Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is personal view of Spain and Spanish life as seen by a Briton living in a small village in Alicante province.
The other tabs link to similar blogs when I have lived in other places. The TIM magazine is an English language magazine I write articles for.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

On the doorstep

Corruption isn't really news in Spain any more. I don't mean that literally. Corruption is always in the news. Its just so commonplace that it has lost its impact. I just had a look to see how many politicians are facing charges at the minute and the information is a bit confusing. One of the problems in getting a figure is that there is no specific charge called corruption. So the figure depends a bit on what you count. The other thing is that lots of the corruption involves people at the edge of politics. The husband of a princess isn't a politician but the charges around him are clearly political. And someone who used to be a vice president and went on to manage the International Monetary Fund and then one of the big banks isn't a politician any more. So let's just say that the number is on the top side of 2,000.

Most of the political corruption belongs to the PP, the conservative side. The last three party treasurers are all in trouble. There are eleven open cases in the Balearic Islands, six in Valencia, three in Madrid, three in Madrid, another three in Galicia etc. Just so nobody can accuse me of political bias I should mention that the Socialists have a big case of their own down in Andalucia. It's quite difficult to keep on top of these cases too. Spanish justice makes snails look like rapid movers. So a case will disappear from the headlines for months and then suddenly pop up again. I find it difficult to remember whether its Punica or Pokemon that's in Madrid or Galicia and cases I'm sure were done with will suddenly re-appear with fresh impetus. Lots of the cases interweave or involve court appearances by the same people and I'm always amazed how big names seem to be able to shrug off accusations with impunity. Maybe there was something in that New York Times article that suggested the Spanish press isn't very investigative because it is so in debt that exerting pressure on the media to keep quiet is dead easy.

There's plenty of private corruption too. Banks must top the list but a dodgy pyramid selling scheme based on stamps was one of the first cases I remember as we arrived here and I don't think that's finished yet. The most recent case centres on a dental franchise but there have been lots more - travel agencies and fish canners spring.

On the radio this morning I heard something about the amount of money that the tax agency reckons is hidden away but Google can't find the story because there are simply so many financial fraud stories. Dodgy practices with meat processing came up a lot in that search! I was going to use the tax story to suggest that financial practice here isn't above a bit of low-level corruption on the cash in hand, not paying VAT scale.

Then there are enchufes. An enchufe is the old "it's not what you know it's who you know". I remember when I taught a lot of adults there were lots of speaking exercises that were based on job interviews and interview experience. They didn't work very well because most of my students had got their job through the help of an uncle, a brother in-law etc.

I have heard bits of gossip here in Pinoso about political corruption but I'm not well enough informed to be able to say how true the stories are. The other day though I saw a YouTube link with someone talking in the Valencian Parliament about how the enchufe system was alive and we'll with political favours in the regional health service. As I listened to the link I heard a name I know well, someone who I greet in the street. 

It was a bit of a shock being so close to home.

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