Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The political news around here is that the Convergència i Unió coalition may break up. CiU is moderate-conservative and Catalan nationalist, and they're the second-biggest vote-getters in Catalonia. Convergencia is the more moderate and more Catalanist of the two parties, and Unio is more conservative and less Catalanist; Unio is part of the European Christian Democrats.

A lot of people think that Convergencia was basically Jordi Pujol's personalist party, and that it will fragment into at least three groups, one aligning with ERC, one with the PP, and the third with Unio. Pretty much the only things that ever held this lot together were Pujol and the fact they all hate the Catalan Socialists.

There's a conflict on between Convergencia leader Mas and Unio leader Duran Lerida; both want to be the overall boss of the coalition. In addition, Convergencia would prefer to center on the region of Catalonia; they hope to cut a deal with the Socialists in Madrid, putting Mas in as Catalan premier. In exchange for backing Zap in the Congress of Deputies, Montilla would step down at the Generalitat. Unio would prefer to focus on Spain and gain a couple of ministries in a Zap cabinet, a nice juicy one for Duran Lerida.

Note: Both Convergencia and Unio are counting a few chickens before they hatch. General elections are coming up in January or February, and both C's and U's plans are based on doing well. If they do badly, they won't be in a position to cut any deals, and especially not if Zap gets beat by Rajoy, which might happen. Or if Zap takes an absolute majority, less likely but still possible.

Also, if CiU breaks up, they'll divide the moderate nationalist vote and dilute its strength, making it even less likely that they'd be in a position to cut a deal with anyone.

Soap opera in France. Segolene Royal and François Hollande have split up sentimentally and politically. Now they're going to fight it out for Socialist leadership. He wants to stay in till 2008, and she wants him out now. This is great. How much you want to bet that if Hillary doesn't become president in 2008, she divorces Bill in 2009? Meanwhile, Sarko's UMP comfortably won the second round of the legislative election last weekend, though they actually lost about fifteen seats. He will have no problems putting through whatever legislation he wants.

EU weaseliness: The EU's foreign ministers voted to "reopen an open and general dialogue" with Cuba, at the request of Zap and Moratinos. I despise Zap, but I'd dislike him less if he weren't so pro-Castro. I don't get it; I don't see what he has to gain by backing a Communist dictatorship. All I can figure out is that he must actually like Castroism and believe in the Revolution. What a dope. The Zap regime also introduced a proposal to, get this, lift the diplomatic sanctions the EU laid on Cuba after the 2003 roundup of dissidents. The dissidents have not been freed, by the way. The UK, Sweden, and the Czechs, to those countries' credit, blocked that bit of groveling; the Czechs wanted to slap heavier sanctions on Cuba.

The Boys of the Squad, our regional police force, is supposedly tracking down three Islamist cells in Catalonia. Two of them recruit jihadis to go commit terrorism in Iraq, and the other falsifies documents in order to get Pakistani Al Qaeda prospects into Spain. I'm not sure they should have announced this until they'd actually captured these guys.

Rumors: Barça may unload Rafael Márquez as well as the other eight guys who are definitely out. La Vanguardia says they want to sign Eric Abidal, fullback at Olympique Lyon; Yaya Touré, midfielder at Monaco; center-back Chivu at Roma; and Thierry Henry. Supposedly they want to buy Diego Forlán; that rumor's been around for a while. I would not sell Marquez, he's young and has upside though he had a poor season, and I wouldn't spend a lot of money on Henry, he's only got about one more year left. Gudjohnsen supposedly has an offer from Man United. Saviola's pissed off, and he's claiming he might go to Real Madrid. Ronaldinho and Eto'o are staying, says the club. Deco was not mentioned. Frank says he's going to be a tough disciplinarian next season. Everybody seems to agree that there was not enough discipline last season, and that's why they blew the title. Sounds like a simplification to me, but I'm all for being a hardass on the players. If I were paying these guys millions of euros, you can guarantee there'd be clauses in their contracts specifying no doing anything the slightest bit unhealthy.

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