Friday, July 10, 2009

The Camps Line Of Defence

The decision this week by an investigating judge to proceed with the case against Valencian president Francisco Camps is being seen as a severe setback for one of the Partido Popular's most successful politicians. The judge has decided that there is significant evidence that Camps accepted the gift of expensive clothing from one of the ringleaders involved in the Gürtel case. There was a widespread belief within the PP that the case against Camps would never get to trial, and the accused has been quick to present an appeal against the judge's decision.

One thing the judge makes clear is that the size of the bribe is not the issue, knocking back the idea pushed by the PP leadership that no serious politician would ever sell himself for such a low price. What many inside and outside the party are asking now is why Camps didn't just admit to being given a couple of suits by his amiguito del alma Alvaro and say so what? Instead he continues to insist that he paid personally for the suits, in cash because he doesn't use credit cards. One of the local papers in the region did little to help this alibi the other day when they reported that Camps was busy on official duties in Valencia on the days when his defence claims that he was in Madrid paying his clothes bill. That's one local newspaper likely to see a sharp reduction in their income from the regional government. Much of his own party doesn't seem to believe him either as they search desperately for reasons to justify his acceptance of the gift.

Television viewers who depend for their news on the regional channel controlled by the Camps administration are unlikely even to be aware that the beloved leader is going to court. Valencia has applied a model of news management similar to that of Madrid under Esperanza Aguirre and Canal 9 apparently didn't even mention that Camps has been formally accused. This is even less surprising when you consider that the political appointee in charge of the channel also seems to have been a good friend of Alvaro "El Bigotes". It looks like the legal defence for Camps will now be an attempt at character assassination of the tailor involved in the preparation of the famous suits. I saw a report in El Mundo suggesting that they are going to try and claim that this man pocketed the money paid by Camps, and that this is why there is no evidence of the payment having being made.

Even in the worst of all possible cases Camps is not going to end up breaking rocks in the hot Valencian sun, you don't go to prison for accepting bribes in Spain if it's your first offence. The problem he faces is that his version of events is not supported by any evidence, and the suspicion that he has lied about the issue could end up being far more damaging to his political prospects than the verdict of the court. Meanwhile, I'm thinking of offering my own "Gürtel" series of expressions and associated hand gestures to The Guardian for their Spanish language phrasebook. The first one would be "poner la mano en el fuego", a phrase that appears to be going rapidly out of fashion in the case of Camps and which would be illustrated with a drawing of someone frantically blowing on the fingers of their hand. Number two in the series would be the characteristic outstretched palm behind the back, ready to receive envelopes full of crisp €500 notes. A variety of expressions could be associated with this gesture, but it usually follows "Que hay de lo mio?".

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