Archive for the ‘Spain’ category

The Silent Triumph of Linux

April 24, 2012

Linux LogoThe Linux Penguin

The Silent Triumph of Linux
Cell phones, businesses, critical environments, and the infrastructure of the Web all function with this system
El País: Linux, el triunfo silencioso
Laia Reventós reporting from Barcelona April 22, 2012

When you navigate the Internet, you use Linux. When you search on Google, gossip on Facebook, or play with your Android phone (850,000 of those are activated each day), you also use this operating system. When you see a movie on an airplane, take money from a teller, or make a long-distance phone call…yes, Linux is at the heart of multiple daily activities, even though you aren’t conscious of it.

The most installed open source operating system in the world and the motor of free software still is not massively installed in desktop computers, where Windows reigns with 92% of the market. That is the same share it had in the 90s, when Linus Torvalds (born in Helsinki in 1969) developed Linux. On Friday, Technology Academy Finland recognized its compatriot for creating a system which has had “a great impact on the development of open source programs, work on the Internet, and the opening of the Web to make it accessible to millions of people.”

Torvalds was a 21-year old student of computer engineering at the University of Helsinki in 1991. In his room, he began “a small project. It was something fun to help my learning, but it ended up having everything an operating system is supposed to have.”

The youth released the first version of Linux on the Internet, and word of mouth did the rest for a system protected by the General Public License (GPL), which permits its use, copying, modification, and free distribution. As opposed to other systems, Linux has improved thanks to collaboration. Close to 8000 developers and 800 companies have contributed to its 15 million lines of code since 2005. The Iliad had 15,000 lines. Every three months, a new version of the core system is released under Torvalds’s supervision.

“Linux was the first modifiable operating system that could be installed and used by anyone,” explains Miguel Jaque, director of Spain’s National Open Source Technology Center (CENATIC). “You could find out how its code worked. The secret was out. And that allowed the peak of free software to begin.”

Twenty years later, the system still has not gatecrashed domestic computing (it has a 0.98% worldwide market share according to Netmarketshare), but it rules mobile phones, businesses, data centers, critical environments, and the infrastructure of the web. 80% of stock transactions have the penguin symbol beneath them. Even televisions and cars use it. 25% of their costs are for software, and in four years the proportion will be 75%. For that reason, giants like General Motors, BMW, Hyundai, PSA Peugeot Citroën, and Renault-Nissan have constructed an open platform for entertainment and information systems (the GENIVI Alliance).

In Spain, the management and education communities have led Linux’s advance. 83% of public organizations have some kind of open software installed for them. Don’t forget that Extremadura took the lead in providing computers for its students with its Linex system in 2003; it just don’t preach about it much. This tide has swept to seven other Autonomous Communities, including Andalusia and Catalonia (Lincat). The Andalusian system Guadalinex now serves 1.8 million students in 5882 schools with a network of 640,000 PCs and 4200 servers.

What are the advantages? “It reduces costs because the license is free; you can change providers without problems, and you can personalize all the components,” says Jaque. Munich City Hall has saved a third of its technological budget (€4 million) thanks to Linux, and now, in a time of crisis, it could save more if its civil services “save and reuse their computing resources.” In 2011, according to CENATIC, 46% of civil services created their own programs, but only 18% set them free.

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Nun Accused of Stealing Babies Declines to Testify in Court

April 23, 2012

Sister María Gómez Valbuena
Sister María Gómez Valbuena leaving Madrid Trial Court 47 after declining to testify. Photo by Cristóbal Manuel.

Mothers of Stolen Children
Those affected by the theft of children spent the night in front of the Sisters of Charity’s school where the accused nun lives holding yellow candles and cards with their petitions.

