By Andrew Ede
The strength of Luis Bárcenas
The Spanish media loves nothing more than a politician or some other member of the prominenti going into or coming out of prison. Because both of these happen so frequently, there might by now be getting-banged-up and not-getting-banged-up fatigue and forgetfulness. Is Jaume Matas still in prison or isn’t he? In, out, in or maybe not, we’ve lost all trace of his whereabouts. But there is no fatigue when the newly liberated is ex-Partido Popular treasurer Luis Bárcenas. What a couple of days he had last week. It is reassuring to have learned that the Spanish prison system does not deny inmates the luxury of a well-tailored suit, a silk tie and a neat white handkerchief tucked into a breast pocket, but then Luis had his audience to impress: the Balearic parliamentary commission considering alleged irregularities and abuses of privileged information regarding Son Espases. There was some formidable video kit on hand to enable Luis to tell nervous commissioners (those from the PP) that the local PP HQ had been built with donations from businesspeople and that he had handed over some eight grand to Matas to help the former Balearics president set himself up in Madrid after losing the election in 2007; some eight grand which had come from the so-called B accounts.
Perhaps more than anything, it is the mystery which surrounds these B accounts that intrigues everyone the most. We are nowhere nearer knowing the truth about what PP leaders insist was some form of elaborate hoax by Bárcenas, but the fact that they imply payments to the likes of Mariano Rajoy is the huge sword hovering over PP heads, ready at any moment to deliver a killing blow, if, that is, the accounts were to be discovered to have been authentic.
Following his star role appearance by video link, Luis found that he was to be a free man, 200 grand having been stumped up for his release on bail. Hence, the media massed and Luis emerged, sporting some high-quality knitwear. “Luis has been really strong,“ he said with a touch of irony; Rajoy had once sent him a text message telling him to remain strong. The PP has nothing to fear, he also said, but added, perhaps ominously, “at the moment”. While he believed that the PP was the right party to continue governing Spain, there are still several months before the election; plenty of time maybe for fear to arise. At the same time as he was preparing to leave the Soto del Real prison, Luis would have been hearing that the state attorney was requesting that he should go back to prison - for 60 years (and eight months); if he is found guilty of charges in respect of the long-dragged-out “caso Gürtel”, the biggest corruption scandal of the lot.
Knowing this might be the case, what does Luis have to lose? Freed from prison, we can reach for metaphors of the small arms and artillery variety: Luis, the loose cannon, firing from the hip, going down with all guns blazing. Rajoy, on balance, would probably prefer that he was still locked up.
Blowing up the president
Luis’s revelation that PP HQ in Palma benefited from the largesse of businesspeople was supported by former Palma town hall urban planning councillor Javier Rodrigo de Santos. (Remember him? Misuse of town hall credit cards and dalliances with rent boys.) Armed with this double claim, opposition parties demanded that the video of Barcenas’s accusation be sent immediately to the anti-corruption prosecutors and that President Bauzá should come before parliament and explain all. The PP was having none of the latter. The HQ business was from a time when José Ramón held no responsibilities within the party, other than being mayor of Marratxi. Which seemed a reasonable enough response. Far less reasonable was a tweet directed at the president which expressed the hope that a bomb would be placed in his party and that everyone would be killed. There was also an insult - “you effing bastard”.
Never underestimate the stupidity of people who use social media and who should be aware that there might be a knock on the door if threats of blowing the president up are made. And there was a knock on the door. The Twitter user duly detained, the president had other matters on his mind, such as getting the troops mobilised ahead of the election. Right-hand man and vice-presidential enforcer, “Nipper” Gómez, has been set the task of co-ordinating a campaign for re-election that is already littered with pitfalls, these including the major towns of Majorca where PP victories are anything but guaranteed. Meanwhile, the apparent disaffection of PP mayors was being demonstrated at the ceremony for the Palma City Prizes. Most of the mayors pitched up for the event and they gave Mateo Isern a resounding ovation and didn’t give Bauzá one. If further evidence was in fact needed of support for the soon-to-be-no-more mayor of Palma, then this was it.
Still, the president could take solace in being able to hotfoot it to Madrid this weekend for a national party convention under the title of “Together for a great country”. There he will have been assured of a show of togetherness. Except by those who like Isern or by those who have not taken kindly to the anti-oil prospecting stance.
Ban and no ban
Poor old Calvia council, there it is wanting to clean up Magalluf and it finds that it has no power to ban bar crawls. Which seems a pretty peculiar state of affairs, but not when experts at the town hall can unearth some detail which suggests that a ban should be wrapped up as part of the Balearics tourism law and that it is something for the regional government to act on. As tourism minister Martínez appears not to want to assume this responsibility - an even more peculiar state of affairs given that in December he had announced a ban as part of a package of measures - a solution that the council is minded to adopt is to so limit the numbers who can take part in a bar crawl and so up the insurance liability that the bar crawls become no longer feasible.
Bar crawls aside, the ban that the council can enforce, that of drinking alcohol in the streets, has to be not only questionable in terms of its policing but also concerning. Reasonable the measure may be, but already lagered-up lads on tour are rarely reasonable, even when confronted by plod. And then there are, as the Esquerra Unida party has pointed out, the “vested interests” who are involved. Well now, whoever would have thought that there were those with vested interests in Magalluf?