Recent Posts

  1. A True Account

    Original Article: Un relato veraz
    Source: El País
    Published: 5 Nov 2018

    Peace cannot be seen as the equivalent of forgetfulness, nor can any old account be accepted under the pretext of healing the wounds of the past, because the only thing that is achieved, in the end, is to keep wounds open and prolong the pain of victims. That is why the Herenegun project (“The Day Before Yesterday” in Basque) of the Basque government is so important. The project aims to teach students aged 15-18 about recent Euskadi (Basque Country) history, during the period 1960-2018. And it will only be introduced in classrooms once the teaching materials have the support of those who suffered from the terror of ETA, and importance is given to the fact that the group assassinated those who they believed were hindering their totalitarian-leaning political project.

    The Herenegun project is based on five videos of 20 minutes each, which in turn are based on the series entitled Las huellas perdidas (The Lost Traces), created by ETB (Basque Television), and advised by prestigious experts. Nonetheless, the educational videos have provoked the direct rejection of victims’ associations, both the People’s Party and the Socialist Party, as well as several historians. They criticize the fact that the videos maintain in some aspects an equidistance that is incomprehensible. The Spanish government has also announced that it will present allegations by November 16th. The Basque government wants to introduce the course, experimentally, in eight centers during the final quarter of this academic year. But it would be prudent if lehendakari (Basque President) Urkullu suspends the announced plan, and reschedules the process once all of the allegations and proposed modifications are considered, and consensus is achieved, by all means possible as promised.


  2. Democracy is Fragile

    Original Article: La democracia es frágil
    Source: El País
    Published: 7 Oct 2018

    On 21 October 1949, Aldous Huxley wrote a letter to George Orwell to thank him for sending a copy of Orwell’s book, 1984. Huxley also used the occasion to write that his own vision of an authoritarian future, described in Brave New World, was much more likely. It may not have been very polite of Huxley to point out the faults of 1984, but in the same missive Huxley established an interesting distinction between two ways to imagine the tyranny that awaits us: one that will come via repression by “flogging and kicking them into obedience” (the Orwell model); or another that will be imposed by means of suggestion and seduction, leading them to “[love] their servitude” (the Huxley model). Despite their differences, neither of the authors had much hope for the survival of democracy as we know it.

    Today we don’t have two or more intellectuals who compete to see who more accurately predicts the horrors of the future, but rather thousands of political experts analyzing what the hell is going on with our democracies. It’s a new academic specialty: unraveling what is behind populist movements and the hair-raising turn towards illiberal democracies. The experts carefully consider every advance of the populist parties; they identify the voters; they make wake-up calls when faced with the appearance of “strong men” and their devious and unlawful mass communication strategies; and they observe the rising number of survey respondents who don’t view living under a democratic system as essential. And ultimately, at some point in the future, the experts detect with terror the face of fascism.


  3. And You, Democrat: Are You Doing Something to Fight Francoism?

    Original Article: Y tú demócrata ¿estás haciendo algo contra el franquismo?
    Source: Público
    Published: 10 Oct 2018

    On Monday, the world awoke a little uglier. Bolsonaro, a fascist like those from the past, won the election in Brazil. There will be a second round, but almost one out of every two voters chose someone who hates women, gays, blacks, the poor, democracy. One out of every two Brazilians doesn’t care about the rest, and believes that hate is going to resolve his frustrations. The left was unable to convince half of Brazil that electing Bolsonaro will fill their country with darkness. The well-meaning Spanish media — those that have always supported bipartisanship — say that the Worker’s Party lost because of corruption. But a few months ago, even before Lula had been imprisoned, Bolsonaro had a 30-point advantage. To place the blame on corruption is an easy excuse to avoid speaking again about the return of the past.

    Fascism is the Plan B of capitalism in crisis. Even in 1930s Germany, the left took almost three million votes from the right. The situations are similar. In Germany, the judges enforced the Weimar Constitution and jailed the adversaries. As Bolsonaro has done with Lula. It was the only way to take him out of the game. Like they jailed Mandela. Like they illegally and illegitimately took Dilma out of government. In Germany they elevated the idea of nation to a religion and assumed the right to say who was the enemy of the fatherland. In Brazil, the Neo-Pentecostal evangelists filled the temples on Sunday with their televisions from which they demonized Haddad and accused him of every type of crime, while raising Bolsonaro to the altars. And there is a last parallel that is increasingly evident. The Nazis were pioneers in the use of radio to manipulate. Bolsonaro spent millions of dollars on big data to position himself on the radio networks. The amount of airtime on television is measured by the electoral commission. The amount of airtime on radio networks is limited only by the money you spend. That is how elections are being won.


  4. Humiliated in France, Manuel Valls Begins a Second Life in Spain

    Original Article: Humillado en Francia, Manuel Valls inaugura una segunda vida en España
    Published: 22 Sep 2018

    The world of politics presents unexpected situations. In a country like Spain, where 86% of the people are in favor of accepting refugees fleeing war, and where immigration has not caused serious social tensions, a French politician who made his name as a tough guy in his rejection of those same ideas is being covered by some media as a serious contender to become the next mayor of Barcelona. His candidacy will be confirmed in a few days.

