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A distorted image

It is risky to face elections with major corruption cases left unresolved

The concern shown by certain embassies and by some international investors over the corruption prevalent in Spain does not correspond to the reality of the present day. It is a reflex derived from the build-up of cases from the past in the courts and the degree of attention they are receiving in the media, rather than from the appearance of new cases. The main problem proceeds from the delay in bringing these cases to trial, and the refusal of top political figures to admit any implication on their part or that of their collaborators, until the slow-moving judicial procedure forces them to do so. But it will be very risky to run for election in the years to come with ongoing corruption investigations dragging through the courts, in the unjustifiable hope that they will be forgiven at the ballot box.

The nature of public opinion is changing. Now, according to a recent Metroscopia poll, which was commissioned by EL PAÍS, 51 percent of the Spanish public believes there is a great deal of corruption in politics; almost all of the rest, while accepting that really corrupt personalities are few, consider that they do a great deal of damage due to the huge amounts of money that pass through their hands. Only a little more than a third believe that corruption is on the rise: a percentage not to be dismissed, but lower than that which considers that the battle against corruption is now being waged more rigorously than it used to be, and that this explains the emergence of so many cases. Six out of 10 Spanish people share this view.

Fifty-one percent of the Spanish public believes there is a great deal of corruption in politics

The Gürtel case — a kickbacks network attached to various Popular Party-run administrations — has now been under way for five years, and the events under investigation date from the past decade or even earlier; but the so-called Bárcenas papers were unknown until their publication by this newspaper, late in January of this year. The alleged misuse of public funds meant to compensate laid-off workers in Andalusia took place in the previous decade, and the investigation has been going on for three years. The so-called Pallerols case was discovered as long ago as 2000, but not until a few months ago were the definitive judicial decisions made, whereupon the Catalan nationalist Unió party admitted its guilt. And the alleged misappropriation in the Nóos case, centered on the business activities of the king’s son-in-law also concerns events from the past decade.

These are complex affairs, further complicated by the due process of the Spanish courts, where every ruling can be appealed again and again, and where it is easy to generate a proliferation of private legal actions that prolong the proceedings. And this is not to mention the shortage of resources on the part of the courts, which has often been pointed out — most recently by the senior judge in Palma de Mallorca after criticism resulting from the extreme slowness of proceedings in the Nóos case.

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