Nun Accused of Stealing Babies Declines to Testify in Court
Sister María Gómez Valbuena is still charged with illegal custody
Tomorrow, the judge will call for testimony from the adoptive parents of the daughter who was supposedly robbed

El País: La monja acusada del robo de bebés se niega a declarar ante el juez
Natalia Junquera reporting from Madrid April 12, 2012

Sister María Gómez Valbuena declined to testify before a judge about her supposed involvement in a case of baby theft.  She is still charged with illegal custody, the charge about which she was called to testify today. Judge Adolfo Carretero said he will call the adoptive parents to testify tomorrow about their supposedly stolen daughter. The nun is the first person to be directly accused after 1500 denouncements were made all around Spain by mothers who believe their children were stolen after birth.

Gómez Valbuena, wearing the habit of the Daughters of Charity, arrived at Madrid Trial Court 47 a little after eight, an hour and a half before her appointed time, accompanied by another religious from her congregation. She attempted – successfully, when she entered – to avoid the multitude of media members waiting for her, many of them from abroad. After availing her right to not testify before the judge, she left through a side entrance, the one used for night court, escorted by several members of the municipal police, but she could not avoid the media then.

Nor could she avoid the other mothers accusing her of robbing their babies; when they saw her, they shouted, “Shameless!” and “We want to see your face!” while Sister María entered a black all-terrain Mercedes Benz with tinted windows in order to depart the judicial premises.

The nun, who is 80 years old, has contracted the services of José María Calero Martínez, the lawyer for the parents of murdered minor Marta del Castillo. The Madrid District Attorney’s Office called her to testify after she was accused, and she declined to speak then, as well. Dozens of mothers who are seeking their children and who have seen their cases put in the archives of DA’s Offices around the country for lack of evidence have put all their hopes on Sister María telling the judge what she did and what she knows.

The case for which the judge called the nun forward as defendant is that of María Luisa Torres, who gave birth to a daughter, Pilar, in the Saint Cristina of Madrid clinic in 1982. She claimed that Sister María seized the child and threatened she would take the mother’s other daughter, as well, “because of your adultery”. Thanks to the help of Pilar’s adoptive father, the mother and daughter were able to reunite last year, 29 years after the birth. Last week, both testified to the same judge that interrogated Sister María today. “If she doesn’t pay in this life, she will pay in the next one,” Pilar said about the religious before she entered the court. “She deserves the highest punishment,” Pilar’s mother added.

Urdangarin’s Ex-Business Partner Implicates the King of Negotiating in Favor of his Son-in-Law

April 22, 2012

Jorge Forteza and Pedro Perelló
Jorge Forteza and Pedro Perelló in 2007. Photo by Tōru Shimada.

Urdangarin’s Ex-Business Partner Implicates the King of Negotiating in Favor of his Son-in-Law
Diego Torres remitted three emails with documents to the court
The Duke says, “He has told Cristina that in principle, there won’t be any problems.”

Duke Iñaki Urdangarin affirmed in three 2007 emails that the king acted as a mediator so his son-in-law could participate in a new yachting team for the 33rd America’s Cup. The documents were remitted by Urdangarin’s ex-business partner, Diego Torres, to the Palma court which is investigating the activities of Instituto Nóos. The Ayre Project, which still has not found prosperity after that fiasco of a sporting event, was managed by Pedro Perelló and Jorge Forteza – regattists, businessmen, and friends of the princes and princesses – with the support of the Duke of Palma.

In one of these communications, dated September 30, 2007, Torres asks the duke about his “experience” in seminars about urban planning in Philadelphia and informs him that Perelló has spent “a good while on the telephone every day” to intensify his contacts with the public administrations of the Valencian Community. The following day, Urdangarin answered him form Washington, “I bring a message on behalf of the king, and it is that he has commented to Cristina, so that she could pass the message on to me, that he will get [Francisco] Camps in touch with Pedro in order to tell him about the theme of the base of the Prada. And that in principle, there will not be any problems, and they will help us get it,” said Urdangarin in allusion to the necessary installations in the port of Valencia to hold Project Ayre’s future boat.

