The regional premier of Extremadura, José Antonio Monago of the Popular Party (PP), made a public appearance on Friday to talk about 32 trips he made to the Canary Islands while a senator that were paid with public money.
“I always went to work honestly,” said Monago about the large number of journeys he took to the islands in the space of a year and a-half between May 2009 and November 2010.
However, the regional leader failed to explain what he did on any of those trips, alleging that it was “impossible” to show his agenda and prove he went to the Canaries on official business.
Speaking before a packed audience at Extremadura government headquarters, Monago insisted that he always paid for his private travel out of his own pocket. The PP spokesman in the Senate said Monago represented the Canary Islands and Andalusia in the Senate at the time of the trips.
Free air and rail travel for senators and deputies
The Monago case has brought into the spotlight the fact that Spanish deputies and senators have the right to free air and rail travel across Spain without having to justify the nature of their journeys.
Neither chamber has the obligation to publish a list of members’ trips. EL PAÍS has repeatedly requested to see such a list, but all requests have been expressly denied.
Congress and the Senate have agreements with rail operator Renfe and airline Iberia, which offer them business-class seats at reduced rates. Senators also get a taxi card with a top annual credit of €3,000 to cover short trips in Madrid.
“I have to say that I have made hundreds of trips across Extremadura during that period. Before I became regional premier I covered nearly 300,000 kilometers in Extremadura, and now I have covered another 300,000 kilometers,” Monago said. “There have been trips to the Canaries, to Madrid, Brussels, Catalonia, the Basque Country, many places. I always went to work, to work honestly.”
Monago has announced he is considering legal action against those who invaded his privacy by insinuating that the trips were of a private nature. “I am going to protect not just my honor but also that of my family, my wife and my children,” said Monago.
“They warned me that this was going to happen, I already knew about it. They told me to ‘be very careful, because you’re stirring up a lot of things and they’re going to attack you,’” he added, without detailing who “they” were.
The premier also made it clear that he had no plans to resign: “That would be avoiding my responsibilities. I will not let the bad guys win.”
The Socialist spokeswoman in Extremadura, Isabel Gil Rosiña, called on Monago to provide a clearer explanation of the trips, whose existence was revealed by left-leaning online newspaper Publico.es.
“One is free to do whatever one wants with one’s own money, but not with taxpayers’ money,” said Gil Rosiña, who also underscored the fact that Monago has recently been styling himself as a leader in the fight against political corruption and demanding resignations from wrongdoers.
Monago had only on Thursday insisted on the need to “clean Spain of corruption” and to be “inflexible.”