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Crime and punishment

Munar’s conviction strengthens the principle that there is no impunity for graft

The five-year prison sentence handed down to the former president of the Unió Mallorquina political party, María Antonia Munar, not only concludes the political career of a woman who for some 30 years pulled multiple strings in the Balearic islands; it also represents a new and serious judicial step to curb corruption, and to convey a message that impunity is becoming ever more elusive.

Chief among the crimes of which Munar has been convicted was misappropriation of public funds, derived from subsidies and contracts granted to producers and news media under the control of her party, which is now dissolved and reduced to a parliamentary splinter group. Munar has appealed the ruling before the Supreme Court, which must finally confirm, or otherwise, the terms of the sentence, but it is worth remembering that this is only the first of the five judicial cases pending against the now-deposed “Queen of Mallorca.”

The judges who issued the ruling did so with some interesting reasoning. They impose five and a half years of imprisonment, as well as absolute disqualification from political office for nine years and six months, in consideration of the “extreme disregard for the law” represented by her conduct in the post she held, at that time the highest within the Council of Mallorca; in consideration, too, “of the social context in which we unfortunately live, and the real and effective harm that has been caused to the citizen, both in the economic aspect and in the necessary trust in the authorities for the correct administration of public funds, which, of course, proceed from the taxpayer.”

Corruption, or complicity in it, is not a crime that has direct effects on life or physical integrity, but it cannot be considered a minor crime.

For far too many years this serious phenomenon has been attended by an excessive level of comprehension, which sees graft merely as an ugly custom inherent in the political class. It is a grave mistake to give currency to this view, which casts the same shadow on all politicians. It is the major parties with roles in government that are to blame, principally the PP and the PSOE.

These parties not only allowed graft among their top leaders in the Balearic Islands, especially in the case of the PP (Gabriel Cañella escaped jail for the Soller case due to the statute of limitations, while former islands’ premier Jaume Matas has recently been convicted); they also overvalued the votes of the minority party Unió Mallorquina. In search of a slice of power — either in the regional government, the Council of Mallorca or the City Council of Palma — Munar’s party acted as a hinge group that favored one side or the other, regardless of political or ideological considerations, its only goal being the influence required to control the public coffers with an eye to self-enrichment.

The blank check granted to Unió Mallorquina by the PP and the PSOE has been one of the greatest factors in the general discredit of political life in Spain.

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