Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Gürtel Case Casts A Long Shadow

One of my unfinished posts before going on holiday was going to argue that the impact of the Gürtel corruption case was only just beginning to be felt. The main reason was not so much the continuing revelations in the press about the activities of Francisco Correa and company, it was more because the case was still under the "secreto del sumario", which keeps the investigation confidential until the prosecution case is established. While I was away that protection was partially lifted and those who liked to believe that the whole case was just an anti Partido Popular operation invented by Baltasar Garzón now have 17,000 pages of evidence to read involving criminal accusations against over 70 people. That should keep them going until the other two thirds of the case is also revealed. It is said that the main reason for the continuing secrecy is that investigators are following the international trail of the Gürtel millions.

Meanwhile the main action in the last month has been in Valencia. A police report claiming that the Valencian PP was using illegal funding from companies that received contracts from the regional government ended up causing far more damage than the case of Mr Camps and his very fine suits. After a protracted tussle, the national PP leadership eventually managed to force the resignation of Valencian PP general secretary Ricardo Costa. The nature of that battle tells us much about Mariano Rajoy's "leadership" of his party. Ever since being reelected as leader of the PP, Rajoy has spent much of his time in Valencia as regional president Francisco Camps had effectively become his main prop within the party. For Rajoy to make the Valencian party bend to his will in the case of Costa was never going to be easy and at one point it looked quite possible that he would fail. In any case, the temporary "resignation" of Costa appears to be a fiction; although not appearing publicly in the name of the PP it seems that he is still working from his office in the party headquarters.

Camps himself is seriously damaged by the affair, and there has been plenty of speculation about him being finished politically - some of it coming from within the PP itself. The arrogance shown by the Valencian PP in shrugging off evidence of corrupt behaviour doesn't just come from Rajoy depending on their support. The clear unwillingness of the Valencian courts to deal with any evidence against Camps and his allies must be very reassuring, as is the evidence of opinion polls that most PP voters in the region couldn't care less about the corruption of their representatives. The Valencian judges put on a magnificent display of judicial cynicism over the police report, which they had received from Madrid. We'll deal with that after the case of the suits, they said. Then, having shelved the case against Camps over his presents from the Gürtel ring, they used the fact that there was no case open any more as an excuse for not dealing with the police report! Such loyalty will surely bring rewards.

Back with the main prosecution case, we have learnt from the published evidence in a case already overrun with nicknames that Correa liked to be called "Don Vito". Clearly this was a man who did his utmost to avoid attracting any suspicion within the PP about his activities. Correa's own declarations also reveal that the advancement of his influence in the PP was much helped by Madrid's deputy mayor Ana Botella taking a shine to Álvaro "El Bigotes" Pérez. She likes men with moustaches, and the presence of both Correa and Pérez at the wedding of Aznar and Botella's daughter is the simple answer to those who would pretend that these people were marginal figures in the PP. Right on cue we get the announcement this week that Aznar - stop giggling at the back, this is serious - is going to deliver a series of classes on ethics and politics at a Catholic university in Murcia. I swear on a copy of today's Marca that I'm not making this up. Despite all of this the PP still seeks to present itself as a helpless victim of Correa and friends on the one hand ("los chorizos"), and the implacable persecution orchestrated by a shady organisation known as "el gobierno" on the other. If it doesn't bring a tear to your eye then you have no heart.

Saving the best for last, let's turn to Madrid and our revered regional president. Fans of Esperanza Aguirre, and she has some, have praised her for a quick witted reaction to the lifting of the secreto del sumario. She immediately expelled the three members of her group in the regional parliament who are facing criminal accusations, and her behaviour has been contrasted with that of the slow response by Rajoy and the Valencians. What is far more interesting is what the Gürtel sumario tells us about the way Aguirre's government works. She likes to present herself as showing the way when it comes to austerity and lean government, but almost all of the numerous and expensive contracts awarded by Espe's administration to the Gürtel companies concerned the organisation of events designed to promote the image of Aguirre herself.

Some examples. Espe visits an industrial estate in Getafe? Ka ching! That will be over €30,000 into the Gürtel coffers. La Lideresa inaugurates a school, an event you might have thought would cost little more than the price of her Metro ticket. Ka ching! More thousands of euros for Gürtel. Nothing is sacred here, how about a homage to the emergency workers that dealt with the aftermath of the Madrid bombings? Ka ching ka ching! Those who do not understand the dynamic of the liberalisation of public services may fail to comprehend why Madrid had to repeatedly pay the Gürtel companies to hire the same four plasma screens, or the red carpet tiles, or some of the most expensive flowers ever bought. As true economic liberals, Madrid's rulers handed the companies concerned over 300 contracts, broken into smaller ones where necessary to avoid any need to put the contract out to tender. We wouldn't want the chill winds of competition to spoil such a nice little earner. Despite this and the fact that she has had months to examine all the contracts, Aguirre would like us to believe she didn't know what was happening.


Rod said...

Looks like a good blog. Want to link to - my website re my novel about corruption, money laundering and murder in southern Spain? Have written several articles re corruption in Spain (as well as Spanish culture/character and banking system!)

Graeme said...

I'll let the self promotion go Rod, although I think its good practice to ask first before doing the advertising.

Rod said...

Hi Graeme,
Actually wasn't meant to be self promotion - I was suggesting a link between our sites - I have written a few articles about corruption in Spain (and pother matters spanish) which have been published both online and in local media. Its an important topic down here - not just for a novel. See: and
As I don;t have an email address for yo it was the only way to "reach" you. Sorry if it caused offence and delete my entries if you wish.