In this same email, Urdangarin informed Torres that “there could be a little something for the foundation” and lamented that the entity’s website was not in English. “It would give a more international touch,” the Duke said, and he added that Agustín Zulueta, leader of the Desafío Español (Spanish Challenge) crew – the team that participated in the 2007 America’s Cup – “had asked Cristina to coffee to talk about something that couldn’t be discussed over the phone.” “It was mysterious, but it seemed serious and important,” he averred.

The messages about the ambitious sailing project which Torres’s lawyer, Manuel González Peeters, handed to the judge, piled up on August 9, 2007. Urdangarin then revealed a supposed encounter between King Juan Carlos and Perelló. “We arranged a meeting between the king and Pedro in order to present the project. It went very well, and apart from seeming very well put together, the king has offered all his help in finding financial assistance,” he said to Torres, to whom he added, “Enjoy the cruise.”

Later, on September 10, the husband of Princess Cristina wrote a message to Perelló which again lead with the supposed actions the king had taken to make sure the project arrived safely in harbor. “The king commented to me that one of his friends had done the negotiating we requested with Miguel Fluxa,” in allusion to the owner and president of the Iberostar group, Miguel Fluxá. “From my end, I’ve given [Fluxá] the ear of BBVA so he can give a push to Paco González,” Urdangarin explained to Perelló.

The messages also reveal certain differences over the (failed) presence of a second Spanish team at the America’s Cup. Zulueta affirmed in an October 2007 conversation that he felt “more peaceful” after speaking with “Cristina” and that he believed Perelló “will not continue sending surprising documents to our sponsors.” The tone, despite it all, is conciliatory, and he informed Urdangarin that “the Desafío Español has nothing against another Spanish team taking part, and if course, it has not acquired any right to be the only team.” This relieved “a worry on our end.”

The message sent by another of those implicated in the Nóos case, Antonio Ballabriga, chief of the corporate affairs of BBVA and friend of the Duke, confirms that Urdangarin went forward with his activity in Nóos and his business with public entities. This, despite his formal renunciation in March 2006 and after the king’s emissary, José Manuel Romero Moreno, advised him that spring to disassociate himself with the business. “As we’ve established, we’ll meet at 10 in Nóos to talk about meetings for the European Games project.”

After the 2009 America’s Cup
J.G. reporting from Barcelona and A.M. reporting from Palma

The Mallorcan regattists Pedro Perelló and Jorge Forteza conceived of a project to give Spain a second representative in the 2009 America’s Cup in Valencia. They wanted a team capable of competing to win, and for that they needed to raise at least 100 million euros. Despite their efforts, and despite the Ayre project being enrolled as a challenger by America’s Cup Management (ACM), the project did not prosper.

In 2007, Perelló won the King’s Cup for sailing with a boat named Siemens in which Prince Elena was a navegator. It was then that the regattist and shipowner tried to put together a great team in order to participate in the America’s Cup. Perelló never hid who the project’s godparents were, and he affirmed that the project counted on the active participation of Urdangarin (who was to take charge of the “social and cultural” area of the project) and the blessing of the king, as well. Duke Urdangarin retired after the project. Three years later, one of his businesses dedicated to “sports patronage” (Promorace, FL) was condemned to pay 34,000 euros for abandoning a sailing ship in the installations of the Royal Nautical Club of Palma. The judge obligated the business to “vacate the installations.”

Perelló paired up with a person who could provide more economic muscle for the project, businessman Jorge Forteza, duke of the real estate company Nova. Forteza was tthe “fourth player” that participated in the table tennis game in the palace of Marivent Urdangarin, along with regattist and ex-Director General of Sports Pepote Ballester and ex-President of the Balearic Islands Jaume Matas, who were also imputed in the Nóos case. There, Urdangarin confirmed his patronage of the Illes Balears cycling team. Nóos bought to apartments in Novaen Palma. In addition, Forteza was an intermediary for buying and selling terrain for Mallorca’s territorial program, which was investigated by the attorney general. The BMW Oracle team took the plan for the 33rd America’s Cup to court, where the project was paralyzed more than a year and a half before it was finally cleared.

