But the chickens are coming home to roost. In the past month alone, 127 potential chorizos have come under investigation, 38 have been locked up and 37 have resigned from their posts. A staggering 75% of cabinet ministers from José María Aznar's last PP government (2000-2004) are currently either in prison or under investigation.
The latest scandal to hit the country was Operación Púnica, an investigation into bribes for contracts. Last Monday saw 51 arrests in a sweep across Madrid, Murcia, Valencia and León last Monday. Four have been held on remand, including two mayors. Millions of euros were found hidden in Swiss bank accounts.
Earlier in October we learned about the secret credit cards used by senior staff in Caja Madrid, one of the Madrid banks bailed out by the government. Over 15 million euros were spent on clothes, restaurant meals etc; this perk came on top of their official expenses, for which they had a different card, and which were disclosed to the tax office. One of them, former deputy prime minister Rodrigo Rato, has paid bail of €3 million and has been suspended from the PP membership. His colleague, ex-bank president Miguel Blesa, couldn't raise his €16m bail and remains incarcerated.
|Miguel Blesa and Rodrigo Rato in happier days- not smiling now.|
The investigations into the hidden accounts of undeclared donations to the Partido Popular, revealed by former party treasurer Luis Bárcenas, roll on. Last week it was revealed that work on their Madrid headquarters was paid for with "black money". The former PP general secretary Angel Acebes was called to testify in the High Court but stubbornly denied all knowledge of the party slush fund, despite the mountains of evidence. Current President Mariano Rajoy, who also denies all knowledge, was obliged to offer a public apology:
“I apologize in the name of the PP to all Spaniards for having given positions of responsibility to individuals who were not fit for it,” he said in the Senate, echoing earlier statements made by senior party official Esperanza Aguirre, the first member of the party to issue an apology.
Closer to home, former PSOE mayor of Jerez de la Frontera Pedro Pacheco has been jailed for five years for misuse of public funds. In Andalucia, judge Mercedes Alaya continues to gather evidence that money
destined for redundancy payments and training courses for the unemployed right across the region found their way into the wrong hands.
|Judge Mercedes Alaya with her |
suitcase full of evidence
There are many more similar cases. Every time you turn on the news, some new scandal has broken. It's a healthy sign though; Spain can't move forward until all this poison has been exposed and expelled. Meanwhile, some joker has speculated that with so many honoured guests expected, our prisons might be due for a makeover: