Bárcenas has PP on the ropes again

2 min
Luis Bárcenas, in an archive image.

The ex-treasurer of the PP Luis Bárcenas returns today to Spain's High Court for a new trial for alleged corruption in the party. In this case it will be judged whether the opaque donations made by businessmen close to the party in 2008, and amounting to one million euros, were used to pay for works at the party headquarters in Madrid. These irregularities, however, are the least important (and the scandal of a political party that has ruled Spain using a slush fund to pay for work at their headquarters), since all the attention is on the Bárcenas's statement after sending a letter to the Prosecutor's Office in which he expanded his confession and directly involved ex president Mariano Rajoy.

Bárcenas claims that he personally saw how Rajoy shredded incriminating documents on the slush fund (from which the main leaders took out bonuses). And yesterday, in statements to the newspaper El Mundo he stated that he had been in negotiations with two interlocutors of the PP to agree on the scope of his confession in exchange for compensation, such as his wife not entering prison, which has already happened. If these contacts between PP leaders and Bárcenas were confirmed, it would tear down the defence of the party's current leader, Pablo Casado. Casado claims that the party has broken all ties with the ex-treasurer, and this would again put the party on the ropes.

But even if it were so, Casado cannot act as if it all has nothing to do with him. He is Rajoy and Aznar's political heir, whom Bárcenas points to as knowing about the irregular financing of the PP, a system that was put in place as early as 1982, when it was still called Alianza Popular, and which continued uninterrupted for more than two decades. Perhaps the fact that the different cases are being judged separately and by chapters prevents us from having a joint vision of the magnitude of the corruption linked to the main opposition party in Spain, which in its day came to concentrate in its hands the majority of political power in the State. The modus operandi described by Bárcenas does not respond to simple irregularities or to punctual episodes in which illegalities were committed, but points to a whole system of systemic corruption in which the main businessmen of the Íbex-35 also participated, who gave the party cash in the hope of receiving concessions, public works contracts or simple favours.

Reconstructing this whole network, which has not been shown to be no longer operational, will take judges and prosecutors years. And Mr Casado needs to be reminded that for much less, Catalonia's CDC had to wind down and reinvent itself, a way of assuming political responsibilities for its past. And then there is a deeper reflection to be made on the functioning of the whole economy that depends on the proximity to power, the one that meets in the Bernabéu box, and on the cleanliness of electoral processes in Spain, where some parties have always gone to the polls supercharged with dirty money. Who will write all this history?