    Whether as a headliner on the Ciudadanos ticket, or independently with the party’s support, Manuel Valls, born in Barcelona 56 years ago when his family was already living in France, wants to cross the Pyrenees and resuscitate a political career that in his country had been dead and buried.

    On a personal level, everything that has happened to Valls in the past few years has had an air of great humiliation. The breakdown of the François Hollande presidency took then Prime Minister Valls with it, while he praised Emmanuel Macron, who as the then Minister of the Economy was Valls’ subordinate. Hollande and Valls sank to the bottom and watched, perplexed, as Macron, the new star in French politics, rose.


  5. Pablo Casado and Spanish Justice

    Original Article: Pablo Casado y la justicia española
    Published: 21 Sep 2018

    Pablo Casado was given an official degree without earning it. He obtained a master’s degree in a public university without satisfying the minimum requirements that were required of other students the same year. He didn’t attend classes. He didn’t take the exams. Credits for 18 of 22 courses were granted, something the university didn’t do for other students pursuing the same degree. Supposedly he only completed four projects. I say “supposedly” because not even that minimum effort has been proven, since Casado doesn’t want to show them.

    I begin the article this way because it is the plain and simple truth. We reaffirm what has been published about Pablo Casado’s master’s degree, consisting of facts that aren’t going to change, no matter what the Supreme Court decides about the accusation against the president of the People’s Party (PP).

    It’s going to be the Ministry of Justice, not the press, that determines if Casado is criminally liable. But it is the press, and not the Ministry of Justice, that guarantees the right of all citizens to receive reliable information about what happened at this shady academic institution called King Juan Carlos University (URJC).

    Based on the prosecutor’s statement, the Spanish Supreme Court will probably reject, in the next few days, the proposal by judge Carmen Rodríguez-Medel to indict Pablo Casado.


  6. Which Answer Do I Put on the Exam: the One from the Textbook, or the One I Learned?

    Original Article: ¿Qué pongo en el examen, lo del libro de texto o lo que he aprendido?
    Source: Contexto
    Published: 11 Sep 2018

    A teacher in an institute introduces the subject of genetics in a biology course. “Have you seen the film ‘Dead Poets Society’?” she asks. Almost everyone raises their hands. “I’m tempted to ask you to do the same thing as that professor at the beginning of his class: to tear out all the pages of the textbook that talk about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). What do you think?” The looks she gets from the students range from incredulous to smiling; they wonder if she’s trying to act cool, or if she’s going to do something interesting. “Actually, we’re going to do something else. Instead of tearing out those pages, we’re going to read them and then compare that with information from other sources.” They continue looking at her; it makes some of them curious and they start to read. “What would you like to know about GMOs?” she asks them. They ask many things: Who invented GMOs? Are they the solution to world hunger? Are there any consequences for the environment by introducing genes that the ecosystems haven’t created themselves? And what about the lives of the people who cultivate them? What are the policies of the multinationals that commercialize them? Then the students try to answer the questions. They search for information, they share it among groups, they contrast, they debate. They make a collective construction of the knowledge. They learn that there are many points of view on the subject, that there are different insights. At the end of the exercise, a student asks: “If they ask us something about NGOs on the college entry exam, what do we write: the pro-GMO viewpoint from the textbook, or what we learned from other articles?”

    This anecdote is useful for reflecting on the possibility that the education processes that exist in the formal education system are neutral (we could talk of any education process, but in this article we refer to those in the formal system). In general (the generalities indicate what almost everyone believes, although there are exceptions) it is assumed that what appears in the textbooks is neutral and objective knowledge. A knowledge that has no intentionality beyond showing a reality as it is written in those books. Therefore, generally (again with exceptions) one would be inclined to think that this teacher is distancing herself from that neutrality and objectivity by providing access to articles that offer a different viewpoint from the official curriculum. Many people (teachers and non-teachers) would say that to offer students information that deviates from the textbooks leads to manipulation, even indoctrination. However what we are suggesting is that the initial premise is mistaken: to assume that what is found in the textbooks and the official curricula is neutral and objective. Why do we tend to think that speaking in favor of GMOs is neutral while voicing opinions questioning them is manipulation? Why is it considered indoctrination to show a viewpoint different from that of hegemonic thought, while providing information and ideas that support it is considered objective?


  7. When the Defense of Certain Rights Collides With the Elimination of Jobs

    Original Article: Cuando defender ciertos derechos choca con la destrucción de puestos de trabajo
    Published: 11 Sep 2018

    The workers of Navantia, a state-owned shipbuilding company, went to the streets in Cádiz this Tuesday to defend “tooth and nail” a contract with Saudia Arabia that involves the construction of five military ships. The company employs some 6,000 workers in the province with the highest unemployment in Spain. The announcement by the Defense Ministry to cancel the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to the Gulf country, accused of human rights violations in its war in Yemen, launched a debate that the mayor of Cádiz, José María González Santos, summed up as “a choice between bread and peace.” While trade unions demanded that the contract be honored due to the scarcity of work alternatives in the region, several NGOs warned that we are facing a “false dilemma” because the defense of human rights is an obligation, not a choice.

