Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Great Barcelona Public Transport Snafu will be celebrated until at least November 30, when they finally hope to have commuter train service back on line. That is, they didn't manage to fix it over the long weekend, and I'll bet they don't get it done by the end of November, either. Meanwhile, nobody knows when the AVE will actually go into service. I'm betting they try really hard to get it done before the March 9 election, and fail.

The employers' association estimates that the transport chaos is going to cost the local economy at least €208 million in lost business--and that's if they get the trains fixed by the end of November. €6.7 million a day.

In case you are coming to Barcelona, you need to know that most train lines, even long-distance, that run from Sants central station to the south and west have been cut off, and have been replaced by bus service. This includes the line to the airport, regional trains for Tarragona and Lleida, and several longer journeys as well. Call Renfe before you travel to find out what the deal on your train is. If arriving at the airport, I would just take the regular blue bus from in front of the terminals to Plaza Catalunya, and if there are two or more of you, catch a cab into town (it's about €25-30).

By the way, both Rajoy and Artur Mas of CiU are promising to privatize the airport. About time. Let's see what happens.

This whole mess is going to hurt the Socialists and the Tripartite come the election. The only question is how much.

So the King went to Ceuta yesterday, and he's going to Melilla today. In Ceuta they had a huge welcome--at least 30,000 of the city's 70,000 people turned out waving flags. There's no question that these folks are thrilled to be part of Spain rather than Morocco; Spain's per capita income is ten times higher, and the government is one hundred times better. Even with Zap as prime minister. The Spanish press says that the Moroccan government has behaved as expected, with the officially required protests but no long-term consequences.

The dust-up in Chad is still being played out. Sarkozy made a surprise flight to Chad and secured the release of the four Spanish flight attendants, along with three French journalists. I wonder how much the bribe was. The other three Spaniards in the airplane crew are still being held, along with representatives from the dodgy charity, Zoe's Ark, that tried to carry out this mission. The children being transported to France were not orphans, and were bandaged as if they had been wounded, which they hadn't been; the head of the charity admits this. Sarko made Zap look kind of like a dope, since Zap's diplomatic efforts to get the Spaniards freed have done no good at all.

Note: The other sleazy charity / NGO / whatever that's in trouble around here is Intervida, which also does business in the United States. They embezzled most of the contributions they received and spent the money investing in real estate, and some of those responsible are going on trial in Spain. However, they are continuing their operations in other countries, especially Central America. Here's their Spanish website; here's their American website; here's a story from El Pais with some of the details; and more; more; more; and more.

And the saga of the African boat people continues. Two cayucos with a total of 161 people on board were found off Tenerife yesterday. Fortunately no one in either group had died on the voyage, and all appeared to be in good health.

Sports update: Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster (who is constantly whining about the referees, just like everyone else in Spanish football) put his foot in it Saturday night. After Madrid lost to Sevilla, he asked at a press conference, "Where is the referee from?" He got the answer, "He's Catalan," and Schuster responded, "Well, that explains it." Tasteless and stupid, as if Catalan refs were any different than any other refs.

One thing Americans don't get is the constant conspiracy-mindedness of Spanish soccer, in which every team is convinced the other 19 are in cahoots with the league office, the referees, the Bavarian Illuminati, and the Jesuits to steal the title away from them. Openly calling the referees cheaters and liars is not tolerated in the NFL, where everyone recognizes that it's in everyone's interest for the refs to be honest.

Barcelona beat Betis 3-0 on Sunday night, in a good game that saw Ronaldinho and Henry get back on track. Barça is only one point behind Real Madrid in the league standings.

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