Friday 20 October 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 20/10/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Hanging in the balance: Pedro Sánchez seeks to cement Spain’s political status

Image: Alamy

Politics / Ed Stocker

Man in the middle

Coalition governments can be messy affairs. Just look at the state of Italy, where the far right and centre right continue to be uneasy bedfellows. But Italy is far from alone in Europe. In Spain, the task of presenting a united coalition has been made much harder as a result of the Israel-Gaza crisis. While socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez tries to walk the perilous pathway of supporting Gaza (Spain upped a humanitarian aid package to the Gaza Strip just three days ago) and ceding to Israel’s right to defend itself, the Podemos party – the government’s far-left junior coalition partner – has been far more vocal about the conflict. Earlier this week, its leader, Ione Belarra, suggested that Benjamin Netanyahu should be brought before the International Criminal Court and claimed that other countries were encouraging Israel in its policy of apartheid. Israel responded by accusing Spain of siding with “Isis-style terrorism”.

A number of factors are making life difficult for Sánchez. The first is that he is only acting out the role of caretaker as Spain attempts to cobble together a new government. The results of July’s general election have led to a deadlock, with the right-wing People’s Party failing to find enough support to form a majority. The chance now passes to the acting prime minister to see if he can return to power; fresh elections are still a real possibility if the impasse cannot be resolved. And while Podemos has been hard to manage, Sánchez has a host of tricky partners that he needs to keep on his side. The prime minister faces a long list of demands from other parties, including shortening the work week (from upstart coalition partners Sumar) to amnesty for Catalan separatists, whose support he needs to form a new government.

Regardless of whether you agree with Belarra’s words – and where your sympathies lie in the Middle East – they are proof of the uphill task facing Spain’s leader as he tries to unite the country. Sánchez will need to dig deep and, potentially, make some concessions that might come back to bite him.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large, based in Milan. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.



Easy does it

The US has temporarily eased sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector (as well as on gas and gold production), following breakthrough talks in which Nicolás Maduro’s socialist government agreed to allow a freer, internationally monitored presidential election next year. The US Treasury Department has issued a new general licence that authorises Venezuela to export oil without limitation to its chosen markets for the next six months. The deal is a significant step towards improving relations between the two countries, which hit a low point in 2018 when Donald Trump’s administration imposed heavy sanctions after Maduro secured a second term in what many international experts called a sham election. It’s also good news for Venezuela’s struggling economy. Now it’s up to Maduro to keep his side of the bargain.

All going swimmingly: a trainer works with a dolphin at the Dolphinarium in Sevastopol

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Russia

Fit for porpoise

Russia’s misbegotten assault on Ukraine appears to have reached the stage at which some morose general, sitting at a conference table in a command bunker somewhere, might be asking himself whether there’s any point in deploying more dolphins. Reports from Crimea suggest that new pens have been established at Novoozerne, northwest of Sevastopol, which would represent a significant escalation of the animal’s presence in the region.

The Russian Navy is known for using dolphins to deter Ukrainian frogmen from its naval facilities in Crimea – and these are merely the latest heirs in a tradition that has previously involved using the animals to defend the country’s naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus and deploying beluga whales to protect its assets in the Arctic. Russia is not alone in this tactic. The US has also been operating a Marine Mammal Programme since 1959 – easily long enough to have heard every imaginable joke about Navy Seals.

‘But round my chair the children run’ by Claudia Wiser at Paris+ par Art Basel

Image: Art Basel

Art / France

Fair trade

With Frieze London done and dusted, denizens of the art world have hopped on the Eurostar to the French capital for the second edition of Paris+ par Art Basel, which opens to the public today. Held at the Grand Palais Éphémère, the fair runs until Sunday and showcases 154 French and international galleries.

Many visitors will also be swinging by Paris Internationale, a separate fair in the Central téléphonique Le Coeur in the Marais that puts the spotlight on the work of the next generation of local artists. Meanwhile, Design Miami has filled the Hôtel de Maisons near the Musée d’Orsay with innovative objects and canny galleries, and Hauser & Wirth gallery has opened a Parisian outpost in the chic 8th arrondissement after years of searching for the perfect location. Paris+ par Art Basel might still have a long way to go before it can truly rival the far larger Swiss original but all of this buzz has established it as a key fixture on the global art calendar.

Beyond the Headlines

Photo of the week / Yemen

Print matters

US-born Yemeni and Egyptian photographer Yumna Al-Arashi’s work, Socotra V, is part of a project that examines life on the island of Socotra in Yemen. Her ongoing photo series documenting the Middle East has earned her international acclaim.

This week, Al-Arashi launched a Prints for Gaza sale that included limited-edition reproductions of her work in Yemen. All proceeds will be donated to charities that provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

The print sale of Socotra V is limited to 10 copies, all hand-signed and numbered by the artist.

Image: Mikkel Mortensen

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs

Løci and Sabegn

Løci co-founder Emmanuel Eribo talks about combining sustainability and style at the vegan trainer brand. Plus: meet Eyerusalem Kidane, the co-founder of Sabegn, an ethical-fashion business based in Ethiopia that specialises in producing premium, upcycled leather goods.


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