    The scenario, called an “impossible dilemma,” by Pablo Echenique, revolves around three years of war in Yemen in which Saudi bombs have fallen on markets, hospitals, funerals and other civilian locations; it’s one of the reasons why the United Nations has accused the country of potential war crimes. In addition, Saudi Arabia maintains a naval blockade on Yemen that has resulted in a humanitarian emergency for the country’s population.

    After the cancellation announcement, the Spanish government admitted to a “discrepancy” with the Gulf country, and the workers of Navantia have seen this tension translate into a threat to their workplaces for the next five years. Although the Sánchez administration sent several messages of reassurance, and communicated with social actors that the ships were “not at risk,” the employees in the Bay of Cádiz were not convinced. One in four working-age adults in the province is unemployed, giving it an unemployment rate more than 10 points above the national average (26.9% and 15.3% respectively).


  8. It’s Not Freedom of Expression

    Original Article: No es la libertad de expresión
    Source: El País
    Published: 4 Sep 2018

    It’s not freedom of expression that is at stake, but rather control of the public sphere. Freedom of expression may be damaged in the process, as has happened with many other things. It will suffer, as a range of political freedoms has already suffered, and not only those of one group, as some would have us believe, but of everyone, with the cuts for the illegal conduct of some and the legal excesses of the rest.

    Some will say that to hang or paint yellow ribbons on any kind of space — official, public, private, a bar, a restaurant — is a sacred right that all democrats must defend, and all the more if it is being done to protest the imprisonment of the political prisoners, as is the case here. In the name of freedom of expression and the self-determination of Catalonia, naturally.

    First and foremost, it must be said that not everything is equal and not everything is acceptable. The symbols of one group, which are divisive, are perfectly fine on jacket lapels and on houses, but they should not have a place on official buildings, in institutions, and on public properties. Now would be a good time for those who remove yellow ribbons from the streets to dedicate themselves instead to protesting and combating the use of facilities for all, paid for by all, for the propaganda of only one group against the other.


  9. An Afternoon at the Bullfights

    Original Article: Tarde de toros
    Source: Contexto
    Published: 1 Sep 2018

    I’m not delivering recent news. I should have written this in May, which is when it happened, but since then I have been on the verge of collapse and I didn’t know how to find the tone nor the form to describe what I have experienced. It doesn’t matter much, because the feelings haven’t faded, but it’s important to mention for those current events purists who don’t like to read things that are so outdated.

    Chapu Apaolaza, a bullfighting journalist and a member of the Fighting Bull Foundation, invited me to join him in the callejón1 of Las Ventas bullfighting arena during the San Isidro Festival. Watching a bullfight from the callejón is not the same as seeing it from the front row seats, he told me, it’s a much more impressive experience. I confessed that I had never been to a bullfight in my life, and that I see myself as anti-bullfighting, if calling oneself the “anti” of something is a way to define oneself. For Chapu, that was great. He practically smacked his lips at the idea of introducing a virgin soul to bullfighting. He compared it to showing someone the ocean for the first time; he couldn’t wait to see my reaction. We’re inviting you so that afterwards you can recount whatever you want, he said, or you don’t have to recount anything, but I think it’s worth it for you to get to know the world of bullfighting.

    I got into an argument with my mother simply by accepting Chapu’s invitation; she got very angry with me. I don’t know why you want to waste your time there, she said, you’re not curious about it or anything. Some people on Twitter and Facebook reacted similarly, calling me a criminal and a murderer when I posted a picture of Las Ventas. And I hadn’t even been in the arena yet.


  10. Exhuming Franco “Is Not Reopening Old Wounds, Because They Never Healed”

    They are reacting with calm and uncertain satisfaction. They are reacting to the decision the government made this Friday to remove the remains of Franco from the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), where he was buried with honors in 1975. The victims of Francoism are adding their own voices to the mixture of opinions, discussion programs and mutual accusations that have crowded the headlines and television programs the past few days; crowded, above all, by military personnel and politicians talking about the exhumation. “It’s painful that everyone thinks they understand the feelings of the victims. We know exactly what we want: justice.”

    Those are the words of Chon Vargas Mendieta, daughter of Ascensión Mendieta. Ascensión is the woman who, at the age of 91, recovered the remains of her father Timoteo, a union member who was murdered by the Franco regime in 1939 and thrown into a mass grave in Guadalajara. Last year, Ascensión realized the dream that has driven her, with an iron will, almost her entire life: to find her father and give him a dignified burial. “Independent of the fact that there are victims more directly affected, this transcends generations,” says his granddaughter. The “grandfathers’ war,” as People’s Party leader Pablo Casado disparagingly calls it, in reference to the “old timers” of the left, is also the war of the grandchildren.