Saudi Businessman Paid for Spanish King’s Hunting Trip in Botswana

April 21, 2012

King Juan Carlos Hunting
The King. Date undetermined. Photo by Rann Safaris.

Saudi Businessman Paid for Spanish King’s Hunting Trip in Botswana
Mohamed Eyad Kayali resides in Spain, where he represents the Royal House of Saud
El País: Un empresario saudí pagó la cacería del Rey en Botsuana
Mábel Galaz reporting from Madrid April 18, 2012

The King went on his controversial hunting trip to Botswana on invitation from Saudi businessman Mohamed Eyad Kayali, who has lived in Spain for years, as reported by El Mundo and confirmed by sources with knowledge of the expedition. Kayali, who has properties in Madrid and Marbella, usually acts as a representative of the Royal House of Saud in Spain, defending and driving their business. This lobbyist of Syrian origin was one of the people who accompanied the king on his safari.

In other news, whether it is coincidence or not, Queen Sofía decided to spend two anda half hours in the Hospital USP San José yesterday, where Don Juan Carlos is recuperating from a hip operation which began at dawn Saturday. This long visit was ten times longer than her first, on Monday, which was reduced to 15 minutes.

The royal family knows that its place in the public square is important and should be untainted by personal problems, which are private business. So the king and his children have decided to close ranks. All have gathered around Don Juan Carlos, the visible head of the Crown, who has never been in the eye of such a hurricane.

Doña Sofía arrived at the hospital at 1:30 PM. The Royal Family reported that the two had decided to have lunch together. They even gave details abot the menu. They both had greens for their first course. After that, the king requested a sirloin steak and the queen a hake; she no longer eats meat. Their private date was different from the visit on the first day, when they were surrounded for those few minutes by doctors and retainers.

The queen left the lunch smiling and relaxed and approached the press to inform them her spouse is “phenomenal”, “has an appetite”, and “is doing very well”. She only added, “I’ll say nothing more because there is nothing more to say.” As Doña Sofía approached her automobile, she heard a voice asking, “What’s your opinion of the trip to Botswana?” She did not respond. No one really expected her to.

The stage of closing the family ranks was completed yesterday with the visit of the Prince of Asturias, who has continued representing his father at public functions, yesterday in Valencia and today in Murcia. And with the presence of Doña Elena, who left her convalescing son for a while in order to be with her father, with whom she is especially close. She said about criticism of the king, “I haven’t heard anything; I’ve been working.”

Everything indicates that the king will be able to leave today. The director of USP San José, Javier de Joz, read the new medical report at noon on Tuesday and assured that the king is “showing great progress”. He explained that they had practiced new remedies and had intensified his rehabilitation, with several sessions per day.

Kirchner Extends Nationalization Threat to Other Groups like “Telecommunications Companies and Banks”

April 19, 2012

Kirchner Extends Nationalization Threat to Other Groups like “Telecommunications Companies and Banks”
Spanish firms are engaged in a wide array of enterprises in Argentina
El País: Kirchner extiende su amenaza a otros grupos como “telefónicas o bancos”
David Fernández reporting from Madrid April 16, 2012

The expropriation of YPF could be only the beginning of a nightmare for Spanish businesses. During her announcement of the nationalization, Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner threw down the gauntlet before other foreign business interests in the country, like “telecommunications companies and banks”, about the “necessity” of reinvesting their earnings in Argentina.

After speaking about Argentina Airlines and its disappearance, the president moved on to comment on other sectors in which Spain has investments in Argentina. “We’ve made it clear that the businesses that are here, even if their stockholders are abroad, are Argentinean businesses,” she began. She referred to “telecommunications companies, some of which are Spanish and which have recently submitted us to blackouts. I hope that the Ministry will promptly respond to this,” she charged, clearly referring to Movistar. “And the foreign banks, as well…in sum, we don’t have a problem with profitability, but these profits must be reinvested in the country in order to help the country grow,” Fernández resolved.

