It's the biggest political scandal in Spain for years. Numerous activists, officials, elected representatives and friends of the Partido Popular appear to be linked to a corruption case known as Gürtel. Centred on the PP in the Comunitat Valenciana, the case involves TV station managers, tailors, mayors and even the Valencian president, Francisco Camps. The accused are alleged to have taken and/or paid bribes in order to obtain public contracts for friendly companies. The most famous accusation is that Camps received €5,000 worth of suits as a gift, paid for by the company Orange Market, which ended up receiving various works contracts from the Valencian government. For background and also a lot more detail on the case, see South of Watford where Graeme has written plenty of posts about it.
Today's Público carries the story that PP leader Mariano Rajoy yesterday claimed that "Since 2004, no PP militante [activist/party member] has been convicted… and there are several, later let off by the government, from the PSOE who were charged". He was being questioned about the allegations that just won't go away. What Público finds unusual about Rajoy's rigorous defence of his party's integrity is his less than rigorous memory of the last five years. The newspaper points out that he's forgetting a minimum of 41 names – 41 PP activists who have been convicted of corruption or connected crimes. Now, I'm not very good with names either, so I understand his difficulty. I guess he'll thank Público later for jogging his memory.
Denial has been a mainstay of the PP's defence over the last few months. There's nothing unusual about that. Few political parties, faced with a devastating series of accusations, would react differently. Though it saddens me, this seems to have become one of the primary functions of a political party (though I shouldn't think it's a recent a development as all that). The second defence the PP has employed – and it's one that seems to be growing in popularity within the party – is that of political persecution. The PP has been quietly hinting from the rooftops that the Socialist government might be pursuing these corruption allegations for purely political reasons.
And it was in this spirit that PP publicity officer Esteban González Pons yesterday claimed that PP officials – even senior 'big beasts' like Rajoy and Aguirre – feel that they're "being spied on", that they have to "speak in codes on the phone" and that they "are certain" that there is a "black hand" which is politically influencing the courts and the police. It's an old trick, of course: if you can't win court cases fairly (and let's face it, unless one of the judges is a mate, they don't seem to be doing too well), you claim that the court is illegitimate. The PP are going a little further and seem to be saying that the entire justice system in Spain is illegitimate: González added this heart-rending appeal: "We've lived through a year during which the PP has been treated in a way that no other party has been treated since the Transition*. The government has persecuted us and has used the police and the courts to discredit our officials".
I guess that means that pretty much anything any PP militante does is OK. Because in a country where the courts are controlled politically, there can be no justice, and no crime, right?
*There was no 'Dictatorship' only 40 blank years and then a 'Transition'. Please amend your history books in accordance with this new decree.