Democracy means what? Apparently it means police firing rubber bullets and tear gas, and blood pouring down the face of a protester at the miners’ demonstration in Madrid.
More than 70 people were injured in the clashes between riot police and demonstrators, 43 protestors and 33 police. Eight people were taken to hospital, and eight people were also arrested.
Accounts differ as to how the violence started out. Some say the police started firing rubber bullets, others say it was a response to objects thrown at the police by demonstrators.
I say demonstrators, not miners, because the miners were joined in their march and protest by other Spaniards incensed at the endless tax hikes and cuts to public spending, so who knows who threw what?
Political activism huh? Is it ever peaceful? I don’t think the 67-year-old retired miner expected to get shot by a rubber bullet when he set off on the march from his home town in the north of Spain.
But demonstrators and riot police clashing is nothing spectacular is it? Happened in Northern Ireland too on 12 July (yesterday) for the annual Orange parades although not quite as dramatically.
So what has Revolting Europe got to say about all this? Not about the protest, but some analysis of the issue:
Aid to mining companies in this year’s budget was cut to 111 million euros from 301 million euros in 2011.
These subsidies are direct aid to the sector, but they are also designed to revive the mining areas by reducing or eliminating mining activities and creating new ones.
To be sure, the cuts made by prime minister Rajoy are not about the Spanish state, nor the EU, being short of money.
The State has injected 4,500 million euros into private Spanish bank Bankia, and is pledged to shell out 19,000 million euros more. Europe has rescued Spanish banks with 100,000 million euros. The mining sector is asking for a mere 200 million euros to prevent its demise. In Spain, let alone Europe, there is money. And plenty of it to rescue the banking and financial system. But there is no money to save the coalfields.
The cuts made the right-wing government of Mariano Rajoy seriously undermines the ability of the mining areas to develop the necessary infrastructure and provide incentives to encourage firms to set up new activities in mining areas. These cuts eliminate any possibility of reviving the mining regions.
Yet there could be a socio-economic alternative for the mining communities, compatible with sustainable development. The government could make a clear commitment to economically diversify the mining areas by allowing them a role in the development of an alternative energy sector, integrated into a wider national energy planning.
To date, the tax money Spain has provided to the sector is not well used. Grants are chucked at private ‘entrepreneurs’ who are using the miners for their own purposes and are exploiting resources that belong to everyone to further swell their profits. The fact that over 80% of production comes from opencast mines that are profitable or at least break even means subsidies more than compensate for any losses.
[The full article is a summary of the views of Enrique Javier Diez Gutierrez, Professor at the University of León just in case you are wondering if it is written by your average ignorant journalist.]
Interesting. And so is this:
Goldman Sachs is working up a tidy little plan to profit from the misery of Spain’s miners.
In the Asturian port of El Musel rest hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Colombian coal. The owner – the US-based multinational bank – paid for the black stuff in cash and intends to sell it in the futures market in a speculative venture it hopes will make astronomical gains.
Coal in Europe currently costs $89.40 per tonne (as of 9 July), while futures on the mineral range from $90 per tonne for one month to $97 per tonne for a year. The markets expect an upward trend, so the New York company is ensured of a handsome return with its stockpile in the Asturian port city of Gijón.
Arriving in the Spanish port from Puerto Bolivar, Colombia, already 156,300 tonnes have been brought ashore. Another similar-sized cargo is expected. In total 600,000 tonnes of the imported material is due to be stored in Gijón.
If all goes well, with Spain’s local coal industry facing accelerated closure, there’ll be a large ready market on the doorstep.
The only cloud on Goldman Sachs’ sunny horizon is a change in the political guard in the area, from the right wing Popular Party to the socialists following elections last March. As a result, the management of the port has changed . ‘I cannot support a speculative operation like this when my countrymen are walking 400 kilometres to fight for a sector upon which my land depends,’ a locally born port socialist counsellor told El Publico newspaper.
Why does this sort of news not make mainstream media? Are we all really so incapable of reading more widely, asking questions, considering different issues, that we can only handle tiny soundbites?
Having said that, I read a BBC analysis of the Spanish economic situation and it might as well have said what I did a couple of posts back, banks lent too much money to fund a property boom that couldn’t continue and now the money needs to be paid back.