The internationalization of Spanish businesses began in Latin America, and Buenos Aires was one of the first ports of call for these then-incipient multinational corporations. In recent years, the importance of Argentina on the bottom lines of these sought-after businesses has decreased in favor of other economies in the region (principally Brazil, Mexico, and Chile), but the Argentinean market continues to be a net contributor. This is the exposure that the principal Spanish companies have to Argentina, according to fiscal 2011 data.

Repsol: YPF provided 17.42% of operating revenues (~€11,105,000,000) and 25.61% of gross profit (~€1,231,000,000). Last year, Argentina received more of Repsol’s investment money than any other country (€2,182,000,000, 33% of the total). There are 15,119 Argentineans on Repsol’s payroll, 32% of the total, making them the second most numerous nationality on their staff after Spaniards.

Telefónica: Kirchner, without referring explicitly to the Spanish operator, has sent a message to Telefónica in reminding them of the “blackout” that some enterprises “have submitted us to recently”. This April 2, a breakdown in Telefónica’s Argentinean affiliate’s mobile phone service affected 16 million users and a smaller number of landline users. After the blackout, the Argentinean government signaled that it would study how to impose the “maximum” fine possible on Movistar, which indicated its intention to compensate its clients in the country for the blackout.

Telefónica of Argentina has licenses which permit it to provide landline, cellular, and Internet telephone services. These licenses will not expire, but as the operator recognizes in its annual report, “they can be cancelled by SECOM (the Secretary of Communications) for failure to complete the terms of the license”.

Telefónica has 21.9 million clients in Argentina, principally for its mobile phones (15.9 million users); it enjoys a 29.8% market share in the cellular market. The net total of the bills for this division in that country last year was ~€3,174,000,000, while its Operating Income Before Depreciation And Amortization (OIBDA) reached ~€1,085,000,000. Telefónica’s Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) in Argentina in 2011 was €449 million.

Banco Santander: Santander Río is the country’s principal private bank, with 358 offices, 2.5 million individual clients, and 6,777 employees. In 2011, the affiliate had gross earnings of €926 million, net earnings of €472 million, and €287 million in profits. Argentina contributes 3% of the Santander Group’s profits.

BBVA: The entity controls 76% of the capital of BBVA Banco Francés. In 2011, the Argentinean division earned a net profit of €315 million and an attributed profit of €157 million, a quantity which represents 5.2% of the group’s total profits. BBVA has 4,844 employees in Argentina, 4.4% of its total employees.

Endesa: The services of the generation and transportation of electricity provided by Endesa’s Argentinean affiliate netted Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) of €118 million in 2011. In addition, since the beginning of April last year, two interconnecting lines between Brazil and Argentina have begun to receive regulated remuneration, producing an EBIDTA of €127 million. The distribution business, for its part, had operating losses of €23 million, as greater fixed costs as a consequence of inflationary recovery in the country could not be recuperated by the bills charged to clients.

Gas Natural: The distribution of gas in Latin America earned the company an EBITDA of €621 million in 2011. Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico are Gas Natural’s principal markets; Argentina only contributed €27 million of its EBITDA.

Mapfre: Argentina is the insurer’s fourth most important market in Latin America. In 2011, it contributed €457 million in premiums (2.33% of the insurer’s total) and €18 million to Mapfre’s bottom line.

DIA: The distributor sold a total of €11,123,000,000 in products last year. Its principal markets are Spain, Portugal, and Brazil. Argentina is fourth, although it was the fastest-growing market in 2011, contributing 7.8% of the chain’s sales (€868 million). DIA opened 47 new stores last year for a total of 495 there.

Prosegur: The security company grossed some €500 million in the Argentinean Area, which also includes Paraguay and Uruguay, in 2011.

Codere: Codere Argentina is the principal operator of bingo sales in the province of Buenos Aires, with a total of 14 functioning rooms and more than 5000 recreational machines installed. This South American country contributes more to the group’s revenue and EBITDA than any other, €553 million and €165 million respectively.

