Nationalism’s uncomfortable memories

Ben Sills
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Nationalism’s uncomfortable memories

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Nationalism stirs uncomfortable memories in Spain.

Since dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, the conservative People’s Party managed to keep hardliners under its broad umbrella. Franco’s old party, the Falange, was reduced to a curiosity.

But the resentment coursing through Western society is stirring up passions in Spain just as it has in the U.S., the U.K., and elsewhere in Europe. There’s a familiar feeling that many have been left behind even as the economy recovered from the financial crisis, with the suspicion that immigrants are competing for jobs and benefits.

There’s also a unique element: A rival nationalism in Catalonia, where efforts to break away from Spain in 2017 provoked a furious backlash that opened the door to Vox.

The new party is promising to roll back the powers that Catalan separatists exploited to undermine the Spanish state — returning the country to the centralized power structures of the Franco era.

Vox is on track in Sunday's election to wins seats in parliament for the first time, and while it’ll likely be the smallest group in the assembly, Rodrigo Orihuela and Jeannette Neumann report it is already having an outsized influence that's helped keep Catalonia at the center of the election debate.

Global Headlines

Penalty fees | The Trump administration is fighting House Democrats’ investigative inquiries at every turn, and some Democrats want to make them pay — literally. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has suggested fining officials personally if they deny or ignore subpoenas, Joe Light reports. Nadler even mentioned jailing members of the administration for contempt of Congress, though he surmised such a plan might be unrealistic. 

Click here for more on how one of Donald Trump’s closest confidants and staunchest cable news defenders has turned into a key witness for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, laying out a case for how the president may have obstructed justice. 

​​​​​​Not-so-subtle rebuke | Congress is leveraging a $2 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia to censure the U.S. ally for alleged human rights abuses and to admonish the White House for its unconditional embrace of the kingdom. The Raytheon sale of precision-guided missile kits has been blocked for more than a year now — far longer than the normal congressional review period — amid tensions over the killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the civilian impact of Riyadh’s military campaign in Yemen.

China connections | Chia Ek Chor fled his village in southern China for Thailand in 1921. Now boasting Thailand's largest family fortune, his descendants are becoming President Xi Jinping’s key economic allies. Chia’s son Dhanin Chearavanont is senior chairman of a vast conglomerate at the center of a plan to turn Thailand’s eastern seaboard into a tech hub — the flagship program of the military regime. But a contested March 24 election means the projects look set to come under greater scrutiny.

Bear hug | Kremlin officials are weighing a possible Russian takeover of neighboring Belarus as a way to allow President Vladimir Putin to evade constitutional term limits and stay in power beyond 2024 as head of a new unified state. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is under increasing pressure to accept deeper integration in return for continued Russian subsidies worth nearly $6 billion a year, Henry Meyer, Aliaksandr Kudritski and Ilya Arkhipov report.

Militia threat | As Brazil struggles to fight corruption and violence poisoning its politics and society, Rio de Janeiro faces an increasingly alarming threat from militias, drawn mainly from the police, running protection rackets across huge swathes of the city. Bruce Douglas and Sabrina Valle report from a former oil boomtown on the outskirts of Rio, controlled for the past year by a ruthless paramilitary group.

What to Watch

U.S. negotiators led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will return to China next week, the White House said, as both sides work to complete a draft agreement to end their yearlong trade war by next month. Kim Jong Un rumbled into the Russia aboard his usual armored train ahead of his first summit with Putin tomorrow in Vladivostok. The North Korean leader is seeking to show he has alternative support after nuclear talks with Trump broke down. A Hong Kong court sentenced Occupy protest organizer Benny Tai to 16 months in prison on charges he conspired to commit public nuisance, capping the China-backed government’s push to punish leaders of 2014’s mass pro-democracy demonstrations. The terrorist attack in Sri Lanka that’s claimed at least 359 lives has opened the way for the return of the Rajapaksa clan — including Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the former president’s brother — who are looking to take back power in elections later this year.

And finally ... The Ghost of March Madnesses Past is coming back to haunt Stephen Moore this April. Trump's Federal Reserve pick is mired in a growing controversy over comments he made in a series of columns between 2000 and 2003 saying women shouldn’t be allowed to referee or announce men’s college basketball games, calling the former “an obscenity.” It could be the final straw for Moore’s candidacy, which was already endangered by reports he’d failed to pay taxes and alimony. If so, it would mark the second Trump central bank nomination to be scrapped over an issue involving women.


--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter and Caroline Alexander.

To contact the author of this story: Ben Sills in Madrid at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at

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