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10 Stories and Photos That Capture 2013 in Spain

1. Princess Cristina de Borbón, charged

Princess Cristina. Image from Diego Armario's blog.

Princess Cristina. Image from Diego Armario's blog.

In April, Princess Cristina was summoned to appear in court by the judge hearing the Palma Arena case. The Spanish population watched the first accusation of a member of the royal family on a corruption charge with a mixture of surprise and incredulity. Their incredulity [es] was born out by the almost immediate lifting of the charges against the Princess. The anti-corruption prosecutor himself, Pedro Horrach was, ironically, Cristina de Borbón's best defence attorney [es]. The affair did irreparable damage to the royal family, increasingly isolated from a population which observes time and again that the King's declaration last Christmas that “justice is equal for everyone” was merely empty words.

2. The Prestige disaster, without convictions

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Oil spill on a Galician beach. Photo from Wikimedia Commons under CC licence by SA 3.0

The shipwreck of the Prestige oil tanker off the coast of Galicia and subsequent oil spill which caused the worst ecological disaster ever seen in Spain and prompted one of the largest popular mobilisations in the country's history was settled without convictions following ten years of legal proceedings and a nine month long trial. The politicians implicated in the case, whose decisions were broadly criticised, did not even reach the dock. The Spanish citizens will have to foot the 4,328 million euro bill which this disaster has cost – so far.

3. The Parot Doctrine, annulled 

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View of the Plaza Colón in Madrid occupied by a protest organised by the Association of Victims of Terrorism. Photo uploaded to Twitter by Isabel Durán (@IsabelDuran_).

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg issued its final decision on the so-called “Parot doctrine” [es] on October 21st, ruling that the increase in prison sentences could not be applied retroactively. This ruling had the immediate effect of liberating several ETA terrorists and dangerous common criminals, which prompted furious reactions on the social networks both in support of and in opposition to the European Court. The Association of Victims of Terrorism (ATV) organised a protest march [es] on October 27th.

4. The Citizens’ Security Law

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Greenpeace activists unfurl a banner from the top of a building in Plaza de España in Madrid. Photo uploaded to Twitter by @thomsh1.

The end of November brought to light the new Citizens’ Security Law which the government intends to pass. This law reclassifies certain misdemeanours as offences, allowing the government to fine citizens directly without taking them to court, thus avoiding a process which frequently decides in favour of the accused. If the law is passed, attending certain unauthorised protests could result in fines of up to 600 000 € and “offences” against Spain would be punished with fines of up to 30 000 €. Various political parties and lawyers’ associations have questioned the constitutionality of the new law.

5. The “escrache” protests

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PAH escrache protest in Zaragoza. Photo from the blog El ventano.

In March and April, the Platform of People Affected by Mortgages (PAH) carried out a campaign of “escraches” [a type of direct action protest] targeting politicians, banks and party headquarters while the mortgages law was being debated in Parliament. The escraches were angrily criticised by politicians from the PP and like-minded media outlets, which went as far as to accuse the PAH of being “nazis” and “pro-ETA”. However, in June the European Parliament awarded the 2013 European Citizens’ prize to the PAH.

6. Wert, against the world

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The Spanish Minister for Education, José Ignacio Wert. Photo from the blog Cinereverso.org.

The education minister is implementing the worst campaign of cuts in education which the country has ever seen. But he also has time to anger the entire population with his mottos, which have become something of a classic on the social networks. In October, the minister was on the verge of leaving hundreds of students “stranded” in Europe when he drastically reduced the Erasmus scholarships, and shortly afterwards he was publicly discredited by the European Commission, whose education spokesperson described as “rubbish” declarations made by Wert in which he claimed that the funds designated by the EC to Spain for Erasmus scholarships would see a significant reduction in 2014.

7. The right to be forgotten

Online privacy

EU statistics on internet privacy. Image from the European Parliament website, used with permission. Source: European Parliament.

Spain took Google to the EU Court of Justice to defend the right to be forgotten, which would give European citizens the option to demand that any personal information which they do not wish to be made public be deleted from the Internet. This right to privacy clashes frequently with the right to information, creating controversy between those who support access to information and those who support privacy. In the end, the court ruled in Google's favour.

8. The advance of the far right

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Far right protest in Spain. Photo from Xavier Casals‘ blog.

With the approach of the European Parliament elections, many European citizens are worried about the resurgence of far right groups and political parties, which take advantage of the economic crisis to launch their aggressively populist and xenophobic discourses. The Greek group Golden Dawn was banned following the death of a young man, allegedly at the hands of its members, but in some European countries, far right parties are reaching levels of power unseen since World War II. In Spain, the governing People's Party systematically justifies its members’ behaviour each time the media demonstrates that they have links to the far right.

9. Eurovegas

Protesta en contra del proyecto Eurovegas. Foto tomada por Valentin Sama-Rojo. Derechos de autor: Demotix.

Protest opposing the Eurovegas project. Picture taken by Valentin Sama-Rojo, dated January 26, 2013. Copyright: Demotix.

In a country with almost 5 million unemployed, the overambitious Eurovegas project, which promised the creation of more than 300 000 jobs, arrived in Madrid like a true panacea. But alarm bells soon began to ring: Las Vegas Sands, the company owned by Sheldon Adelson, the project's architect, demanded numerous exemptions with regard to labour rights, taxation and even public health, attempting to create a bubble of alegality within Spanish territory. Although some politicians appeared ready to grant LVS's every desire, the armour-plating of the investment which Adelson intended to impose and poor forecasts by the ratings agencies meant that the project ground to a halt and was definitively abandoned in December.

10. «A relaxing cup of café con leche»

Madrid made a bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. In order to argue the city's case, a huge delegation – more than 200 people – travelled to Buenos Aires in September. Although the bid was rejected [es] in the first round, the lamentable English spoken by Ana Botella, mayor of Madrid, and the theatrical nature of her speech prompted a collective outburst of laughter around the country and left us with a phrase for posterity: «a relaxing cup of café con leche in Plaza Mayor».

Ana Botella's speech to the IOC. Video uploaded to YouTube by BEGO DANGER

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