By Andrew Ede
The endemic nature of corruption
Well, here’s a surprise. A Partido Popular politician has admitted that corruption is “an endemic problem”, this politician being Palma’s mayor Mateo Isern. He wasn’t, however, referring to his party, but to the local police. Isern’s statement and his actions in having immediately suspended without pay certain officers facing corruption allegations contrast greatly with the equivocation in Calvia when there were arrests of officers there, though to be fair the allegations that relate to Playa de Palma do appear to be greater and involve more police than was the case in Magalluf. But for Isern to say that there is endemic corruption is quite an admission, one which, while it may be thought welcome, does makes one wonder how officers who are not corrupt might feel about such blanket an assertion.
As Isern will not be standing again as mayor, he may feel he can make such sweeping statements; he has nothing to lose by doing so, other perhaps than his reputation. But he has moved to salvage any potential damage to this by apologising for not having been able to detect these cases and by setting up an internal unit that will investigate “irregularities” and bequeath to his successor an “unpolluted police”. One hopes that this is what emerges, but his observation that he (and so therefore others in the town hall) has been unable to do any detection leads one to ask why. Accusations of local police corruption in Playa de Palma, and in Magalluf, have been made over the years; not necessarily formally but certainly anecdotally. No smoke without fire and all that, some accusations will undoubtedly have been wild ones, but as there has at least been a sense that not everything was right, then some town-hall detective work had surely been called for. Endemic corruption, if this is indeed so, does not suddenly emerge. For it to be endemic, it has to have existed over a substantial period of time and to have become ingrained. It has taken the investigations of the National Police and the Guardia Civil to have finally exposed this endemism, but the very nature of such a culture should have been apparent to the town hall long before. Why was it not able?
From Madrid to Lloseta
It has been one of those weeks - when isn’t it, you might ask - during which corruption or allegations of it have dominated. The cast list of those who get dragged in was added to with the stellar name of Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid. He is also, and more importantly, president of the construction giant ACS. He was beamed in via videoconference to the parliamentary commission investigation of supposed irregularities surrounding the building of Son Espases hospital. “I know nothing about anything,“ he declared, convinced that he was only being questioned because he was famous and because his name is Florentino Pérez. What about the suggestion of a commission of ten million euros to be paid to former Balearics president, Jaume Matas, socialist members of parliament wanted to know. “Absolutely false.” Angered, he demanded that the question be withdrawn.
At a very much lower end of the food chain of the powerful, the mayor of Lloseta, Bernat Coll, was facing prosecutor demands that he be sent to prison for 35 months. Along with three other councillors, Coll was in the dock facing charges of abuse of office in respect of the irregular granting of building licences (where have we heard these charges before?). The mayor told the court that “sometimes decisions have to be made which are not set in law”, which was an admission that was about as startling as Isern’s: startling but hardly surprising. A line of argument in the mayor’s defence is that the affair is all the result of administrative cock-ups rather than corruption.
Rather more dramatically, a view has been expressed that Bernat Coll could be made a martyr, seemingly because - so it is said in certain quarters - the case has been politically driven by the Partido Popular; Coll is a member of PSOE.
Night and day the Mariano way
Returning to the higher echelons of power and corruption or not corruption, prime minister Rajoy, bringing to a close last weekend’s PP national convention in Madrid, said that corruption should not be allowed to “hide the change” which had occurred. “As night follows day,“ he waxed in a lyrical fashion not normally associated with him, there had been this change and so corruption should not be allowed to obscure what has happened in Spain over the past three years - “the shift towards prosperity”. Spain has been “reborn”, he added, which was perhaps a rather better way of describing the change than the day-to-night one, as this does imply predictability as opposed to change. And with suitable predictability, Mariano was saying - the very next day following the previous night - that he “did not receive black money” and “knew nothing about the B accounts”, the ledgers that former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas had kept. Bárcenas, out of jail, had popped up on the telly and claimed that Mariano knew about the B accounts all along. Bárcenas had stirred things up by having told the same parliamentary commission with which Florentino Pérez got so annoyed that the building of the headquarters of the Balearics Partido Popular had benefited from donations from businesspeople. President Bauzá, who had already said that he wouldn’t appear before parliament to explain these allegations because he wasn’t involved with the PP hierarchy at the time, nevertheless felt it necessary to hold a press conference at which he reiterated this point. There is a mortgage for the HQ which the party has to pay, and apart from this, he knew nothing about any other payments. There are occasions when the hounding of politicians can appear to go too far, and this is one of them. Bauzá’s position seems perfectly reasonable. Why would he know about alleged payments that would have been made six or seven years before he became president of the PP?
Syriza and Podemos
Indirectly related to corruption, the Podemos question was one which was naturally exercising political minds last week following Syriza’s election win in Greece. The PP’s spokesperson at the European Parliament, Esteban González Pons, demanded that Syriza return the 26,000 million euros that Spain had contributed to the Greek bailout and then went on to suggest that not only Podemos but also PSOE wanted to be Syriza. All other parties on or leaning towards the left, he implied, were communists and radicals. The PP are not, he confirmed, as though confirmation of their not being communists were in fact needed. Meanwhile, emboldened by Syriza’s win, Podemos types in the Balearics were buoyed by the change which has given “hope to the peoples of southern Europe”. Unfortunately for Podemos on the islands, the Palma wing was demonstrating that Podemos is not immune to power struggles; one of its steering committee resigned.