POLITICS

Valencia PP suspends veteran member after criticism of regional premier

Fabra loses an uncomfortable party rival who is embroiled in public funds fraud probe

An archive photograph of Rafael Blasco.
An archive photograph of Rafael Blasco.Juan Carlos Cárdenas (EFE)

The Valencian branch of the Popular Party (PP), which rules the Mediterranean region, has suspended from duties a veteran politician who criticized regional premier Alberto Fabra in a television interview.

Rafael Blasco has been in politics for 40 years, including two terms with the Socialists and five more with the conservative PP. He had also been the spokesman for the PP's parliamentary group.

But on Friday, the PP's Rights and Guarantees Committee accused him of violations classified as "serious and very serious" and decided to, "suspend his party membership and bar him from holding public office in representation of the PP, as a precautionary measure."

The move has allowed the premier, Fabra, to eliminate one of his most talented and vocal adversaries. But it also underscores internal party divisions. So far, national PP leaders have failed to make a move, although they are expected to support Fabra's decision to prevent deteriorating the party's image further.

For over a year, Rafael Blasco has been linked to a dark episode that is under investigation by the courts: the sacking of funds meant as aid for Third World countries. The money came from the Department of Solidarity and Citizenship while it was headed up by Blasco. The attorney's office suspects that he was the head of the ring that siphoned off eight million euros, and is asking for an 11-year jail term.

Despite this, regional premier Fabra had delayed making a decision regarding Blasco, even as the latter refused to step down. But that was until Wednesday, when Blasco appeared on a talk show called El cascabel al gato, reminding viewers that Fabra himself was once under investigation when he was a councilor in Castellón. He also championed former regional premier Francisco Camps. Fabra's reply was swift, although many people feel that Blasco's career is far from over yet.

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