POLITICAL CORRUPTION

PP baron in Ourense formally charged with abusing position

Former provincial chief José Luis Baltar alleged to have given hundreds of supporters jobs

The Ourense public prosecutor has formally accused former provincial chief José Luis Baltar of abusing his position to give hundreds of people jobs for life in public agencies during his 20-year tenure.

A court will now begin an investigation into Baltar, 70, who retired from the provincial council in January after he controversially passed on his power to his son, José Manuel Baltar Blanco.

Baltar, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), is also thought to have awarded millions of euros of public money based on criteria of kinship and cronyism. In exchange, he obtained faithful supporters who voted him in time and again.

Investigators also have evidence of individuals being irregularly signed up as voting members of a PP congress that appointed Baltar’s son as the new party chief in Ourense.

The Socialist Party brought the issue to the Ourense attorney’s attention, claiming that Baltar arbitrarily gave jobs to at least 115 people in the days before the PP Congress of January 2010. The Socialists say there are more than 300 individuals in provincial government positions who have family ties to Baltar or other connections to the Popular Party.

Baltar himself has proudly admitted that he is “a good cacique [chief],” who has done well by his people.

In a separate corruption case in the Galicia region, the mayor of Santiago de Compostela, Ángel Currás, also of the PP, has been named as a suspect in Operation Pokemon, an investigation into a scheme that awarded public contracts irregularly in several Galician cities. Currás is the fourth mayor to become caught up in the case.

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