Thursday, June 19, 2008

From Marbella To Estepona

The Andalucian town of Estepona is the latest location where a major municipal corruption scandal seems to be emerging; the mayor of the town is amongst those arrested. The roots of the problems in Estepona probably begin with Marbella, and it’s not just a question of geographical proximity. Marbella’s slide into becoming Spain’s municipal corruption capital began with the reign as mayor of Jesus Gil; also well known for being the owner of Atletico Madrid. Gil presided over much of the ransacking of Marbella’s coffers and the massive illegal construction that has taken place there. Somehow, despite the fact that everyone seemed to know what was going on, he avoided prosecution for most of what he did and died a free man. Estepona was for a while run by his party and the mayor was his son, until the whole operation started to come unstuck.

The seed that Gil planted seems to have affected those who came after him in both Marbella and Estepona, and it is his successors in both towns who are now facing charges. Those who were previously in opposition to him have continued the culture of corruption. The PSOE have moved rapidly to expel their mayor in Estepona from the party, but this is really something they do just to mark a bit of difference from the PP who are reluctant to take measures against their members in similar situations. Both parties tolerate municipal corruption, and the lack of seriousness in fighting it is illustrated by the latest case. A law passed last year should oblige all elected members in local government to do a declaration of their assets, a welcome measure encouraging a bit of transparency. However, no one is obeying this law because it depends on the existence of a municipal statute. Unfortunately the law creating the legal basis for this municipal statute is a separate one and it fell by the wayside in the last legislature. So until that situation is rectified the only declarations made will be voluntary ones, and those who use municipal power as a means of personal enrichment continue to keep the spirit of Jesus Gil alive.

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