I have lately been getting great laughs out of the writings of my friend Javier Marías, a smoker (the usual phrase is "inveterate smoker," but I wouldn't really put him in the addict class) and a ferocious enemy of the anti-tobacco law, with his rhetorical blasts about the prospect of holding conventions, assemblies, congresses on any and every cultural, scientific, humanistic and charitable cause (including tuberculosis and lung cancer research), in the immense halls and hotels of the Eurovegas project, where smoking is supposedly to be allowed — a possibility he expanded on in the weekly EL PAÍS SEMANAL magazine last month.
It would please me to hear that Rajoy's misgivings about the American magnate's project had, at their root, more to do with the government's announced intentions of fighting the national vice of corruption, than with the difficulty of any relaxation of the anti-tobacco law. I quit smoking about 10 years ago, and even before that smoked very little. So I have never cared much if people around me smoke or not. When he visits my house, Javier Marías puffs away as much as he wants, and I even feel just a little embarrassed to ask him whether he minds if I open a window, lest I be taken for the sort of asinine puritan who makes an issue of it.
What I do object to is the tremendous breeding-ground of corruption that a mega-casino project would stake out, ready for the greed of our politicians. Not so much the issue of prostitution, as the sheer economic corruption (the kind of corruption that the government swears on stacks of Bibles it is bent on eradicating) that 700 hectares of free international monetary circulation, abundantly populated with professional money-changers, would necessarily bring. I object, of course, to the proposed permissiveness to upmarket prostitution, of all races and lands, that will be flown in to occupy its place behind the roulette table in private planes that the professional executive pimps at the service of Mr Adelson will place at their disposal.
I object to a government so servile as to reduce the magnate's taxes, we are told, from 45 percent (the going rate for casinos) to 10 percent. We are told, too, that Rajoy bent over so far as to receive this personality (who looks like he has stepped straight out of a Scorsese film) almost as he would a head of state — but, with luck, this will turn out to have been mere slander. And then, "types of enterprise such as Eurovegas are to receive a rebate of 95 percent on the tax on conveyances of assets." I copy this last bit verbatim from a news story, since I don't know exactly what it means, except that it is some other kind of favor.
Then there is the architecture, with the nightmare skyscraper bearing the name "Altius," as if competing in an Olympic category of height and ugliness. Even the Islamic countries have entered this race, with similar results. Well, our magnate proposes to build the highest skyscraper in Spain. The partisans speak of the American Las Vegas, but even there the sharks who run these places don't put them next to areas where decent people live (this is why Las Vegas is in a desert). The skyscrapers to be built by our magnate will be visible from every point in Madrid, looming on the horizon everywhere you go, and it is more than likely that most of the opal towers rising above Eurovegas will be lit up, like Hell, throughout the night.
My blessing on Mariano Rajoy if, on account of the tobacco law or any other reason, he bows out and sends the American magnate to get on his private jet and never come back, and build his nausea-inducing casino-land elsewhere.
Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio is a writer.