Rajoy says he won’t resign or call elections over Bárcenas case

PM admits “mistakes” in trusting the former treasurer of the ruling Popular Party as Socialists reiterate their threat to file a censure motion against prime minister

Anabel Díez

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy admitted to lawmakers on Thursday that he made “a mistake” in confiding in his former Popular Party (PP) treasurer Luis Bárcenas – who is in jail awaiting trial on tax evasion and other alleged financial crimes – during his first full public remarks on the ongoing allegations over illegal financing inside his party.

“I made a mistake in putting my trust in someone who we now know didn’t deserve it; he deceived me,” Rajoy said in his opening remarks before parliament.

“I trusted Mr Bárcenas and answered his calls and spoke with him, and I asked him to leave the treasurer’s position in 2009, and in 2010 he resigned from the Senate and stepped down from the party, and then in 2011, provisional charges were dropped against him only to be reinstated months later,” the prime minister summarizing the developments in the Bárcenas case.

During intervention in the hours- long debate before Congress, Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba led the opposition’s calls for Rajoy to resign.

“You came here to try to save your skin. You have done a lot of damage to Spain and I am asking you to go. I am asking you on behalf of the country (…) because it cannot have a prime minister like you,” Rubalcaba said as the Socialists and other opposition group applauded.

“I am not going to resign nor will I call early elections,” the prime minister said later.

Rubalcaba, who announced last month that his party will present a motion of censure but withdrew the action after Rajoy agreed to appear before Congress to give his explanations about his close friendship with Bárcenas, reiterated that the Socialists still reserved the right to present it.

Rajoy said that the “damage” to Spain’s international image was done just by Rubalcaba’s mention of a censure motion. “A censure motion doesn’t worry me because it won’t pass,” he said. The PP has an absolute majority in parliament.

Bárcenas has told a High Court judge that he paid bonuses for the past 20 years to Rajoy and other top PP members on top of their normal salaries. He claimed that in 2010 and 2011 both Rajoy and the PP secretary general, María Dolores de Cospedal, received a total of 95,000 euros in bonuses.

Money was also given to the PP in cash chunks by big businessmen who later got contracts with PP governments throughout the country, Bárcenas also alleged.

“Justice will demonstrate that neither I nor my party did anything illegal,” Rajoy said.

The prime minister, however, acknowledged that he and other members of his party received normal compensation fees and reimbursements over the years “just like (…) in any company” but the money he received was included in his tax declarations.

“I am not going to declare myself guilty because I have no knowledge that there was illegal financing inside my party,” he said. “I accepted to come to this debate because I never collected any type of extra bonus.”

Rubalcaba brought up the series of text messages that Rajoy purportedly sent to Bárcenas when the former treasurer found himself investigated for holding millions of euros in Swiss accounts. “The text messages are from one partner to another partner who is in trouble,” the Socialist leader said. “They are from one partner who can place the other partner in danger and they continued well after the Swiss accounts were discovered,” he said.

Rubalcaba said he had “never sent a text message to a criminal,” referring to the messages between Rajoy and Bárcenas that were published by El Mundo last month.

Other opposition leaders took a stronger stance against Rajoy.

ICV Catalan greens spokesman Joan Coscubiela said that Spain “doesn’t deserve a corrupt politician as prime minister.”

“Without your collaboration, that criminal Bárcenas would never have existed. Resign and call elections!” he added.

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