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Spain : Corruption vs Incompetence

By Mr Grumpy - Thu 8th Apr 2010

Barely a week seems to go by without the British press (or Spanish for matter) reporting some case of corruption amongst public figures. For the British in particular, Spanish corruption is something of a stereotype – but is this a fair representation of the way that thing really are in Spain ?

Just last week alone there were 3 separate incidents reported in the Spanish media where public figures were involved in some kind of criminal activity or corruption. Firstly, there was the case of Luis Roldan – the former director of the Guardia Civil, who was released from prison after serving 15 years for moving 1.7 Billion Pesetas of public funds into his private bank account. None of the money has yet been recovered.

Secondly came the case of the former President of the Regional Government of the Balearics – Maria Antonia Munar – who has been released on bail after being charged with corruption, document forgery, power-dealing, bribery and misuse of public funds.

Finally, the case of the Mayor and Town Planner of Alhaurin el Grande in Malaga, who between them received over 1Million Euros in Bribes. They are expected to implicate a further 16 local and provincial politicians in the trial.

It’s sad to note that there are also hundreds of ‘smaller’ cases of corruption going on throughout Spain at a more local level – and in the vast majority of cases they are linked in some way to property and planning irregularities. So in this respect the two issues of Spanish Corruption and Spanish Property become one common problem.

Speaking from my own experience, and on a local level, the ex-Alcalde of my Village is currently in Prison awaiting a trial for corruption concerning property and planning irregularities. Corruption aside, he was generally an ok politician and things actually got done. His subsequent replacement, whilst honest enough, is simply incompetent.

In many smaller, rural Town Halls it is not unusual to find that the Alcalde is not a full time employee and as such has a ‘day job’ – in our case he is also the local baker, and his deputy is the school headmaster. In a village where way less than half of the population speak any Valenciano (Coming instead from other areas of Spain, France, England …) you would have though that he would have made a slight effort to communicate with his voters in Castilian. Not so !

I suspect that in order to be successfully elected as Mayor you just need to put yourself forward and be seconded and then it is a straightforward slog between who has lived in the village for the longest period of time and who has the 'right' family history.

And now that he has found himself in office it seems that he is so scared of being accused of any irregularity or corruption at all that he has decided that the simplest way to stay ‘clean’ is basically to do nothing at all - and then at the end of his term he can retire and claim that he was 100% honest.

I suppose my point is this – the first half of 2010 is when Spain assumes the rotating Presidency of the EU, and Zapatero has stood on his soap box in Brussels and promised to oversee this, that and the other - and that he will come down like a ton of bricks on any wrong-doers etc... etc...

Same old rhetoric from yet another politician who should really have read through his speech to see how ridiculous it sounds before making it.

But how can anybody take this man seriously – even spend time listening to him – without challenging him to get his own house in order first of all?

Comment on this Blog

In a political system that allows mayors to sit for more than two terms of four years, which is the norm in a lot of places, is it surprising that a mayor who has been in situ for 24 years (in the case of my village) is corrupt. It would be rude not to. The country is now in a grip of corruption scandals and cases, and, as in the case of the local mayor in the Valencia region, no one dare say "yes" to any planning application. Therefore the easy and safe option is to say "no", and you end up with a nation with no construction industry frozen by fear. That applies not just to mayors, but also architects and lawyers.
Mike Martin - Thu, 6th Oct 2011
Francis, I can only blog about my own personal experiences, but It seems to me that in most Towns the Mayor is accountable only to himself - which is a breeding ground for corruption. In most Northern European countries this is not the case and therefore most of the population have some confidence in the system. I also agree that it is perhaps the fact that corruption is so blatant over here in Spain - at least in most other countries the corrupt politicians make an attempt to cover their tracks.
Mr Grumpy - Thu, 6th May 2010
There is corruption in any part of the world, but it's unfair to denounce Spain as an especially corrupted country. I have lived in many parts of the world and several European countries, and to me the most corrupt country on big scale, involving practically any public institution is Belgium. I ran from that country - It's better to spare the details becuase it enrages me! But bigger and financially strong countries like Italy, France, Germany, just to mention a few, can't even exist anymore without corruption on all levels. There are cases denounced like the former boss of the German Bank or the German Postal Service, but, there is a saying: "The higher your position, as lesser your punishment." (As long as you dont break with your backup connections, of course. Its those connections, who enable, create and support the corruption.) Spanish are amateurs compared to that!
Francis - Wed, 5th May 2010

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