I've been off work for a few days due to a wicked cold, which has left me thinking that probably the last thing I need to do is spend more time in front of my computer. But all the same, there are a couple of stories developing in Spain which deserve something of a recap.
Firstly, Gürtel. This case of corruption in the Valencian PP has moved on quite a lot since the courts ruled that it was unlawful to 'archive' the case. The PP itself has moved from dogged support for anyone and everyone connected with the party to a few pre-emptive and yet also belated amputations. Top of the list is Ricardo Costa, general secretary of the Valencian PP. President of the Comunitat Valenciana Fracisco Camps seems to have had his hand forced by PP head office and has announced that Costa will be out in a few days, all the while noting that he trusts and backs him implicitly. This is the first major head to roll in the PP but it likely won't be the last. Esperanza Aguirre, president of the Comunidad de Madrid has also forced the exclusion of three regional PP names, Alberto López Viejo, Alfonso Bosch Tejedor and Benjamín Martín Vasco – all linked with the Gürtel case.
Aguirre, suave political operator that she is, seems to be using this corruption case to make another push for control of the party. It remains to be seen how successful she is in this enterprise… but the idea of her leading the national party is slowly becoming a terrifyingly real possibility.
I wouldn't want to incur the wrath of Trevor by failing to mention the Palau de la Música Catalana case, here in Barcelona. This story, though nowhere near as politically damaging as the Gürtel case, is still serious enough to warrant a proper full-length blog post some time in the future. Essentially, the PMC case is a classic story of misuse of public funds (aka 'stealing a shit load of cash'). Boss of the Orfeó Catalan, Felix Millet, has more-or-less admitted that more than €3m of Palau funds went missing under his stewardship. He seems to have spent the money on himself (and his business partner Jordi Montull). It seems that among other things, the pair used some of the money to buy a building which they then sold on at a €1.5m profit.
The larger crime in the PMC case is that the bill for refurbishing the Palau a few years back was a massive €22m, even though it actually cost less than half that. So Millet seems to be willing to admit the 'smaller' crime in the hope that everyone will just forget about the other €13m that he nicked. Sadly, this could just happen: this case should have been in the courts years ago but for some reason only seems to have made it there now.
The political sides of this story are twofold: firstly, Millet is a big player in Barcelona's political-cultural axis. The position of head of the Orfeó/Palau is extremely prestigious and Millet also served on the board of FC Barcelona and was a recipient of the Generalitat's St Jordi cross. All that, and he seems to have donated about €500,000 to the Fundació Trías Fargas, a politico-cultural organisation which is effectively a part of the CDC, which itself is a constituent party in CiU.
The second controversy (and arguably by far the more important one) is that the courts in Barcelona received notice of presumed corruption, lots of €500 notes and various irregularities in the Palau, five years ago. It seems that they've done very little to prosecute the case since then, until now. Why? I suppose that would be the corruption.