Don Corleone picks up the bill

Minister Ana Mato must be dismissed, in view of her connections with the corruption network

After the allegations of misappropriation of public funds made against his son-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin, the king delivered a year’s-end speech in which he emphasized that all citizens are equal before the law. This is one unquestionable principle of democracy, which does not allow nuances or exceptions. It has to be said that the investigation into the alleged crimes committed by the former handball player married to a princess has so far borne out the truth of King Juan Carlos’s words. So much so, that some are calling for charges to be laid against Urdangarin’s royal wife.

But it seems there do exist different yardsticks, whatever the monarch may say. Consider, for example, the case of a woman who was married to a man implicated in the activities of the Gürtel corruption network. At the time he was mayor of the town of Pozuelo for the Popular Party (PP); his name is prominent in the investigation into the activities of the corrupt ring, and he stands accused of receiving bribes and favors, from which his whole family benefited (the network paid for vacation trips, birthday parties and even a first communion).

The former husband of Ana Mato, current health minister and campaign chief for the PP in the last elections, has stated she had nothing to do with these activities; but it appears clearly in police reports that the criminals in the Gürtel network put part of the expenses and gifts down to her name.

The promises of transparency made by Mariano Rajoy, after the emergence of the scandal surrounding the “B-list” income-and-outlay notes made by the former treasurer of his party, have generated some hope and optimism among members of the PP, and those who vote for it. But if this hope is to germinate and bear fruit, the prime minister must prove the seriousness of his promises with actions.

Mato, far from apologizing and promising to return the money her family received, has said she has no intention of resigning, and had nothing to do with her husband’s accounts and activities. Yet she benefited from these things, and from the luxury car in her garage.

With this in the background she cannot aspire to have any credibility in the management of the public health system, and it is embarrassing to see her representing our country at meetings of EU health ministers, when any of her colleagues, in the same circumstances, would already have resigned.

It may well be true that she was unaware of the possible criminal origin of the money that went to pay for her children’s communions and birthday parties, but this is no reasonable or moral excuse. If Don Corleone picks up the bill for the baptism of the family’s grandchildren, this is fine in the movies, but not for the image of a member of our government: so incompetent, besides, that she is not even aware of the confectioner’s bill.

The prime minister must set an example, and show that his words were meant seriously, by dismissing her as soon as possible. Otherwise, any attempt to recover the government’s lost credibility will be in vain.

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