Sunday, April 26, 2009

Whispered Sweet Nothings Amidst The Orange Groves

"Amiguito del alma", "sobre todo para decirte que te quiero un huevo", "Oye… que te sigo queriendo mucho", "quiero que nos veamos con tranquilidad para hablar de lo nuestro… que es muy bonito".

Just a small selection from the leaked telephone conversations that the police recorded between Valencian president Francisco Camps and Álvaro "El Bigotes" Pérez. The latter is one of the principal accused in Operación Gürtel and his company Orange Market is said to have done very nicely out of the contracts awarded by the Valencian Partido Popular. The transcript of these conversations has provoked a mixture of incredulity and hilarity. Camps had been pretending that there was no closeness between him and the people involved in the corruption scandal, but the conversations show how close to the inner circle Pérez had got.

Even though the case against Camps still consists only of him having received gifts of expensive suits, not a serious offence compared to the rest of the scandal, he is still being placed in a difficult situation by it. It's his own fault, he has produced no explanation or evidence concerning the payment for the suits in question and seems determined to bluff his way through with the hope of the case being heard by a sympathetic court. In addition he has enjoyed vocal support from PP leader Mariano Rajoy who has led with the odd defence that no serious regional president would ever sell himself for such a low price! Apart from telling us something about Rajoy's ethical baseline, this argument fails to convince; unless there is somewhere a published price list for what is needed to corrupt each level of the administration.

Camps future seemed quite bright a year ago, as he helped to maintain Rajoy in his position, thus giving himself time to improve his own chances of reaching the top. Now things are not so clear. He originally got his position in Valencia as the anointed successor of Eduardo Zaplana who believed he was going to Madrid with the Valencian PP still under his control. Camps betrayed Zaplana - couldn't happen to a nicer person - to take control of the regional PP himself. He achieved his aim but probably created enough enemies in the process to complicate life when little difficulties such as Gürtel start to erode his authority.

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