Sunday, 26 May 2013 08:04
Here at The News we always try to warn our readers about upcoming dangers – like the police clamping down on speeding, talking on your mobile while driving, not wearing safety belts or helmets, etc. These all are silly things that we all do absentmindedly at some time or other.
But the government is up to much more serious tricks these days – trying to catch benefits abusers and in this case aimed specifically at people on the dole. We may soon find out just how many of those alleged five million unemployed really are unemployed, and not drawing dole while working and being paid black money under the table. Figures from last year, show that from January to June, the authorities caught 4,379 people collecting dole while working "under the counter" – an increase of nearly 40 per cent over the same period in 2011.
It's very tempting for both parties concerned – the worker gets a little extra and the employer saves on social security payments, which can be quite high when the employee is young. The government is determined to root out tax fraud and is now implementing a strategy to do just that. Unemployed people are being contacted by phone at home during what would be normal working hours and told to appear at their dole office the next day at a given time – again within normal working hours. If the person doesn't show or tries to change the day or time this could indicate they have a job and can't just pop out whenever they fancy. Or if they are unavailable on a fixed line and can only be contacted on a mobile phone this could mean they could be working abroad and collecting dole at the same time. So the authorities will take a closer look at him or her and fines are tough for both employer and employee. And of course both end up with a blotted copybook.
At the same time, the work inspectors are making surprise visits to work places, not giving advance warning as they used to, to catch out how many workers are not on the employers' social security lists.
It's not surprising that the government is getting fed up with all our little tricks, especially if you take into account that one in five working people in Spain are earning black money, according to the latest statistics. So both the Tax Office and the Social Security are collecting a lot less money than they should be – which means pensions and the dole itself could become the victims of heavy cuts in the not-too-distant future.
The Left keeps ranting and raving on about this "right-wing" government which is trying to put the clock back to Franco's time. However, the online newspaper El Confidencial Digital reports a surprising case of tolerance on the government's part, the likes of which could never have happened while Franco was alive. Apparently the Planeta media group which owns the pro-government Antena 3 television group bought the pro-Socialist laSexta TV company last year and is allowing it to carry on denigrating and insulting Mariano Rajoy, his government and the Partido Popular without any interference whatsoever. The government authorised the acquisition to save laSexta from going bankrupt with the ensuing loss of jobs, and isn't interfering with any of the programmes' content.
Apparently the person who most objects to laSexta's constant attacks on the government is not Mariano Rajoy but the president of the Planeta group, Jose Manuel Lara, who feels "uncomfortable" with the content of some of the channel's programmes. The worst offender is a comic called Wyoming and his programme "El intermedio". I've watched it a couple of times in the past but couldn't stand Wyoming's leering vulgarity. His only saving grace is that he also takes pot shots at the Socialists. I suspect he belongs to my favourite pet hate – the Communist-dominated United Left.
I know I sound a bit paranoid, but just cast your minds back to the two great Communist revolutions of the 20th century – Stalin's Russia and Mao's China. Between the two of them, they killed more people than all the other despots of the last three or four thousand years put together. Communist revolutions are just more of the same – another elite enjoying the same old privileges while they kill, torture and imprison anyone they suspect of opposing them. And there is no reason to believe that the United Front will act any differently if it ever takes power in Spain.
Believe it or not, but I sometimes worry about some of the statements I make in my columns and – believe it or not – this sometimes keeps me awake at night. Last week, I realised late on Tuesday night after the paper had been printed that I may have given the impression the my favourite pet hate – the United Left – was about take over the country and kill us all.
I happened to be reading "Dead men do tell tales" by the American forensic anthropologist William Maples who was asked by the Russians to help identify the bones found near Ekaterinburg, where Tsar Nicholas and his family were executed. The Bolsheviks in Moscow pretended not to know anything about it so it was left to the local newspaper, the Ural Worker, to make the announcement, which read as follows: "Execution of Nicholas, the bloody crowned murderer shot without bourgeois formalities but in accordance with our new democratic principles"
Here the key word was "democratic" and I was somehow going to have to explain what it really means to the Communists. So I thought – right, George Orwell to the rescue. In Animal Farm, after the animals take over the farm under the leadership of the pigs (read Lenin and the Soviet hierarchy) the following appears written on a wall: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” – the new Soviet order put in a nutshell as only a genius like Orwell could do it. Then we have his 1984 and Big Brother and the Thought Police, among other evils.
So there was I planning to get out all my Orwell books to search through them for a lucid explanation of the difference between Socialism and Communism, when lo and behold, who came to my rescue and saved me all that work, if not the United Left itself. I knew they wouldn't let me down and that sooner or later they would have to show their true colours.
What saved me was an article which appeared in the Spanish press titled "The Junta de Andalusia is preparing 'direct cooperation' with the Bolivarian Alliance" (my other pet hate) – at the instigation of the United Left which, if you remember is keeping the Socialists in power in Andalusia. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) – to give it its full name – was set up by Cuba and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez to oppose the North American Free Trade Alliance consisting of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
In the article, United Left leader and Junta deputy premier Diego Valderas announce a "great meeting" in September which will give birth to that "direct cooperation" between Andalusia and the ALBA countries – Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua – with Iran as an observer. Valderas said the cooperation envisaged is not just economic but political as well. Now isn't that just all we need on top of the economic crisis affecting us all?
Fifty-three years on, the Castro brothers are still hanging on to power in Cuba, Nicolas Maduro has just stolen the election in Venezuela from his "bourgeois" opponent Henrique Capriles, the Indians in Bolivia began falling out with that country's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, long ago. And neither he nor Rafael Correo in Ecuador nor Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua would be in power today if it weren't for Hugo Chavez's oil money which helped buy an awful lot of votes.
And if that isn't corruption, what is?
Today in Venezuela several minions of Hugo Chavez and Maduro are under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI and the US Treasury. One of the cases is called "the drug capos" which links Generals Rangel Silva and Clíver Alcalá, retired General Hugo Carvajal, Bolivarian leader Freddy Bernal, the alternate president of the Latin American Parliament Amilcar Figueroa and intelligence chief Ramón Madriz, among others, to the drug cartels. With backing like that, who needs the oil money? Which is just as well, because Venezuela has been so badly governed since Chavez took power in 1999 that it’s on the verge of bankruptcy, the oil money having been frittered away to buy power for his friends.
Now Valderas wants to bring all that muck and corruption to Andalusia, as if we didn't have enough of the homegrown variety already. On the other hand, such half-baked ideas may help to open the eyes of genuinely well-meaning lefties to the dangers of putting the United Left in power. Because believe you me, if they do take over in Andalusia you'll all be hotfooting it back to the UK, as I hotfooted it here in 2002 to get away for from Chavez.