Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday apologized to “all Spaniards” for the corruption cases affecting his Popular Party (PP).
“I apologize in the name of the PP to all Spaniards for having given positions of responsibility to individuals who were not fit for it,” he said in the Senate, echoing earlier statements made by senior party official Esperanza Aguirre, who was the first member of the PP to issue an apology.
The Spanish leader’s statement comes a day after a new major bid-rigging scandal made headlines and on the same day that a senior PP figure, Ángel Acebes, appeared in court to answer questions about his alleged role in covering up a secret party slush fund.
“I understand citizens’ indignation,” said Rajoy, reading out a written statement. Party sources had earlier expressed surprise at the fact that their leader was not speaking out on the newest bribes-for-contracts case.
Democracy cannot allow anyone to play with the trust that people place in politicians”
On Tuesday, the prime minister stressed that Operation Púnica, which has yielded dozens of arrests in Madrid, Valencia, Murcia and León, did not reflect any illegal party financing but merely “personal greed” on the part of the alleged wrongdoers.
“This kind of behavior extends a generalized suspicion,” said Rajoy. “But that unfairly tarnishes the image and the reputation of most party members.”
Rajoy asked Spaniards to trust in the rule of law because the latest cases prove that the justice system and democratic institutions “work.”
He also reiterated his commitment to “clean up public life” and enact anti-corruption measures even if his party has to do so alone, in reference to the Socialist Party’s recent refusal to reach a deal with the PP.
“Democracy cannot allow anyone to play with the trust that people place in politicians,” he said. “That is why we are going to pass two pending anti-corruption measures as soon as possible. If we can reach consensus with the opposition, all the better, but if not, we will push ahead with anti-corruption measures with the PP’s votes.”
This kind of behavior unfairly tarnishes the image and the reputation of most party members”
But Rajoy will have a hard time undoing the damage. In recent days, party heavyweight Rodrigo Rato, a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief, has had his party membership revoked after his involvement in the Caja Madrid credit card scandal and former minister Acebes has been targeted in a large ongoing investigation into the party’s alleged secret accounts, known as the “Bárcenas papers” after Luis Bárcenas, the ex-treasurer who kept the handwritten ledgers.
Bárcenas has claimed that money for this fund was provided by illegal donations by builders and other entrepreneurs, and that part of the cash was used to pay under-the-table bonuses to PP executives, including Rajoy himself.
Meanwhile, the courts continue to delve into the Gürtel case, an older bid-rigging scandal that targeted 200 suspects across Spain and cost several PP officials their jobs after it broke in February 2009.