The Catalan government is in the process of finalising the terms of a €400 million loan from Banco Santander, according to financial sources (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The loan, with a duration of four years, is intended to provide breathing-space to the Generalitat that is currently facing significant financial problems and is having trouble persuading international investors to lend it money. However, the economic department of the government, headed by Andreu Mas-Colell, is continuing to explore other possible sources of funds. The fact that it is Santander, the biggest bank in Spain, that is now providing credit to the Generalitat is significant because last year it didn't take part in either of the big financing operations carried out by the previous government, first in July when a credit syndicate provided €1 billion to the Generalitat, and then in November, when the government sold bonds to the public, which were not distributed by Santander. The €400 million from Santander comes on top of a €500 million loan from Catalunya Caixa, which was agreed last week.
Barcelona Council is considering a ban on cars that emit health-damaging substances (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The suggestion has been included in the new Air Quality Plan, 2011-2020, which is due to be approved on Friday; it would mean that cars that emit nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particles in suspension that are greater than 10 micras in contravention of EU law. To help with the cost of the move, the council is hoping to enlist the help of the Spanish and Catalan governments, which would entail changes to the MOT (ITV in Castilian) system to identify whether vehicles are emitting these substances. At present, the MOT in Spain only checks for carbon dioxide emissions, which have a direct relation to global warming, but other substances that are more harmful to health, such as NOx, are not taken into consideration. Environmental radars would also be placed on the streets of Barcelona to detect the levels of pollutants coming out of car exhaust pipes and take photos of relevant licence-plates.
Porn actress María Lapiedra has written a song in support of Catalan independence (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Lapiedra has also made a video to accompany the song, where she demonstrates her stripping skills as well as sings and dances as part of her campaign to see Catalunya as an independent state and give backing to the non-binding referendums on the subject. Lapiedra said that she was especially concerned to help out the organisation Barcelona Decideix, which is organising the referendum taking place in the Catalan capital on April 10th, saying that she hopes it will be "a success of democratic participation". The song is entitled 'Guanyarem la libertad' ('We will win freedom') and, according to the actress, was written with the great sense of love that she feels for the country. She has informed both the Ajuntament and the Generalitat that she would be happy to perform the song for free at any events being held to mark the 80th anniversary since Francesc Macià declared a Catalan republic. This is not the first time that Lapiedra has got involved with politics; she lent a hand to Joan Laporta during his successful campaign to be elected to the Catalan parliament last November.