Members of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) are seeking a quick resolution to the question of who will succeed José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as the head of the party, after his weekend announcement that he will not run in next year's general elections (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). While there are two potential candidates, Carme Chacón and Alfred Pérez Rubalcaba, who could meet each other in a primary election, there are certain sectors of the PSOE who wish to avoid such a confrontation, and instead prefer there to be a direct appointment of Zapatero's successor. Many of those in the upper echelons of the party feel that the time is not right politically and economically to demonstrate division within their ranks, regarding it as a gift to the opposition Partido Popular. However, with Zapatero calling on "internal democracy" to settle the issue, it is unlikely that these sectors will be able to halt the move towards holding primaries. One sign of the strength of feeling towards such an option is that both Chacón (currently the Spanish Minister of Defence) and Rubalcaba (the deputy president) were welcomed at political rallies yesterday with shouts of "president, president" by supporters. As such, any move by the leaders of the party to directly choose a candidate will be regarded as a fiddle and could well be condemned to fail.
Unemployment in Spain has now reached a new record level, surpassing 4.3 million (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). March saw an additional 34,406 people made redundant, bringing the total number looking for work to 4.33 million, the highest figure since records began in 1996. This is an increase of 0.8 percent compared to February according to the Employment and Immigration Ministry. In Catalunya, unemployment also rose, with 8,600 people losing their jobs, giving a total number of people out of work here of 611,000. In March 2010, the number of new unemployed was higher, with more than 35,000 being made redundant; altogether, 167,056 Spaniards have lost their jobs in the past 12 months.
The Generalitat and train company Renfe are seeking ways to make travel by train safer following a weekend of violent acts against employees on the network (read article in Catalan here, Avui). A lack of security both at stations and on trains has become a serious problem in the last few days, with the death of one man on Friday followed by two further, unrelated attacks on Saturday. The man killed was a security guard at the Castelldefels station who was assaulted by a young man (since arrested by the police) because the guard had expelled him from the station. The following day, police arrested a 20-year-old Barcelona resident, Oriol MP, accused of punching an agent of the Mossos after he caught up with him and his girlfriend, who were travelling without a ticket to Mataró; the woman had struck and bitten agents at the station after they discovered her trying to board the train without a ticket. While the man was released on bail, the woman is still in custody. Finally, police are still searching for three people in relation to an incident on a train in which the conductor was punched in the face after he discovered a group of between 10 and 15 young men travelling from Manlleu to Vic without tickets. Today, there will be a meeting to discuss the issues involved with the director of the Catalan police, Manel Prat, and the Generalitat's minister for territory and mobility, Damià Calvet, as well as representatives from both Renfe and the track operator Adif. The Business Committee of Renfe Operator in Barcelona South has criticised the lack of security on trains and at stations, and demanded urgent measures be taken and better coordination between the entities involved.