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Blackmailing the government

Cornered by a foot-dragging legal system, Bárcenas is threatening the Popular Party with more damage

The government has used its parliamentary majority several times to block demands for explanations in the Bárcenas case, and is ever more deeply mired in scandals concerning its party financing. This confirms the failure of the tactic followed by the PP of trying to deny all responsibility, or to blame it all on Bárcenas, and reveals the blackmail being exercised by a person whose obvious desire is to be out of jail, and to enjoy the ill-gotten fortune he has deposited in tax havens.

The impotence of the state is a consequence of a series of strange actions. The multimillionaire Bárcenas has been free not only since he was first charged, four years ago, but also until five months after the discovery of the first proof of his fortune in Switzerland and the publication of the double accounting system of the governing PP. The party dismissed the importance of the Bárcenas papers, reproduced in EL PAÍS, calling them “photocopies of photocopies.” The theory of forgery has been debunked with the delivery to the newspaper El Mundo of a couple of original pages, innocuous to judicial effects (the prosecutors and the courts are abundantly aware of the veracity of these two pages, and of all the rest of the Bárcenas notebook) while the 28 years Bárcenas worked for the PP afford him plenty of material with which to extend his challenge further.

The prosecution and the judge in the case have done just enough to keep the proceedings going, but have dragged their feet over taking any decisive measures. True, they have sent judicial requests to many countries, and these wheels turn slowly. But it is strange that there have been no searches of Bárcenas’ domicile, nor in the offices of the party. Nor has there been any investigation into the whereabouts of the documents that Bárcenas himself said he had taken on his way out of the PP’s central office.

 Until he entered prison on June 27, the party’s ex-treasurer suffered no precautionary measures other than to make his leaving Spain conditional upon judicial permission, and the obligation to appear periodically before the authorities. Bárcenas probably hoped that the government would put him entirely out of reach of the courts, and thus initially denied the reality of the double accounting published in this newspaper, thus covering the party leadership in their stonewall denial and posture of indignation. But his imprisonment, and the demand of 42 million euros as bail, has changed his attitude.

Quite apart from what may be proved judicially, it is now the word of Bárcenas against that of the prime minister, who on February 2 personally denied having received or distributed undeclared funds. In question here is the legality of the PP’s financing, and the possible violation of the conflict-of-interest law by members of the Aznar government, if indeed they were receiving under-the-counter bonuses even while they were ministers. The PP’s rhetoric about a general cutback on politicians’ salaries may come to look ridiculous.

The governing party has refused to offer any explanations but the opposition is demanding to know whether Rajoy and his collaborators were receiving bonuses, and whether Rajoy was lying when he denied it. And the public, weary of political corruption, needs and demands to know the truth once and for all.

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