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May 14, 2010

Safety net and spending cuts buy 18 months for euro states

LONDON (Reuters) – A trillion-dollar financial safety net and plans for government spending cuts have dramatically reduced the risk that Greece, Portugal and Spain will run into funding problems over the next 18 months.

But during that period, they will have to meet or at least come close to meeting targets they have announced for cutting their budget deficits. If economic or political obstacles prevent them from doing so, debt crises could flare up again.

May 14, 2010

Cuts buy 18 months for euro states

LONDON (Reuters) – A trillion-dollar (672 billion pound) financial safety net and plans for government spending cuts have dramatically reduced the risk that Greece, Portugal and Spain will run into funding problems over the next 18 months.

But during that period, they will have to meet or at least come close to meeting targets they have announced for cutting their budget deficits. If economic or political obstacles prevent them from doing so, debt crises could flare up again.

May 13, 2010

Safety net, cuts buy 18 months for euro states

LONDON (Reuters) – A trillion-dollar financial safety net and plans for government spending cuts have dramatically reduced the risk that Greece, Portugal and Spain will run into funding problems over the next 18 months.

But during that period, they will have to meet or at least come close to meeting targets they have announced for cutting their budget deficits. If economic or political obstacles prevent them from doing so, debt crises could flare up again.

Mar 1, 2010

Spanish court says Venezuela helped ETA, FARC

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain demanded Venezuela explain itself after a judge accused the South American government on Monday of helping Basque ETA rebels and Colombian FARC guerrillas plot possible attacks on Spanish soil.

A ruling by Spain’s High Court said the Venezuelan government facilitated contacts between the armed groups which led to FARC asking ETA for logistical help in case it tried to assassinate Colombian officials visiting Spain, including President Alvaro Uribe.

Mar 1, 2010

Shackles show weakened ETA still plan violence

MADRID, March 1 (Reuters) – A pair of shackles found when the leader of Basque rebels ETA was captured has dimmed the prospect of his arrest bringing peace closer in the troubled Spanish region.

Sunday’s arrest in Normandy of Ibon Gogeaskoetxea, the fifth of ETA’s military leaders to be caught in less than two years, was a body blow to a group facing calls from its own supporters to end its half-century long war for Basque independence.

But the pistols, explosives and a pair of shackles found with Gogeaskoetxea and two accomplices did not indicate any sudden conversion to the cause of non-violence by ETA, which has killed more than 850 people since it was founded during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

"It’s not usual to find shackles with ETA commandos," said Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba on Monday.

"One of our hypotheses …. is that they are planning to kidnap someone," Rubalcaba said.

A total of 32 ETA suspects have been arrested this year alone, the government says, and the rebels have not claimed a fatal victim since July, when a bomb killed two police officers on the island of Majorca.

Analysts believe the group’s failure to extract concessions from the government is combining with weariness of violence to demoralise its supporters, who want the mountainous, traditionally Basque lands of northern Spain and southwestern France to become independent.

The Basque Country already enjoys considerable political autonomy from Madrid and one of the leading members of ETA’s banned political wing Batasuna, Rufino Etxeberria, said earlier this month that the rebels had to stop killing.



ETA LOSING FACE?

Etxeberria and other members of Batasuna want to reenter legal politics in time for municipal elections in 2011. They are worried that separatism is losing ground in the Basque Country, where moderate nationalists lost control of the local government last year for the first time in decades.

"If today some of the members of Batasuna are daring to question ETA’s slogans, this is because police action has weakened the image of the band’s leaders," wrote Florencio Dominguez, one of the leading experts on ETA, in newspaper La Vanguardia.

But the extent of Batasuna’s sway over ETA is uncertain. The political wing was unable to prevent the failure of attempted peace talks with the Spanish government in 2006, which collapsed after the rebels killed two people with a car bomb at Madrid airport.

"Will ETA’s political wing be strong enough to win over those in favour of violence or will they continue to be dominated by ETA? That’s the great question," Carlos Barrera, a politics professor at the University of Navarre, told Reuters, adding that he was cautiously optimistic.

Perhaps 15 percent of Basques sympathise with Batasuna, and almost 40 percent support the moderate Basque Nationalist Party.

But the Spanish government says it will not talk to ETA’s political supporters until they definitively break with violence.

"They have only two options if they want to enter into democratic politics: either they convince ETA to abandon violence or they totally break with them," said Rubalcaba. (Reporting by Jason Webb; Editing by Charles Dick)



Feb 24, 2010

Small union marches may ease pressure on Spain PM

MADRID, Feb 24 (Reuters) – Thin turnouts for union protests
against an unpopular pension reform may ease pressure on the
Spanish government as it seeks to calm markets with austerity
measures while avoiding social conflict.

A total of only a few tens of thousands of protesters showed
up for marches in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia on a chilly
Tuesday evening, according to most estimates.

Feb 23, 2010

Spanish unions march against pension plan

MADRID, Feb 23 (Reuters) – Unionised workers marched in
Spain’s major cities on Tuesday against plans to raise the
retirement age in the first open clash for six years between
organised labour and a Socialist government now seeking to
appease markets with austerity.

But the main protest in Madrid seemed noticeably smaller
than recent demonstrations in the capital organised by groups
such as the Catholic Church, in a sign that unions, who now only
represent 16 percent of Spanish workers, may have lost some of
the power to paralyse the nation they once had.

Feb 4, 2010

Pressure mounts on Spain’s Zapatero over economy

MADRID, Feb 4 (Reuters) – Spanish unions said on Thursday
they plan protests and the opposition may hold a vote of no
confidence as criticism mounted of Prime Minister Jose Luis
Rodriguez Zapatero’s efforts to overhaul state finances.

Doubts about Spain’s deficit pushed Spanish bond prices down
and sent stocks <.IBEX> tumbling nearly 6 percent on a day when
Economy Minister Elena Salgado stressed that the country was not
a risk to the future of the euro and some of the allies Zapatero
needs to enact austerity plans turned away from him.
[ID:nLDE6132CU]

Dec 13, 2009

Low turnout in Catalan independence “referendum”

MADRID (Reuters) – Turnout in an “informal” referendum on Sunday on whether wealthy Catalonia should secede from Spain fell short of Organizers’ hopes, but they said enough voters showed up to energize their separatist campaign.

About 30 percent of 700,000 eligible voters in 170 towns and villages in the region’s Catalan-language-speaking heartland voted on the question of whether Catalonia should become an independent state within the European Union, Organizers said.

Dec 13, 2009

Catalans vote in “referendum” on independence

MADRID (Reuters) – Organizers of an informal “referendum” on independence from Spain for the rich region of Catalonia hope for a big turnout on Sunday to help push their separatist campaign onto the mainstream political agenda.

More than 700,000 people in 170 towns and villages across Catalonia will be allowed to participate in the “referendum,” which will ask citizens whether Catalonia should become an independent state within the European Union.

    • About Jason

      "Jason Webb has been chief correspondent in Madrid since 2006. He started in Reuters in 1994 as a commodities correspondent based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and in 2001 was posted to Colombia as bureau chief of the Andean region, with responsibility for Venezuela and Ecuador."
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