Monday, January 26, 2009

Cloak And Dagger, Espionage In Madrid

Did you know that Esperanza Aguirre is an anagram of the words "espia", "guerra" and "Aznar"? Well not quite, I got left with "Azner", but it almost worked. Meanwhile, the espionage scandal that is now almost inevitably being referred to as "Aguirregate" continues to attract attention. This is despite the assurances from the Condesa herself that there is no spying in Madrid - it seems there are just a lot of people from the same political party who spend most of their time watching each other.

It looks more and more as if there are separate instances of spying involved, the surveillance of Manuel Cobo and Alfredo Prada dates from the tense weeks in between the general election in March and the PP conference in June where Mariano Rajoy was confirmed as PP leader. Meanwhile, the reports on Madrid vice-president Ignacio Gonzalez and his mysterious trips to Colombia and South Africa come from later last year and could potentially be from a different source. Today a judge has accepted that there might be signs of some impropriety involved in the case of Gonzalez. The documents published by El País yesterday seem to suggest that the objects of the espionage spend relatively little time at their workplaces and quite a lot of time in various Madrid hotels and restaurants. Nice work if you can get it.

The spying involving Gallardón ally Cobo and Rajoy loyalist Prada took place under a previous security boss, interestingly enough someone who owed his position directly to Aguirre herself rather than any of her multiple minions. This person was replaced earlier this year following revelations about the unauthorised removal of information and a computer from an office used by an associate of Prada - the latter was of course quickly sacked by Aguirre once he was "uncovered" as a Rajoy supporter, but the security manager was just moved sideways to another post.

The responses by representatives of the Comunidad have been notably sparse on detail. At first they attempted to dismiss the allegations by claiming that it was just El País helping the government. However, once the PP announced it's own internal investigation, and after some of those affected had spoken out, this version became more difficult to sustain. Despite repeated loud threats of legal action against El País, no case has yet been presented against the paper, nor has there been any formal denial from the Comunidad concerning the authenticity of the published documents. We don't know who passed the information to El País, but it seems highly possible that the leak came from within the PP itself. So poisonous is the atmosphere in Madrid between Aguirre and Gallardón supporters, and reportedly even between members of Aguirre's administration, that there is every chance we are witnessing an example of what is normally only used to describe those cases where foreigners kill each other on Spanish soil - the ajuste de cuentas.

Aguirre has claimed that the scandal will all end in nothing, which is clearly what she hopes for. It shouldn't, because there is enough information to justify an investigation, but even if the affair is eventually buried it will have had an effect. La Lideresa now has multiple enemies within the PP, a situation almost entirely of her own causing and which probably ensures that she has little chance of ever gaining the leadership of the party. There is renewed chatter about Rodrigo Rato being the man who could emerge to save the party from itself. It could just be the usual political speculation, but the way things are going he is one of the few people who could get widespread support both in the Madrid PP and the rest of the country. Also, with the banking business not passing through the best of moments perhaps he will find time to renew his political interests?


Colin said...

Things could get worse, Graeme. La condesa could be forced to quit politics . . .lutoseot

Colin said...

The 'lutoseot' bit was unintended. Just in case this isn't obvious. But it will reappear in my blog later today! Along with 'panulthi'