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Spain

Power and money equals corruption

By Cándido Marquesán Millán

Numerous cases of political corruption are being uncovered in our country in recent times, degrading beyond the reasonable and tolerable the confidence of citizens in the institutions. News reports now have a special section on “corruption”. Any citizen concerned about the present and future of his country must inevitably feel a mixture of weariness, disgust and stench. The political class, on the other hand, is not in the least bit bothered. Nor are broad sectors of Spanish society, it appears from some recent election results. I have the impression sometimes that political parties find it beneficial to take put the corrupt  on their electoral lists. Today, many Spanish vote while holding their noses. Yet we need a responsible citizenry, impregnated with clear and authentic ethical values, one that forcefully rejects all corruption. It’s clear that this won’t be easy. Moral scruples seem to be of the past.

Talking of which… In 1935, a web of corruption and bribes, a scandal in which there was an attempt to introduce a fraudulent roulette wheel in a casino in San Sebastian, ended  the political life of Alejandro Lerroux, the old leader of the Radical Party, who led the Government at that time. The radical ministers were forced to resign, and many provincial and local party leaders stepped down too. In the February 1936 elections, the Radical Party, which was ruling from September 1933 until late 1935, plunged in the elections. It was reduced to four members, ninety-nine fewer than in 1933. Alejandro Lerroux was not even elected. And that at a time when about half of the Spanish were illiterate. They had educational disadvantage, but their ethical principles were clear. Instead, with the Spanish of today the opposite happens.

The scourge of corruption is directly related to power and money, as they often occur together, and are inseparable travel companions. Political power has resided in Madrid for centuries since it acquired the status of administrative capital (since 1561) and then political capital (since 1714). In Madrid you find the Moncloa Palace, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Council of the Judiciary, the Constitutional Court, Ministries of Health, Finance, Agriculture, etc. Madrid is where major policy decisions affecting the entire country are taken. And in a few decades it has also become the economic capital of Spain; in 2009 Madrid hosted the headquarters of seven out of 10 of the top Spanish multinationals: Banco Santander, Telefónica, BBVA, Iberdrola, Endesa , Repsol and Iberdrola Renovables.

In turn this has attracted foreign investment; high value-added sectors such as audiovisual, high technology and knowledge industries have developed. Here you find the major cultural institutions of the Prado Museum, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia National Library. The most powerful and influential media such as state broadcaster TVE and the other major radio and television networks, the largest national daily newspapers, such as El País, El Mundo, ABC, and sports titles Marca and AS. For these reasons, today in Madrid a political-financial-media-beaurocratic elite have secured hegemony over the peninsula, and from the centre is questioning Spain’s administrative decentralization, trying to recentralize and standardize the Spanish state. It has now become fashionable to talk of Spain breaking up.

The Madrid elite is perfectly united and interconnected – and at the same time inaccessible to other sectors of society. It shares the same interests and tries not only to maintain them but to deepen them. Certain politicians are on the boards of big companies, big banks, big real estate firms, paid for services rendered, often gaining these posts through corrupt means. Conversely the world of big business is getting into politics. It’s called the revolving door effect. Former Minister Angel Acebes is on the Board of Directors of Iberdrola. José María Aznar is an Endesa advisor. Conversely, minister Luis de Guindos is from the financial world.

This elite has strong social, cultural and lifestyle connections. It lives in the most luxurious neighbourhoods, from which children travel to the same private schools, mostly religious, separated from the immigrant population. Later they continue their studies at private universities where they also form relationships that will facilitate future prominent positions in the fields of politics, economics or culture. When ill, they go private. They have fun in the same places. Shop at the same stores. Take summer holidays in the same locations.

Obviously in this world there is more money, power, and as a corollary, corruption than in the rest of the country. There are many economic interests at stake, and if not achieved legally, illegal processes will be resorted to, hence the constant presence of corruption. Some examples to illustrate… The most important cases of political corruption have occurred in Madrid. One of them, really exceptional and spectacular, changed the results of regional elections, with the bribing of two Socialist deputies, Tamayo and Sáez, paving the way to power of Esperanza Aguirre. How many urban interests lie behind this! But this elite worked conscientiously. The media heaped the blame on the Socialists for having sold out. But it is a truism that if someone sells it is because someone has bought them.  The court system passed a veil over the matter. And that was that.

And what can we say of the Gürtel case, the most monumental corruption scandal in the history of our young democracy, in which numerous implicated Popular Party mayors, councillors, MPs and others in the Madrid region had to resign. It seems common sense that the leader of the Popular Party in this region might have responsibilities in this. Well, no. The above mentioned elite has been working hard. If the media were unable to hide the story, given the magnitude of the scandal, they did succeed in ensuring that again, [Madrid Popular Party chief] Doña Esperanza came out of it unscathed. And the judiciary expelled from its ranks  judge Baltasar Garzon for his impeccable work in his investigation into the story. Impressive, yet again.

And as I write these lines, I see the news of undeclared payments to members of Popular Pary leadership. That they enrich themselves so, when there are so many cuts, is an insult to citizens. And worse, PP secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal says about the affair that “I am not certain that …” His face is harder than reinforced concrete.

Cándido Marquesán Millán is a high school teacher

nuevatribuna.es | January 19, 2013

Translation/edit by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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