Sunday, January 20, 2008

Further information on the terrorist cell broken up in Barcelona: The fifteenth man arrested is also Pakistani. Most of the members of this cell are part of a radical Islamist sect called the Tabligh; the mosque that was raided on Calle Hospital is run by an imam from that group. They were planning attacks in both Barcelona and France; the Barcelona attack was to be a suicide bombing in another Barcelona mosque at prayer time on a Friday.

Police had been watching them for five years, and the cell had recently received financing through the Pakistani hawala money-lending network. They say that not all those arrested had the same degree of implication in the plot. More arrests may yet be made.

La Vanguardia has an election survey out (note: it was taken before the Pizarro and Gallardon stories broke), showing the PSOE with 42.3% of the vote and 162-164 seats, compared with the PP's 39.8% and 154-156 seats. Neither party would have an absolute majority, since 176 seats are needed. Presumably the Communists and their 5 seats would join up with the Socialists, meaning that they'd still have to deal with some combination of CiU (8 seats), the PNV (7), and ERC (6).

This is really close, just barely within the survey's margin of error. Though the survey shows that most Spaniards have a better opinion of Zap than of Rajoy, they don't completely hate Rajoy either. The PP has a chance at winning this one. Let's hope the Gallardon affair doesn't do too much damage. PP voters don't have anywhere else to go but abstention, but Gallardon is popular in Madrid and a few of his supporters might be so angry they'll stay home.

The debates that Zap agreed to with Rajoy take on new importance. They give Rajoy a chance he wouldn't otherwise have had at a direct confrontation. You can't dance with the champ, you have to knock him out, and Rajoy needs to clobber Zap, which I think he can do. Even better: the second debate is only six days before the election, meaning that Zap won't have much time to counter the effects of a defeat in the debates.

The results in Catalonia will be a clear Socialist victory, with the PP gaining a seat or two, the Commies and CiU staying about the same, and Esquerra losing a seat or two. No surprises here.

La Vanguardia predicts the key to the election will be the voters' pocketbooks, which does not look good for Zap. Not that the economy's going too badly, but inflation is up and credit is tight, and there are complaints among the citizens. El Periodico has a survey saying that Catalans asked to name the region's three top problems answered: transport and infrastructure (32%), unemployment (26%), housing (25%), and immigration (24%). Well behind are "the economy," the cost of living, "politicians," health care, pensions, and crime.

The US primaries are getting plenty of coverage over here; La Vanguardia is claiming that the Hispanic vote was key to the Nevada primaries, for which they show absolutely no evidence. The cliché they love to mention in Spain whenever Nevada comes up in the news is that in the state's rural counties, there are a good few descendants of Basques who came over as shepherds about 125 years ago.

The anthropologists at Atapuerca report that the Homo antecesor people who lived there 800,000 years ago ate each other, and that the Homo sapiens who lived there much later did the same.

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