Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cycling Across Mallorca

So where were we? Oh yes, the Palma Arena. Mallorca's government decided a few years ago that what the island really needed was an international class indoor cycling arena - a "velódromo" for those as keen as I am to add to their Spanish vocabulary. Originally the Arena was budgeted to cost a little over 40 milllion euros. That seems quite a lot for a cycling arena, but it turns out that the final cost has been more like 110 million. No explanation can be found for the increase and no documentation appears to exist showing where the money went. All of this led to the arrest last week of several prominent members of the Partido Popular in Mallorca. The suspicion is of serious embezzlement coupled with the added possibility of illegal funding of the PP. It is the latest of a whole series of cases in the last few years involving the local administration headed by former Aznar minister Jaume Matas, who had the good sense to head off to the US as soon as he lost power in the last elections.

All sorts of events are held at the Palma Arena. Except cycling competitions. Despite the 70 million euro overspend it seems that the track was built with cheap wood and doesn't come up to international standards. Never mind, there's always the concerts. Those accused of dodgy dealings concerning the velódromo have been busily engaged in another popular Spanish sport known as "echando balones fuera", and they claim the overspend was necessary to correct the original project - designed by the same man who managed to provide Beijing with a perfectly usable Olympic cycling arena. The arrests more or less coincided with the miraculous saving of the honourable Mr Camps and the subsequent announcement that the prosecutors would appeal that decision.

This rollercoaster of events has sent the PP into hysterical overdrive with the accusation that the government is orchestrating a vicious campaign against the party. Much has been made by the PP of their members being taken before the judge in handcuffs. Here they are being treated as if they were criminals when all they are in reality is, er, suspected criminals. There are people who have been treated much worse for stealing a loaf of bread, but then they don't hold party membership cards. It has taken Mariano Rajoy with his keen sense of historical significance to introduce the Spanish Inquisition into the story. Rajoy, like other members of the PP leadership, has been issuing his declarations from his August holiday destination. Presumably the Inquisition have brought out that most lethal of all weapons, the comfy deckchair!

Leading the charge from the PP chiringuito has been the inevitable Federico Trillo, who claims to have definitive proof of illegal espionage against his party. Trillo's case is not standing up well to examination. His evidence consists of an alleged tape of a police officer informing Camps of the transfer of the case against him to the Valencia courts. The tape, if it really exists, is hardly evidence of espionage. Trillo also claims that a report accusing him of telephoning one of the judges involved in the Camps case is further proof of the spying. It is claimed that he was in fact talking to a PP lawyer with the same surname as the judge. Something doesn't fit here, if he was really being spied upon then presumably the original report would have got its facts right.

If anyone didn't understand at the time why Aznar's last government was so keen to disable the anti corruption prosecutors they had hailed when in opposition, there can be little doubt about it now. The roots of much of what is emerging lie in the "we are the masters now" arrogance of that government. Trillo and other PP leaders are seeking to create a political climate which pardons corruption, based on the sad fact that their supporters seem willing to continue voting for them regardless, and this odd insistence that for every PP member accused of corruption at least one prominent member of the PSOE should resign. This has to be the most comfortable group of "persecuted" people outside of the international banking system. Whether the profits of their work lie inside or outside of that same system has yet to be established. The investigation continues.

No comments: