Saturday, July 18, 2009

Visiting The Colonies

A high level delegation visited the former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea last week with the aim of improving relationships with the oil-rich African country. Strangely, the Spanish delegation included Spain's oldest and most sacred fascist relic; Manuel Fraga. It turns out that it was Fraga who signed the agreement on Equatorial Guinea's independence from Spain forty years ago on behalf of Franco's dictatorship. Ironically, the newly independent country was born with a far more democratic constitution than that possessed at the time by their colonial masters. Not that it lasted very long and the country is now run by a corrupt and brutal dictatorship. This is not a view supported any more by the Spanish government, in a perfect demonstration of how to combine cynicism with being offensively patronising a senior government official described the regime as a democracy within "African parameters". There is one member of the opposition allowed to sit in the country's parliament, and anyone who attempts more serious opposition ends up in the same notorious prison as Simon Mann but with less comfortable conditions.

We don't know whether Fraga was taken there because he still prefers dictatorship to democracy. In any case they can keep him if they want to. At one of the official events at least everybody got a laugh as president Obiang expressed his special gratitude for the timing of Fraga's visit, given that the latter is "en las últimas". Fraga didn't comment on this, perhaps he was having his after dinner nap. In any case it looks like the delivery of an elderly fascist has not been enough to appease Obiang, who now wants an official visit from Zapatero. The dictator accused the citizens of his country of being lazy as an explanation for the miserable poverty in which most of them have to live, whilst those running the government have pocketed much of the oil wealth. Nobody has any doubt that the purpose behind the Spanish visit is to try and get a slice of that oil business, which has so far gone almost entirely to the US and the French.

Not included in the official delegation was the constructor known as El Pocero, who recently walked away from his "flagship" development of Seseña and announced that he now intended to do business in Equatorial Guinea. Behind him he left unsold properties and unfinished work on the development, not to forget the battery of legal actions he launched against the local politicians who dared to defy him. Presumably the building regulations in Equatorial Guinea are even more relaxed than those in the region around Madrid, although from what I read the other week the Chinese have already got there ahead of El Pocero. Meanwhile Miguel Ángel Moratinos has an even tougher assignment ahead of him next week, on Tuesday he will become the first Spanish foreign minister to visit Gibraltar. It's expected that Fraga won't be joining him on this trip.

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