There's a whole lot of news from around here that I've been shamefully neglecting. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution, and they held a meeting of six of the "Founding Fathers", including Manuel Fraga and Miquel Roca. The Constitution has been a remarkably successful document, despite its faults, and much of that success is due to the will of most of the Spanish people and political parties to live under a democratic system. They get a lot of the small stuff wrong but they've got the big stuff right, rule of law and free elections and a capitalist economy and a reasonable social system. Spain has made tremendous progress since 1978, maybe more than any other country in the world during that time. In '78 this was a glorified banana republic. Now it's got the 10th or 11th biggest economy in the world and, while it's no superpower, its opinion is taken into consideration internationally. Anyway, they all got together and opined that the Consititution is a living document and it can be modified, but only if there is a general consensus. I completely agree. You can modify the Constitution if absolutely necessary, but you ought to do it as little as possible, since it is the set of rules under which the government and the people operate. Those rules need to be as steady and stable as possible; this ain't the NFL, where they change the rules every year.
There's an ETA trial going on now in Madrid; the former "Barcelona commando" of the ETA is facing the judge. The actual gunmen, who committed more than one hit, have already been convicted; now they're going after the support structure guys. Some of them are "nice kids" from good families who got too deeply into the squatter community and decided being terrorists was hip.
Laura Riera of Terrassa, whose character witnesses have all come on saying what a caring and solidarious person she is, is the most notorious example. She is accused of using her administrative job in the Terrassa City Hall to get information about possible ETA targets, and one of the people she fingered was Francisco Cano, a Socialist city councilman in the town of Vilacavalls. She gave them the license number of his van and they blew him up. She's looking at ten years. Her excuse is that she was looking up the numbers of cars that appeared near sites where immigrants were lynched, finding out the owners, and turning them over to "antifascist" groups. Now, I haven't heard of any immigrants getting lynched around here, and Socialist small-town city councilmen do not tend to be members of lynch mobs.
Those damn radical youth gangs. A few days ago we wrote about a bunch of dumb kids here in BCN who decided they were gonna do some anarchist propaganda of the deed. When are people's families going to get concerned about some of the dangerous influences out there working on their radical, idealistic children? Right now an awful lot of teenagers' parents have a '60s-'70s mentality about letting their kids explore alternatives to the system--that is, smoke dope and drink beer with violent rads on the fringes of terrorism. I'm not going to complain about the dope and beer, but the violent exalted anti-system rhetoric is not promoting the exploration of alternatives, it's promoting evil.
They ran the high-speed train from Lerida to Madrid with a pile of journalists and celebrities on board; next Saturday will be the official opening day. It was supposed to be on-line back in February but they had several problems, the most notorious being a series of sinkholes along the train's route through Aragon. So they quite responsibly delayed the premiere of the new train until now. Regular service begins Saturday, though for now it will be running at 200 kph (120 mph) rather than its top speed of 350 kph (210 mph). The high-speed train is expected to reach Barcelona in 2005 and the French connection still doesn't have a due date. Meanwhile, construction is under way on the northern high-speed route from Madrid through Valladolid and Burgos to the Basque Country and the French border at Irun.
The government hasn't looked real good so far on this issue, but when the damn thing finally gets running, people will forget all about the problems and delays in the inaguration. What they wouldn't forget about is a major accident, and everybody involved seems to have been very careful that there wouldn't be one.
Here's a good one. A bar owner was hosing a topless dancer in his joint on the Calle Aribau, a good neighborhood, not far from Murph's place, when some guy shot him to death and wounded the girl. The cops say they know who did it and are looking for him. At the very same bar, two years ago, a client got completely wasted--he said he'd had eight double whiskeys--stumbled out of the place, and pulled a gun and shot some guy for no apparent reason. Methinks it might be a good idea for the cops to close this place down.
Lots of good juicy crime news. The Wilson Pacheco trial is on. Pacheco was an Ecuadorian who was with a group of pals one night in February 2002 down at Maremagnum, which is basically a mall full of bars and fast food places on the other side of the Old Harbor from the end of the Ramblas. There's a wooden bridge connecting the "mainland" to the other side of the harbor where Maremagnum is. Pacheco and friends tried to get into a place called the Caipirinha, and some of them were pretty wasted. Here's where the story gets a little confusing.
At least some of the group were kept out at the door; the bar owner says he had no policy of discriminating against Latin Americans and that most of his crowd is Latino, both at the Caipirinha and his place next door, the Mojito. My guess is that they have a selective policy which keeps out poor, drunk, unhandsome, farm-worker Indian-looking Latinos and lets in the good-looking ones. Pacheco seems to have taken exception and grabbed a bottle, which he broke off at the neck and tried to use as a weapon. The bouncer, a Dominican named James Anglada, overpowered him and Pacheco took off running with Anglada and two other guys, the doorman from the Mojito and a security guard, after him. A fourth guy with nothing to do with the fracas tackled Pacheco as he ran out on the bridge; he apparently thought Pacheco was a thief trying to get away. He has not been charged. Anglada and the two other guys grabbed Pacheco and Anglada threw him in the harbor. Pacheco splashed around in the cold water, forty feet deep, while the other three went back to Maremagnum. One of them said that he wasn't going to get all wet for a goddamn sudaca (spick). Some witnesses went to get the police, whose response was not rapid. Pacheco drowned fairly quickly; the cops say he'd have lost consciousness in a few minutes due to the water temperature. The three accused are looking at fifteen years each.
Here's the way Spanish soccer works. There's a League divided into a 20-team First Division, a 22-team Second Division, four 20-team Second Divisions B, and like sixteen Third Divisions of twenty teams each. Each team plays each other team in its division twice, home and away, and the team with the best record in each division at the end of the season is the winner. Games are usually played weekends.That's it. No playoffs, no nothing. In addition, there is a tournament called the Copa del Rey, or the Cup. All the First, Second, and Second B teams get to play and it's a knockout tournament format. Games are usually played midweek. Occasionally very good first division teams will get beat by Second B teams, as has happened to FC Barcelona twice in recent years. The Cup isn't as important as the League, but it's nice to win it, and it's very embarrassing to get run out of it in the first round by some team like Novelda or Figueres.
Anyway, last night Barca took on Second B Gramanet, from the blue-collar Barcelona suburb of Santa Coloma, in the first round of the Cup. Barcalona stunk as usual, while Gramanet played good old hard-nosed defensive kick-and-rush fast-break soccer. They bounced not one but two shots off the crossbar, while Barcelona barely frightened Gramanet's goalie. Barcelona was completely inoperative until Ronaldinho took a pass near the top of the area, spun around, and placed a fallaway right-footer between two defenders which beat the Gramanet goalie to the left post in minute 83. Barca wins 1-0 and goes on to the next round. Pathetic. I was rooting for Gramanet. I've forgiven the Barca for last year's sins, but this year their team is not likable except for Ronaldinho, Puyol, and Luis Enrique. I don't see a lot of people getting real excited about this year's season around here. Oh, well, Barca fans love to roll around in misery, so I suppose they'll be happy.