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Spain and Morocco: More on la Españolidad

     The speech of Prime Minister José María Aznar in the Moroccan enclave of Melilla was revealing. He abandoned his usual sober style and spoke angrily. To show that his party was indeed "popular" (of the people), he conspicuously kissed a baby, an un-Spanish and unhygienic habit.
     He was arguing about the word "Spain". He said it meant all the territory of Spain, including the "autonomies" as well as Ceuta and Melilla. He therefore rejected the idea that the Socialist Party of Catalonia was allied with that of Spain. He accused the Socialists of being unpatriotic. He was really thinking about the Basque provinces, where ETA violence was stepped up. He rejected the idea of a confederation (which brings up memories of the 1873 republic, which lasted just a year).
     The politics of Melilla (as well as of Ceuta) is unusually complicated. Aznar attacked the local government, which is involved in a mess associated with alleged gangsters based in Andalusia. However, he was also thinking of the threat from Morocco, with which Melilla has a porous border. Moroccans slip in and try to get to the Spanish mainland in boats named pateras (a local term). Like Cubans and Haitians trying to get to the United States, many drown or are caught.
     There are also Moroccans living legally in Mellilla. In the audience were some men wearing the red fez of the nationalists. Despite Spanish efforts to improve relations, they are difficult for a variety of reasons, including disputes over tomatoes and fishing. The arrest of a Spanish truck-driver in Morocco on charges of drug-smuggling provoked an angry response from his Spanish colleagues.
     The issue of illegal immigration was made more acute by an EU report saying that Europe must permit more immigration so as to have active workers supporting the growing numbers of pensioners (a similar problem exists in the United States). Catholic Italy and Spain have the lowest birthrates in Europe, suggesting that the Pope's strictures against family planning have little effect.
     Pressure from Moroccan would-be immigrants makes Spain a special target, and the Moroccan government would like to get rid of its unemployed. While some Spaniards would welcome Moroccan workers, others would not. There have been outbursts against them in the industrial area around Barcelona.
     This whole situation is getting little attention in the Western press.

Ronald Hilton - 1/9/00