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Leaving the water running

In a landmark admission of guilt, Catalonia’s Unió party has admitted to corruption. But don’t start opening the champagne…


History was made this week in Spain. For the first time that anyone can seem to remember, a political party admitted to corrupt practices. The party was Catalonia’s Unió, part of the region’s CiU governing coalition, and the corruption was the funnelling of €388,000 of EU funds meant for job training into the party’s coffers in the 1990s.

Much of that cash was spent on furniture in Unió’s offices and on paying wages to party staff who, it transpires, didn’t actually do anything.

So the admission of guilt was welcome at a time when corruption seems to have become such an endemic part of Spanish politics. But the reason for Unió’s admission is that it is part of a pact with the State Attorney’s office, which will see the sentences of those charged with the crimes reduced, possibly avoiding prison altogether.

In the wake of the admission, Unió’s leader, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, has been reminded that in 2000 he pledged to resign if his party was guilty of corruption in the case. But his response to calls for his resignation in recent days was first of all a lengthy silence on Wednesday, then the announcement, from Chile, that he had no intention of stepping down.

“Of course I’m not thinking of resigning,” he said, adding that all those implicated had been removed from the party.

He then used an imaginative, plumbing-related analogy to demonstrate his point:

“If you have an apartment and someone is working in your home and they leave the tap on, you didn’t make that happen voluntarily and you don’t have penal responsibility.”

It’s a wonderful way for a politician to perform an ethical u-turn and wash their hands of an affair for which they once promised to take responsibility. With all the many taps that are currently running in Spain, flooding the bathroom of public life (sorry, the analogy is contagious), blaming some guy who happens to be “working in your home” offers a fantastically convenient way out.

It’s a lesson that Madrid Mayor Ana Botella seems to have learned in her refusal to take responsibility in the case of the four girls squashed to death at the Madrid Arena Halloween party.

Duran i Lleida’s word may now be worthless for voters. But in the future, there will surely be plenty of politicians who will thank him for offering them yet another way of getting away with ineptitude or moral bankruptcy.

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Published: Jan 11 2013
Category: Iberoblog
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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1 Comment for “Leaving the water running”

  1. A massive blow for those of us who are motivated to achieve Catalan independence in order to create an accountable new state, in which those in power are made to be responsible for their actions.

    To continue the plumbing analogy, CiU’s credibility in promoting such a transparent and accountable political structure has just been flushed down the toilet.

    Time to prepare our mechanical workshop metaphors now, because Oriol Pujol is about to be indicted for the ITV scam. If a garage repairman is working for you and he cuts the brake cables, are you legally responsible when the car crashes into the wall?

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