Payments ‘off the books,’ are probably best to be kept out of your ledger, Sr. Barcenas
The Bard had a point when he said that names can be deceiving. Especially so, apparently, when it comes to Spain’s political parties. The Partido Popular translates literally as the People’s Party, and for an English speaker, the connotation of the Popular Party is unavoidable. Either translation would appear to be wildly inaccurate at the moment. Spain’s ruling PP has been the subject of intense media scrutiny these past few weeks.
The furore stems from the publication in El País of ledgers allegedly scribed by Luis Barcenas, former Treasurer of the party. These revealed a number of payments to leading members of the party over several years, including the current Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy. The payments, it is alleged, were funded by illegal party financing made by construction tycoons, in a ‘kickback for contracts’ type scenario. It should be noted that the PP are adamant the ledgers are false.
This might sound like it comes out of a Sopranos script, and certainly makes fiddling your expenses for the odd duck house seem trivial. Even more so when you hear that Barcenas is claimed to have a Swiss bank account with some €22m in it. With Spanish unemployment at over 25%, headlines such as, ‘Why is Spain so corrupt?’ and rumblings that this is ‘Rajoy’s Watergate,’ it’s no surprise that the emotions of the party, the press, and the people are running high.
The PP’s popularity, of course, is not. Recently they polled at around half the support levels they had when they gained office. It’s one thing to bear the brunt of austerity when the situation can be blamed on the elusive ‘global financial crisis,’ quite another when you hear that the leaders imposing the austerity are sitting on bank accounts laden with kickbacks.
Like Britain, Spain can usually turn from political antagonisms and take comfort in the largely popular royal family. Now even this is denied them, as Iñaki Urdangarín, former Olympic handball player and husband of the Infanta Cristina, is accused of embezzling public funds, fraud and corruption. His bail was set at over €8m.
Whatever the truth of ledgers and backhanders, (and chances are it will be a long time before we ever find out the truth), none of this helps Spain on its road to economic recovery. We can only hope that resolution is swift, and Spain can move towards a brighter political and economic outlook. Failing that, perhaps Pedro Almodovar will make a good film about the corruption scandal.