You Have To Sleep…

The agreement on the minimum wage and the relative success of the trip to Catalonia encourages the new governmentSpain's president Pedro Sánchez and Vice president Pablo Iglesias

A.J.A.| The Pope was visiting the poorest country in Africa when a legion of starving  people ended up preventing the advance of the “popemobile”, so His Holiness chose to get out of the car and continued on foot. As he passed by, people applauded and cheered, until a mother, with a starving child in her arms, went up to him, crying, and speaking in a language that was completely incomprehensible to him… “What is she saying?” the Pope asked the local Bishop, who two steps behind was leading His Holiness’ entourage. “She is  saying her child is going to die, that he does not eat, Your Holiness.” Then the Pope, smiling and looking at the child, took what should have been a cheek and said: -Well, don’t do that, OK? -You have to eat!

A few weeks before the last general election in Spain, Pedro Sánchez explained on television why he had vetoed the entry of the leader of Unidas Podemos into his government. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep” he said “neither I nor 95% of Spaniards” And he was right. He said it with such conviction… that I voted for him. But now the leader of Unidas Podemos is in government – and his wife too – and indeed, as he predicted, there are millions of Spaniards who cannot sleep.

Because that categorical statement, repeated ad nauseam, fell into oblivion 24 hours after the general election, when, instead of turning towards the centre, or abstaining, or … he insisted on forming a government, at any price, and decided to negotiate with Unidas Podemos, with the PNV, the right wing Basque  party, with the Catalan secessionists condemned by the courts, with Teruel Existe, etc. Many of us, who voted PSOE, began to get bags under our eyes due to lack of sleep, but the PSOE was in government and keeping the “evil  right” out of it had a price without a doubt. What we couldn’t imagine then was how high that price would be.

We were warned about the lack of skill and experience of the President of the Government. As his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, had pointed out publicly with honorable equanimity: “It is true that Sanchez has done nothing (since he became president)… But neither has he ruined everything.” And then this wretched virus made its appearance.

That measures were taken late is not debatable: The newspaper read by every good Spanish socialist, El País, had a four-column headline on February 25: “The WHO asks the world to prepare for a pandemic.” But someone didn’t read the newspaper that day, and in Spain we remained calm because the Government’s expert on the subject appeared on TV, day in day out, assuring us that there was nothing to worry about. The Spanish Government uses this expert to arrogantly say – through the mouth of its Minister of the Interior – that “This Government has nothing to regret”.

So, to celebrate the sexual freedom law promoted by Pablo Iglesias’ wife, on March 8 feminist demonstrations were held all over Spain while Vox’s ultras held a rally on a former bullring and football matches were being played. But the photo of two high ranking PSOE officials, one a minister and the other a former minister in Sanchez’s government, holding a banner with latex gloves during a demonstration on March 8 will haunt them to their graves. And to the 16,000 graves that have already been filled due to recklessness. Because let’s see, when did you last go to a demonstration wearing latex gloves?

The next day, everything changed, suddenly: schools were closed, the state of alarm was declared- announced 24 hours in advance so that every Madrid resident with a second residence could have a chance to flee – centralisation of competences… About the organisational chaos that ensued, and about how the Spanish health system (“the best in the world” but without sufficient means “due to the cuts made by the PP”, all at once) has had to face up to the pandemic, there is now an abundance of literature. The lack of skill and experience of a Cabinet in which not a single one of its members has ever had to tally a balance sheet (let alone run a business) has been proved, and has undoubtedly helped Spain to have the highest death rate per million inhabitants on the planet… But sleep, we must sleep.

So the most radical and less capable wing of the Government takes over the microphone and in order to reassure us all and prevent employers from “taking advantage” of the situation to fire – literally – prohibits dismissals and forces companies to carry out Temporary Employment Regulation files (ERTEs), in which the State takes over 70% of the basic salary of those affected. But the day when they have to be paid has arrived and nobody has been paid, so the bet is doubled and the implementation of a minimum vital income is announced – always announcements, always in command of the narrative – which will guarantee from today and forever loyalty to the State from all the beneficiaries.

Because today, in Spain and by default, entrepreneurs are bad and the Government is good, and this is an axiom that cannot be disputed. So Spanish employers gave the radical wing of the Government the finger and demanded that it meet its commitments and pay the ERTEs of their workers. They will pay them, no doubt, one day…

Meanwhile, TVE, the Spanish Public Television, Sexta (with a license granted by the former socialist president, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to his very best friends) El País... In short, the media close to the Government, in general, also attend, the government’s press conferences and manage not to show a dead person – and there have been 16,000 deaths – nor a coffin, nor a burial, while they show the departure, from ICUs, of little old nonagenarians who thank everyone for continuing in this world. Everyone, including the Government, of course. 

And this is where we stand when Sánchez turns his eyes to Europe and asks his partners for solidarity, in other words, for corona bonds. With the disadvantage – tough luck – that the Spanish public accounts for 2019 present, despite the country having grown more than any other one in Europe, a deficit much higher than the one agreed with Brussels… so the objections of that tax haven that is the Netherlands only put black on white what all the countries of the North think. How can you issue a solidarity bond when there is a government in which if the president says two, the vice-president says three, and if the president says three the vice-president says four…?

Felipe Gónzalez, a former leader of the PSOE and Spanish Prime Minister between 1982 and 1996, says that this government has “a certain amount of inexperience”. Yes? More like “utter inexperience”. But what is most noticeable is an absolute lack of scruples and sense of state. Anything goes, anything, as long as they stay in power. Because with them in government, Spain is better. By Royal Decree. This is not debatable.

And in an attempt to do so – to remain in power – the Government has no qualms about talking one day, contemptuously, of “the right wing parties” – which include: Vox, the extreme right, the PP, the centre right, and Ciudadanos, who become good as soon as they agree to sit down and talk to PSOE, and about asking those same parties to join a great national pact the next.

Because that is now the new mantra. Invoking the Pacts of La Moncloa, the President calls on all parties, all social partners to join a great pact of national reconstruction. Mr Sánchez seems to forget an important detail: President Suarez called for a pact between the right-wing parties and the left-wing parties from a party called the Union of the Democratic Centre. From the centre. And after a significant political achievement: free elections had been held in Spain after 40 years of dictatorship.

President Sánchez has no achievements to show, and by embracing Iglesias and his Bolivarians he has moved to the European extreme left. To try to forge consensus and pacts from there, from political positions that have shown time and time again where they lead (Cuba, Venezuela, the USSR… with economies razed to the ground and people in extreme poverty while their leaders live in dachas), does not seem reasonable.

Here, Iglesias and his wife, the Minister for Equality, have already got their dacha. And Spain, without a doubt, is going to be devastated… But, on top of that, do we now have to get behind the Government and push? Better try to sleep. It’s not easy to dream a worse nightmare.

About the Author

The Corner
The Corner has a team of on-the-ground reporters in capital cities ranging from New York to Beijing. Their stories are edited by the teams at the Spanish magazine Consejeros (for members of companies’ boards of directors) and at the stock market news site Consenso Del Mercado (market consensus). They have worked in economics and communication for over 25 years.