NH Hoteles: On December 31, the group had 13 hotels open in Argentina (11 owned and 2 others under management) with a total of 2049 rooms.

What If The King Hadn’t Fallen?

April 17, 2012

Tintin in Africa

Tintin picture courtesy of ADAGP, Paris, 2009

What If The King Hadn’t Fallen?
El País: ¿Y si no se hubiera caído?
Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí blogging April 14, 2012

King Juan Carlos has lost contact with reality. At least, that’s how it seems. Only profound disorientation and disconnection with the society which he should serve would begin to explain why it would seem like a good idea for him to hunt elephants. The trip was absolutely untimely, uncalled for, and unwarranted.

Untimely, because the current moment is one of the most critical for Spain’s international reputation. The monarch’s trip, an inopportune caprice, does not contribute to the image of moderation, force, and sacrifice that we should give in our fight for our reputation in the markets and communal institutions.

Uncalled for, because the king cannot, and should not, ignore that hunting elephants for pleasure is obscene and profoundly offends millions of people’s sensibilities. It has all the elements of a despicable action. In addition, because he went to a hunting ground especially prepared for enjoyment, he fed all our mental images about the perversity of opulence and power.

Unwarranted, because there was no reason for him, at his age, with his physical condition, to make a hunting trip, and of elephants to boot. No explanation can make such a mountain of imprudent and unnecessary errors comprehensible.

But the key question is: what if he hadn’t fallen during the hunt? Then we still wouldn’t know about this trip because the Royal Family does not give information about the king’s private activities. It’s very debatable that in the 21st century, a trip of this kind can be considered private.

But what’s truly alarming is the discovery that no one tried to stop it. How is it possible that no one saw the physical, aesthetic, and ethical danger of this little adventure? The monarchy does not exist to satisfy the caprices of its members but rather to serve as Chief of State. It must always act in accordance with this high responsibility. Who else knew about this trip? The Prince? Did no one advise the king against this absurdity? What planet are they living on?

The accumulation of errors committed by the monarchy in recent years is proof of an institution that already does not understand its mission in society. It is difficult to serve a community with which you no longer identify, which you know longer comprehend, and to which you no longer pay attention. This insensitivity is the first step of a rupture. It is not that Spanish society is distancing itself from the monarchy; it is the opposite. And when it loses modesty, as it did in the case of this impudent hunt, it can no longer have dignity. Not even rouge can restore that.

US Diplomat: “Spain is Only Good for Flamenco and Wine”

April 16, 2012

US Diplomat: “Spain is Only Good for Flamenco and Wine”
Polemical words from the number two of the OECD, who clarified that he didn’t want to insult anyone
El País: “España solo vale para flamenco y vino”
Miguel González reporting from Madrid April 14, 2012

The American ambassador Richard A. Boucher, Secretary General Adjunct of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), which includes 34 countries, surprised the attendees of a seminar about the Arab Spring this past Wednesday, which was hosted in Marseille by the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO, with an unusual declaration: “No one wants to be like Spain today. Spain is only good for flamenco and red wine.”

The attendees were initially stupefied. Afterward, the only Spanish representative at the forum, Diego López Garrido, a Socialist congressman and ex-Secretary of State to the EU, took the floor to demand that Boucher retract such unjust and irresponsible words. Boucher only answered that it was not his intention to insult anyone; he only wanted to say that no country would want to have the unemployment level that is troubling Spain. Given this response, López Garrido sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel García-Margallo, requesting that the Spain ambassador to the OECD in Paris present a formal complaint about Boucher’s “intolerable words.”

The incident reveals, in any case, the level to which Spain’s international image has deteriorated. Sarkozy is using Spain as a throwing knife against his rival for the Champs Elysses, the Socialist Hollande; Monti attributes the rise of Italy’s risk premium to the Spanish disease. Rajoy’s calls for “prudence” from his European peers do not seem to have made a lick of difference.