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Rajoy and the lawbreakers

The public deserves a truthful explanation about the former treasurer Bárcenas in Congress

For a long time now, the prime minister has owed the public an explanation concerning the Gürtel corruption scandal, which is now further complicated by the ongoing proceedings against Luis Bárcenas, who was the treasurer of the governing Popular Party (PP) from 1989 to 2009.

If there was some reason behind Rajoy's decision to put off indefinitely such an explanation, trusting that the passage of time and events would bury the problem in oblivion, he would have done well to change his attitude late in January of this year when this newspaper published the accounting ledgers kept by Luis Bárcenas, which detail a series of large and presumably illegal donations to the party and the distribution of a hefty part of these sums among top PP officials.

However, the prime minister did no more than deny that he had ever received or distributed such funds, leaving to his underlings the job of discrediting what had been published. Now, five months later, the public knowledge of messages exchanged between Rajoy and Bárcenas — some of them when the ex-treasurer's fortune hidden in Switzerland was already known to the courts — seriously compromises the prime minister's position. Out of mere respect for the democratic system, the public, his own party and his voters, he has to give a truthful explanation in Congress. Otherwise his credibility will remain negligible.

He also owes an explanation to the secretary general of the Popular Party, María Dolores de Cospedal. Nor should he allow a spokesman such as Carlos Floriano to be the visible image of his party, if its future matters much to him.

It is too late to remedy the mistakes committed since the beginning, given that for months now Rajoy has been trying to dodge the underlying problem. Again and again he speaks of insinuations, and utters gnomic or unintelligible statements. He never addresses the problem head on, and, at a new height of absurdity, is now claiming that some connivance between the ex-treasurer and the political opposition exists.

How have the people who say these things become convinced that the Spanish public are idiots? And if not, why are they treating them as idiots? Bárcenas is an authentic product of the Popular Party and of nobody else. The questions that have to be cleared up are: who manufactured this systematic lawbreaker, who kept him going, and who shared his activities and their proceeds? But the governing party has offered us a series of admirable lessons on what not to do when a scandal of such gravity erupts. Now the only option left is a complete about-face.

Special mention must be made of the way the alleged criminals now under indictment have been making use of the press. It is known that both Bárcenas and the alleged Gürtel mastermind Francisco Correa have held interviews in recent months with dozens of journalists from various media, with the object of placing their own particular merchandise on sale. It is worth remembering that these conversations have nothing to do with investigative journalism, and may have a negative effect on the judicial proceedings. If we know anything for certain it is that Bárcenas is a consummate liar, and that it is unacceptable that these accused men be allowed to set the pace of justice.

We cannot allow a repetition of the spectacle in which Iñaki Urdangarin's former business partner, Diego Torres, released emails one by one as if with an eyedropper, during the proceedings in the Nóos case. Judge Ruz must insist that Bárcenas hand over all the material in his possession and that it be relevant to the case — whether it be SMS messages, registers of phone calls, emails or documents. And someone must also explain why a proper search of Bárcenas's filing system was not carried out. Indeed, the ex-treasurer was allowed to travel abroad for months despite the investigation having begun. The suspicion that he may have been able to destroy or fabricate evidence in that time is more than reasonable. The proceedings cannot be driven by the strategy of the defense. All the more so when the counsel for Bárcenas is another former lawbreaker, Javier Gómez de Liaño, an ex-judge once convicted of gross misconduct, expelled from the judiciary on that account, and later pardoned by the Aznar government as a reward for the service rendered by his misdeeds.

The political situation is extremely serious. To correct the growing instability can only be the task of the PP, whose clear parliamentary majority obtained in the last elections burdens it with the responsibility of preventing traumas that might lead to unpredictable consequences.

This operation will have to be carried out at the least possible cost, in a society weighed down by an interminable economic crisis, from which it will take a long time to recover. Out of a sense of statesmanship and respect for democracy, the PP is now under an obligation to squarely face the political problem created by its deficient handling of the Bárcenas case.

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