Simple sums for simple people. What isn’t being said in any reports about the protests is that this mining subsidy isn’t to keep unprofitable pits going. Most are not making a loss according to Professor Diaz Gutierrez.
The fact that over 80% of production comes from opencast mines that are profitable or at least break even means subsidies more than compensate for any losses.
And, the subsidies are meant to help revitalise mining areas by creating new industry and
employment opportunities jobs.
What is this all really about? I don’t have the answer but it smacks to me awfully like the UK coal mining disputes of the 80s when the pits were closed to import cheaper coal from Rumania, Poland, wherever. It seems Spain is not only importing it from Colombia, but also from South Africa, Russia and Indonesia.
While it may be unfashionable, I still think it would be far better if people (yes that means you out there) invested in their own countries and so did governments. I would have thought it was obvious that if you close an industry in your own country and import from elsewhere at a cheaper cost (that apparently benefits speculators) that it will cost in the longer term. But no, my thinking is obviously incorrect. Globalisation is king. (It’s mainly ruled by men so therefore it is a king).
Meanwhile the miners have been on strike for five weeks and a good percentage of them are going to end up permanently out of work, because let’s take that as a given. I don’t know if any of them did their research on the 1936 British Jarrow March that I mentioned on the last mining post.
When the marchers completed their feat, very little was done for them. The ship industries remained closed and all that they were given was £1 each to get the train back from London.
(Great price huh for a rail trip from London to Jarrow….)
For my non-British readers:
Jarrow was a small industrial town on the south side of the River Tyne, near Newcastle.In the nineteenth and early twentieth century its main industries were iron and steel manufacture and shipbuilding. Jarrow prospered at the start of the 20th century with Palmer’s Yard which had been established in Jarrow in the mid-19th century providing employment.
Nonetheless,similar to other shipyards during the inter war years, competition from Americian and Japanese shipbuilding companies led to its closure in 1935. By September 1935, Jarrow had lost all of its heavy industry and unemployment stood at 72.9%.
The march was to find jobs to support Jarrow men and their families. It was also a bid for respect and recognition, not only for the people of Jarrow, but for others in a similar situation all over the country.
The marchers had no resources other than their own determination, and some good boots supplied by the public. During the march, wherever the marchers stopped for the night, the local people gave them shelter and food.
The marchers arrived in London on 31 October, almost a month after leaving. The total number of signatures on the petition was 11,000, and was handed into Parliament by Ellen Wilkinson, Jarrow MP.
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin refused to see any of the marchers’ representatives, claiming it would set a dangerous precedent. The marchers generally received sympathy, though no proposal was made to help Jarrow, despite the petition being accepted in the House of Commons – with a single simple sentence of announcement, after which the House of Commons went back to their previous business.
[slightly adapted from wiki]
I think the Spanish miners would have been better off marching to La Coruña, where lives Amancio Ortega Gaona, Spain’s richest man, sometime Europe’s richest man, and fifth richest man in the world. [wiki again] Seems to compete with Bernard Arnault of France (LMVH) for the richest billionaire title in Europe – what’s a few billions between rich men when miners – and everyone else – need jobs? Current worth of Ortega $37.5 billion. He’s the guy who founded the fashion chain Zara, in case you don’t know.
Despite the poverty and essential austerity measures, Spain has a few other billionaires too. One of whom is Emilio Botin, in charge of the Santander Banking Group (the one that took over the British Abbey National), but he only has a measly $1.5 billion. And, behind the UK and Switzerland, Spain sits third in the league table of top bankers’ pay in Europe. Even ahead of Germany! [Source Revolting Europe, which used Forbes and FT Alphaville figures]
Today’s pic is of the destruction wreaked by the bush fire that we saw on a recent trip. As the miners’ march has been called the black march, coal is for burning, and they are facing the destruction of their industry, it seems appropriate.
If you’ve got this far you deserve a smile at least. I was looking up to see if Arson in the Royal dockyard was still a capital punishment crime in the UK (it isn’t) and found this on Yahoo answers…..
I think some councils are planning to introduce it for those evil people who threaten society by putting slightly too much rubbish in their wheelie bins and leaving the lid a couple of inches ajar