The protest camp that has been in Plaça Catalunya since May 15th seems to have its days numbered, with a commitment from those still camping out there to leave today (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico).Yesterday afternoon, an official from the Guardia Urbana, sent as a mediator by the city council, and six representatives of the last remaining campers (from whom the 'official' 15-M organisation have distanced themselves, because it was agreed some days ago that the city centre square would no longer be used by the protestors for sleeping in) met and agreed that this morning would see the start of the dismantling of the camp. The move was negotiated in a café on Carrer Vergara, with the Guardia Urbana official warning the six representatives that the Guardia Urbana and the Mossos d'Esquadra had a joint scheme prepared to evict those continuing to camp out in Plaça Catalunya last night at midnight; thus, if they wanted to avoid this, then they would have to agree to leave voluntarily, which is what they decided to do.
The mayor-elect of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, has said that he will not be looking to introduce a 'tourist tax' when he takes office but an alternative plan is being studied for the council to be able to keep some of the VAT spent by tourists here (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). The future councillor of economic promotion (the new council is due to take office this Friday), Sònia Recasens, said that it would be "impossible" to reach a consensus on a tourist tax at the present time and as such, the new council is following up on the VAT plan that they first proposed from the opposition. "We're not going to waste our time on a debate [that of the tourist tax] that has already been a waste of time during the past four years," said Recasens. Hoteliers have shown their total opposition to such a tourist tax, which led outgoing mayor Jordi Hereu to seek a more global tax that would be applied to all Catalan towns, so that Barcelona was not singled out. But this scheme seems even more improbable to implement than getting agreement from all the different sectors in Barcelona. As such, the new council is hoping for a practical solution through the VAT proposal. The argument is simple: "If we have more tourism than other cities, it's logical that a part of the VAT that this sector generates should stay here." The group is studying how to technically apply such a formula, which would not only involve money received from accommodation but also from restaurants and commerce.
The Spanish opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy of the PP, and the prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, took part yesterday in an intense face-to-face confrontation, that was full of mutual criticisms, on the first day of the state of the nation debate in Congress (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Rajoy repeated his demand to Zapatero to call early general elections to end what he described as a "sterile torment" and a "slow agony; he said that time was of the essence in dealing with Spain's current financial problems and it was necessary to recover confidence in the economy, something that the present government would be unable to do in the next four months. In turn, Zapatero said that Rajoy was the perfect "dog in a manger", because "he doesn't support or propose anything", an accusation Rajoy vehemently denied.