“On picks and shovels for burying your enemies, I spent a hundred million; 10,000 ducats on perfume to spare our troopers’ noses, while passing the heaped dead of the French army; 160,000 ducats on replacing church bells worn out by constant ringing in celebration of Spanish victories.” Thus begins an old ballad version of Las cuentas del Gran Capitán (the accounts of the Great Captain).
At the beginning of the 16th century, by means of a series of brilliant victories in the service of Spanish King Ferdinand, the renowned soldier Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba drove the French from southern Italy. For this he is known as the Great Captain. But to Ferdinand, who was famously tight with his money, it seemed that the Captain had spent a disproportionate amount on his war — though in it he won the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Sicily and Naples), which was to remain a Spanish protectorate for more than three centuries.
In 1506, when the war was over, Ferdinand demanded of the Captain, then Viceroy of Naples, a detailed explanation of his expenses. According to the legend, which some historians consider substantially true — if colorfully embellished — the proud soldier refused to submit to what he considered a humiliating instance of micromanagement on the king’s part, and presented a mock bill of accounts in the terms mentioned above.
This brings to mind the haughty manner in which the president of the General Council of the Judiciary, and chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Carlos Dívar, has sidestepped offering any explanation to the public, and to the members of the Council, about his weekend sojourns. Over the last three years, he has made around 20 trips to Puerto Banús, near Marbella, staying in a variety of luxury hotels and dining in fine restaurants, paid for in part with public money — and this in a time of crisis, with 5.5 million people unemployed in Spain.
Having learned nothing from the example of King Juan Carlos I, who, when he saw that his elephant-shooting safari in Botswana was objectionable to many Spaniards, went so far as to say: “I’m very sorry, I made a mistake, and it won’t happen again,” Dívar’s remarks have been far from humble in tone.
Now that the prosecutor has shelved the proceedings against him, having decided, with no investigation at all, that no misconduct existed, Dívar is brazenly riding it out. In spite of the undeniable discredit his luxury jaunts have caused to the institution he presides, he has neither resigned nor offered any explanation.
According to the legend, the proud soldier refused to submit to the king's humiliating instance of micromanagement"
Before his press conference on Thursday, Dívar had ignored a demand from most of the Council members to personally appear before the media to speak of the Council meeting in which five members demanded his resignation for having charged his private weekend activities to the Council budget. This judge, who preaches austerity, daily attendance at Mass, and Christian charity, saw fit to expose the Council spokeswoman, Gabriela Bravo, to the opprobrium of speaking on his behalf.
Few indeed believe that Dívar did any work on these weekends, when no known official activity took place; while his “protocol expenditures” include numerous dinners for two persons at various luxury restaurants, generally on Friday and Saturday.
Dívar, who seems to have learned accountancy in the same school as the Great Captain, has made other visits, official and private, to places such as Barcelona (he is fond of opera), Argentina, Colombia and Rome; some of which have also aroused suspicion in Council members that the justification of his expenses has little to do with reality.
True, the Great Captain’s arrogance seems justified in the last verse: “A hundred million for my patience in hearing yesterday that the king now demands accounts, from the man who gave him a kingdom.” And Dívar — what kingdom has he given us?