro Sánchez are doing is to give wings to the independence movement.”

The PNV’s congressional spokesperson, Aitor Esteban, also expressed satisfaction about the budget deal, and noted that half of its 85 proposed amendments have been adopted. Under the terms of the agreement, the Spanish Defense Ministry will hand over military land located in Loyola, near San Sebastián so that the city can expand. In exchange, local authorities will give Defense another plot of land to build new barracks.

The current budget was passed in June 2018, just a few days before a no-confidence vote led by Pedro Sánchez ousted former prime minister Mariano Rajoy from office. Since then, a highly fragmented parliament has failed to agree on a new spending plan.

Nearly two years ago, a draft budget put forward by the PSOE and Podemos was rejected by right-of-center parties and by Catalan nationalists, leading to early elections in April that were won by the PSOE. But Sánchez’s inability to form a government led to another general election in November, which the PSOE won again but by a smaller margin, leading to the formation of Spain’s first coalition government in recent democratic history.

Read from source: https://english.elpais.com/economy_and_business/2020-11-25/spanish-government-secures-pledge-for-budget-deal-with-catalan-basque-support.html

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Madrid’s famous El Rastro market returns with new coronavirus safety measures

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The famous El Rastro street market in the center of Madrid opened to the public on Sunday after being suspended for 37 weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. Stallholders and visitors both agreed it is good to finally be back – albeit in a slightly different guise.

In a bid to reduce contagions, only half of the 1,000 stallholders are allowed to sell their wares, and capacity has been set at 2,702. Without the typical hustle and bustle, the outdoor market – which sells everything from clothes to antiques – has lost some of its character. But that does not deter one group of early arrivals, like Alexia, who came from the nearby city of Getafe to buy a pair of thermal pants. She’s annoyed that she hasn’t found them yet, but generally, the mood in El Rastro is positive. It’s better than nothing, say visitors and the stallholders.

It’s been 258 days since the last time El Rastro was open to the public, shortly before the government declared a state of alarm in mid-March. No one remembers a time when the popular Sunday market had been closed for a longer period.

Marcelo Bouso has been preparing his clothes stall since 8am. He carries the metal frames like a cross on his back to the top of Ribera de Curtidores street. Slowly he gets everything ready as just a few police officers walk past. He sells self-designed shirts and screenprints that he makes in El Tiemblo, in Ávila province, where he left from at 6.30am. The new spot he’s been assigned to in El Rastro is not too far away from his old one and he says he has had no problem finding it – a view shared by many vendors.

In front of his stand is the legendary antique store Galerías Piquer, which remains closed. It’s still early. During the months that El Rastro has been suspended, Bouso has done a bit of everything: painting homes, erecting fences, and working for a moving company. He has even participated the odd concert – he’s a percussionist in a batucada orchestra.

“It’s been years since I’ve been here,” says one local police officer standing at the corner of the bar Cascorro Uno, where other officers are drinking coffee before beginning their workday. One asks about how the new coronavirus safety measures are going. Under the new rules, each market stand has to be two meters apart. El Rastro is a sprawling market that covers several streets in the downtown neighborhood of La Latina. Now at every crossroad, there are large numbers of officers monitoring capacity. They form part of a team of 150 police officers tasked with ensuring that coronavirus restrictions are complied with.

Maite de la Fuente, 42, is taking out her merchandise from boxes, while the police tell the neighboring stand holder to only use the authorized space. Her father Ramón, who is retired, is there to lend her a hand. “I’m the understudy,” he jokes. “I only come out to play when I’m told to.”

Blue fences and plastic tape seal off the perimeter of the new Rastro market. Visitors can walk around freely on the sidewalk, but capacity is limited on the car-free streets, where the stands are located. Members of the Civil Protection force are using electronic counters to tally the number of people who are leaving and entering the allocated space.

Meanwhile, the sun is warming up Campillo del Nuevo Mundo square, another one of the popular corners of the street market. Sellers and buyers start to haggle over prices. Javier González, a 51-year-old vendor who has come all the way from Tarancón in Cuenca, is trying to sell a watch to a potential customer for €200 – a price that is instantly rejected. González drops the price to €150. “Look, it has green numbers,” he says in an effort to highlight its beauty and value. At a nearby stand, a similar scene is playing out over a statue of Baby Jesus that costs €60. It’s passed around as the customer begins to haggle a better price. Passers-by gather around to watch the negotiations. In this respect, save for the fact that everyone is wearing a face mask, El Rastro appears just like it was before the pandemic.

Drones
The streets begin filling up and by midday, El Rastro has recovered some of its characteristic bustle. But it’s nothing like the mass crowds that used to flock to the market every Sunday. Thanks to the large police numbers and safe distancing rules, El Rastro is at least no longer a haven for pickpockets. And it’s not just officers that are monitoring the situation. Police drones are also being used to control capacity at the market. While the drones fly above, the officer operating the device uses a walkie-talkie to call for a road to be cut off to ease the flow of visitors.

Not everyone, however, is pleased with how El Rastro’s first day back has been organized. Around 20 vendors from the Rastro Punto Es Association have been protesting outside Cascorro square against Madrid Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida of the conservative Popular Party (PP), yelling “Hands up, this is a robbery!” and “Resign, Almeida.” They complain that they were not warned that the streets were only going to be one way for visitors. The spokesperson of the association, Mayka Torralbo, accuses Madrid city officials of “improvising” measures, arguing that “neither vendors nor the public knows what rules to follow.”

Meanwhile, 60-year-old Ping, a Madrileño of Chinese origin, is walking through the market with his wife, son and his son’s girlfriend. When asked why he has come to El Rastro, he simply replies: “Today is the first day.” The family is from the Chinese province of Shaanxi, famous for its thousands of clay soldiers known as the Terracotta Army. Nothing at all like the porcelain figures and other odds and ends being sold by 44-year-old Pedro Escudero. “I am selling old things that my father had,” he says, pointing to a pillbox with a 1970s black and white photo of the Valley of the Fallen, the controversial memorial site to the victims of the Spanish Civil War where until last year the dictator Francisco Franco had been buried. “Let’s see if I make €30 or €40 to feed the kids.”

Read from source: https://english.elpais.com/society/2020-11-23/madrids-famous-el-rastro-market-returns-with-new-coronavirus-safety-measures.html

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