Monday, 18 February 2013

Spain: Corruption - or just "the way we do things here"?

Californian business journalist Wolf Richter reports (htp: Zero Hedge) on the Spanish corruption scandal, which is particularly hot as it comes at a time of general economic pain for ordinary Spaniards.

Actually, a double scandal: allegedly, politicians have been awarding government contracts in exchange for slush money, plus a detective agency has been used to keep tabs - and possibly gather dirt - on a host of prominent figures.

The gaff was blown by an ex-policeman employed by the agency (Método 3) who was left out of pocket when it went bust. He grabbed computers, files and clandestine recordings in lieu of payment.

One of those recordings is of a conversation between the leader of the Catalonian People's Party (PP) and the ex-girlfriend of the son of the former President of Catalonia. The girl allegedly reveals that her boyfriend has been smuggling large cash sums for his family across the border into Andorra.

The PP leader, Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, lodged an official complaint when she found out that a secret taping of the talk was among the Método 3 material, and now a monster investigation is under way.

As with the British MPs' expenses scandal of 2009, it's the timing that has sharpened the public response. What might otherwise have earned a cynical shrug of the shoulders is now threatening to claim scalps, including that of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose name appears repeatedly in handwritten ledgers relating to a slush fund in Switzerland.

Brett Hetherington, a freelancewriter who lives in Catalonia, has emailed World Voices the local perspective:

"I would say a couple of things about this reeking, venal scandal. The man at the heart of it, the late Jordi Pujol is a hero to many people here in Catalonia as he largely seen as the main person responsible for Catalonia's post-Franco autonomous powers...

"This part of the world (still) has a lot going for it but institutional honesty is obviously not one of the strong points. Cheating on your income tax and using the "black" or cash-economy is the done thing. In my experience, cheating, in whatever form, is thought to be the clever thing to do. Children do it from a very young age and at a local (wealthy) private school where I used to work, it was completely standard to cheat in tests and teachers knew about it and did not punish it.

"The family is probably the most important single unit in Mediterranean Europe, so favouring a brother, son or cousin is entirely normal. It is not just those at the top of the political pyramid who do this. It is a practise that is as ordinary as drinking a glass of wine here. Having connections is called "enchufe" - literally, 'plugged-in. 'It is difficult living here without some kinds of connections to help you advance your lot, so the common-place act is the one that scratches a friend's back when they will also soon scratch yours."

Interviewed by the Council on Foreign Relations last week, Professor Alfredo Pastor of the IESE Business School played it down as a "limited crisis" and set it in the context of Catalan demands for greater autonomy. The EU/bankers' agenda rolls on like Juggernaut, he wishes us to believe.

We shall see.

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Brett Hetherington said...

There's a correction I have to make. Jordi Pujol is apparently alive and well, though probably a very worried.

(I think I confused him with Boris Karloff. That's a joke, people.)

Sackerson said...

Thanks for the update. He'll be one to watch, then.

Brett Hetherington said...

Yes, one to watch in the sense that he may need urgent medical attention soon. I think I can fairly make a joke at his expense since he has (allegedly) been making a joke at the financial expense of the Catalan people.