As he prepares for a major summit with Latin American and Caribbean leaders set to begin Saturday in Chile, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy continues to be dogged by questions surrounding corruption back home.
On Friday at a joint press conference with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, the prime minister was bombarded with questions about the Popular Party’s (PP) former treasurer Luis Bárcenas and allegations that the official handed out cash bonuses to top leaders along with their regular salaries.
“There is not anything more unfair than a generalization that all politicians are corrupt when, in fact, the majority of them are efficient and honorable,” Rajoy said.
Dodging the specifics about the Bárcenas internal inquiry, which he ordered on Monday, he said the PP wants to be a “transparent” party so that there “can never be a shadow of a doubt about its credibility.”
Earlier in the day, in a radio interview with a Spanish network, Rajoy said he could not remember the last time he spoke with Bárcenas, who is under court investigation for tax fraud and allegedly having 22 million euros stashed away in Switzerland.
The former party treasurer and finance manager, who temporarily stepped down in 2009 before making it permanent the next year, still had an office inside PP headquarters up until this month.
Rajoy didn’t want to either confirm or deny that some in his party received cash bonuses that, according to reports, amounted to up to 15,000 euros in some cases and were given out between 1989 and 2009 by Bárcenas and his predecessor Álvaro Lapuerta. “When justice is handed down, then others will have to respect its decisions.”
The results of an exhaustive internal inquiry that will be carried out by current treasurer Carmen Navarro will be handed over to an auditing firm for review.
Meanwhile, the Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, on Friday advised Spanish political parties to follow the guidelines in the UN Convention against Corruption, which calls for more openness in the funding of political organizations and candidate campaigns in Spain.
“Clearly Spanish political parties need to be more accountable towards the public opinion and they have to disclose properly their funding and how they spend it,” wrote Valentina Rigamonti, TI’s senior regional Western Europe coordinator for the organization’s Europe Central Asia Department.
Parties in Spain receive up to 90 percent of their funding from the government.
Rigamonti wrote that the PP’s proposed Law on Transparency, Access to Information and Good Governance “is an excellent opportunity for political parties to show commitment in the fight against corruption” but it would only cover public institutions.
“Should political parties voluntarily place themselves under the scrutiny of the newly proposed law, a strong message of accountability would be sent to the public,” she wrote.